Book Review: Last Days at Hot Slit by Andrea Dworkin

The late Andrea Dworkin pioneered a conservative, anti-sex, pro-censorship strand of feminism. In doing so, she changed the feminist movement, and the political left, forever. A new collection of her writing, Last Days at Hot Slit, was published this year. My review of the book is now online at Quillette.

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Obscenity law liberalised

This is a cross-post from my contribution to the Adam Smith Institute blog.

Last week the Crown Prosecution Service published updated guidance for prosecutions under the Obscene Publications Act (1959). Legal campaigning has brought about a big change: the liberal tests of harm, consent and legality of real acts are now key parts of their working definition of obscenity. The CPS explain:

… conduct will not likely fall to be prosecuted under the Act provided that:

  • It is consensual (focusing on full and freely exercised consent, and also where the provision of consent is made clear where such consent may not be easily determined from the material itself); and
  • No serious harm is caused
  • It is not otherwise inextricably linked with other criminality (so as to encourage emulation or fuelling interest or normalisation of criminality); and
  • The likely audience is not under 18 (having particular regard to where measures have been taken to ensure that the audience is not under 18) or otherwise vulnerable (as a result of their physical or mental health, the circumstances in which they may come to view the material, the circumstances which may cause the subject matter to have a particular impact or resonance or any other relevant circumstance).

The guidance supports a realistic notion of consent which means that depictions of most safe, consensual activities under the umbrella of BDSM are unlikely to be subject to prosecution:

“Non-consent for adults must be distinguished from consent to relinquish control. The presence of a “gag” or other forms of bondage does not, without more, suffice to confirm that sexual activity was non-consensual.”

The CPS acknowledge the damaging impact on the rule of law when prosecutors rely on subjective notions when making charging decisions:

“An ill-defined concept of moral depravity or corruption does not provide for legal demarcation of sufficient precision to enable a citizen to regulate his or her conduct. However, where conduct or an activity is itself criminalised, that may be a clear indication as to its tendency to deprave or corrupt.” 

This is a substantial improvement for the OPA which has previously been used to prosecute consensual sexual expression, including publications depicting and defending LGBTQ sexual practices.

For now, the guidelines relate only indirectly to decisions to prosecute for possession of Extreme Pornography (Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008). They appear to clarify that prosecutors should not normally be targeting depictions or records of legal acts between consenting adults. This avoids the logical incoherence at the heart of previous obscenity definitions that meant people could be prosecuted for publishing or possessing visual records of practices that were perfectly legal to conduct, such as fisting.

This is good news for liberals and anyone with an interest in freedom of sexual expression. We have to remain vigilant to see how prosecutors use these guidelines in practice. But this is at least a substantial improvement on past definitions that provided little guidance for citizens, producers or prosecutors.

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What is responsible for this surprisingly liberal turn? There is little we can say with absolute certainty other than that the CPS has wisely chosen to adjust its prosecution practice to better reflect contemporary public attitudes towards minority sexual practices and porn producers.

There are a few likely contributors to this reform. Various, sometimes overlapping, strategies formed an ecology of activism and advocacy that changed the legal and policy environment. Central to the story is the civil liberties group Backlash (declaration of interest: I have volunteered my research expertise at Backlash). It began as an advocacy group, campaigning against the extension of obscenity law to include possession of extreme images that the Home Office presumed to be a necessity in the Internet age.

After the law was passed despite well-informed opposition, obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman joined Backlash as legal advisor. In a switch in strategy, Backlash started providing legal advice and financial support to defend some criminal allegations that involved consenting acts between adults.

Juries tended to favor the defence in these cases that Backlash identified as consensual. Juries rejected prosecutions for the possession of erotic horror images, possession of fisting and urethral soundings, ‘twink’ porn, as well as the sale of fisting videos. These criminal cases couldn’t set legal precedents as they never got to the stage of appeal. Nonetheless, these failed prosecutions probably deterred the CPS from pursuing many future cases.

Meanwhile, other campaigners brought this issue to wider public attention. Jerry Barnett’s website Sex and Censorship and book Porn Panic helped to link the anti-porn agenda to a wider pro-censorship movement that is now prominent in some Internet political movements. Sexual freedom campaigner, Charlotte Rose, organized a ‘face-sitting’ protest outside Parliament aimed specifically at new media regulations and helped to raise the profile of sexual freedom more generally.

