24 Dec

She’s only an advert

In the prevailing cloud of evasions, half-truths and downright lies and the vague mass of imprecision, one now and again stumbles across a paragraph which is utterly without meaning. I found such a paragraph this morning in Theresa May’s Christmas message to the nation:

“As we celebrate the birth of Christ, let us celebrate all those selfless acts – and countless others – that epitomise the values we share: Christian values of love, service and compassion that are lived out every day in our country by people of all faiths and none.”

Where to start in the search for a hint of meaning?

Let us begin with her second word, “We.” Who are this “we”? She answers, the “we” who “celebrate the birth of Christ.” But as we read on, we find “we” are also those “people of all faiths and none.”

But people of all faiths and none don’t celebrate the birth of Christ.

O come on, Mullen! Why are you forever gnawing at the heels of this unfortunate woman? At least give her credit for speaking to us at Christmas about “Christian values.”

But in her vacuity-spk it turns out that these values are shared by that reliable crowd of “people of all faiths and none.”

So what is Christian about these values?

Does it really matter? Isn’t it a well-known fact that most of what politicians say is mere waffle – stuff that we shouldn’t take seriously?

It matters because words – in which are framed his judgements and by which he makes his promises – are the politician’s stock-in-trade, his wares. And, as with any other sorts of wares – toys or tablecloths – we don’t like being passed off with shoddy.

Soren Kierkegaard offers us a nice image: “If in Copenhagen you see a sign in a shop window, SUITS PRESSED HERE, don’t take your suit in to be pressed. It is only the sign that is for sale.”

The precise word for this is fraud, false pretences.

May is the epitome of the political fraudster  

16 Dec

Musical Treacle

I don’t know why I put myself through it. Why do I never learn? I suppose it must be some fugitive spirit of optimism in me which makes me persist when, in the words of G.K. Chesterton, I ought to “chuck it.”

I was at it again last evening. I switched on Radio Three’s teatime music programme. No music – only “studio guests” and “celebs” gushing more soft soap at one another than you could find in Widow Twanky’s laundry. That was my first mistake. The second was even more irretrievable: I switched over to Classic FM where they played one after another late Romantic rhapsodies of such treacliness that they reminded me of one critic’s comment on Tosca as “…the opera in which Puccini’s music achieves its final putrescence.” I was listening to the programme on television and throughout the screen bore a legend which purported to describe for me what I was listening to:

“Sublime, relaxing music to ease the stresses and strains of the day.”

Obviously, I had been mistaken. I had switched on in the hope of hearing some music, but what we were being offered was a short course in psychotherapy. And it was offensive in the extreme.

The word “sublime” does not indicate a palliative nor is it “relaxing.” Edmund Burke in his Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful (1757) writes:

“The passion caused by the great and sublime in nature is astonishment; and astonishment is that state of the soul, in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror. In this case the mind is so entirely filled with its object, that it cannot entertain any other.”

Examples of the sublime would include Jacob’s exclamation, “How dreadful is this place!” (Genesis 28:17) and God’s words to Moses at the burning bush, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the ground whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5).

Think of The Tempest and “Be not affeared, the isle is full of noises” Or, “What are the roots that clutch? What branches grow out of this stony rubbish?”

Think Bach and the Sanctus from the Mass in B-minor. Or the last movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony when the chord of C-major finally emerges, blazing out of all that jumble. (He gets it from the Bible and Haydn: “Let there be light!”)

One man asks for bread and is given a stone.

When we switch on a music programme we hope for inspiration, to be exhilarated and, from time to time, overawed. Instead Classic FM gives us a box of sickly bon-bons.

Thank God for CDs and YouTube

15 Dec

“Youthquake” word of the year

At least we can still enjoy a laugh on our way from the madhouse to destitution.

The publishers Oxford Dictionaries have just declared “youthquake” the word of the year. Oxford Dictionaries’ executive is Mr Casper Grathwohl. (Oh for heaven’s sake stop giggling at the back there and pay attention!)  Mr Grathwohl said the word was “not an obvious choice.” But, he explained, The use of “youthquake” in everyday speech had increased five-fold during 2017.

