Saturday, May 18, 2024
HomeCulture WarAs Fry’s lefties sow, so shall they reap

As Fry’s lefties sow, so shall they reap


STEPHEN Fry, that paragon of haute leftism, has been criticised for making ‘inappropriate’ jokes during a speech at Lord’s. Fry, the MCC president, made two cracks, neither very amusing, alluding to women and Islamist terror, the former being disputed it its content.

The stink was caused by one Chris Waterman, who is 75. That might seem an advanced age for ‘social justice warrior’ activism, but it is as well to remember that woke is just the vicious, ignorant, spoilt grandchild of Sixties revolutionary thought. Mr Waterman, according to the Times, is an ‘education policy adviser’ (no surprise there) who has apparently been trying to become a committee member at MCC but has not succeeded. He blames this failure on ‘chumocracy’. His own view of MCC is racially bigoted in a way that the left specialise in. He describes it thus: ‘Male, pale, stale and frail’.  

Fry, 65, is yet to comment, but MCC has, very sensibly, backed him. It claims Waterman’s version of events is ‘factually incorrect’.

This is another case in a growing dossier of left-wing figures finding themselves skewered by the mutating dogma of the left which many of them have nodded along with for years.

As I have written before on TCW Defending Freedom, Fry was a leading light in ‘alternative comedy’, a left-wing revolution 40-plus years ago which took over television and eventually led to, more or less, the abolition of comedy as any normal person would understand it, and the rise and near monopoly of licensed woke ‘humour’ in its stead. 

Then there is J K Rowling, the one-woman publishing sensation and friend of the Labour Party and its former prime minister Gordon Brown, who has been caught up in the snarling lunacy of transgender politics.

Ms Rowling, 57, donated £1million to New Labour during its days of high mendacity and smarmed-down socialism, thereby directly contributing to the culture wars of today. It was an article of faith in Tony Blair’s tenure as prime minister, one that has gone largely unchallenged ever since, that at least 50 per cent of pupils should go to university. Through dumbing-down A-levels, and cheating, that figure was eventually achieved, maintained and exceeded. Clearly this trashing of educational standards is a prime factor in Britain’s collapse into a landscape of woke cultural revolution: a nominally educated graduate class, many – I would argue most – of whom lack the reading and intellectual rigour of a trained mind; the evidence is everywhere. How else could such a tsunami of deleterious developments, from the huge appetite for the ubiquitous trash culture of the West to the acceptance of left-wing gobbledygook in everyday life, have triumphed virtually unquestioned? By legitimising ignorance with factitious educational achievement. For instance, to accept the premises of transgenderism you have to put a very low bar on objective truth, not to mention the inescapable facts of biology, yet pro-trans bigotry is raging through campuses – just Google ‘trans cancellations at British universities’. This, surely, was not the world Ms Rowling envisaged when she dropped that cool million into Labour’s collection tin, but here we are. The moral of Ms Rowling’s story: be careful what you wish for when you finance political parties dedicated to ideological fantasies.

Many other figures, large and small, have fallen foul of the woke juggernaut, not least the Rolling Stones, one of whose biggest hits was quietly cancelled recently. Popular music long ago fell into a mix of utter tastelessness and political correctness that is best described as woke trash. Now the revolution has parked its tanks on the lawn of an area far more important than television and music.

The world of books and publishing is now being altered by the ramifications of Woke ideology. The demands of ‘sensitivity readers’, de facto censors employed by publishers to vet manuscripts for anything that someone, somewhere, might find offensive, are destroying the Western conception of what a book is.

As Laura Perrins reported in TCW yesterday, the works of Roald Dahl are in the line of fire: Augustus Gloop, the confectionery-addicted porker of Charlie and Chocolate Factory, can no longer be called ‘fat’ and must be rewritten. 

This is far from the only example. Last week the Times reported that Kate Clanchy, who won the Orwell Prize for political writing in 2020 for her book Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me, believes that the blue pencils of sensitivity readers are ‘destroying the art of writing’. Censors demanded hundreds of changes to her book, so Clanchy left the publisher. She said that authors are now self-censoring in advance, adding that she sees no need for sensitivity readers who are, she says, really ‘thought-checkers’.

Even dead authors are not immune to censorship. It is years since Captain W E Johns’s Biggles books were first removed from shelves by leftie librarians because of ‘jingoism’, later to be bowdlerised by his publisher. 

This is not just about ideology; cowardice and the bottom line also play a part. Not every publisher is woke – though many clearly are – but it seems that even if they have no ideological objection to something in a book, they still get a manuscript vetted because of worry about the smear effect of Twitter lynch mobs and a consequent impact on public image.

The fear must be PR-based because cultural Marxism is not necessarily a moneyspinner: the very woke Walt Disney corporation lost £102billion of its market value last year and its stock plunged 44 per cent, the worst performance since 1974.

Growing public disquiet in the West over the radical left’s grip on culture and the occasional fall of high-profile agitators such as Nicola Sturgeon after the SNP’s gender recognition law blew up in her face must not lead anyone into thinking the danger may be passing. Even if, as I fervently hope, woke ideology is contained and pushed back, the ground it has gained has produced long-lasting changes: we will all live in the ruins of the revolution. Products of the politicised education system have been, are and will be swarming into politics, media, law, medicine and the civil service. The culture war will rage on, the attempts to eradicate liberty and freedom of speech will continue and, as Mr Fry is finding out, jokers will be on a sticky wicket.

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Robert James
Robert James
Robert James is a national newspaper journalist.

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