Archive for the ‘Stage’ Category

A Small Family Sex Show in Bristol Cancelled Because of Petitions and Death Threats

April 26, 2022

As a Bristolian, I feel I have to add my fourpence worth about this controversy. One of the arenas of the culture war is over sex education in schools and especially sex education, with particular concern about the teaching or promotion of homosexuality and transgenderism. Parents and politicians are concerned about proper age-appropriate teaching of these subjects. The controversy seems to be particularly acute in America, where various, mostly right-leaning journos, activists and media pundits like Michael Walsh have criticised videos posted on TikTok of teachers coming out to young pupils and announcing that they’re gay, non-binary or trans. There have been instances where primary school children have been asked about which gender they identify with, as apart from their biological sex. One teacher proudly announced the ‘gender closet’ in which children can get changed into the clothing of the opposite sex when they want to keep it secret from their parents. There have been very sexually explicit books published for schools about gay and gender issues, containing the kind of imagery that once upon a time only used to be found in hard porn. And schools have also been told that, if a child trans, they should not inform his or her parents. As a result, there have been meetings of outraged parents confronting their local school boards in various towns and cities across the US. The Republican governor of Florida,, Ron de Santis, has just passed his so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ act, which forbids the teaching of anything about sex and sexuality, including heterosexuality, from ages 5 – 9. The Disney corporation and various LGBTQ+ employees have been particularly incensed by it, and have tried to mobilise opposition against the bill. This was in conjunction with a leaked video showing some of its top brass saying that they want half of all their characters to come from ethnic minorities or the gay community. As a result, right-wing Republicans like Walsh are calling for an end to Disney’s autonomy in the state and its tax exemption. I have to say that this shows a somewhat skewed morality. As a massively profitable global enterprise, Disney should pay its fair whack of tax like the rest of us proles. And especially because conditions for its workers in China are so dire that they’ve had to install suicide nets in their factories to stop the wage slaves toiling over their merchandise from killing themselves.

The Tobacco Factory, one of Bristol’s many theatres, put its collective feet firmly into this mire of controversy last week when they announced they were hosting ‘A Small Family Sex Show’ by theatre company ThisEgg. The show was described as woke, Queer and feminist, ,and intended to teach children about sex, using personal experiences, covering sexual orientation, gender identity, boundaries and so on. The show was described as suitable for children of five upwards, and included a section where the performers were free to take their clothes to the extent they felt comfortable. This could be total nudity, or else the removal of bottoms but not underwear, or even just simply staying clothed. The content included teaching children about masturbation, touching as well as other, much more dubious and extreme practices. Quiet-voiced Benjamin Boyce, an American YouTuber who discusses topics like gender identity, went through the description of the show’s contents on their website. This also included various explicit drawings. It was a weird mixture of sex with information about theatre, such as pointing out that the areas to each side of the stage that are hidden from the audience are called the wings. It also promised to teach children about White privilege and supremacy. In the video introducing the show, it’s producers introduce themselves with their pronouns and a description of their race, complexion, hair colour and so on. They seem to have been White, and Boyce wondered why they thought such descriptions were necessary when everyone could see what they were like. But it was the sexual subjects they show intended to teach which naturally attracted Boyce’s astonishment and disapproval. Again and again he wondered aloud how it wasn’t grooming. And others wondered too, on both sides of the Atlantic, with many being very firmly convinced it was.

Karen Davis, a gender critical Black American YouTuber, covered it on her channel. She was concerned that it was aimed at a time when children were only just learning to differentiate between fiction and reality, and that you could not like people while still being civil to them. She was also concerned that it would break down barriers about sex between children and adults, barriers that children naturally have for very good reasons. She was concerned that it was teaching kids not to believe their own eyes and feelings about whether an adult presented a danger, and would so make them vulnerable to predators. Davis has very strong and uncompromising views on the trans issue and she goes further in her opposition than some other gender critical folks. But in this instance her views seem to be very well grounded. She frequently cites the medical and academic literature to support her opinions, which are also informed by her work as a special needs teacher for children. She has also previously worked in centres for people with mental health issues. She knows whereof she speaks. And one of her concerns was about the theatre companies name. ‘Egg’ apparently is trans slang for someone on the verge of being trans, who needs to be ‘hatched’. I wondered if the name wasn’t inspired by a cult BBC show about a group of graduates living in London called This Life, one of whose characters had the monicker ‘Egg’. The show claimed it had the support of one of the organisations charged with protecting children, but a glance at that organisation’s website – it might have been the NSPCC – showed that the show was in conflict with the organisation. This said on their website that one of the signs that a child was being abused or near to a child who was, was sexuality explicit talk.

