All over the western world at present there is a battle for and against Free Speech. In 2012 there was launched in Britain a movement to reform Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, the section dealing with ‘Insulting Speech’, and the Campaign chose a splendid slogan “Feel Free to Insult Me“.
One of their celebrity supporters was actor Rowan Atkinson, who delivered a speech at a parliamentary reception on 16 October 2012.
Oh no, he’s reading it!
It’s a disappointment that he of all people would stifle some of the impact of his delivery this way, but to me it’s not a complete surprise. Actors spend their working lives speaking without reference to paper, and they also spend their working lives pretending to be someone else. Here Atkinson is being himself in public, something that many actors find uncomfortable – shyness is surprisingly widespread in the profession. Blackadder or Mr Bean could shoot this from the hip without any trouble, so could anyone if they knew how, so could Rowan Atkinson but here he prefers not to. The rareness of his giving broadcast interviews suggests that he is shy, it is well known that he battles against stammering, and it would not surprise me if his script here is a weapon in that battle.
We can at least expect him to read very well. He does of course.
He quotes from the brilliant Constable Savage sketch in Not the Nine o’Clock News, and this is almost as funny as the sketch itself, because it is the same voice speaking the lines – and the same brilliant timing. To those of us old enough to remember, this is a predictable inclusion in the speech but no less welcome for that.
At 7:15 he expresses the hope that this campaign will begin a process that will “slowly rewind the creeping culture of censoriousness”.
The speech was delivered five and a half years ago and it was a nice and noble try. However that creeping culture has now become an intemperate gallop.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And perhaps there is one further question that we might regard as relevant. Who was ultimately responsible during nearly all of of the period in question? The buck stops at the top of the chain of command, The Home Office. Norfolk’s account begins in 2010. Who was Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the Home Department from 2010 till just two years ago? And should that person ever again be trusted with any sort of government office? Step forward Mrs Theresa May.
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.