He added – in a sentence which reveals that the boss of a firm which publishes dictionaries has only a passing acquaintance with the English language – “In the UK, where it rose to prominence as a descriptor of the impact of the country’s young people on its general election, calls it out as a word on the move”

Come again? Clearly Grathwohl served a long apprenticeship in the Academy of Gobbledegook and Gibberish

Apparently, the use of “youthquake” in Britain peaked during the June general election, after polls delivered a better-than-expected result for the Labour party.

Oxford Dictionaries said the word “sounded a note of hope after a difficult and divisive year.”

Really? be careful what you hope for, Mr Grathwohl, or you just might get it. First he tells us that the popularity of “youthquake” was owing to Mr Corbyn’s having done much better than expected in the General Election. And then he informs us that this was “a note of hope.”

I told you we are on our way from the madhouse to destitution. Where else but the madhouse is the place for anyone who votes for Jeremy Corbyn and his Trotskyist gang which now fills the space once occupied by the Labour party?

The destitution will be along in a little while. once Jeremy is in Number Ten with Chancellor John McDonnell running – ie ruining – the economy according to Marxist principles and that high priestess of multiculturalism Diane Abbott as Home Secretary and Chaplain to All Minorities. McDonnell told us last week that, in the first months of Corbyn’s government, he will set up a national investment bank, funded by exorbitant levels of taxation and borrowing at ten times what we have now. Then – using our  money – McDonnell will instigate a nationalisation programme beside which the wasteful socialist spree of 1945-1951 will look like the very model of prudence.

The trade unions will run the country and they will pay their supporters – and themselves, of course – fantastical wages. There is to be a five year plan – just like the ones invented by Uncle Joe Stalin to impoverish the USSR. Hyperinflation will quickly follow and the days will not be far off when we shall be looking in dustbins for our lunch, just as they do in the Venezuela which Jeremy Corbyn so much admires.

Well now, the Corbyn Destitution Programme has been given this wonderful kick-start by good old Casper Grathwohl.

Clearly, Casper would be the obvious choice as Corbyn’s Minister of Propaganda.

PS I noted earlier that Head of Dictionaries Mr Grathwohl has merely a passing acquaintance with the English language. This acquaintance is even more passing than I first thought. For he says he chose “youthquake” because it conveys “a sense of optimism.”

Nope. “Youthquake” indicates about as much good news for the youth as “earthquake” does for the earth.   

14 Dec

A new Puritan Commonwealth?

We have complete freedom of speech in this country. It’s just that we’re not allowed to say anything. Our politicians are forever boasting of our freedoms and telling us what a wonderful country we are privileged to live in – unlike Johnny Foreigner in any number of dictatorial regimes abroad.

But this week the government has threatened – not for the first time – to invoke Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.

What’s that when it’s out?

Just about the most unjust and iniquitous piece of legislation you could imagine in the worst of your Orwellian nightmares. Section 40 will force newspapers to pay the legal costs of those who sue them – even when a newspaper wins the court case against its accuser.

This is beyond outrageous.

Consider this comparison: my neighbour is building a low wall between our properties and I don’t like it. He assures me that the wall will do nothing to obscure my view or reduce the amount of sunshine I enjoy in my garden. His proposed wall, he says, is less than a foot tall and merely ornamental. But I am renowned for being obstreperous and uncooperative and I tell my neighbour I still don’t like his wall and I’m going to sue him.

The case comes before the court which rules that there is nothing offensive or intrusive about my neighbour’s wall and that I am just being unreasonable. My action is thrown out.

If Section 40 were to be applied in this case, my neighbour – who has been adjudged to be in the right – could be forced to pay my legal costs.

In other words, Section 40 is a charter for mischievous litigants. It will permit any crank out to make a fast buck to sue any newspaper about anything, secure in the knowledge that, win or lose, his costs will be paid by the paper.

It’s easy to see where this will lead in pretty quick time: newspapers will be bankrupted and titles will close down.

Who could possibly have dreamed up a process so manifestly unethical? Answer: the commissars in Lord Leveson’s Press Recognition Panel.

