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Tyranny in Plain Sight: The Classism of Modern Architecture

“Very few faults of architecture are mistakes of honest choice: they are almost always hypocrisies”.

There is perhaps no greater testament to the genius of John Ruskin’s The Stones of Venice than this claim. Though Ruskin had jotted down this reflection in the mid-1800s, I came to experience the full force of its meaning in London back in 2017 in an encounter that I am still unable to make head or tail of.

I studied for a year at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and was staying in a student accommodation that was wedged in that strange stretch of road between Peckham and Camberwell. On one of my first nights in my new accommodation, I was standing on the common-room balcony with a group of fellow students; all of whom were strangers to me. The balcony overlooks a cluster of ugly tower blocks, where working class people are crammed like sardines into tins of vast ugliness. Being from a working class background myself, I felt my heart sink upon the sight of the tower blocks. I know through experience that such buildings are not truly fit for habitation. The only thing ordered and uniform about them is the consistency of their ugliness, and continuous council/housing association rules make it impossible for people to decorate their homes as they see fit. Such architecture alienates not only with its ugliness but with its inability to ever be transformed into a home, a place for dwelling, and an extension of our personalities and communities.

I was not expecting what came next. Much to my horror, a small group of people around me began to compliment the tower blocks. Their compliments were not even in passing – they were an infectious swoon that placed a romantic, and at points even mythological, emphasis on the imposing presence of the tower blocks. I would later learn that none of these people had actually lived in, or even been inside, such buildings – most of them attended private schools, and had never worked a proper job, enjoying free roam of their parent’s credit cards. This opened my eyes to a phenomenon that I can now only describe as the ‘fetishisation’ of the working class.  Anyone who is truly working-class knows just how brutal the reality of living in such places can be. Not only are they so ugly that they alienate anyone existing in them from any sense of homeliness, but they are also often dangerous hives of crime. However, for people such as my former neighbours, the buildings represented a patronising fetishisation of the working class as a kind of noble savage, who finds salvation in the hard toil of labour, the anxious struggle to pay the bills, and raising a family in unsuitable, tiny apartment blocks.

This fetishisation of the working class is nothing new – in fact, it dates back centuries. Take, for example, Marie Antoinette’s Hameau de la Reine, or the ‘Queen’s Hamlet’. This rustic though ultimately fake village was essentially a mock-up of a working French community, complete with a mill, farmhouse, and dairy. It was a space where the Queen and her aristocratic friends could play commoners, pretending (albeit not very convincingly) to be your average working Frenchman of the time. The inspirations for this come directly from mainstream liberal philosophy, particularly the Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose concept of the ‘noble savage’ inspired the upper classes to essentially live-action roleplay being a ‘savage’ so that they might once again – or for the first time – connect with their untainted, uncivilised, human nature. It would appear, as demonstrated in my example above, that such a patronising mindset towards working folk has not entirely been erased.

Pointing this all out, of course, earned me the label of ‘classist’. I was an enemy of the proletariat, dehumanising them and their communities for supposedly refusing to acknowledge that these were great arenas of bustling, colourful working class life. If only I didn’t spend so much time looking down my nose, they suggested, I might finally have a clear enough vision to see just how egalitarian and edgy this all was. The irony of this, of course, was that I was the only proletarian in the whole bloody place. But obviously, none of my real experiences mattered – my critics had, after all, learnt to drop their ‘T’s’, which in their minds transformed them into working men straight from a Dickens novel.

My disgust for such architecture comes not from reactionary snobbishness but from my first-hand experience with it. Unlike my revolutionary comrades, the interiors and exteriors of council flats and concrete high-rise buildings were quite a familiar sight for someone with a working class background like me. The people I knew living inside of them hated it, and whenever I would visit or stay over in such places, this hatred became not only more apparent but increasingly shared by myself.

You’d have thought that the crime of Grenfell Tower would have finally opened the eyes of such people, but that does not appear to be the case. Even in a post-Grenfell society, there is not even a murmur of finally doing away with these monstrous buildings, many of them being mere erect safety hazards. Yet still, the motions of champagne revolutionary students are in full swing. For many, tower blocks are a romanticised symbol of radical politics that they can gawp at during term time before retiring back to their cosy Sussex family homes. The tower blocks are their own Hameau de la Reine. The presence and appreciation of such ugly architecture is yet another example of that hypocrisy Ruskin wrote about: they claim to appreciate it, but they dare not sleep under such a roof.

But it is a hypocrisy not so much of taste, but social class and politics. This is why I wish to propose that it is not critics of modern architecture and housing development who are the bigots, but rather that it is modern architecture that is deeply classist. Millions of hard-working men, women, and children are forced to live in these concrete blocks; almost always against their will, as they are often reserved for those in the most desperate situations. However, those who design them, make their money off them, and praise the buildings to the high heavens would never actually step foot in such places. They make their millions and then shoot off to their chateaus in the South of France, leaving the working classes stuck in a house that is designed to never be a home.

Much of modern architecture, and the herding of working class people into the buildings by the ruling classes, is classist tyranny in plain sight. Working class people, especially the poorest among them, are given by modern architects and town planners these concrete blocks to live in. This is a reflection of a certain mindset towards the working class: that we plebs ought to just be happy that we have a place to sleep and eat. The price of this is not only aesthetic, nor is it limited to the realm of homemaking in general, it is also about safety. In Grenfell Tower, at least seventy-two people were burnt alive because of this attitude towards building.

During my year at Goldsmiths, I started reading the works of the late Sir Roger Scruton. I discovered, after reading some of his writings on political philosophy, that Scruton had published a grand treatise on the subject of architecture titled The Aesthetics of Architecture. I got hold of a copy of the book and read through it rather feverishly. After reading the book, I slammed it shut, and could have cried ‘Finally! Here is a man that gets it’. Scruton’s harshest left-wing critics would claim that he was a mere reactionary opponent of ‘the people’, but The Aesthetics of Architecture would suggest otherwise. I am not one to believe in champions of ‘the people’ and I find the phrase itself rather Orwellian, but Scruton was not far off – at least in regards to architecture. The reason I could have cried out is that Scruton was the first thinker that I had read on the subject of architecture that truly believed that everyone, regardless of their social class, status, or wealth, deserved not just a building to live in, but a home.And that is the key word here: home. Working class people should not be living in concrete arenas, only to be gawped at and fetishised by the chattering classes and the architectural establishment. The working class, like every other group of people, deserves a sense of dwelling, homeliness, security, safety, and beauty. We need not accept this hypocritical tyranny.

There is a way of building homes that incorporates all the key values of homemaking: beauty, security, accessible communities, and the freedom to decorate your home as you please. There is a way to build better, and that way is to build beautiful.


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The Dishonorable Victoria Nuland

As the Russia-Ukraine Crisis crawls into the second month of conflict, humanitarian disaster, and media sensationalism, many passive observers of the situation have been wondering who is to blame for the biggest military conflict in Europe since 1990’s Yugoslavia.

            Mainstream media, OSNIT Twitter experts, and heads of state all make substantial claims about the culprits, the causes, a variety of predictions for the outcomes, and “solutions” that do nothing to actually solve the issue other than to speculate needlessly and obfuscate the reality on the ground in order to garner as much engagement as possible from the online community, and inflame hatred on both sides – dumbing down the debate to kindergarten levels of maturity, driveling the issue down to just another “Kony 2012” bandwagon for everyone to jump on.

