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BBC thoughts and feelings about President Obama

Last night I watched most of a discussion programme “chaired” (I’ll get to that) by Kirsty Wark on BBC2 television, about President Obama and how he is doing. It was something called The Review Show.

Three things struck me about this show.

First, the BBC is finally acknowledging that President Obama is in some political trouble. This is refreshing.

But second, the dominant explanations of why Obama is in trouble are delusional. There is, said Bonnie Greer, without contradiction, a racist backlash going on. Sadly, in BBC-land, if a black person accuses white people of racism, the accusation is still allowed to stand, no matter how unpersuasive it may be, and no matter how unsatisfactory it is as an explanation for whatever is being talked about.

The other dominant explanation for Obama’s fall from political grace, aside from racism, offered by a blond American lady who talked too fast, was that this backlash is “emotional”. Obama, she said, is making the mistake of concentrating entirely on being “rational” in how he responds, and we all know what wins when facts have a face-off with feelings. As for whether there is now a race-based backlash going on, how come those who are now backlashing were forward-lashing when they picked Obama to be President in the first place? For the question here is: what has changed? Why, in the opinion of many Americans, is a man who could do no wrong now doing a lot of wrong? Did a lot of Americans deliberately pick Obama, so that they could later hurl racist abuse at him? Come on. Obama’s presence in the White House is evidence that racism in America is abating. Millions upon millions of Americans wanted Obama to do well and were eager to give him a chance because he is black. But, they are now disappointed. Are they disappointed because he is black? Have they only just noticed? I can believe that racists are now coming out of the woodwork to explain why Obama is now screwing up. But racism as itself an explanation of why Obama is now so much less popular, and so quickly, is absurd. Insofar as race-based feelings are relevant, it was the enthusiastic willingness to see an apparently qualified black man, any apparently qualified black man, become President, followed by the realisation that mere blackness and mere intelligence is insufficient to ensure Presidential adequacy, picking a white man who merely looks and sounds nice being a similarly imperfect way to pick Presidents. No, Obama is now unpopular because, in the opinion of many Americans, he is indeed screwing up. They hoped he wouldn’t, but now, they think, he is.

As for the claim that this anti-Obama feeling is all about feeling, well, yes it is a feeling and many people are indeed angry, but it is also a very potent clutch of arguments. Obama is prioritising, as he did not in his campaign, his widely unpopular plan to nationalise healthcare, and lying about what this will cost. He is increasing taxes and regulations, in particular those based on the excuse of climate change. The idea that the objection to that whole rigmarole is all about feeling and in no way based on fact is, to put it with extreme politeness, a feeling rather than a fact. The idea that Obama is a communist was mentioned, by Bonnie Greer, but only as evidence of the complete irrationality of those now opposing Obama, as an illustration of what a certain sort of deluded white American suspects of all black people. But to a greater or lesser degree lots of Americans do now fear that Obama is something a lot like a communist, and they have plenty of good reasons for such a fear.

My third impression was that the chairing of this discussion was incompetent to the point of being ridiculous. Kirsty Wark should be giving a real talking-to. She was far too keen on joining in the discussion with her own opinions, instead of ensuring that all the other people present refrained from all talking at once. One of the reasons I immediately forgave the blond American lady for talking too fast was that she clearly feared that if she talked any less fast, she would not have made any of her points before others piled in, thereby making all points inaudible. One of the great arts of chairing a discussion is knowing when to stir things up by expressing opinions of your own, and when to concentrate on controlling the resulting flow of opinion in such a way that everyone gets their turn and is heard, and it can all be heard by all present. Wark behaved as if all present were too shy to say anything and had to be aroused with some chairmanly provocation. In fact, they all had plenty to say and needed to be arranged in a queue rather than a unanimous scrimmage. Kirsty Wark should, to use a tranport metaphor, have stopped flying her plane and concentrated on air traffic control.

As a result of this conversational chaos, the programme was hard to follow. So, don’t take my personal impressions as any sort of objective summary of all that was said.

Ironically, Wark’s incompetent chairing only served to reinforce the impression that the entire discussion was dominated by feeling rather than rationality. It wasn’t, or it wouldn’t have been. But that is what it sounded like.

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73 comments to BBC thoughts and feelings about President Obama

  • RRS

    Who was the “Blond American Woman?”

  • midwich

    The BBC passed beyond the redemption horizon a long, long time ago. It is best ignored, if only for the sake of one’s blood pressure.

  • Alice

    Some time ago, a movie reviewer put it best. In commenting on a now-forgotten movie in which the principal character was of African heritage, he said – “So-&-so reminds us that the average black actor is like the average white actor — Average!”

    Anyway, a pox on the BBC! Not long before white Americans died in their hundreds of thousands to free black Americans from slavery, the British were killing Chinese in the tens of thousands to force them to accept the enslavement of British opium. If the BBC wants to see an unforgiven “racist”, all they have to do is look in a mirror.

  • ian

    The fact that racism has abated to the degree that a black man can be elected as President of the US is not incompatible with racists now using his apparent weakness and inability to actually do anything as a focus for racist opinion. In other words they can allege (or imply, depending on how up front they are willing to be) that he is weak and ineffectual because he is black – and add that to the usual criticisms based on his being a Democrat.

    He was of course attacked before the election for being black, but much of it was in political code. Most of the stuff about his being a community organiser was really addressed at him being black rather than a community organiser per se.

