Alison Saunders admits 17% hate crime failure

Some months ago I was referred by a reader to this very short address to camera by Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions in Britain. I watched it, formed my personal opinion, but was unable to see how it could be relevant to this blog.

Then came the speech by Andrew Norfolk, featured on this blog last week. Suddenly Ms Saunders’ announcement gained an alarming relevance.

The first sentence expresses an opinion which almost seems to suggest that parliament, in addition to charging her with the mechanics of prosecution, has granted her the authority also to operate on her personal tastes. I hope I’m wrong.

Her second sentence boasts 83% success in prosecutions. That equals a 17% failure rate.

What is a hate crime? The official Metropolitan Police site has a definition. It includes these two immortal sentences –

Though what the perpetrator has done may not be against the law, their reasons for doing it are. This means it may be possible to charge them with an offence.

We are looking at thought crime. We are looking at officialdom being able to make up law on the hoof.

Harking back again to Andrew Norfolk’s speech, I recall reading anecdotal accounts (I am in no position to check), of a father who tried to recover his under-age daughter from the clutches of a grooming gang, and police arrived to arrest him. Was he charged with a hate crime? On the above definition he could have been. I actually find myself having sympathy here for the police officers whose bosses have u-turned them from what they know to be right.

Suppose you played a new game, one which allowed you but not your opponent to change any or all rules as you wished, and you still lost 17% of the time. Some might say that not only was it a bad game but that you were not very good at it.

Andrew Norfolk and Augean Stables

Here’s a speech with a horrifying message that was posted on line in October 2015, and I’ve only just discovered it.  It is even more relevant now than it was then.

Andrew Norfolk, now chief investigative reporter for The Times, tells us a story that we do not want to hear but we absolutely must.

Almost a bald opening. The only preamble is “Thank you”.

The story that unfolds is chilling, made even more so by Norfolk’s cold delivery. He indulges in no histrionics, speaks almost in a monotone, and speaks slowly and deliberately. It just shows that when the narrative thread is strong enough (and great credit must be laid at Norfolk’s feet for a superbly built structure here) you don’t need to add anything.

I think that some of the delivery style is forced upon him by virtue of his battling a stammer. I am sure I spot symptoms, and if I am right then even more credit is due him for how well he manages. My regard for this man builds by the second.

The story he tells has become sadly familiar.  He speaks of how he reported, again and again, stories of mass grooming and wholesale rape of underage girls in Rotherham. It was greeted in the main by deaf ears or recrimination. More such examples of it continue to be revealed – the latest, concerning Telford, in the past week – and we get progressively more persuaded that we are looking at the tip of a huge iceberg.

The blindness of the eye turned to it by the Establishment is a national outrage. The BBC and Parliament had to be repeatedly goaded by LBC, Spiked Online, and others to begin muttering reluctantly about the Telford scandal. Perhaps it felt that a mere 1,000 underage girls being mass-raped was not sufficiently newsworthy.

Concurrent to that are disgraceful cases of persecution by officialdom of anyone who dares to speak of it publicly.  Again last week, an American girl – Brittany Pettibone – was detained for forty-eight hours by immigration officials before being deported. Her crime was her intention to interview someone called Tommy Robinson on this very subject. You may recognise Mr Robinson’s name as a dangerous far right extremist jailbird, which is certainly how he has been painted by the media, but that is not how the students of Oxford University viewed him after an hour long speech at the Oxford Union. I covered it here.

When the sort of conduct that Norfolk describes is allowed to flourish with impunity it could be described as negligence: to persecute anyone who dares to exercise free speech on the subject has no possible excuse. It debases our entire country.

This is not a partisan issue. All parties are party to it. I mean the wanton ignoring of the crime. It permeates the administration of our entire country. The way it continues to be studiously ignored is in its way as bad as the crime itself, and remember that the crime involves thousands of sexually abused little British girls.

Who is there with the integrity, energy, and spine to root this out? I chose that metaphor verb with deliberate care, because the roots of this go very deep. It is like Japanese Knotweed. It has spread unchecked, and is now ubiquitous. It needs to be purged it at its roots. The official collaborators are everywhere, in politics, the civil service, the judiciary, academia, the media. Don’t bother to tell me that other countries are as bad – I know that and it’s no excuse. We have to destroy it here because in the mean time it is destroying us.

Laura Ingraham braves it

One of the speakers at the Republican National Congress at Cleveland Ohio in July 2016 was Laura Ingraham.