            In the West – particularly NATO member nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom – there has been a certain disregard for introspection and self-criticism in regards to the lead up to the current conflict. While the reality may not be as clean or as pleasant as we want, the current crisis in Ukraine is hardly a new development, nor had the invasion of Ukraine been completely out-of-the-blue as many pundits make it out to be.

            This conflict has been ongoing for the last decade – it seems that most discussing the current escalation are willfully ignorant of that fact.

The people of Donbass, Luhansk and other Eastern oblasts of Ukraine have suffered under similar war-like conditions and humanitarian crisis since the beginning of the Ukrainian Civil War in 2014. No one in the West has cared about it, nor paid any thought, hashtags, or great displays of solidarity for those who have suffered since then – only now paying attention as the conflict escalated from a local regional conflict to a nation-wide one as soon as the Russians directly became involved – all with the help of actually being televised, of course.

            Framing the issue as an “attack on the territorial sovereignty”, “democracy”, or “self-determination” of Ukraine is not only blatantly dishonest – it’s entirely hypocritical. Where were the calls to recognize the territorial sovereignty or democratic will of the separatist regions who no longer felt that their interests were represented in Kiev?

            Nowhere, of course. Because it wasn’t “our side”.

For most, the finger of blame for the escalation of tensions to all-out war in Ukraine has been pointed directly at Russian President Vladimir Putin for activating the “special military operation” and invading Ukraine. For others the responsibility lies with Ukrainian leadership not compromising on territory claims and security concerns the Russian government has had, and the failure to follow the standards set by the Minsk II protocol signed in 2015. Many others lay the blame with NATO for encroachment and not taking Russia seriously or engaging in any sort of constructive dialogue with Moscow.

As the issue has been brushed aside, ignored, and unaddressed by Western powers who could’ve negotiated a peaceful resolution that would’ve put an end to the bloodshed years ago, the cock has truly come home to roost – metaphorically speaking. By not seriously engaging with any sort of dialogue with the Putin regime, attempting to make a buffer of any sort that addressed the security concerns of both sides, and by not prioritizing the safety of civilians on the ground but rather their own expansion, NATO has done nothing but help fan the flames of this conflict.

            NATO, of course, cannot be “blamed” necessarily for the conflict at large. For what it’s worth, as a security organization it has been rather beneficial in creating a level of stability and bipolarity in European politics. It wasn’t always ideal, nor fair, but as a product of its time – the Cold War – it did a lot more good than harm in balancing power and security in the 20th century.

It may have acted as a bulwark against the threat of Soviet Communism back then, but as the Cold War ended it has changed with the unipolarity of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

Today, NATO is merely an extension of American security and political power. It has shaped the Western world and its response to threats from an American perspective, prioritizing Washington’s concerns above all others. It is entirely a fabrication that the responsibility and configuration of NATO is somehow shared between its member nations; that’s symbolic rather than the actuality. This has been observable in the past couple of years as the projected power of NATO has been growing weaker without an immediate perceived threat, and European member states skimping out on funding the organization or actively seeking alternate security solutions – such as the push for a militarized European Union separate from NATO.

How coincidental that as the crisis in Ukraine has developed, the re-emphasis of NATO power has occurred as it was staring at its dissolution after American security failures in Afghanistan and the rest of the Middle East?

NATO, of course, is composed of all sorts of characters and figureheads – both military and political – who maintain and grow the institution the way Washington needs it to. In the last two decades one of the largest forces in shaping how NATO (i.e. Washington D.C.) operates in Eastern Europe and in regards to Russia has been Victoria Nuland, who is currently serving as the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in the Joe Biden administration.

            If anyone can be sourced as holding key responsibility for laying out the foundations for the current crisis unfolding between Ukraine and Russia, it is her.

            Victoria Nuland has been described as “brash” “blunt” and “crude” by many who have worked with her, either through the State Department or as her counterparts across Eurasia. The Washington careerist Nuland has spent most of her life entrenched firmly in the circus of the US State Department, climbing the ladder of power with a ferocious tenacity and iron-set will to shape Washington’s policies across the world.

It would be commendable, if her efforts weren’t completely driven by neoliberal globalist ideology that props up the status quo powers and elite D.C. political class. We can see how close she is to the establishment elites, after all she’s married to the co-founder of the Project for the New American Century and Council on Foreign Relations member, Robert Kagan.

            Nuland has found herself in a variety of powerful positions throughout her tenure in Washington – from deputy director of Soviet Union Affairs under Clinton, to being the US Ambassador to NATO during the Bush administration, to Assistant Secretary of State under Obama’s 8 year reign. The Under Secretary has previously worked closely with some of the most hawkish characters in Washington, having directly answered to Dick Cheney as his deputy national security advisor, and with Hillary Clinton as the spokeswoman for the State Department.

            With mentors and colleagues like these, it is no wonder that Nuland has been able to entrench herself into the new administration rather safely. She doesn’t pull her punches, even if it would be the smart thing to do – preferring to ideologically shoot from the hip with her diplomacy and think later about the consequences of her actions – if at all.

            Her attitude and approach to diplomacy may have allowed her to gain many fans in Washington, as brazen approaches are often applauded in the D.C. swamp – but it hasn’t gained her much of a fanbase among European diplomats. Her policy of ignoring the efforts of EU leadership to try and fix diplomatic relations with Russia, and by shipping weapons to Ukraine during the Obama years directly acted against the advice and fears of many EU nations who worried it would escalate tensions with Moscow.

            Rather than her actions being a product of her career, Nuland seems to be a true believer in the diplomacy she practices, almost delusionally so. In 1997, along with former Senator Richard Lugar, Nuland published Russia, Its Neighbors, and an Enlarging NATO: An Independent Task Force Report; in which it was “concluded” that NATO should be able to expand into Europe, and that Russian concerns or perceived security threats were unjustified – any attempt to negotiate or compromise should be disregarded. The report is rather short, but statements and conclusions are entirely delusional and a product of liberal elitist thought – the only way for Russia to participate in this changing world would be to cede its own sovereignty and self-determination in order to join the “New Europe” and the authority of NATO (ie. Washington).

            I imagine that any Russian authority who were in the effort of trying to rebuild a nation after almost a century of communism and centralized bureaucracy would see the terms laid out in the Nuland report and laugh in disbelief. Trading one bureaucracy for another, but this time with less sovereignty and being subjected to the whims of a former rival.

            In the very same report, the issue of Ukraine is emphasized. The task force agreed that NATO’s “doors shall remain open” for Ukrainian membership. Of course we know today this has been one of the driving motivations for Russian engagement in Ukraine, has been the threat of NATO expansion towards Russia’s border with Eastern Europe and one of Russia’s vulnerable corridors for invasion.

            Nuland has been wanting, and working hard to ensure that Ukraine joins the American sphere of influence. Whether this is a personal mission, given her Jewish-Ukrainian ancestry, or whether this is completely career-driven doesn’t matter. It has led to disastrous consequences regardless of the motives.

