breaking news from the world of ideas

by Gareth Roberts
Friday, 15
October 2021
Spotted
13:30

Stephen Nolan’s Stonewall documentary is unmissable

The charity was never impartial

Stephen Nolan’s new ten-part BBC podcast documentary on the influence of Stonewall ploughs rich journalistic soil, its length justified by its findings.

It is frequently jaw dropping — you will hear how the Scottish government paid Stonewall to lobby itself, how the BBC’s supposedly impartial LGBT correspondent was moonlighting for Stonewall, and how whistleblowing medical professionals with serious concerns were frozen out by campaigns of intimidation. You could write a brick of a book about what Nolan has turned up but here are some immediate observations.

  • From 2015, when Stonewall decided to add advocacy for transgender people to its remit, it instantly took on board the ideology of ‘gender identity’ rather than biological sex as the determining factor in the difference between men and women. This is a fringe ideology from American academic ‘queer theory’. It obviously has enormous implications for both gay people and wider society, particularly regarding women’s rights, but there appears to have been no thought paid to it at all by Stonewall. They even redefined ‘gay’ to mean attraction to a person of either sex with the same ‘identity’. This bizarre set of ideas, not recognised in law, were simply adopted without question, propagated into institutions such as the NHS, and given credence by Stonewall’s previous good reputation.
  • The behaviour of Ofcom, who used their reporting decisions on viewer complaints (I think probably the right ones but nonetheless) to get higher up on Stonewall’s equality index, and tried to cover up having done so, is reprehensible. This is the place where heads really should roll.
  • The BBC and Stonewall refused to be interviewed by Nolan, or even to answer specific questions from him, and rejected his FOI requests on spurious grounds. This high-handed attitude is very concerning. It’s to the credit of the BBC that it has broadcast Nolan’s investigation, but the lack of transparency from a publicly funded body is deeply shady. What don’t they want the public to know? Why the secrecy?
  • The intimidation of people who dispute gender identity ideology from extremist activists has frozen debate, as people are afraid to speak out against Stonewall for fear of losing their livelihoods. The equation of people acknowledging the facts of biological sex (ie the entirety of the human race for all recorded time until 2015) with anti-Semites (as made by Stonewall CEO Nancy Kelley) is a prime example of Stonewall’s ridiculous bullying hyperbole, which has no place in public life.
  • Stonewall’s only public response to Nolan since it appeared has been a profoundly unserious tweet with a hand-clapping emoji stating ‘We make 👏 no 👏 apology 👏 for working towards a better world for LGBTQ+ people.’ In other words, ‘We make no apology for something nobody is accusing us of doing.’ This is like being charged with murder and replying ‘How dare you accuse me of stealing that loaf of bread!’ It’s a transparent attempt to dodge the actual meat of Nolan, responding to criticism of itself as an attack on gay and trans people — this, despite the fact that its loudest, most concerned critics are gay and trans people.

There now surely has to be a full public inquiry with the power to compel the whole truth in detail from government, Stonewall and the BBC, and to protect democracy from unaccountable lobby groups. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Friday, 15
October 2021
Dispatch
11:20

The 100 year old Nazi standing trial in Germany

It is hard to watch, but justice is being pursued 76 years later

A former SS guard who worked at Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin from 1942-1945 must now stand trial in Germany under tight security measures. It has taken 76 years for this case to be brought in front of a court.

When the accused appeared there last week, he cut a sorry figure as he laboriously pushed himself forward on his rollator with oner liver-spotted hand, while shielding his face from the cameras with the other. It is hard to believe that the frail, 100-year-old in the home-knitted jumper was once in the SS.

Joseph S. maintains his innocence. When he spoke — confusedly — it was easy to feel sorry for the old man. He looked frail and exhausted. ...  Continue reading

by UnHerd Staff
Friday, 15
October 2021
Spotted
07:00

UnHerd picks: The week’s best Substacks

Featuring: Salman Rushdie, Civil Rights law, and advice from Dominic Cummings

This week saw an intensifying global supply chain crisis, the downfall of populists across central Europe, and culture war flare ups around Sally Rooney and Dave Chapelle. What was going on in the ‘stacks, away from the headlines?

Salman Rushdie’s new Substack was announced a few weeks ago to great fanfare. So far it has lived up to expectations. This account of meeting, then remembering, Italo Calvino is a straightforward delight.

