Labour’s antisemitic strategy?

by Chris Bertram on February 23, 2005

The ghastly Rod Liddle has “a piece in the Spectator”: alleging that Tony Blair’s Labour Party has a strategy of pandering to anti-Semitic prejudice in order to win over Muslim voters. The piece contains such gems as “many psychoanalysts believe that the Left’s aversion to capitalism is simply a displaced loathing of Jews.” (Tony Blair’s Labour Party has an aversion to capitalism???!!!) Liddle’s usual sensitivity to the feelings of minorities is expressed in his recent “Things I shouldn’t say about black people”:,,2088-1491679,00.html in the Sunday Times, “ably exposed by Matthew Turner”: . Melanie Phillips (about whom see also Chris Brooke “here”: ) is now promoting the “Labour anti-Semitism theory”: in the notorious FrontPage magazine.

Which is more likely (a) that New Labour strategists have decided on a campaign strategy on the lines delineated by Phillips and Liddle or (b) that someone else (perhaps some adviser to Tory Central Office?) has decided that an effective strategy for unsettling Labour politicians and putting them on the defensive is to fling around allegations of anti-Semitism?

[Small update: John Band “makes the point”: that we shouldn’t let our disgust at the antics of the likes of Liddle and the Tory party blind us to the real problem of anti-semitism and recommends “this piece by Johann Hari”: , a recommendation I endorse.]



dave heasman 02.23.05 at 9:51 am

Which party has the better understanding of public opinion?
I’m fairly sure that the Labour leadership is relaxed about any accusations of anti-semiitism, they’ll know it’ll run well with lots of voters. It’s the poor bloody infantry, those few remaining honest Labour MPs and councillors, who’ll agonise.
I doubt the people who made the “pigs” advert even contemplated Howard & Letwin being Jewish, and the “Fagin” advert still doesn’t remind me of Fagin, and I’m one of the few who knows who Fagin is/was – I bet most people are thinking “that doesn’t look anything like the Liverpool manager,or the bloke who broke into Buck House”.
Another Tory own goal, I fear.


Peter Briffa 02.23.05 at 10:05 am

Maybe it’s both, Chris.


dan hardie 02.23.05 at 10:22 am

How about the third option? There’s no anti-semitic strategy, but Mike O’Brien certainly said some things he shouldn’t have to Muslim News; and Rod Liddle, the quintessential ‘I doan need no stinkin’ facts’ journalist, has taken this piece of straw, and, unbidden by Tory Central Office, decided to make a brick from it.


john b 02.23.05 at 10:31 am

The Mel piece in FPM is amazingly mad drivel even by her standards (my personal highlight is “There has never been a shred of doubt that MEMRI’s translations are accurate” – no, nobody’s *ever* suggested such a thing…).

I’m starting to believe that “Melanie Phillips” is a deep-cover satirist.


Alison 02.23.05 at 10:49 am

Dave said

I’m fairly sure that the Labour leadership is relaxed about any accusations of anti-semiitism, they’ll know it’ll run well with lots of voters.

This is simpy not true. No mainstream party could survive in the UK if it was widely perceived in that way, which is why the Tories are sinking so low as to make these accusations, as far fetched as they are. It’s an act of desperation.

I don’t know what country you are posting from dave, but while your common or garden British person isn’t that bothered about political nuance, they perceive overt shouting-about-it racism as socially disreputable.

To the mainstream being anti-semitic is like being pro-football hooliganism. There are of course too many football hooligans in Britain, but they are not mainstream. There are no votes in being a hooligan. I’m not trying to make out the British to be universally enlightened people, it’s more a question of social respectability than deep political thought.


dave heasman 02.23.05 at 11:14 am

Alison, I’m in Haringey. My father was an electrician, my father-in-law was a postman. My antecedents are entirely London semi-skilled working-class. I have grown up and lived for nearly 60 years in London in an environment of mild anti-semitism.


David B 02.23.05 at 11:15 am

Since Matthew Turner has closed his post to comments, I take this opportunity to point out his selective quotation. He quotes Rod Liddle as saying that almost one-third of the female British prison population is drawn from black and Asian communities, then he (MT) sarcastically points out that two-thirds is grater than one-third. Well, big point scored!