One only needs to look at the Maidan protests and 2014 coup d’etat that Nuland was a key figurehead in orchestrating – a leaked phone call with the then US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt shows how instrumental Nuland was in hand picking the pro-West Ukrainian Arseniy Yatsenyuk administration that took over after the expulsion of Viktor Yanukovych’s Moscow-friendly government during the “Revolution of Dignity”. Whether or not the previous government was a “Moscow puppet” matters little, when the United States and NATO conduct the same actions that they accuse Russia of – infringing Ukrainian democracy and self-determination – even if it is through more covert means.

While the massive shake-up of the government took place, NATO also funded and armed the infamous neo-nazi “Azov Battalion” to conduct operations in the Eastern Ukranian separatist regions, with disastrous humanitarian consequences for civilians in those regions. Everything from wanton destruction to residential areas, kidnappings, and even crucifixions – Azov Battalions have not only been blamed for this, they take pride in their cruelty.

It seems that the US State Department made it a policy during the 2000’s and 2010’s to arm and aid the most depraved groups of people, whether it has been Islamsist militias in the Syria or neo-nazi paramilitaries in Ukraine in order to fulfill their policy goals without getting their own hands dirty – with innocent civilians suffering the most due to this short-sighted, or willfully ignorant decisions.

Of course in the mind of someone like Victoria Nuland, the ends justify the means. But what exactly are the ends?

Is it to “stabilize” Ukrainian democracy?

As Zelensky has purged opposition parties and political rivals have been arrested and tortured, we can see by the lack of condemnation that that’s hardly the priority.

Is it to “secure the sovereignty” of Ukraine?

The whole reason this mess has occurred is because Nuland ignored Ukraine’s sovereignty in order to place her own political pawns into positions of power – so claiming that they’re trying to do this is laughable.

Is it to “prevent the humanitarian crisis and deaths of civilians”?

This conflict has been ongoing for a decade, with tens of thousand already dead or displaced before Russia stepped foot into the region. Where were the actions to prevent the humanitarian crisis that has existed for the past decade?

So what are the ends? Because the narrative that Washington and the mainstream media are pumping out are hardly grounded in reality.

If I was a gambling man, I would wager that the end goal of this crisis that has been created is multifaceted; waging the media war against the Russian Federation has been ongoing for the past decade – many Americans, particularly those in red states and from working class backgrounds see the more conservative culture of Russia and the strongman figure embodied by a leader such as Putin as a viable alternative to the current American society that empowers the elite Washington D.C. political class and desecrates the rest of the country. Many saw Trump as a leader like that, after all.

Regime change in Russia to bring it into the “global society” and the confines of internationalism is also a possibility. Nations can’t be seen as breaking away from the “rules-based order”, as that would not benefit Washington D.C. or global institutions like the United Nations or World Economic Forum that have infiltrated the top levels of government and society in order to push their own agendas under the guise of “democratic will”. However, I think this is far stretched and I think the horse has bolted in regards to this scenario – Russia has been cut-off, and I don’t think anyone at the Pentagon or the State Department wants to get involved with what would be a severely messy operation to pull off in trying to oust Putin and his loyalists from power.

What I think is the most plausible situation is actually rather outside the box. As the United States recedes as a global superpower under the weight of its recent failures and crumbling domestic situation, the best way to prevent any other rising power from gaining a foothold at the top is to make a chaotic situation that is so out of control that no-one could possibly control it.

Ukraine has so far proven to be far from a “clean” operation on the ground for the Russians. Victoria Nuland has done a rather outstanding job of shaping Ukraine to be so emboldened by their own ideas of fighting for their “sovereignty” and crafted such a unique identity separate from Russia that they will likely continue to be a rather large thorn in the side of Russia for decades to come, regardless of the outcome of this current war. Russia will be exhausting itself and its resources trying to control the situation.

So while the United States may not be “directly” involved with securing the situation on the ground, at least Washington can be guaranteed that Russia won’t be able to do it either despite their close proximity. All the Americans have to do is keep pumping weapons and resources to keep ground-forces fighting or causing a logistical headache, and in the meantime they can refocus their priorities to other, more pressing situations – namely domestic security.

But if those are indeed the “ends”, are they justified?

To any rational, morally sound and peace-loving person, of course not.

But as we have seen time and time again, Washington D.C. and the elitists that occupy the highest seats of government will create their own justifications, even if completely false or out-of-touch, in order to fulfill their own goals of self-preservation and holding on to power.

This reason, above all, is why Victoria Nuland has been perfectly fit for the job that she has undertaken for the past two decades. Because she embodies those very same insane values.

And Washington D.C. loves her for it.


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Gaddafi: Existentialist, by Charlie Nash (Book Review)

Before I begin, I should note that I intended to write and publish this review much earlier. However, my “university” insisted that I do my “dissertation” because, apparently, it is “important” for my “degree” and “academic development”. Alas, my attempts at self-actualisation were crushed and I was reduced to another cog in the machine, from writer to institution. Sartre would have disapproved. Oh well.

Nash states that what started out as a tongue-in-cheek description of Gaddafi’s philosophy, founded on a handful of coincidences, evolved into an endless rabbit-hole of research. The result of this quasi-autistic spiral of pattern-recognition (I mean that in a good way) is Gaddafi: Existentialist.

Despite its short length (less than 100 pages), it is a structurally diverse work. So much so that the first chapter isn’t centred around Gaddafi or Existentialism (although, this is not arbitrary). Rather, it begins with one of Gaddafi’s inspirations: Colin Wilson.

As someone who has taken an interest in Colin Wilson’s life over the past few months (mainly: his origins as a literary outsider, his rise to prominence, and his association with The Angry Young Men) this work proved surprisingly useful in learning about Wilson, not just Gaddafi. Despite my own research thus far, I did not know that Wilson was invited to meet Gaddafi himself, or that Wilson’s works had received considerable popularity in the Middle East – “the largest existentialist scene outside of Europe”.

Indeed, the idea of a stout and bespectacled Colin Wilson, standing at the foot of a long red carpet with armed revolutionary socialists lining the way between him and his biggest fan: Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution of Libya Colonel Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, who eagerly clutches his personal copy of The Outsider in hopes of getting an autograph, is certainly an amusing one. Although, it seems that such a visit did not come to fruition. Sad!

As Nash notes, Gaddafi was something of an Outsider himself, both on the international stage as ruler of Libya and during his upbringing. A loner bookworm, he festered in his own idiosyncratic ideals of political revolution and societal renewal – “wow, he’s literally me!”. That said, Gaddafi’s core political philosophy (i.e., The Green Book) is not the primary focus of the work – although it is referenced. Rather, Nash centres on Gaddafi’s collection of short stories: Escape to Hell and Other Stories. Was anyone aware that Gaddafi wrote short stories? Regardless, it is interesting to see this neglected aspect of Gaddafi put under the microscope.

It is made evident to us that Gaddafi sees the city, as a reality and as an abstract concept, as an abomination – deracinating people from their organic identities, to be given new ones manufactured from crude necessity and economic convenience, depriving them of fruitful self-understanding and consequently inclining individuals towards nihilistic indifference. As one might suspect, for Gaddafi, the village embodies the preferable to all of this.

