What is Black Lives Matter?

It’s hard not to admire Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter foundation. Under fire over yet another set of revelations that suggest her world-famous anti-racism organisation is in fact little more than a racket, she has admitted she made ‘mistakes’. But what else could a poor girl do? An organisation of BLM’s size was simply not equipped for the millions upon millions of dollars it suddenly received in the summer of 2020, when the locked-down world went crazy over the death of George Floyd. It was all ‘white guilt money’, says Cullors. She’s absolutely right, of course. In those mad days of 2020, as protests spread and

BLM is dying but its legacy lives on

It can be hard to remember just how strange things were during the pandemic. Every day the front pages covered the virus spreading from city to city in minute detail, while politicians and citizens alike excoriated each other for failing to show sufficient concern about the disease. With the benefit of those two years, it’s now – probably – just about safe to say it: the summer of 2020, which was dominated by the Black Lives Matter movement, really was quite strange. In response to George Floyd’s death in Minnesota, politicians in Britain took the knee in solidarity, protesters turned out in force even though pandemic restrictions were still in

The mind virus killing academia

We lost a giant last month with E.O. Wilson’s passing. A man who stood on Darwin’s shoulders, Wilson had that rare distinction of inspiring a whole discipline in the form of evolutionary psychology. The great sense of loss did not seem to be shared by Scientific American, however, which soon afterwards put out a piece reflecting on the ‘complicated legacies of scientists whose works are built on racist ideas’. Among the ‘problematic’ aspects of Wilson’s work, the author argued, was the ‘descriptions and importance of ant societies existing as colonies’. This was ‘a component of Wilson’s work that should have been critiqued’ because ‘context matters’. Scientific American is not Teen

What’s the truth about Kyle Rittenhouse?

On the night of 25 August 2020, Richie McGinniss, a somewhat gonzo video journalist, interviewed Kyle Rittenhouse for the right-wing Daily Caller website. Rittenhouse wore his cap backwards, had rubbery purple medical gloves on and an assault rifle dangling between his legs. He had decided for some reason that he, a 17-year-old boy, had to help the forces of law and order during the Black Lives Matter riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin. ‘People are getting injured,’ he said. ‘If there’s somebody hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle because I need to protect myself, obviously. I also have my med kit.’ Around two hours later, the reporter McGinniss

Should Henry Morton Stanley’s statue be pulled down?

Should Stanley fall? Debate is raging over whether a statue of the Victorian explorer Henry Morton Stanley, which was erected in his home town of Denbigh in Wales a few years ago, should be pulled down because of his racist views. Stanley is, of course, best known for the four words he uttered when he found Dr Livingstone destitute in the middle of Africa. But his lesser-known activities during his travels have now led to a public consultation being set up in the wake of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. That consultation is tasked with deciding the fate of his statue. So should the monument follow the lead of Edward

The techniques of totalitarianism are still fully in play today

How to Become a Tyrant (Netflix) is ideal history TV for Generation No Attention Span. Presented in six bite-sized chunks by Peter Dinklage, aka the ‘Imp’ Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones, it tells you most of the things you need to know about Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Gaddafi, Kim Il-Sung, Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein, without obliging you to think or grapple with any tedious detail. Instead of examining the dictators individually, it explores their careers thematically, looking for the ingredients they have in common. It’s split into half-hour episodes — ‘Seize Power’, ‘Crush Your Rivals’, ‘Reign Through Terror’, ‘Control the Truth’, ‘Create a New Society’, ‘Rule Forever’ — which

Britain is a tolerant country and a few football racists don’t change that

The racist messages sent to England football players in recent days are shameful, but to suggest that the UK is a festering hotbed overflowing with racist thugs is a step too far. Out of the hundreds of thousands of social media posts about the Euro 2020 final, only a tiny number contained racist words. Of course, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak out against such abuse. What happened is indefensible and the culprits should be dealt with by the police. But the frenzied debate the messages have generated risk giving those responsible the attention they crave and which they do not deserve. As well as failing to see the bigger picture here – that Britain, generally

