Political correctness

High life | 18 October 2018

New York   There is fear and loathing in this city, with men looking over their shoulders for the thought police and hard-eyed women roaming the television studios with lists of sexual predators. There is also dread over the latest exports from the city’s youth detention centres, thanks to Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert Kennedy and ex-wife of Governor Cuomo, who is now busy bailing out criminals who cannot afford bail through the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights foundation, of which she is president. This is one hell of a city. While the criminals are being released, the innocent (presumed) are losing their jobs, having been accused of sexual harassment.

Get woke, go broke

You won’t be aware of this because the BBC has been keeping it very quiet. But the new Doctor Who is — wait for it — a woman! Let me say straight away that Jodie Whittaker is a delight. Opening as the new Doctor is never easy — all that tiresome establishing rigmarole you have to go through along the lines of ‘I’m feeling all funny. Almost like I’m a completely different actor but in the same body. What can it be? Who am I? Has anyone watching at home worked it out yet?’ But already we like her. Yes, at the moment she’s still a bit of a mishmash

Shark treatment

All the good non-fiction things that were ever on TV — from Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation to David Attenborough’s Planet Earth (the bits where he’s not proselytising about climate doom, I mean), from Andrew Graham-Dixon’s arty jaunts to Italy to Jonathan Meades’s bizarro forays into architecture, from The World at War to all those more recent war porn documentaries narrated by Sam West, from Werner Herzog’s Little Dieter Needs To Fly to Louis Theroux doing a number on Jimmy Savile — have one thing in common: they were all made by middle-aged men. Middle-aged men are the business. They’re comfortable in their skin; they’ve got hinterland and character; they’ve put in

His dark materials | 16 August 2018

Apparently there’s a new ‘character’ on University Challenge. I wouldn’t know. Last year, I vowed never again to raise my blood pressure by exposing myself to its new, gender-balanced questions: ‘Your starter for ten: which composer of Serenade for My Cat, rated by her father as the equal of Bach’s Goldberg Variations…’ Don’t know. Don’t care. You bastards ruined it, just like you ruined Sanpellegrino and Lucozade. Same applies, now I think about it, to all the other programmes on the BBC. I never watch anything on it for pleasure these days: only out of duty — to see what the enemy is thinking — and also so I can

The Spectator Podcast: the Diversity Trap

In recent days, Lionel Shriver has been in trouble. Her criticism of the publishing industry’s diversity drive has led to her marked as a racist and even dropped from a literary judging panel. She argued that ethnic quotas harm rather than help diversity – is she wrong? As Robert Mueller’s investigation continues, several dodgy links to Britain have surfaced that could bring down Trump. And last, in the age of MeToo, is sex becoming sexier? Find out at this week’s Spectator Podcast. Do quotas help or hinder racial equality? That’s the big question we’ve been asking at the Spectator recently. Since we published Lionel Shriver’s critique of Penguin Random House’s

Penguin wants its authors to represent all UK minorities. What about just publishing good books?

I’d been suffering under the misguided illusion that the purpose of mainstream publishers like Penguin Random House was to sell and promote fine writing. A colleague’s forwarded email has set me straight. Sent to a literary agent, presumably this letter was also fired off to the agents of the entire Penguin Random House stable. The email cites the publisher’s ‘new company-wide goal’: for ‘both our new hires and the authors we acquire to reflect UK society by 2025.’ (Gotta love that shouty boldface.) ‘This means we want our authors and new colleagues to reflect the UK population taking into account ethnicity, gender, sexuality, social mobility and disability.’ The email proudly

High life | 31 May 2018

I’m back in New York and digesting the five glorious days spent in Normandy. What was the fighting all about, you may ask: was it about freedom, equality, cultural diversity, man’s dignity — all liberal catchphrases these days? Liberty and freedom are also big words nowadays, but all I see are massive central governments with arbitrary powers à la Brussels and Washington DC. Normandy promised us a lot but, as far as I’m concerned, delivered little. If freedom of speech was non-existent in Germany in 1940, political correctness makes it just as rare in London and New York in 2018. Our stifling culture of PC makes the sacrifices of those

Women on top | 7 December 2017

Boy came to me the other night in a state of dismay. ‘Dad, I just turned on Match of the Day to watch England vs Kazakhstan and guess what: they never mentioned this, but it’s the women’s game.’ What bothered him was not so much being forced to watch a slower, less athletic, duller version of real football — though obviously that too — as that the BBC was being so utterly disingenuous about it. This policy of pretending there’s absolutely no difference between men’s and women’s international sporting fixtures has, I know, been operational for some time. But for those of us living outside the PC metropolitan bubble —

High life | 23 November 2017

The faux Leonardo that sold for 400 million greenbacks — plus a 50 million fee for Christie’s — was a subject dissected again and again by the glitterati at two rather splendid dinners given in the Bagel by George Livanos and Mick Flick. My fellow guests were not the types to be outraged or shocked at the obscenity of the amount of moolah involved, but it beat talking about the weather or why the media hate Trump as much as they do. For any of you who might have missed it, the Leonardo — originally thought to have been painted by Leo’s pupil Giovanni Boltraffio — was partly painted over,

High life | 2 November 2017

I have a message for the London mayor, Sadiq Khan: you and your policies stink! While the fuzz are busy scanning the internet for racist or sexist material, crime in the capital is up by six per cent over the past 12 months and the police — handicapped by PC orders from above — have made 20 per cent fewer arrests. Statistics show youth violence and murder soaring in London, with the latter up by 84 per cent on last year. But here’s a story that’s not a statistic. Last week, my little girl Lolly was viciously attacked and robbed near the World’s End pub on the King’s Road after

Lionel Shriver

When did fiction become so dangerous?