  • buddha hat

    Europeans need to understand that Obama was elected BECAUSE he is black, not in spite of it. (Just look at what happens to white leftists like Mondale, Dukakis, and Kerry — they get trounced. Carter, Clinton and Gore were perceived as conservative Democrats from the conservative south, and got about half of the vote). Many of us who voted for Obama audaciously hoped it would usher in a postracial era in American politics, and when it didn’t, we turned on him. Now, after a year of haplessness, if Obama ran against an ironing board this next November, he’d lose… and don’t think Hillary and most Democrats don’t know it.

  • Some of us have blood pressure that is to low, though…See, I knew the BBC must be good for something!

  • Jack Olson

    So…the voters who elected Obama last year even though he has both black and white ancestors, oppose him this year for exactly the same reason?

    If Americans are so irredeemably bigoted that they will judge a man by his race instead of his conduct, how is it that another American of mixed race, Tiger Woods, was wildly popular in the USA until the news broke that he’s been hitting on as many cocktail waitresses as golf balls? If Americans are racist, as the BBC nitwit claims, they should hate Woods even more than Obama because Woods married a Caucasian woman. How nice to know that as a U.S. taxpayer I don’t foot the bill for the BBC.

  • xj

    I seem to remember Bonnie Greer as the critic who dismissed the movie Monster’s Ball with the words: “In real life, white trash and black trash don’t mix.”

    Who are the racists again, Bonnie?

  • I loathe panel discussions. They are dominated firstly by the chairman and secondly by the shoutiest panelist. I also hate the way that the chairman asks one question to the first panelist and then a different question to the second even though they are still on the same subject. This means that whoever is second up either has to address himself to a peripheral issue or be accused of not answering the question.

    I don’t do them. Not that I’ve ever been asked. But if I were I wouldn’t. Probably.

  • Europeans need to understand that Obama was elected BECAUSE he is black, not in spite of it

    I think that point is not lost on a great many Brits and Europeans. Martin Luther King would be glad a black man could be elected but aghast it was because of his race.

  • Andrew

    Some of the comments here imply that this is a case of a Brit calling Americans racists. Actually Bonnie Greer is a black American, not British.

  • Kevin B

    Was the blond American woman who talked too fast in a transatlantic studio? I ask because on one of my rare forays into watching a BBC news discussion, the poor American contributor hardly got a word in edgeways because by the time his first few words had travelled the distance up to the satellite and back, someone local had jumped in and squashed his point. And he politely stopped talking rather than stomp all over them.

    Anyway, I told them that if they wanted a black president they should have stuck with Morgan Freeman.

  • Richard Garner

    On racism and other strawmen that are being errected and knocked down in the debates about opposition to Obama, here are two good articles from Reason, one on “right-wing violence,” and another on racism in the Tea Parties:

    http://reason.com/archives/2009/09/15/the-paranoid-center

    http://reason.com/archives/2009/11/16/are-tea-parties-racist1

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Obama’s race was such a non-factor in 2008 that all his election proved is that the Republicans would have been better off running Powell rather than Dole in ’96.

    I have no doubt that racism persists, even anti-Black racism, but its few adherents are regarded by the vast majority of Americans as a little peculiar and wholly uninteresting. The charge that anti-Black racism plays any role in current presidential politics is merely desperation finding a voice.

  • Paul Marks

    But there is evidence that the opposition is racist Brian.

    For example Glenn Beck has twice had show where all the guests have been the same colour and the entire audience (every single person) has been the same colour as well.

    Of course this colour was black – but there you go.

    No doubt all these black Obama haters were secretly white people with face paint.

    After all NBC (like the BBC) knows the truth – it cropped off, in film, the hands and head of an evil white racist (with a rifle on his back – horror of horrors), it did this because the wicked man had painted them.

    He must have painted them – because his head and hands were black.

    As for Bonnie G. denying that Barack Obama is an ardent collectivist.

    Well I have heard dear old Bonnie (on various BBC shows – such as “Question Time”) saying how the government must provide everyone with everything they need – and make everyone work for the common good as much as they are able to do.

    So perhaps her argument goes as follows…….

    “Barack can not be a Red – because I have not seen him at any of our meetings”.

    Seriously – these dicussion shows are a farce, if you have not got equal time (and the moderator is on the other side) you are just banging your head against the wall.

    A blond American who will take on any number of leftists at once.

    Ann Coulter?

    A fan of the “head down and charge – I only count the number of my enemies on the edge of my sword” school of politics.

    I am a bit too timid for that – I do not play if there are more of the other side than mine, and if the umpire is really playing for the other side as well.

    But Ann (if it was her) is the type who will take on any numbers under any circumstances.

  • I am rather concerned about the “enslavement of British opium”. Since opium is now necessary to watch the BBC without bursting a bloodvessel, the best way to ‘free’ the opium is to abolish the BBC!

    I shall be on my way to a sunless sea.

  • veryretired

    The panelists cited had to make the arguments they did. If the opposition to the current regime isn’t based on racism or emotional boilover, then the explanation might be actual policy disagreements based on sincerely held, and rationally constructed, beliefs and convictions.

    But, if the latter is the true explanation, that means that there are thoughtful, coherent opponents to the policy proposals and legislative initiatives of the administration.

    Clearly, such an admission is dangerous, and cannot be allowed to exist.

    Since the statist intentions of the current regime are all for the common good, by collectivist definition, then any opposition must be, also by definition, racist, emotional, and based on irrational anger and hatred.

    As an aside, there is a very nice essay at Hot Air by a poster called Dr Zero. I linked thru Instapundit. It deals in a very comprehensive way with many of these same issues.

