PETER HITCHENS: We rant about the BBC Proms… yet make ourselves slaves
Why are arguments about the love of country always held between BBC-type Britain-hating pinkoes, embarrassed by their own nation, and shouty jingoes, who never think about what patriotism really means?
Here we all are in a state of rage about whether the words of Rule, Britannia should be sung at the Last Night Of The Proms.
Yet the same people who claim to be exercised about this meekly submit to compulsory masks, house arrest, the suppression of Parliament, compulsory family separation and a catalogue of outrages against our liberty that only a slavish mind would accept.
For months, jingoes put up with being treated like cattle or serfs. Then they get cross because of a song? What is wrong with them?
Here we all are in a state of rage about whether the words of Rule, Britannia should be sung at the Last Night Of The Proms (pictured above)
A proper patriot knows that what makes us great above all is centuries of liberty, and a state that is beneath our feet, not over our heads.
All they needed to do was to say ‘We’re not putting up with this’ as our ancestors so frequently did. But they gave in without a whimper.
When Britain actually did rule the waves, my late father helped it to do so. In peacetime this involved years of rigorous training, harsh discomfort and long months of separation from home. In wartime, well, you probably know what it involved if you think about it.
That’s why we did not become the slaves of Hitler in the 1940s – because we still controlled the seas that surround us.
By my guess, 40 well-handled destroyers, commanded and crewed by serious, well-trained fighting men, probably made the crucial difference when it mattered. But my father, like most of those who actually do the hard work which defends the freedoms of both pinkoes and jingoes, was not much given to bombast.
The Russian convoys he took part in were grisly, exhausting, sleepless slog, not glorious. He’d lost too many friends in war. He preferred sad sea songs like Tom Bowling to any amount of Rule, Britannia.
Around 1960, not long after an ungrateful government had dumped my father on the beach in post-Suez defence cuts, I first heard Rule, Britannia, sung in a wonderful old-fashioned way by the contralto Constance Shacklock.
Around 1960, I first heard Rule, Britannia, sung in a wonderful old-fashioned way by the contralto Constance Shacklock (pictured, Last Night of the Proms in 2014)
It was a few years before the BBC fell under the spell of the cultural revolutionaries, who have been trying to get rid of such things since 1969. So she was still able to get as far as the verse containing the words ‘Thee haughty tyrants ne’er shall tame’.
I suspect everyone listening, from my eight-year-old self to the most ancient retired Admiral nodding over his grog, pictured those haughty tyrants as foreigners in strange uniforms or silly hats, Bonaparte, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin.
We never thought that – when it came to it – our painfully acquired freedoms would be strangled by a jolly, obese, blond Etonian.
Or that a people once famed for their fierceness and independence would be tamed into muzzled, mumbling submissives by a little well-orchestrated fear propaganda.
Never shall be slaves, indeed. What right do we now have to sing it at all, whether the BBC lets us or not?
Is this advert masking a simple truth?
In the continuing struggle of truth against falsehood, I have complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about an advertisement plastered over bus shelters all over the country.
In the continuing struggle of truth against falsehood, I have complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about an advertisement plastered over bus shelters
You may have seen it. An attractive young woman is shown with half her face obscured by a piece of cloth, which may well have been made from an item of clothing.
‘I wear this to protect you,’ she is supposed to be saying. ‘Please wear yours to protect me.’ I said to the ASA that she may believe this is so, but there is no hard experimental evidence to support the claim that people who wear such loose cloth masks protect me at all.
The poster could claim ‘I wear this because I believe it protects you’. But it is wrong to say that it does.
I am pleased to say that the ASA has agreed to investigate the complaint – and has now referred it to its council. I will let you know what happens.
Covid? You may as well fear falling tortoises
Is anyone still fooled by these figures for ‘cases’ of Covid-19? The more you look, the more you will find, but deaths and hospitalisations keep going down. It’s increasingly clear that the virus rarely affects healthy people.
In fact, I’d guess that the chance of a healthy young person dying from Covid is about as great as the chance of an eagle dropping a tortoise on your head and killing you.
This actually happened to Greek playwright Aeschlyus about 2,500 years ago, so it must be about due to happen again, especially with the growing eagle population in the country, and the huge number of pet tortoises on which they might swoop if hungry. Be afraid.
Using the panic-stricken logic applied to Covid by Health Commissar Matt Hancock, we should surely be taking serious precautions against this menace.
Using the panic-stricken logic applied to Covid by Health Commissar Matt Hancock (above), we should surely be taking serious precautions against this menace
Perhaps the enforced wearing of tortoise-proof helmets might be necessary, or anti-eagle netting installed over the back gardens of tortoise-owners, who should from now on be strictly licensed.
But my favourite Hancock-style solution is the compulsory greasing of all tortoises, so that eagles cannot pick them up in the first place.
I think this meets the precautionary principle quite well, and I’m sure our domestic grease industry can cope with the demand. Save Lives. Control the Tortoise.
For some years I have written occasionally for a thoughtful American magazine called First Things. Last week, they asked me to censor what I had written.
They said: ‘We are trying to be slightly less critical of the lockdown measures on the site these days (though criticism is of course warranted), so we’ve made a few changes to the final paragraphs.
‘The First Things board has concerns about some of the pieces we have published on Covid. They have asked us to be less dismissive of Covid-19.’
They then asked me to ‘revise’ what I had written (which I have now published unrevised on the Peter Hitchens blog). I said no, and have ceased to write for them. It is a sign of the deep damage this panic is doing to Western freedom that the censor’s stupid, heavy hand should reach even into such gentle places.
If you want to comment on Peter Hitchens click here.