But MT fails to quote the later passage where Liddle states that ‘Black and Asian women make up 8% of the general population and 29% of the female prision population’. Whatever the reasons, does anyone dispute the figures? Is it ‘able exposure’ to omit the key statistic you are ‘exposing’?


dsquared 02.23.05 at 11:19 am

Just an interesting question that comes to my mind; Melanie Philips uses the phrase “trivialises the Holocaust”, and so do a number of commentators I’ve seen recently. This phrase sticks in my mind somewhat, because in France and Germany it’s a phrase with a precise legal meaning; there is a criminal offence of trivialising the Holocaust. Is the phrasing intentional, or just fortuitous?

In general, the appalling Liddle does actually have a point; Labour politicians with dodgy majorities have a pretty shameful record in saying silly things about Islam (even such a decent bloke as Roy Hattersley stunk the place out during the Salman Rushdie affair). But I don’t like the massive air of ad nos bovem punctur hanging over the whole thing; how in hell’s name does it make sense to be simultaneously defending the right to incite religious hatred, but bring in the simile police to enforce Godwin’s Law? If British Jews had a riot tomorrow, would this suddenly become a free speech issue?


Alison 02.23.05 at 11:31 am

My antecedents are entirely London semi-skilled working-class.

Mine are ditto, Birmingham. As Lady Bracknell said ‘It is obvious that our social spheres have been widely different’ :-)

I mean that literally, because my impression is that respectable working class people consider overt racism and anti-semitism to be vulgar, like having an old car in your front garden or not paying your rent.

Also, your East End types fought the fascists, didn’t they? ‘Hands off our jews’ It may not be the most PC of slogans, but it stopped Moseley.


Chris Bertram 02.23.05 at 11:55 am

Dan Hardie:

Mike O’Brien certainly said some things he shouldn’t have to Muslim News

I agree with you, and some of the things he shouldn’t have said amounted to disgraceful pandering. But I don’t agree that the things he shouldn’t have said were anti-semitic things. Most of the faux outraged commentary focused on the following passage in his article:

bq. Ask yourself what will Michael Howard do for British Muslims? Will his foreign policy aim to help Palestine?

The suggestion made by Phillips, Pollard etc was that this was anti-semitic because, according to them, the _only possible explanation_ for O’Brien asking that rhetorical question was that he wanted to remind Muslims that Howard is Jewish.

I don’t think that charges of anti-semitism or racism should be chucked about unless the person making the charge can meet a pretty high burden of proof and “I can’t think of another explanation” just doesn’t cut the mustard.

Anyway, people should “read O’Brien’s article”: and make their own minds up.


jam 02.23.05 at 12:02 pm

I’d plump for both.

Yes, Rod Liddle and Melanie Philips are both frothers, and the Right has been flinging unfounded accusations of anti-semitism for a while now (Ken Livingstone recently), but . . ..

Labour has a Muslim problem. There was a council seat in the East End where a Conservative was elected because of Muslim defections from Labour to Respect. There must be a fear in Milbank of that sort of situation in many constituencies with large Muslim populations. One (actually anti-semitic) tactic to hold them to Labour (reduce protest voting) would be to point out that the actual alternative Prime Ministers are Blair and Howard and Howard’s a Jew. This could be done in two parts. Now, before the election is officially announced, remind people of Howard’s origins. Later, nearing the election: “A vote for Respect is a vote for Michael Howard.”

Is this what Labour’s doing?


dan hardie 02.23.05 at 12:03 pm

‘how in hell’s name does it make sense to be simultaneously defending the right to incite religious hatred, but bring in the simile police to enforce Godwin’s Law?’

It makes perfect sense for those of us who find stupid remarks re the Holocaust offensive, but don’t want to see such remarks criminalised. If Ken Livingstone or the self-pitying moron who is President of Ireland want to say silly things about Nazis, concentration camps, etc, I’ll say that I find them disgusting and ignorant but I don’t want them to be locked up. I don’t want to see Holocaust denial become a criminal offence in the UK, I don’t like the ‘incitement to religious hatred’ law, and I despise people who do incite religious hatred or deny the Holocaust. What is so complicated about this?

Btw, France has a criminal offence of denying the Holocaust, but none for trivialising it. Otherwise Roberto Benigni and Martin Amis would be in the slammer next time they visited Paris, not to mention the French synchronised swimming team who, ten years ago, gave a performance representing Jews being gassed in Auschwitz…


dsquared 02.23.05 at 12:07 pm

What is so complicated about this?