Using Gaddafi’s concern for the individual self, the way individuals construct their sense of self, rather than the internal machinations of a polity (of which economic maximization plays an important role), Nash quite effectively demonstrates that there is, at the very least, an existentialist component to Gaddafi’s worldview. However, it stands to reason that individual behaviour is not distinct from that which must be accounted for when running a polity. As such, whilst deciding to not focus on the overtly political, Nash’s insights won’t necessarily be redundant when discussing Gaddafi’s politics.

From death to authenticity, from freedom to self-understanding, Gaddafi’s short stories consistently delve into existentialist themes. Beyond the overarching argument itself, Nash’s humorously nonchalant summary of Gaddafi’s “most overtly existentialist text” – ‘The Suicide of an Astronaut’ – serves as an effective invitation to seek out and read the short stories in your own time:

“…A peasant asks the astronaut what he knows about tilling the earth, the astronaut responds with a lengthy monologue, reciting his vast scientific knowledge of the planet, its gravity, its size, and its distance from other planets. 

As you can see, I am well informed in matters concerning the Earth, he boasts to the silent, bewildered peasant, who feels sorry for the ‘pathetic’ astronaut and leaves… The astronaut proceeds to commit suicide”.

Additionally, more than outline of Gaddafi’s relationship to existentialism, perhaps Nash’s book can help explain why some on the dissident right have become so infatuated with Third Worldist, Third Positionist political ideologies of religion-inspired socialism and nationalism as a potential response to the “Demonic Hell World” ushered in by modernity (see ‘Wholesome Chungus’ for further details).

Perhaps Geoff Shullenburger is right, Gaddafi may be just as much of a crypto-romanticist as he is a crypto-existentialist. Given his lamentations about the encroachment of urbanity onto the idyllic pastures of village life, and the scourge of scientific-industrial revolution, perhaps ‘The Colonel’ should have invested in a copy of William Blake’s poems. 

All this being said, Nash is prudent to note that Gaddafi would have rejected the ‘Existentialist’ label and attributed Bedouin culture and Islamic teaching as the main source(s) of his political outlook. However, this does not contradict Nash’s argument. Although Gaddafi was not a self-identified ‘Existentialist’, his preoccupation with the aforementioned themes, both in the context of state-building and personal fancy, inadvertently place him on the horizon of Existentialism. Readers may disagree with Nash’s interpretation of Gaddafi, but the willingness of the author to acknowledge the subject’s explicit and direct thoughts on the matter should reassure everyone that it is an honest analysis.

In summary, even if one doesn’t go in with expectations of being convinced of Gaddafi’s Existentialism, anti-Existentialism, or indifference thereto, it still holds up as an enjoyably niche work on the existential-ish outlook of one of the most idiosyncratic political leaders of the 21st century.


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The Effects of Fatherlessness on Society

Since the 1960’s, the number of children growing up with single mothers has increased exponentially. In the UK in 2020, almost 50% of children were born to an unmarried mother (Statista, 2022), and yet while there has been some political attention given to the topic (such as the creation of the Child Support Agency in 1993), there has been little social discourse about the effects on children, and on wider society. 

There has been increasing evidence that there are, as one can intuitively know, detrimental effects to growing up without a father. 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes, as are 90% of all homeless and runaway children. For boys, the lack of a positive male role model has been shown to lead to a propensity towards violence and even rape, and for girls, the lack of a father figure is linked to sexual promiscuity, substance abuse, and anxiety. 

While most in the mainstream would like to pretend that they do not know this, this has been public information (if not intuitively obvious) for 20 years. Lots of politicians (particularly in the US) have paid lip service to the importance of fathers, but none are willing to confront the two root causes of their absence: feminism and welfare. 

While believing in equality under the law, equal citizenship, and equal value are all good things, the nobel aims of early feminists have been grossly perverted by corporate feminists, who in tun have been cheered on by male capitalists. Given that women generally choose lower-paying jobs, work fewer hours, and are generally less economically productive than men; it only makes sense for those interested in extracting the greatest possible amount of labour from the populace lead women to believe that the way to have the highest value is to devote as much time as possible to work outside the home. 

Given that most high-status jobs have been dominated by men for most of Western history, it was no surprise when women started emulating male habits in other areas of life, such as dress, interests, and general demeanour. In a culture which says that the highest-value women are those who are the most like men, there is no place for fathers as the culture believes that the mothers ‘can have and do it all’. 

However, only very well-educated, highly-paid employees of either sex can support a family alone in the era of the dual-career family. This led the politicians of the mid-20th century to create the other demon which we must reckon with if we want to restore familial harmony in our homes.

Academic research from Griffiths (2017) has shown that the modern system of British welfare encourages mothers to live alone. Some embrace this path of singleness, while others defraud the system by not reporting to the DWP that they have a ‘partner’ resident. Either way, research has clearly shown that modern welfare places the ‘couple penalty’ on poor couples who want to work hard and raise their children with proper parental influences. The feminist reading of this is that by examining people as ‘households’ rather than individuals, women are disenfranchised. Another way of looking at it is to prevent needless overpayment to those out of work. By financially penalising marriage, the state has weakened family bonds to such an extent that, despite the stated desires of those involved, the daily wear of life will cause them to break under slight pressure. 

Most people would agree that those who become single mothers through widowhood, abandonment, or to escape abuse should be supported, but it does not follow that to do this we need a welfare system which incentivises bad behaviour among men. While there are a malevolent few, most men will not sit by at the thought of their children suffering poverty, whatever issues may exist between former couples. In light of this perspective, having a welfare system which is generous to single mothers incentivises father absence, as a man can move on in the knowledge that his ‘baby mama’ will be taken care of. 

Multigenerational father absence is most prominent among black people in the US, so it is only fitting that the long-term societal effects of fatherlessness can be best understood through examining this group. With single motherhood rates of 72%, here fatherlessness is very much the norm. Despite calls from prominent black figures such as Dr Natalie Carroll for her patients to ‘Marry Your Baby Daddy’, because so many in this community have no happily-married role models to compare themselves to, the damage of fatherlessness seems to go unnoticed. Low educational achievement means that (in general) black men do not make desirable husbands, and the better option for women is to marry the government: which provides a steady paycheck, a house, food, and healthcare. High imprisonment rates among black men means that separation from children is long-term and sometimes irreversible. Given that fatherless girls are more likely to be promiscuous, and fatherless boys are more likely to be violent, the cycle continues with no obvious way out other than a major cultural change that sees the value of the nuclear family. 

To sum up, the state-sponsored destruction of the family is a threat to us all. Mothers are extremely valuable in their role as carers, but fathers have an equally important role in providing not just funds, but structure and discipline to a household. Given other trends towards an unstructured lifestyle such as ‘flexible’ working, lax divorce laws, and portfolio careers over the stability of jobs for life, the youth of today are crying out for structure; which means that we are crying out for fathers.


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From Atheism

Looking at the demographics of the Mallard, I assume most are familiar if not directly, then indirectly, with New Atheism. It was particularly popular between the 2000s and the 2010s, likely because the last vestiges of cultural Christianity were being stamped out, but the embers of cultural leftism were yet to catch. Early YouTube was dominated by atheists, who took to the new media platform to deliver the message of atheism to a new generation of young adults – myself included.