I tend to limit my coverage of speeches at American national congresses because they’re so damn noisy. I just get less opportunity to see the subtler nuances of a speaker in this environment. National congresses don’t do subtle.

At the time, this speech hit the headlines via accusations that Ingraham had performed a Nazi salute. I went online, looked, rolled my eyes, shook my head wearily, and forgot about it. She had waved as she came on stage, and they freeze-framed it. That is the cheapest and easiest way to smear anyone at all. Apologists for the left fight a constant battle to paint Nazism as right wing because their eternal embarrassment is that Hitler considered himself a socialist. That’s not idle opinion: it’s in his writings.

Reflecting recently I wondered what it was about this speech that caused the media desperately to resort to such a pitiful device. Shall we see?

Oh dear! Since I last watched this, they’ve edited out her entrance. What a stupid mistake! Now the casual viewer might assume that there really was a Nazi salute. You however can have a look here.

75 seconds in, and we see the first reason they had to smear her: she’s supporting Trump. A few more seconds and she’s expressed concern that the Obama administration had caused the USA’s prosperity to decline. How dare she! Everyone knows that anything short of idolatry concerning Obama is racist – at least, that was the orthodoxy then.

Equally reprehensible is positive reference to the American Dream, yet less than 3 minutes from starting she’s covered how her parents worked and worked to buy their children an education and how there is dignity in any job. This is incendiary stuff!

Another reason that I tend to avoid national convention speeches is that when you are preaching ‘to the choir’, when you could almost walk on, pick your nose for a minute and walk off to cheers of adulation, speeches can too often turn flabby. A speech usually needs an element of opposing stress to keep it tight. Despite this, Ingraham does keep it tight, and she does more.

If she has a filter she’s left it at home. From 12:00 she tears into the Obama administration in general and Hillary Clinton in particular. She then tears into the press gallery, accusing them of not doing their job in exposing corruption. She tears into the pollsters, the lobbyists, the consultants, all the occupants of what we even this side of the Atlantic now know as The Swamp. She almost shrieks her peroration.

Did I mention opposing stress? The crowds roaring their support in the hall are a tiny proportion of her overall audience, and she knows it. Had Clinton won I wonder where Ingraham would be now. Since January 2017 it has increasingly emerged not only that most of the media were in Obama’s pocket – we already knew that, not only that the IRS had been disgracefully politicised – we knew that too, but that this corruption had metastasised into the DOJ and FBI. This is the swamp whose mopping-up continues today.

Had Clinton won, Laura Ingraham’s non-existent Nazi salute might have been the least of her worries.

Marc Kasowitz and frustration

In 2017 The Oxford Union hosted a talk by Marc Kasowitz.  They do not tell us the precise date, but the video was posted on line in November.

The name was not familiar to me, but it took mere seconds to establish that he is a lawyer, and among his clients is President Trump. As expected, the comments below the posted video had its fair share of rudeness; but what shocked me was reference to Kasowitz being Jewish. I am at a loss to know what difference this is supposed to make.

He reads his preamble. He even reads the details of his birth. I mention this not to pour scorn on him but to highlight how so many believe that paper is an antidote to nerves. It isn’t: it is one way to battle The Hump, but not a very good one. Paper makes a lousy comfort blanket, but he is persuaded to play it this way.

He spends the first fifteen minutes speaking about his father, a scrap metal dealer. Had I been advising him, I should have tried to dissuade him from this because it is notoriously difficult to do without curling your audience’s toes. I’d have been wrong: he pulls it off. Although he makes no bones about idolising his father, he does so in a manner that is as comfortable, matter-of-fact, and unsentimental as can be achieved. He also manages to cast forward, explaining how following his father’s ethos in business helped his career as a lawyer. Perhaps obeying the Fifth Commandment comes so naturally to the Jewish culture that it requires no stage management. For my purposes this section does something even more important: it periodically lifts his eyes from that wretched paper so that he engages the audience and liberates his natural ability as a raconteur. More. I want more of that.

He begins talking about his legal career, swiftly moving to the founding of his own firm. My interest quickens when he promises to recount some case histories – more raconteuring!

The case histories are at least as interesting and absorbing as expected, and Kasowitz comes across as personable. His eyes do lift from the paper often enough to lift the spirit of the talk, but seldom enough to cause me severe frustration.

