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Monday, July 25, 2016


Without any planning and totally coincidentally I seemed to have beeen immersed in feminine, or rather female culture, both written and visually, over the last two days, with both genres, a book and a film, offering extraordinary portrayals of women.  The Girls is a new novel by the American writer Emma Cline and uses the Charles Manson murders as inspiration, whereas Carola film by Todd Haynes, is the story of a lesbian love affair. Yet despite their differences they are bizarrely similar. Both centre on the attraction of a young girl for an older, stronger woman, and both stories are played-out in dream-like, past worlds that are both haunting and strangely enchanting, and which, when they conclude, leave you needing time to emerge back into this world…

The Girls

A debut novel by Emma Cline that is both compelling and repelling at the same time. The Girls is inspired by, but not about, the Manson girls, the women that were a part of Charles Manson’s family and who would brutally kill a number of people, including the actress Sharon Tate, on Manson’s orders. Set now and during the summer of 1969 when the Manson murders took place, Cline has created a dream-like parallel world in which the central character, the fourteen year-old Evelyn, or Evie as the ‘girls’ call her, becomes fascinated by Suzanne, a feral but beautiful girl who she sees one day walking in her local park with two other girls. Cline describes their arrival:

There was a suggestion of otherworldliness hovering around her, a dirty smock dress barely covering her ass. she was flanked by a skinny redhead and an older girl, dressed with the same shabby afterthought. As if dredged from a lake. All their cheap rings like a second set of  knuckles. They were messing with an uneasy threshold, prettiness and ugliness at the same time, and a ripple of awareness followed them through the park. Mothers glancing around for their children, moved by some feeling they couldn’t name. Women reaching for their boyfriends’ hands. The sun spiked through the trees, like always - the drowsy willows, the hot wind gusting over the picnic blankets - but the familiarity of the day was disturbed by the path the girls cut across the regular world. Sleek and thoughtless as sharks breaching the water.

Cline writes beautifully and cleverly, managing in a few choice words to convey the alienation of adolescence and the threat of the outsider and wraps all of this into an etherial and languid sense of menace that builds up around Evie as she becomes part of the ‘family’. In many ways Cline’s 
decision to create her own take on the Manson cult, hers centres on a man named Russell, and to focus on the girls, and in particular Evie’s infatuation with Suzanne, brings a powerful and refreshingly raw feeling to the whole Manson mythology. Equally, by eschewing the actual
Manson story and creating her own, borrowing elements of real events and mixing these with her ‘girls’,  Cline has been able to bring a real sense of California’s dreamy callousness to the shocking murders that follow, and Cline’s succinct and brutal descriptions of killing are as disturbing as any I have read.

Yet, despite the murders, or perhaps because of them, The Girls, is essentially about teenage girls, their clothes, their smell, their struggles to please an older, charismatic man, their desperate faith in his vision of the world, their fragility and vulnerableness to sexual exploitation and to the mores and ideas of the time. Unnervingly so given that Cline, a Californian girl herself, is only 27 and yet The Girls is perfectly of the sixties and reminds us that beneath all the talk of peace and love real horror was waiting.

I only got out of bed after I heard the girl. Her voice was high and innocuous. Though it shouldn’t have been comforting - Suzanne and the others had been girls, and that hadn’t helped anybody.

The Girls by Emma Cline is published by Chatto & Windus (£12.99, $27.00)


Carol, director Todd Haynes’ visually beautiful interpretation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel of a lesbian love, The Price of Salt (also known as Carol) is, like a passionate kiss, breathtakingly good and will leave you shivering with lingering emotion long after the end credits have finished. Set in the early 1950s and centred in and around New York, the Carol of the title is a wealthy, glamorous woman (Cate Blanchett), who is in the midst of getting a divorce, from her neglectful husband (Kyle Chandler - Friday Night Lights, Homeland) and befriends, then falls in love with, a shopgirl and aspiring photographer called Therese (Rooney Mara - The Social Network, Pan, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). 

Carol is powerful but not predatory, glamorous but not glam, and beneath her monied confidence, vulnerable and frightened. Frightened of losing her only child in an increasingly fractious custody battle with her husband who both knows of her lesbianism and, reluctantly, is prepared to use it against her in court if necessary. Against this backdrop she is also falling deeply in love with the much younger Therese, whose rawness and innocence, at first amusing, then captivating, has unleashed an all consuming and highly believable love in both women for each other, a love that will either playout or crush them in its embrace.

