In April 1992, I was on holiday in California when the LA riots broke out. Arriving back at Laguna Beach after a roadtrip I was greeted by three, increasingly desperate answer messages from the Daily Telegraph foreign desk. The first wondered whether I was around and could I ring back soon. The second asked could I call back as SOON as I got the message because it was very very urgent. The third screamed that riots were breaking out all over Los Angeles and being the nearest journalist available (the stringer was on holiday) they needed me now.
For all this I had to thank the late Rodney King – the footage of whose beating after a car chase led to a trial in which the police responsible were acquitted. That’s when the riots broke out, resulting in 52 deaths and over 2,000 injuries, plus widespread damage to property.
I’d never covered an event like this before and it was a steep learning curve. The thing old hands tell you about civil unrest is that it’s deeply deceptive. One minute you’ll be hanging in a hotel or a cafe going: “This feels all very safe and calm.” But just take one wrong turn and you can suddenly find yourself in extreme danger. “Overtaken by events” as the euphemism has it, when foreign corrs end up being chopped to bits by panga-wielding mobs.
Anyway, I persuaded an insane cab driver to take me to Hollywood Boulevard so I could report on what was happening there. Some buildings – eg Frederick’s lingerie store – had already been burnt out or looted (Madonna’s bustiere had been stolen), while long lines of riot police were clearly expecting worse. I wandered on, away from the police lines and fell upon a group of about five or six teenagers, blacks and latinos, standing outside a shoe shop.
I asked them what they were doing and they said they were the Four Tray Crips, waiting for their brothers to come and join them with some guns. I said what’s “Four Tray”? They explained it meant 43rd. Then we got chatting about the shoes in the shop – they were planning to loot them, obviously, and wondered whether I fancied a pair. Only once I’d eventually made my excuses and got well away from them did I allow myself the luxury of having the pit drop out of the bottom of my stomach. But while I was talking to the gang, I wasn’t scared one bit. What helped, I think, was that my guilelessness and my English accent appealed to them. Anyway, before I left they gave me a friendly warning. “Be safe, bro,” they said. “You wanna be careful. Guy was round here last night, asking questions like you. He got himself stuck with an axe.”
I think, along with my first day’s hunting with the Devon & Somerset, and diving with great white sharks it was definitely among the top 10 most fun moments of my life.
It did me lots of good, too. My report earned me a herogram from the then editor Max Hastings. It extended my holiday in California. I got another really good scene for my novel Thinly Disguised Autobiography. (Which Tom Wolfe’s daughter reckons is one of the best books she’s ever read. And she’s right, it’s a total bloody masterpiece, perhaps the most brilliant thing I’ve ever done, with definitely the best E scene in literature and probably the best acid scene apart from maybe the one in Julian Cope’s Head-On.)
Many of the English journalists who reported on the LA riots have been blessed ever after with the “Golden Touch of Rodney King”. William Cash (who covered them from the Playboy mansion) is now a magazine magnate; Geordie Greig is editor of the Mail On Sunday; I am arguably the most brilliant, well-loved, most popular, witty and incisive writer in British journalism.
ColinPowis says:26th June 2012 at 4:48 amRodney King drown in a swimming pool ? but they didn’t tell you it was filled with Budweiser ….when they found his bloated body there was less than 1 Ft of beer left in the pool
Moses may indeed of parted the Red Sea , but it was Rodney King who prefomed the real miracle of ”parting and emptying ”the swimming pool …allegedly, his last words were ‘ ‘ Is that you Moses , burp ?…can we all just , hick , hick , GET ALONG ‘ ‘ ?
crownarmourer says:26th June 2012 at 6:46 pmIt appears strange goings on are a going on at the DT, I have multiple theories, it’s a virus/malware, they are going behind a paywall, upgrading to diksux 2012 (latest evil software release), or it’s space aliens.
Or blobby has lost it and is now holding them all hostage at the DT.
Most likely space aliens so I will now adjust my tin foil hat. If you need an alternate meeting place try….. http://libertygibbert.wordpress.com/
“The economic crisis could spark a resurgence in the far Right,” warns a senior British government cabinet minister.