The protest attracted mainstream media attention. Pandora Blake used regulatory action against her website as a test case to quash some of the more subjective regulations. Blake then ran a campaign to show that it was the Obscene Publications Act, underlying these new inconsistent and censorious regulatory practices, that needed reform. The lost cases and reaction from vulnerable parties together prompted the CPS to consult on adjusting their guidelines to better represent what the general public evidently thought to be worthy of criminalization and censorship.

Obscenity and pornography regulation has attracted a great deal of scholarly interest. Initially, from critical supporters of the ban on extreme pornography from the field of feminist legal theory. Media communications scholars, especially Feona Attwood and Clarissa Smith, in the nascent porn studies sub-discipline, challenged the idea that porn had systematically negative impacts on culture, society and the status of women.

My article, ‘Millian Liberalism and Extreme Pornography’ showed that there was a surprising overlap between the interests of queer sexual politics, including the freedom to engage in transgressive expression and a right to establish safe spaces for minorities to support and cultivate their identities, and the classical liberal approach to freedom of expression and association. My Adam Smith Institute report, ‘Nothing to Hide’ argued for making consent to legal acts the primary way of judging the legality of sexually explicit images. It prompted LGBTQ media to highlight the risks of the law for their audience, and to start quizzing the Home Office about how they intended the law to be used.

Initially, academic feminist proponents of the extreme porn ban, including Clare McGlynn, sought quite a broad application.  They argued explicitly that the law should not apply to a narrow notion of harm but also to ‘cultural harm’ or the imputed indirect, social impact of the availability of pornography, not just those participating in the acts themselves). More recently, these proponents have accepted a greater role for consent in defining the limits of image prohibition.

They now focus on the problem of ‘revenge pornography’ (the non-consensual sharing of sexually explicit private images). In contrast to ‘extreme pornography’ and obscene publications in general, ‘revenge porn’ constitutes a personal violation and severe social problem that both liberals and feminists agree requires civil and criminal remedies. Fortunately, there has been some degree of agreement on where future criminal justice activity needs to be directed.

Criminal obscenity law is just one strand in a tangle of issues threatening sexual expression and freedom of expression in the UK. This change doesn’t do very much to make the government’s age verification system and broader surveillance of Internet access safe. It only marginally improves the legal protection of sex workers who use or offer online services. So there are a great deal more liberal reforms needed. Nevertheless, this success shows that campaigning, through legal challenges, protests and informed scholarship, can lead to genuine reform. I see this as a model for future campaigns aiming for greater personal liberty.

Antifa: A Betrayal of Anti-Fascism

I recently contributed to Poliquads, an interesting new political publication with a unique approach. Each edition focuses on one subject, and includes articles, as well as responses, from commentators on various points of the political spectrum. I contributed as a “left-libertarian” (though in practise I don’t see political labels as very useful any more).

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You can read my thoughts on Antifa at Poliquads – and you can expect more in future editions.

Digital Rape? The Parliamentary “Sexual Harassment” Report is a Sweeping Attack on Civil Liberties

Tuesday was one of those days that pop up a few times a year for me: a phone call from a media outlet (in this case talkRadio) alerts me to the fact that porn is in the news again. Would I be interested in joining a discussion about porn being a “public health crisis” at five past 11?

Of course, I would: defending the indefensible is my niche. So I dutifully appeared on talkRadio, followed by BBC Radio Leeds and (later that evening) Newsnight.

Porn is a “public health crisis”?

The claim that porn has created a “public health crisis” is not an evidence-based one, but in fact emerged from America’s religious right a couple of years ago, and has been used by right-wing state legislatures to pass anti-porn legislation. This is simply the latest salvo in a war on pornography being fought by Republicans and anti-porn feminists for the past four decades.

Now, worryingly, the claim had been regurgitated by the parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee, and has appeared in a report they published this week, that has deeply worrying implications for civil liberties.

Panic!

The report is one of the worst examples of “porn panic” I’ve ever seen, and I (literally) wrote the book on this subject. It makes ungrounded, hysterical claims based on anecdotal evidence:

“sexual harassment in public places … is a routine and sometimes relentless experience for women and girls”

This claim isn’t supported by empirical evidence, and there certainly isn’t evidence it’s been getting worse, but the porn panic (most recently in the form of the #MeToo movement) has established that it is bad, and is getting worse, and that if you question the witch-hunt, you must be a witch.

