Posts Tagged ‘Bohemia’

Israel Is Doing to the Palestinians What the Nazis Did to the Poles

March 4, 2018

One of the methods the Israel lobby uses to silence comparisons between their decades long maltreatment and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and the Nazis’ persecution of the Jewish people, culminating in the Shoah – the Holocaust – to proclaim very loudly that such comparisons are hurtful and particularly offensive to them as Jews, the Nazis’ victims. This doesn’t mean that the comparisons aren’t there. Critics of Israel have pointed out that Israel’s policies towards the Arabs certainly does resemble the Nazi persecution of the Jews up until 1942, when Hitler and the rest of his murderous gang decided on the infamous ‘Final Solution’. The Conservatives and other, self-proclaimed opponents of ‘Political correctness’ have made it very clear that hurt feelings should not be used to silence plain speaking and honest debate. This is true, although by plain speaking it usually means standing up for the type of people, who see nothing wrong with using racist epithets and making very racist remarks about Blacks, Asians and any other ethnic groups they don’t like. See the mouthings of the Daily Mail on this issue for further information.

But the Jews weren’t the only people the Nazis regarded as subhuman. They also despised the Slavonic peoples of Eastern Europe. Hitler made it very clear that in his invasion of Poland, Ukraine and Russia, he was merely continuing the medieval ‘Drang Nach Osten’, or ‘Drive/ Penetration to the East’ of the German medieval kings to conquer the Slav tribes. Prussia was one such state to be Germanised through conquest during the Middle Ages. The Pruzzi, from whom the German state took its name, were a Baltic tribe, and the area was also occupied by the Wends, a Slav people, whose language still survives today around the town of Cotbus in the former East Germany. They also waged war against the Poles. This finally ended with the collapse of Poland in the 17th century, and its annexation by Prussia, Austria and the Russian Empire.

Hitler’s plan for the conquered eastern European territories was to establish a series of German colonies in areas seized from the indigenous peoples. In those areas free of colonisation, the Slav peoples were to be reduced to an uneducated, peasant class, who would provide their German masters with foodstuffs.

D.G. Williamson, in his book The Third Reich (Harlow: Longman 1982) writes

Hitler’s primary aim in eastern Europe was to found a series of new German colonies. In the former Polish territory, which had been annexed by the Reich in 1939 a start was made in resettling German refugees from the Baltic States and eastern Poland, which had reverted to Russian rule in 1939-40. By 1943 the RKFDV had expelled about a million Jews and Poles and brought in roughly the equivalent number of ethnic Germans, of whom only about half were settled on the land. The remainder spent the war in refugee camps. Hitler wished to reduce the Polish population to a semi-illiterate mass whose main function would be to serve the interests of Greater Germany, and to allow the economy to deteriorate into what he called ‘the Polish chaos’. (p. 63).

Further information on the Nazi ethnic cleansing and enslavement of the Poles is provided by Norman Davies in his book, Heart of Europe: A Short History of Poland (Oxford: OUP 1984). He writes

As a result of the September Campaign, the whole of Poland passed under the occupation of Nazi and of Soviet forces. the Polish government and High Command took refuge in Romania, and on 30th September, a new Government was constituted abroad under General Sikorski, first in France, and later in England. On the western side of the Nazi-Soviet demarcation line along the Bug and the San, the Germans established a ‘General Government’ with its headquarters in Cracow. May districts of pre-war Poland, including Suwalki, West Prussia, Wielkopolska, and Upper Silesia, were directly incorporated into the Reich. (P. 65).

According to the outlines of the Generalplan-Ost, the Nazi aimed to redistribute the entire population between the Oder and the Dneiper. German settler were to be introduce by the million. the Poles were destined either for Germanisation where suitable, or for expulsion beyond the Urals. The residual Slavs were to be turned into a pool of half-educated slave labourers. Inferior or useless human beings-Jews, gypsies, recalcitrant prisoners of war, imbeciles and invalids-were to be eliminated….

