Monday, August 16, 2021

Roots and Riots...

 Last part of me chatting about music. This week: Cornwall, British identity and horse races...

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Lashings (*)

Note: This essay contains several occurrence of a very strong racial slur. 

Once upon a time, the three bold Gollywogs, Golly, Woggie, and Nigger decided to go for a walk on Bumblebee common. Golly wasn’t quite ready, so Woggie and Nigger said they would start off without him, and Golly would catch up with them as soon as he could. So off went Woggie and Nigger arm in arm, singing merrily their favourite song, which as you may have guessed was Ten Little Nigger Boys.”

Enid Blyton

There are people in this world who are so holy, so sanctified, so iconic that they are effectively beyond criticism.

To think a word against them is to abuse all their followers; their fan base; their compatriots.

Jesus Christ; the Prophet Mohammed; the Queen; Edward Colston.

And Enid Blyton.

The author of Noddy and the Magic Faraway Tree has been cancelled. And by cancelled, I mean “A small memorial has been erected near her place of birth.”

"Enid Blyton, Children’s Writer, Lived Here", it says.

Pretty shocking stuff.

I don’t know if America has an equivalent to the English system of Blue Plaques. They are small signs, attached to old buildings, that tell you that so-and-so, the inventor of such-and-such, lived here from such a date to such a date. Anyone can put a name plate on a property, and lots of people do, but the official Blue Plaques are surprisingly prestigious because English Heritage only puts up a limited number each year.

I have very mixed feelings about Blyton. I never read her stuff myself. I do have a vivid memory of being traumatised at nursery school when someone read us the one in which black people steal Noddy’s clothes and he has to crawl home in the nude. (Please tell me I didn’t dream that?) But I work in a library and I have noticed that a small number of her books—the Fives and the Sevens and the Jolly Hockey Sticks ones—are the kinds of books that children positively want to read. That counts for something.

Sometimes a reader—often an older lady—will take out a great pile of books, often crime stories and romances, and say “Oh, I know its all rubbish really”. I always reply “It is certainly not rubbish if you like reading it.” I am happy to say the same thing about lemonade and treasure maps. If kids like it, it must be the sort of thing that kids like, and being able to come up with the kind of things that kids like, and that kids carry on liking forty years after you died, is worth something. A great deal. You certainly deserve a plaque on the side of your house.

Unfortunately, English Heritage also has one of those newfangled websites, and on the website it gives a little more biographical information about the seven hundred celebrities whose houses have got little blue signs on them. Of Mrs Blyton it says:

“Blyton’s work has been criticised during her lifetime and after for its racism, xenophobia and lack of literary merit.”

And this is enough to make white people who liked the Secret Seven when they were nippers go into overdrive.


Lack of literary merit? 

As well say that Jesus was gay or that one of the Prophet’s wives was a prostitute. If the Blytonians could declare a fatwa we can be sure they would.

The BBC recently launched a streaming service called Britbox.

It has all of Doctor Who; all of Blake’s Seven; very nearly all of Gerry Anderson; all of Sapphire and Steel, a decent chunk of the Avengers—and that’s without scratching the surface of dear, dear Sir Larry doing Shylock and dear, dear Sir Alec doing Malvolio and Our Friends In The North Revisited. There is no particular reason for me ever to leave the house again.

But this sort of thing comes with a cost. Do I, in fact, want to re-watch Grange Hill? Do I want to find out that the Tomorrow People consisted primarily of wooden acting (as in “they wouldn’t act”), cardboard sets, exposition to camera, plots which would make the worst Doctor Who writer cringe (along with a very trippy set of opening credits and a stonking theme tune, admittedly.)

I have always been the sort of person who would rather have the text than the memory of the text: I think that I am richer, not poorer, because my memories of Daddy reading Winnie-the-Pooh have largely been overwritten by dozens and dozens of re-readings of A.A Milne’s actual stories. But on the other paw, the reason I watch Star-Wars-Episode-Four-A-New-Hope a hundred times, and the Bad Batch at all, is because I want to drill through the text and get back to the thing I experienced on or about my twelfth birthday. I want to watch the film over and over but I want it to feel like it did when I had only seen it once.

This is, of course, impossible.

This is, I think, what people mean when they say that someone has “spoiled” Richard II by introducing tanks and army uniforms and black people. They say that they don’t like theatres “mucking about” with Shakespeare; they say they want his pure virgin words unsullied by some producer’s ideas. But what they really want is their memory of that one evening when they were young and in love and saw dear, dear, Sir Donald doing “this royal throne of kings” at Stratford. This is also true of people who think that Jodie Whittaker has spoiled Doctor Who and the European Union has spoiled bananas. I have spent 20 years making fun of the Star Wars fan who said that George Lucas had raped his childhood, but I completely understand what he meant.

I totally get that Enid Blyton is a totemic writer. I am not impressed with the people who take an instrumental view of fiction. I don’t think that Blyton is good because reading is virtuous and Blyton’s writing was an entry-level drug that got some kids hooked on classics. But I am very impressed with people who go as misty and gooey when they think of Kirrin Island and the Land of Magical Medicines as I do when I think of the Tatooine Cantina and the Hundred Acre Wood. That’s what stories are for.

Once you have thrown up a Colgate ring of confidence around your first reading, then any encounter with the actual text feels like a violation. People who believe that the Bible is the exact word of God have rarely read it. Sci-fi geeks are particularly prone to seeing critiques of venerable movies and comic books as vicious attacks on the core of their being. Normal people do it as well. People have been literally murdered for thinking that United (or Rovers) isn’t a particularly good football team. Maybe watching high budget fan-fic in which it turns out that Threepio was kit-built by Darth Vader really does feel like being sexually assaulted? Or maybe the fan in question only meant that Lucas had robbed and pillaged his childhood.

And so we cast our eyes to the heavens and cry out “I deny this reality!”

The Tomorrow People never did have bad acting and bad special effects. It had very good acting and very good special effects. It is just that your palette is not sufficiently attuned to appreciate them. Only initiates can see the value of the sacred text; if you are not an initiate, you shouldn’t be allowed to read it.

You may also, if you chose, go full Jeffcote on their arse.

“You can’t appreciate the very good special effects and the acting because THEY won’t let you. THEY have BRAINWASHED you into thinking that if it isn’t a late night Channel Four movie sub-titled in Latin then it isn’t proper literature. Even though no-one really likes that stuff. THEY are just jealous of our jet-packs. Or in this case, jaunting belts."

When the Hundred Acre Wood is under siege on moral or political grounds, the impetus to retreat from reality is even greater. If the Famous Five is racist, then it is not a good book. If the Famous Five is not a good book, then my memories of the Famous Five are inauthentic. But my memories are authentic; so it must be a good book; so it cannot be racist. Stop looting and pillaging my childhood.

