Witch-hunting the unwitting

The new high priests of anti-racism want to exorcise our demons.

Patrick West
Columnist

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Topics Politics
  • The new priestcraft

As charmless a politician as he is, David Blunkett is correct to expose the shallowness and semantic bankruptcy of the term ‘institutional racism’. Speaking earlier this week the home secretary indicated that he was ‘worried about people talking about institutional racism because it isn’t institutions.… It’s people that make the difference’.

The popular term, so beloved of so-called ‘anti-racists’, reflects a morbid, almost pathological, fascination with race politics today. In the past two years, in which the phrase ‘institutional racism’ has almost become part of everyday speech, racism has been transformed into a kind of modern-day witchcraft. People ascribe to racism’s ferocious omnipotence. It has become a hidden force that permeates society, and like a demon, it is capable of possessing the cleanest of minds.

The new ‘anti-racist’ witch-finders have no time for such outdated concepts as empiricism or evidence. There need be no proof of racist acts; the possessed don’t even know they harbour racist thoughts, for they are being ‘unwittingly racist’. The demon can infect entire organisations too, rendering them ‘institutionally racist’.

Even if there is no proof of it existing, like an elusive phantom, it can be ‘perceived’ (the ‘perception’ of racist intent in a criminal in English law actually makes it a racist crime). To deny such thinking is only to indict oneself even further. There is only one avenue for redemption: self-denunciation. Surrender to the new ‘anti-racist’ priestcraft, for only they know what you think.

True non-racists believe that racial discrimination is wrong. They subscribe to the tenets of the Enlightenment, with its belief in the universality of humanity. Today’s ‘anti-racists’ represent the antithesis. They are the intellectual descendants of pseudo-Freudians, Maoist brainwashers and religious fundamentalists.

  • A bad example

One would be tempted to assume that the government welcomes the news that The Streets have been nominated for best new British Urban Act award in this year’s Brits. Surely The Streets, aka Birmingham’s garage poet Mike Skinner, are a better role model than those gun-toting ‘idiot rappers’ So Solid Crew. Rather than banging on about guns and violence, Skinner’s songs are about ‘drinking Stellas and eating full English breakfasts’. How homely and English in comparison.

This is no time for complacency, however. I think it’s time they woke up and saw the potential malevolence in Mr Skinner’s oeuvre. Consider the lyrics churned out on his debut album, Original Pirate Material.

In ‘Has It Come To This?’ Skinner talks endearingly about ‘Videos, televisions, 64 PlayStations’. This is clearly irresponsible. As everyone knows, too much TV causes children to be insular, illiterate and unable to concentrate at school, while violent video games can, in the words of culture minister Kim Howells, engender the ‘acceptance of that heartlessness that is at the centre of all those kind of games, the kind of joy of shooting innocent bystanders or running them over in the car’.

‘Same Old Thing’ begins: ‘Whose round is it? / Down that beer quick smash my glass back down fall over the table / All rowdy and pissed.’ This kind of sentiment is wholly inappropriate too. New licensing laws will give a junior policeman the authority, without notice, to close a pub for 24 hours – if they find it full of rowdy and pissed people like you.

The track ‘Geezers Need Excitement’ is devoted to going to a late-night fast food outlet. New Labour won’t like this. Recent legislation proposed by the Food Standards Agency recommended that every restaurant and fast-food outlet in Britain should be forced to list calorie content of each item of food and drink they sell.

In ‘The Irony of It All’ we hear: ‘Hello, Hello. My name’s Terry and I’m a law abider / There’s nothing I like more than getting fired up on beer / And when the weekend’s here I to exercise my right to get paralytic and fight.’ This is wanton encouragement of yobbish behaviour. Under new ‘tough’ laws, Terry will find himself fined £50 tonight if he indulges in anything resembling anti-social behaviour.

And so it goes on. Skinner raps lyrical about ‘greasy spoon cafeteria’, ‘football and smut daily’ ‘Maccy D’s or KFC’. There is something ‘inappropriate’ for everyone here.

While I think this kind of music will probably encourage loutish behaviour (missing, naturally, the subtlety of his lyrics), Skinner’s sentiments do reflect the wasted lives of many in Britain. As I said in my last column, it’s a circular thing (1). (It’s a pity he can’t be bothered to rap in time, though.)

Nonetheless, if Mr Howells is going to be consistent in his thinking, it’s time for a crack-down, of some sorts, on artists who go around glorifying beer and fast food.

  • You like driving in your car

The congestion charge for London is increasingly being described as a ‘poll tax on wheels’. Like the community charge, it is a regressive tax, costing the poor relatively more of their income.

A British Social Attitudes survey conducted not too long ago indicates that the rich are indeed less concerned about the forthcoming charge. While a total of 38 percent of those with household incomes over £32,000 or more are in favour of the scheme, only 19 percent who earn less than £10,000 support it.

In reality, it is a bogus analogy. Only 14 percent of people earning less than £20,000 ever drove into the charging zone on weekdays between 7am and 6.30pm. What’s more, whereas the proper poll tax was compulsory, the congestion charge isn’t. All this talk of a ‘poll tax on wheels’ suggests that some drivers think they have a right to use their cars wherever they please. As a spokesman for the protest group Motorists Against Detection said this weekend: ‘For us this is a civil liberties and human rights issue.’

Unless I missed something, the right to drive your car wasn’t what the eighteenth-century philosophes fought for – just as their battle against autocracy wasn’t waged in the name of the ‘right’ to have a sex-change or watch pornos in prison.

Patrick West is the author of Conspicuous Compassion: Why Sometimes it Really is Cruel to be Kind, Civitas, 2004. Buy this book from Amazon (UK).

(1) See ‘Life imitates art’ in Chickens chicken out on freedom, by Patrick West

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Topics Politics

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