Having established that women and “and even girls in school uniform” are being harassed and assaulted literally all the time in oh so many ways, the report then quickly gets to the something must be done moment: “Sexual harassment is never acceptable, and women and girls should not be expected to endure it.” Anyone questioning the report hereafter is clearly implying that harassment is acceptable and that womenandgirls should have to endure it.

What’s to blame?

What’s to blame for this virtual holocaust of harassment? Porn, of course!

“There is significant research suggesting that there is a relationship between the consumption of pornography and sexist attitudes and sexually aggressive behaviours, including violence”

Readers of this blog, and my book, will know that this simply isn’t true. In fact, one of the widest-reaching meta-studies on porn-and-harm ever commissioned was carried out by Ofcom on behalf of the British government, which concluded:

“There seems to be no relationship between the availability of pornography and an increase in sex crimes in other countries; in comparison there is more evidence for the opposite effect.”

In plain English, porn isn’t harmful but it does appear to reduce sexual violence.

This important conclusion appears somewhere in the middle of a 146-page report which the government published in 2011, and then went on to completely ignore as it continued blaming porn for every (often imaginary) problem in society.

What must be done?

So, having established the falsehoods that 1) unspeakable horror is occurring and 2) it’s porn’s fault, the report then goes on to make an incredibly broad set of scattergun recommendations which are unsupported even by the preceding nonsense.

The government’s position to date has been that porn is fine, so long as it isn’t “extreme” or “obscene”, and is only seen by people over 18. The UK already has some of the tightest pornography restrictions of any democratic country. However, this report challenges that position, complaining that the government:

“…has no plans to address adult men’s use of mainstream online pornography”.

This throwaway line is a huge shift in the anti-porn movement, away from “child protection” to “all porn is dangerous”.

Some of the report is vague but ominous:

“set out a comprehensive programme of work to make all public places safe for all women and girls”

And some of it just ominous:

“The Government should take an evidence-based approach to addressing the harms of pornography, similar to the huge investment there has been over many years in tackling road safety, or preventing public health problems caused by lawful behaviour such as smoking.”

(2017 road deaths: 1,710; tobacco deaths: 80,000; porn deaths: nil).

The recommendations stop trying to pretend that porn causes harassment, and just assume that porn and harassment are basically the same thing:

“Bus regulations should be amended to prohibit sexual harassment and viewing pornography on buses.”

Thus, in future, a person viewing porn on a bus will count against the sexual harassment statistics, which will push up arrests for harassment and “prove” the problem is getting worse.

There’s random stuff like:

“Universities should have a legal obligation to have policies outlawing sexual harassment…”

Of course, universities do already have policies in this area. This sounds like America’s Title IX which set loose a wave of “rape on campus” hysteria out of all proportion with reality, and a situation where two students could be deemed to have harassed each other.

There’s also a weird dig at strip clubs, which picks up on (false) claims by feminists that strip clubs were causing rape:

“Local authorities must consult local women’s groups and sexual violence specialists when deciding their policies on licensing strip clubs and lap-dancing clubs.”

Can you rape someone via WhatsApp?

But the most worrying recommendation is as follows:

“A new law should be brought forward on image-based sexual abuse to criminalise all non-consensual creation and distribution of intimate sexual images, on the basis of the victim’s lack of consent rather than perpetrator motivation.”

This appears to mean that anyone sending a sexual image to another person could be criminalised if the recipient denies consenting. I’m on a couple of WhatsApp groups where short porn clips are sometimes shared: now, just by receiving one of these clips (which are always unsolicited), I could claim to have been the victim of sexual violence. Likewise, this would open up anyone involved in sexting to a claim of sexual harassment (and for many teens, sexting is a normal part of relationships today).

We are at the point where any sexual contact, even digital, may fall into the same category of offence as rape. Sex, in virtually any context, is now considered problematic. While these ideas were once the preserve of an extremist clique of feminists, they are now actively discussed in the British parliament.

How the Middle Classes Appropriated Oppression

I’m reposting this article I first published 4 years ago today, about identity politics and the hijack of the political left by privileged-people-who-think-they’re-oppressed. Sadly, the problem is worse today than when I wrote the piece.