You can do this in different ways. You can deny the tao. Racism and racist language are bad now but they were not bad in 1944 when the books were written.

*They were written in another time and were not inappropriate in any way, and should not be judged by today’s “standards”.

*Her work is a reflection of the life and times she grew up in. Her work should be left alone.

*You are judging these by today’s standards, they were written in a different era, we had vastly different standards back then.

You can appeal to that strange mental operation called “intention” and say that the text is not racist because the writer did not intend the text to be racist.

These people need to get off their high bloody horses and accept them for the innocent way that they were written. I am quite sure Enid Blyton would never even have thought of anything like that

* You can say that Enid Blyton’s books have some quality called “innocence” or that they came from “simpler times” and that this acts as a sort of literary fainites.

* Do not destroy children’s innocent pleasure in reading by putting a nasty spin on things.

* But let’s not forget, these were written for innocents.

You can launch a counter assault: people who say that this text is racist are puritans, or unemployed, or they are wasting their time on an essentially pointless activity.

*Triggered commie!

*Media controlling these complaint Muppets!

*PC Idiots!

*Get a life people & stop trying to change the past,

*No, people need to get a life.

*Where does this rubbish emanate from - the ‘do gooders’ who have nothing else to do than waste their and other peoples time.

*I wish the bloody do-gooders could find something useful to do instead of criticising dead people.

*Please woke folk, get over yourselves and find something more productive to do

You can claim—a very common one, this—that critics are finding only in the text what they bring to the text; that they, being mean spirited and hateful of literature, are combing the text in order to read things into it which aren’t there.

*You have to wonder about the minds that twist everything toward sexual innuendo—they live in a skewed world

*Everything is looked into under a magnifying glass for errors and negativity rather than just looking at the positives.

*If you have a twisted mind you can read anything you like into a story.

You can even claim that there is a secret agenda in play

* I think there is an agenda to kill imagination and creativity, magical wonder. I think they want us all to conform to one way of thinking.

But the most extreme argument is the most common one. It is a plea to disengage faculties. A faith-position which says that reading takes place in some kind of zen, sub-rational state. There is no sub-text. Three bold rag-dolls named after a racial slur do not imply anything about the writer’s attitude to race because books are not like that. Repeated appearances of dishonest gypsies does not in any way suggest that the writer thought that gypsies were, on the whole, dishonest. Stories are just stories and should be allowed to just be stories. Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream to toy-town.

*Let our children enjoy the stories as we did way back to our grandparents time.

*What nonsense is this?! They are books. Stories. Creative writing. Artistic endeavours are subjective and open to interpretation. We cannot judge past results by today’s standards. Let’s just judge for them for what they are. Which is, tools for escapism and to allow your imagination to free fall into a magical existence.

Interestingly, the Blytonians are very reluctant to make the two defences which would certainly hold water.

They could point out that words do, in fact, change their meanings. I doubt that when Enid Blyton wrote “Noddy and Big Ears were feeling gay...” or introduced two protagonists called (really) Fanny and Dick she was consciously inserting double entendres into a kids book. The words are dirty now, but they genuinely weren’t dirty then. Modern editions very sensibly change “gay” to “merry” and “Dick” to “Ricky”. (The counter-wokes scream about P.C Gonemad, but this is really no different from changing Autumn to Fall in the American edition, or Noddy to Oui-Oui in the French one.) Demonstrate to me that in 1968 the N-word was not current, or not a slur, and I shall concede the argument. 

The Blytonians could also defend their scripture in the way I have defended Talons of Weng Chiang, Cerebus the Aardvark, Othello, the Ring Cycle and practically every other book that has ever been written in the history of the human race.

“Yes, these texts contains sinophobia, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and racism, but this does not make then irreducibly sinophobic, misogynistic, anti-semitic and racist texts. We can praise the story telling, but condemn the bad words. We can enjoy the tunes, but deplore the politics. They are good stories, which I loved and love, but which I can now see contain some bad attitudes (and, in fact, bad special effects). There is celebration of the story telling and condemnation of the bad attitudes.”

Why is this so hard?

The  truth is, the Anti-Woke-Mob agree with the Woke Mob. If Enid Blyton really did refer to black people by using the n-word; if Talons of Weng Chiang really did contain vicious caricatures of Chinese people; and if Colston really had been a slaver then we really would have to burn their books and rip their statues down. If a modern author published a children’s book about Three Bold Wankers called Cock, Willy and Cuntty (who sang their favourite song, The Good Ship Venus) the Blytonians would immediately form a mob and start screaming “ban this evil filth now”. As Enid Blyton herself did in her lifetime.

Since they want to keep their books and their statues they have to deny reality. This racist thing is not racist. That space ship does not look like a cardboard cut-out. Slavery did not exist. Or if it did Colston was not a slaver. Or if he was, the slaves didn't mind. The least reward they will have is that the memory of Kirrin island and the Lab and Olde England shall remain ever clear and unstained in their heart and neither shall fade nor grow stale.

The Woke Mob and the Anti-Woke-Mob are in agreement. The two sides of every political debate always are. The pigs are always turning into men and the men are always turning into pigs. We are always meeting the enemy and it is always us.

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(*) Of ginger beer. 

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Doctor Who Season 15

 My loyal Patreon supporters are going to be reading my essays on Tom Baker's fourth season in advance. I have just sent them Horror of Fang Rock, which means there is probably no-way of avoiding watching Invisible Enemy. 

If you want to read it right now, then you just have to pledge to pay me $1 (or more) each time I publish something. (Patreons are charge when the essays pop up here but not charged for the previews.) 

It really is the best way of telling me that you don't think my writing sucks. 

Give me $111 and essay and I'll have a look at some Big Finish Spinoffery

Give me $500 an essay and I'll give up work and pontificate full time. (A man can dream...)

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Why Everything I Have Written About Politics For The Past Fifteen Years Has Been Completely Wrong (*)

There now follows a short recantation.

I have spent the last fifteen years barking up an entirely erroneous tree.

Some people do, in fact, believe that it is incorrect to use certain words and phrases for political reasons, and, at certain times and places, these people have, indeed, acted as if they were entirely insane.

Some people do, in fact, treat their aspiration to make society more just as if it were a war, and some of them do, in fact, believe that this war can be won with a keyboard alone. Some of them are not very honest and some of them are over inclined to compare other people with Hitler.

There is, in fact, an identifiable and definable group of people who believe themselves to be more than usually awake to the problems of power and oppression; and these people do sometimes assemble themselves into metaphorical and literal mobs.