His talk concludes at 37:30, and he swings into Q&A. I wonder what they’ll ask about…



Heather Mac Donald’s audience matters

On 6 April, 2017, Heather Mac Donald was booked to address an audience of students at Claremont McKenna College in California. When the appointed hour arrived, the entrance to the auditorium was blocked by a crowd of chanting protesters, so Ms Mac Donald delivered the speech to an essentially empty hall and a camera which streamed her lecture to be received elsewhere. The camera’s footage also found its way online, thus ensuring that this protest multiplied the lecture’s audience several-fold. Today we increase that audience by a little more.

Disregarding the size of the audience, if I don my rhetor hat Ms Mac Donald has my sympathy. Some years ago I delivered a seminar in London to an international law firm. There were around 250 people in the auditorium. Subsequent feedback was severely mixed; and when I delved deeper it emerged that, without my having been told, an audio feed of my talk had been relayed to other offices worldwide, and every single piece of negative feedback had come from people not in the hall. I remonstrated with the organisers, not for enormously increasing my audience (I was promoting my book!), but for withholding from me the information. There are subtle but significant differences in how you deliver to those who are present and those who aren’t, and my being kept in ignorance of most of my audience, the unseen had been shortchanged.

Ms Mac Donald’s lecture is designed to be delivered to an audience in the hall, and she is here having to build ‘on the hoof’ a communication line to persons unseen and unknown. Let’s see how she copes.

The introduction is made by Sara Sanbar, who is clearly conscious of the absurdity of addressing an empty hall – she even mentions it. The serious side to her introduction is that she evidently disagrees with what she believes Mac Donald will say, but she is defending her right to say it. Some students understand the value of free speech.

Mac Donald begins. She’s talking about BLM (Black Lives Matter). Those three words comprise most of the chanting by the crowds who blocked students from attending this lecture. You might have thought from this that it must therefore be the case that to Ms Mac Donald black lives don’t matter. But in that case you’d be disastrously wrong. Within seconds of the lecture beginning it becomes supremely clear that no one holds black lives more precious than Ms Mac Donald.

The statistics that she hands out should churn your stomach. Here’s an example: black victims of homicide in the USA outnumber white and hispanic combined, by a factor of six. Who kill them? Overwhelmingly other blacks. Who is in between, trying to stop it happening, and then picking up the pieces afterwards? The BLM-maligned police.

You should listen to the whole of her lecture. Those protestors whom we can still hear faintly chanting should definitely have listened to her lecture. They would have learnt something – an activity which used to be the purpose of going to university.

BLM may not know the actual statistics, but they know perfectly well the basic facts. The organisation’s true purpose is not to defend blacks, but to pursue a much darker programme of disruption, the chief victims being blacks. The name is a fraud.

You don’t have to poke very far below the surface to learn that they are just one bunch of many, operating under fraudulent names. Antifa is not anti fascist: it is fascist. Hope-not-hate is consumed with hate. We can see where they learnt this trick: countries have been doing it for years. The communist totalitarian dictatorship of East Germany used to call itself the German Democratic Republic. Even today North Korea styles itself The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Of course black lives matter. Half a century ago, black lives in the USA were in far better shape than they are today. What went wrong is another story for another time.

Ian McKellen delivers a speech

This posting is something of a pairing with its predecessor, and what a pairing! Mind you: the illustrious Sirs, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, are good friends and it’s by no means the first time they have been paired.

Before I devote my almost undivided attention to Sir Ian allow me to continue briefly with the pairing theme by making some observations comparing style. While Sir Patrick strode immaculately into the Oxford Union straight to a lectern placed downstage centre on the platform, there to stand in his own pool of light and command the hall, Sir Ian shambled in, exuding buckets of bonhomie, looking like an unmade bed, turned the wrong way when reaching the aisle, greeting members of the audience like old friends before turning to the platform to embrace the Union President with a bear hug. Then instead of occupying the platform he strode up and down the aisle releasing a stream of consciousness which rather gave the impression of being random, but was actually carefully structured.

There’s theatre for you! When it comes to treatment, there’s no such thing as right or wrong. All that matters is whether you can make it work. And of course they can: these guys know what they’re doing.

That doesn’t mean they can make a speech. Frighteningly few actors can do that well.

There’s one thing that I hammer into the heads of all my trainees. The most engaging, compelling, persuasive person you can be is you. Not a persona, but the real you. It sounds easy, but, as Oscar Wilde observed –

To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.

The difficulty is that we all have different masks that we don under different circumstances; and knowing which of them is a genuine part of the real you is quite tricky. Is this man we are watching the Ian McKellen that opens his eyes first thing in the morning? Very unlikely, but still I reckon it’s real. That’s why we want to listen.