There have been any number of people on YouTube in Britain and America tearing into the show. Meesh Makeida, a Black British mother, covered it in one of her videos and made it very plain that she definitely would not take her five year old to it. Karen Davis in her video about it compared it to the real, grubby sex shows for adults. Unfortunately, these have been about in my city. The city council voted a few months ago to shut down the, er, ‘gentlemen’s clubs’. And the tone of Park Street in Clifton went up when the strip clubs there closed down in the 1980s.

A large number of Bristol’s citizens also made their opposition to the show very plain. There was a petition against it, which garnered 38,000 signatures. There were also threats of death and violence against the theatre and ThisEgg. This resulted in the show’s cancellation. The producers have claimed that they were forced to pull the show due to the threats, and that these came from a small minority of extremists.

I don’t agree with making death threats, and sincerely hope that those sent did come from a small minority. But the 38,000 signatures on the petition definitely don’t come from a small number of people. I don’t know how many people were actually aware of the show’s existence – I haven’t seen it mentioned on the local news. But offhand I can’t think of anyone who would be happy at such a show being performed in front of children and especially not five year olds.

And grooming is a real and legitimate issue with this play. It appears to be informed by Queer Theory. This, in the view of scholars and critics like James Lindsay, explicitly wishes to break down the barriers between adults and children in matters of sexuality and sexual identity. It’s based on the theories of Foucault, a postmodern philosopher and paedophile. Foucault and other intellectuals tried to get the age of consent reduced to 12 or there about in France in the 1970s, and Foucault himself used to go to North Africa to take advantage of the prostituted boys. One of the issues here is that the gay rights movement in its early stages included many paedophiles and civil rights activists who mistakenly believed that it should be legalised. The gay movement in Britain began making headway when the gay organisations purged the paedophiles from their ranks and made it very plain that gay very definitely did not equal paedo. There are thus fears that the paedophiles are trying to come back in through Queer Theory and the kind of sex education that it produces.

Graham Linehan, the writer of Father Ted, Big Train and the IT Crowd and a very firm opponent of the trans ideology, also discussed the play with American gender critical feminist Kara Dansky. I think Linners believed that ThisEgg were genuine in their concern that children received proper information about sex, just misguided. Dansky, on the other hand, suggested that the company really may have been deliberately grooming children. I hope not. They seemed sincere, but terribly, destructively wrong in my opinion.

When the news that the show was being staged a week ago, some of the commenters on various videos had a dig at Bristol. The city’s terribly ‘woke’, you see, and somehow it’s all the fault of the University. Well, certain parts of the city are very left-wing. People joke about the ‘People’s Republic of Stokes Croft’, for example. Other parts are more moderate or Conservative. And the various initiatives taken by Bristol University, such as lowering admissions for Black and Asian applicants in order to encourage more of them to apply don’t come from a long history of left-wing activism. They seem to be initiated in order to dispel criticism that the university is too elitist and White. But of course, there are left-wing lecturers there, just as there are Tories and others, who keep their political views quiet.

As for theatre in Bristol general, the city has a number of excellent venues. The Hippodrome tends to stage West End musicals like Cats, Return to the Forbidden Planet and even, every so often, the Rocky Horror Show. The Theatre Royal in King Street is one of the oldest in the country, and has produced many of this great nation’s leading thesps. It’s had everything from one man shows by Michael Bentine and John Mortimer, to performances of Into the West, from the film starring Ron Moody as a villain. It also staged more challenging performances about the Vietnam War and its legacy. Another theatre venue, Quaker’s Friars, has staged great plays, one of which was by one of the great 18th century French playwrights, as well as a production of the Hollywood classic Key Largo. And before it decided to put on A Small Family Sex Show, the Tobacco Factory had also put on several excellent plays, including puppet shows for children.

I think it’s excellent that the show has been cancelled, but I’m also acutely aware that children do need proper sex education. There was a time when it was not taught in school, and so children were really ignorant about their bodies, the changes of adolescence and reproduction. We should very definitely not go back there, whatever opposition there is to it by right-wingers like Peter Hitchens.

I’m also not entirely convinced that there’s been this controversy about it just when Bristol is facing a referendum over the elected mayor. At the moment it’s Marvin Rees for Labour. Now the mayor and city council generally have had nothing to do with the show, and no-one has said they have. But I’m afraid that the controversy over the play and the constant statements by the right about it being the product of the ‘woke’ left will lead some people to mistakenly connect it to Labour.

Bristol’s a great city, with great theatre. A Small Family Sex Show isn’t one of them, and shouldn’t have been booked.

Children do need proper sex education, given at suitable ages and using appropriate material. They cannot be left ignorant, but should not be exposed to material that is too explicit either. Especially when there is the danger that real abusers could use to approach children, no matter how well-intentioned the people behind such material are.