Members of these and other political sub-cultures do, in fact, sometimes black-list writers, artists and politicians who they deem to have transgressed certain standards of ideological purity.

The Brigade, the Mob, the Warriors and the Culture really do exist. 

They really do have a way of looking at the world which, if widely accepted, would lead to—if not the literal end of civilisation—then certainly the transformation of it into something which I might not recognise or like very much.

Golden age science fiction really was more fun than the modern stuff. Birmingham city council really did run an event called Winterval. Doctor Who really was better before Jodie Whittaker was cast in the lead role. Hyperbole is a perfectly reasonable way to start an essay, even if everyone knows that you are going to spend they next eight thousand words qualifying what you said in your opening paragraph.

I doubt if anyone ever really changes their mind about anything.

No-one who is walking East suddenly decides to turn around and go West. People just gradually realise that West is the direction they have always been going in.

An example:

Not so long ago I was listening to a podcast about the New Perspective On St Paul, as one does. In the course of the talk, the speaker referred to “the ideas of Martin Luther”—ideas about Law and Sin and Grace and Redemption.

“Oh” I said to myself “That isn’t Martin Luther’s teaching, particularly. That’s just what Christianity is”.

And, at the same moment, almost in the same mental act, “Ah. I see.”

I had not learned any new thing. I knew that my background was evangelical or post-evangelical. I knew that evangelicalism is a form of Christianity which majors on the core fundamentals of protestantism. (That’s why it used to be called fundamentalism. Fundamentalism now means something quite different.) I knew that protestantism was invented by Martin Luther: at any rate I knew that English Baptists and the Christian Union didn’t tend to be Calvinists. But I hadn’t particularly registered before that moment that what I considered to be “my ideas” and “Christian ideas” were specifically Lutheran ideas.

I hadn’t changed my mind. I had merely articulated a thing I already knew. But that articulation coloured everything I thought on the subject from then on. My perception had changed. What I had thought of as The Way Things Are turned out to be How Things Look From the Hill I Happen To Be Standing On.

Douglas Adams says that he was a Christian, for a while, at public school; and that one day he stopped to listen to an earnest street preacher, found himself thinking “this man is talking nonsense” and regarded himself as an atheist from then on.

I am not going to say “Well then, he was never really a Christian. If he had really been a Christian he would not have changed his mind so easily.” Atheists say that about C.S Lewis: he couldn’t really have ever been One of Us, because he liked poetry and studied philosophy and was convinced by really bad religious arguments about trees in quads. I don’t think we should do that. I think that if C.S Lewis said he was an atheist and Douglas Adams said he was a Christian, then we should take them at their respective words. People are what they say they are: black or atheist or Star Wars fan or that other thing we don’t talk about here any more.

But one does, in both cases, have a sense, not of demolition and rebuilding, but of pieces clicking into place. Lewis was always going to be a Christian; Adams was always going to be an atheist. One doesn’t feel that walls have come tumbling down in the face of an onslaught by a superior Platonic dialectical cavalry. It’s more like: “Oh. So that’s what I have always thought, is it?”

So with politics. I have not heard any new arguments. I have not discovered any new facts. No-one has devastated me with a forensic killer question. I have just noticed that what I thought I thought isn’t what I think I think. Some pieces have clicked into place.

Woke exists. It is a bad thing. That appears to be what I have always believed.

I did not, in fact, change my mind about same sex marriage.

My opinion is, so far as I can tell, exactly what it was in 2012. Marriage has a social function; a religious function; and a legal function. Those functions are entangled: you are probably getting married because you want to celebrate your love in front of your friends; but you may not feel you are having a proper celebration without a Priest or a Rabbi in charge, even if you yourself aren’t particularly religious. You may sincerely want to enter into a sacrament according to the tenets of your preferred deity; but your clergy-person cannot perform the rite without filling in the government’s legal paperwork. I thought and think that a formal disentanglement of those functions would have been a good idea. I thought and think that Mr Blair’s idea of civil partnership was a good one. I thought and think that Mr Cameron’s attempt to introduce a third category (relationships which are called marriages by the state but not recognised as such by the state church) is hopelessly confused. I think I understand why some of my co-religionists think that a same-sex relationship can’t be called a marriage; but since I am (as it turns out) a Lutheran I don’t really believe in either priests or sacraments, I don’t feel it matters very much. I thought, and still think, that there should be a single legal process called “Civil Partnership” which applied to both same sex and different sex couples; and a separate process called “marriage” which social and religious groups could define according to their own theories. None of that has changed.

I do accept a much broader definition of “homophobic” than I did at one time: I would not now be comfortable saying “The Archbishop of Canterbury does not think two women should be married in church, but that does not mean he is homophobic”. (I would also not be comfortable saying “This text portrays Chinese people as grotesque villains but that does not mean that the text itself is racist.”)

Two things did change in 2013. It became quite clear that all the arguments being used by opponents of same sex marriage were specious, bonkers, and to use the technical term, completely mental. Christians applied ambiguous dominical utterances selectively and got cross if you went back to the text. Reactionary secularists argued that if men were allowed to marry men pretty soon hedgehogs would be allowed to marry hat-stands. Outwardly sane people claimed that if gay people were allowed to marry, straight people would become less married. Melanie Phillips literally argued that if two men could get married, civilisation would come to an end.

It didn’t. Not so you would notice.

It is very hard to carry on being “not very strongly in favour of a thing” when the people who are “strongly against the thing” can’t marshal a single coherent argument between them.

It became clear to me that a lot of people with whom I was otherwise in sympathy felt that even having the discussion—applying my kind of “let’s think this one through” discourse to the question; treating it like a page from the Gospel of Mark or an episode of Doctor Who—was homophobic in itself. Saying “This is jolly interesting. I wonder what we mean by marriage, and what we think its function in society is, and what it should be?” was like sending out a kind of semaphore signal that said “I hate gay people”. I didn’t and don’t want to send out that signal: so I stopped talking.

More recently, I have learned that asking exactly what we mean by “state”, “right”, “exist” and “Israel” would signify membership of another group which I certainly don’t want to be associated with.

The prevailing climate appeared to be that what mattered about arguments was not whether they were valid or invalid. What mattered about arguments was which tribe they signified your membership of: the light side or the dark side; the goodies or the baddies; us, them, or the other lot. I strongly did not want to be identified as part of Melanie Phillips’ tribe. So I withdrew from the fray.

I am happy with the way things turned out. Civilisation did not end. I am pleased that my gay friends can get married. But I have very much the same questions that I had five years ago. If I were going to equality, I wouldn’t have started from here.