Touted and praised as a gay film about two women having a relationship at a time when lesbianism was barely mentioned, let alone understood or tolerated, Carol doesn’t flaunt or bang the gay rights drum, rather it is what it is, a love story between two women who suffer trials and tribulations as they struggle, not so much for acceptance, but to make their relationship work in the same way a straight couple would and it is all the stronger for that. Mara in particular, looking like the reincarnation of Audrey Hepburn, though with a rawer sexuality, has an extraordinary presence and natural beauty that is mesmerising and which Haynes manages to exploit in a myriad of tiny ways that, coupled with Carter Burwell’s hypnotic score, make watching Carol, like watching a half remembered memory of someone you too loved but who was always, tantalisingly, just out of reach. 

Simply fabulous.

On AMAZON PRIME and DVD / Blu-ray (Studio Canal)

Saturday, June 18, 2016


Jo Cox MP, whose brutal murder on the 16th June by a 52 year man with mental health problems and alleged sympathies with the US based neo-Nazi Nationalist Alliance organisation, and, Britain First, a UK based nationalist party, had hardly been dead more than a few hours before a number of self-serving, left-leaning, ‘Remain’ campaigners leapt onto the now blood-soaked Cox bandwagon in order to make political capital from her utterly pointless murder.

First was the London Labour MP for Bermondsey and Southwark, Neil Coyle, who when interviewed just a few hours after Cox’s killing sought to link it directly to Brexit and the Leave campaign, saying that they had published “dangerous material” which risked inspiring the “extremist elements on the hard right in this country”.  Hard Right being the latest terminology of the left, as opposed to Far Right, or Extreme Right, which apparently nolonger convey the correct amount of ‘rightness’. So ‘Hard Right’ it is.

Coyle’s comments were predictably followed the next day by the hysterical ravings of The Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee who saw in Cox’s murder a causal link between the ‘open and shocking’ statements of the Leave campaign whose ‘inflammatory language’, ‘finger-jabbing’ ‘dog-whistling’ and ‘overt racism’ she claimed was a ’noxious brew’ and ‘dangerous’ mix of ‘anti-MP’ and ‘anti-politics’ which led inextricably to Jo Cox’s murder. Toynbee then damned, among other things, Leave’s new ‘Breaking Point’ poster, which showed, in a style reminiscent of the Thatcher era Conservative Party election poster, ‘Labour’s Not Working’, a never ending queue of refugees waiting to enter Europe.

Using the poster as a springboard Toynbee went on to link the Leave campaign indirectly with, not just Cox’s murder, but the rise of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, the White Power movement, Neo-Nazism, and Oswald Mosley and called for Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Chris Grayling to be expelled from the Conservative Party for making immigration a voting issue in the Brexit campaign. 

The Guardian then claimed in its editorial that Jo Cox’s death was an affront to the ideals of diversity and multiculturalism, both causes that I am sure Jo Cox supported, and which therefore is not an unreasonable 
assertion, but then The Guardian extrapolated that the ‘Hard Right’s’ racism and Islamophobia was the mirror image of the ideology Isis and Al Qaida use to attract recruits. From that it was just a hop, skip, and a jump to imply a direct link between Cox’s murder and Leave’s campaign. Nigel Farage’s “Breaking Point” poster was  especially singled out for attack and called repugnant, while Leave’s campaign was ’nasty’, ’divisive’
and encouraged UK voters to turn their backs on the world and to embrace ‘barbarism’.

Yet in using Jo Cox’s murder to smear and undermine the Leave campaign and at the same time shunning much of ‘parochial’ Britain as William Haig sneeringly referred to those supporting Leave, the Remain campaigners and the Left should look in the mirror, for that is where the viciousness and thuggery began. When hundreds gathered to mock and celebrate Margaret Thatcher’s death, or when a mob of thugs attacked Nigel Farage and his family in Scotland, or when Conservative’s were spat at, punched and called scum while trying to attend their party conference in 2015, or when members of antifacist groups openly talk of wanting to kill their opponents, and so on ad infinitum politicians reap what they sow.

Toynbee wrote that the use of immigration in this campaign was unleashing ‘dark and hateful’ forces, yet it was the Labour party that unleashed immigration on an unprecedented scale with hundreds of thousands of people arriving in the UK during Labour’s time in office that destroyed communities, jobs and caused a housing crisis. It was a Labour Home Secretary, David Blanket, who said in 2003 that there was “no upper limit” to the number of people that could settle in the UK. It was a Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who, in 2010, dismissed a concerned woman’s questions on rising immigration, as ‘bigoted’ and it is Labour that has consistently attacked and silenced any form or discussion on immigration and migration as ‘racist’. 

So yes people are angry, and yes people are fed up with politicians, and yes, there are ‘dark and hateful’ forces at work, but they have been caused not by the ‘Hard Right’, or Leave’s ‘Breaking Point’ poster, but by the Left, by mainstream politician’s, and by the EU’s unelected officials telling us what to do. What Polly Toynbee, David Cameron, George Osborne, The Guardian and the rest of the political and chattering classes who try to shame us into obsequious silence by their taunts of racism and nationalistic parochialism forget, is that it is they who have taken away the people’s voice and our now causing some people’s anger to turn into rage. 