German resettlement schemes were already under way in West Prussia,, where 750,000 Polish peasants had ben expelled to make way for Germans transferred from the Baltic States. Now the same methods began to be applied in central Poland, notably in the region of Zamosc. In 1942-3, over 300 villages were cleared in this region alone. There remained 400 villages intact simply because the SS could not spare the manpower to clear them. The evictions were attended by unspeakable burnings, beatings and butchery. The well-known fate of the one Bohemian village of Lidice, where 143 men were murdered by a Nazi reprisal order, was visited on Poland not once, but hundreds of times over.
(Pp. 69-70).

Map of Nazi occupied Poland, from Davies’ Heart of Europe, page.69.

Okay, there are some major differences between the Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, like the Nazis and the Nazi occupation of Poland, quite apart from the fact that they haven’t set up death camps to murder them as they did to Polish Jews. The Israelis aren’t interested in retaining the Palestinians as an enslaved peasant class. They just want to expel them. But this has been done through massacre, land seizures and horrific persecution. And Gaza has been compared to a wartime Jewish ghetto.

I am in no doubt that such comparisons will be just as unpalatable to the Zionist lobby in this country, as the comparisons to the Nazi persecution of the Jews before 1942 and the ‘Final Solution’ are. But that does not mean that they aren’t there, and valid.

The truth often hurts, but real history, not propaganda, is about facing up to them, to explain and explore history and recognise what really happened in the past. Not to purvey cosy, patriotic myths about what we’d like to believe happened. This applies to everyone, regardless of nationality, religious creed or race.

Screaming that the comparisons between the Nazi occupation of Poland and the ethnic cleansing and enslavement of its people, or claims that such comparisons must be anti-Semitic aren’t arguments. It’s just more libel and abuse. It’s time for Israel’s supporters to wake up to the facts, and stop their support for Israeli imperialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

Czech President Threatens Journalists with Fake Kalashnikov

October 25, 2017

More from Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks on the rising threat to freedom of the press around the world. In this clip they report on and discuss the behaviour of the Czech President, Milos Zeman, who turned up at a press conference waving around a replica gun which had ‘For Journalists’ written on it. Zeman himself hates the press, and in the past has described them as ‘manure’ and ‘hyenas’. At a meeting with Putin in May, he joked about how some of them deserved to be ‘liquidated’. As Uygur points out, there is very strong evidence that Putin has had journalists murdered, so that joke really isn’t funny. Zeman, you will not be surprised to know, is also a colossal Islamophobe. He has said that Czechs need to arm themselves against a coming ‘superholocaust’ against them, which will be carried out by Muslims. Uygur comments drily, ‘Who knew there were so many Muslims in the Czech Republic, and they were so powerful?’

Zeman’s gun-waving comes after the death of a female journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed by a car bomb in Malta. Galizia was dubbed a ‘one-woman WikiLeaks’ for her dogged pursuit of uncovering stories of corruption. She was killed a week after revealing that Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister of the island nation, had been involved in offshore companies and the sale of Maltese passports and payments from the Azerbaijani government.

Clearly, Malta isn’t anywhere near the Czech Republic, but her death was reported there. And the president, Zeman, thinks so little of the murder of journalists that he ‘jokes’ about it by waving replica firearms around at the press. Uygur also states that the Czechs have just elected a new prime minister, who is the millionaire head of a populist party. He predicts that this won’t end well.

This is clearly a story from a small nation in the EU, but it shows the way journalistic freedoms are being eroded all over the world. The Young Turks point out that democracy isn’t just about voting – it’s also about the freedom of the press and conscience – and this is what has makes Western democracy so great. The Young Turks have also covered the prosecution of journalists and political opponents of President Erdogan in Turkey, and the persecution of another crusading journo in Azerbaijan itself. As well as the attempted assassination of another Russian journo, who was suspiciously stabbed a madman two weeks after the Putin media declared her and her radio station an agent of America.