After publishing my ill-judged response to Andrew Sullivan’s theories about Critical (Race) Theory and the Roots of the Woke-ocracy I went away and re-read some of my old political essays.

In 2011, I wrote:

This seems to be rather a good instance of “we are never talking about what we appear to be talking about”, and one of the reasons why I increasingly think that important subjects can only be debated through the medium of 

a: swearwords and 

b: ballads

I thought, or I thought that I thought, that “marriage” was either a social institution, created by the state for some reason; or else a religious thingybob, with a particular significance to the members of that particular faith. I thought, or thought that I thought, you could discuss the rules in that context—is marriage in fact doing what the state wants it to do? is the thing which the state wants it to do a good thing or a bad thing? how do you navigate between the different religious and social meanings in a way which annoys as few people as possible? Can my right to go skinny dipping be accommodated to your social embarrassment, (say by having clothing optional days and frosted glass at the pool) or do we have to say that everything not forbidden is compulsory?

I now see (or think that I see) that questions about “the law” and “custom” and “different people believing different things” are really just a symbolic projection of the Real Thing, which is a power struggle between certain groups. Certain gays want to get married because certain straights don’t want them to; certain people pretend to care about fox hunting in order to annoy the landed aristocracy; and if there weren’t annoying textiles telling me to keep my trunks on then I wouldn’t care whether I went swimming in the nude or not.

We thought we were having a debate. We’re actually performing a dance. The dance steps matter in so far as we don’t want to trip over each others feet, but it isn’t really about the steps, it’s about love and courtship. There’s no need to actually look at what the Daily Mail says, because we already know in advance what they really think because of where they stand within the class struggle.

In 2015, I wrote:

It isn’t that my arguments are “bad”. It’s the whole idea of “argument” that’s the problem. “Argument”, “logic”, “evidence”, “proof”, “neutrality” are things you learned in school, and schools were set up by rich white guys to teach ideas thought up by other rich white guys in order to keep rich white guys in charge.

Everything’s really all about power. (Unless everything’s really all about sex, but that’s an argument for another day.) You might think that you are talking about theology or music or sanitation but if you look under the bonnet, it’s always really about who gets to sit at the front of the bus. The question is never “who is right?: it’s always “which side are you on?”

All of which leaves me rather stuck.

When I’m asked a question, my inclination is always to work out the answer from first principles. At any rate, to use some kind of argumentation and try to work out what the other fella is trying to say, and if he’s wrong why he’s wrong and if he might have a good point. Which keeps putting me on the wrong side of the question....

Despite early assurances, the internet does not contain a 3D virtual reality in which I can be taught Kung Fu by Laurence Fishburne and drown Tom Baker. All the internet actually contains is words. Lots and lots of words. Oceans of words. Millions of writers telling us what they think. Good writers, bad writers, indifferent writers; informed writers; ignorant writers; boringly right, engagingly wrong. Writers telling you what they think about what other people wrote about stuff they read on the internet.

Derrida was right. There isn’t any stuff. There’s only people talking about stuff. I’ve never experienced a murder, or an election, or a football match, or (god forbid) an instalment of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. I just kind of intersect with the ripples these things put out in cyberspace. Which isn’t really a space, and isn’t really very cyber. It’s more like a lot of very bored people making wisecracks in their coffee break.

But all this argument is taking place in a space in which we have already agreed that argument is not even possible. “Right” and “Wrong” aren’t qualities that any argument has: they are just descriptions of which side you are on in a big fight that has been going on throughout history, and will carry on until, any day now, history comes to an end.

Having reread those pieces and several others, various lights came on.

Ah. I see.

When Andrew Sullivan talks about Critical Theory; when Jonathan Pie talks about the Woke Utopia; when Melanie Phillips talks about Political Correctness Gone Mad and even (and typing this makes me feel dirty) when multiple Hugo Award loser John C Wright talks about Social Justice Warriors, this is what they are talking about.

My complaints about Twitter rhetoric in One Hundred and Forty Characters In Search of An Argument maps almost exactly onto what Sullivan describes in the Roots of Woke.

I have literally spent 15 years arguing that The Thing does not exist while actively pointing out and bemoaning the fact that it does.

I feel like a whey-faced Coxcomb.

Something else I haven’t changed my mind about is the wisdom of casting a non-male person in the role of Doctor Who.

I think that gender-swapping or race-swapping established characters sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. I greatly enjoyed the Donmar’s all-black, all-female production of Richard II. I didn’t specially think “How challenging and revelatory it is to re-imagine the Duke of York as a woman of colour!”, but I did think that Shobna Gulati did a really interesting job on one of the best and most under-celebrated Shakespearian roles, and that she wouldn’t have been able to essay the part in a more conventional staging. The Tobacco Factory’s Henry V, with a female Dauphin conflated with Princess Katherine, not so much. It failed to build a stage-world which convinced me that women could both lead armies and be sold into dynastic marriages. But theatre is all about trying stuff out.

I am convinced that Peter Parker (or at any rate, Uncle Ben) was Jewish; and have argued that casting a Muslim or (more specifically) a Sikh actor in a movie version of the comic-book would be rather faithful to the spirit of Stan Lee’s text. But the existence of Kamala Khan probably makes that exercise redundant. I wasn’t convinced by Michael Jordan as Johnny Storm, but that was because the whole movie seemed to water down the central conceit of the Fantastic Four as a surrogate 1950s nuclear family. I certainly don’t find it hard to imagine a young black guy being hot-headed, cool, good with motor cars and capable of shooting fireballs from his fingers.

James Bond is as quintessentially and aggressively masculine as a fictional character could possibly be: he very much has to be a boy. Which is exactly why I’d like to try the experiment of making him a girl. No, you couldn’t simply have a female actor playing Bond, in the way you can (arguably) simply have a female actor playing Bolingbroke. The film would have to be about the fact that the ultimate arch-alpha-male was being played by a female. But that in itself would be artistically interesting. Maybe it would be business as usual: Bond would carry on doing all the macho male stuff—fast cars and guns and scantily clad pretty ladies in every hotel bed. The actor would just happen not to be male. That would create an interesting clash between character and genre; it would make all the Bond cliches more visible, and more ridiculous, and funnier. But maybe you would create a new character who was a female inversion of James Bond: ultra-feminine in all the ways Bond is ultra-masculine and misandric in all the ways Bond is misogynist. A bevy of glamorous Bond boys in speedos; incredibly patronising remarks about all guys in the story; sexist flirting with Master Moneypenny. (If Aston Martins and Harpoons are symbols of Male Power, what would be the female counterpart?) It would probably come out as a parody, but then the franchise arguably always tends to parody.

I confess I haven’t seen a Bond movie since Timothy Dalton was the next big thing.