In fairness, I can’t blame YouTube for my lack of faith. My Church of England school hardly did anything to justify the faith to me, and without parental guidance, it was inevitable that I’d be filled with misgivings and misunderstandings of what faith was. Later in life, I’d take up a degree in Physics and later rest my atheism on the claim that the existence of God doesn’t adhere to the tenets of science. This is true, and something I believe even now. In science, if something cannot be validated or invalidated, then you dismiss it. This tenet is so engrained in scientists that when Pauli proposed the existence of a massless, chargeless particle, he bet a crate of champagne that no-one would find it due to the ludicrousness of being able to test the existence of a particle with no mass and no charge.

Of course, they did find it – and Pauli made good on his promise, gifting a crate of champagne to the scientists who discovered the neutrino. If you want to dismiss the existence of literal physical objects, this tenet will do just fine. The problem with it, is that it applies equally to anything not located in space and time. Morality, for example, is not a physical thing and its existence cannot be tested. We can do an experiment showing that murder rates generally correlate with unhappiness, but who says unhappiness is synonymous with badness? And so, on the same basis I dismissed the existence of God, I dismissed the existence of morality. At the time I did not know it, but this problem had been expressed in Hume’s Guillotine. A should statement can never rest on an is statement. It is raining, so I should wear a coat presupposes I shouldn’t want to get wet, which only pushes the problem back one step. Of course, if you insert an intelligent creator into the picture, you can say the way the world is, is a reflection of that creators plan for us, which we should follow – and so you can begin to talk about some kind of natural order to the world beyond science.

In time, I would find the failure of scientism to present a morality to be troublesome. After all, even if I were correct, and that morality didn’t exist – it was wholly arbitrary to hold that belief, after all, believing the truth over lies could not be the right thing to do by the very nature of my claims. The answers I saw from atheists regarding this, particularly Richard Dawkins, were not so impressive. Dawkins has argued that morality is an evolutionary instinct, which only begs the question as to why to follow that instinct over any other instinct. All instincts do is attempt to keep us alive, after all. Instincts also tell us to be distrustful of people ethnically dissimilar from one another, and Dawkins refutes that behaviour in the strongest terms, often accusing Brexiteers of behaving in that way. If we are to follow the evolutionary moral instinct because it is the ‘right thing to do’, and what is right is determined by that same instinct – all Dawkins is saying is that the evolutionary moral instinct says to follow itself, but of course an instinct says to follow it: that’s what instincts do. At this point, it became quite clear that attempts to either dismiss morality on the basis of science, or to construct one out of scientific principles inevitably tended towards circular logic.

Materialism, the belief that everything is one substance, that of matter, is very elegant on its surface: Everything is matter, the interactions of that matter are described by science, and anything we perceive to be outside of that is just a social construct, a spook, or a delusion. One major flaw in materialism is the existence of qualia, of the sensation of experiencing things. For example, the sensation of happiness is not the same as the chemicals that produce that sensation. It may be described as such, and you may even be able to predict with perfect certainty that someone will feel a sensation and how intense you expect the sensation to be. However there is a thisness to the sensation that cannot just be reduced to the biochemical processes that go into it. As a consequence, materialism has to simply deny that these sensations are real, and insist that things like joy, sadness, and conscious experience itself are just tricks of the mind (composed of atoms and microelectrodes and nothing more). This ultimately refutes materialism itself, however. If our conscious experiences are not meaningful or true, then the scientific laws we derive from those experiences are not meaningful either.

If you want to insist the universe is one substance, it makes much more sense to argue the universe is not all matter, but all consciousness – as consciousness is all anyone has ever been given, even those who came up with and tested scientific laws did so through verification of sensations they experienced in their consciousness, which cannot be reduced to the physical processes that went into bringing consciousness about. Even if we could have a perfect understanding of the human brain, and could replicate what I imagine on a screen – all we would have succeeded in doing is making a map of consciousness, not replicating consciousness itself. This would be the same as arguing that because we can make a map of New York City, that the map is identical to New York City. The map may describe New York, it may even predict things around New York – but the map is not New York. Equivalently, science may describe and predict consciousness or reality, but science is not consciousness or reality.

There is a comfort in appealing to scientific laws, they are predictable (that’s what makes them scientific,) but this predictability relies on the laws themselves being continuous. If gravitational attraction changed overnight, then the equations that described them would also have to change. The assumption that these laws are constant and reliable, and therefore the basis of yet more science is something that cannot itself be tested. If you want to insist that you only believe in the existence of things that can be falsified, then you cannot believe the laws of physics are continuous and constant – as this cannot be falsified. Again, Hume recognised this – and labelled it ‘naïve empiricism’. The naïvety comes in when we insist the laws of Physics are constant because they’ve always been constant in our experience. By the same token we can’t say the Universe existed before we were born because we have never experienced it, which creates a solipsism harder to justify than any spooky non-materialistic belief. Even if we appeal to the material truths which demonstrate existence beyond our lifetime, for example, carbon-13 dating – we can never justify whether or not the laws of physics will spontaneously change the day after our deaths, we simply assume that they won’t. This is not to say such the belief that the laws of Physics are constant is unreasonable, only that it is unreasonable within a world-view conforming to empiricism, and not something proven empirically.

So what kind of world-view does answer these questions? Well, I gave one answer earlier: one in which consciousness is primary, also known as Idealism. Another would be faith, which recognises the objective value of things not located in space and time. For example, morality. Morality is of course, not the only thing located in space and time that we treat as objective, I’ve just talked about it a lot in this article so I felt compelled to mention it first. Another would be numbers. You can have seven marbles, seven pounds, and the number seven on a piece of paper – but destroy the marbles, spend the money, and erase the number on the paper and yet the number seven still exists. We can’t simply escape the reality of numbers by arguing they are an invention of the mind, physical laws, such as attraction due to gravity require them. The gravitational constant, G, is a number you are required to multiply by (and cannot simply be dropped) to describe gravitational attraction. We can shunt the value of the number about by changing our units, but the number itself remains – and would make human life impossible if it were off by just 1 in 1060. Which is the same as getting statistically impossible odds ten trillion times. Not only are numbers not reducible to material reality, but they are also required to be highly specific for life to develop whatsoever.

A materialist might want to escape this by claiming that there are trillions of universes where these constants vary, and therefore our existence is statistically inevitable. But at this point you are no longer doing science. A multiverse is necessarily not empirically verifiable, and the existence of a multiverse is just as unfounded (on materialist terms) as a belief in God. Furthermore, this only shunts the problem back one step – why is it that multiverses are created in this one specific way, with the values of the constants varying? Why can’t there by multiverses where not just the constants in the equations, but the equations themselves vary? Who is to say there has to be these forces and their respective equations at all? Is there a multiverse of multiverses and a multiverse of multiverses of multiverses? Isn’t this all just circular and ridiculous at this point?

It was in light of all of these things: the absence of transcendence, the inability to consistently derive physics and metaphysics, and the failure to construct a morality, that drew me away from atheism and into my current beliefs. There are things beyond this world that we not only need to appeal to pragmatically, but need in order to make sense of the world as it exists. They are transcendent. They are not just a reflection of a higher world, but necessary components of this world as well. From morality, to numbers, to the very sensation of being anything at all, every part of life is beyond the mere matter we interact with every day. In that kind of understanding, the world ceases to be sterile, and instead takes on the character of an enchanted garden – where life, death, and the interplay of tragedy and comedy make up just a part of an order much larger than our mere existence.