About ten years ago, John Kampfner wrote a book, Freedom for Hire, in which he described how countries around the world, from France, Italy, Russia, Singapore and China, were becoming increasingly dictatorial. And we in Britain had no cause for complacency, as he described how Blair had also tried to muzzle the press, especially when it came to the Gulf War. The web of corruption Galizia uncovered was so widespread, and went right to the top, so that Malta was described by the Groaniad yesterday as ‘Mafia Island’.

As for the Czech Republic, after Vaclav Havel its post-Communist presidents have been extremely shady individuals. I can remember reading one travel book on eastern Europe, which discussed how his critics had disappeared or been murdered. And following the Fall of Communism, there has come a series of reports and scandals about rising racial intolerance there. The target of much of this is the Roma. It has been reported that the Czech medical service routinely forcibly sterilised Gypsy women in order to stop them having children, and members of various political parties have called for either their expulsion or their extermination. I am not surprised by the Islamophobia, as a little while ago Counterpunch carried a story about one of their contributor’s meeting with a Czech politician, who had very extreme, right-wing views, including a deep hatred of Muslims. There also appears to be an undercurrent of anti-Semitism in the country as well. A few years ago, the BBC’s programme, Who Do You Think You Are, explored Stephen Fry’s ancestry. As Fry himself has said many times on QI, his grandfather was a Jewish Hungarian, who worked for a sugar merchants. It was through his work that he met Fry’s grandmother, who was a member of Fry’s, the Quaker chocolate manufacturer, and settled with her in England. Thus he fortunately survived the Holocaust. Fry travelled to Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic, tracing the movements of his ancestors in the course of their work through the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Fry was, understandably, visibly upset and shaken when he found out just how many of his grandfather’s kith and kind had been murdered at Auschwitz.

He was also very unimpressed by the attitude of some of the Czechs he spoke to in his quest. He quoted them as saying that ‘it is very curious. They knew the Holocaust was coming, but they stayed here anyway.’ He was justifiably outraged at the implication that somehow the millions of innocents butchered by the Nazis wanted to be killed.

It’s possible to suggest a number of causes for the rise in Islamophobia. You could probably trace it back to historic fears about the Ottoman Empire and the conquest of the Balkans by the Muslim Turks in the 15th century. The Ottoman Empire still sought to expand in the 17th century, when its army was just outside the gates of Vienna. It was defeated by Jan Sobieski, the king of Poland, and his troops. The Ottoman Empire persisted until it finally collapsed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, amidst a series of bloody massacres. The majority of these were blamed on the Turks, and specifically the irregular troops, the Bashi-Bazouks. It was their massacres that led to Gladstone calling for Turkey to be thrown ‘bag and baggage out of the Balkans’. But other journalists in the Balkans at the time also noted that the Christian nations, like the Serbs, were also guilty of horrific mass slaughter, but that this went unreported due prevailing Western prejudice.

Part of it might be due to the Czechs being a small nation – there are about four million of them – who have had to struggle to survive against domination by larger neighbours. Their medieval kings had invited ethnic Germans into the country to settle and develop their economy. This led to the creation of what became the Sudetenland, the areas occupied by ethnic Germans, and there was friction between them and the native Czechs. This friction eventually exploded into open conflict in the 15th century in the wars following the attempt of Jan Hus to reform the Roman Catholic church. Czech nationalism was suppressed, and Moravia and Bohemia, the two kingdoms, which became Czechoslovakia, were absorbed into the Austrian Empire. The Czechs and Slovaks achieved their independence after the First world War, but the country was conquered by the Nazis during World War II, and then ‘liberated’ by Stalin. It was then incorporated into the Communist bloc. When Anton Dubcek, the president, attempted to create ‘Communism with a human face’, introducing free elections and a form of market socialism, the-then Soviet president, Anton Dubcek, sent in the tanks to quell the ‘Prague Spring’.

Other factors also include the wave of immigrants from Syria and North Africa, that forced their way through the various international borders to come up through Greece and Serbia in their hope of finding sanctuary and jobs in the West. The Counterpunch article stated that there was a real fear that they would turn east, and swamp the small, former eastern bloc nations like the Czech Republic.