Clive Simpson Attacks Anti-Gay Backlash over Teacher’s Drag Performance in America

April 14, 2022

Clive Simpson is a gender critical YouTuber, who posts videos critiquing and attacking the trans ideology and the considerable dangers it poses. As a gay man, he is particularly concerned that the emphasis the established gay organisations, like Stonewall, are placing on the trans movement will lead to a general backlash against gay people in general. He isn’t alone in this. I’ve heard similar fears expressed by Graham Linehan and his guests and conversationalists on his YouTube channel, The Mess We’re In.

In this very short text video, Simpson discusses the right-wing rage being whooped up by Conservative commenters and pundits like Matt Walsh about a drag performance by a teacher in an America school. It was done for the entertainment of the school pupils. The teacher doesn’t appear to trans, but Simpson speculates that he’s probably gay. The performance has been predictably attacked for degeneracy. Simpson is afraid that this is the beginning of the backlash that will see the return of the vicious homophobia openly gay men like himself had to live through in the ’70s and ’80s.

I’m getting nostalgic here for some of the drag performances on British TV in the 1970s. One of the star performers on British TV in that decades was Danny La Rue. The Two Ronnies regularly appeared in drag in their show, singing various comedic parodies of classical songs, and then there was the late, great Les Dawson with his comic female persona. This kind of drag act was based in British musical hall and pantomime. And part of the fun with the Ugly Sisters in pantomime performances of Cinderella are that they’re usually played by very masculine men, who don’t look remotely like women. As for Danny La Rue, I believe it came out after his death that he was gay, but there was, as far as I’m aware, never any scandal about him. Quite the opposite. I can remember an interview with him on British television, which impressed my parents with the way he didn’t sneer at anyone or try and put them down. The worst I’ve heard about him since then was the joke, ‘Danny La Rue wasn’t born. He was left on Mother Kelly’s Doorstep’. Which refers to a music hall song he used to perform.

I appreciate feminists objecting to drag as ‘womanface’, but when I was a child in the ’70s and ’80s it was regarded as just good, clean fun. There was a distinction made between the act and the performer, which was unfortunately often maintained in order to protect some gay celebrities from abuse and hatred if they made their sexual orientation public.

I hope that the backlash gay people like Simpson fear isn’t going to happen. And I’d also like the drag acts to become rather more like they were when I was a lad. When it was all innocent fun, and you couldn’t care less whether the artiste was gay, straight or whatever.

The White Stars and Celebs Who Punched People Live on TV or at Awards

April 2, 2022

Much of the news and debate on the interwebs this week was about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars for making a joke about his wife’s baldness. Jada Pinckett-Smith had shaved her head because she has aloepecia. Rock joked about her doing G.I. Jane 2, so Smith got out of his chair, walked up to Rock and slapped him. After sitting back down, Smith told Rock to keep his wife out of his ‘f***ing mouth’. And then the outrage and speculation began. People have condemned Smith for assaulting Rock, who has not pressed charges. There has been speculation that the incident was somehow staged, as the ratings for the Oscars has been falling with something like only 10 per cent of the American public watching the last one. Hence the suggestion that the kefuffle was set up to add a bit of drama and boost viewing figures. I doubt it very much – it all seemed genuine to me. And if it was set up, it hasn’t worked because the figures for the Oscars were still the second lowest they’ve been.

People have also been wondering how much of it was due to Will Smith’s own unconventional marriage and the influence of his wife, Jada. Smith and his wife have an open marriage, though this is due to Jada having an affair with a Rapper called August. Smith doesn’t seem to have done anything to initiate the open marriage, except put up with his wife’s affair. And phone camera footage from someone in the audience shows Jada laughing immediately after the attack. The conservative commenter Matt Walsh has argued that this definitely shows she isn’t a good wife, as part of a wife’s responsibilities are to stop their husbands behaving like idiots and destroying their careers. In this view, a real wife in the circumstances would have told Smith to sit down, not to be stupid and that they weren’t going to the after show part as she wanted to have a long talk with him when they got home.

And then there was the response of History Debunked to all this. Webb put up a video with a title about this being something to do with increased diversity at the Oscars.

I don’t think so, because I don’t believe that people are violent or otherwise simply because of their ethnicity. Whatever the real motives behind the slap were, it definitely wasn’t the result of urban Black ghetto culture. It simply seems to be a man reacting, or overreacting, to a gibe about his wife. And besides, there have been plenty of White stars and personalities, who’ve punch or tried to punch someone either on camera or at an awards show. Here’s four.

  1. John Wayne vs Barry Norman.

Way back in the 1970s, John Wayne, the star of so many classic westerns, tried to punch the late, genial host of Film (fill in name of the year). But why, I hear you ask, given Norman’s calm, laid back and generally placid demeanour? Apparently it was during various student protests in America. Wayne, who had very right-wing views, started ranting about Communists. Bazza thought he was joking and started to laugh. Wayne got angry and was about to swing a punch at him when someone pressed another whisky in his hand and he settled down. And why not?