The government – any government – will rejoice to see newspapers shut down – because it will mean they are no longer held to account. If Leveson’s recommendations had been in operation at the time of the MPs’ expenses scandal, there would have been no expenses scandal because there would have been no free press to investigate and report it.

A free press is the first requirement of a free society and every totalitarian dictatorship from Maduro’s Venezuela to Putin’s klepto-fascist regime in Russia seeks to curtail and even abolish press freedom.

Even the Puritan John Milton, who was employed by Oliver Cromwell as his censor, fervently defended press freedom in his Areopagitica  saying: “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”

Section 40 would impose upon us a restrictiveness and repression worse than that of the Puritan Commonwealth of 1649-1660

13 Dec

Our world of lying truths

Matt Hancock, a government minister, has just felt obliged to declare formally, ”Objective reality exists.” To his credit, he confessed to a certain shamefacedness about this but he added that he believes he had a duty to reassure us.

I find it hard to understand what Mr Hancock’s statement means. By “objective reality” does he mean truth? If so, then the proposition “There is such a thing as truth” is self-evident – a necessary proposition – because if someone attempts to refute it and says, “There is no such thing as truth,” then either that proposition is true or the one who states it is wrong. In either case, there is something that is true.

Actually, Mr Hancock’s laudable and public-spirited aim is to reassure us that in our new world of virtual reality, filled as it is with fake news, Bitcoins,  the dissembling worlds of Facebook and Twitter and computer games of such startling verisimilitude that so called “real life” pales by comparison, there yet remains something real, something we can trust.

I think our problem is not epistemological or metaphysical, but psychological and above all moral and spiritual. In our new electronic phantasmagoria, people have become indifferent to the notions of truth and reality. And this disposition has not been forced upon them: they have chosen it quite willingly. The interest of many is not truth and objective reality but images and sensations, and the rapid advance of technology enables us to create images and sensations of astonishing power.

Any “reality” is as good as any other. You choose! Seems? Nay, ‘tis.

Unfortunately, this world of willed illusion becomes also, by the operation of political correctness, a world of willed delusion. People don’t merely choose what to look at; they choose what to believe. Postmodern philosophers and theologians deny Mr Hancock’s (or God’s) truth and objective reality: they speak approvingly of things being” true for you” or “true for me.” And of course this just means we can’t talk about truth at all. The philosophers and theologians have been guided by the politicians who tell them not to insist that there is such a thing as the objective truth – because to do so might “offend” someone who holds to “a different truth.”

Welcome to the world of “equality” and “diversity.”

We have replaced the gospel of St John with the gospel of Pontius Pilate.

This is not going to end well. If we are no longer concerned to inhabit reality but instead we evaluate any image, any sensation, only insofar as it appeals to us, then we have no escape from a world of ubiquitous delusion. Jesus Christ referred to this activity as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – which he declared to be the only unforgiveable sin. Unforgiveable because it is impossible to repent of it. If you say, “Lies be my truth” and “Delusion be my reality,” then you have chosen paranoid psychosis, madness – hell.

Allow me a personal recollection, please. In 1988 I began to write a novel about Tom and Lucy. These two young creatures of flesh and blood were increasingly drawn into a world which was all images and appearances. I found it intolerable and had to stop writing the damn thing: first, because some of the things that began to happen to Tom and Lucy were so horrific that they turned my stomach; and secondly, because it all sounded too far-fetched.

Well now, thirty years on, is it still so far-fetched?

If you are seeking a definition of the world we now inhabit, look no further than Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus where Mephistopheles, the Father of Lies, exclaims in terror and despair, “Why, this is hell; nor am I out of it!”

07 Dec

A world of sugared lies

When the whole world rises up and rails against you, cheer up! It probably means you’re doing something right.

This morning every organ from The Guardian to Hamas -whose spokesmen often seem interchangeable – to Russia Today, CNN, the EU and the EU’s spokesmen in this country who go by the name of the BBC, has condemned Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

But Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the seat of government since 1948. This is a fact. All those agencies I mentioned above are news media. If dealing in facts is not their business, then pray what is?