  • lukas

    Obama is prioritising, as he did not in his campaign, his widely unpopular plan to nationalise healthcare, and lying about what this will cost.

    The health care issue was front and center in Obama’s campaign, both for the primaries and for the general election. His plan was widely popular, so long as there was no actual plan, just a bunch of gut feelings and hollow phrases (people are dying in the streets, no one should be bankrupted by medical bills, etc.) The more Americans find out about what health insurance “reform” is actually going to entail, the less they like it.

    But make no mistake, Obama wanted to be the president to cut the Gordian knot of health care reform, and it is a big part of his mandate. If he fails (increasingly likely), he is out in 2012.

  • Tino

    The ‘blond American woman’ was Sarah Churchwell, senior lecturer in American Studies at the University of East Anglia. Educated at Vassar and Princeton, whereupon she apparently felt that studying America was best done from Norwich.

    Bonnie Greer is from Chicago but has been ‘based in the UK’ since 1986 according to Wikipedia, and became a British citizen in 1997.

  • Tedd

    I suspect that the main reason for the drop in Obama’s popularity is that a lot of his supporters had unrealistic expectations of what he could, and should, achieve. Things aren’t better, or as much better, or better in the same ways as they envisioned, so they’re disappointed. I doubt it’s more complex than that, in most cases.

  • Sam Duncan

    Pretty close to the truth, Tedd, I should think. They voted for Hope and Change, and haven’t seen very much of either yet.

  • Valerie

    No Ian,
    BHO is weak and ineffectual because he is a DEMOCRAT. Enough said.

  • Verity

    From Alice: “Anyway, a pox on the BBC! Not long before white Americans died in their hundreds of thousands to free black Americans from slavery …”.

    That’s close to a whole armful!

    What? Where?

  • Verity

    Hello, Kevyn B, who writes: “Anyway, I told them that if they wanted a black president they should have stuck with Morgan Freeman.”

    Lookswise, I’ll give you . But another lefty.

  • Snag

    “Anyway, I told them that if they wanted a black president they should have stuck with Morgan Freeman.”

    He’s too busy being the president of South Africa.

  • Bogdan from Australia

    Sorry Valerie, the DEGENERATE is not a “DEMOCRAT”. He is not a LIBERAL either. He is a closed COMMUNO-FASCIST just wearing the, now rapidly melting, mask of a “SOCIAL-DEMOCRAT”.

    Saying that; What about beginning to ponder the right PUNISHMENT for all those responsible for the BiGGEST THEFT and DESTRUCTION of WEALTH in a history of humanity during the peacetime?

    My proposal: Let’s chain them all (Greens, Social-Democrats, Liberal-Democrats, Communists, and so on) to a exercise machine connected to the electricity producing generator and make them produce clean energy (their dream after all) for the ten hours/seven days.

    At least, they would help to undo (symbolically though) the damage they have caused and repay the debt they have incurred.

  • He’s too busy being the president of South Africa.

    Also God, occasionally. Or is that the same thing? Anyway, fine actor.

    Part of the “It must be racism” thing comes from the fact that the British have only been getting the edited highlights of the American political debate. The BBC have this idea of Obama as a warm, sort of left wing person in favour of things (eg state healthcare) better than that horribly harsh and unfeeling situation in the US where people starve and die of cancer in the streets. As Obama has been supposedly trying to do things of their liking, then obviously he cannot be losing popularity because he has been failing on his policy agenda. Thus it is racism.

    Also, I confess that the whole “Americans are much more racist than Europeans” and (prior to the election) “Americans are much too racist to elect a black president” thing is one I have heard from Europeans a lot. This is the precise opposite of my experience (although one must not generalise too much – there are obviously racist and non-racist people everywhere). Where America is different is that it has in recent decades aired its racial dirty laundry in public far more than anywhere else. Americans talk about racism more than Europeans. When Obama got elected last year there was a certain patronising pat on the head attitude about America having finally grown to the point of being able to deal with its past that came from certain directions. If Obama has now lost popularity, deciding it is about racism allows certain Europeans to have their prejudices reconfirmed.

    And what *is it* about the University of East Anglia.

  • John W

    Yes it was hilarious – you could almost feel sorry for them because they couldn’t recall the word they wanted to use.

    And that word is H…E…R…E…S…Y.

  • “…the British were killing Chinese in the tens of thousands to force them to accept the enslavement of British opium. If the BBC wants to see an unforgiven “racist”, all they have to do is look in a mirror.”

    But history shall come to an end at her convenience, and all time drowned in shallow water…

  • Rich Rostrom

    Obama was sold to Americans as an extremely bright and capable man.

    Black, but that’s not a problem except with a handful of people who would never vote for a Democrat. (OK, there were still a few elderly yellow-dog Dixiecrats who might have voted for a white Democrat, but those states nearly all went Republican anyway.)

    He wasn’t a jumped-up ghetto hustler, like most black politicians, but a Harvard Law graduate and all that. A certain number of white voters were attracted to that in a black candidate.

    He also portrayed himself as a “new wave” in politics, who would end the corrupt practices that had become commonplace. He promised to exclude ex-lobbyists from his administration, and to post all legislation on the Internet for public comment before signing it.

    Both of those promises fell quickly. Several of his nominees for high office had serious scandals in their recent past, including heavy involvement in lobbying. The posting of legislation was dropped after only a few months. His first legislative initiative was the “stimulus” bill – nearly $800 billion for whatever boondoggles Democrats in Congress could think of. The “bailout” of Big Finance expanded; bailouts of GM and Chrysler followed. All these bailouts were structured to benefit his political allies (Goldman Sachs, the UAW).