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The Identity Crisis of Young Conservatives

While boomers indulge themselves in the same 2016 talking points on GB News for the 68th time this week, it seems like young conservatives are tired of it. The right wing of Generation Z have been raised on “Ben Shapiro DESTROYS Liberal Student” compilations. Meanwhile, while the conservative young people have moved on, the “triggered leftist” has moved on from university and into our civil service or primary schools, increasing their influence in society. And as much as we’d like to move on from cringe culture war issues, it seems like they’re not going anywhere. If we don’t confront them effectively then the left will continue to infect our institutions.

The left call the right “racist, sexist, homophobic, bigoted!” Each adjective enough to make the average wet Tory squeal apologetically and disregard the history of the party that has been told through a left wing narrative. Instead of giving the conservative argument for why an actual Conservative politician has done something, they say “yes, I know that was bad but what about this…” and then proceed to state a left wing policy pushed by a so called “right winger”.

And what do the right call the left to match their accusations of bigotry?

“Snowflakes”

It doesn’t quite have the same effect, does it?

The problem with the right is that they’re missing their own vocabulary. We don’t have the same words that appeal to the general public’s emotion as the left do. They say that we hate the poor and minorities. They say we want poor kids to starve. They say that we’re selfish. Of course, we know that’s not true. We want to see our country and community thrive.

However, unlike the left, we haven’t had mainstream institutions providing us with arguments to make. The right of Gen Z can’t have their social media pages flooded with aesthetic infographics simplifying radical Marxist rhetoric into simple slogans like the left do because there aren’t many conservative equivalents. Go onto #BorisJohnson and you’ll just see posts on how corrupt the Tories are and how Boris is a blubbering fool. Browse #KeirStarmer and you’ll see posts on Labour victories and how they’re crushing the Tories.

The Conservative Party doesn’t help with the government wasting their majority by not pushing any actual conservative policies and instead needlessly pander towards the left while they butcher the name of actual conservatives like Thatcher and Churchill to justify it. Even within the general party, a concerning number of Young Conservatives are pro-BLM and believe that a biological man in a dress is a woman. These people either have no backbone or are careerists who won’t join the Liberal Democrats because they’re irrelevant. Either way, kick them out.

Then you have the Young Conservatives who like a few Thatcher quotes and believe in general conservative principles like “free enterprise” and “equal opportunity” (which, let’s be honest, are more liberal principles). However, you can’t blame them too harshly considering that it’s much harder to discover right wing philosophy and history in comparison to that of the left. Ask an A Level Politics teacher for book recommendations and they’ll probably recommend Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto or Owen Jones’ Chavs. Similarly, go into Waterstones and the politics section catering ranges from septum piercing Sociology students to Keynesian #FBPE Britpoppers. Maybe you’ll find Douglas Murray’s Madness of the crowd between all the prison abolitionist and Europhile literature if you’re lucky.

However, since this generation of Young Conservatives have to go out their way to find the charm of Peter Hitchens or Roger Scruton, is it any wonder they resort to cheap arguments that the reason the left is so bad is that they’re too “progressive”?

The problem with Black Lives Matter isn’t that the activists are too sensitive. It’s that they’re promoting divisive, radical racial politics and harming people and property as a means of doing so. We shouldn’t have to say “but if the right did that then we would never hear the end of it”, we need to control the narrative. After months of destroying cities, causing damage and ruining lives, it’s ridiculous that January 6th is the focus of political extremism in the US.

After the death of George Floyd, the mainstream narrative needed a problem and a solution. They decided the problem was racism and police brutality and that the solution was police abolition and divisive critical race theory. They used it as an opportunity to sneak in other themes such as Marxism and collectivism while silencing anyone who disagreed with their dogma as “racist”. The average person who didn’t care too much about politics will just carelessly accept this narrative in order to fit in when their friends and co-workers discuss it at work.

The right could’ve offered their own solutions to the problems. A law and order argument could be called for more community policing and police accountability. Instead the right had to go on the defence, leading to the phrase “All Lives Matter” which was just received by the public of being covering up racism. We need to be proactive instead of reactive.

Similarly with transgender ideology, the right shouldn’t be focused on pronoun badges. If I was the average apolitical person and I saw that the biggest issue the right is concerned about is pronoun badges, then I’d call them “snowflakes”. They should be focused on the fact that there are perverted men trying to get their way into women’s spaces (oftentimes spaces where they are most vulnerable like domestic violence shelters) and silence any woman who speaks out about it. They should be focused on the fact that there are actors in our institutions who are trying to have conversations with children about sexuality and confuse them into later seeking out unnecessary surgery which mutilates their bodies.

If the right wants to succeed then they need to equip themselves with the right words and slogans. This is why Ron DeSantis is successful in Florida: by switching the narrative he has turned the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” into the “Anti Groomer Bill”. British Conservatives need to learn from this. It’s understandable to be fed up with the over usage of the current culture war vocabulary. However, you need to find an alternative to replace it because these issues aren’t going away. 


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Destabilisation, not Conquest: Russia’s Real Strategy

As the crisis in the Ukraine drags itself on, it’s become quite clear that the Russian strategy from the start has not been conquest or even necessarily annexation, but a destabilisation campaign. 

As I wrote earlier this year, Russia’s style of warfare is intended to displace populations and destroy civilian centres. Alongside this, Russia has claimed and supported the independence of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, almost definitely to create a buffer region between Ukraine and Russia. Regardless, when I wrote that the next refugee crisis was brewing in the Ukraine, I actually underestimated the figures: I suggested that, of the roughly 30 million people in Ukraine who hate Putin, perhaps 1% (300,000) might leave; in reality, the figure is as much as ten times that. 

Refugee crises are challenges, and almost always met badly. But, this was what Russia was counting on: by displacing so many people (intentionally – again, due to their style of warfare), forced to move into relatively benign nations, such as Poland, Hungary and (much less likely) Belarus, Russia has laid the foundations for a refugee crisis in Central and Western Europe. It is not necessarily the policies of the receiving countries that will make this a crisis, but the simple numbers – already over four million people have left Ukraine, most of them women and children. 

Europe struggled to accommodate one million of the six and a half million Syrian refugees, but even the majority of these numbers arrived in Europe across a period of years, not weeks. This is the worst refugee crisis in Europe in living memory; and unfortunately, the vast majority of refugees are not going to be returning to the country they knew. If the pictures coming out of Ukraine are anything to go by, the level of urban destruction is consistent with both the style of warfare Russia executes, and that of the Second World War. As horrible as it may sound, there is every possibility the refugees will not have a home to return to.

And this goes deeper than a physical home; there may not be a recognisable ‘Ukraine’ at the end of this. It is absurd to think, despite the general consensus amongst the Western media, that Ukraine was without its problems before this war began, and many of them were over far-right groups active in the Azov region, such as the Azov Battalion. The prevalence of ultra-nationalist, and even active Nazis in some cases, in the Ukraine is something the West has sought to paper-over, and Putin has sought to exacerbate, but the honest truth is that this is a real and enduring problem for Ukrainian politicians. Some even compared the defensive war that Ukraine is fighting to the final days of the Third Reich and the Allied bombing campaign.

