Oh my, the horror! A man who is notorious for making idiotic statements on television has made some more idiotic statements on television.
Specifically, he’s saying that white people are turning into criminals because they have been in some way Blackified by malignant osmosis with some black people, who aren’t themselves criminals due to biological or racial characteristics – oh, heaven forfend that anyone should take it that way! – but because of “cultural factors”.
Now, I consider myself to be an admirer of Mr Rodent’s work. Few make trolling that most confused of creatures, the liberal or “respectable” right-winger, look so enjoyable or so effortless. “Exploit the contradiction,” Lenin advised. Just so. But there are times when his relentless flippancy can be quite tedious. Even a troll should be serious sometimes—it can’t be Friday night every day of the week.
Over at Liberal Conspiracy, taking advantage of the ongoing and manufactured horror of The Great David Starkey Controversy, our mercurial mammal has laid his snares and trapped a slew of big dumb animals. In the comments section, he takes aim,
It’s amazing how many people are keen to reinterpret Starkey’s points for him, given that he’s a professional communicator. I’d imagine he picks his words very carefully indeed, given that’s what he’s been paid to do for his entire adult life.
I agree that it is silly to suggest that Starkey didn’t mean what he said. The words didn’t simply make their own way out of his mouth and up into the studio glare. Oops, there I go again, accidentally saying shit I didn’t mean to say!
However, it is perfectly legitimate to use this opportunity to discuss the things that Starkey said, and, yes, even to reinterpret those things, as long as one is honest about it. Certainly, the Flying Rodent does no less: Starkey did not say, unless I am very much mistaken, that their being black caused people to riot. That really would have had Jones, the teenage left-winger appearing alongside him in the studio, in paroxysms of disdain. The issue is rather not that he said it, but that he was somehow trying to smuggle it into the debate without saying it—in other words, it’s entirely about how you interpret him.
So what did Starkey say? The full transcript does not appear to be online, but the most discussed section is below.
David Starkey: I have just been re-reading Enoch Powell, The Rivers of Blood Speech. His prophesy was absolutely right in one sense. The Tiber did not foam with blood, but flames lambent, they wrapped around Tottenham and wrapped around Clapham. But it wasn’t inter-communal violence. This is where he was completely wrong. What’s happened is that a substantial section of chavs have become black. The whites have become black. A particular sort of violent, nihilistic gangster culture has become the fashion. And black and white, boy and girl, operate in this language together—this language, which is wholly false, which is this Jamaican patois that has been intruded in England. And this is why so many of us have this sense of literally, a foreign country.
Presenter: In that speech Enoch Powell talked about, 15 or 20 years time the black man having the whip hand over the white man.
David Starkey: That’s not true. What has happened is black culture—this is the enormously important thing. It is not skin colour, it is cultural. Listen to David Lammy: an archetypical successful black man. If you turned the screen off, so you were listening to him on the radio, you’d think he was white.
These are the principle ideas around which the controversy has centred: “whites becoming black”, “blacks becoming white”, and of course, “Enoch was wrong, but”. While for some, clearly the only things of interest that can be said here are (1), that David Starkey is a racist, and (2), that you are as well, unless you proclaim (1) with sufficient enthusiasm; for many of us, the overriding concern is to understand the riots and the society that produced them. And we feel that David Starkey’s opinions are completely uninteresting, except insofar as they inform that understanding, or facilitate debate.
And no, when I write “facilitate debate”, I don’t mean debate about Starkey’s opinions—which are, in case you hadn’t noticed, racist, racist, racist—which is what we got. Is this Starkey’s ethnic year zero? On a scale of one to ten, how disgusted and appalled did it make you feel? What does Piers Morgan have to say about this? Oh, won’t somebody think of the children?
Firstly, is there anything to the idea of “whites becoming black”? Of course there is—this is conventional wisdom, or is usually, when David Starkey, who is a big stupid-head, and has probably never even heard of Young Jeezy or Wocka Flocka Flame, is not saying it. “The history of cool in America is really (as many have argued) a history of African-American culture.” Not my words, or David Starkey’s, but those of that notorious and hysterical right-winger, Naomi Klein. Whatever can she mean?