2. Angry Husband vs Bernard Levin on That Was The Week That Was.

This is quite similar to Smith’s attack on Rock at the Oscars. Every so often one of clip shows on TV shows this incident from the classic 60s satirical show, created by David Frost. A man comes out of the audience and walks towards Bernard Levin, one of the show’s other hosts. He politely asks Levin to stand up. Levin rises from his seat behind a desk with an expression that shows he has absolutely no idea what’s going on. The man then punches the Times journo and walks off. He angrily tells Levin that it’s because he gave a bad review to a play his wife was in.

3. Jeremy Clarkson vs. Piers Morgan.

This was at an awards ceremony, though I’ve forgotten what it was about. Clarkson’s talked about this on television himself, and said he’s genuinely not proud of his behaviour. Morgan had apparently walked up to Clarkson and accused him of having an affair. Understandably, Clarkson got annoyed and punched the former Mirror editor. At which point, in Clarkson’s telling of the incident, a crowd formed around them. A man smoking a cigar told them to take it outside. A small bloke suddenly rushed up, tore his shirt off and said, ‘No-one mess with me – I’m from Newcastle’.

4. Argy-Bargy between Guardian and Mirror Journalists at the Newspaper of the Year Awards

This was reported in the ‘Street of Shame’ column in Private Eye, way back in the ’90s. The two groups of journalists from the above papers had already been shouting insults at each other and getting increasingly drunk at the press awards. Things came to a disastrous head when the Guardian/Observer team won an award for best investigative reporting. The Mirror crew, who believed it should have gone to them, stormed the stage and tried to grab the much-coveted glass trophy. This slipped from their hands, fell to the floor and smashed. The evening’s corporate sponsor was understandably not amused, and withdrew their sponsorship. However, it would sponsor Young Journalist of the Year, who they clearly trusted to be better behaved.

These incidents aren’t at the same, global level of the Oscars, but they definitely show that irate members of the public, film and TV stars and journalists have been trying to cause bovver on TV and at awards ceremonies long before Smith and Rock. Race doesn’t have anything to do with it. If there’s any common factor here, it’s often men getting angry at what they consider to be outrageous attacks on their wives or marriage, or, in the last case, simply a mixture of intense professional rivalry and copious amounts of alcohol. Which may also have played a factor in Smith’s case.

French Far Right Candidate Eric Zemmour Faces Lawsuit for Denying Nazi Deportation of Gays

March 23, 2022

I found this on France 24. Eric Zemmour, the far right candidate for the French presidential elections, is facing being sued by a number of gay rights groups, who claim that he denied that gays were rounded up in France and deported to the concentration camps during the Nazi occupation. The report runs

‘Far-right candidate Éric Zemmour faces yet another lawsuit in the run-up to France’s presidential election, this time filed by gay rights groups who say he denied that homosexuals were rounded up and deported during the country’s wartime Nazi occupation.

Six gay rights associations told AFP on Wednesday that their criminal complaint for “denial of crimes against humanity” stemmed from Zemmour‘s latest book, “France has not said its final word”, published in September.

Zemmour, a writer and talk show pundit known for his polarising attacks on Muslims and immigrants, is currently polling in fourth position, at around 11 percent, ahead of the first round of France’s presidential election on April 10

In his book, the far-right candidate agreed with another politician who argued that deportations of homosexuals to concentration camps were a “myth”. Such a claim “distorts history to support [Zemmour’s] homophobic positions”, the associations alleged in their complaint.

The candidate’s entourage retorted that “it is not Zemmour’s words that are cited in the book”. They called the legal move a smear attempt ahead of the first round of voting in the presidential election on April 10.

Gay-rights groups feared the candidate’s stance against “propaganda in our schools”, Zemmour’s team added, referring to the former pundit’s claims that children are exposed to “anti-racist and pro-LGBT propaganda” in French schools.’ See

I don’t know what happened in France, but the Nazis certainly did put gay men in concentration camps, where many died. Decades ago one of the great gay British thesps – I think it might have been Sir Ian MacKellan – was in a play, Bent, about the Nazi persecution of gays. My guess is that they were almost certainly rounded up and deported to the camps in France as well, along with Jews and everyone else the Nazis decided was subhuman.

Zemmour has got many other grotty views, mostly about race and Muslims. I think a month or so ago he was accused of something similar by French Jews. I think he was caught saying that Jews weren’t deported to the camps under the Vichy Republic. Now it seems he’s made a similar claim about French gays during the Second World War. But the Sargon of Gasbag, the man who broke UKIP and his fellow Lotus Eaters put up a post praising him on YouTube. Which shows how squalid some of their views are.