When I were a lad (yes, even Londoners had northern accents back then), and a left-wing activist, we were greatly concerned about oppression; and in the 1980s, there was no shortage of examples. The South African police had shot dead schoolchildren in Soweto in 1976, and continued to gun down innocents on a regular basis. In Latin America, US-backed dictatorships kidnapped, tortured and murdered thousands of activists. In Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, US-backed terrorists attacked civilians on a wide scale, with a special love of atrocity. In Africa, civilians were slaughtered in proxy wars between the US and USSR. Asia saw brutality on an unimaginable scale.

The left stood for the rights of oppressed peoples, but understood clearly that oppression is primarily a function of economic means, not of race, sex or sexuality. While we also opposed prejudice on these grounds, and supported women’s rights, gay rights and anti-racism causes, we knew that ultimately, oppression and poverty were inextricably linked.

But the left slowly died as the Cold War came to an end, and capitalism (coupled with social democracy) proved itself more resilient than Marx had predicted. The death of the progressive British left can probably be best located to a particular date: 3rd March 1985, when the miners walked sadly back to work after being defeated in their long strike. For me, and many of my friends, this marked the point when our intense activism ended and we drifted away to live our lives.

But the organs of the left remained, and were rapidly taken over by a new breed: overwhelmingly middle-class and rooted in academia rather than trade unionism. This new left failed to understand the economics of poverty and oppression (never having witnessed these things themselves), so set about writing themselves a new ideology. So we found ourselves thrust into the era of identity politics.

The new left lacked the intellect of the old, and found itself making the most fundamental of all mistakes: confusing correlation with causation. So the left now sought out new groups that appeared to oppressed. Because white people held the most economic power, the identity-left reasoned that skin colour was a cause of oppression, and labelled all non-whites as victims. And since laws had in the past been rigged against women, the left decided that mere possession of a vagina was equivalent to oppression.

While paying lip service to the oppression of the poor, the overwhelmingly white, academia-based, middle-class left no longer had any links with the working class, and so they focused on rescuing the oppressed groups they knew best: themselves. Largely, this meant that the individuals with the most “oppressions” (yes, I’ve really seen it used in the plural) were fast-tracked to the top. Those who screamed their self-pity the loudest became the most powerful, fast-tracked into political power.

But the rise of gay and black (often both) individuals was orchestrated by the white people who kept a firm hand on the reins. Black people would only be allowed into the hierarchy if they accepted that they were oppressed. Gay and non-white people who didn’t see themselves as oppressed by their colour or sexuality were labelled self-haters, and side-tracked. Non-white activists like Linda Bellos, Lee Jasper and Diane Abbott were only acceptable because they echoed the view of the white, middle-class establishment that they were oppressed.

In the intervening years, the self-pitying rhetoric of “oppression” and “privilege” has only gained further ground, to the extent that the meaning of these two words has been twisted almost beyond recognition. Almost comically, white, middle-class women appear to have decided that they are the most oppressed of all. Now, oppression isn’t something that happens to you. It’s something that you are. Now, oppression isn’t having your children shot dead, or a daily struggle to feed one’s family. No, oppression is a white middle-class woman, with a good job, having to endure the fact that men like looking at pictures of breasts. The following is a genuine tweet from just such an oppressed woman:

On tube sat next to a man reading The Sun and thus I start my day feeling a continuing sense of oppression

One wonders if Prozac might be the solution to this sort of oppression… or perhaps just a nice spliff. But I digress.

The old left tried to overturn oppression, but to the new left, this is pointless. Rather than fix inequalities, the left has decided to cement inequality into place permanently. Now, anybody labelled Oppressed must be given special privileges as compensation. In a deeply Orwellian twist, the more oppressed one is deemed to be, the more privilege they must be given in return.

Thus, the woman who finds Page 3 imagery objectionable need not merely boycott the Sun (as I’ve done my whole life). Now she has the right to demand that Page 3 is removed from the Sun. As an oppressed woman, she has won the privilege of censorship. Don’t Page 3 models also have a right to work? Apparently not – the rights of the oppressed middle-class woman are far greater than those of the working class one.