Londoner and Grime godfather Wiley tweeted about the riots, “I think urban people just hate the police and they wanna test them”, and, “the bottom line is young urban Britain don’t give a fuck about nothing”. But who are these “urban people”? “Urban is like any colour who likes black life or music or style.” Oh. Hey, wait a sec… Guards! GUARDS!
Only an idiot would accuse Wiley of being racist toward himself. Evidently, then, there are plenty of idiots with Twitter accounts, because accuse Wiley of racism is exactly what they did. In short, we had something like the following:
- Black people riot, because they hate the police;
- Black people explain to white people that they were rioting because they hate the police;
- White people explain to black people that they’re not allowed to say that black people were rioting, because it’s racist.
The lulz just keep stacking up, don’t they? In Britain today, there is a certain type of person for whom widespread criminality and the destruction of our great cities is not at all shocking, but for whom speech unencumbered by the requisite quantity of euphemisms is the most offensive and disgusting thing in all the world. Sixty years ago, Orwell decried a country where, “political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness”. Plus ça change, George!
And if the British proclivity for understatement remains largely the same as it ever was, elsewhere, our culture and our population has changed immeasurably. How? Well, there is certainly a good deal more to it than British youth listening to gangsta rap. Our social institutions—the criminal justice system, the family, the English language, the education system, British history, and so on—have undergone five decades of reform under the UK’s own post-war liberal consensus. And years of ever-increasing rates of net in-migration have produced a substantial immigrant community. Both things are good or bad according to taste, but it is hard to take seriously the argument that they did not occur (or that they happened “by accident”). So if David Starkey feels, at times, as though he is living in a foreign country, that’s largely because he is.
Next, is there anything to the idea of “whites becoming black”? Again, yes: as distasteful as it is to all, the typical middle class (“successful”) Briton is white, because the modal Briton is white. Gasp! Truly, “human kind cannot bear very much reality”—it’s already bringing me out in a rash. If ethnic minorities are to “integrate” into British society, then they will have to “become white” by necessity, which is to say, adopt the native culture and abandon their own. Double gasp! Thus, David Lammy is a model of successful integration—and in that sense is basically indistinguishable from an indigenous middle class Briton, except for slight variation in skin-colour.
In fact, the goal of social policy with respect to ethnic minorities should naturally be to encourage them to “become white”, to “go native”. Under the current regime, such groups are given a protected status and are encouraged to retain and develop their own identity, not simply as Britons, but as African-Caribbean, British-Asian, and so on. The downsides to nurturing a foreign population within one’s national borders have been well-demonstrated in the first decade of the 21st Century. Things fall apart? They do if you set fire to them or stuff them full of explosives.
Humphreys (2003) notes that,
Case study work suggests that it is not inequality between individuals that matters for conflict but rather inequality between ethnic groups or between regions—sometimes referred to as “horizontal inequality” or “categorical inequality.”
Social scientist in Discovery of the Bleeding Obvious shocker—I know, I know. But there it is all the same. If different groups occupy the same territory, then they will clash wherever and whenever their interests diverge, which will be more frequent the greater the differences between groups.
Unfortunately for those of us who would prefer to live in a cohesive and well-integrated society, our political and intellectual classes are as incapable of requiring integration from migrant communities as our police are of requiring that people abide by the law. Indeed, it is not hard to see where the police acquired their postmodernist approach to crime and criminals. Since people believe all kinds of shit, who am I to say what’s right and wrong, thinks our modern liberal, incorrectly believing himself to be some kind of relativist. Just as the government lacks the moral authority to say, “You will adjust to our culture”, because it does not believe in the primacy of any cultures, much less its own; so the police lack the moral authority to say, “You will observe our standards of behaviour”, because that would imply that some behaviour is better than others, and therefore that some behaviour is worse, and that would be mean. And avoiding being mean, of course, is one of the guiding principles of modern criminal justice. The police’s role is value-neutral arbitration between consenting factions. When faced with a group of people who, as Wiley said, don’t give a fuck about nothing, the whole model breaks down. What—impose our will on a group of people? Impossible: the cognitive dissonance would be too great, which is why the riots ended when the rioters ran out of steam, and not when the police “fought them with sticks”.