Another lovely voice used flawlessly, and there’s also something to be learned from it. Unlike the audience, we can wind back and listen again to sections, ignoring what he says but analysing how he says it. How surprised are you to hear how, unlike those who make themselves sound phoney by over-enunciating as if every word came individually wrapped, he seems to slither around in an apparently slovenly fashion – and yet everything is heard with crystal clarity? That’s what proper voice coaching does for you.

In passing, I wonder whether he (and Sir Patrick) might have had the same voice coach as I. I’m just a handful of years younger than they and as a National Theatre Player in the mid sixties my voice was bashed into shape by a legend, a merciless darling called Kate Fleming.

Sir Ian kicks off by reading from a tablet a series of things that he claims have been written about him on the internet. I neither know nor care whether they are genuine: they are very funny. At one point he loses his place and there’s quite a long pause while he scrolls around, hunting the next thing he wants to read. It couldn’t matter less: he can hold this audience till Godot arrives.

That section over, he loses the tablet, and just talks. For a time he discusses some of his recent work, pointing out that the beard is for King Lear whose run might not yet be over, and then moves on into his principal non-theatre preoccupation. He tells us of his work visiting schools to discuss sexual orientation. That could get very ‘worthy’ but it doesn’t. It’s a bit like the deceptive skill that underpins his diction. By putting everything across like a favourite, absent-minded uncle, seeming to meander hither and yon but actually staying acutely focussed, he makes you want to listen. And much of it is very funny.

That’s a bloody good speech.

Patrick Stewart gives a reading

The Oxford Union does not just host important debates. Sometimes, to its credit, it invites people of fame to speak about themselves. This is very difficult for them, for reasons I discussed briefly when I covered Stephen Fry’s such gig.  With my line of work, therefore, I find them interesting.

Patrick Stewart was the guest recently.

He’s reading!

It’s a pity, because when speakers do this I immediately stop thinking of it as a speech; however I shall stick with it, because there are good and bad readings and I want to see to which category this belongs. A Reading is a perfectly respectable piece of entertainment: I do poetry and prose readings, though unlike Sir Patrick I have never dared to read anything I have written myself. Anyway, let’s face it, I want to hear what he has to relate. It’s bound to be autobiographical and, though half a century ago we mixed in similar circles, we have never worked together.

He lays out his stall at the beginning, giving us a Contents Page – good! Then we are off. It’s beautifully written, very well structured for a reading, thoroughly enjoyable and wonderfully delivered.  He has a terrific voice and by golly he knows how to use it.

This is going to come across like the nostalgic rantings of an old fart, but I remember one nervous occasion some years ago, dining with a legendary, now dead, TV director. I tentatively bewailed the passing of the provincial rep system – in which he and I (and Sir Patrick of course) had worked our apprenticeship. He was almost explosive in his agreement with me. Decades of actors now have been mostly deprived of that benefit, and I’m afraid it shows. It’s nothing to do with talent: it’s a subtle mastery of stage presence which is becoming extinct, but Sir Patrick of course has it in abundance.

There were moments here when I felt he needed a director. For some years on BBC radio I broadcast theatre reviews; and with one-handed productions I reckoned that in the first few minutes I could spot whether or not the actor had spent a few quid – or dinner at The Ivy – to get a director to give it the once-over. It doesn’t matter who you are, you cannot see yourself from the audience. I’m being ultra-picky here, but there were a few little moments…

I’ll give you an example. There’s a good story that begins at about 8:00. At 9:02, having just harvested a good, well-deserved laugh with the punchline, he needlessly adds a single sentence that lamely explains the joke. That, of course, doesn’t get a laugh. A director would have cut that sentence.

Likewise I was uncertain about a section involving stories of actors who got serious fear-freeze and bailed out. In my experience there are very few theatre stories that don’t come under the heading, “you need to have been there”. The difficulty is in conveying the precise prevailing atmosphere that caused the crisis. It’s like ‘corpsing’ stories, of occasions when a stageful of actors is reduced to battling uncontrollable giggling. Those stories should be very funny, but I long ago gave up trying to narrate them – even to other actors.

For all that, this is a highly enjoyable 36 minutes, and Sir Patrick is to be congratulated.

But to me it isn’t a speech. To convey what I mean, I invite you to join me in my next posting which involves another famous actor: same vintage, same venue. He also worked his apprenticeship. I would hate to try to judge which of their performances is the more enjoyable or interesting, but I do say this –

The next one is a speech!