Given how horrific the Nazi persecutions were, it’s about time somebody sued him. If he really denied the deportations, then the gays are quite right to sue him.

Book on Medieval Russian State of Kiev

March 14, 2022

George Vernadsky, Kievan Russia (New Haven: Yale University Press 1948).

I picked this book up when I was at College in the mid-80s. I did medieval history at ‘A’ Level and Russian at school, and although that’s long ago, I still have an interest in eastern European history, culture and politics. One of atrocities of this war among so many is the Russian assault on Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. President Zelenskyy has said that he’s afraid that his country, its history and culture will be wiped out. Kyiv is one of the great historic cities of Europe. Great Russian authors such as Mikhail Bulgakov have set their novels in the city, and in music its been celebrated by the great Russian musician and composer, Mussorgsky in his ‘The Great Gates of Kiev’. But from c. 10th to the early 13th century Kyiv, or Kiev as it is known in Russian, was the centre of a great medieval Russian empire.

This book is a comprehensive history of Kievan Russia, looking not just at the reigns of its great tsars, but also the church and religion, its literature and culture, everyday life, relations with the other states and the position of national minorities. It has the following chapters, broken down thus into sections.

  1. Kievan Russia’s Place in History
  1. Is Russia Europe?
  2. Russia’s place in the medieval world.
  3. Divergent and parallel trends in Russian and European history.
  4. The notion of east European history.
  5. The challenge of geopolitics.
  6. The significance of the Kievan period in Russian history.

II. The imperial plan and its failure, 878-972

  1. The imperial plan: dreams and realities
  2. First successes – Oleg
  3. First setback – Igor
  4. A breathing spell – Olga
  5. The great adventure – Sviatoslav

III. Conversion to Christianity

  1. The Russian paganism
  2. Vladimir the Saint before his conversion (972-87)
  3. The story of Vladimir’s conversion
  4. Laying the foundations of the Russian church (990-1037)
  5. The significance of conversion: An early appraisal.

IV. The Kievan Realm, 990-1139

  1. Vladimir as Christian ruler (990-1015)
  2. The struggle between Vladimir’s sons (1015-36)
  3. The age of Iaroslav the Wise (1036-54)
  4. The triumvirate (1054-93)
  5. The reign of Sviatopolk II (1093-1113)
  6. A social legislator: Vladimir Monomach
  7. The first two monomashichi (1125-39)

V. Economic Foundations of Kievan Russia

  1. Introductory remarks
  2. Natural resources and population
  3. Hunting, agriculture and fishing
  4. Agriculture and cattle breeding
  5. Metallurgy
  6. Building industries
  7. Textile arts, furriery, tanning, ceramics
  8. Commerce
  9. Money and credit
  10. Capital and labor
  11. National income
  12. Prosperity and depression

VI. Social organisation

  1. The basic social units
  2. Social stratification
  3. The upper classes
  4. The middle classes
  5. The lower classes
  6. The half-free
  7. The slaves
  8. The church people
  9. Woman
  10. The steppe frontiersmen
  11. National minorities
  12. Concluding queries: on “economic and social feudalism” in Kievan Russia

VII. Government and Administration

  1. Introductory remarks
  2. The lands and the principalities
  3. The three elements of government
  4. The princely administration
  5. Branches of administration
  6. The city-state
  7. The local commune
  8. The manor
  9. The church
  10. The judiciary
  11. Concluding queries: on “political feudalism” in Kievan Russia

VIII. The Russian Federation, 1139-1237

  1. Introductory remarks
  2. The struggle for Kiev (1139-69)
  3. Keeping the balance between east Russia and west Russia
  4. Defense of the frontier
  5. The first appearance of the Mongols: the Battle of the Kalka (1223)
  6. Time runs short (1223-37)

IX. Russian Civilisation in the Kievan Period

  1. Introductory remarks
  2. Language and script
  3. Folklore
  4. Music
  5. Theater
  6. Fine arts
  7. Religion
  8. Literature
  9. Education
  10. The humanities
  11. Sciences and technlogy

X. The Way of Life

  1. City and country life
  2. Dwellings and furniture
  3. Dress
  4. Food
  5. Health and hygiene
  6. The cycle of life
  7. Public calamities

XI. Russia and the Outside World in the Kievan Period

  1. Preliminary remarks
  2. Russia and the Slavs
  3. Russia and Scandinavia
  4. Russia and the west
  5. Russia and Byzantium
  6. Russia and the Caucasus
  7. Russia and the east

It also has a map of Russia in the Kievan period as well as a list of sources, bibliography and index.