The utterly pointless, brutal and stupid murder of Jo Cox may have been a symptom of those ‘hateful’ forces, or equally it could just be the actions of a pitiful man with mental health problems. Yet whatever motivated the killer, it was nothing to do with the Leave campaign and if the Establishment try to make it otherwise in order to shut the people up then those dark hateful forces really will find a voice and they will make the Establishment listen whether they want to or not.

Nigel Wingrove © 2016

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will be, Will Be)

There was something frighteningly inevitable about the latest mass killing by a fanatical Muslim of a large group of unarmed Western citizens, in this latest instance some 49 gay men and women at The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. First there will be shock, though less so now that we, by which I mean the West, have become  inured to this kind of atrocity, then secondly the outpourings of grief, some real, some false and affected, necessitated more by our need to show our Facebook and Instagram followers that we care, than real, emotional pain. 

Then, inevitably, will come the Orlando hashtag and the clever graphic memes, in this instance the first appeared within a few hours of the assault almost as if the shooter had kindly uploaded it to Twitter along with his ‘I Love ISIS’ video before he started spraying bullets into the infidels. For those of you who haven’t yet seen it, today’s meme du jour  is a gay ‘ribbon’, coloured half gay rainbow, and half the US Stars and Stripes, which, like the Paris Eiffel Tower and Charlie Hebdo pencil, will do nothing beyond allowing a few people to share some chic grief-graphics, and be forgotten almost before the victim’s blood has dried. Thirdly, and finally, will come the apologists with their “This has nothing to do with Islam’ mantra…

President Obama and the worldwide liberal media will unite and then tie itself in knots as it tries to avoid the armed elephant in the room, bigger now and covered in blood, as it blames American gun laws, Homophobic bigotry, the Christian right, Donald Trump, a lone wolf, almost anything rather than the Muslim religion. Indeed the killer’s parents, Afghan Muslims, immigrants welcomed into the US a few years ago, including the killer’s Taliban supporting father, have already said that this is nothing to do with religion and that their son was just upset at having seen two men kissing recently. Anyway, the father later insisted, God will punish homosexuals. 

So that’s alright then, Islam and our liberal democracies have a ‘get out of jail’ card and the wonderful state imposed multicultural migrations that are slowly transforming our culture and the indigenous cities of America and Europe into Islamic favelas can carry on regardless. Another day, another mass killing. Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will be, Will Be) as Doris Day might have sung had she been asked to perform at The Pulse when its audience was still alive.

There is though a difference to this mass killing in that the victims were not predominantly white heterosexuals as in France’s Bataclan shootings. Rather they were mixed racially and all members of the LGBT community, a sexual grouping sacred to our new Establishment and an abomination to most Muslims, ensuring that there will probably be plenty of dry-eyes and an absence of rainbow flags at your local mosque. This has produced the extraordinary spectacle of the West’s left-leaning media and politician’s bypassing their usual ‘nothing to do with Islam’ mantra and going straight on to the attack against Islam’s critics and anyone who doesn’t adhere to their new mantra that Orlando ’is all about homophobia and LGBT hatred and not about Islam’. An argument typified by the sixteen year old Guardian journalist Owen Jones who had a hissy fit on Sky News and flounced off in a huff when his interviewer wouldn’t accept Owen’s argument that this attack was different because it was on gay people. It isn’t. It is part of a never ending attack on the West’s values, regardless of sexual orientation, race or religion and the fact that the Orlando killer had also considered Disneyland as a potential target means that the world could just as easily have been mourning the deaths of 50 children this week.

The Islamic State’s followers may throw gay men off buildings but the rest of the Muslim world, if not exactly cheering from the street, won’t be stopping them either.  Mainstream Islam will never condone Gay rights, any more than it will see equality between men and women as a desirable aim and arguing and nitpicking over who ‘owns’ this latest massacre is an insult to the dead and a dangerous distraction for the living. The Islamist’s have at least found equality in hatred even if we haven’t found it in grief.

© Nigel Wingrove 2016

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Je Suis......Memed Out

About sixty minutes was all it took for 129 mainly young people to die and for another 352 to be wounded, their bodies raked by bullets and shrapnel, as Islamic fanatics, their hearts black with hate for the infidel and his depraved Western civilisation, fired off round after round from their ubiquitous AK47s and casually tossed grenades into the piles of wounded afterwards just in case some were still alive. This latest attack, Paris’s second in a year and one of the worst terrorist atrocities committed in modern Europe, was an Islamic declaration of war, and one that the West must respond to. The Clash of Civilisations, so long predicted and so long avoided, is finally upon us and to win this war the West will have to become what it has so long feared to be, a people whose belief in their culture, faith and values is as strong as our enemies is in their religion. Strong enough in fact to wipe ISIS and radical Islam off the face of the earth or at least drive it out of Europe. Anything less and Europe at least will be lost to Islamic barbarism for centuries.