The “black community” (an almost meaningless phrase) is also deemed to be oppressed. Those black individuals who accept their oppression (and scream loudly about it) are welcomed by the left. Black individuals who doubt their own oppression, or who see the dangers in teaching black children that they’re automatically oppressed, are screamed down as self-haters.

This was most clearly shown by the recent London art exhibition, Exhibit Bwhich was forced to close after the “black community” (or rather, a mob of 200 people) blockaded it. Thus, black people are SO oppressed that they too are granted the right of censorship of anything that offends them. Never mind that the exhibition had been critically acclaimed in multiple cities before reaching London, or that black people were far from united in hating it, or that those who protested against it had never seen it.

The irony of Exhibit B is that the mob was enabled by the white elite. Their oppression (and thus, their privilege) was granted to them by white people. Their language of “oppression” and “privilege” was forged by the white middle-classes in universities around the country. Far from being “conscious” or liberated, this black minority is determined to follow a white agenda to the bitter end. The left is determined to tell black people that they are doomed to fail; and give them a handy excuse for failure – their skin colour.

So now, the left doesn’t expect black people to conform to the rules affecting whites. And so, politics has turned full circle. In accepting that black people, women, and other groups, are oppressed, the left has attempted to destroy the very thing it used to fight for: equality. Now, groups deemed oppressed by the white elite are granted special allowances. And the fight for equality takes a huge step backwards.

So is it any surprise that groups have sprung up on the right to declare men and white people oppressed? Sure, these people are laughable – but no more laughable than the claims of oppression by the left. Self-pity is the new black.

If you’re born into a middle-class existence in the UK, you aren’t oppressed. This is true regardless of your skin colour, who you choose to fuck, or the shape of your genitals. It’s genuinely sickening to watch the pity-fest that has replaced left-wing politics in the 21st century. Get over yourselves.

Porn Panic! is 28th-Best Censorship Book of All Time?

I’m proud of Porn Panic!, my book on pro-censorship feminism and the rise of identity politics. Is it the 28th best book ever written on censorship? Possibly not – but bookauthority.org have decided it is. And who am I to argue with them?

Porn Panic! made it to the Best Censorship Books of All Time

“Porn Panic!: Sex and Censorship in the UK”, made it to BookAuthority’s Best Censorship Books of All Time:
https://bookauthority.org/books/best-censorship-books?t=rx5wyi&s=award&book=1785353748
BookAuthority collects and ranks the best books in the world, and it is a great honor to get this kind of recognition. Thank you for all your support!
The book is available for purchase on Amazon.

Why Nike Knew it was on to an Easy Winner With Colin Kaepernick

Much of social media has been transfixed this week by Nike’s “brave” decision to sign Colin Kaepernick for its latest ad campaign. Kaepernick had reached fame – and simultaneously destroyed his career in American football – by kneeling during the national anthem at games in protest at anti-black discrimination and violence in America.

The american sprinters Tommie Smith,John Carlos and Peter Norman during the award ceremony of the 200 m race at the Mexican Olympic games. During the awards ceremony, Smith and Carlos protested against racial discrimination: they went barefoot on the podium and listened to their anthem bowing their heads and raising a fist with a black glove. Mexico City, Mexico, 1968 Mexico city, Mexico, 1968

Kaepernick’s action aroused a level of annoyance for “disrespecting the anthem”, being anti-patriotic, or simply bringing politics into sport. Of course some of this backlash was driven by racism, but not all of it. Unlike other similar protests – like the iconic black power salute given by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics – Kaepernick’s protest was repeated at game after game.

The first thing that became apparent was that Nike had played their move to perfection. They had, no doubt, researched the idea impeccably before putting it into action. The game-plan rolled out roughly like this:

  1. Nike announce they signed Kaepernick.
  2. An unknown number of angry people (though probably not many) burned their Nike shoes, filmed it, and published their videos to social media.
  3. Donald Trump tweeted about it.
  4. Liberals mocked the protests online, made memes, and generally enjoyed themselves while massively amplifying the protests out of all proportion to reality.
  5. The mass media, always worried it’s missing out on something, piled in to amplify the issue further.
  6. Pundits argued over whether this was a good move for Nike, or not: would it lose or gain sales?
  7. Sales of Nike products rocketed by a reported 31% almost immediately.
  8. (Probably) The marketing dude at Nike got promoted.