And these racial fears are being stoked throughout the former eastern bloc by the poverty and misery that has come with capitalism. The peoples of the former Communist nations were led to believe that the introduction of capitalism would create employment and prosperity. This has not occurred, and the result has been widespread disillusionment. Counterpunch also ran another article, which quoted the statistic that 51 per cent of the population of the former East Germany had responded positively to the statement that ‘things were better under Communism’ in a poll, and wanted Communism to come back. Similar statistics could be found right across the former Communist nations of eastern Europe.

Now, faced with rising poverty, unemployment and inequality, made worse by neoliberalism, the old fears of racial domination and extermination are rising again, and being exploited by ruthless, right-wing populists. So there are a series of extremely nationalistic, Fascistic governments and parties in Hungary and the Czech Republic. Just like in western Europe there’s Marine Le Pen’s Front National and Germany’s Alternative fuer Deutschland, and Donald Trump and the Alt Right in America.

And across the globe, ruthless, corrupt politicians are trying to curtail freedom of speech and the press, in order to preserve their power. Hence the rising racism, Fascism and violence towards ethnic minorities and the press. These freedoms are at the core of democracy, and have to be defended for democracy to work at all, and governments held accountable by their citizens.

The Brutality of Nazi Colonisation in Eastern Europe

March 27, 2016

Lidice Pic

Poster by the German artist John Heartfield protesting against the Nazi extermination of the Czech village of Lidice. The men were all butchered, the women deported and the village burnt to the ground in reprisal for the assassination of the SS leader in Bohemia, Reinhard Heydrich.

I’ve blogged quite a bit recently about the brutal treatment the Nazis inflicted on the conquered eastern European peoples. They regarded the Slavs as subhuman. One of the aims of the conquest of eastern Europe was to provide Lebensraum – living space – for the Germans to colonise. The conquered peoples – Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Belorussians, Ukrainians and Russians, were to be deported from the areas earmarked for ‘Germanic’ colonisation, and then enslaved to provide cheap labour producing agricultural products for their German masters. Their own cultural achievements were to be destroyed.

Gordon R. Craig describes this process in his book, Germany 1866-1945 (Oxford: OUP 1981). He talks about the blatant seizure of property by the Nazis in the eastern European countries on page 745:

In areas that they occupied in Southern and Eastern Europe the Nazis were more blatant, resorting to confiscations of industrial and financial properties without regard for economic purpose. In the General Government of Poland, the area east of the Corridor, Posen and Silesia that had not been incorporated into the Reich in 1939 and was destined as a dumping-ground for Poles expelled from other areas, the Germans systematically removed all resources except those needed to maintain the life of the inhabitants at a bare subsistence level; and in Russia, of which Hitler had said, ‘Russia is our Africa, and the Russians are our negroes’, the SS deliberately removed or destroyed all forms of industrial production and operated large state farms with forced labour to produce grain for Germany.

In order to provide millions of industrial slave workers for the Reich, Hitler in 1942 established the office of Plenipotentiary General for Labour Allocation, held by Fritz Sauckel. In order to meet the require numbers of labourer, Sauckel rounded up eastern Europeans. Craig describes this process on page 746:

To meet the quotas he set, his agents in the east used the most brutal forms of compulsion, rounding people up in the market place or during church services or in cinemas, burning down villages that did not meet the demands made on them, inflicting merciless punishment on recruits who tried to escape, subjecting the convoys of prisoners of war to the most primitive conditions during the journey to Germany. By 1944 there were 7 million foreign workers in Germany, and another 7 million enslaved by the Reich in their own countries, in state farms, performing military construction work and menial jobs in Germany army camps and installations.