For years those who have decried Islam and warned of its slow encroachment and insidious usurping of our culture have been dismissed as racists, Islamophobes and fascists while Islamic appeasers, multicultural zealots and politically correct apologists have paved the way for the West’s pending subjugation. Indeed ever since the Iranian revolution in 1979 when the Shah, a Western backed puppet, was left dangling while the West effectively betrayed him and his westernised country, abet a corrupt and shabby interpretation of one, and left Iran to its fate while the Ayatollah’s  revolutionary guards did their stuff, we have misjudged and misunderstood the Islamic world and the Middle East in particular. No more so than in our ludicrous embracing and encouraging of the Arab Spring, which led, body-part by bloody body-part, to the Friday 13th massacres in Paris.

Rarely has the West’s liberal intelligentsia shown itself to be more self serving than over the Arab Spring, where, from its first stirrings in Tunisia which saw President Zine El Abiding Ben Ali pack his bags and flee to Saudi Arabia, Western governments have dumped old and loyal allies and thrown in their lot with the new kids on the chopping block. Seemingly with little or no understanding of who the trendy ‘rebels’ are or what a new government created by these romanticized ’freedom fighters’ would  look like? Or indeed what kind of society would emerge by overthrowing the existing regime? 

To the dreamers that make up much of the West’s liberal Establishment or among the Young Turks that swan around Washington’s Capital Hill clutching their iPhones and whooping at every Arab Spring posting on Twitter; Tunisia would become a democratic wonderland full of Starbuck cafés where the bright young things of the day could discuss new ideas like LGBT rights, Safe Place Apps and Global Warming. This was just too wonderful! And it was….

After Tunisia came Egypt’s moment and following a big ballyhoo in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, lots of shouting, a police charge on Camel back, Egypt’s 30-year rule by President Hosni Mubarak, ended. Mubarak, who had supported the Allies in the first Iraq war and committed Egyptian troops in the 
campaign to liberate Kuwait, who had risked assassination several times by his opposition to radical
Islamist movements, and made treaties with Israel. Who had, in fact, proved himself a reliable ally to the West on many, many occasions and a stabilising factor in a region known for its volatility was 
effectively sacrificed on the alter of Western liberal ideology and hypocrisy. 

For while Mubarak’s regime was plagued with corruption and allegations of brutality against his opponents this had not prevented the West from maintaining good relations with Mubarak, who was generally viewed favourably by Western governments up until the Arab Spring. So it was vaguely revolting to see Prime Minister Cameron on the first flight out to greet the military rulers who were keeping the lid on things following the ousting of Mubarak. Britain he said was a true friend to Egypt, though he should perhaps have prefaced that with fair-weather. Cameron also said that “there really must be a move to civilian and democratic rule as part of this important transition to an open, democratic and free Egypt." Hurrah! 

Not to be left out, a more cautious Hillary Clinton visited Egypt two months later, saying that the 
US was committed to seeing true democracy in Egypt led by a government that reflected the true
diversity of Egypt’s peoples. It was a pity then that that the Egyptian people voted in the Islamist Egyptian Brotherhood party and that within a year the newly elected President Morsi would be deposed and arrested by Army chiefs along with thousands of his supporters, hundreds of whom would be executed. 

This great democratic experiment in one of the most important countries in the Middle East has seen a relatively stable and prosperous Arab country reduced to being run by a military dictatorship, while an ISIS backed insurgency grows in the Sinai region. Its tourist industry is ruined and the country is increasingly riven by strife and the threat of violence and, surprisingly, Prime Minister David Cameron, Egypt’s great ‘friend’ is nowhere to be found. 

After the toppling of President Mubarak, the West’s crusader liberal evangelists were on a roll and 
encouraged uprisings everywhere, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Syria were now in their sights. Even
Saudi Arabia was talked about in hushed whispers, if Libya could fall …. then why not the House of Saud, the Mordor of dictatorships gasped the Young Turks.

By now though street protests and catchy hashtags on Twitter had given way to bullets and baton rounds. Yet still the West encouraged dissent, and when it came to Libya we wanted to join in.  
France, England and the US committed jets and led a bombing campaign against government buildings and the forces of Colonel Gaddafi with the result that, a few months later, a terrified Gaddafi was shown being roughed up and shot by a mob of jeering rebel soldiers. Hurrah!

