Friday, December 15, 2017

Some Slave Traders Were Very Fine People, Apparently.

New readers start here:

The Bristol Post has given three column of its letters page over to a carefully researched essay by three academics, enumerating Edward Colston's investments in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and his profits from it, in great detail.

I refuse to be brow-beaten into submission and belittled, just because my views are different to university academics. I have a right to express my view... I suspect Roger Ball and Mark Steeds have a totally different mind set and agenda...Lets not forget that Marx, Trotsky and Lenin were all academics. Also Maclean, Burgess, Philby, Blunt and Caincross were all Cambridge University academics...
David Whittern.

I now realize those attacking the Colston name are just creating urban myth, where half truths and outright misinformation, if repeated enough, becomes accepted as fact, which it is not. There are those of a certain political persuasion who are very adept at creating these myths, and use the media very effectively. This is very much like social media fake news. Edward Colston's name has been much maligned by those with a particular agenda. Clearly our Georgian and Victorian forefathers knew much more of the truth of his conversion and good works. (*)
Also David Whittern

Notwithstanding his connections with the slave trade, my recent letters on the subject have always supported keeping Colston's name (warts and all) as an integral facet of what it means to be a dyed-in-the-wool Bristolian.
R L Smith

...Without sounding flippant I nominate "The Colston Hall" [as a new name] -- for that is what the venue will be forever known to me and thousands of other real Bristolians. It irks me that right-on, politically correct, middle-class softies who, after studying at the University, like it so much here that they decide to make Bristol their home, then start wanting to change our history. I can't remember a time when I didn't know of Colston...but I have never wanted to whitewash him out of our history (pun intended). Name one city that doesn't have a murky past? What next, is the Hatchet to be demolished because naughty pirates used to drink there? {**} My point is, I an proud to be Bristol born and bred and I have never wanted to leave, and this may sound infantile, but if you don't like it here, then clear off to Shoreditch with the other dreamers.
Name and address supplied.

(*)The idea that Colston was, like Newton, a Christian convert who was ashamed of having been a slaver forms no part of the Victorian Colston cult, and seems to have been invented by apologists since the Great Hall Kerfuffle -- i.e in the last eight months.

(**) It is true that there has been a pub on the site of the Hatchet since 1606, and the current owners claim that Blackbeard drank there -- although since nothing is known of Blackbeard's life before his alliance with Hornigold in 1716, it's hard to know where they get this information from. If Edward Teach really was a former customer of the Hatchet, he was a good deal more than naughty. Need it be added that no-one is proposing the demolition of Colston Hall.


Scurra said...

Thank you for doing this, even if it's that weird cross between depressing and hilarious.

Gavin Burrows said...

Everything in the last five years has been a weird cross between depressing and hilarious.

Mike Taylor said...

The strangest part of this, to me: what do these people think the "agenda" actually is?

I've been reading your pieces on this since it started, and I don't recall seeing a single Born-And-Bred-Bristolian offer any hints on this subject, even though they nearly all refer to the agenda.

Am I missing something obvious? What is the thing that they think people are trying to achieve in renaming Colston Hall?

Andrew Rilstone said...

Well, Mr David Whittern is fairly explicit: the agenda is Communism (pre-cold war Soviet communism, it seems) and anyone who has been to university is a Communist pretty much by definition. Remember that Political Correctness, Health and Safety and Diversity and Gay People were all invented by the Cultural Marxists (Jews) to destroy Civilization and it all begins to make sense, by which I mean, absolutely no sense at all.

A google search leads to several letters in the Daily Mail from a David Whittern from Bristol, on subjects such as:

-- the kidnapping and forced marriage of Christian girls by Muslim men

-- how “people in high places” want to allow Sharia law in the UK

-- how Jeremy Corbyn’s “forthright communist style” reveals what the Labour party has always been, and how the Green manifesto reads like a Communist document from the 1960s.

Mike Taylor said...

But but but. I truly don't see how these dots connect up. How does not naming things after slave-traders advance communism? I can understand that David Whittern doesn't like communism and would prefer to prevent it from taking hold, but how is the name of Colston Hall even related to that issue?

Andrew Rilstone said...

Well, this kind of thinking is more an ethos or an atmosphere than an ideology -- I don't think that green inkers necessarily have a thought-through alt-right position - although one of them explicitly said that changing the name of the hall was very nearly as bad as removing the statues of the Civil War generals in the former Confederate states.