I’ve no doubt that some of the material in the book has become out of date in the nearly 80 years since it was first published. For example, the book describes the veche, a popular assembly, as a democratic institution. But others have said that it met too infrequently really to have been an instrument of popular, democratic government. Although you do wonder what history might have been like if it had been. Would we now be looking at the Ukraine as one of the major foundations of European democracy alongside the British parliament, the Swiss cantons and the Icelandic althing?

Despite its inaccuracies, I think that the book is nevertheless an excellent history of this most ancient Russian state and its people.

And I hope it is not too long before peace and justice is restored to this part of eastern Europe.

A History of White Slavery in North Africa and Condemnation of Black American Slavery

February 27, 2022

Charles Sumner, illustrated by E.R. Billings, White Slavery in the Barbary States (N.D.: Amazon).

I just finished reading this short history of White enslavement this week. It’s only about 81 pages, so not a detailed history of its subject. But it’s still very good. The Barbary pirates were a group of Arab Moslem raiders, who seized control of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripolitania in the mid-17th century. They then began raiding Mediterranean shipping and Europe from France, Spain and Italy to Britain and as far afield as Iceland. The captives were held to ransom. Some were given jobs to do. These included domestic servants and keeping taverns, or labouring in the fields. Otherwise were condemned to the infamous galleys. Europeans responded with a series of counterattacks intended to free the slaves and impose treaties on the rulers forbidding them from continuing the slave raiding. These held for only a few years until a new round of slaving began. They finally stopped in the early 19th century after counterattacks by the British and Americans and the French invasion of Algiers in the 1830s.

There’s no biographical information about Sumner, and the book’s blurb states only that it was first published in the 1853. It is clear from its content, however, that Sumner was ardent opponent of all slavery including that of Blacks in his own country, America. He begins by comparing the Barbary states and their slave economy with America’s, right down to both slave territories existing at roughly the same latitude. He then proceeds with a short history of slavery in the ancient world from the Old Testament through the ancient Greeks and Romans and Christian Europe, noting that the word ‘slave’ comes from the Slavonic ‘Slava’, ‘glory’, the Slavs’ own name for themselves, because they were the main source of slaves in Europe. He then states that it is thus quite natural that the Moslems followed their predecessors in practising slavery. The book describes the repeated raids on American and European shipping, the various campaigns of reprisals, chiefly by the French and Spanish, as well as resistance by the victims themselves. There were revolts of the White slaves in the various north African towns and mutinies by enslaved sailors, some of whom managed to escape back to Europe after overpowering their captors. at the same time, communities in Europe and America came together to prey for the deliverance of their loved ones from enslavement and raise money to pay the ransoms. These were not cheap. Sumner includes a schedule of the ransom demanded for various grades of sailor. The ransom for a captain was about $3,000 +. Quite often these payments ran into tens of thousands of dollars.

The raids also had an effect on European literature and culture. Cervantes based his description of north African slavery on his own experience as a slave there. And apart from Don Quixote, he wrote a series of plays intended to raise awareness of the plight of the slaves. And there were others producing plays and poetry, including Aphra Behn, the English female playwright, in her Oroonoko. Sumner celebrates these condemnations of slavery, including that of Bartolome de las Casas, the Spanish friar who protested against the enslavement of the Indigenous American peoples. He rightly describes them as abolitionists, though laments the one-sidedness in so many of their denunciations. They were all too often directly only against the enslavement of fellow Whites while remaining silent about that of Blacks and others races. He points out that Black American slavery was harsher and more brutal than that endured by the White slaves in the Barbary states. Some of these found themselves so well treated and became so prosperous at the jobs they were given, such as keeping taverns and shops, that they didn’t want to return home.

The book still condemns White enslavement in harsh terms, but also condemns the more brutal treatment of Blacks, whose enslavement the author also passionately argues against.

Are British Schools Really Teaching Children that Medieval British Rulers Were Black?

February 9, 2022

A day or so ago Simon Webb of History Debunked put up a video discussing the book, Negro Rulers of Medieval Scotland and England, by a Black American writer, Johnson. This claims that various British monarchs in the Middle Ages and early modern periods were really Black, including James I. He believed that this was a product of the prevalence of conspiracy theories in Black American and also Dutch Muslim culture. Conspiracy theories aren’t unique to either of these peoples. He stated that they were the reaction of people, who believe they are powerless. This seems to me to be about right, especially as they are most common in peoples where there is a strong distrust of the government. Black Americans generally suffer more from poverty, crime, unemployment, drugs and alienation than other demographic groups, and have been subject to overt oppression and exploitation. It’s therefore almost to be expected that conspiracy theories should be far more widespread amongst them than in the White population. Way back in the ’90s folklorists documented various rumours and urban legends in the Black community. Some of these erroneously claimed that named fashion designers and clothing firms wouldn’t market their brands to Black. Another was that Coca-Cola was putting chemicals in the water to sterilise young Black men. This was also very much not true, but given their history and treatment, you can well understand how some people could believe it. Webb considered that it was because of this conspiracy culture that some Black Americans were inclined to believe that some medieval British kings were Black. He compared this to an episode in the 1938 Evelyn Waugh novel, Scoop, in which the hero tries to arrange a visa to enter Ethiopia in order to cover the war there. He is told by an official that just about every major historical incident and invention, from the discovery of the circulation of the blood to the defeat of the Germans in the First World War, was due to Africans. Unfortunately, Webb stated, we can no longer laugh at such historical appropriations. White liberals were taking them seriously, and so books like Johnson’s were being taught in schools. This was also the reason why a Black woman had been cast by Channel 5 to play Anne Boleyn.