I include by citation the relevant passages of Mill’s On Liberty. The drawing of such a sharp distinction between a social sanction against some kinds of speech which has the backing of government and one which does not is, as far as I can tell, an invention of the US Supreme Court and in my opinion not a particularly good one.


john b 02.23.05 at 12:09 pm

You think Time’s Arrow *trivialised* the Holocaust? People really are strange.


mark s 02.23.05 at 12:13 pm

the French synchronised swimming team were:
i. taking the Holocaust entirely seriously and
ii. taking synchronised swimming entirely seriously

they were attacked mainly by ppl unable to imagine what ii. entails


dsquared 02.23.05 at 12:15 pm

Nope, trivialising is the offence in French. Like “incitement to hatred”, it has a reasonably well-established legal meaning based on case law, and this meaning is not the same one which the man in the street might decide it had in order to rubbish it. Dealing in Nazi memorabilia is the main way that people get caught under it by numbers but it’s also the Holocaust denial law.


dan hardie 02.23.05 at 12:20 pm

Chris, I’d like to agree with you (we have exactly the same opinion of Liddle). It strikes me as perfectly okay that Labour, and O’Brien, have a go at the Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Chancellor (who happen to be Jewish) the only Lib Dem apart from Kennedy singled out for attack by O’Brien is an obscure figure, Evan Harris, who…happens to be Jewish (his webpage announces he is a ‘Member of the Oxford Jewish congregation’). If it’s coincidence, it’s a pretty odd one. I agree entirely that ‘I don’t think that charges of anti-semitism or racism should be chucked about unless the person making the charge can meet a pretty high burden of proof and “I can’t think of another explanation” just doesn’t cut the mustard.’ I’m not making that charge, but I sure as hell would like to know why O’Brien named Harris, of all opponents to the ‘incitement to religious hatred’ bill.

Maybe O’Brien just happened to cite a Jewish MP by staggering coincidence. But Nick Cohen doesn’t think so: see his recent article for the New Statesman at

Read the whole thing, as they say, but here are some pertinent extracts:
‘An odd choice of target, that. Evan Harris is hardly a national figure. The Oxford MP isn’t even on the Lib Dem front bench. Why not pick on Charles Kennedy? But then, Kennedy’s family isn’t Jewish and Harris’s is – as is Michael Howard’s. “I am appalled by the way the Labour minister went out of his way to name me specifically,” Harris remarked. “Is it because I am the only Jewish Lib Dem MP?”

‘It’s hard to tell. There is a foul smell coming from O’Brien, but then there has been ever since he pushed through the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, which made it harder for genuine victims of persecution to reach this country. For what it’s worth, I doubt he’s a real anti-Semite. That requires consistency and I suspect consistency, even in bigotry, is beyond him. What he and new Labour are trying to do is not to win over one particular group of fundamentalists by appealing to their prejudices, but to maximise votes by making an ecumenical appeal to fundamentalists of all religions. It’s business, not personal.’

To be honest, I’d update the article so that it links to Cohen’s piece as well as Liddle’s. Cohen gets a bit overwrought sometimes but he’s a real journalist with things to say. Liddle’s a loudmouthed rabble-rouser.


yabonn 02.23.05 at 12:22 pm


Are you sure it was “trivializing”? The gayssot law in france fights “negationnisme” (denial of the reality of holocaust), considering it racial hatred.

So the word trivialisation does sometimes come up in circumstances similar to the liddle thing, but without (afaik) the legal subtext.


dan hardie 02.23.05 at 12:27 pm

You think Time’s Arrow trivialised the Holocaust?’
Yup. In the immortal words of Craig Brown, writing a Martin Amis parody diary for Private Eye: ‘Walk the kids to school accompanied by photographer from Time Out. Take a taxi back home. Sit at writing desk. Poor kids, bound to die in nuclear war. At least they weren’t in the Holocaust. Or maybe they were. Possible idea for novel or short story?’


abb1 02.23.05 at 12:30 pm

At least you guys do have a labor party; even though it’s all messed up by the ‘third way’ crap… Even though they are anti-semites and Holocaust denialists (is this the word?) and trivializers … Even though they are Islamofascist appeasers and terrorist sympathizers…

Still, you’re lucky bastards to have a labor party.


mark s 02.23.05 at 12:38 pm

isn’t the problem with dan’s reading of “trivialisation” that it boils down to:
i. [x] is discussing the holocaust
ii. i don’t take [x] seriously
iii. hence [x] – merely by discussing it – is trivialising the holocaust?

