Political correctness

Ricky Gervais is an achingly conventional Millennial posing as a naughty maverick

Just how edgy and dangerous is Ricky Gervais? There is no one more edgy and dangerous, we learn from no less an authority than one R. Gervais. He keeps reminding you of this at intervals in his latest stand-up special, for which he was reputedly paid $20 million (to go with the other $20 million Netflix paid him for its predecessor). Every few sketches, he’ll announce to his live audience that this one was so offensive there’s just no way Netflix is going to broadcast it. But Netflix has done just that – and yet, quite incredibly, neither it nor Gervais has been cancelled. Funny that. What this suggests to

America is a nation divided

New York Imagine a European country today in which a newspaper in its most populous city launches a mendacious project reinterpreting its past. The practice was perfected under the old communist system that ruled Romania, Hungary, Poland and the rest of the Soviet satellites. But it is no longer possible in that part of the world now that the old continent has rediscovered freedom. It is taking place elsewhere, though, right here in New York, marinated by the Bagel Times which has invented a nation predicated on racism and enforced racial inequality. The 1619 Project is based on delusion and is a sweeping assault on the American way of life

After a lifetime in nightclubs, now I party at home

New York   It’s party time in the Bagel, and it’s about time, too. Good restaurants and elegant nightclubs are now a thing of the past, at least here in New York, so it’s home sweet home for the poor little Greek boy, for dinner, drinks and even some dancing at times. Here in my Bagel house my proudest possessions are my three Oswald Birley pictures. One is enormous and covers the whole wall of the entrance hall. The other two are a self-portrait and one of a rather grand lady. They are masterfully executed portraits, with aesthetic as well as psychological realism, an extremely difficult goal for an artist

Poems are the Duracell batteries of language, says Simon Armitage

Ezra Pound in ABC of Reading: ‘Dichten = condensare.’ Meaning poetry is intensification, ‘the most concentrated form of verbal expression’. Simon Armitage saying the same thing, memorably, genially, metaphorically, democratically: ‘How much power and force could be stored in — and retransmitted by — such compact shapes. Poems as the Duracell batteries of language.’ Both poets go straight to the point. But a shift has taken place — in tone, in attack — which can be illustrated also by the photographs Armitage found as a ‘sleep-walking’ teenager leafing through Worlds, a sampler of seven contemporary poets, edited by Geoffrey Summerfield: ‘Norman MacCaig watched television and smoked fags.’ We are in

We need Voltaire more than ever

New York The high life has gone with the wind because of you know what. The last time I went to a glittering ball, Marie Antoinette still had a head on her shoulders, or so it seems, and sweats and leggings are now ubiquitous at intimate dinner parties. Here in the Bagel fashion has followed the street for a long time, making high fashion seem as irrelevant and obscene as Anna Wintour being paid millions to kiss the ass of celebrities. No sweats, no leggings was my only rule for an intimate dinner for Prince Pavlos, expertly cooked by Michael Mailer and attended by Arki Busson and three youngsters of

Jordan Peterson is the Savonarola of our times

Like most novelists, I am a firm adherent to the W.H. Davies principle of finding time to stand and stare. I was once sauntering down Regent Street when a gentleman hared out of a department store, closely followed by two rather healthier specimens. They flung him to the ground, upon which large quantities of merchandise started falling from his pockets. I was fascinated, both by the level of violence the shop’s security was using and by what a captured thief actually says when he’s being subdued. (Clue: not ‘You got me bang to rights.’) After a moment or two another bloke came over to me and a couple of others

How stupid do the script writers of Sky’s Devils think we are?