    Obama has also been a disappointment to his former colleagues in the far left. (“Community organizer” isn’t code for “black”, it’s code for “hippie radical”.) Obama was steeped in the far Left: Bill Ayers, ACORN, etc. Note also the many far leftists brought into the administration, like Van Jones. But even before he ran for Senator, he was already being looked on as a sell-out.

    As state senator, he was no crusader for the poor, or homosexuals. He voted Present a lot on controversial measures. Then Democrat veteran Sen. Emil Jones started to groom him for the U.S. Senate by letting him be sponsor of a string of good-looking bills. (Sen. Rickey Hendon said later it was like carrying the [American foot]ball to the one yard line, then someone else gets to score the touchdown.)

    Obama had been an extreme dove in 2006-07, calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq, and for closing Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo. A lot of the left expected him to follow through on that, and to leave Afghanistan too. He did neither (though IMHO he’d prefer to); he knows it would be politically dangerous to run up the white flag himself. (This also has annoyed the isolationist paleoconservatives.)

    Most homosexuals expected him to support same-sex marriage and homosexuals in the military, even though he’d said otherwise. So young, so hip, so urban, so liberal – he had to be pretending (and IMHO they were right). But in office, he hasn’t budged – political calculus overrides principle.

    Beyond all this, Obama simply has not displayed the sort of ability that he was credited with. For most of the last eight years, the press attacked Bush as an incompetent. Obama was supposed to be a complete change – but there’s no sign of that. He has found nothing useful to do about the current recession, for instance. TSA is dysfunctional as ever.

    Obama was oversold, and now looks even worse by comparison to his image. Plus, his basically left-liberal policies have alienated people who were centrists and thought he was too.

  • pete

    That the BBC screens a shallow, biased, low quality discussion which is crippled by the usual liberal obsession with political correctness is hardly news. Nearly everything the BBC does is dreadful as a glance at any day’s TV and radio schedules will show.

    The real question is why we are forced to finance the BBC’s rubbish before we are allowed to use our TV. I pay Sky to watch football. Why should the BBC muscle in on the matter just so it can mass manufacture dross like Eastenders, Casualty along with feeble news and current affairs programmes staffed by the likes of Kirsty Wark and other well paid non-entities?

    Encrypt the BBC and make it a subscription service for those who want it.

  • John B

    If someone is elected on a “messiah” ticket I guess it is difficult for him to try to be anything else. And if the salvation he was to bring was to effectively come from weakness and folly, then I suppose that is what he finds he has to redouble when weakness and folly do what they do. And then they do it some more.

    His critics are racist? Some perhaps, but as any propagandist knows, never let any facts get in the way of a good accusation of heresy and evil.

  • renminbi

    Where do people get the idea that BO is bright?Stupid is as stupid does and this one is so stupid the MSM can’t perfume over the stench.
    It was a mistake to elect someone who hated his country; this one is full of spite.This will end badly for him, but the question is how much damage it does to the rest of us.

  • Verity

    Ian writes of Obama: “He was of course attacked before the election for being black,”.

    But he’s not black. He is 50% black and 50% white. Why do you refer to him as black instead of white?

  • Thank you, Rich Rostrom, for your concise summary of the situation here in the US. And yes, “community organizer” is code for “hippie radical” and carries NO racial implications at all.
    Out here in the west, the only “community” that might *possibly* need an organizer is Boulder, Colorado, hippie capitol of the western U.S. (east of Berkeley, CA that is).

    Mr. Obama’s favorites on capitol hill all seem to be tax evaders, too. That is a serious problem for the common man.
    Protecting law breakers has always caused trouble for politicians, regardless of party affiliation.

  • Rob

    Of course the Left was going to scream “Racist!” as soon as Obama tanked. I’m surprised it has happened so early, but then I assumed Obama would be as smooth a President as he was a politician on the stump.

    The Left will never last the pace of yelling “Racist!” for three years. Within twelve months they’ll be egging Hilary on to oust him. She’s their last minority bet, after all.

  • Because for racists he is black: if he was living 50 years ago in AL, he would have been forced to sit in the back of the bus. Most blacks in the US have at least some whites among their ancestors.

  • Nuke Gray

    Alice, the British were fighting for the right to trade in drugs, a good position for a libertarian! People should be free to buy drugs if they want, and opium was a legal drug in Britain at the time- Sherlock Holmes was a character with an opium habit, if you recall. These actions should always be given their context, or we can all be made to seem like criminals.
    And the Americans dying to free blacks were the Union soldiers killing their Confederate relatives in the American Civil War- a generation after Britain had liberated all slaves in the British Empire (August 1, 1834, I think.). The British navy was doing its’ best to intercept and destroy slave-ships, but were denied access to ships with American flags, as I recall.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Nuke Gray, I must admit I find your posts to be bonkers half the time.

  • Nuke Gray: Sorry, dude, but Sherlock Holmes had a *heroin* addiction. And the opium dens were a true travesty of justice and a slap in the face of Chinese Imperial authority – surely you can agree to the British enforcing their own laws *in their own empire and not elsewhere*.

  • Paul Marks

    The reason that American health care is expensive is government (State as well as Federal) regulations (starting with doctor licensing – but now including thousands of different things) and government subsidies.

    That regulations increase costs is obvious (apart from to collectivists), but subsidies also INCREASE costs.