(ps i don’t in fact take m.amis very seriously, but craig brown takes NOTHING seriously)


dan hardie 02.23.05 at 12:40 pm

Dsquared, I fear that you have been addressing us from your fundament again. The text of the Loi Gayssot reads, in relevant part “Art. 24 bis. – Seront punis des peines prévues par le sixième alinéa de l’article 24 *ceux qui auront contesté, par un des moyens énoncés à l’article 23, l’existence d’un ou plusieurs crimes contre l’humanité* tels qu’ils sont définis par l’article 6 du statut du tribunal militaire international annexé à l’accord de Londres du 8 août 1945 et qui ont été commis soit par les membres d’une organisation déclarée criminelle en application de l’article 9 dudit statut, soit par une personne reconnue coupable de tels crimes par une juridiction française ou internationale. ‘ Emphasis added by me: this criminalises the denial of the Holocaust and the acts comprising it, but says nothing about ‘trivialisation’. Full text of the amended law is here:

Haven’t been able to find any evidence of prosecutions in France for the ‘banalisation’ of the Shoah (presumably the closest translation of ‘trivialisation’), although ‘banalisation du mal/de la Shoah’ etc is a very widespread phrase among French intellectuals.


mark s 02.23.05 at 12:51 pm

not to be perversely argumentative but *IS* “banalisation” a good translation of “trivialisation”?


yabonn 02.23.05 at 12:58 pm

although ‘banalisation du mal/de la Shoah’ etc is a very widespread phrase among French intellectuals.

It is heard, but you may in fact think of “banalité du mal” : Hannah Arendt and all that.

In other, half related news, the swimming team didn’t perform their routine after all.


dsquared 02.23.05 at 1:04 pm

Looking at the Evan Harris thing, I think Cohen’s on quite poor ground. On the one hand, Harris was one of only two LibDems who spoke in the commons on the religious hatred bill, chaired the meeting which brought together all opponents of the bill (the one that Rowan Atkinson spoke at) and, according to Cohen’s own article, has been leading the LibDem’s efforts to have a dialogue with Muslims about the Bill. So in this context I don’t think he is all that obscure.

Conversely, he was my MP for two years, plus he is a friend of my brother-in-law, and Cohen’s article was the first time I found out he was Jewish.

Haven’t been able to find any evidence of prosecutions in France for the ‘banalisation’ of the Shoah

Try L’Association Union des Etudiants Juifs de France et La Ligue contre le racisme et l’antisémitisme vs La société YAHOO! Inc et La Société YAHOO France

My understanding of the French law on Holocaust denial/trivialisation is based pretty heavily on this single case, but it is exactly because this one seemed to turn on “banalisation” that I thought that the legal standard was “trivialisation”. I suppose I could be wrong, but I’m certainly not making it up out of whole cloth.


derek 02.23.05 at 1:07 pm

You don’t hear so much from Norman Tebbit on the national stage nowadays, you lucky people, but he has a regular column in my local free-delivery paper, and he was making this exact allegation, that Labour has a policy of anti-semitism to attract Muslims, several weeks ago. Norman Tebbit, famous non-racist.

Okay, so he’s lying, but his lie, combined with the identical lies of Rod Liddle and Melanie Phillips, demonstrates that the Karl Rove strategy has come to Britain: falsely accuse your opponents of doing what you actually do.

In this case, the word has clearly come down from Howard to push the racism line to blur the distinction betweeen the two parties.


dan hardie 02.23.05 at 1:15 pm

That linked document has two references to ‘banalisation’, which make it clear that ‘banalisation’ is not criminal under French law but is offensive to the Ligue Contre La Racisme. When I say ‘make it clear’, actually I think someone’s garbled part of the relevant sentence, which may be why you got confused: ‘…soutenant que cette exhibition d’objets proposés à la vente constituait non seulement une infraction aux dispositions de l’article R. 645-1 du Code Pénal *mais encore la plus grande entreprise de banalisation du nazisme qui soit, la LICRA, dont l’objet social est notamment de combattre par tous moyens le racisme et l’antisémitisme… et de défendre l’honneur et la mémoire des déportés*, nous demande d’enjoindre sous astreinte à la société YAHOO! Inc., propriétaire de, de prendre les mesures nécessaires pour empêcher l’exhibition-vente sur son site d’objets nazis sur l’ensemble du territoire français (procédure n° 00/05308)’.