Warns? Well he would warn I suppose this guy – Balls is his name and that’s exactly what he talks – being as he’s so mindlessly, instinctively, incorrigeably left wing he makes Joe Stalin sound like Rush Limbaugh.
But speaking for myself I’d say a little bit more far Right is just what the world could do with right now. Our economies would recover more quickly; our kids would be better educated; our wives (qua Mayor of London Boris Johnson) would have larger breasts (if we so chose, though of course it wouldn’t be compulsory for small-but-perfectly-formed-breast-favourers like me); we’d earn more money and live longer and have all the leisure time we needed to do whatever we wanted, be it hunt foxes or smoke cigarettes or drive our 4 x 4s incredibly fast on no-speed-limit motorways or eat live ortolans in truffle and foie gras sandwiches or take long bracing walks in pristine landscapes unsullied by useless wind turbines or anything else we fancied, pretty much, because we’d be free, free, FREE!
Some of you might be wondering where the death camps fit into all this. And the Swastikas.
And the gay-bashing. And the Jew-murdering.
And my answer is: they don’t.
About the only Nazi/fascist thing I can envisage happening in my far-Right paradise – that and the fact that chic, Hugo-Boss-designed uniforms will be perfectly permissible among those who fancy such things – is that the trains will run on time. But that’s all.
You see when I talk about far Right, I don’t mean the caricature “all Conservatives are closet Nazis” version of supposed extreme right-wingery which appears in leftist propaganda from the likes of Mr Balls.
I just mean something a bit more robust than the limp-wristed conservatism currently espoused by a worryingly large number of US Republican and British Tory politicians. I mean real conservatism not “Compassionate Conservatism”, (which isn’t conservatism at all but diluted liberalism.)
Whenever I try explaining this to people (as I do quite a lot because hey, I’m on A Mission) usually their eyes glaze over or they look at me like I’m mad. “What?” they go. “How can you like cool music and be so heavily into freedom and call yourself right wing?”
My friends – I’m presuming you’re reading this because you want to be my friend and not because you think I’m evil and wrong and are just lurking here to annoy me – my friends, it is time that those of us on the right (and those of us who think we, er, might possibly be on the right, but are too scared to admit it, even to ourselves) came out of the closet and started standing up for ourselves and our cause.
Say it loud, say it proud: “I’m right-wing and I’m good and I’m happy in my skin.”
There. Don’t you feel SO much better?
I know I’ve been feeling a lot better, anyway, ever since I started becoming a fully-fledged, unabashed, practising right-winger.
Just recently, as I never tired of my reminding my long-suffering Facebook friends, I did a publicity tour of the US. Well, maybe a tour is too grand a word for it, given that I only stopped off in New York and DC. But I did do lots of talk radio, maybe thirty stations across the US, and just to ram home (so to speak) that gay analogy one more time, I came away feeling rather as my gay friends must have done when they finally plucked up the courage to tell their parents that, um, if they were expecting grandchildren any time soon then maybe it might not be too good an idea to hold their breath. I felt relieved of a terrible burden: the burden that comes of being right wing and forever having to hedge your views with semi-apologies, and nervous circumlocution, and long-winded explanations as to why is that even though you’re right wing your politics spring from the noblest of motives.
When you do the right-wing US talk shows, none of that is necessary. Au contraire. The more unashamedly right-wing you are, the more they love you for it. They take it as a given that being on the right is the right place to be. Which makes a refreshing change from doing pretty much any talk radio show in Britain, let me tell you. Over here – where most talk shows of note are in the control of the instinctively, unthinkingly left liberal BBC – your job as a right-winger is, at best, to provide freak-show amusement value; at worst, to afford prey for a series of carefully prepared traps with leaves on top and ravening tigers lurking in the pit underneath.
Your interviewer’s aim – this applies on TV as much as radio – will be to hold your opinions up to his audience’s righteous contempt by demonstrating that you are one or more of the following: a xenophobe, a racist, a climate-change denier, a Little Englander, a NIMBY, an elitist, a snob, or just a plain evil selfish bastard who doesn’t give a fig for anyone but himself. The BBC doesn’t do this deliberately. (Well, not often). It genuinely sees itself as a model of balance and reasonableness. Unfortunately, though, because it is staffed almost totally by bien-pensants recruited through the media pages of the left-wing Guardian newspaper, a BBC apparatchik’s idea of the centre ground is actually some way towards the political left.