But I think the logic goes something like this:

"Cultural Marxism wishes to destroy civilization as we now know it. Civilization means white, Christian civilization. In order to destroy white, Christian civilization you have to make white Christians ashamed of being white and Christian. (This is why you are no longer allowed to say Merry Christmas and why Christmas has been prohibited altogether in Birmingham.) So the Cultural Marxists have created a myth that slavery was somehow cruel and white people were somehow responsible for slavery and that black people were somehow the victims, for which there is no evidence whatsoever. As part of the same plot, they are putting about the idea that people with dark skin, some of whom came to Britain as little as sixty or seventy years ago, have as much right to be regarded as citizens, and as much right to a say in what goes on in a white city like Bristol as white people whose parents and grandparents grew up here. So to push forward this anti-white, anti-Christian, anti-native agenda, they pick a saintly figure who everyone in Bristol loves, but who happens to have committed the unforgivable sin of having white skin and make up calumnies about him. (Remember that the trotskyite universities are no longer allowed to teach Shakespeare or Jane Austen because they are white?) They come up with some tommyrot about Colston having been a slaver, as if that is something to be ashamed of, and demand that his statue and his name be removed from buildings. This sends out the message that white people have something to be ashamed of, and that black people are now in charge. (We now have a black mayor, who has been photographed with Jeremy Corbyn; if that doesn't prove it I don't know what does.) As this process gathers momentum, all the white Christian values which civilization is based on will disappear (because white Christians have been taught to be ashamed of them) and everyone in Bristol will sit around smoking marijuana, drinking red stripe larger, having five wives and praying to mecca, whether they want to or not, as already happens in Birmingham. At which point we will be ripe for take over and unable to offer any resistance when the Russian tanks roll all over us."

Not everyone who thinks it's a shame that a building they remember from their childhood is going to be changed necessarily buys into the whole story, but I truly think that this kind of thinking is what lies behind the Colston kerfuffle, and virtually any "political correctness gone mad" panic.

Mike Taylor said...

Well, that is an astonishingly complex sequence of ideas -- way more labyrinthine than, for example, The Last Jedi. If these people really do have that rich a mental narrative, I can only take my hat off to them.

I would say I find it hard to believe that they do; but I don't have better explanation for their letters.

Andrew Rilstone said...

The people who write to the paper haven't thought it through to that extent. But there is a chain of association which goes -- taking statues down = attacking whites and promoting blacks = saying Bristol is no longer a white city = PC gone mad = cultural marxism = commies.

Mike Taylor said...

Ah, yes. Reduced to that bare-bones sequence of associations, it makes more sense.

Andrew Rilstone said...

Or is the chain of reasoning more like

-- when I got to the shop there were no buns left
-- that damn shop didn't order enough buns
-- that damn shop never orders enough buns
-- shops nowadays never order enough buns
-- shops nowadays are not allowed to order enough buns
-- they won't let shops nowadays order enough buns
-- they have an anti-bun agenda

and then identifying "they" as Communists, Islams, Immigrants or Catholics as the moond takes you?

Nick M said...

I don't think it's even that complicated.

I think there's definitely some commentators who honestly believe that there is a plot to undermine the family as a cornerstone of Western they decide that gay marriage isn't just a nice thing but is actually part of a sinister 'hidden agenda' on the path of destroying heterosexual marriage. Used in this way, 'agenda' has a perfectly logical if utterly barking meaning.

But because commentators often use word 'agenda' (granted with a logical meaning), it has quickly entered the lexicon of right wing speech as something inherently sinister in itself.

Andrew Rilstone said...

I believe that some people were sincerely against equal marriage. I can see how "if we let men marry men, the next thing will be that he have to let men marry sofas" was a sort surrogate argument for "we think that marriage has an essential nature and that it can't be defined and redefined by the government of the day." But I don't think that anyone ever really thought that David Cameron wanted to allow men to marry sofas. Gay marriage was the thing that they were really against.

The Colston apologists use a similar slippery slope rhetoric: "If we change the name of Colston Hall, the next thing will be that we have to burn Victoria station to the ground." Do they honestly fear that Bristol Music Trust is working towards a Year Zero (when all buildings put up during the imperial era will be destroyed, and all references to the British Empire will be expunged from history)? Come to that, did the Donald really believe that if he didn't speak out when they came for Robert E Lee there would be no-one to speak out when they finally came for George Washington? If not, what real fear is "If you change the name of the concert hall, then you will have to raze the city of Bristol to the ground" standing in for?

Anonymous said...

What's really frustrating is the defence/promotion of slavery as "white peoples' history" by letter-writers who are highly unlikely to even be descended from the tiny ruling-class minority who actually profited from the slave trade, far more likely from the working-class majority who were being similarly (granted much less brutally) exploited by the same capitalists.

They're choosing identification by the fiction of 'race' over the truth of class. More fool them as it leaves them feeling needlessly guilty and defensive over a horror most of their own ancestors had nowt to do with (and very often explicitly rejected).

Of course I would say this because I actually AM a Marxist. ☺. Book recommendation: 'The Black Jacobins' by CLR James.