abb1 02.23.05 at 1:20 pm

Didn’t Le Pen call the Holocaust a ‘footnote of history’ or something like that? If that’s not trivialisation, what is? Was he prosecuted?


yabonn 02.23.05 at 1:31 pm


Yes he was prosecuted, fined 1.2 mFr.


dan hardie 02.23.05 at 1:36 pm

Abb1, Le Pen said that ‘les chambres de gaz ne sont qu’un détail de l’histoire de la Seconde Guerre mondiale ‘, which does seem to me to be trivialisation rather than denial. The thing is, Le Pen was convicted by a German court, not a French one, since he made the remarks on German soil, in the company of the former Waffen SS man Franz Schönhuber. I can’t see that the action would have succeeded under French law. I don’t know whether the Germans prosecuted him for trivialisation or whether they judged it to be a remark likely to incite hatred of Jews or offend Holocaust survivors. German speakers could help me out here.
He was convicted of assault in a French court (the victim was female).


yabonn 02.23.05 at 1:52 pm



Le pen made his “detail” thing on RTL, a french radio. He’s then be convicted by the Versailles and Nanterre courts, which are french ones.

I wouldn’t be surprised he left a smelly trail all across europe, mind you, but the detail thing is, afaik, a french case.


Andrew Brown 02.23.05 at 2:02 pm

Evidence in favour of O’Brien’s being anti-semitic comes from a very good piece by David Goldberg, in the godslot of Saturday’s Independent. Goldberg. a former rabbi at the LIberal synagogue in St John’s Wood, is one of the most level-headed people I ever knew in the god business, and one of the nicest. He certainly isn’t someone to rush around crying “anti-Semitism!” every time someone upsets him. If he thinks O’Brien’s remarks were dodgy, as he does, this opinion should be given proper weight.

I have a column about this somewher eon the Gdn’s web site this week, though more about how Ken Livingstone is not being anti-Semitic.


Des von Bladet 02.23.05 at 2:08 pm

Salzburg Nachrichten

5. Dezember 1997: Le Pen sagt in München, die Gaskammern des Holocaust seien “ein Detail der Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkriegs”. Dafür wird er vom Münchner Amtsgericht wegen Volksverhetzung verurteilt.

[But it is condemned by the judge of Munich district court because of incitement of the masses – Me and a fish]
Schon zuvor hatte er in Frankreich eine Geldstrafe [in France a fine of] von 183.200 Euro kassiert, weil er 1987 ebenfalls die Gaskammern als “Detail” abgetan hatte.

There are so many courts! And so many of them have enjoyed Le Pen’s company!


mark s 02.23.05 at 2:20 pm

i guess one of the reasons i am bangin on abt the distinction eg between “trivialisation” and “banalisation” is that the increased deployment of anti-semitism as an accusation flung abt by hack columnists and politicians seems to me a clear example of the latter, but not the former – whereas eg the synchro swimming case is (seemingly) an example of the former but not the latter

(tho as i said before, the synchro swimming project was intended absolutely seriously, the french synchro team being at that time by some margin the worlds best, and very theatrically literate: synchro being one of the very very few sports which can deal in narrative expressivity as a judgeable component of its “art”)

(ie it can so deal, but on the whole the sports bodies which reluctantly tolerate it hugely discourage such dealing)


Yusuf Smith 02.23.05 at 2:40 pm

Do Labour think Muslims are stupid enough and bigoted enough to vote for them because of a bit of subtle Jew-bashing? A lot of Muslims are afraid of the anti-civil liberties laws Bliar’s government is proposing, as well as a lot of other people. They also fear that he will drag us into more wars if Bush says so. There is no way I will vote Labour if the local candidate supports these policies.