Richard Hanania wrote about US Civil Rights Law as a form of class warfare, “in which elites take their preoccupations and hangups about race and enlist powerful institutions to force these standards on everyone else.” Robert Wright x-rayed the ‘Blob’ — the people, the think tanks, the media outlets, and government bodies that shape US foreign policy. Antonio García Martínez wrote about his conversion to Judaism, and why human beings are usually religious, whether they’re aware of it or not: ...  Continue reading

by Henry Hill
Thursday, 14
October 2021
Explainer
17:30

Yes, Edmund Burke is British

The philosopher was British — something that infuriates Remainers

One consequence of the renewed prominence of Northern Ireland in British politics since 2016 is that it has forced (or at least induced) many people to start opining on Irish matters who might otherwise not have done so.

The results are often disappointing, especially the seemingly endless ranks of London-based politicians and commentators who talk solemnly about our “obligations under the Good Friday Agreement” without any apparent familiarity with the text of that not-overlong document.

But a nastier and even less impressive instance of the form was recently furnished by David Allen Green. In attempting to score a point off Lord Frost for invoking the memory of Edmund Burke, he offered the following: ...  Continue reading

by Samuel Adu-Gyamfi
Thursday, 14
October 2021
Reaction
15:00

A message to Matt Hancock: Africa doesn’t want you

The last thing this continent needs is another Covid messiah

Africa has long been tormented by experts parachuted in from the West to help with whatever crisis the continent was facing. Yesterday, the UK’s former Health Secretary Matt Hancock became the latest in this line, appointed as UN envoy to Africa on matters relating to Covid-19.

There is nothing in Matt Hancock’s résumé to suggest that he would know what’s best for Africa. His work in government has focused on exclusively British affairs, and before his he entered politics in 2010, he was an economist at the Bank of England.

So why is he now being tasked with helping Covid recovery in Africa? ...  Continue reading

by Tom Chivers
Thursday, 14
October 2021
Debate
13:00

Prince William is wrong: let Bezos go to space!

The $7 billion invested in Blue Origin is money well spent

Jeff Bezos has spent something like $7 billion on going to space. Fortune put it at “at least” $5.5 billion in July, but Bezos has said he was spending about a billion a year since about 2015, so I think it’s probably a bit more than that.

And Bezos is not the only billionaire spending some of his billions on putting rockets into space. Elon Musk’s SpaceX, depending how you measure these things, has probably spent a billion or so too. Richard Branson’s at it as well.

You can understand that it feels indulgent, especially when you’re taking William Shatner to space for four minutes. So I understand Prince William’s response that: “We need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live.” ...  Continue reading

by UnHerd Staff
Thursday, 14
October 2021
Factcheck
11:00

Eastern European populism isn’t going anywhere yet

The Czech Prime Minister was ousted this week — but Orbán is safe for now

The fallout from the Czech general election last week is now clear. The populist government of the incumbent Prime Minister Andrej Babiš will be replaced by a centre-Right coalition led by Petr Fiala. 

This is being interpreted as a significant defeat for populism. If Babiš can be ousted by a broad-based alliance of non-populist parties then the same approach could be used to deal with Viktor Orbán in Hungary and, perhaps, Jarosław Kaczyński’s Law and Justice Party in Poland. The EU establishment would certainly like to have those thorns removed from its side. 

The reality though is more complicated. Though Babiš was chummy with Orbán, Czech populism was rather different from the Hungarian or Polish varieties. The ANO party that Babiš  heads is anti-establishment in tone, but politically of the centre. Indeed, it’s affiliated with the liberal ALDE grouping of European parties.  ...  Continue reading

by Amy Jones
Thursday, 14
October 2021
Idea
07:00

The question the Covid report failed to answer

What is most revealing about the new study is what it leaves out

The media has wasted no time in using the publication of the highly anticipated Covid report as a stick to beat the Government.

The charge made by the report is, unsurprisingly, a familiar one: that we should have locked down sooner. That is in spite of the fact that the scientific advice at the time — early March 2020 — was to not lock down, and that lockdowns had been previously discouraged by the WHO. Nor was there much mention of the health and societal impacts of lockdown, the data for which is slowly beginning to emerge. Just this week, a new Lancet report found soaring levels of depression over the last 18 months, noting: ...  Continue reading