Again, seemingly drunk on the heady mix of revolution and victory, Prime Minister Cameron, along 
with France’s Nicolas Sarkozy flew straight out to Tripoli to big it up with Libya’s gun-totting rebels.
Here, surrounded by armed men and the world’s press, Cameron spewed forth, what, even
then seemed like absolute drivel, and now, with the benefit of hindsight, was madness:

“The Arab Spring is a massive opportunity to spread peace, prosperity, democracy
and vitally security, but only if we really seize it”

The Libya rebels of course seized the opportunity with both hands, murdering opponents, grabbing and selling weapons, fighting amongst themselves, murdering the US’s ambassador, Chris Stevens,
in Benghazi, and generally creating a lawless and ungovernable Hell-hole on the edge of Europe. A Libyan Hell-hole that ISIS started moving into about three years ago and of which they now control a sizeable and growing section around the coastal city of Sirte, which no doubt David Cameron will be visiting soon to explain the marvels of democracy to those citizens that still have heads. 

It was in Syria though that the West’s addiction to spreading democracy amongst Muslim peoples
with no tradition of democracy reached its nemesis. Here President Assad, who has presided over Syria for some 15 years and where, in the historic city of Damascus in an area once known as the Cradle of Civilisation, he allowed all faiths, Christian, Jew, Muslim to worship, and where alcohol was permitted and where, for most, life was pretty tolerable. However Assad is a dictator; Syrian elections allow for no opposition and his regime, like Saddam Hussein’s in Iraq, is Ba’athist, in that it follows an Arab nationalist ideology and allows for no criticism. It can also be brutal in its suppression of opponents but as in Iraq, for the majority of its citizens life was stable, and for many good. 

In fact Syria and Assad, again like Iraq and its former ruler Saddam Hussein, posed no threat to the West, yet buoyed up on Arab Spring mania the West stirred up opposition groups to Assad and egged on the protestors who rapidly went from throwing stones to firing guns and the regime did the same. The West’s liberal pack had now created what they wanted, a civil war against a ’fascist’ style dictator, this was Spain 1936 all over again, with Assad in the role of Franco and updated for the 21st century. 

With Syria, Britain’s Prime Minister Cameron wrapped in the flag of democratic self-righteousness, was on the attack straight away saying to the United Nations in 2012; “Those who look at Syria today and blame the Arab Spring have got it the wrong way around. You cannot blame the people for the behaviour of a brutal dictator. The responsibility lies with the dictator”

A year later Cameron would go on to propose, as with Libya, bombing Syria to help the ‘rebels’ remove Assad. However, unlike with Libya, by 2013 even the most fanatical supporters of the Arab Spring could see that their Spring was turning rapidly to Winter. Further, the Syrian rebels, who the West were arming indiscriminately, were committing atrocities against Christians, destroying villages and butchering captured Assad soldiers. So much so that Russia’s President Putin described the rebels as animals and for the first time the West had doubts over who these ‘rebels;’ were.

Then one of the more shadowy rebel groups fighting in Syria called the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate, merged with another, even shadowier group, led by a Wahhabi/Salafi jihadist extremist called Abu Bakr ak-Baghdadi. This merger initially went relatively unnoticed in Western circles, which is a pity as the new rebel groups name was: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL… Now generally known as ISIS this shadowy group is now on a major tour, shooting up cities in Europe and downing airliners. Its followers wear chic black clothes, are wizard on social media, and are known to take a dim view of gay men, women, Christians and non-believers generally, often removing their heads. 

Yet the West, despite helping to create ISIS, destabilising large parts of the Middle East and as a result causing the worst refugee crisis since World War 2 the West continues to avoid tackling the 
growing elephant in the room, Islam, preferring instead to skirt around the issue by hiding in safe places on social media and creating inane visual memes and soft, comforting phrases. As if by giving each other linguistic hugs ISIS will go away. 

Thus within minutes of the Paris attacks beginning, the victims of the attack were busy creating Paris hashtags, illuminating buildings in the colours of France’s flag, denouncing any criticisms of Muslims as racist, and designing a Paris victims peace sign with the Eiffel Tower as its centre. People loved it and the attack’s victims, that is, us, ensured that it went viral. As if by pouring our grief into creativity we could  defeat or pacify our enemies. 

We cannot. Radical Islam hates the West, it hates our culture, our weaknesses and our beliefs. It has no love of art, poetry, literature or music. It hates it. It loathes our heritage and will destroy our libraries, our art galleries, our museums and the places where we entertain each other. It will burn and eradicate all that is not Islam and kill or enslave all those who will not convert or bow to the sword of Islam and it will stamp on your hashtags and pretty logos. That is what is coming. That is what a Clash of Civilisations means.