    For example, subsidizing higher education has led to the explosion of tuition fees (there is no divine law that says that the cost of college has to go up every year – it goes up because of the subsidies).

    And “free” E.R.. care (try chasing up people for money if they did not agree to pay in advance – and since the regulations passed under REAGAN they do not have to agree to anything at any hospital with an E.R.) and Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP (SCHIP was passed, at Clinton’s request, by a Republican Congress – Gingrich was mentally blind on this matter).

    Chances that Barack Obama is going to reduce either government regulations or government subidies – zero.

    So chances that he will really “solve” health care – are alos zero.

    More likely yet more regulations will be added – such as forbidding insurance companies from “discriminating against people with pre existing conditions” (many Republicans will go along with that).

    This will further INCREASE costs – and may bankrupt some insurance companies (contrary to the legend – their profit margins are very small indeed).

  • Paul Marks

    “Change”.

    Most Americans do indeed want “change”.

    But the change they want it “smaller government – less services”.

    Even the Washington Post admits that 58% or more of Americans (in poll after poll) want “smaller government – less services” and only about 20 to 25 per cent want “bigger government – more services” (the rest of the population do not understand the question – or are happy with things the way they are now).

    Barack Obama promised (in the campaign) to go through every government program and get rid of waste – indeed he promised to get rid of any program that was not serving a vital purpose.

    Of course he was lying his head of and intended (has intended his whole life) to increase collectivism and undermine independent civil society (“capitalism”) as much as he can.

    However, the “mainstream” media (still how most people got their news in 2008) left out this small detail.

    The “change” Obama really meant to put into effect was very different (indeed, in some ways, the exact opposite) of things he said during the campaign.

    Of course one does not have to be a Marxist to engage in such double think (for example the last issue of the NONMARXIST Economist magazine was, finally, about how government was getting too big – but it still managed endorse bailing out the banks and government backed health care for all, whilst seeing no contradiction), however it helps to be a Marxist if one is engaged in double think.

    Hillary Clinton (in spite of doing her thesis on Saul Alinsky) was never really a Comrade (Hillary is a big government “Progressive” not a Marxist) – and her lack of training is painfully obvious whenever she tries to talk about making government smaller (it is clear that she does not mean a word of it – no one could be fooled).

    Whereas Barack Obama can say something he does not believe (indeed the opposite of what he believes) with total conviction in his voice and body language. I noted this some time ago – comparing things he said in public to the (often wildly different and opposed) things he said at what he thought were private gatherings.

    His voice and body language were the same.

    He was well trained – but his own hard work (and natural talent) are to be praised. Although it is talent and hard work for an evil cause.

  • mattP

    The fact that racism has abated to the degree that a black man can be elected as President of the US is not incompatible with racists now using his apparent weakness and inability to actually do anything as a focus for racist opinion. In other words they can allege (or imply, depending on how up front they are willing to be) that he is weak and ineffectual because he is black – and add that to the usual criticisms based on his being a Democrat.

    He was of course attacked before the election for being black, but much of it was in political code. Most of the stuff about his being a community organiser was really addressed at him being black rather than a community organiser per se.

    Ian, I am going to try and be nice to you. Out of my own self interest.

    I will politely notice that things will eventually backfire upon you when you lie about enough people often enough.

    You speak of racist “code?” That’s sort of self indulgent, don’t you think, for a group that tried to make a racial issue out of the fact the man drives a pick-up truck? Or even worse tried to tie a vulgar term for sexual practices to the “teabaggers?”

    And you have the balls (please excuse the pun, monitors) to talk about Obama’s critics speaking in “code?”

    By all means, continue.

  • llamas

    Not to be nitpicky or anything, but Sherlock Holmes used cocaine – not heroin, or opium.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Alice

    Nuke Gray wrote: “Alice, the British were fighting for the right to trade in drugs, a good position for a libertarian!”

    Nuke, since my comment was an exasperated tongue-in-cheek, I will assume yours was too.

    Mostly, I am exasperated at the failure of the English educational system, which has left many of the English with no idea of their own history. If any good English modern leftie knew enough history to understand what the English historically did to the Chinese, Indians, Africans, Irish, Scots, etc, he or she (with his or her modern sensibilities) would have to crawl off under a rock & die.

    One could make a serious argument that it is more acceptable in England today to make a prejudiced remark about the Irish & Scots than it is in the US to make a prejudiced remark about Americans of African heritage. Even Samizdat commentators have attacked Gordon Brown for his Scottish birth, not for his rank incompetence. The English should look to the mote in their own eyes.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    If any good English modern leftie knew enough history to understand what the English historically did to the Chinese, Indians, Africans, Irish, Scots, etc, he or she (with his or her modern sensibilities) would have to crawl off under a rock & die.

    True enough, but many of the local regimes the English supplanted weren’t very nice either: the Zulus under Chaka, for instance, were a sort of agrarian fascist state and Chaka himself strikingly foreshadowed Hitler. Likewise, India, China, Ireland and so on weren’t exactly Athens.

    I’m perfectly willing to give Perfidious Albion credit for bad intentions, but the consequences may be better than conscious virtue would have produced.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    On second take, I see you’re talking about English modern lefties rather than for them. My bad.

  • John B

    PersonFrom: I’m perfectly willing to give Perfidious Albion credit for bad intentions, but the consequences may be better than conscious virtue would have produced.

    And therein lies the strength of the free market.