dan hardie 02.23.05 at 3:30 pm

Yabonn, I’m right to say that Le Pen was convicted by a German court in ’99 for an offence committed in Germany in ’97. The RTL remarks were made in 1987; in 1997, Le Pen said almost exactly the same thing in Munich, which is what he was tried for.
Eg, in Liberation:
‘En 1987, sur RTL, Le Pen déclarait : «(…) je crois que c’est un point de détail de l’histoire de la Seconde Guerre mondiale.» Dix ans plus tard, à Munich, le président du FN récidivait. «Sur un livre de 1 000 pages, les camps de concentration occupent 10 à 15 lignes. Cela s’appelle un détail», affirmait-il … Il avait alors été condamné et déchu de son immunité de parlementaire européen .'( L’Humanité (6th July 1999) gives more details of Le Pen’s conviction in a German court:
” Inique et secondaire “, c’est ainsi que Le Pen avait accueilli la peine prononcée, début juin, par la justice allemande. Logique : le leader d’extrême droite français n’a pas fait appel. L’amende infligée est donc exécutoire. Le 5 décembre 1997, dix ans après avoir utilisé l’expression en France et subi une première condamnation, c’est à Munich que Le Pen récidive en qualifiant les chambres à gaz construites par les nazis de ” détail de l’histoire de la Seconde Guerre mondiale “. Il est vrai que, ce jour là, il est en compagnie d’un connaisseur : l’ancien Waffen SS Franz Schönhuber, ex-président d’un parti d’extrême droite allemand. Le Pen n’aurait sans doute manqué pour rien au monde la sortie d’un livre à la gloire de ce nazi non repenti. L’immunité du député européen avait été levée le 6 octobre 1998 par le Parlement européen à la demande de la justice allemande, rendant ainsi possible l’ouverture d’une information judiciaire dans ce pays. Pour le tribunal de Munich, Le Pen ” est coupable d’incitation à la haine raciale “…'(

mark s: I said that ‘banalisation’ is the closest French translation I can think of for the English word ‘trivialisation’- on which point, I will accept correction from a native speaker of French, but not from you.


dsquared 02.23.05 at 3:34 pm

In any case, as I say, I think Cohen’s off base on the Evan Harris point. Evan Harris isn’t particularly famous, but O’Brien was specifically referring to the incitement to religious hatred bill, and Harris was the LibDem leading the charge against it.


dan hardie 02.23.05 at 3:39 pm

One last, delightful bouquet from Jean Marie Le Pen, after which I really must go. He was convicted by a French court in ’87 for having called the gas chambers a ‘detail’, and the court did reproach him for having ‘banalisé’ the Holocaust. But the most detailed account I’ve been able to find seems to make it clear that the judges convicted him because they felt his remarks constituted a denial of the reality of the gas chambers, and used the phrase ‘banalisation’ in the judgement- in the same way that a British judge’s sentencing speech might call a rapist ‘wicked’, but the man is convicted for ‘rape’, not for ‘wickedness’.

Anyway, the link is at-

Arrêt (de référé confirmatif) de la cour d’appel de Versailles du 28 janvier 1988 ; arrêt de la cour de cassation du 11 octobre 1989 (pourvoi de Le Pen rejeté) : sanction des propos tenus par Le Pen à l’émission « Le grand jury RTL- Le Monde » du 13 septembre 1987 par lesquels Le Pen avait mis en doute l’existence des chambres à gaz, les considérant comme un « point de détail ».Deux jugements, sur le fond, du tribunal de grande instance de Nanterre des 11 janvier et 23 mai 1990 et un arrêt de la Cour de Versailles du 18 mars 1991 : pour assertion « coupablement choquante et elle-même intolérable ». La justice a considéré qu’il y avait « atteinte très grave au souvenir, au respect et à la compassion dues aux survivants du génocide et de leurs familles ».


Luc 02.23.05 at 3:42 pm

I best leave the “pin the label on the donkey” game to the British, but this issue is getting really wierd. This NRO article tries to convince their audience on who’s the bigot by ending it as follows:

If it is indeed Muslim votes that Labour is seeking, some recent news should cause them to take heart: A study by Britain’s Office for National Statistics showed that “Mohammed” has become one of the most popular names for baby boys in England and Wales, entering the top 20 most commonly chosen in 2004.

Britainistan, it would seem, beckons.


mark s 02.23.05 at 3:46 pm

i wasn’t correcting yr french, dan (hence my phrasing it as a question) (my french is i’m sure distinctly worse than yrs), but i am questioning the equivalence in english of “banality” (in arendt’s phrase “banality of evil”) with “trivialisation” as you seem to be using it (ie any discussion of the holocaust by someone you don’t take seriously = a triivialisation) (i realise that yr citation of craig brown is possibly not 100% serious, but that only amplifies the sliding around of usage, surely?)

anyway i’m not intending to seme like i’m getting at you here, dan: i am seriously interested in the ramifications of “trivialisation”, “banalisation” and whatever near-equiv as modes of discussion to be denounced, bcz i think denunciation of either is a worrying development, but for difft reasons


Nasi Lemak 02.23.05 at 3:52 pm

Particularly depressing that Liddle appears to be *actually unable to see* that “propensity to commit crime” is not *exactly* the same thing as “propensity to be convicted of crime”.


yabonn 02.23.05 at 4:09 pm

Yabonn, I’m right to say that Le Pen was convicted by a German court in ‘99 for an offence committed in Germany in ‘97.

