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  Opinion   Columnists  24 Mar 2023  Farrukh Dhondy | Of free speech and the Left, of Asians in UK & ‘cancel culture’

Farrukh Dhondy | Of free speech and the Left, of Asians in UK & ‘cancel culture’

In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."
Published : Mar 25, 2023, 12:14 am IST
Updated : Mar 25, 2023, 12:14 am IST

All The Spectator’s writers, boobies and cry-babies, protest against the “cancel culture” which denies the likes of Suella a platform

A woman runs across London Bridge, backdropped by Tower Bridge, as she exercises in central London. (Representational image / AFP)
 A woman runs across London Bridge, backdropped by Tower Bridge, as she exercises in central London. (Representational image / AFP)

“The saints who abjure earthly love

In favour of profundity above

Should know not that love can be profound

And sweep earthly lovers off the ground

Don’t postpone love till your next birth

Love is the door to heaven on earth.”

From Ghantey Bhari Tales, by Bachchoo


I subscribe to a weekly British publication called The Spectator. I read it as, say, Vladimir Putin would read the Wall Street Journal or perhaps, let’s say, I read it for the same reason that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy might regularly watch Russian TV.

There’s another reason. I also subscribe to the fortnightly Private Eye, whose mercilessly satirical half makes me laugh. As do very many articles in The Spectator, but as they say, not with them, but at their studied and persistent absurdities.

Their columnists, for instance, persist in prose-panicking about adolescent idiots at universities insisting on changing pronouns from “she” to “they” to enforce some gender fantasy. One regular writer, Douglas Murray, devotes a lot of space to denouncing British museums and institutions which have recently taken to correcting historical bias in their exhibits. When publishers adopt some current fad about expunging words and phrases which might offend some ethnic or gender group, master Murray declares that this is the end of civilisation as we know it (CAWKI).

It’s what makes me smirk, smile, laugh out loud…. As some bad boys do when they encounter a person with billboards declaring that The End of The World is Nigh. Even while mocking this prediction, we must realise that global warming might, even in the remote future, make this billboard prophecy come true. Scientists see signs of it in the melting of glaciers and unusual storms which they trace to the effects of GW. Symptoms, symptoms -- the end of the world… Well, not quite!

But the end of CAWKI? Shall we look around? Yes, Roald Dahl’s books are being slightly altered. Some statues of people who profited from the slave trade are being toppled, some children are insisting that they don’t like the gender their DNA determines they are, some speakers are being “non-platformed” because student unions at universities object to their views. Yes, indeed there are symptoms of the end of civilisation as we know it. But then there are other symptoms which absolutely testify that the “civilisation” as we know it is substantially, significantly, unchanged by “wokery”.

A Russian mafia government wages a war to annex or destroy Ukraine. China spreads its wings over poor continents, Donald Trump calls on supporters to “protest” when he’s arrested on criminal charges, Hedgie Sunak is Tory Prime Minister and Cruella Braverman dreams of sending a few desperate asylum-seeking, or even new-life-seeking, boat-people and billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to Rwanda. At least these last two bits of CAWKI will probably meet with the approval of all the writers in The Spectator. None of them would support, say Jeremy Corbyn as PM of the UK, or Bernie Sanders as President of the United States.

Their regular diatribes -- most articles in every issue -- are against some collective phantom they call “the Left”. One of these writers, an American immigrant called Lionel Shriver, wrote an article in the regular vein of The Spectator’s anti-“woke” and anti-“Left” chastising this conglomerate enemy for generalising and lumping disparate people together.

She was, gentle reader, quite right. For instance, she pointed out that these mistaken, misleading or evil people of “the Left” lump Asians together. She contends, and this is true, that there are very many different groups and individuals who could gather under the banner of “Asian”, divided by religion, by class, by being rich or poor, Mirpuri or Tamil etc.

Her article vainly and foolishly inspired -- instigated? -- me to write a letter to The Spectator. One addresses these to the editor of the Letters page which they publish every week. Here’s what my letter said:

“Sir: While sharing Lionel Shriver’s concerns about banning some of the words and phrases on her list, I wish The Spectator would ban the undefined, indiscriminate, generalising and lazy use of the word “Left” to describe any and everything with which your writers disagree. The especially guilty ones are, apart from Shriver, Douglas Murray, Rod Liddle and even Melissa Kite. Included in Shriver’s List of Banned Words (25 Feb 2023) is “The ____ community”. Shriver contends that the membership of any group defined by the phrase in general have nothing in common. She cites ‘Asians’. What have Rishi Sunak, Suella Braverman and Priti Patel in common with the Bangladeshi bus driver in Birmingham? Quite right. So also, ‘the Left’ encompasses a plethora of stances, ideologies and a million shades of opinion. The use of the phrase by The Spectator’s writers is indiscriminate, indolent, bigoted and patronising. Discriminate, define or desist. I realise you may characterise this letter as (unspecified) ‘Left’ diatribe and subject therefore to (right-wing?) ‘cancellation’. Farrukh Dhondy”.

Of course, I didn’t expect them to publish it. Their deputy editor, Toby Young poses, as the advocate of “free speech”. He is even the president of some free speech union. All The Spectator’s writers, boobies and cry-babies, protest against the “cancel culture” which denies the likes of Suella a platform. And my letter? The end of free speech as we know it?

Er… no! The Spectator doesn’t have the readership numbers of the paper or website you are reading.

Tags: free speech, left, asians, uk, the spectator, rishi sunak, suella braverman