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‘London is no longer an English city,’ says notorious rightwing racist… John Cleese (updated)

When will my critics finally accept that I always turn out to be right about everything?

Ed West ponders John Cleese’s “shocking” “controversial” statement:

In fact, one of the strange things about immigration and enforced diversity is that it destroys the very things that liberals love about this country – its egalitarianism, its secularism (including the ability to laugh about religion), an unarmed police, a public willingness to pool resources to pay for publicly owned libraries, arts services, education and health care.

Personally, being a latte-sipping European girly-man, I quite like those things, and yet they are slipping away (could Life of Brian even be made today? I’m not too sure). (…)

One of the rationales for diversity is that it makes us better people, a logic that superficially makes sense; many of the people who seem to care most about immigration are hateful, weird and/or slightly mad, while those at the other end of the debate are all nice, easy-going and intelligent.

Although Britain is unquestionably less racist than it was 40 years ago, have our overall cultural values improved? I’m not so sure.

***
But we praise (or at least tolerate) the “hateful, weird and/or slightly mad” when they are scientists and artists — especially when their predictions turn out to be correct.

Why aren’t ordinary, less gifted people granted the same respect when their “hateful, weird and/or slightly mad” opinions about political matters turn out to be correct as well? Or even before they turn out to be correct, in the same way we tolerate eccentric scientists and artists because, well, “you never know. They might be on to something”?

UPDATE — Ed Driscoll makes a point Peter Hitchens also made in The Abolition of Britain: that is, that Cleese and other stars of the post-war England “satire boom” (beginning with Beyond the Fringe) were doing almost as much to destroy England as the Luftwaffe.

Too young to fight in the war, these Oxbridge types grew up in relative (if admittedly grim and dingy) safety, to mock and undermine British civil society (note the number of judges and cops who bear the brunt of the Python’s wrath, and particularly BtF’s “Aftermyth of War” sketch.):

Bennett recalls that Cook was nervous about performing this sketch, and Bennett himself made it even more daring by impersonating Douglas Bader, “coming downstairs with a pipe in my mouth and exaggeratedly stiff legs (though I never quite dared to make them as stiff as they should have been.) One night I was hissed and was very pleased with myself.” He also performed it on BBC Television’s topical magazine programme Tonight — and was acutely embarrassed to realize that Kenneth Allsop, the interviewer, had lost a leg in the war.

(Actually, to put Hitchen’s argument more accurately: what was left of Britain after the war was barely worth “satirizing;” the Pythons et al were “spoofing” an “Establishment” that was already dying, but they thought they were pretty brave to be trampling its grave. Weirdly, the Establishment then worked hard to ingratiate itself with these cheeky young upstarts, with gauche displays such as the awarding of those OBEs to The Beatles.)

I am too devoted a fan of said “satire boom” to climb completely on board with Hitchens, even though I can’t very well argue with him. He has to live there and I don’t. As Driscoll notes, the final somewhat pathetic touch is that Cleese is apparently the last to know that he spent 40 years sawing off the very branch he, come to think of it now, had rather enjoyed sitting upon.

Anyway, Ed Driscoll writes:

John Cleese morphed into Theodore Dalrymple so slowly, I hardly even noticed.

But what did he expect? (Cleese of course. Dalrymple saw this coming ages ago.) Besides being, at times, one of the greatest comedy shows ever, Monty Python was a weekly assault on the values of post-war England. And England’s societal bedrock of wisdom and knowledge proved in retrospect, to be surprisingly fragile. If you’re throwing traditional values onto a bonfire every seven days, isn’t the inference you’d like to see them changed?

Of course, you shouldn’t be all that surprised if change for its own sake doesn’t go quite as planned. Or that, as West hints at above, the new era turns out to be, in many ways, less tolerant than the old one.


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