Now Johnson’s book clearly exists, as Webb showed its cover in his thumbnail and provided a link to its Amazon page. It seems to be the product of the same brand of Afrocentrism that drew on Gerald Massey’s 1881 Book of the Beginnings and David Macritchie’s 1884 Ancient and Modern Britons to claim that the inhabitants of the British Isles were originally Black. And it seems to me quite credible that some schools are teaching Johnson’s book. According to Stephen Howe’s book, Afrocentrism, there were 350 private, ‘afrocentric academies’, teaching 50,000 children in America in 1991. American public schools also have afrocentric curricula and even whole Afrocentric schools in the Black majority districts in Detroit, Baltimore and Milwaukee (see page 3). But I do wonder how many schools over here are teaching it. I don’t doubt that there are many Black activists and teachers that would like to. Last year during Black History Month the local BBC News for Bristol, Points West, discussed calls for Black history to be taught in schools. If I remember correctly, some were already supposed to have done so. But Britain also has a National Curriculum, which I would have thought would have prevented much Afrocentric material, at least of the extreme type, from being taught.

I also don’t know if books like Johnson’s were behind Channel 5’s decision to have Boleyn played by a Black thesp. It seemed far more likely to me that it came from the theatre, where Black actors have been cast in traditional White roles for a long time. I also think it was influenced by Armando Iannucci’s colour-blind film of Dickens that came out a few years ago. The Tudors are a part of the National Curriculum and have been a staple of British historical programming. Producers are always looking for a way to put a fresh angle on something, and following the BLM riots the TV companies were falling over themselves to promote, or be seen to promote, Black talent. Black History Month was set up partly as a way to motivate Black children at school and raise their academic performance. There may therefore be no other explanation for the broadcaster’s choice of actor than an intention to find a way to appeal to a Black audience as well. The only sure way of proving that the decision was based on books like Johnson’s would be if a document emerges from Channel 5 stating this is the case, or, failing that, they were working with a Black group that took the view that Boleyn and other members of the British 16th century nobility were Black. But Webb doesn’t produce any such evidence.

Some Black Americans may therefore be erroneously taught that Anne Boleyn and the rest were Black, but I see no evidence that such counter-knowledge is being taught in British schools just yet.

Another Spoof Music Video! Keir Starmer as Daft Punk

February 5, 2022

This comes from another group making spoof videos using carefully edited clips of politicos and others public figures who deserve everything this get. This time it’s the Iain Duncan Smiths, who cave produced this video of Keir Starmer singing like Daft Punk. The lyrics are just apparently random words mixed in with his own buzzwords like ‘Jobs’, ‘Work’ ‘Safer’, ‘Better’, ‘families’, ‘communities’, ‘focus grouper’, ‘Polling’, ‘business favours’, Stonger, and ‘Britain in the world forever’. I’ve done a lot on the Tories. Now its their Labour entryist’s turn.

It looks like this was made in response to one of Starmer’s party political puff pieces in which he said nothing substantial whatsoever. Pretty much like the line in the Scottish play where MacBeth says, ‘It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’

The best comment about this is from an individual who says, ‘Bring back Jeremy Corbyn. He’d join in if you made a video about him’. Indeed he probably would, but then he’s a far better class of person altogether.

History Debunked on Diversity Working for Black Representation Against Asians

December 17, 2021

I’ve put up a number of videos from Simon Webb’s History Debunked channel on YouTube. Webb’s an author of a string of history books and a Torygraph-reading right-winger. He specialises in tackling the gross historical distortions and myths that are now being promoted as trustworthy Black history. He’s also, you won’t be surprised to read, an opponent of immigration and affirmative action. I think his videos criticising Black history are largely accurate, though as with anything else on the net you should also check it, and your well advised to take some of his other views with more than a little scepticism. But in the video below he seems to make a good point regarding the over-emphasis on promoting Black film and talent at the expense of other ethnic minorities. It’s shown in the forthcoming Beeb adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days.