Here’s a worried question I want to plant in your head: when is TV drama going to start depicting the world we actually live in, where almost everyone wears masks, even outdoors? The current state of affairs — watching people on screen in familiar locations interacting closely, as we used to, and not wearing face-coverings — is a bit jarring. But it’s greatly preferable to the alternative: mumbled lines even more unintelligible than they are usually, smiles and teeth and noses and lips hidden behind a rag — and concealed with them not just beauty or character but half the means our faces use to convey emotion. I wonder, though,

The myth of American freedom

Gstaad Imagine a beautiful, sexy woman, an Ava Gardner or a Lily James, with a wart on the end of her nose. It stands out, whereas on an ugly mien it would go almost unnoticed. Noise in stunning and peaceful surroundings disturbs more than it would in grating, jarring cities. Last week, on a gorgeous sunny afternoon, after yet another record snowfall, I was cross-country skiing and stopped for a picnic lunch with Lara and Patricia, two married friends of mine who had left me miles behind. They were using the new skating method of cross-country skiing (I remain traditional, gliding on the double track). A cloudless and very blue

Sick, puerile, inappropriate and delicious: Amazon Prime’s The Boys reviewed

There’s a delicious scene in the new season of Amazon’s superheroes-gone-bad series The Boys. The chief superhero Homelander (Antony Starr) is introduced by a minion to a potential new member of his elite superhero group, the Seven. Homelander watches this bright new talent performing wonders in a gym-style training zone: the young man is agile, eager, skilled with weaponry; but perhaps his most valuable features, the minion suggests, are that he is disabled and belongs to an ethnic minority. This could play really well with the youth demographic, who are into that kind of woke stuff, the aide suggests. The potential recruit approaches Homelander, sweet, modest and starstruck. Even though

How to have a happy old age

Gstaad Birthdays at my age are for the birds, but always a good excuse for a party. Messages of good wishes began early on, with loyal Speccie reader Arnold Taylor ringing from South Africa, and Rosemary and Wafic Saïd texting from the English countryside. (They wished me a happy 39th. I accepted.) My great buddy Michael Mailer, staying with the Kennedys at the family compound in Hyannis Port, had hoped to fly over but the you-know-what prevented it, while Charlie Glass rang from London to announce the end of capitalism as well as yours truly. I asked Charlie to answer me truthfully, because it was my birthday, and he swore

The forgotten victims of communism

I just read a piece by Scott McConnell in the American Conservative, a magazine we co-founded 18 years ago. He writes about how the victims of communism are less commemorated than those of fascism. The death toll under communism was 100 million (see the Black Book of Communism). And as the mass murders continued, your Cambridge Joseph Needhams and his fellow apologists insisted that Maoism represented mankind’s best hope. Maoism never received the moral obloquy that Nazism did. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which documents the horrific enormity of the Nazi project, has had 40 million visitors since 1993; the victims of communism are marked by a ten-foot statue

The death of free speech

Oh, to be in America, where cultural decay and self-destruction compete equally with hyper-feminist and anti-racist agendas. Gone with the Wind is now off limits and Robert E. Lee’s statue in Richmond is unlikely to remain standing (I give it a week at most). And over here poor old Winnie is also in the you-know-what. Why didn’t anyone tell me Churchill was a Nazi? The Cenotaph also has to go; those guys it honours were racists. Two weeks ago in these here pages Douglas Murray said it all about a US import we can do without. Alas, when Uncle Sam sneezes, the British bulldog gets the flu. The scenes may

Priti Patel and the ugly prejudice of her critics

Isn’t it amazing how all the woke rules for how to talk about women and people of colour go flying out the window when it comes to Priti Patel? You can say anything you like about Patel and the PC set won’t bat an eyelid. In fact they will cheer you on. Patel is possibly the only female, Asian-heritage public figure in the UK who enjoys absolutely none of the protections of political correctness. It’s always open season on Priti. So for years we have been told that we shouldn’t call successful women ‘bossy’ or ‘bitchy’. Those are sexist insults against women who have simply shown the kind of resolve