    This anti British thing, by the way, sounds distinctly ex UK PC education system.
    My dear mom grew up in colonial India and they all did marvellous things together.
    Patronising, superior attitudes, intolerant, maybe.
    But as a colonial, imperial system, exceedingly decent in the main. Benefactors.
    Except they messed up on the logistics.
    Eg: If you save babies from dying you also need to figure out how they are going to live as adults. Food, etc.
    Possibly Marxian sympathisers such as Ghandi also had a hand in the mess with his emphasis on the low-tech spinning wheel and full employment in preference to factories?

  • Alice

    Please don’t misunderstand my animus towards the BBC and the oh-so-superior attitude it represents. (Why, we are so superior we will allow people with regional accents to read the news!)

    When a more technologically advanced people meets one that is less technologically advanced, the less advanced will be displaced — regardless of what Cameron tells us in Avatar. That was true when the Spaniards met the Incas. It was also true in the 13th Century when the Mongols met the Europeans — and the Chinese, and the Persians, and everyone else. And it was true during the expansion of European colonialism.

    There certainly is an argument that even the “losers” in such encounters ended up better off in the long term. Progress may have been harsh at the time, but it was inevitable. That certainly is the British apologia for their exploitation of India.

    The fact of the matter is that for most of human history, life has been very hard — women dying in childbirth, children dying in infancy, most people knowing famine in their lifetimes unless diease got them first. When people’s own survival was always in doubt, they were much less concerned about the treatment of competitors for scarce resources. Nowadays, thanks to massive energy inputs, we can afford the luxury of conscience; but we should not judge the past by the standards of our (temporary) present.

    Everyone’s ancestors did things which would not meet BBC standards today. Africans sold other Africans into slavery. The French laid waste to Europe. English gentlemen forced drug addiction on the Chinese. It may be too much to ask for some humility from the BBC, but is it too much to ask that BBC types at least should be aware of their own history?

  • ian

    Rather surprisingly (to me at any rate) Verity has asked the same question I was going to ask.

    I didn’t describe Obama as ‘black’ out of thin air. The original article and most of those before me also called him ‘black’. Yes he is 50/50 black and white, so why is ‘black’ seen as the default for anyone not 100% ‘white’?

  • Paul Marks

    Saul Alinsky was white and I do not hate him any less than Barack Obama. Cloward was white to – and Piven is white and on and on.

    On the other hand Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams (and on and on) are black – and I hold such people to be my brothers (far more than my biological half brother – who would, if he is stil alive, kill me without a seconds hesitation or regret).

    “So you admit you hate…..” would be the reply of the leftist.

    Actually it is weird not to hate the enemy – one just must always struggle to make sure that hate does not become master (the struggle of reason against the emotions).

    “English gentlemen forced drug addiction on the Chinese”.

    Drugs were sold quite legally in London (and this little town of Kettering) so it is hardly a question of “forcing” anything on “aliens” that one carefully keeps one’s own countrymen from.

    Besides the Chinese officials were not really intereted in preventing drug use – they just wanted a monopoly on selling drugs.

    For this they were prepared to wipe out whole towns (towns of CHINESE) if even a few of the people in the town bought opium from the British.

    The Opium War is not quite as the P.C. history books would have people believe – but then what is?

  • ian: see my response to this at January 24, 2010 11:07 PM. I am not going to re-post it, since it will be smited (again).

  • Alice

    “The Opium War is not quite as the P.C. history books would have people believe – but then what is?”

    Just as you say, Paul. What is?

    But the Opium Wars (plural — the Brits went back for a second bite) are not in the PC history books at all. Most Brits are totally unaware of the misdeeds of their ancestors. And their ignorance provides the fertile soil in which the pestilent weed of BBC-style morally-superior superciliousness can grow.

    Caught a well-fed, carefully groomed BBC reporter from Haiti on TV last week. Instead of getting his hands dirty actually helping Haitians in need, the BBC guy was whining that the US military was not being as effective as it should have been in the rescue mission. At least the US military was not getting in the way of the EU superpower’s armada of support. A pox on the BBC!

  • bill

    Obviously, she can’t quite seem to get it, America knows Obama is a Marxist and his agenda is him. Class warfare is his tool, just like Hugo Chavez.

    She must think Americans are stupid.

  • Rich Rostrom

    llamas: Actually Holmes used both cocaine and morphine.

    “Which is it to-day,” I asked, “morphine or cocaine?”
    He raised his eyes languidly from the old black-letter volume which he had opened.
    “It is cocaine,” he said, “a seven-per-cent solution. Would you care to try it?”

  • Blast it, I always knew it was something… but it wasn’t opium, that much I was sure of.

    Paul: it’s not a question of hypocrisy. It’s a question of imposing one’s will on another country. Granted, some countries need to be stomped on; it is arguable, however, given China’s historically isolationist stance towards the rest of the world, whether the British needed to stomp on China.

  • Two questions for you Alice: what had been the primary British commodities sold in China prior to opium, and what prompted the shift to opium?

  • Michael

    A terrible discussion. With the exception of Ross Douthat, everbody seemed to be terrified of what Bonnie Greer was going to say next and to appease her confused, sonorous pronouncements. Can someone also please take Simon Schobama to task too for his awful, creepy Obama’s America?

  • Since O’Bama is half black and half white, wouldn.t it be better to call him “grey?”

  • Alice

    Mike asked: “Two questions for you Alice: what had been the primary British commodities sold in China prior to opium, and what prompted the shift to opium?”