In 1941 Himmler announced his plans for the colonisation of eastern Europe. A roughly square area from Lublin-Zhitomir-Vinnitsa and Lwow was to become a Germany colony. This would serve as a base for SS units controlling the conquered Slav territories outside this area. In January 1931, Himmler told a meeting of SS officials that this would involve the extermination of 30 million Slavs. (p. 748). And I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that 3,700,000 Russian P.O.W.s were murdered by the Nazis in the camps. The Poles and the other eastern European peoples resisted, and did not bowed down to this brutal treatment. By 1943-4 there was an underground resistance movement of 300,000 people in Poland, for example. (p.751).

I’m writing about this not to stir up any resentment against the Germans, who have very strong laws against Fascism and Nazism, the rise of PEGIDA notwithstanding, but because of the way neo-Nazism is also emerging in the former eastern European countries that the Nazis themselves tried to conquer, and whose peoples they wanted to enslave and exterminate. The current ‘democratic’ government in Ukraine includes Nazis amongst the various Right coalition groups. Putin last year sponsored a Fascist junket in Russia, among whose guests was our sawdust Caesar, Nick Griffin. And a Polish Nazi, Marian Kowalski, is planning to come over here next month to meet expatriate Polish Nazis, some of whom are led by Mariusz Zawadzki.

I’ve stated very clearly that no self-respecting person, and especially no-one from eastern Europe, has any business joining any kind of Nazi organisation. How clear does anyone want it? Hitler stated that Slavs were the Nazis ‘negroes’. To the real, proper storm troopers, the Slav peoples of eastern Europe have far more in common, and should make common cause with, the Blacks and Asians the Aryan thugs of the BNP and associated groups hate and terrorise. The people who join Nazi movements, by definition, aren’t patriots. The real patriots were the 300,000 Poles and people like them across Europe, who fought against Nazism.

Metamorphosis: Another Comic Attacking Farage

April 4, 2015

Earlier this week I put up a post about reports in the Belfast Telegraph and ITV that 2000 AD was planning to skewer Farage in a forthcoming Judge Dredd strip. This will pit the hardest lawman in Mega-City One against the corrupt, racist politico, Bilious Barrage.

Now it seems that the Independent also is publishing their comic strip attack on the Purple Duce. I found this piece posted on the SlatUKIP site, reporting a piece in the Independent about the launch of the Metamorphosis comic strip, by one of their cartoonists. The strip seems to take Kafka’s novel, Metamorphosis, and puts an extra spin on it to turn it into a modern parable about racism.

Kafka’s novel is about a man, who wakes up one day to find that he has been transformed over night into a beetle. In this strip, giant intelligent cockroaches have appeared, and are being victimised in same way as foreign immigrants are in contemporary Britain. There is even an anti-cockroach party, UCOC, led by a politician, who looks exactly like Farage. Here’s the link.

http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/metamorphosis-an-exclusive-satirical-comic-we-recommend-you-read–eJlV0wWby1b

Apart from Kafka, the strip also seems influenced by Art Spiegelman’s Maus. This was an alternative comic narrating the experiences of Spiegelman’s father and the situation of the Jews in the Third Reich as an animal fable. The Jews were mice, the Germans cats, and the Poles were pigs. The Independent’s Metamorphosis seems to be following Spiegelman in using comics to combat racism, and animals as metaphors for the different racial groups.

A little while ago I posted a piece lamenting the absence of underground and alternative comics tackling the great issues of modern Britain. Now it seems they’re coming back. And that can only be a good thing, so here’s to more of them, and more power to their artists’ satirical elbows.

Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Disability

While this comic book uses Kafka’s idea of transformation into an insect as a metaphor for racism, the original novel can be read as a parable about disability. Though Kafka himself spoke and wrote in German, the novel’s title in Czech is Zuk, which literally means ‘beetle’, but can also mean anything loathsome or disgusting. Kafka was a clerk working in the insurance department, and his novels of labyrinthine bureaucracy are basically fantastic extrapolations from the real bureaucracy in which he worked.

In Metamorphosis, the hero’s transformation renders him unable to work, and he eventually either dies or commits suicide, because he is an increasing drain on his family. This could be seen as a metaphor for the all-too real predicament the disabled and their families ended up in 19th century Bohemia, when accident or disease rendered them unable to make a living.