We created this mess by our meddling, by our ludicrous support of the Arab Spring and by our arrogance and we have to make it right or ISIS, or its successors, will destroy us and all that we love unless we are prepared to fight to save it. To preserve what our ancestors created. If not, then we deserve what’s coming and no amount of hashtags and clever graphics will save us then.

©Nigel Wingrove 2016

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Since the slaughter of nine cartoonists and journalists at the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo a huge amount of pious nonsense has been said and written about defending free speech and the right to offend. Indeed, many of the West’s leaders, including the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron, marched arm-in-arm with France’s François Hollande and over three million French people to pledge and show their commitment to free speech and the right to ‘offend’. 

Yet out in the real world ‘offending’ against Western societies new politically correct totems of racial inclusivity, sexual tolerance, religious cohesion and all the other ‘isms’ so beloved of our multicultural nirvana is increasingly difficult, or indeed, an ‘offence’ in itself. Western society, and the UK in particular, may pay lip-service to the concept of free speech but has over the last two decades become so inured to protecting minorities from possible ‘offence’  that any dissent in the form of criticism is regarded as either extremist or criminal. 

Now our post Charlie Hebdo world is already extending its talk of ‘extremism’ beyond the kalashnikov wielding jihadists and their head-hacking disciples to include the far-right and anyone else who criticises Islam too much. Many establishment people are, having perhaps looked at Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons for the first time, characterising their arabic caricatures as both racist and as ’going too far’ and thus are slowly becoming apologists for their creators murderers. 

Free speech should mean just that, the right to say and offend anyone regardless of their religion, race, sexual orientation, disability, and physical appearance. People’s feelings should be open to attack but the introduction of the concept of  ‘hate’ speech’, ‘incitement’, ‘extremism’ and of course the catch-all, ‘causing offence’ mean that virtually any dissent, whether verbal or written, can be censured or prosecuted, or both, and our ‘Free Speech’ championing governments are to blame.

The relentless pursuit of inclusivity and tolerance have instead created a society that is both intolerant of dissent and which fears and avoids virtually anything that may cause ‘offence’. Schools and universities are increasingly encouraged to preface literary and artworks with ’Trigger Warnings’ in case the content upsets or emotionally disturbs a reader unprepared for such ghastliness. Lectures are can be stopped or elicit protests on the grounds that the words or subject that are intended to be discussed, abortion or non abortion for instance, may be too offensive for some to hear, or even consider as a concept.

Yet ironically it is at one of our centres of learning and of free speech, The Oxford Union, that our post Charlie Hebdo love of ‘Free Speech’ is about to be truly tested. The Oxford Union has a history and reputation for inviting people from all walks of life and opinion to speak and that list includes many controversial figures from all sides of the political spectrum including politicians like Tony Blair, Tony Benn, US Presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, the Reverend Ian Paisley, the current Home Secretary Theresa May, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, Yasser Arafat as well as quirkier figures like Pamela Anderson, Russell Brand, Salman Rushdie and Tracy Emon. All have spoken and demonstrated the value of ‘free speech’ at its most basic, the freedom to speak ones view and for the listener to hear them. So it is ironic that less that ten days after the Charlie Hebdo slaughter that there are calls for the Oxford Union’s latest guest speaker, Marie Le Pen, the leader of France’s Front National, to be banned from speaking on the grounds that her words would promote division and Islamophobia. 

There is also a good chance that Marie Le Pen may become the President of France in two years time so hearing her speak and debating with her may have some validity… The move to ban her is 
also systemic of the UK’s growing victim culture. Marie Le Pen’s words may offend so rather than let her speak she should be banned. Silenced. Any words, spoken or written, that challenge our new totems of inclusivity and tolerance, are now silenced by cries of racism, Islamophobia, homophobia sexism, and fattism (the victim du jour,). 

If it offends, or hurts or hates then whole armies of bureaucrats and the ‘offended’ are now on hand to prosecute and to hound the ‘offender’ and silence them. A great victimhood waiting to be outraged or offended, their fingers forever poised over their Twitter App, ready to wail and demand retribution. For them free speech is only about the power to say NO and never about the right to say YES. 

Of course uncensored bigotry is offensive and upsetting. Words, despite the schoolyard rhyme, can and do hurt. Hatred causes fear and alarm, and so can cartoons. Yet in the US, the Ku Klux Klan can say what they want protected by the First Amendment as can pornographers, racists and fascists alongside communists, anarchists and Islamists for that is the essence of free speech. Hate speech is as valid as nice speech, it is the darkside of the same coin and by prosecuting and silencing all that offends we risk creating a world of bland soundbites and inane platitudes and that would be the greatest offence of all. 