    Let’s remember Paul’s observation about PC history, and earlier statements about history being written by the victors. With those cautions, here’s what I have learned from the history books & from historians:

    China in the 18th/19th Century exported tea & silk to Britain — commodities highly desired by the Brits. However, China had no interest in any of the manufactured goods which Britain wanted to trade in exchange. China would accept only silver from Britain.

    Essentially, there was a big balance of trade problem between Britain & China, in which China was exporting goods and accumulating the buyer’s financial assets. (Does any of this sound vaguely familiar to students of modern Chinese trade policies?).

    Britain wanted those exports from China, but was running low on silver to pay for them. The Brits decided to solve this trade problem by creating a market in China for a product which Britain could supply — opium grown in British-occupied India using Indian labor.

    Only problem with this was that the Chinese Empire did not want to import British opium. Hence the Opium Wars, in which the morally-impecable antecedents of the BBC left the playing fields of Eton to force drug addiction on the Chinese.

  • Laird

    Thanks for that tutorial, Alice. I’ve heard of the “Opium Wars” but didn’t know anything about them. Very interesting.

  • Nuke Gray

    Did they force opium on the Chinese, or just offer it to them in trade? And who was ‘They’? British Enterpreneurs in the East, i think. If the British didn’t force them to buy, then ‘force’ is the wrong word.
    And my reference to Holmes’s drug habit was to show that drug-taking was a personal moral choice in Victorian Britain- so drug-selling would have seemed as legitimate as other businesses, at that time.

  • “However, China had no interest in any of the manufactured goods which Britain wanted to trade in exchange. China would accept only silver from Britain.”

    I have a problem with your view of the opium wars Alice which really stems from your choice of subject for the first sentence here – “China”. You’re talking about the Qing governing class, rather than ordinary Chinese people, and it is a serious but common flaw to conflate the two – especially as you are the one wishing to draw moral conclusions.

    You see, for some years at the end of the 18th C and into the early 19th C, the top British commodity sold in China to balance the purchase of tea had been textiles – spun cotton and wool for which there had been a great demand among ordinary Chinese people.

    The sale of silver was largely a stop-gap measure following Qing restrictions on the textiles trade. Why would the government of China stop its’ own people from buying seemingly harmless goods like textiles? I mean for crying out loud, they only wanted to have some comfortable clothes, the poor sods.

    But, then, why do governments do anything?

    I won’t get into counterfactuals about whether the trade in opium would have taken off anyway even if the textile trade hadn’t been squeezed to death, but I think the morality of selling opium has been dealt with already.

  • Alice

    “The sale of silver was largely a stop-gap measure following Qing restrictions on the textiles trade.”

    Mike, I certainly wasn’t there at the time, so I have no first hand knowledge; have not come across this textile theory before either, but that is probably a reflection of my own limited knowledge.

    What I had understood was that the British textile trade at the time was mainly directed at India — which was why Ghandi in the 20th Century spun his own thread as a symbolic act of rejection of British occupation. The great trade triangle the Brits set up through the Opium Wars was British textiles to India; Indian opium to China; Chinese tea & silk to Britain. But I stand ready to learn.

    “Did they force opium on the Chinese, or just offer it to them in trade?”

    Subject to the same provisos as before, “they” was Her Majesty’s Government, who deployed the armed forces of Great Britain to China, where British forces blew up Chinese forts protecting the rivers, defeated Chinese armies in the field, and burned the cultural jewel of China (the Emperor’s Summer Palace outside Peking) to the ground after looting it. Brought back Pekingese dogs to Queen Victoria. When the Chinese authorities did not take the hint, the Brits them went back and did it all over again, in the Second Opium War. The word “force” seems quite appropriate to describe the way the Brits got the Chinese Empire to accept British opium.

    But presumably the BBC would find a way to blame it all on George Bush.

  • Nuke Gray

    And there I thought the Mandarins were trying to tell their own people what they could and could not buy! I don’t think that any drug addiction is good, but I think that intrusive governments are even worse! And I still think that you could make a case that the British Navy was protecting its’ own nationals.

  • “What I had understood was that the British textile trade at the time was mainly directed at India — which was why Ghandi in the 20th Century spun his own thread as a symbolic act of rejection of British occupation.”

    You are confusing two periods seperated by about a century Alice. The advancements in weaving technology that made possible the international export of textiles from Manchester happened in the early 1700s. Ghandi was doing his thing in the 1930s through to the 1940s. The British merchants (and not just those in the East India Company) were making a living from supplying textiles to the Chinese from the late 1700s through to the early 1800s after which time the trade was prohibited by the Qing.

    “The word “force” seems quite appropriate to describe the way the Brits got the Chinese Empire to accept British opium.”

    Right, but how is it you can overlook the force applied by the Qing mandarins against the Han people who would freely choose to buy British textiles and later British opium? Why is force applied by the British government against the Chinese government bad, but force applied by the Chinese government against the Chinese people not so bad as to deserve any mention at all?

    I’m not here to be rude to you, and there were dishonourable things done in the name of the British Empire, but too much is taken out of context and wildly exaggerated. For example, in 1868 Major Thornhaugh P. Gurdon commanded a British gunboat which destoyed the Qing arms depot at Anping, Formosa. This incident, and others like it, are widely circulated as evidence of how bastardish the British naturally are – with scarcely any attempt to establish motive or context. In this case the British were reacting to two incidents, the first of which contravened the 1858 Treaty of Tientsin; the arson by a Qing-roused mob of a Church in Fangshan resulting in women having to be thrown from windows to escape the fire, and the attempted murder of an American – William A. Pickering – simply because he failed to bribe the Qing mandarins sufficiently before illegally purchasing a substantial quantity of camphor from local producers to sell for the making of celluloid. (For some reason, I’m getting a 404 on the link… but in case the site is put back up later, the link is http://www.takaoclub.com/index.htm – go to the “camphor files”.