What about a black Superman? My first thought is that since he’s an alien who happens to look like a human being, it makes as much sense for him to be a Negro alien as a Caucasian alien. Granted, Superman’s comic-book appearance is more than usually iconic; but if Zack Snyder can redesign his costume beyond recognition then it is hard to see why a change in skin tone would be a fatal departure. George Reeves doesn’t look any less like Tom Welling than Michael Jordan does. Red underpants are a much more irreducible part of Superman's appearance than a white face, and we’ve already dropped those (so to speak).

But once I try to imagine a black Superman (as opposed to a Superman who happens to be being played by a black actor) I run into hard questions. Are Pa and Ma Ken also people of colour? Does the life experience of a black farmer in Kansas differ from that of a white farmer? Did he come to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men in the 1920s, or the 1950s, or is he a millennial? The Golden and Silver Age Superman presumably grew up in a Smallville which was still segregated. (Did canonical Superboy have any black classmates?) If Jonathan and Martha are white people, what are the specific problems faced by mixed race adoptees? And how would this new version of Superman interact with the political and social questions of his day? A black Superman who stands aloof from the civil rights movement, Obama’s administration or Black Lives Matter is different from a politically neutral white person. The meaning of “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” depends greatly on who is saying it.

These are interesting questions with potentially interesting answers. I don’t know whether, by the time you have answered them, you have come up with a challengingly different take on an established character; or created a completely new one. Both are worth doing. But the world may have room for movie adaptations of popular comic book characters which don’t radically re-imagine them.

And that’s the problem, isn’t it? “I’d rather watch an adaptation of Superman than a radical re-interpretation of him” is itself a political stance. Choosing not to talk about race is a way of talking about race.

When the idea of a Female Doctor Who was proposed in 2015 I had the same questions as I did when it was raised by the show’s creator in 1986.

"Yes, that would be a good idea, if it shakes the format up."

"Yes, that would be a good idea if a woman actor can find a new way of playing the part and not just try to be a female Tom Baker, or, worse, a female David Tennant."

"Yes, that would be a good idea, provided she still portrays them as an un-cool science geek."

"No it, would be a bad idea if the show became about female-ness, in the same way that it would have been a bad idea for it to have become about Northernness in 2005 or Scottishness in 1987."

I don’t think it matters what has been said about gender in previous episodes. Doctor Who has such a mercurial continuity that what has gone before hardly counts. I think it might have been better if we had stuck with the implicit 1976 canon: the Time LORDS were all stuffy old men, who met their match in the SISTERhood of Kahn. But that was retconned out by Douglas Adams in the first episode of Ribos Operation. Anyone saying that a woman couldn’t play the Doctor because Dalek Invasion of Earth is thinking about this TV show in quite the wrong way.

I’m not sure it is necessary. I think the patriarchal bias of the show was largely addressed by making Rose such a strong and interesting character at the dawn of the relaunch. But by all means give it a go and see if it works.

They gave it a go and it didn’t work, unfortunately.

But, as it turns out, this doesn’t matter, because we were never really talking about Doctor Who in the first place.

Opinion split, neatly, into those who thought that there was an absolute moral imperative for Doctor Who not to be an old dead white guy so that little girl-fans could aspire to be the Doctor one day; and those who thought that this new series, Nurse Who, Doctor Karen, was dead to them and that the BBC had been taken over by Wokes who wanted to destroy civilisation and the next thing would be an episode involving a pregnant man.

Now, if the casting of a TV character is a piece of semaphore and these are the only choices, then I know what signal I have to send. If the choices are between “Doctor Who OUGHT to be a woman” and “Doctor Who CAN NEVER be a woman” I know quite well what side I am on. And I see well enough that by asking “will it work as a TV show? will it be interesting? will it be canon?” I am implying that making a good, canonical TV show is more important than recognising the agency of one half of the population. If I come out and say that I think that the last two seasons of Doctor Who have come very close to killing my interest in the programme I am, in fact, aligning myself with the reactionary nutters. I am making a political statement regardless of my intention. So it is better to just keep my mouth shut, which is what I have largely done.

I have not been cancelled. I have not been herded into an incinerator. I have not been voted off the island. I rather suspect that if I had not deleted the Unwise Footnote I would now have a lot more readers than I currently do.

But I feel constrained. I have constrained myself. Some of the ways I think may cause me to say things which will be interpreted as virtue signalling for the side I do not agree with.

I think that this is what some people mean when they talk about Woke. I think that for fifteen years I have been saying that they are wrong when actually I think they are right.

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Thursday, July 29, 2021

All About Hawwa

A Commentary on Dave Sim's Commentary on My Commentary on His Commentary on Genesis 4.

The Hebrew name for the first woman is usually transliterated as Chavah or Havah. I don't think that Greek had the hard "h/ch" sound, so Greek speaking Jews called her Eva. Interestingly, the first time she is named in Genesis 4, the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Bible which Jesus and St Paul would have known) calls he Zoe. Zoe is the literal Greek word for Life. (You may remember that our friend C.S. Lewis draws a theological distinction between zoe and bios.) But afterwards the Greek Jewish Bible refers to her as Eva. 

It is not too hard to see how a name could go from Chavah to Havah to Eva to Eve: much the same thing happens to Ionnes / Johannes / John. Our English Bibles are not always very consistent about nomenclature: Joshua, Hosea and Jesus are all used to represent Yehoshua.

Adam's wife is consistently referred to as Eve in English. In 1381, English revolutionary John Ball (as in "Sing, John Ball") famously asked 

when Adam delved and Eve span
who was then the gentleman

The York Mystery play, first performed in the 1370s, has God say

Adam and Eve, this is the place
That I have graunte you of my grace
To have your wonnyng in
Erbes, spyce, frute on tree. 

Wycliffe's translation, a century before King James, used the same name: 

Forsooth Adam knew Eve his wife, which conceived, and childed Cain

In Dave Sim's Torah commentary in Latter Days, Cerebus quotes Genesis:

"And the man called his wiue's name Hawwa, because she was the mother of all liuing"... Hawwa, by the looks of it, is just a variation on Hava, to be. As in "let there be light""

Cerebus/Dave thinks this is a trick on Yoowhoo's part, since Adam has now falsely called Eve the mother of all living things, including God: the subordinate Demiurge is presenting a series of allegories that purport to show that she is the primary deity. 

There is some discussion about the etymology of the name: Konisberg (the Woody Allen figure) tells Cerebus that the goyim changed Hawwa's name to Eve, which Cerebus thinks may be a pun on Evening.

In my commentary on the commentary, I write:

"(Dave) must be aware of different translations because he pedantically calls Eve “Hawwa” even though he is working from the English text."