This has been going on for longer than we might want to admit. In 2018, the Kievan “National Militia” attacked local government meetings in order to strong-arm them into policies they favoured; in 2019, the Azov Battalion and other far-right groups (Dnipro-1 Battallion as well) carried out pogroms on minorities; and the ultra-nationalist party Svoboda – which has 15,000 members and has a parliamentary presence in the Verkohvna Rada – is regularly accused of neo-Nazi sympathies, not to mention the fact that Belitsky, leader of the Azovs, is a deputy in Ukraine’s parliament. 

Russia’s campaign has made these internal divisions public knowledge; it is spurious to pretend that Russia’s ‘de-Nazification’ claims are accurate to the situation, but it cannot be ignored that there is a major presence of National Socialists in the Ukraine. 

Why will Russia’s ‘special military campaign’ make this situation worse? Put simply, the immediate (and, it must be said, necessary) arming of civilians in order to fight the Russian invasion will have long, long term consequences. Whenever this war ends – which may be longer than we want to imagine – Ukraine will be facing the problem of what to do with a well-armed, combat-experienced, pissed off population. When the United States armed the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s, it was seen as a necessary use of paramilitary forces to resist (again) Russian aggression. Now, Afghanistan is a mess of guerilla groups, Islamist fundamentalists and radical separatists. This whole situation was made worse by the 

This problem extends to normal politics as well; Volodymyr Zelensky has dismantled the free press, claimed a conspiracy exists to oust him, and has outlawed the existence of eleven pro-Russian political parties, one of which had 10% of the Ukrainian parliament.

So, when the dust settles, Ukraine will have to contend with the reality of neo-Nazis with modern arms such as NLAWS, displaced and angry civilians with access to combat weaponry, and a gutting of as much as 10% of its population that is abroad with no home to return to. 

Putin does not need to take Ukraine, or even necessarily enforce the independence of Luhansk and Donetsk. Instead, in many ways, he has done what he really needed to do; destabilise the West’s big player on its border, and likely the rest of Europe for a long time. 


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Thatcher and the Conservative Ghost Dance

Life, loss, and lethargy have strange effects on peoples, cultures, and movements. And nothing could be more lethargic than our current iteration of conservatism. Neoconservatism was certainly not new, it grew out of, and drew from, the economic thinking that preceded it. However, it at least believed in itself so strongly that it attempted to bring economic liberalism and democracy to the rest of the world. Whether or not this was to benefit those in power at the time is another matter and another article, but there was at the very least a sizeable class of people who earnestly believed in the project and aimed to see it through.

When we look across the world today however, there doesn’t appear to be one major success story for the neoconservative project. The project was so unsuccessful that the next successful candidate for the GOP following George W. Bush Jr. was Donald Trump, who rode in on opposing the ‘forever wars’. Contrast this with the left, who have certainly undergone a shift from the economic to the identitarian, but have arguably been undergoing that shift for 60 years. In comparison, the ten years between Douglas Murray’s ‘Neo-Conservatism: Why We Need It’, a celebration of the ideology, and the election of Donald Trump demonstrates the awfully short shelf-life of the worldview.

Neoconservatism could probably best be understood literally. What is new is what we conserve. Economic liberalism under the Pax Americana and democracy is new, therefore we conserve it. After all, the Allied powers had just defeated the Axis powers and brought a functioning democracy to Germany, a country which had only ever had it in the form of the dysfunctional Weimar Republic. Regime change, it seemed, was possible. But here we after after Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan and what democracy does exist is fraught and unstable.

When a group faces an external threat and their core beliefs are shattered, there is a tendency to double-down. To look back at the victories of the past and attempt to emulate them and relive them. There is a tendency to Ghost Dance.

Ghost dancing was the name given to the phenomena found in Native Americans who had been consistently beaten by the European settlers, who quickly found that tribal formations and dances fell flat in the face of the technology and organisation of the Europeans they encountered. Increasingly, tribes began to engage in a new Native American dance known as the Ghost Dance. The dance promised to summon the ghosts of the ancestors, to have them drive out the white man and rip up the earth beneath their feet, revealing the untouched America they had long known.

It didn’t work, of course. Ghost Dances never do. The past is over, and attempts to revive by recreating the conditions that no longer exist will only ever create artificial facsimiles at best, but Ghost Dances are reassuring, and fun for those who practice them.

When I looked across the Conference floor in 2021, I saw merchandise of Thatcher and her slogans plastered everywhere. Endlessly her name was invoked as some kind of lodestone of Conservatism. Of course, the social conservatism was tactically amiss, but she permeated the halls of Conference regardless.  Juxtaposed to this is the current conservative rhetoric: “Getting On With The Job” and  “Getting Brexit Done” suggest stagnation, as though leadership were a shift at Subway to muddle through to, a list of tasks to be done and forgotten about and this lack of fervour is reflected in the polling numbers.

As the dust of Coronavirus settles, and the UK remembers that Ukraine is actually quite a far away country that our American masters will not let us get involved in, the certainty of the conservatives’ loss in the culture wars with the looming threat of electoral defeat create the conditions for a Ghost Dance. We even have some ‘conservatives’ with Margaret Thatcher cut-outs in their university rooms ready to lead the dance!

But the appeal of the Ghost Dance is fleeting. The images of Thatcher and her incredible electoral success will be little more than temporary anaesthetic for the elderly base of the Conservative party in the wake of their continued loss to the left. It won’t track with a generation who never knew Thatcher, and actively suffer under the free market policies she advocated. New ways of thinking and governing are required, and must bring a close to the tragicomedy of liberalism.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”


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Why Britain’s counter-extremism policy is not working

Last year marked 20 years since 9/11, making it an appropriate time to review and reflect on Britain’s counter-terrorism policy. The beginning of the 21st century saw the issue of terrorism and Islamic extremism become increasingly salient. Britain’s counter-terrorism officials claim that most of the country’s terror threats come from British-born extremists. The government has therefore introduced counter-extremism strategies, which seek to: stop terrorist attacks; stop radicalisation; strengthen protection for potential targets of terrorism, and ensure that there is a plan of action if an attack does occur.

The most well-known of these is The Prevent program, which aims to achieve the second of these objectives. Prevent requires that individuals perform their “civic duty” reporting individuals suspected of extremism to the local police. A Prevent committee subsequently decides whether the person should be referred to the programme, but participation is voluntary. Despite some successes, several reports highlight that Prevent has been ineffective.

Prevent is often rendered ineffectual because institutions are reluctant to intervene, and some student groups actively  dispute counter-extremism measures. For instance, the National Union of Students has pledged to oppose counter-radicalisation work. The actions of these groups should be given greater attention by counter-terror policy makers and enforcers.

Sadly, there is more to the issue of extremism on British campuses. Over 30% of individuals involved in Islamist terrorism in Britain went to university in the UK, and there is strong evidence that some of them were radicalised during their studies. According to security sources, Kafeel Ahmed, the 2007 Glasgow airport suicide attacker, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, mastermind of the 2002 murder of Daniel Pearl and Omar Sharif, the 2003 Tel Aviv suicide attacker, were radicalised at university.

