When David Cameron unveiled his list of four negotiating demands last November, eurosceptics were quick to dismiss them as meaningless. “Cameron will get what he’s asking for, but since it’s trivial, who cares?” said Dominic Cummings, the director of Vote Leave.
Well, he hasn’t even got those demands! (To read more, click here.)
I applaud the Prime Minister for pointing out the scandalous lack of black students at Britain’s top universities, but he’s wrong about whose fault it is – at least when it comes to Oxford, his alma mater. Yes, it’s true that Oxford only admitted five black British Caribbean applicants in 2013, a disgracefully low number, as David Cameron points out, but there’s no evidence to suggest that the cause is ‘ingrained, institutional and insidious’ attitudes, i.e. racism, on the part of Oxford’s admission authorities.
How do I know this? Because Oxford already publishes a wealth of data about admissions – the new law Cameron is drafting to force universities to publish their data about the gender and ethnic and social background origins of students who apply for places will merely force other universities to catch up with Oxford in this regard. You can see Oxford’s data on undergraduate admissions in 2013 here. (To read more, click here.)
Are we living in a Golden Age of Protest? A bunch of aggrieved citizens only has to raise a murmur of protest, whether it's about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia or Islamophobia, and the institution they're targeting instantly capitulates. A case in point is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. No sooner had a group of prominent African-American actors and directors complained about the lack of black Oscar nominees this year – "Whitewash!" – than the president of the Academy announced she would be taking "dramatic steps" to address the problem. The Academy will now enlarge its membership to include hundreds of entertainment industry figures from diverse backgrounds.
To date, the only note of dissent has been sounded by Best Actress nominee Charlotte Rampling, who complained that the uproar over this year's nominees was "racist to white people". Not that outrageous a comment. After all, if you're claiming that the only reason this year's acting nominees are all white is because of racial bias and not because they've actually given the best performances, that is kinda racist. Certainly, if Jeremy Clarkson claimed a black actor had only been nominated for reasons of political correctness, the same figures who've been complaining about the Whitewash – Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith – would be the first to denounce him as racist. Yet, needless to say, poor Charlotte has been forced to produce a grovelling recantation, abasing herself at the feet of the professionally outraged Twitterati and begging for forgiveness. Her chances of winning an Oscar this year are now zero. (To read more, click here.)
Many people watching Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on Marr last Sunday will have been shocked by his remarks about the need to begin a “dialogue” with the leadership of the Islamic State. “I think there has to be some understanding of where their strong points are,” he said.
Afterwards, when these comments were widely reported, Corbyn’s supporters said they’d been taken out of context – the standard defence whenever he is criticized for saying something positive about Islamist terrorists, such as describing Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends” or the death of Bin Laden as a “tragedy”. But there are only so many times this excuse can be used to explain these apparently supportive remarks. It’s beginning to look as though the Labour leader really does sympathise with terrorists.
It’s particularly difficult to make allowances for Corbyn when you take the broader context into account – the historical links between the hard left and Islamism. I’m currently reading The Flight of the Intellectuals by Paul Berman which, in large part, is about the failure of the European left to see Islamism for what it is, namely, a Middle Eastern form of fascism. Herman documents in painstaking detail how Islamism was transformed into a mass movement by the Nazis in the 1930s and 40s to foment anti-British insurrection in the Middle East and as an instrument for carrying out the extermination of the Jews. (To read more, click here.)
Next month sees the release of Trumbo, a biopic about Dalton Trumbo, the screenwriter who was blacklisted by the Hollywood studios after refusing to testify before the House of Un-American Activities in 1947. Trumbo continued to work under a variety of pseudonyms and won two academy awards for his screenplays, neither of which he was able to receive. He wasn’t rehabilitated until 1960, some 13 years later.
I’ve seen Trumbo and it isn’t much good, but Brian Cranston has been nominated for numerous awards for his portrayal of the tortured martyr, including a BAFTA. People who work in the film industry are, of course, almost universally liberal and recognizing Cranston’s performance is a way of signaling their disapproval of McCarthyism and the blacklist. It’s safe to say that, among the progressive left, the House of Un-American Activities has no defenders.
Which makes it all the more ironic that McCarthyism is alive and well and being practiced by the liberal intelligentsia. Last week, I wrote about the punishment meted out to Napoleon Chagnon, the evolutionary anthropologist whose work on the indigenous population of the Amazonian rain forest challenged liberal pieties about the goodness of man in his prelapsarian state. Chagnon was essentially blacklisted by the people who control the anthropology industry and only rehabilitated when his cause was taken up by Alice Dreger, an American academic and free speech campaigner.
This week I want to highlight the case of another victim of liberal McCarthyism – Dr Adam Perkins, a lecturer in the neurobiology of personality at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London. (To read more, click here.)
How much longer can the liberal left survive in the face of growing scientific evidence that many of its core beliefs are false? I’m thinking in particular of the conviction that all human beings are born with the same capacities, particularly the capacity for good, and that all mankind’s sins can be laid at the door of the capitalist societies of the West. For the sake of brevity, let’s call this the myth of the noble savage. This romanticism underpins all progressive movements, from the socialism of Jeremy Corbyn to the environmentalism of Caroline Lucas, and nearly every scientist who’s challenged it has been met with a kind of irrational hostility, often accompanied by a trashing of their professional reputations. Indeed, the reaction of so-called free thinkers to these purveyors of inconvenient truths is oddly reminiscent of the reaction of fundamentalist Christians to those scientists who challenged their core beliefs.
One such Charles Darwin figure is the American anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon. He has devoted his life to studying the indigenous population of the Amazonian rain forest that sits on the Brazilian-Venezuelan border – the Yanomamö – and his conclusions pose a direct challenge to the myth of the noble savage. “Real Indians sweat, they smell bad, they take hallucinogenic drugs, they belch after they eat, they covet and at times steal their neighbour’s wife, they fornicate, and they make war,” Chagnon told a Brazilian journalist. His view of the Yanomami is summed up by the title he gave to his masterwork on the subject: The Fierce People. (To read more, click here.)
Since turning 50 I have become a gardening enthusiast. It started with tomatoes, then spread to raspberries and last year extended to French beans. I’ve now run out of space and was hoping to get an allotment in 2016. They’re like gold dust in West London, but one of the perks of living on my street is that the residents association has access to the Goldsmiths Close Allotments, a two-acre plot abutting the backs of our houses. I put my name down when I first moved in and was optimistic one might become available this year.
Imagine my dismay, then, when the chair of the residents association told me that the allotments had been sold to someone called David Parry – a local property developer – and the existing users had been given their marching orders. Initially, they were told to be gone in June, but the local rep pointed out this was in the middle of the growing season and got a stay of execution until October. Now they’ve been evicted and the new owner has put a padlock and chain on the only entrance at the rear of a nearby housing estate.
When I first heard about this, I was aghast. Don’t allotment-holders have any rights? (To read more, click here.)
Shame descended on the Young household last Christmas. When my wife, Caroline, picked up our nine-year-old son from school on the last day of the term, she was intercepted by his teacher, who wanted a quiet word.
Oh no, she thought. What’s Ludo done now?
In fact, it was more a case of what I’d done—or failed to do. The teacher explained that she’d asked the children to write “letters to Santa,” saying what they wanted for Christmas. At the top of his list Ludo had written: “Light bulb.” When the teacher asked him why he’d chosen such an unusual present he told her that the bulb in his bedroom had stopped working six months ago. Ludo’s hope was that if Santa put a bulb in his stocking, his deadbeat dad might finally get around to replacing it. (To read more, click here.)