Certainly. I meant to answer to “The thing is, Le Pen was convicted by a German court, not a French one“, because, precisely, the thing is not, as he was convicted by a french one too. But i see we finally agree on that, as you mention the ’87 vintage above.

“Trivialisation” is, at least to my taste, a fairly good one for “banalisation”.

The core of the condemnations seems to revolve more (but then again, i’m fairly ignorant of legal things) around the art.645, gayssot law, or incitement to hatred rules, than on the “banalisation” of the holocaust.


David B 02.23.05 at 5:15 pm

I have been looking at the prison statistics and will post some details on when I get round to it.

But two points are important enough to note here:

a) South Asian women are NOT over-represented in the prison population as compared with the general population, they are UNDER-represented. The over-representation is found only among the Black and ‘Chinese and other’ categories. You might therefore accuse Rod Liddle of defaming South Asian women, but of course he was only taking his stats from the impeccably liberal Fawcett Society.

b) Many female prisoners are not usually resident in the UK – quite a lot of them, especially from Africa and the Caribbean, are drug mules who are arrested on entering the UK. The Home Office have produced some stats in their 2001 report which exclude foreign nationals. This reduces the over-representation of ‘Blacks’ considerably – they are only over-represented 6-fold instead of ten-fold.

Someone in the comments above mentioned the need for an age breakdown. I will cover this point in my later comments.

Nasi Lemak makes a fair point above. Not all prisoners are criminals and not all criminals are prisoners. I don’t know of any UK data on the ethnic identity of non-convicted criminals, though there are some American data based on reports by victims of assaults and robberies.


roger 02.23.05 at 5:19 pm

What’s wrong with pandering to ethnic groups? Moslem, Jew, Irish, French, German, whatever. Pandering did a lot of good in the nineteenth century in the U.S. — the great urban machines that were captured by the Irish in New York and Boston, for instance, certainly had a lot to do with lifting the Irish out of an almost caste-like position as manual laborers. The same thing was true for Jews in NYC, when, after the pograms in Russia, Jewish immigrants became numerous in the boroughs. And a good thing — out of that immigration came not only the core of the American intellectual community, but a political machine that “pandered” to the Jews. That pandering led to the breakdown of quotas, among other things, and to the early civil rights movement.

Now, Labour, which is burdened by a foreign policy disaster — the war in Iraq — that is seen as distinctly anti-Moslem, could well pander to Moslems without being anti-semitic, just as Boston politicians could pander to the Irish and still loyally support WWI. It is funny that the right, which spent the eighties and nineties bemoaning political correctness, now advocates such a tender sensibility that the very suggestion of a Palestinian nation on the West Bank is to be considered on par with swearing by Eichmann.

Oh well, in some ways this is progress — the Right is, perhaps, assimilating the lefty advances against bigotry over the past fifty years by enfolding it into its own peculiar narrative.


derek 02.23.05 at 5:38 pm

Oh well, in some ways this is progress — the Right is, perhaps, assimilating the lefty advances against bigotry over the past fifty years by enfolding it into its own peculiar narrative.
Posted by rog

Sadly, no. I don’t think this is the Tories becoming less racist; I think thsi is the Tories, after a period of disarray, coming back strong under Howard with a fistful of dirty plays courtesy of the post-Gingrich Republican Party.

They’re as racist as ever, but they cover it by loudly shouting “racist!” at their non-racist opponents.


David B 02.23.05 at 6:44 pm

I said above that ‘I don’t know of any UK data on the ethnic identity of non-convicted criminals’.

I have now rooted around and found a little bit of data: according to the 2000 British Crime Survey, as described in a Home Office report on ‘Crime, Policing and Justice: the Experience of Ethnic Minorities’, victims of crime among survey respondents reported that, in those cases where the ethnic identity of the criminal was visible, 15% were from ethnic minorities. Of course this applies mainly to offences against the person, and not, e.g., to most commercial crimes.

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