In 1995 the government of the USA promised officially that it would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. But every president since that time – Clinton, Bush, Obama – has waived that official promise. Now Donald Trump has done the honest thing and made good his country’s word.

Yet he is excoriated for so doing.

This can only mean that the worldwide media values more highly men who betray their promises than the man who keeps them.

The international media and politicians everywhere have no moral principles – or they claim to be Utilitarians, which amounts to the same thing. They don’t look to principles – whether something is right or wrong in itself – as the guide to moral judgement: instead they look to the likely consequences of any action. Will these consequences turn out to be good or bad? They don’t know. They can only judge the consequences in terms of some predicted future consequences; and so the issue of morality – right and wrong – is forever postponed.

This is the model of Jeremy Bentham’s Utilitarian Calculus which Nietzsche rightly dismissed as “pig philosophy.”

But let us look at the international media and politicians worldwide this morning and judge them by their own dim lights.

Why are they unanimous in their condemnation of Donald Trump’s decision?

Because they say it will undermine the “peace process.”

Well now, do you know the difference between a neurotic and a psychotic? A neurotic is one who builds castles in the air. The psychotic is one who lives in them. The politicians and the international media are the psychotics, for there is no peace process. Every time an attempt has been made to get a peace process going, it has been sabotaged by the Arabs and their sympathisers. Let me offer one spectacular example. In 1998 Bill Clinton sponsored peace talks at Camp David which concluded in a commitment by all sides to “a two-state solution.”

The treacherous Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat stood next to Clinton on the lawn and signed up to this agreement. Then he returned to the West Bank and promptly announced the second intifada – the violent and murderous uprising against Israeli civilians.

Let me give you other examples. Hezbollah frequently subject Israeli towns and villages to a barrage of rockets from Lebanon…Hamas do the same from Gaza…The Arab terrorists in Gaza place their rocket-launchers in schools and hospitals and then announce to the willingly gullible international press that Israel’s leaders are child-murderers.

Let me give you even more examples…

On second thoughts, what’s the point? In a world of sugared lies, only the truth-teller is the villain.

06 Dec

They’re pulling our leg again, aren’t they?

All sing along with me: ‘Tis the season to be hyperbolic…

Last night at a fastidiously pretentious “ceremony” in the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, the African artist Lubaina Himid was awarded the Turner Prize. What more can be said when the whole damn thing is beyond satire? Compared with Ms Himid’s stuff, the act of throwing a pot of paint in the public’s face represents high cultural achievement. What’s it like then? There’s a fair chance that anything I might write would be a bit on the biased side. so let one of her supporters describe it:   

“Himid’s work has long been concerned with black creativity, history and identity and this animated throng represents the Africans who were brought to Europe as slave servants. There are drummers, dog trainers, dancers, potters, cobblers, gardeners and players of the viola da gamba, all decked out in vivid versions of 17th century costume. Labels on their backs identify each individual, giving both their original African names and occupations as well those imposed by their new European owners, and these poignant texts also form part of an evocative soundtrack, interspersed with snatches of Cuban, Irish, Jewish and African music.”

Much of her output looks like a gaudy collage produced by a mildly psychotic six-year-old with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen instead to the singer Goldie who appeared at last night’s shindig to praise Ms Himid’s work for “Digging deep and challenging people’s perceptions.” Gliding over the surface and massaging familiar prejudices, more like. Another enthusiastic commentator said that Ms Himid’s agenda is “Black identity and the slave industry” And he reminded us that Ms Himid was awarded the MBE for services to “black women’s art.” All of which sounds rather racist to me and it doesn’t say anything about her art.

She produces some of her work on old copies of The Guardian and includes photographs of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher clipped out from that newspaper. In other words Ms Himid is not about art but about trendy-lefty racial “activism” and, instead of throwing pots of paint in our faces, she is, by her own admission, busy “reclaiming identities.”

Well, it’s trash isn’t it? if works awarded the Turner Prize were not trash, we would all come away disappointed.

Fair enough that it’s trash. But it’s not fair enough that it’s lying trash. Ms Himid claims to be about “correcting false impressions.” Yes, we are all going to have the scales removed from our eyes and see the world as it really is – that is the world portrayed by “the black women’s art movement.”