Webb argues that Blacks are actually overrepresented in the media compared to their numbers as a percentage of the British population. The total BAME population of Britain is 15 per cent, with Blacks accounting for 3 per cent. But if you look on television or film, you find a much larger proportion of Black actors, performers and presenters and relatively fewer Asian faces. It seems that when it comes to ‘diversity’ and the promotion of non-White talent, in practice this means Blacks. This is shown in the way the Beeb has swapped the races of the leading characters in their version of Jules Verne’s classic yarn. Phileas Fogg remains White, but his servant, Passepartout has been made Black. The love interest is a White woman. But in the book she’s Indian, as apparently having two non-White lead characters would be too much.

It’s a very long time since I read the book, and I can’t remember very much about it, though I’ve got the film version on DVD. Assuming that what he says is right, and the leading lady in the book is Indian, I would have thought that made the story diverse enough without messing around with the other characters. Not so, apparently. Webb speculates that this emphasis on Black talent possibly comes from the TV companies’ need to sell to America, where Blacks constitute a much higher proportion of the population at 13 per cent. I think he has a point. A few months ago a Black actor or director appeared in the I calling for more parts for Black actors otherwise they would leave Britain and go to America. And it certainly seems to me that there are more opportunities for Black actors over the pond. It might also come from Blacks being rather more integrated into the western entertainment business. In America, people were listening to Black music, like Scott Joplin’s Rags since before the Jazz age. Over here, I think the pioneers were the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Americans who made a tour of Britain before the Second World War. And White Brits also listened to Caribbean calypsos before the emergence of Rock and Roll and such great performers as Little Richard, James Brown, Motown and so on. Despite the claims of racism in the music industry, which led to the establishment of the MOBOs as a set of separate music awards for Black artists, it really isn’t at all remarkable to see Black singers and musicians in the charts. In fact, I’d say it would be more remarkable if there weren’t any.

The same with drama. There are a number of Black Shakespearian thesps – Josette Simon, who played Dayna in the classic SF series Blake’s 7, had that theatrical background. I think a year or so ago Lenny Henry, who is very active promoted Black talent, appeared on stage as Hamlet. And this is apart from other plays from the classical repertoire, including those from Ancient Greece. There have also been a number of contemporary plays examining the position of Blacks in western society. I also wonder if part of the relative underrepresentation of Asians – and I am very well aware that there are Asian actors and presenters, like Anita Rani, Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Adil Ray – may come from that community’s general preference to choose careers other than the entertainment industry. Or at least, not the western canon. I am aware of the casting of an Asian actor, whose name I’ve forgotten, as the Master in last season’s Dr. Who, and others in Armando Iannucci’s film version of one of Dicken’s classics. But I wonder if the Asian community generally prefers to look to its own cultural traditions, like Bollywood movies and traditional Indian arts and theatre, rather than mainstream film, TV and music. There have been Asian artists and bands in the charts – Apache Indian, Corner Shop and Kula Shaker, and I remember Jaz Mann’s brief hit with Babylon Zoo in the ’90s. But there seems to be far fewer of them than Black performers.

Clearly in a White majority society, there are limited roles for Black and Asian performers, hence the demand for ‘colour blind’ casting, as actors from ethnic minorities are given the roles of White characters. I also wonder if some of the casting of Black performers for reasons of diversity isn’t part of an attempt to create work for them. I heard from academics years ago that there’s actually only work for a 1/4 of the drama students who graduate everywhere. I think if this was not tackled, it would be particularly acute for Black performers. And so to avoid another furore about racism and for the other reasons discussed, the entertainment industry is deliberately casting Black performers in greater proportion than they are as part of the general British population.

This forced diversity is unpopular with White right-wingers like Webb and Belfield, but it is a problem when it serves to discriminate against Asians. And that needs to be tackled, like any other form of racism.

The Rolling Stones and Boston Dynamics’ Spot Robots

December 5, 2021

I’m fascinated by robots and their use in musical and artistic performances. There’s an awesome robot band, Compressorhead, created by a team of robot engineers who seem mostly to perform covers of Rock and Heavy Metal hits. In this video from Boston Dynamics, the Stoned perform their song, ‘Start Me Up’, accompanied by boogie dance moves from a group of the four-legged Spot robots produced by the company. And these do a very good job of impersonating Mick Jagger.

The Italian Futurists would have loved this, as their art was based on and celebrated the new machine age and industrial Italy that was just then emerging. One of their operas was about a love affair between a train and her driver, while other pieces had titles like ‘The Agony of the Machine’. Real science is catching up with the Futurist aesthetic while popular culture with its robots, video games and the near instantaneous communication of the internet would have amazed and delighted them. The Futurists, however, were determined that their creations were high art, while pop music and videos are seen as much less. Nevertheless, I do wonder how long it will be before the technology becomes sufficiently cheap and accessible for writers and impresarios to use them in rather more serious productions.