Which is basically another good reason for why no-one should ever vote UKIP. Farage, Nuttall and the rest of stormtroopers would like to see the welfare state completely removed and the NHS privatised. Various Kipper politicos have made monstrous comments about the disabled, and denied the right of disabled children to be born.

This morning I reblogged another great piece from Tom Pride on the Nazi ideas of the Kippers’ European ally, Janusz Korwin-Mikke. This particularly Nazi has stated that the disabled should not be on television, which should be reserved for the strong, healthy and able-bodied. He also announced that supporting the disabled hadn’t yet spread to Africa, which was why they were going to become so much stronger than Europeans. In his view, this will lead to them invading and massacring us.

It’s bog-standard, 19th century eugenics crap, and could almost have come straight from Hitler himself, or any of the biology textbooks published in the Third Reich. It’s particularly ironic coming from a Pole, as the Nazis viewed all the Slavonic peoples of eastern Europe – Poles, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Russians, Czechs and Slovaks, among many others, as sub-humans. They were to be enslaved and worked to death after the Nazis conquered their countries. As well as the extermination of the Jews and Gypsies, the Nazis were also responsible for horrific atrocities against these peoples, including in Poland.

Farage made an alliance with Korwin-Mikke’s party to get EU money by forming a voting bloc of extreme Right-wing and anti-EU parties within the European parliament. It shows a cynical absence of any kind of morality, and the underlying Fascism behind Farage’s democratic fa├žade.

Coming Soon to TV this Christmas: IDS – A Real Video Nasty?

December 13, 2014

Ever since Charles Dickens invented the ‘traditional’, Victorian Christmas with A Christmas Carol, ghost and horror stories have been a part of the season’s entertainment. In the 1970s and ’80s the BBC broadcast a series of ghost stories, including a version of Dickens’ The Railwayman, and the chilling tales of the master of the British ghost story, M.R. James. The latter were told by Robert Powell, taking the part of James himself, who every Christmas settled down in his room at Oxford to tell a story of the ghastly and supernatural to his students. Last year Mark Gatiss of the League of Gentlemen and now Dr Who, presented a documentary on James’ life and career. Gatiss and the other members of the League were horror fans, and arguably much of the new Dr Who has its roots less in Science Fiction than Dark Fantasy and Horror. He therefore was a good choice as the programme’s presenter.

Other spooky delights on offer on TV in the past were Hammer’s gory and grisly tales, such as Dracula, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, and The Wolfman, featuring Oliver Reed as a werewolf, a part, which it could be said, he continued playing in many of his subsequent dramatic performances on chat shows around the world for much of his life. Some of his still remember his finest hour when he was thrown off the final programme of the discussion programme, After Dark.

Now watching the trailers last night for the forthcoming seasonal delights on the Beeb, I came across something that was genuinely unpleasant, far more so than anything dreamed up by Terence Fisher and the other fevered minds at Bray Studios in the 1960s. It was for a celebrity edition of University Challenge, and one of the faces looked like that of IDS.

This is genuinely grotesque. Christmas is traditionally a time of peace and goodwill to all, and yet there’s precious little of that on display with IDS and his actions. This is the politician, who has cut benefits and imposed sanctions to the point where claimants have actually died of cold and starvation on Britain’s streets, in their homes, or taken their lives through desperation. This is the politicians, who has lied and lied again about the effects of his policies to parliament. Not only that, but he is also personally treacherous and utterly without honour. When one lady, a Dutchwoman who had grown up here, worked all her life and paid her tax came to him as her MP about immigration problems, not only did … Smith refuse to help, he tried to have her deported.