In Dave's commentary on my commentary on his commentary (and man, that's a weird thing to be typing) Dave calls me out for misspelling Hawwa: which I can't see that I have done. (I'm just quoting his text.) But on the substantive point, I have indeed unfairly accused him of pedantry (or even sloppiness). He does in fact make it quite clear in the text that using Hawwa instead of Eve is a conscious decision, for which he gives his reasons. 

Earlier, Cerebus comments on the creation story: "The Yoohwhoo God said It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make him a help meete as before him" and asks "What the heck is a help meet, anyway."

I suggested that Dave was wilfully misreading this passage: that he pretended not to know what "help meet" meant because the idea that Eve was an appropriate or complimentary companion for Adam didn't fit in with his anti-feminist agenda. He says that it was simply a mistake: the text he was working from said "a help meet for him"; rather than "a help, meet for him". He accepts that my reading is better. 

I should not have attributed a wilful misreading to what was in fact a simple scholarly mistake. 

Indeed, I feel bound to say that Dave Sim has been very much more gracious to me than I have been to him.



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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

 While you are waiting for some new content here, you could have a look at my latest arts reviews on the Other Blog.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

When Did You Stop Reading Cerebus?

"It's really quite good"

Dave Sim


80 page booklet 
20,000 word essay
plus extras
pretty layout



paperback book

Or (what would make me happiest...)

free PDF Download to everyone who joins my Patreon at the $1 tier

free hard copy to everyone who joins my Patreon at the $5 tier

Or just read the text on this blog...

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Andrew Rilstone And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Bad Footnote

page 5
Why Everything Andrew Has Written About Politics For The Past Fifteen Years Has Been Entirely Wrong

page 19


page 29 

Why  Andrew Is Never Going To Write About Politics Ever Again

Available to Patreon backers as a PDF/Ebook.  

essays will appear on this blog in Dew Coarse.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Jeffcotism: The Foundation of Twenty First Century Thought

Zechariah Jeffcott's destiny was determined at the age of five, when he heard his mother say to his father -- who had just said that it was universally agreed that the angles of a triangle added up to 180 degrees -- "Oh, that's because nowadays the geometry mob will vilify you if you dare to say they add up to anything else." 

"At that moment", Z. Jeffcott assures us "There flashed across my mind the great truth that behind every widely held opinion there is always a powerful elite systematically enforcing conformity and punishing dissent. The more widely believe something is, the more likely it is to be false."

That is how Jeffcotism became the foundation of 21st century thought. 

Back to The Future

Jeffcotism (6)

Take up the White Man's burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.

And then we turn to the Houses of Parliament. The House of Commons. The people who govern us. The actual British Conservative party.

It was widely reported in the press that MP called Christipher Pincher had suggested that Kier Starmer,  centrist anti-Corbynite, had gone mad, and that he had further described him as a POW, prisoner of woke. I naturally decided I had better find out the context.

It was debate about statues. 

God almighty when I first came to Bristol I had no idea that one piece of fucking street furniture would send out such ripples. 

An MP called Gareth Bacon was in apocalyptic mood.

"Britain is under attack—not in a physical sense, but in a philosophical, ideological and historical sense. Our heritage is under direct assault. There are those who seek to call the very sense of what it is to be British today into question. Attempts are being made to rewrite our history, indoctrinate our children with anti-British propaganda and impose an alternative worldview."

And yes, this philosophical, ideological and historical force assaulting our heritage is popularly known as Woke.

So. Woke is an anti-British world view that "calls the very sense of what it means to be British today" into question.

We need to be very sure that we know what Britain means; what it means to be British; and what pro-British propaganda would look like. If we can get to that, we might finally have solved the mystery of what it means to be Woke.

"In woke eyes, the British empire is no longer seen as a modernising, civilising force that spread trade, wealth and the rule of law around the globe. Instead, it is viewed as a racist, colonialist, oppressive force than invaded sovereign foreign countries, plundered them and enslaved people en masse."


According to Conservative MPs in the House of Commons the idea of Britain and Britishness is that the British empire was an unmitigated good. The Woke Perspective, which is going to destroy the very idea of Britishness and what it means to be British is that the British Empire plundered and enslaved its subject nations and that that this was a bad thing.

Colonialism good = British. 

Colonialism bad = Woke.

Empire brought wealth and trade to the fuzzywuzzies = British. 

Empire enslaved people, sold them, used them as live stock, whipped them, drowned them = Woke.

Britishness is to believe in the White Man's Burden. 

Finding the whole idea sanctimonious and nauseating is Woke.

Britishness is literally about White Supremacy: about the good that we, the white people, generously did to you, various shades of brown people.

Of course, there can be nuance in the study of history. 

Of course that can sometimes get lost in the race for O levels and SATS. 

The old joke was that GCSE had reduced English history to Hitler and Henry -- the Tudors and the Second World War. I have some slight sympathy with the complaint that "according to the Woke perspective" Britain is seen only through the lens of Empire; and the Empire is seen only through the lens of slavery.

Although I can't help thinking of the old joke about the Welshman. "I am in the church choir every Sunday: do they call me Jones the singer? I make delicious bread five days a week; do they call me Jones the Baker? I play for the rugby first team most Saturdays; do they call me Jones the Sportsman. But just once they catch me with a sheep..."

I don't think that Germany is reducible to the Third Reich; I certainly don't think Germany is reducible to the Holocaust. But I can say "other things happened in Germany too" partly because the Germans have admitted that the Holocaust was a Bad Thing. They don't say "killing six million Jews would be politically incorrect by today's standards, but you can't judge the 1930s by the standards of today."

We are tilting at the shadows of windmills. If it were true that children were taught that Shakespeare was not a good poet and Jane Austen was not a good novelist and Darwin was not a good scientist and Christopher Wren was not a good architect because slavery, this would be a little one-sided. But if that were the case (which it isn't) there would be no need to appeal to the fiction of Wokery. We could point to particular flaws in particular text books; and bring in historians and schools inspectors to correct them.

Yes, there was a time when the cleverest people in the world thought that the world was flat. Yes, we should challenge taboos and not follow fashion. God knows, a proper historical account of Empire would involve nuance. The missionaries honestly thought that when they tore down the idols and forced the natives to wear trousers they were doing God's work. We enslaved people, but we built bridges. Hitler made the trains run on time.

But this is white man's burden talk. What it means to be British involves that we, white people, had to take law and order and wealth to you, black people. It is white supremacy written in forty foot high letters of fire. The British empire was a good thing because we, Europeans, know better than you, Africans and Asians.