PMQs: Boris fluffed his response to England taking the knee

Who won the Euros? Race-baiters clearly. Sir Keir Starmer spent most of PMQs trying to label Boris as a bigot. The Labour leader craftily wove several arguments into one. He claimed that by failing to condemn fans who booed the BLM-inspired rite of genuflection, Boris was responsible for the abuse suffered by black players after the match. The PM had many powerful and obvious lines of defence. But he failed to use them. He fluffed it completely. He ignored a BBC report suggesting that most of the online abuse originated abroad. He didn’t mention that BLM is a political movement whose Marxist supporters want to close prisons and abolish police

Brendan O’Neill

Why do those who abuse Priti Patel get a free pass?

Remember when Labour MP Clive Lewis got into trouble for saying, ‘On your knees, bitch’? It was at a fringe event hosted by Momentum during the Labour conference in Brighton in 2017. Lewis uttered the line as a joke to the actress Sam Swann. People went nuts. Labour bigwigs accused Lewis of misogyny. He eventually ‘apologised unreservedly’ for his ‘offensive’ language. That phrase — ‘On your knees, bitch’ — sprung back into my mind this week as I read an exchange between Alastair Campbell and Priti Patel. No, Campbell did not use the B-word. He is far too civilised for that. But he did tell Patel to get on her

Taking the knee isn’t the best way of showing black lives matter

As a black football fan who grew up going to matches in the seventies and eighties, I know more than most about the beautiful game’s troubles with racism. I can still remember my own club West Ham United being the first English Football League side to select three black players in their starting team on Easter Saturday 1972; and I can still recall, for two seasons in a row, a particular section of fans in the old west side stand ‘Sieg Heil’ saluting during every home game. Nowadays, racism in football is less obvious but it still exists – and it needs to be called out. But I’m convinced that

Are England fans allowed to be proud of the St George’s Cross?

It’s starting to feel like the only flag you can’t fly in England is the England flag. Wave the Pride flag out of your living room window and your neighbours will gush. In fact, flying the Pride flag is practically mandatory in June, Pride month. Every town hall, school, bank and social-media site is draped in the rainbow colours. Such is the omnipresence of the Pride flag that it is actual headline news when someone refuses to wave it. For the second year running, Ockbrook and Borrowash Parish Council in Derbyshire has decided not to fly the Pride colours. The BBC was on this bizarre case pronto. ‘Anger as Pride

France is divided on ‘taking the knee’

Until this month ‘taking a knee’ has not been a French phenomenon. When the Black Lives Matter movement spilled out of America twelve months ago and spread across the world, France was one of the few Western nations where it failed to make any headway. In a bold television address at the time, Emmanuel Macron declared that there would be no statues toppled in France. Meanwhile, the leader of the far-left France Insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, rubbished the idea of ‘white privilege’. The French looked on in bemusement as Britain seemed to lose the collective plot, hauling down statues, denigrating Churchill and then, when the rugby and football seasons started, dropping to their

Euro 2020 and the search for a new Englishness

A soccer contest is upon us. I know nothing of football as a sport, but even a dunce like me knows that these things are about more than 22 men chasing a ball for 90 minutes. Big sporting events such as Euro 2020 matter, especially for England and Englishness. Any big England game is a rare chance for people to fly the flag and briefly talk about Englishness. But we need to do more than talk about this when the football team is playing. A proper national debate about English identity is overdue and badly needed. New polling from British Future this week showed that only two thirds of BAME

Olympics’ organisers could regret banning ‘taking the knee’

Knee-taking and fist-raising protests have been banned at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, with the International Olympic Committee warning athletes who flout the rules that they will be punished. The IOC clearly hopes this will mean the delayed and accursed Olympics – already set to be loaded with a slew of joy-killing Covid restrictions – can take place without the additional burden of political controversy. That’s the theory, but could it all backfire? At first glance it looks as if the IOC has been clever. Rather than issue a top-down declaration, they canvassed 3,500 athletes asking whether the current Rule 50, which bars all political demonstrations on the podium (not specifically the knee or the

