If you are a fan of Iain Martin’s weekly newsletter (and which of us is not?), you will know that he has dubbed the deeply woke and recurringly anti-British New York Times “the world’s worst newspaper”.
But the Guardian, in its current guise, isn’t far behind when it comes to social change. Like the BBC website, it panders to everything it considers “progressive,” which used to mean higher wages, affordable homes and better healthcare for working people, but now comes down to “why do so many of us have to be white?” and “wouldn’t it be better if there was no such thing as gender?”
Three years ago, just as gender fluid was entering the national bloodstream, it was enough to be gay or “bi-” to be fawned over by the Guardian – as if sexual preference was a key determinant in deciding who was worthy and who was not. No longer. If anything, gays and lesbians and their enablers have joined the enemy. “Straight” gays apparenty resent no longer being at the cutting edge of sexual awakening. Trans persons have gone from being regarded as rare, and perhaps a bit unfortunate, to being the ultimate in evolution, even the precursors of a new race of hermaphrodidic humans.
To be clear, I have no problem with any of the letters in the LGBTQIA+ formulation (though I do wonder what on Earth the + might betoken). But I do think the rest of us might be permitted to include “U” for Usual (note, I didn’t say “N”, for Normal) as a signifier of equal value. Let us suppose that there are fifty people in a room, ten of whom are bisexual or gay, just two of whom are “trans”. Should a large part of every conversation in the room be about trans issues and trans problems? Would the same apply to the growing numbers of people who like to see themselves as somewhere on the autism scale? If you read the Guardian, the answer would be, yes and yes.
Race is, of course, the other central issue for the Guardian. Until very recently, there were very few black faces in the paper’s newsroom, as was the case in every title for which I ever worked between 1971 and 1995. The reality only caught up with the rhetoric in the early years of the present century. But, as Gary Younge, one of the pre-eminent black pioneers, has written, the shift from all-white to diverse – the holiest of words – was only completed under the present editor, Katharine Viner, a white, Oxford-educated veteran of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the anti-Apartheid Movement, who as a teenager read Spare Rib and interned at Cosmopolitan during the latter days of that Old-School feminist Helen Gurley-Brown. Does that mean that previous Guardian regimes are suspect and ought no longer to be seen as radical?
Last month, Viner felt the need to issue a creepy apology for the fact that one of the Guardian’s founders, John Edward Taylor, had made his fortune from the textile industry in Manchester, which – surprise, surprise! – relied on supplies of cotton from plantations in the Americas, where production was built on slave labour.
“As editor-in-chief of the Guardian,” she wrote, “I felt sick to my stomach” – as well she might as she and her colleagues had been to the fore in denouncing those in Britain, like Bristol’s now toppled Edward Colston (1636-1721), whose wealth derived wholly or in part from slavery.
It is understandable – indeed inevitable – that such an unsavoury discovery should have raised eyebrows in the newsroom. It was embarrassing and the rest of the national press was sure to find out and point the finger. But Viner was sick to her stomach about the practises of a businessman who was born in 1791 and died just seven years into the reign of Queen Victoria. Talk about piling it on! What had Taylor’s connection with the slave trade got to do with her? Why did she feel obliged, like Henry II after the death of Beckett, to don sackcloth and ashes and profess her sin before the bar of liberal opinion? At least Henry bore some responsibility for the prelate’s murder. Viner and her colleagues are, without exception, wholly innocent of the crime.
One can only imagine her reaction if it was revealed that one of her predecessors had been “ill at ease” with “homosexuals” and believed a woman’s place was in the home. During the paper’s early days, though the rights of slaves, even of women, might conceivably have been raised over coffee in morning conference, the all-white, all-male hierarchy would have deemed discussion of racial equality, still less same-sex marriage and trans rights, as a step too far for even the most liberal of advocates. Does this mean that any remaining nineteenth century staff lists should be burned and the ashes thrown into the Manchester Ship Canal? Why yes, for cancellation of opinions held in the past, prior to our own more perfect world view, is for the Woke Left the only sure means of ensuring that They Who Should not be Named are in fact confined to the oubliette of history.
Perhaps Viner agrees with the God of Deuteronomy 5:9: “For I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me [Too].” In which case, what hope for the children or grandchildren of those who back in the Sixties thought gays were “poofs” and women liked it if men stuck their hand up their skirts at parties?
The thing is, we have moved on. There is further to go on all fronts. No one can deny that. But the end is in clear view.
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In recent years, the Guardian has devoted considerable time and energy to exposing the truth about Britain and slavery, as if we didn’t know it already. The fact that a British government was one of the first to outlaw the practise in Europe and the Royal Navy helped end the trade worldwide was to the Woke Left too little too late – which it was. But that was then and this is now, which makes it a little galling that the dead of Bristol and Liverpool and, naturally, the City of London, are being put in the dock for events that took place when ships were still propelled by sail and a woman could be hanged for stealing a sheep.
And it doesn’t stop there. For what about the cash made from slavery by past members of the royal family, including George II, a shareholder in the South Sea Company, who sat on the throne as recently as… 1760? You don’t have to look far for the answer. The Guardian has been ramming it home for the last week, desperate during the coronation celebrations to have us believe that King Charles and his dysfunctional family deserve to be mentioned almost in the same breath as the Confederacy, the lynch mobs of Mississippi or H. F. Verwoerd, the architect of Apartheid. If there was any justice in this world, they seem to imply, the Royals would be required to sign over the deeds of Windsor Castle to the Stephen Lawrence Foundation and the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.
Do I have to add that I (centuries on) deplore slavery and fully accept the rights of the LGBTQIA communities? Probably. If I wrote for the Guardian (which I once briefly did), it would be a requirement. Its aggressive NUJ chapel is overwhelmingly woke and self-regarding. What I would say to its journalists is simple: ease up, accept that astonishing progress has been made in the fields of sexuality, the rights of women, race and gender, and devote the freed-up news space to the needs of the poor, the sick, the educationally disadvantaged and, yes, Britain’s increasingly dumb white underclass. The Guardian was founded by, among others, John Edward Taylor precisely to champion lost causes. When the cause is no longer lost, it is time to move on.
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