Prince Andrew and me

No use piling on where Prince Andrew is concerned. It’s a sorry business, and he’s not among the brightest either. Back in the summer of 2007, in St Tropez, I had a boatload of guests and we all went to a party given by the Rubin family in their villa. It was a very gay night, in the old-fashioned meaning of the word. We were joined by a comely seductress from the Far East and the prince with the highest IQ on the planet, Andrew. He was polite but distant, concentrating on his companion. That’s when I told my friend Debbie Bismarck that Andy had no chance. Just watch me,

High life | 6 June 2019

They were putting the finishing touches to the giant tent as I drove up to Schloss Wolfsegg after an hour’s flight from Gstaad to a tiny nearby airport. With me were my son and two good friends, and the Pilatus felt like a Messerschmitt 109 cutting through the clouds and landing on a dime. The Pilatus is a great airplane. It can cruise for seven hours at 280 knots, and land at less than 500 metres. It seats six people very comfortably. The only man who has complained about this aircraft is my old friend Charlie Glass, who like a true lefty whined about the lavatory’s headroom. (I told him

The Spectator Podcast: is Boris the man?

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Is that man Boris? And if it is, what still stands in his way? In this week’s cover article, James Forsyth writes that Boris is the only one who can save the Tories from Jeremy Corbyn and, more pressingly, Nigel Farage (he’s backed up by the latest polling from Friday). But the biggest thing standing in his way is himself. In the aftermath of the 2016 referendum, Boris Johnson found himself unorganised, undisciplined, and crushed by public opinion, unable to recover from the vitriol that went his way following the Leave result, and panicked by Michael Gove’s last minute backstabbing. But the 2019 Boris

All in the worst possible taste

‘Unfunny, boring and utterly unrelenting,’ says the Guardian’s one-star review of Chris Lilley’s new sketch series Lunatics (Netflix). And if that’s not incentive enough, our woke critical chum goes on to declare the series ‘problematic’. That’s a weaselly way of saying ‘this triggered all my snowflake sensitivities’ but in such a way as to make it sound like a loftily objective judgment. In truth, Lunatics is only problematic if a) you have no sense of humour and b) you’d prefer all comedy to be politically correct, inoffensive and utterly devoid of satirical edge. Sometimes, Lunatics is so cruel that it’s almost too painful to watch. But this isn’t because —

High life | 2 May 2019

Charlottesville is an enchanting Virginia college town graced by the neoclassical architecture of the university’s founder, Thomas Jefferson. I flew there with two friends, the talented photographer Jonathan Becker and the Vietnam Special Forces Silver Star winner Chuck Pfeifer, all of us close buddies of the deceased. It was the memorial service for Willy von Raab, scourge of drug dealers and illegal immigrants while commissioner of customs for eight years under Reagan. The humorist P.J. O’Rourke and I were the two speakers, and after a rousing ‘America the Beautiful’ we retired for an afternoon of southern hospitality and University of Virginia co-ed watching. This is not woke, I know, but

Off the Boyle

‘I spend a lot of time helping teenagers who’ve been sexually abused…’ — beat — ‘…find their way out of my house.’ You’d scarcely imagine, listening to Frankie Boyle now, that this was the kind of joke he was telling on TV as recently as this decade. I wouldn’t believe it myself if I didn’t have written evidence of it, in the form of a 2011 TV review of his now-forgotten shocker of a Channel 4 show, Tramadol Nights. Boyle was great back then because he went to places few other comics dared to tread. He joked about everything from cancer (‘What is it about people with cancer thinking they’re

Accidental hero | 28 February 2019

Steve Coogan is back as Alan Partridge but frankly who cares? Like Ali G, I’ve long thought, he’s one of those ‘classic’ 1990s comedy characters funnier in recollection than ever he was in reality. He should have been confined to brief sketches — like Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield mostly did with their cheesy has-been DJs Smashie and Nicey — not cruelly exposed in endless TV series where you’ve got the joke in the first five minutes and the rest is pure cringe. Actually, though, This Time with Alan Partridge (BBC1, Mondays) is genuinely funny, clever and enjoyable because finally he has scriptwriters who don’t hate him. For his original