© Nigel Wingrove 2015

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Last year (2014) following the brutal abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok, Borno by militant Islamist movement Boko Haram, (’Western education is forbidden’), President Obama’s wife Michelle posted a photograph of herself on twitter holding up a sign which read #BringBackOurGirls. Within hours hundreds of thousands of celebrities and ’concerned’ people worldwide reposted the same hashtag and achieved absolutely nothing, accept perhaps a sanctimonious glow of having done the right thing. Indeed following this decisive action by America’s First Lady, the European Union followed the Twitter assault on Boko Haram with one of their own, passing a resolution “calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the abducted schoolgirls”. Boko Haram, of course, ignored both, and in the meantime have gone from strength to strength, recently murdering some 2000 people around the town of Baga. The schoolglrls are, surprisingly, nowhere to be seen…

While Boko Haram were busy raping schoolgirls and massacring villagers and anybody else who doesn’t adhere to their brand of Wahhabi and Salafi inspired jihadism another group of happy-go-lucky head-hacking rapists were getting ready to party. The new gang had the catchy name of  Islamic State of Iraq and Levant or ISIL for short and this time the party was in Syria and Iraq where there were thousands of defenceless Yazidis Christians and other minority groups that these new Islamists on-the-chopping-block could amuse themselves with. 

The rise of Islamic State on a tide of blood, rape, heads, genocide and atrocity videos has had the West in turmoil about how to fight it, not least because ISIL’s brand of slice ’n’ dice Wahhabism, which encourages the taking of sex slaves and souvenir heads, has acted like Islamic catnip to the legions of young wannabe jihadists that mope about Western cities despising Western culture and spend their evenings watching radical Imans and decapitation porn on Youtube. In fact, ever since the Islamic State spread out from Syria into Iraq and started decapitating Western hostages, and at the same time turning their chief hacker, Jihadi John, into an internet sensation, ISIL have put the West on the back foot and high-lighted yet again the West’s seeming inability to confront Islamic fundamentalism. 

With ISIL, while there was universal condemnation of its brutality this was, and is, always mixed with the absurd spectacle of Western leaders, like the British Prime Minister David Cameron, and numerous media outlets, who repeatedly state and trumpet that ISIL is an affront to Islam, and that it is not representative of Islam or Muslims generally as they are peaceful and represent a religion of peace. This is both patronising and nonsense coming as it does from non Muslims.

Yet this softly, softly approach to radical Islam’s excesses is as nothing compared to the West’s abject abasement and verbal contortions every time a ‘lone wolf’ ‘mentally deranged’ or ‘Asian’ drives a car into passers by, or stabs, or shoots, or decapitates or blows himself up in the name of Islam. Then, like the followers of Islamic State or Al Queda, these ‘Muslims’ are suddenly not real ‘Muslims’, but aberrations, or unMuslims, their actions and statements a bastardisation of Islam and Islamic teachings. So, in recent months as these unMuslims murdered, rammed and hacked to death people in Canada, Australia, France, the UK and the US we could relax because, although all the perpetrators were Muslim and all the victims weren’t, these attacks were, despite the evidence, carried out by unMuslims. Then France happened. 

Charlie Hebdo. A magazine born and put together by the generation of 1968. Its pages flavoured by the CS gas that wharfed in from the barricades that had lined the boulevards of Paris all those years ago and its ink the same as that which had written all the antiestablishment slogans that had inspired the students in their ‘revolution’, and now, 47 years later, that same ink had killed them. 

This magazine and its cartoonists, in a nation that loves cartoons and graphic art, had lampooned all religion and the Establishment, yet, like its close ally in print, the newspaper Libération, it had also embraced and championed multiculturalism, attacked racism, hated the Front National and generally pursued a left-leaning secular socialism. Therefore the murder of its editor and key cartoonists by French Muslims was both truly shocking to the French nation, and to the wider left-leaning establishment in the Western world generally. This was a bullet to the heart of Europe’s multicultural nirvana and it hurt. 

These murders couldn’t just be dismissed as the actions of the mentally disturbed or an unMuslim and at first it seemed that the media and the West’s political intelligentsia might just have been shocked out of their multicultural stupor and would see the Charlie Hebdo slaughter for what it really was: a  further demonstration, if one were needed, that the West is at war with a religious faith that has one aim, the establishment of a worldwide Caliphate that the rest the of the world must submit to or die. 

Yet within minutes of the attack the BBC and other news agencies, as well as politicians, were going through incredibly complex mental contortions in which to represent the wider French Muslim community as the real victims and, in an amazing piece of verbal dexterity by the BBC, they also managed to reappoint the wider blame for the shootings back to Chalrie Hebdo and the West by suggesting that the Islamic faith is more sensitive to attacks on it than other faiths and therefore it shouldn’t be ridiculed or criticised to the extent that Charlie Hebdo lampooned Islam as that would in a sense ask for Islam’s followers to attack it. The BBC also suggested that French society was to blame for not allowing Muslims to be truly both Muslim and French in France and that France’s very secularism was, in fact, a hinderance to Muslim integration and that France should therefore change its constitution to accommodate Islam rather than the other way round.