Good King Wenceslaus, the song goes, took pity on a poor man ‘gathering winter fuel’, and so took him home to share his food and hearth out of charity. The real King Wenceslaus was the early medieval king of Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic, who converted the country to Christianity. I’ve got the feeling that the Czech version of his name is Vaclav, which is obviously still a popular name in the Republic. It’s the first name, for example, of the dissident poet and first democratic Czech president after the fall of Communism, Vaclav Havel. I don’t know whether the real King Wenceslas ever did what the carol describes, but it’s not impossible. Medieval religion strongly emphasised charity and the ‘works of mercy’ as part of the co-operative grace granted to humanity through which they could gain salvation partly through their good works. It formed what modern scholars have termed an ‘economy of salvation’ in which wealthy merchants and rich noblemen were careful to work out exactly how much money they should spend on charity for the poor in order gain time off in Purgatory. Looking after the material needs of the poor was particularly important, as it was believed that they far dearer to the Lord than the rich, and so their blessings and prayers were particularly important in securing God’s pardon.

For all IDS’ rhetoric about ‘social justice’, I’ve seen precious little evidence that IDS has anything but hatred and contempt for the poor. Far from helping the poor man collect his firewood, and show due concern for the page following in his footsteps against treacherous, icy footing, IDS strikes me as far more likely to have taken away the pauper’s firewood as above the level allowed by feudal law, and given him a strong lecture on his improvidence and lack of self-sufficiency in not having rationed his firewood properly in the Christmas season. And the page would have to have made his own way to keep up with the king, as this would have been the only way to give him the proper training to compete in the go-ahead, globalised economy of the 11th century.

It also struck me as the beginning of a charm offensive by the Tory party in preparation for next year’s election. The Tories are keenly aware that they have an image as ‘the nasty party’. IDS himself is surely aware that he is one of the most hated men in Britain. It’s why he opened a jobs fair in his constituency, Chingford, early and left before the masses arrived. It’s also why he has been forced to sneak out the back when appearing at a job centre in Bath, as well as hide in laundry baskets to escape protesters. He’s also such a physical coward that when he appeared before a select committee in parliament to give evidence, he was surrounded by bodyguards and armed cops, pointing their guns at the public, including a number of disabled people and their carers in the public gallery.

His appearance on a festive edition of University Challenge looks like an attempt to present him as genial and family-friendly, a jolly type quite prepared to make a fool of himself on a quiz show at this time of year, rather than the vindictive, mean-spirited curmudgeon his really is.

It also seems to bear out a comment by Mark Kermode about the personal character of the makers of Horror and Family movies. Kermode’s the film critic on Radio 5 Live. He’s a long term Horror fan, having written books on Horror cinema and spoken before the British Boards of Film Certification about the censorship of particular video nasties. You remember them. They were films like Driller Killer, I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left, that were so disgusting that when they appeared in the 1970s and ’80s they were banned. Kermode has said in his reviews that the makers of Horror movies all invariably tend to be really nice people. Wes Craven, who made Last House on the Left and then the Nightmare on Elm Street series, was actually a genuinely nice, highly educated, intelligent man. Craven has said in interviews that the extreme and genuinely disgusting violence and brutality in Last House on the Left was partly inspired by the images that were coming out of Vietnam in 1973. He saw the film as a polemic against violence, and showing how violence simply begets even more violence. To that point, he once walked out of one of Quentin Tarentino’s flicks. When one of the horror great Horror directors asked him how he could walk out of Tarentino’s movie, after he had directed something as revolting as Last House on the Left, Craven replied, ‘Well at least my movie’s about something!’

M.R. James seems to be another case in point. Rather than being a pale, sour misanthrope, Gatiss’ programme described James as quite a jovial, very sociable figure in real life, who enjoyed physically romping with his fellow students. Gatiss talked to the son of one of James’ students, who said that his father believed him to have been a non-practicing gay. Regardless of the speculation about James’ sexuality, what was clear was that James was a genuinely friendly man, who enjoyed his friends’ company and affection.

By contrast, according to Kermode, you can bet that the people who make family films are personally nasty. Well, this seems pretty much the case with IDS, which is no doubt why he wants to appear on TV in a positive light. Forget Hammer, Frankenstein, Dracula and Freddie Kruger, this is one Horror story I’ll be glad to miss.