Driving back from my holiday in Wales, yesterday, I realised what a lucky escape I’d had. As I exited the hills and finally got my mobile phone reception back, there was an old message from Friday inviting me to appear on that evening’s Newsnight to talk about the riots. So it could have been me that fell into the BBC’s “raaaacist” trap instead of poor old David Starkey.
And make no mistake it was a trap. Starkey’s debating opponent was Owen Jones, the BBC’s new pet angry young socialist whose default position is perpetual umbrage and righteous rage on behalf of the poor, working class, oppressed and – since Friday, apparently – black people. It’s a cheap trick but one that goes down very well at the BBC, which is why they have Jones back so often. What it achieves, while cleverly avoiding the need for debate on facts (never the liberal-Left’s strong point), is to imply that anyone on the right is evil, selfish, bullying, wrong or – that ne plus ultra of Lefty insults – raaaacist.
In his brilliant analysis of the episode, Toby Young mentioned one of Jones’s weaselly, disingenuous interventions:
He then went on to make an almost equally controversial observation about the Labour MP for Tottenham. “Listen to David Lammy, an archetypical successful black man,” he said. “If you turned the screen off so you were listening to him on radio you’d think he was white.”
Owen Jones leapt on this: “You said David Lammy when you heard him sounded white and what you meant by that is that white people equals respectable.”
This is classic Owen Jones, classic BBC. Note that what Starkey is saying here is actually pretty reasonabble. If you listened to David Lammy on the radio you could indeed very easily think that his educated, non-ethnically identifiable (and mildly effete) speaking voice belonged to a white person rather than a black person. But in Jones’s world – and that of his puppetmaster the BBC – the truth in these matters is no defence.
Oh the sanctimoniousness with which the Twitterati piled in!
Here’s the BBC’s Robert Peston:
David Starkey‘s nasty ignorance is best ignored, not worthy of comment or debate – though I fear there will be a media feeding frenzy
Here’s that model of probity Piers Morgan:
RIP David Starkey‘s TV career. And good riddance. Racist idiot. #Newsnight
And here, least excusably I think, is the former Louise Bagshawe.
I see “David Starkey” is the top trending topic in the UK. Positive aspect to all this is that racism of that sort still has power to shock.
Now the last time I looked Louise Mensch was a Tory MP and what I’d like to know is: since when was it Conservative party policy to play the Left’s game by closing down the argument and stifling freedom of speech? Actually the question is partly rhetorical: it has been Cameron’s policy for some time, as we saw during his disgraceful treatment of Patrick Mercer MP over his remarks on racism in the military. But I do think nonetheless that Louise Mensch owes it to David Starkey to look very hard into her conscience (and her searing intellect, of course) and ask herself: “What exactly did this decent, principled, very soundly Tory historian do to deserve me, Louise Mensch, branding him a racist to my 37,500 chums on Twitter?”
The part of the programme which seems to have most got the Left’s goat is the one where David Starkey says that “the whites have become black.”But again, the cultural point he is making is indisputable. Listen to how many white kids (and Asian kids) choose to speak in black street patois; note the extent to which hip hop and grime garage and their offshoots have penetrated the white mainstream; check out how many white kids like to roll like pimps or perps with their Calvins pulled up to their midriffs and their jean waistbands sagging below their buttocks.
Is anyone seriously going to try to make the case that this isn’t black culture in excelsis? Or does anyone, perhaps, want to persuade me that this is but one tiny and much-exaggerated facet of a broader black culture dominated by opera and madrigal singing and crochet and sonnet-construction and lawn bowls and Shakespeare and new translations of Ovid? If they are capable of doing so then maybe, just maybe, I might accept that there was something demeaning or reductive in Starkey’s comments on black culture. Problem is, I don’t think anyone can. (And I speak, by the way, as someone who quite likes his hop hop and who is very much into the new Kanye West/Jay Z album. But who, listening to it, can’t help noticing that it’s rather more a celebration of gats, hos, casual sex and easy money, than it is an invocation for study, hard work and social conformity.)
To pillory a man for pointing out such a glaringly obvious cultural fact just because he’s white and Right-wing would have been quite wrong even before the riots. Post riots it is positively obscene.
Not just obscene, in fact, but dangerous. Of course, we expect the BBC not to get it. Like the Guardian – and the Labour party – the BBC created the culture that led to these riots, so it’s hardly surprising if it carries on playing the old PC game like the 80s and 90s never went away. But if an up and coming member of Cameron’s Tories hasn’t got the message then we seriously need to worry. The riots were a game changer. The decent majority of this country has moved on. If what David Starkey said was racist, then so are we all.