Theatre’s final taboo: fun

How will the theatre look after lockdown? A clue emerges in a statement made by Guy Jones, the literary associate of the Orange Tree in Richmond. ‘The victims of this year are many. Homelessness is on the rise, loneliness is deadly, the monster of racism lurks in every-day interactions… and many of the inequalities we live with are written into the systems in which we are asked to participate.’ ‘The victims’. That’s his starting point. It might seem odd that a theatre should prioritise the injured and the aggrieved, as if the stage were a tribunal or a public court where justice is dispensed. But that’s how theatres see themselves.

Flip-flop Starmer has been unmasked

A lot of politicians go through phases with phrases – falling back on buzzwords and self-coined instant cliches when seeking to set out a thought to interviewers or people that they meet. Often this becomes the subject of private jokes between their spin doctors – with sneaky glances and wry smiles greeting the umpteenth rolling out of the latest favoured soundbite. Keir Starmer has a classic just now, a belter of a mixed metaphor to boot. He cannot wait, he tells people, ‘to take off the mask and open the throttle’. The saying has such an irresistible air of Accidental Partridge that I’d be surprised were it not to have

Now isn’t the time to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum

Who will educate the educators, when the educators get things wrong? This week, one of Britain’s leading teaching unions passed a motion to ‘decolonise’ all subjects in the secondary school curriculum: not just history or English, but all subjects, including food technology, computer science, geography, and maths. Black history must be ‘fully embedded’ across the curriculum, NASUWT’s president, Michelle Codrington-Rogers, said. What started out as a laudatory attempt to teach black students that their history is much more than slavery and colonialism, has led to a sad, pathetic, hyperbolic overreaching. Black Maths? What is that? The only name of any mathematician I ever learnt at high school was Pythagoras, and no one

There’s the kernel of a good show in this copycat Hamilton: Treason the Musical reviewed

Copycat Hamiltons are everywhere. Lin-Manuel Miranda led the way by turning an unexamined corner of history into a smash-hit show. The latest antique subject to become a musical is the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The script, by Ricky Allan and Kieran Lynn, ought to include those words in the title because they give vital data about the location, the historical period and some elements of the story. It’s a priceless asset. But they’ve tossed it aside and plumped instead for the vague, unsuggestive ‘Treason’. The best-known figure in the conspiracy, Guy Fawkes, gets a mention — as ‘Gwee-dough Forks’ — but doesn’t feature as a character. Another puzzling decision. Writers

Britain isn’t racist. Here’s how the Tories can prove it

Is it racist to wonder what skin colour a baby might have? The reaction to Harry and Meghan’s bombshell interview appears to suggest some people think it is. Even attempting to weigh up whether claims of racism within the Royal Family hold water or not is deemed to be unconscionable.  ‘It’s not any of our places to pick apart claims of racism in order to make us feel more comfortable,’ according to GMB presenter and slayer of Piers Morgan, Alex Beresford. Labour leader Keir Starmer seemed to agree, setting aside his previous penchant for forensically picking over evidence to declare that Meghan’s experiences were a reminder of the racism that is all around us.

The campus Churchill delusion

Was Winston Churchill a racist? For students like me who attended Churchill College, Cambridge, it’s a question which barely even merits an answer: of course he wasn’t. But some Cambridge academics appear to take a different approach when it comes to assessing the record of Britain’s most famous prime minister. Churchill College recently announced a ‘year-long programme’ into Sir Winston’s allegedly ‘backward’ conceptions of empire and race. As part of this review, the college has held events such as ‘The Racial Consequences of Mr Churchill’. Many students are simply bemused. Academic debate is, of course, no bad thing. It is something to be encouraged at any university. But a problem arises