Some inconvenient truths
Why freethinkers must proceed from race fact, not race fiction.
Britain, it seems, is in the grip of an anti-racist hysteria that threatens to undermine the very freedom of speech we have long held so dear. For the anti-racist lobby, even discussing matters of race, immigration and non-Christian religions is now considered taboo. In October 2007, the hapless Dr James Watson, above, a man who evidently knows a thing or two about the human genome, fell foul of anti-racist bullies, for stating in an interview with the Sunday Times that:
… there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so.
This is an undeniably controversial statement, but one certainly worthy of further investigation and debate. What led such an eminent scientist to this startling conclusion? What is the evidence to the contrary? What would it mean if this assertion turned out to be true? What would it mean if blacks turned out to be more intelligent than whites, or if Asians turned out to be more intelligent than both? Are we really to believe that just a 0.01 percent difference in our racial DNA profiles accounts for appreciable variations in intelligence? All of these questions, and more, are perfectly legitimate.
There is evidence in Britain, that in some socio-economic groups, black people are now outperforming whites, academically and economically, with black women in particular forging ahead of their peers. Nigerians are one of the most successful and highly qualified immigrant groups in Britain, whilst white Portugese immigrants are among the least successful, which – apart from demonstrating that colour is no bar to success in modern Britain – would seem to contradict Dr Watson’s core premise.
By comparison, his other widely reported statement about equal intelligence: “… people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true”, is a throw-away, banal conversational prejudice, of the kind many people utter from time to time, reprehensibly, but forgivably. It is clear from Dr Watson’s lack of recollection and subsequent apology that he was foolishly loose-tongued, but did this slightly dotty and elderly genius really deserve to be hauled over the coals, have his UK lecture tour cancelled and his career at the Cold Harbor Laboratory prematurely curtailed?
More difficult, for freethinkers, was the decision of David Irving to go on a lecture tour in the UK, in an attempt to rehabilitate his now firmly discredited claim to be a serious historian. Often described as a “Holocaust denier”, this life-long apologist for Hitler may more accurately be described as a “Holocaust diminisher”, as he believes that only (only!) 2.4 million Jews were murdered by the Nazi regime and certainly fewer than 4 million.
He does describe each individual death as a “tragedy”, but his single-minded desire to deny Hitler’s culpability for the Holocaust (a term he rejects), together with his claim that Auschwitz was not a mass extermination camp, does not stand up to the critical scrutiny of Holocaust survivors themselves or bona fide historians who let facts inform their outlook, rather than the other way round.
Recently released from a jail term in Austria, where Holocaust denial is a criminal offence, Irving is now threatening the Jewish Chronicle with prosecution if they continue to describe him as such. This would be ill-advised: in 2000, when he attempted to sue the American academic Deborah Lipstadt for libel at the High Court, Mr Justice Gray’s appraisal of Irving was damning, describing him as “an active Holocaust denier” as well as “antisemitic and racist”.
Nevertheless, libertarian freethinkers’ commitment to free speech cannot be selective, even if one knows that what is being said is politically motivated falsehood. Providing he doesn’t actually incite racial hatred, Irving should be free to address anyone silly enough to waste an evening in his company. It is a mark of Britain’s political maturity that we not only allow neo-Nazi cranks the right to free speech, but in doing so, we give them enough rope to hang themselves in the glare of public opinion and media scrutiny.
Quite rightly, holding racist views is not, in itself, illegal, but active discrimination or stirring up racial hatred is. As it stands, the law is actually quite sensible in this regard. When both the prosecutions against BNP leader Nick Griffin and his gurning sidekick collapsed in 2006, it was a triumph for common sense, if not exactly a cause for celebration. Describing asylum seekers as “cockroaches” is dehumanising and hateful, but unless a particular racial group is identified, it cannot be racist.
Likewise, describing Islam as a “wicked, vicious faith” has nothing at all to do with race. Any one of us can become a Muslim and any Muslim can become one of us. Belief is not inscribed into one’s DNA, so charges of “Islamophobic racism” are a non sequitur. The editor of the Freethinker, certainly no racist, has described Islam as “stupid and barbarous” (Freethinker, Nov 2004), whilst Sunday Times columnist, Rod Liddle, was told by the Home Office that he could “probably get away with” calling Islam a “wicked, vicious faith” (Sunday Times, Feb 2006).
In the mouths of BNP members these statements may indeed be informed by racism, but once the law begins to second guess the motivation behind such statements we really are on a slippery slope.
From a humanist perspective, true racism is not only vicious and unkind, but really very silly. Just how silly was exemplified by the uber-patriotic BNP’s decision, during the 2002 World Cup, not to support England, but Denmark (the only all-white European team). In fact, racial prejudice – to treat someone differently purely on the basis of where they were born, their skin colour, nationality or ethnicity – is so obviously farcical and beyond reason, it need not detain us here.
Like the “metric martyrs”, who ignore the fact that, since 1970, every child in Britain has been educated in decimalised units of measurement, racists ignore the fact that most of us under 60, in urban environments, have grown up sharing our communities, schools, workplaces, homes and beds with people of all colours and ethnic backgrounds.