The committed Jeffcotian never argues that his opponent is in the wrong. There would be no point in doing that. If the opponent is in the wrong, or might be in the wrong, you would refute him by his own arguments. The patron saint of the Jeffcotians is St Jude. He is only ever invoked on the side of hopeless causes. Slavery was good; the British Empire was okay; it's fine to be racist; it's bad to be gay; it's okay to insult minorities, trans folk shouldn't be allowed to get changed in swimming pools. The Jeffcotian argues that the hopeless cause is an hegemony; that a near universal lobby has stifled debate; and that this stifling of debate, not the racism, the sexism, or the homophobia is the real threat.

And because the hegemonic establishment is the real threat, the final Jeffcotian manoeuvre is so subtle, so elegant, so much a work of genius.

Woke is the evil because it will not allow dissent. 

Critical Race Theory is the real evil because it cancels and silences people. 

So we must enact legislation to prohibit Woke texts; to prevent Race Critical Studies being taught in colleges; to tell the the BBC that in order to continue to exist it must promote British Values. (British Values are that the Empire was an unmitigated good. Doctor Who and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue can only be allowed to exist if they actively promote the White Man's Burden.) 

The word Orwellian has done a lot of work lately. But this is literally Orwellian. The creatures are looking from pig to man and from man to pig; but it is already impossible to say which was which is which. 

[note for unfinished final section]

Jeffcotism (5)

Andrew Sullivan is able to help us out. It turns out that Woke isn't hypocrisy or piety or madness or Marxism. Woke, it turns out, is applied post-modernism

It seems that there are academic writers who think that everything in society is explicable in terms of those pesky power structures which bind us. How you define words; what you think is true about the world; and what politics and religion you agree with is determined by your position in the power structure. If you are powerful and privileged it is highly likely that what you define as "politically correct" or "good literature" or "fair laws" or "the right way of adapting Sandman" are the words, books, laws and Netflix boxsets that reflect and reinforce your privileged position. If you don't have power or privilege, your first move is necessarily going to be dismantling those definitions. This can fairly be called neo- or cultural- Marxism because it follows the classical Marxist view that social structures grow out of inequalities and tend to keep those equalities in place; it is "neo" because it is more interested in social inequalities rather than purely economic ones. Old Marxists thought that Church and Goverment and Media grew up in order to ensure that the rich man stayed in his castle and the poor man stayed at his gate and no-one asked why; Neo-Marxists think it is as much about ensuring that white people and straight people and especially men retain the upper hand. 

This is referred to throughout as "critical theory". It is unclear if there are a specific group of intellectuals who define themselves as critical theorists; or whether it is a neutral description of a tendency in academia; or whether this is merely a term which has been adopted by certain people to describe certain other people who they don't like. Very few critics actually call themselves Post Modernists, but post-modernism is a widely used term to describe certain actually existing trends in the arts and philosophy. Political Correctness, on the other hand, seems only ever to have been a hate-word adopted by people who didn't like it. 

Small and capital C conservatives often have a sense that Booklearned People don't like them. When I was in the Christian Union, we very frequently used the word Existentialist to refer to the general sense that clever folk mostly didn't believe in God and mostly thought life was pointless and Morality was whatever you said it was. The most important cultural figure of the 1980s, Adrian Mole, was a nihilistic existentialist. I don't know what would have happened if someone had told us about Kierkergaard. A bit later, about the same time as they discovered Political Correctness, the conservative newspaper columnists started talking about Deconstruction: apparently, universities and school teachers had discovered this theory that let them say that books meant exactly what they wanted them to mean. More recently, Post Modernist has become a popular word for talking about new things we don't agree with. I have heard evangelical Christians describing critical historical readings of the New Testement and anything which wasn't translated by King James as "post modern versions of the Bible." "New Age" did the same job for a while. 

Sullivan doesn't name any writers in particular -- he just points to a general enemy called Critical Theory. But I can see which tendencies in academic thought he is talking about -- Critical Theory is not a non-existant-thing, in the way I suspect Political Correctness always was. And some people on the Left certainly have read their post-structuralist text books. Comedy trade minister Liz Truss wasn't even completely wrong to say that some of the things she doesn't like in English education come ultimately from the ideas of Foucault. 

Sullivan's "critical theory" is clearly an exaggeration -- a parody -- of an actually existing set of ideas. 

"Truth is always and only a function of power. So, for example, science has no claim on objective truth, because science itself is a cultural construct, created out of power differentials, set up by white cis straight males."

It is possibly true that some left-wing thinkers think that all human endeavour comes with ideological baggage. The kinds of answers you get depend on the kinds of questions you ask and the kinds of data you pay attention to. Science is no more neutral than anything else, although it may try harder than some things. (A spade is a spade whether you are a feminist or a reactionary: but if you think that men are better than women you are likely to be more excited about digging up a sword than digging up a saucepan: so you can quite meaningfully talk about feminist archeology.) But it can't possibly be true to say that this new Critical thing says that there is no such thing as scientific truth. Or if it does, then it can't have the stranglehold on academia that the thinks it does: or of it does, then it can't be doing very much harm. The Woke controlled universities and businessmen who don't believe in scientific truth seem to be doing quite a good job of creating smart phones, sending probes to Venus and developing covid vaccines. And of course it isn't the Woke Left who are telling us that masks don't work, climate change is not a thing and vaccines are tied in with Bill Gates orbital mind control lasers. 

"There is no such thing as persuasion in this paradigm, because persuasion assumes an equal relationship between two people based on reason. And there is no reason and no equality. There is only power. This is the point of telling students, for example, to “check their privilege” before opening their mouths on campus. You have to measure the power dynamic between you and the other person first of all; you do this by quickly noting your interlocutor’s place in the system of oppression, and your own, before any dialogue can occur. And if your interlocutor is lower down in the matrix of identity, your job is to defer and to listen. That’s partly why diversity at the New York Times, say, has nothing to do with a diversity of ideas. Within critical theory, the very concept of a “diversity of ideas” is a function of oppression. What matters is a diversity of identities that can all express the same idea: that liberalism is a con-job. Which is why almost every NYT op-ed now and almost every left-leaning magazine reads exactly alike. "

It is true that the concept of privilege has become widely accepted. It is true that "check your privilege" has become a bit of a shibboleth or a slogan. But it is just not true that Critical Theory says that everything said by a less privileged person is right and everything said by a more privileged person is wrong; that men must always defer and listen to women; that anything a man says is automatically written off as mansplaining. 

