Britain has taken a symbolic step further down the road to cultural suicide with the arrest, on the steps of Winchester’s ancient and historic Guildhall, of Mr Paul Weston, who was a candidate in the elections to the European parliament. His offence was having quoted Winston Churchill’s 1899 book The River War.
Mr Weston, chairman of the small party Liberty GB, was addressing a public meeting when an unidentified woman took offence and called the police. No fewer than seven police officers promptly appeared. Mr Weston was arrested in mid-speech and bundled into a police van. He was charged with having failing to comply with a request to move on under the powers of a dispersal order made against him.
He was further arrested on suspicion of religious or racial harassment, an offence possibly carrying a severe prison sentence. This police overkill, where a word of warning might have been enough in a case of mere obstruction, indicates that Mr Weston’s offence was seen as political rather than a mere minor infringement of public order. He was bailed pending further inquiries.
A Liberty GB spokesman said:
Mr Weston was addressing the passers-by in the street with a megaphone. He quoted an excerpt about Islam from the book The River War by Winston Churchill. Reportedly, a woman came out of the Guildhall and asked Mr Weston if he had the authorisation to make this speech. When he answered that he didn’t, she told him, “It’s disgusting,” and then called the police.
Unfortunately for the police and the complainant, Sir Winston himself was beyond the reach of the law. Had he been around, other offences of harassment by him might have been taken into account, such as describing the well-known European statesman and advocate of European unity Adolf Hitler as a bloodthirsty guttersnipe to be purged and blasted from the surface of the earth, and the leaders of the late Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as “foul baboonery”.
In The River War he had written:
How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries.
Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity.
Churchill was particularly concerned with the oppression of women in many Islamic societies and said the world would not be free until this was ended:
The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property—either as a child, a wife, or a concubine—must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.
He claimed, in words some might think prophetic:
Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.
Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.
The River War is Churchill’s account of the Sudan campaign against the Dervishes, in which, aged twenty-three, he had served as an officer of lancers and had also moonlighted as a war correspondent. In the Battle of Omdurman he had taken part in one of the British Army’s last great cavalry charges.
The question of whether Churchill’s sweeping strictures on Islam are objectively true is beside the point. The point is that Britain has gone a long, long way towards destroying its cherished principle of freedom of speech, and no end to the process is in sight. I have written previously of recent cases of British people arrested for quoting or displaying passages from the Bible.
This censorship and persecution take place under the eyes of the apparently culturally-lobotomised and inert Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government. Tory Prime Minister David Cameron could end this madness instantly by picking up a phone or uttering a few pointed words to the responsible ministers in cabinet, but he apparently does nothing.
Children have been arrested and brought before judges (not mere magistrates) by the Crown Prosecution Service for using racist words in school; or even kindergarten, playground squabbles. One schoolgirl was actually arrested and held in custody for racism (I am not making this up) when she asked her teacher if she could join English-speaking students to do a group assignment.
A generation after the Lady Chatterley trial and the abolition of the Lord Chamberlain’s office and powers ended literary and theatrical censorship, it appears to be returning in full blast from a different direction, driven by forces of political correctness. There seems no point at which a line might be drawn and a stand made against the rising tide of this new censorship. If it is an offence to quote The River War, should it not logically also be an offence to print or sell it? And why not other books expressing politically incorrect opinions, even if they were written by men like Churchill who were great champions of freedom and democracy against totalitarianism and against the racist genocide of German National Socialism?
What has happened to that anti-censorship gaggle of trendy bishops, media personalities and so forth who arose honking with indignation over the banning of the pathologically misogynist Lady Chatterley’s Lover?
If quoting the writings of Churchill is a criminal offence, who is safe? I can, for a start, think of several passages in the canon of George Orwell’s writing which might also attract the censor’s attention. Passages which might offend the hyper-sensitive on racial or eugenic grounds occur in the works of a vast multitude of British writers including, from the Left alone, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells and D.H. Lawrence. Even so enthusiastic an Arabist as T.E. Lawrence wrote of the Arabs in his magnum opus, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, much as the young Churchill did. Don’t go quoting Seven Pillars of Wisdom around Winchester:
They were a limited, narrow-minded people, whose inert intellects lay fallow in incurious resignation. Their imaginations were vivid, but not creative. There was so little Arab art in Asia that they could almost be said to have had no art, though their upper classes were liberal patrons, and had encouraged whatever talents in architecture, or ceramics, or other handicraft their neighbours and helots displayed. Nor did they handle great industries: they had no organizations of mind or body.
Shakespeare, however, might get away with the anti-Semitic portrayal of Shylock, since Jews are increasingly once again considered fair game in Britain and Europe.
Also on the conservative side ready for banning on racist grounds are Rudyard Kipling, John Buchan, Arthur Conan Doyle, Evelyn Waugh (read what Dr Grimes has to say about the Welsh in Decline and Fall) and literally countless others from all points of the political compass. Indeed, taken to its logical conclusion, political correctness could destroy virtually Britain’s entire literary heritage. Already some progressive local councils—Brent is one, but by no means the only, recent example—have purged their libraries, destroying literally thousands of politically incorrect books.
Other victims of anti-racist purges to date include children’s stories featuring golliwogs, even when the golliwogs are shown in a favourable light. Censorship of this sort invariably attracts the fanatical and the stupid.
Of course this bizarre Churchill incident is not really about someone being offended. It is part of the one-way war that is being waged against anything that smacks of British traditions and identity. Destroying or rendering illegitimate Churchill’s legacy would be a major victory in this one-way war.