    And another thing: you raised the accusation of British guilt during the opium wars in order to lambast the BBC – which I find to be just, very, very – well, weird. Unless you can show otherwise, it would be my guess that the BBC would parrot your line about British guilt during the opium wars with rather more enthusiasm than you yourself! The leftists at the BBC hate the British Empire – see for example the awful BBC production of Forster’s “A Passage To India”.

  • Smitten by the bot again.

    Alice – you are confusing two periods separated by more than a hundred years. For Ghandi we go to the early 20th century, for British textiles in China we go to the late 18th and early 19th.

    Also, you play up the British use of force while passing over, in rather PC fashion it seems to me, the use of force by the Qing mandarins against the Chinese peoples in restricting their trade with the British – in the first place with regard to textiles.

    And it seems weird to me to raise a cry over British guilt during the opium wars as a point against the BBC. The BBC do a good enough job of pouring hate and shame all over this history of the British Empire as it is without you helping them.

    Oh and guess where English-speaking Chinese people get their news of western and worldwide events from?

  • Nuke Gray

    Let’s just agree George Bush is to blame, for anything we dislike, and get on with our lives!

  • Alice

    Mike – No, I was not confusing the 20th Century with the 19th. Just pointing out some more recent evidence for the harm that some Indians believed long-standing British textile policies had visited upon them.

    We can probably both accept that the life of the English mill worker in the early part of the 1800s was about as miserable as that of the Indian field laborer growing opium for his British-linked overlord, or of the Chinese peasant growing tea for his Emperor. The conflicts we are discussing were of course between the respective aristocracies. Subseqent progress of the industrial revolution has made life easier for us peons, and the aristocracies have put on new clothes, but Plus ca change, …

    If the BBC spend their time slagging the British Empire, that is their choice. From the very little I see of the BBC (generally news programs), it seems to be mostly a bunch of self-satisfied feminists & metrosexuals directing hate speech at the Great Satan. A pox on the BBC!

  • Alice, my only interest here was defending the British for their part in the opium wars – the prevalent bullshit today has the British as the chief villains “forcing”, “raping” and “looting” the innocent little Chinese who only wanted to protect their precious and ancient culture from the decadence of the opium den. It’s bullshit, I’m not having it and it doesn’t matter who says it.

  • Howard R Gray

    Living 8 miles north of massachusetts in New Hampshire one would think the Brown election was irrelevant to enjoying a nice breakast at Dennys in Nashua. In a heated moment, a Massachusan bellowed out his hatred of Martha Coakley and everthing assinine about the donkey party. To do such a thing at breakfast in the Live Free of Die State isn’t sound form. Not polite!

    That being said, I knew at that moment, 3 days before the election in Teddy Town, the Democrats were done.

    As for the BBC, the truth is very simple, it is the “economy stupid” on the one part and “Health care” on the other and that is about it. As for racism, it really doesn’t figure in this dog fight. Nuff said

  • Alice

    “Why is force applied by the British government against the Chinese government bad, but force applied by the Chinese government against the Chinese people not so bad as to deserve any mention at all?”

    Mike — of course violence directed by Chinese authorities against the Chinese people is/was bad. We agree on that. (And thanks for the lesson on the early British textile trade).

    We probably also agree that the Brits did not go to China to rescue ordinary Chinese peasants from the oppressive rule of those Chinese overlords. Clearly, the British Ruling Class sent their poor ordinary Tommies to die in a far-off land, killing & subjugating & controlling the natives. A leftist could have a good time trying to identify who was most abused in that situation.

    The salient point is that the British Ruling Class in Queen Victoria’s day ruthlessly pursued their own narrow interests with little regard for justice or morality, despite their self-satisfaction. The current rulers of the BBC are their true descendants. Let’s all agree — A Pox on the BBC!

  • Paul Marks

    Michael asked for someone to give Simon S.s “Obama’s America” a kicking.

    Always glad to oblige

    First of the series has a trick title – it is really a history of the modern United States (going way back to the start of the 20th century) the word “Obama” was just put in the title as a eye catcher for ratings.

    More importantly the series is crap.

    For example, the Great Depression is blamed on greedy bankers and lack of power for the Federal Reseve (please look away as the Fed increases the money supply people – nothing to see here people, move along).

    Even the creation of the Fed in 1913 is treated as a noble high minded act of reform.

    Paradoxically that is an historical event that CAN be blamed on greedy bankers – they wanted a government supported backstop for their credit expansion schemes so they met on an island resort and produced a plan……….

    This has been exposed by socialist historians just as much as by historians with free market opinions.

    But Simon S. lives in a world where no historical research has been done at all.

    There is just noble high minded reform by government – and any problems are caused by the government not having enough power. Or by politicians too timid to use the wonderful power of government.

    Simon S. (in the American context) is not an historian at all – he is not historian because he has no interest in exposing what actually happened in the past (he just presents a morality play of noble government comming down to save the day – or not having enough power to do so….).

    I repeat that socialist historians have done good work in reseaching American history – it is not just our people who have done good work.

    But Simon S. is not one of socialist historians who has done good work in reseaching American history. In fact, I repeat, regarding America he is not an historian at all.

    Not an historian because he has no interest in what actually happened in the past.