In four years of studying English literature at school, I think I encountered two black characters. One suffocates his wife with a pillow. One is a comedy African sophisticate, who other characters in the book describe as a nigger. The characters who use the word are represented as upper crust fools, I concede, but at no point in the write-an-account-of-themes-and-effectiveness essays was the offensiveness of the word questioned. In my private reading I came across native porters and amusing gollywogs. Once in a blue moon there was something consciously Ethnic on the BBC; I remember a Jackanory story about a black boy and a cow. Lots of Cowboys and Indians of course. And, as so often, Stan Lee came to the rescue with the Black Panther, the Falcon, Robbie Robertson, Hero For Hire and Brother Voodoo. No, really. 

There is a perfectly good conversation to be had about why this was. If English Literature means "the study of literature written in England" then white writers are going to predominate: if it means "the study of literature written in English" then you would think that quite a lot of Africans, English speaking Asians and even one or two literate Americans would appear. If it is the case that if there is only a finite amount of time on the school curriculum, then saying "We are going to look at some English speaking African authors" means that some dead white men are going to drop off the list. If you are a dead white man, you might perceive this as harming you: there are suddenly less people like you on the list. Boris Johnson commissioned a report which literally framed "reading books by black people" as "banning white authors". 

Checking your privilige does not mean "as a white person I am always wrong". It does mean "perhaps there is some reason why I perceive that copy of Maya Angelou in the school library as a threat." 

Post Modern theory certainly exists; and it certainly contains beliefs and assumptions which are highly contestable. I think it is overwhelmingly unlikely that there is a single university in the country which hands students a copy of The Archeology of Knowledge and and says "this is the unarguable truth and we will test your catechism next week." One of the planks of the new Theory is that students ought to be encouraged to explore ideas for themselves and form their own conclusions: this was why Liz Truss thought Focualt was to blame for all that horrible permissive modern education. 

Sullivan doesn't come right out and say that Critical Theory is wrong . He thinks it is quite interesting and might have a good point. He doesn't give any particular examples of Critical Theory resulting in bad or wrong actions. He simply complains that it is hegemonic. No-one is allowed to think anything else. 

Considering the overwhelming whiteness of academia, the judiciary, the British and US government, bussiness, and the church, it seems overwhelmingly unlikely that there is a fixed party line that anything a black person says is automatically right and anything a white person says is automatically wrong. Presumably, the opposite has happened: black people have sometimes started to say that white people are not always right just because they are white, and that some white people don't like it. It's not that white people have been forced to sit at the back of the bus; it's just that black people are now sometimes allowed to sit at the front of it. If Critical Theory now controls absolutely everything, how is it that there are so many newspaper articles and blog posts denouncing Woke as a terrible thing? If the main problem with Woke is that it doesn't permiot dissent, why are there legislative moves to prohibit the teaching of race critical texts or race critical theories from schools and colleges? 

If one of my collegues saught special permission to leave work early on Fridays in the winter, I might be puzzled. Once I learned that was an Orthodox Jew, I would not need any further explanation: the Jewish day of rest begins when it gets dark on a Friday. Similarly, if a client refused point blank to sign his name on a form or claimed to be called John Smith despite it saying something different on his ID then knowing that he subscribes to the Freedom on the Land conspiracy theory makes his behaviour entirely explicable. If someone keeps discovering something called an Oedpus Complex in literary texts; or if they describe themselves as a Hufflepuff and one of their friends as a Ravenclaw then it helps to know that these words have special meanings in the writings of Freud and J.K Rowling, respectively. In each case, the person's beliefs required explanations and the special case helpfully clarified why they were doing what they were doing. 

If I see someone with the number 14/8 tatoo'd on his wrist, I would probably assume that it was his birthday, or maybe an army number or even the name of a pop group I haven't heard of. But I have been reliably told that 8 stands for the letter H, so 88 means H.H, as in "Heil Hitler." And a popular Klu Klux Klan slogan is often referred to by accolytes as "the 14 words". So it is at least possible that 14/8 has a meaning that is only apparent if you know the context. I used to have a nice teeshirt with a picture of a dial marked "Polarity flow +/-" and the initials WWTDD?. You either get it or you don't. 

But if someone thinks that "slavery was bad" and that "bad things should not be celebrated" then no further explanation is necessary. Slavery was bad and the celebration of bad things is bad: so obviously so that the burden of proof lies entirely on the side of the person who thinks that seventeenth century slave traders and confederate generals can and should be lauded as heroes. I do not say that the counter-case cannot be made. I do not say that "any memorial, once erected, must never be demolished" is an impossible brief. If the question was "memorials, even racist ones, should only be removed through due process of law, never through unilateral action and mass protest" then I would be prepared to speak either for or against the motion. I merely say that those of us who think that Colston was not the best and wisest male person ever born ion Bristol; and that the hero worship of man whose fame rests entirely on having run the company which owned the monopoly on buying and selling black people have a prima facie case. We don't need to say "this otherwise inexplicable view is explained once you discover they subscribe to a bizarre ideology called Woke". 

We don't even need to say "you may think they are pulling down a statue of a slaver, but to those in the know, pullling down racist statues has a scary, secret meaning, like 14/8". The pulling down of the statue represented the fact that white people buying and selling black people was a bad thing; this represented the fact that the oppression of black people by white people in the present day is also a bad thing. You may think that black people are not oppressed by white people; you may think that structural racism is not a thing; you may think that only studying books by white authors about white characters is fine; and that you are only a citizen of Bristol if you can prove that your mother lived in Bristol for the last three generation. These are arguable points. No light whatsoever is shone on the question by saying "Many of the people on the demo which removed the statue had a quality called Woke; Woke derives from something called critical race theory." An idea is not refuted by saying that it is the kind of idea which people who believe in ideas of that kind might believe. 

It is true, in that case, that everyone agrees that Colston had to go. The schools set up in his name agreed. The school that was indirectly related to one he personally founded agreed. The theatre agreed. Both the pubs agreed. The Merchant Venturers and the Dolphin Society who originally put up the bloody statue agreed. 

Everyone agrees that slavery was bad; everyone agrees that Colston was a slaver. So it follows that you are not allowed to think that it was and he wasn't. We will give it a silly name. And we will say, over and over again, until you are bored to death, that the real danger, the threat to the continuation of society, is not the statue. It is the fact that you are prohibited from not being in favour of removing it. 

Sullivan is, in fact, adopting the tactics we saw Graham promoting a week or so back. He has spotted a tendency he doesn't like. He has given it a name. Instead of telling us what he doesn't like about it, he has simply claimed that "they" have absolute power and that dissent has been forbidden. Don't say "white supremacy does not exist". Say "you are not allowed to say that white supremacy doesn't exist; and not being allowed to say that white supremacy doesn't exist is the really serious form of oppression." 

Critical Race theory may or may not be a thing. The Roots of Wokeness is sheer Jeffcotism.

[Unrevised final draft]