January 27, 2020
Author: Ralph Berry
Censorship takes many forms. One of them is political correctness, which stifles words deemed unacceptable to those whose watchword is “unacceptable.” That is the face of vacuous Leftism. It is now difficult to have a rational conversation on “nativism,” the so-called “far right,” and “nationalism.” Anything involving “race” is out, because the word encourages “racism.” The aim of the Left is not to win debates, but to close them down before they start. All this is well known, and I want to suggest alternative means of censorship.
One form is the withholding of words from general circulation, as above. A classic example is “Londonistan,” which is the title of a book by Melanie Phillips. Her argument is that Britain has become the European hub for the promotion, recruitment, and financing of Islamic terrorism, whose adherents are a fifth column in the land. Ideas that kill are spread over a continuum of religious thought. Londonistan was published in 2006, since when Phillips’ argument has made long strides. There have been numerous terrorist attacks, beginning most notably with the bombings in London the following year. Migrant entrants have greatly swollen the London population, as the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics prove: In central London, the population has increased by 44% over five years. The number of inhabitants of Tower Hamlets, home to a huge Bangladeshi community, increased by 16% between 2013 and 2018, while whites have departed for good. There is not much here for the indigènes without a good job or secure economic base: Housing costs are ruinous, as are commuter fares. The huge increase in rental charges stems from the migrant influx. Congestion in Central London is acute; you can spend a lot of time in a taxi, motionless, while the meter ticks. But Phillips’ analysis gets no kind of public hearing, though her book remains in print and the latest official statistics cannot be gainsaid. The term “Londonistan” is, as I say, proscribed in the media. The authorities do not want to talk about the subject, and the policy of appeasement of Islam remains. It is all reminiscent of stage productions of Shakespeare, where the reviewer really has to know the text. If he does not, he doesn’t know the cuts, and only through the cuts can one grasp the shaping vision of the director.
The facts, however, are ascertainable. Napoleon used to read the Times because he could get from it a more accurate account of recent battles than his own generals gave him. A subtle censorship is at work in the critical reception of Frederick Forsyth’s recent novel, The Fox (2018). I was rather surprised to come across the book in Waterstone’s where I picked up my copy, since I had heard nothing of it. Yet Forsyth has been a successful and very famous author since the publication of The Day of the Jackal in 1971. Why so little publicity for his latest novel, beyond a few brief notices? (The Washington Post did give it a decent review.) The clue is in the contents. Forsyth bases his tale on an 18-year old who has Asperger’s Syndrome with its accompanying psychological difficulties, but also a mind with extraordinary powers to hack into the best protected computer databases. He overcomes firewalls in the U.S., Iran, and Russia, but to no malign purpose. Forsyth has him hacking also into North Korea, where he discovers the denuclearization program to be a scam: The government simply transferred their work from one mountain to another. It is all horribly convincing. Is this fiction presenting itself as factual truth, or fact thinly disguised as fiction?
Forsyth has form. He has worked for British intelligence, and he has friends and contacts in MI5 and MI6. The device he invented for The Day of the Jackal is still well remembered: a faked passport in the name of a tiny child taken from its gravestone, that of the supposed adult. The Russians made great use of the scheme before it was blown. Again, The Fourth Protocol (1984) is based on a memorandum purportedly written by Kim Philby, on the orders of the General Secretary of the USSR, outlining a plan to take over Britain following an election won by the British Labour Party. Forsyth cites historical evidence that includes a named man of the outer Left, Ken Livingstone (“Red Ken”) who was Leader of the Greater London Council from 1981 until the Council was abolished in 1986, and later Mayor of London from 2000 to 2008). In May 1981 Labour, led by Andrew McIntosh, won the GLC election. Within 24 hours he was deposed as leader, and the coup organized by Livingston installed the ultra-Left caucus as the holder of real power in London. McIntosh, defeated 16 hours after his electoral success, protested in vain. This fictional plan came close to being realized in 2017 when Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s Marxist leader, came near to winning the general election. When The Fourth Protocol was published, a very senior Russian intelligence officer is said to have shown it to his colleagues, saying delightedly ‘I’m in it! I’m in it!’ Forsyth is serious. It would appear that the novelist’s revelations regarding North Korea are not wholly welcomed by the authorities…. Fiction?
Censorship has come a long way from the primitive methods of (say) wartime scanning by officers of soldiers’ letters home. It goes well beyond the restriction of language to that of approved terms, and a heightened sensitivity to what is “offensive.” This activity is not exactly “censorship” as we have known the thing. Nevertheless, it serves the purposes of the censors: Cato lives. The larger question of thought control by the authorities is never absent. The model is the Moniteur Universel, which became, said Comte Molé (as cited by Andrew Roberts in Napoleon the Great), “nothing but the docile instrument and depository of all [Napoleon’s]desires.” From it, Napoleon decreed, “anything that might disturb the tranquillity of the State” must be excluded. “Censorship should pay no attention to anything else.”