Nike had smoothly played a game based on what might be referred to as “information arbitrage”. Arbitrage is the act of profiting by exploiting price imbalances across markets – buying something cheap and then immediately selling it at a higher price elsewhere.

Imbalances in information can be valuable. In rural Africa, before the introduction of mobile phones, a farmer might have sold his corn cheaply to a merchant, unaware that the merchant could sell it for double the price only a few kilometres away. So, the introduction of mobile telephony in Africa was greatly beneficial to subsistence farmer, and cut the profits of middle-men.

In the case of Nike and Kaepernick, the information imbalance relates to American racism. Social media, combined with the dominance of “liberal” thought, has spread the idea that black people in America are subject to terrible, ongoing racism in their daily lives. This idea originates in the very real racism that was endured by black Americans for most of American history, from the earliest days of the slave trade until the post-Civil Rights era. Information was key to ending the segregation and oppression of black people in the US South: specifically, the arrival of cameras to cover civil rights protests exposed a horror that many Americans had been previously unaware of.

The civil rights movement didn’t end racism in America. It only began the cultural processes that began to diminish racism. Such changes must occur across generations. But certainly, racism did begin declining from the 1960s, and that decline was significant and ongoing. Like all vaguely-defined concepts, racism itself is hard to measure, but it can indirectly measured by asking people whether they would be happy living next door to, marrying or voting for someone of another race. And sure enough, such attitude surveys exist. Such surveys show that racist attitudes have been in steep decline since the social upheavals of the 1960s.

For example, the proportion of white southerners who would vote for a black President has risen from about 70% in the 1970s to over 90% now. It’s worth considering these numbers for a moment, because many or most people today would guess at far lower numbers, given the widespread belief that most Americans – especially American southerners – are deeply racist. Why do we tend to overestimate the levels of racism in America?

Movements don’t just decide to pack up and vanish when their goals are reached. This was especially true of the civil rights movement. Having succeeded, in the 1960s, in shining a light on racism, and winning the passage of civil right legislation, the movement continued to roll forward into the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Ironically, as racist attitudes slowly declined, the perception of racism went in the opposite direction. The less racism there was, the more people believed there was. This was fueled by a new generation of civil rights leaders, such as Al Sharpton, who would jump on any incident, publicise it, racialise it, and monetise it.

By the present decade, this movement (more correctly described as a “grievance industry”) was finding racism everywhere, and the mass media was willingly reporting all this “racism” without question. To make things worse, social media appeared. The public tends not to understand the difference between anecdotes and evidence, and so social media became swamped with anecdotes that further exaggerated the perception of American racism. Every video of a police shooting became “proof” that all black people were at constant risk of being shot by police (although in reality, two white people were being shot by cops for every black person). When social media got bored of police shootings, it moved on to get outraged about increasingly trivial examples, like some student wearing blackface or a klan outfit to a Halloween party.

When even trivial examples of racism became hard to find, completely non-racist things were deemed to be racist. White people wearing dreadlocks, white people wearing hoop earrings, in fact by 2017 pretty-much-fucking-everything had become “racist”. This mania wasn’t just spread by bored students, but became the mantra of once-sane liberal publications like the Guardian and Salon, which hired black columnists (on the condition they wrote about how damn racist everything is all the time).

Quietly, black people who didn’t feel like the victims of continuous, 24/7 racism were being pushed away from the left bit by bit. They are spoiling a perfectly lucrative oppression narrative. Wealthy and successful black people, and especially those that don’t back the oppression narrative of the new left, are a threat to the profits of the grievance industry.

Here was the information imbalance used by Nike: the American (and global) public believed racism to be far higher than it really was. Nike signed Kaepernick knowing that, inevitably, some idiots would burn their shoes and post the videos to social media. The public and the media, who generally don’t realise that anecdotes aren’t  evidence of a trend, believed that the videos constituted a widespread racist backlash against Nike. And so in turn, a tiny backlash created a huge counter-backlash: first on social media, and then in shoe stores.

Nike’s strategy couldn’t have worked without the information imbalance. If American society was really as racist as many now believe, the campaign would have risked losing them significant sales, and they wouldn’t have been able to risk the brand damage. If on the other hand, the public was aware of how small the racist backlash was, there wouldn’t have been a counter-backlash.