So why does she peddle palpable untruths? Here’s one: “In the 1980s black people were totally invisible.”

I suppose she means as invisible as Courtney Pine, Sir Bill Morris, Sir Trevor McDonald, Chris Eubank, Cleo Laine, Shirley Bassey, Martin Offiah, Frank Bruno, Ben Okri, Floella Benjamin, Bernie Grant, Diane Abbott, Lenny Henry, Benjamin Zephaniah, Lennox Lewis, Linford Christie, Paul Ince and Ian Wright?

At the time I was living in Bolton – not far from Professor Himid’s hideout at the University of Central Lancashire. I numbered many black people among my friends and acquaintance there  and, so far as I can recall, none of them was invisible.

I must not protest too much and we should be grateful for the crap because it makes us return and repose again in things of quality.

All may be forgiven. Except that the name of the great J.M.W Turner is contaminated with this slime.


02 Dec

Let’s hear it for the Barnsley Dame!

Woman’s Hour is the show that just keeps on delivering. Regular readers of this space will know that I have written before about this superb programme. Really, it is so good that I wonder I bother to write about anything else. Truth be told, as a satirist I envy the makers and presenters of Woman’s Hour because its daily straight-faced parody of reality is unsurpassable. They are supreme satirists without knowing it. Their feminist obsessions are more hilarious than anything we find in Viz or Private Eye. Great wits such as Rod Liddle and Craig Brown pale by comparison.

The gels on Woman’s Hour are so feministically monomaniac that they couldn’t bake a tray of jam tarts without a reference to HRT

But yesterday the ladies excelled even their own high standards in the business of making unintended jokes.

They were scheduled to interview two guests  – wimmin, naturally. One was a Japanese doctor acclaimed for promoting the safety of the HPV vaccine. The other was a Vietnamese film-maker, in Britain for the opening of her retrospective at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.

Unfortunately the producer mixed up the two guest gels Dr Riko Muranaka and Trinh T. Minh-ha.

The illustrious Dame Jenni Murray began by explaining that Dr Muranaka is the recipient of this year’s John Maddox Prize for promoting science on a matter of public interest, The Great Barnsley Interlocutor asked her guest:

“Riko, why did you pursue this subject?”

The pause that followed was of such heavenly length that I was reminded of that verse in The Book of Revelation which speaks of a silence in the celestial realms “of about half an hour.” 

Give the Great Dame credit for knowing that when you’re in a hole the thing to do is to continue digging. Diligently, she enquired a second time:

“Why did you pursue this subject?”

“Which subject are you pointing to?” asked a perplexed Trinh T. Minh-ha

An unaccustomed hint of tension crept into Jenni’s usual velvety intonation:

“The subject of the HPV vaccine and the twenty articles you wrote about it,”

“It’s not me,” said Trin T. Minh-ha quietly.

Jenni did not, as I believe they say in Barnsley, immediately twig. 

“I’m sorry?” she repeated, and this time with more tension than in a whole spasm of PMT – a subject by no means alien to the gels on WH.

“It’s not me,” Trinh T Minh-ha repeated, emitting a spectacularly nervous giggle: 

“I guess you got the wrong speaker.”

Now there was chastisement in Jenni’s voice. Didn’t the guest gel know her own name!

“You are Dr Riko Muranaka?”  

Of a sudden it dawned that her usual omniscience had failed her:

“You’re not Dr Riko Muranaka,” almost meekly.

“I’m Trinh T Minh-ha, the film-maker,” said Trinh T Minh-ha the film-maker.

Unfortunately, – apart from a now irascible Dame Jenni’s blaming “someone” else for the mix-up – that was the end of the morning’s entertainment.

It would have been priceless if Trin T. Minh-ha had gathered her own satirical wits and joined in the fun. What if she had said, “Yes, I wrote those twenty articles and I’m here to tell you that millions will die from taking that drug”?

Dame Jenny would be sure to fall for it, gleefully imagining she had a scoop, an exposure and a scandal.

Never mind gels: I’ll see you on today’s WH Saturday Edition for more jam tarts and HRT.