Students are therefore being exposed to an intolerant and sometimes violent interpretation of Islam. Extremist speakers are being welcomed on campuses and presented as mainstream representatives of Islam. For instance, speakers at UCL have included Abu Usama adh Dhahabee, an advocate for armed jihad who believes that apostasy and homosexuality are punishable by death, Abdur Raheem Green, who has defended domestic violence  and Haitham al-Haddad, an open Hamas supporter.

Concerningly, there is evidence of discriminatory practices by some university Islamic Societies (ISOCs), such as mandatory gender segregation and sexist behaviour. Yet, these same student groups often label counter-extremism measures as “racist”, an accusation lacking  hard evidence.

The underperformance of Prevent, in educational institutions, is exemplified by the infamous case of the Bethnal Green schoolgirls who were not identified as vulnerable to radicalisation.  On top of this, when one of the girls was killed by an airstrike in 2016, the Labour MP Rushanara Ali called for a “full review of Prevent”,  expressing concerns, not over the failure to halt radicalisation but the risk of stigmatisation of young Muslims. The risk of stigmatisation is a very real one, but is must not detract from the need to identify those responsible for, and vulnerable to radicalisation.

Douglas Murray argues the question of responsibility for radicalisation of young people is often ignored, partially due to the policies pursued by British governments since the 1970s – chiefly a lack of focus on integration. A lack of government focus in this area has led to fragmentation in our society through the creation of “parallel communities” that rarely interact with each other. This reinforces ‘a narrative of difference’ whereby minorities become solely defined by their ethnicity and religion and become viewed as homogenous units by the wider British population. In this context, some young British Muslims are recruited by radical Islamic groups where they seek to find a sense of identity and belonging.

Extremist figures often gain legitimacy through their ties to local organisations even becoming self-appointed  community leaders, who often to not genuinely represent the voice of their community. Despite this, local authorities often communicate with minority communities via these gateway individuals, increasing the risk that authorities gain a distorted view of these communities which impedes efforts to promote and enforce counter-extremism measures.

The dangers of the closed nature of some communities and allowing “cultural sensitivity” fears to dominate is shown through the lack of investigation into cases of human rights abuse like female genital mutilation (FGM). Whilst FGM was criminalised in the UK in 1985, there were  no convictions of FGM until 2017, although cases of FGM had been known. More shocking was the 2014 Rotherham Child Sexual Exploitation scandal  where more than 1400 girls had been abused, threatened and raped between 1997 and 2013. Some council and police officials had known about it but felt nervous about highlighting the offenders’ ethnicity in fear of being labelled racist.  Given this and the fact that such fringe practices still take place in 21st century Britain illustrates the failure of the government’s counter-extremism policies.

In short, Prevent has been unsuccessful in combating extremism. In higher education, student groups and universities have opposed counter-extremism initiatives, whilst the government has not been robust enough in their enforcement. This has permitted speakers with radical affiliations platforms on campuses and undermined Prevents’ efforts. The emergence of parallel communities has also allowed extremist cultural practices to be carried out. Without reform counter-extremism policies are likely to remain hard to enforce. The government should focus on promoting integration of minority communities, so that such groups can develop a sense of belonging that is not detached from wider British society.

Marina Barats is a Policy Fellow of The Pinsker Centre, a campus-based think tank which facilitates discussion on global affairs and free speech. The views in this article are the author’s own.


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The Monarchy is Losing its Core Supporters

The Platinum Jubilee approaches, yet Peter Hitchens writes that, “I have just stopped supporting the monarchy. I can’t do it any more. I am not a republican, or anything silly like that. I would like a proper monarchy. But the House of Windsor’s total mass conversion to Green orthodoxy has destroyed the case for this particular Royal Family. The whole point of the Crown is that it does not take sides in politics.” Quite apart from what other political opinions he could possibly have expected West London toffs to hold, the political neutrality of the monarchy is like the impartiality of the BBC. When, exactly, has there ever been any such thing?

The monarchy retains the loyalty of many on the right, but it is a mystery how this is so. Either the Queen or her equally revered father has signed off on every nationalisation, every aspect of the Welfare State, every retreat from Empire, every loosening of Commonwealth ties, every social liberalisation, every constitutional change, and every EU treaty. If they could not have done otherwise, then why bother having a monarchy? What is it for? Many supported public ownership and the Welfare State, decolonisation, social liberalisation and constitutional change a cause for joy, but many more found these things cause for horror. Public opinion on the changes over which the monarchy has presided over the last century is besides the point, however. The point is that the monarchy has failed at its own avowed mission. 

Is it not the job of a monarch, if not to acquire territory and subjects, then at least to hold onto them? If so, then George VI was by far the worst ever British monarch, and quite possibly the worst monarch that the world has ever seen. Furthermore, is it not the job of the British monarch to maintain Protestant society and culture in the United Kingdom? If so, then no predecessor has ever begun to approach the abject failure of Elizabeth II, a failure so complete that no successor will ever be able to equal it.

For all her undoubted personal piety, the cult of the present Queen among Evangelical Protestants and among those who cleave to a more-or-less 1950s vision of Anglicanism, Presbyterianism or Methodism, is utterly baffling. What has either the monarchy or the Queen ever done for them? During the present reign, Britain has become one of the world’s most secular countries ever, and the White British have become one of history’s most secular ethnic groups – a trend that has been even more marked among those with Protestant backgrounds than it has been among Catholics.

This has implications for the Windrush debate, and with eight Commonwealth Realms in or on the Caribbean, a fat lot of good being the Queen’s loyal subject has done anyone there. Barbados, proportionately the most Anglican country in the world, has just become a republic. It also has implications for aspects of the debate around Brexit. If you wanted to preserve and restore a Christian culture in this country, then one idea could be to welcome immigrants from Christian countries. 

On balance, it would not be wise to abolish the monarchy. We would no more likely get President Hitchens than President Corbyn. It would be a choice between the next Bullingdon Club member in line and someone who had casually given a trifling £50,000 to the most recently successful candidate for the Leadership of the Labour Party. No one else would even make it onto the ballot paper, and it would not be acceptable to have either as Head of State. Nor would it make sense to abolish the Royal Prerogative, either. Rather, it should be exercised by a Prime Minister who aspires to strengthen families and communities through economic equality and international peace.

But the monarchy, and with it the exercise of the Royal Prerogative by persons who most certainly did not share those aspirations, does not depend on the support of the public. It depends on the support of people who, as long as the monarchy and especially the present Queen were simply there, are prepared to overlook the fact that hardly anything that they really want ever happens while all sorts of things that they do not want continue to happen, no matter who is in government.

Add to that the fact that the Order of the Garter is entirely in the gift of the monarch. There is no Ministerial involvement. The Queen alone has chosen to confer it on Tony Blair – an almost unforgivable betrayal. Moreover, whatever Prince Andrew may or may not have done, he undeniably chose to move in the circles of Jeffrey Epstein, of Robert Maxwell’s daughter, of Peter Mandelson, and of the Clintons. It is the Anglo-American liberal elite, certain sections of the Labour and Democratic Parties that are the Royal Family’s sort of people, even if they don’t align with left wing politics publicly. Culturally, no one is more Tory than a liberal Tory; politically no one is more liberal. The people on whose support the monarchy has traditionally depended have chosen to ignore the fact that that was what their heroes must have been, and openly were. But if Hitchens’s column and the reaction to Blair’s Garter are anything to go by, then that is coming to a sore end. 


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