But I have been sidetracked. There will be plenty of time in future blogs to have a go at BBC bias. My point in this inaugural one is to come up with some kind of statement of intent: who I am, what I stand for.
And what I stand for is a lot of things you wouldn’t necessarily associate with people on the right. Some of the things I value, admittedly, are straight down-the-line conservative. I believe in tradition; I go to church (though not nearly as often as maybe I should); I think foxhunting and staghunting are the coolest, most exciting sports ever invented (with grouse-shooting a close second); I believe that the English public school offers the best education in the world; I worship Johnny Cash; I get a terrible, aching, yearning feeling in my heart when I listen to Vaughan Williams’s English folk song suite; I play bridge; I like long country walks; and I’m utterly obsessed with World War II and am never happier than when talking to veterans – or indeed when hanging out with servicemen generally because yes, I do think meanly of myself for not having been a soldier, and I will always envy and admire those who have faced the ultimate test.
But not all my enthusiams are stereotypically right-wing. I’m liberal on recreational drug use, for example. Very liberal – though as I would prefer to put it “classically liberal” or libertarian. I like dance music. Led Zeppelin. Love. Radiohead. DJ Shadow. No seriously, my taste in music is pretty immaculate though I say it myself. And if you follow my recommendations up right, or go to my archive, I promise you, you’re in for many treats. I’m also a sensitive literary type. (Well, I write novels – the current series being set in World War II – which may not be quite the same thing. They’re full of graphic violence, black jokes and dirty sex, which the more straight-laced conservative type might find a bit near the knuckle). I like South Park. And The Simpsons. And culty, arthouse films like Lilya 4 Ever; Adaptation; Brazil and Being John Malkovich. I like Starship Troopers. The Sopranos. Band Of Brothers. Das Boot. And I’m really into vampire movies, so long as they’re evil vampires like in 30 Days Of Night, Salem’s Lot, From Dusk Till Dawn and Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, and not wussy vegetarian ones designed for girls like in that current teen-vampire film whose name I forget.
Oh and having travelled a lot in Africa, I care about the state of that continent and am fascinated by its people (though I don’t think, pace Bob Geldof and Bono, that the solution lies in bombarding them with aid). And I get on well with black people, yellow people, hispanics and Jews. Even Germans and French, sometimes. I don’t think I’m racist. Well, certainly no more than the next human being. And I have so many gay friends, it has been suggested that I might be a closeted gay myself. Or at least that I’m in denial. Heavily in denial presumably, given that I’m happily married with a wife and three kids.
Anyway, look, fuck it – oh yeah, swearing, that’s another thing I do, which I have to be much more careful about in the US where I know casual swearing is much less prevalent among educated people – I’ve told you quite enough to be going on with. Really, all I wanted to do here apart from offer you a gentle introduction to the kind of thing I do, is come back to that point I was trying to make at the beginning about the fact that being right wing is not the same thing as being a Nazi. Or a fascist. Or any of those other nasty slurs that left-wingers like the Balls man and Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky and the rest like to use against us in order to wriggle out of the need to engage us in honest debate.
And if you want an even more detailed explanation of why right wingers, no matter how extreme, are neither fascists nor Nazis, read Jonah Goldberg’s excellent Liberal Fascism. The Nazis were a movement of the left – National Socialists – not the right, and the only reason that today we imagine otherwise is because of a very successful propaganda campaign begun by Joseph Stalin, and continued by his fellow travellers and useful idiots ever since.
Me, I’m a nice guy. I love my family, love nature, like peace and love, and never drown kittens unless it’s strictly necessary. But you know what? Just recently, what with Obamaland and all, I’ve had this wonderful, liberating sense that I no longer need to apologise to my antagonists on the green-tinged liberal-left for who I am and the things for which I stand. There are people, I’ve realised just recently, whom I’m never going to convert through force of argument, no matter how eloquent my delivery nor how indisputable my evidence.
So to all my friends and would-be friends I say: welcome!