Then, as if to ram home the West’s utter inertia and ineffectiveness in the wake of a murderous assault on its values, France, having had its 9/11 moment, also had it’s First Lady moment and created a completely useless hashtag; ‘#JeSuisCharlie’. Now millions of people worldwide can hold up a pen, and a piece of paper, and for a brief, fleeting moment, feel that they are standing up to terrorism and radical Islam, or at least standing up to those ghastly unIslamic, unrepresentative, mentally-challenged Muslims that give all the nice Muslims a bad name. Then, in a few weeks, like the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, it will all be forgotten until the next time some unMuslims decide to demonstrate the failure of the West’s ongoing Appeasement policy. Perhaps our next hashtag campaign should be #IamNevilleChamberlin 

© Nigel Wingrove 2015

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Vacuous celebrity driven consumerism and criminality repackaged as a cool lifestyle choice

In the Bling Ring, Sophia Coppela's captivating take on a gang of real life teenage celebrity wannabes who steal from the young rich and famous in order to be like the young rich and famous, the overwhelming sense is of functioning dysfunctionality. Of a people so immured by their sense of ennui and inertia that without their daily fix of celebrity gossip and consumerism, they would ossify and die. 

Here young girls covet the trappings of Yamaoto and Manolo Blahnik, Westwood and Prada et al as if they were the nectar of the Gods, as in many ways they are. Taking Paris Hilton's shoes and Rachel Bilson's dresses were only part of the attraction, by wearing the clothes and jewellery these thieving cognoscenti were taking on both the trappings of their victims and becoming them at the same time. They were also, bit, by stolen bit, becoming what they coveted most, celebrities themselves, and that notoriety and that excitement , reported in breathy terms night after night on the local Beverly Hills TV channels, only made them want more.

The same sense of desperation for excitement and dissipated consumption was at the centre of Harmony Korine's film Spring Breakers in which four bikini-clad teenage girls rob cafés in order to get enough money to party like there's no tomorrow at the forthcoming Spring Break week. Here hedonism ceases to have any decadent higher plain or search for self, it is instead a decent into oblivion. Days and days of drug and alcohol fuelled partying, where pleasure is transformed into an end in itself, almost as if one arrives, and having arrived, must be seen to party, so that partying is the beginning and the end. There is no middle, no pause, no faking or resting, just relentless, continuous, ceaseless pleasure, until the pleasure, like those pursuing it, nolonger has meaning or purpose, it just is.

Ours is a world of fast connectivity and instant likes and dislikes, where gratification is almost a right and where vast wealth and glamour are paraded and flaunted, and are in turn coveted as proof not just of ones status but of ones existence. Into this mix has now been added celebrity, not fame for being famous, but celebrity of self, of the I, and the me. We are now living in a world of the vainglorious and shallow, where coveting the expensive trappings of celebrity gives succour to our fragile egos, and adorning ourselves in a veneer of celebrity-lite chic only masks our desperation to be someone more than us, or other than us. 

Social media is ME media, where Instagram selfies and Facebook fantasies of our exciting lives aspire to the celebritisation of the Self and the elevation of the nonentity into an entity. Here our online ME is the new ME, the exciting ME, the it's all about ME, me. Here we can be anything and everything. Yet most of all we want to be them, the celebrity on the front of The Sun or Closer, falling out taxis, being cheated on, or six months gone, with pictures that make us gawp. This is what we want and what the teenagers who stole from Lindsay Lohan  and Orlando Bloom want, we want what they have because no amount of fantasising on Instagram and Facebook or posing in a selfie can hide the fact that they have and we haven't. 

The alternative to the want is oblivion, to turn I want into I wasted. The heroines of Spring Breakers, drink and tease and in a drunken haze one nearly naked girl (Rachel Korine) writhes on a floor covered in the detritus of the party, singing and giggling over and over again, "you're never gonna get this pussy" while a gang of lusting, leering boys look on. You can look but you can't have.

Soon the girls hook up with a clichéd gangsta, all dreadlocks, tattoos, guns and slurred catchphrases and the girls are donning Pussy Riot style masks and making their gangsta boyfriend suck their guns before they start shooting rival niggas like real badass motherfuckers. Cute, drugged-up and celebrated the girls drive off towards the distant neon lights of the big city. Celebrity, money, and happiness awaits.

So the aspiring celebrity, self obsessed, consumer driven wannabe has three choices, the I, myself, me route of delusional Instagram selfies, Twittering and Facebook postings; stealing the trappings of celebrity; or total oblivion. 
The alternative is to walk away...

© Nigel WIngrove 2013