Most citizens now accept that without migrant labour and invigoration, our economy would decline along with our ageing population, our transport and health systems would collapse, our national diet would be a disgrace, our sports trophy cabinets would be practically empty and we’d all be sitting around listening to Gracie Fields on our iPods. Derogatory and condescending racist language has, thankfully, all but disappeared. We are, in the final analysis, a “live-and-let-live” society, so while we may not always like minorities, our distaste for the unfair treatment of minorities is even greater.
Nonetheless, freethinkers must be wary of the anti-racist lobby which is cynically manipulated by the far-Left. The reasons for this manipulation are obvious. The British Left has not only failed, but failed spectacularly, over the last quarter of a century. Economically, socialists have lost the argument, so instead they adopt fashionable no-hope causes like unilateral nuclear disarmament and attempt to knit together a “rainbow alliance” of mutually antagonistic underdogs – militant Muslims, feminists, gays, blacks, peaceniks, IRA sympathisers etc. Add to this unlikely mix the unrivalled capacity of the Left for internecine squabbling and it’s plain to see exactly why they’re such prolific losers.
The one triumph the Left has had, however, is in the arena of anti-racism. Those who marched against the National Front in the 1970s were inspired to do so by left-wingers, who, back then, were the only people prepared to organise against them. This played an important part in discrediting the National Front, which under pressure, split in 1980.
Likewise, when Margaret Thatcher was schmoozing P W Botha, it was mainly left-wingers who galvanised opposition to the Apartheid regime, which eventually gave way thanks to the sanctions brought about by a skilful campaign of international dimensions. The Left is justifiably proud of these achievements, but as its star has waned, it has become ever more desperate to prolong these past glories.
This desperation has resulted in a constant redefinition of what it means to be “racist”, accompanied by a deliberate collapse of perspective. So, when a gobby dimwit calls a Bollywood actress “Mrs Puppodum” on the Celebrity Big Brother TV show, instead of receiving a simple reprimand, she is treated like a Nazi war criminal and pushed to the brink of suicidal despair.
At a slightly more elevated level, the Marxist literary critic, Terry Eagleton, has bitterly attacked the author Martin Amis. His crime? Being “Islamophobic” and bravely admitting that when you inherit a cultural legacy of racism, you don’t just shrug it all off overnight. Left-wingers, under the “socialism-lite” of multiculturalism, are engaged in the anti-racist equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition, whilst taking every opportunity they can to instil a false sense of grievance among the client ethnic minorities they seek to patronise.
Taking one example, to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of slavery in 2007, an alliance of soppy Christians, black power activists and socialists, came up with the fatuous gimmick of asking white Britons to apologise for the slave trade – the only problem being it was at least 125 years too late for it to have any meaning.
As the staunchly Catholic, but strangely likeable Anne Widdecombe sensibly remarked, we can no more apologise for this wrongdoing than we can take the credit for its abolition. Of course, a cynic might add that, in the light of Operation Trident, it would be more relevant and fitting if the black community apologised to the rest of us for so many of its young men running around with knives and guns – but freethinkers should avoid cynicism.
The “apologise for slavery” idea is seriously flawed in its historical revisionism: it ignores the complicity of many black Africans themselves, the Arab slave trade (which continued long after 1807), and the fact that roving North African slavers took their own white slaves from as far afield as Iceland and southern Ireland.
Undeniably, the scale and systematic brutality of the British slave trade marks it as a particularly gruesome episode in the evolutionary journey of our society, but calls for a vicarious apology mask the fact that those profiting from the slave trade, were, at the same time, brutally oppressing the English poor, causing havoc in Ireland, and discriminating against Jews.
Such empty political gestures appeal to the likes of London’s mayor, Ken Livingstone, because far from healing the systematic inhumanity of ghastly episodes like the slave trade, they keep alive the contemporary “victim politics” of grudge and grievance, providing grist to the socialist mill. Pressurising Western governments into honouring their promises to drop the crippling Third World debt our generation has imposed on African countries would be a far better use of everybody’s time. Thus left-wingers are guilty, not just of gimmicks and distortion, but like David Irving and the BNP – their ideological mirror equivalents – they ignore inconvenient facts in the service of a bonkers belief system based on the religious paradigm of “absolute truths” and wishful thinking.
One such inconvenient fact is the sheer scale and chaotic nature of immigration into Britain. During the last 10 years, towns like Slough, Peterborough and Walsall have evidently come to be seen as the Promised Land for every Mustafa, Gregor, Ling-Ling and Olakunde going (or rather, coming). Officially, two million more people now inhabit the British Isles than in 1997, mostly due to immigration. According to the Commons Library, a third of the increase in public spending for the next 4 years will have to be spent coping with this influx.
Inevitably descending upon the poorest neighbourhoods, working class people naturally feel resentful as the resources they rely upon are stretched to breaking point. Of course, do-good council officials are quick to pounce on such complaints as evidence of “racism” – but not as quick as they are jumping into their 4x4s after work each day, so they can drive home to leafier suburbs where the in-built apartheid of the housing market acts as a sterile barrier to such problems.