The assignment of books for review has always been haphazard. Fellow fiction writers can be tempted either to undermine the competition, or to flatter colleagues who might later judge prizes or provide boosting blurbs. There are no clear qualifications for book reviewing — perhaps publication, but most of all, because reviewers are paid for their text but not for the many hours it takes to read the bleeding books, a willingness to work for atrocious wages. Mitigating the gravity of this matter? Aside from the authors whose work is on the block, almost no one reads book reviews, and I say that as someone who writes a fair number. It’s

The Spectator Podcast: Tech vs Trump

On this week’s episode, we discuss Trump versus technology, the ‘new normal’ with Calamity May, and whether jargon is polluting the English language. First up, in this week’s magazine cover piece, Niall Ferguson writes on the battle between networks and hierarchies for supremacy in a digital world. The biggest fight is between the American President and the social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, who still exist in the unregulated frontier of the Wild Wild World Wide Web. Niall joined Freddy Gray, host of the Spectator’s Americano podcast, to discuss. As Niall writes: “It may be too big a stretch to claim that Russian Facebook ads swung the election in Trump’s

Language barrier

Since the EU referendum result last June our nation has been divided: not only by the vote but also by language. If 62 per cent of Britons (many of whom undoubtedly voted for Brexit) now say Britain ‘sometimes feels like a foreign country’, it’s not anti-foreigner prejudice so much as a feeling that people in authority are speaking at them in a foreign language. Not Polish or Punjabi but PC-speak, that opaque code that connotes whether you are ‘on message’ and one of ‘our kind of people’ or one of those racist lizard-brained Leaver oiks. Look at the new language of diversity that is now being prescribed in much of

The dwarves of death who control your TV

My own fault, I suppose, for turning on the television. Not an action I undertake very regularly these days, because I am trying to be a nicer person. Some time ago, Charles Moore wrote in his Spectator diary about a hitherto ghastly, bitter old woman who had suddenly become much more pleasant to everybody. What had effected this change? ‘I have stopped reading the Daily Mail,’ she explained. So it is with me and the idiot box. I become so enraged at being clubbed over the head by the politically correct dwarves of death who inhabit that poxed machine in the corner that I stamp around and make everybody miserable

High life | 24 August 2017

When the Germans smuggled arguably the world’s most evil man into Russia 100 years ago, they did not imagine the harm they were unleashing on the human race. Once Lenin had prevailed, he decided to forge a new consciousness, New Soviet Man, as the Bolshies called it, someone who would overcome ‘the antinomies of subjective and objective, body and spirit, family and party’. Leave it to a horror like Lenin to design a new human being (although a certain Austrian tried to emulate him less than 20 years later) and you get Yakov Sverdlov, who ordered the murder of the Tsar and his family, and the hanging of their dogs.

Don’t like our diversity agenda? You’re fired

Earlier this week, a technology website published an internal memo written by a Google employee called James Damore criticising the company’s efforts to diversify its workforce. This is ‘where angels fear to tread’ territory. The American technology sector has come under fire for years for failing to hire and promote enough women and Google is being investigated by the US Department of Labor for allegedly underpaying its female employees. What makes this memo particularly controversial is that Damore takes Google to task for discriminating in favour of women. He begins by saying that he is pro-diversity and accepts that sexism is one of the reasons women don’t constitute 50 per

It’s dangerous and wrong to tell all children they’re ‘gender fluid’ | 23 July 2017

Once upon a time, ‘binary’ was a mathematical term. Now it is an insult on a par with ‘racist’, ‘sexist’ or ‘homophobic’, to be deployed as a weapon in our culture wars. The enemy on this particular battleground is anyone who maintains that there are men and there are women, and that the difference between them is fundamental. This ‘binary’ distinction is accepted as a given by the vast majority of the human race. No matter. It is now being categorised as a form of bigotry. Utterly bizarre? Scoff at your peril. It’s fast becoming an enforceable orthodoxy, with children and young people particularly in the frame for attitude reassignment.

High life | 1 June 2017

I feel like an obituary writer, what with Nick Scott, Roger Moore, Alistair Horne — all great buddies — and now my oldest and closest friend, Aleko Goulandris, dead at 90. Mind you, they all had very good lives: plenty of women, lots of fun, accomplishments galore, and many children and grandchildren. And they all reached a certain age — what else can you ask of this ludicrous life of ours? Well, I won’t be writing about the high life this week, but scum life instead. And I’ll tell you why: those innocent young children slaughtered by that Islamist scumbag in Manchester, that’s why. Those sweet young lives deserved better,

National Army Museum

I used to love the National Army Museum in Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, which was crammed with the memorabilia of four centuries of the British Army. I even visited it on the morning of my wedding. It taught you about the history of the British Army in a completely non-political way, allowing the objects — which were carefully factually annotated — to speak for themselves. It was housed in a hideous 1971 building, but the artefacts inside were superb. Today’s huge new £24 million refurbished National Army Museum looks imposing inside, but instead of chronologically taking you through the history of the Army it is now broken down thematically into

The mad, bad war on ‘cultural appropriation’

It’s usually best to ignore the indignant fury of the 21st-century young. We’re used to them now, these snowflakes, posing as victims (though they’re mostly middle-class), demanding ‘safe spaces’, banning books and speakers. Best to rise above them, deadhead the camellias. Attention, especially from the press, acts on entitled millennials like water on gremlins — they start proliferating and develop a taste for blood. But then sometimes they go too far. Ten days ago, the Whitney museum, on the New York bank of the Hudson, opened its biennial exhibition of contemporary American art. It’s an exciting show, full of vim and diversity. Half the artists represented are black, and the