All this is fine: Nike’s campaign has demonstrated, again, how weak true racism now is in America. Kaepernick gets a good paycheck, and Nike’s shares rise. Everybody happy. Furthermore, this strategy will only work temporarily, while the information balance persists. The more it’s exploited by advertisers, the less effective it will become. Black people will get tired of being presented as victims, and white people will tire of being saviours. One day, a campaign such as this will generate a broad response from black people: “Stop using your anti-racist virtue signalling as a way to sell shoes!”. And then perhaps, we can finally move on into the postracial era that was prematurely announced with Obama’s election in 2008.

Jerk Seasoning: Who’s Culturally Appropriating Who?

I’ve followed and documented claims of “cultural appropriation” for some time. While some dismiss this idea as no more than a fad, I see it as a segregationist and nationalist ideology, and fundamentally racist, as well as historically illiterate. Accusations of cultural appropriation are also a potent form of censorship: attacking people for their hairstyle or clothing choices may seem trivial, but provide a cover for racist bullies to attack other people on spurious grounds.

If this was simply about a few silly students revelling in their self-appointed “oppression”, we could laugh and ignore it. But this attempt to segregate cultures along racial lines, and to rewrite history, has nasty historical precedents – South African Apartheid being one of the more unpleasant and recent ones.

The latest cultural appropriation nonsense comes from complaints that the chef Jamie Oliver has “appropriated” Jamaican culture via his “jerk rice” product. Of course, we can argue about whether jerk rice is a good idea, and we can argue again about whether Oliver’s jerk rice is any good or not. But the fact that a Labour MP (and shadow Minister) Dawn Butler, decided to use the product as an excuse for race-baiting, is serious.

Identity politics, once the preserve of the fascist-right, has been well and truly appropriated by the left, and by the Labour Party in particular. As the Labour Party has lost touch with its working class roots, it has increasingly lost interest in the problems faced by the poor, and instead focused ever more on the supposed “oppression” of women, LGBTQIA+ (yeah I know), and “BAME” people (BAME being the modern way of saying “coloured” – basically a rebirth of the old racial supremacist belief that humans should be divided into two groups: whites and everybody else).

Butler is race-baiting because it plays well to the mostly white Labour hierarchy. As Labour’s core base becomes whiter, so the Labour leadership pushes non-white people into more senior positions to mask the party’s ongoing lightening process. So Butler’s apparently pointless intervention is actually a good career move on her part.

But let’s analyse the accusation itself, because like all accusations of cultural appropriation, it falls apart when examined up close. All culture in this global age is appropriated. All of it. First, the word “jerk” itself appears to have native American and Spanish lineage, according to Wikipedia:

“The word jerk is said to come from charqui, a Spanish term of Quechua origin for jerked or dried meat, which eventually became the word jerky in English”

But what of the food itself? I love Jamaican food, and happen to live in an area with an abundant choice of this wonderful stuff. So let’s say I’m feeling hungry, and order some jerk chicken, rice and peas, curry goat, ackee and saltfish, sweetcorn and a chicken patty. Jamaican food, like Jamaican music, is a wonderful example of globalised culture. Take out the “foreign” influences, and there’s not much left.

Key ingredients in jerk seasoning include garlic (origin: Asia), chilli (origin: Mexico) and thyme (origin: Mediterranean), all of which were brought to the Caribbean by globalisation.

Chickens originate in South-East Asia.

Long grain rice originates in Asia.

Kidney beans (the “peas” in rice and peas) originate in South America.

Goats originate in Europe/Asia.

Curry powder? Its key ingredients include cardamom (origin: India) and cumin (origin: Mediterranean).

Ackee originates in West Africa.

Saltfish was probably invented by European seafarers.

Sweetcorn originates in America.

And patty? This is of course the Jamaican version of a European (possibly Portuguese) dish known as a pastel (Portuguese) or pasty (English).

All culture is appropriated from elsewhere. History is full of attempts to prevent racial groups from mixing, most notably in South Africa pre-1994, and in pre-civil rights Deep South. Ten years ago, I would never have believed that racial segregation of culture would be, yet again, on the political menu. But here it is, being pushed by a Labour shadow minister. On one hand, it’s comforting that this pathetic example is the worst example of racism that Butler can find to complain about. On the other, it’s tragic to watch the left become ever more racist.

Defending Liberal Values in Authoritarian Times

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