The rigorous academic research of Migrationwatch has identified, not only a massive net in-flow of migrants, but the way “white flight” exacerbates this unprecedented demographic change. No one knows the true scale of illegal immigration, but given that most people’s second language is English and our reputation as a “soft touch”, it is hardly surprising that global patterns of migration have impacted disproportionately on the UK.
Unfortunately, Migrationwatch was ignored for years, because too many people fell for left-wing smear stories about the organisation. It is true that the BNP uses much of the data found on the Migrationwatch website, but then the BNP also refers to the weather forecast when planning its protest rallies. Are we therefore to infer that Met Office weather-girl, Sian Lloyd, is some kind of nascent neo-Nazi? Of course not. Belatedly, senior politicians now admit that Migrationwatch “tells it like it is”, confessing that official statistics have long been skewed by bad methodology, politically correct meddling, and incompetent ministers like Peter Hain.
For the record, Migrationwatch is an independent body, founded by the Conservative, Sir Andrew Green, and funded by donations. During his time as Middle East adviser at the Foreign Office, Green campaigned, unsuccessfully, to have asylum-seeking Muslim extremists deported, but he is also involved in assisting Muslim refugees through the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians. Moreover, Professor David Coleman, Migrationwatch’s senior academic, who coordinates Oxbridge students in the detailed collation and analysis of migration data, has presented papers on global population movements to the United Nations. These are not the profiles of knuckle-dragging racist morons!
Another potent Left-inspired myth that needs to be debunked is the notion that it is somehow politically incorrect to hold ethnic individuals to account when they are guilty of wrongdoing. Ironically, this condescension is, in itself, racist, because it suggests that ethnic minority citizens are not fully responsible for their own actions, unlike white people.
At the time of writing, the BBC Crimewatch programme’s “Most Wanted” website has 125 mugshots and CCTV stills, comprising 78 whites (11 with foreign names), and 47 people of colour, including 19 with Muslim names. If this sample is representative, it means that less than 10 percent of the population provides over 37 percent of the “most wanted” felons in the UK.
One in seven of the prison population is now a foreign national. Scotland Yard says that in London, 170 foreign gangs from 22 different ethnic and national groups, are involved in major fraud, trafficking, prostitution, drugs and gun crime. The police DNA database, compiled from arrested citizens (a third of them unconvicted), contains records from 9 percent of all white men, but 13 percent of Asians and 37 percent of black men (Guardian, Jan 2006) . Can this all be down to “institutionalised racism”, or are there complex cultural factors at work, most of them under the control of ethnic minorities themselves?
I mention these statistics, not to give racists ammunition, but because freethinkers have to proceed from facts, not fiction, however difficult and uncomfortable those facts may be. When a crime is committed against a white person by a person of colour, the media tend to screen out any suggestion that the crime may have had a racial motive. Yet when a person of colour is the victim of a white person, it’s headline news and the breast-beating circus surrounding the victim and their stoically forgiving family, plays out to an all too familiar formula.
In July 2005, Anthony Walker, a black teenager, was brutally killed in Huyton, Liverpool, a truly sickening crime which, quite properly, induced an outpouring of media revulsion, as well as compassionate admiration for his Christian mother who managed to find it in her heart to forgive his twisted killers. Yet in the period 2001-2004, Home Office figures show that out of 22 racially motivated murders, 12 of them, just over half, had white victims. Can you name a single one of them? No, neither can I.
The Stephen Lawrence affair set the template for news stories about racially motivated crime, but in that case, the real scandal was not just the incompetence of the police investigation into his death, but the way that four white working class youths (admittedly rather unprepossessing in character), faced trial by Daily Mail and were pilloried by the hyenas of the anti-racist lobby before they had even been found guilty by a court of law. Black youths, similarly treated, would have had human rights lawyers queuing up to represent them and every university refectory in Britain would have been renamed in their honour.
To conclude, it is easy to see how freethinkers have become sandwiched between goggle-eyed racists on the one hand and hardbitten anti-racists on the other. Pointing out the links between immigration and the upsurge in religious extremism causes the bearded white Catweazles of the atheist Left to go into a tail-spin of hysterical denial, but the failed gas-canister bomb attacks of July 2007, in which immigrant Muslim doctors came within a hair’s breadth of bringing fundamentalist carnage to London’s Tiger-Tiger nightclub and Glasgow Airport, finally exposed these denials as the dangerous delusions they always have been. Encouragingly, there are signs that freethinkers are now feeling brave enough to take on, not just the racists, but the anti-racists as well.
We will not accept the endless extension of the definition of “racism” to proscribe criticism of Islam or excuse clerical fascism. We will insist on freedom of enquiry and a sense of proportion when public figures make silly mistakes discussing these matters. We will defend freedom of speech, even when we despise what is being said, and we will judge jokes by a more lenient set of criteria than we do the policy objectives of racist organisations. In short, we will cut each other some slack and make allowances for human fallibility, eschewing ideological fictions so we can be guided by facts alone. For genuine freethinkers, the future of this sensitive and complex debate, is neither “racist”, nor “anti-racist”, but simply, non-racist.