Stalinizing Britain’s schools

Recently, British columnist James Bartholomew took up a subject that goes to the heart of what this website is all about.

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James Bartholomew

It started with a holiday cocktail party, where he happened to meet a woman who teaches history at a top U.K. school. “We somehow started chatting about Stalin,” he recalled, “and she said – in passing – that there had been good aspects to his Five Year Plans.”

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Josef Stalin

Of course, anyone who knows the true history of Stalin’s Five Year Plans knows that they proved to be a nightmare for the people of the Soviet Union. Far from improving the Soviet economy, as intended, they caused famine. Compared to the Western world’s economy, the USSR’s was a disaster. Yes, they told the world otherwise, but historians have long since shown that the statistics shared by the Kremlin with gullible Western journalists were sheer fairy tales.

After his encounter with the history teacher – with whom he “only just managed to avoid having a row” – Bartholomew decided to look into exactly what British children are being taught these days about Stalin. He bought a copy of a study guide for history students. What he discovered was that the fatuous teacher’s “balanced” view of Stalinism is now “the standard line” at the very best British schools.

Take collectivization – Stalin’s expropriation of privately held farms from their owners and introduction of a system whereby groups of peasants were ordered to run them on behalf of the state. As any student of Soviet history knows, this policy proved to be disastrous. Bartholomew sums up the results:

Production decreased. People starved. Some farmers were not keen to have their property taken away. They were imprisoned or killed. Some collectives hid grain to avoid starvation. If discovered, they were killed, too. In all, up to ten million died as a result of the collectivisation in one of the greatest man-made disasters the world has ever known.

But that’s not what British students are being told. According to the study guide, collectivization had its “pros and cons.” One “pro”: it “ended the forced exploitation of peasants by greedy landlords and got rid of the greedy and troublesome kulaks.” The “kulaks” were the small farmers from whom Stalin stole the farms. To call these people “greedy and troublesome” is to use the language of Stalinism itself. They were greedy, yes, insofar as they sought, like any person operating a private business under a capitalist system, to maximize production and profits and minimize expenses. “Troublesome”? Again, yes, to the extent that they stood up to the Bolsheviks who took their property from them.

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Eton College

Another “pro” of collectivization: “It helped peasants work together.” Yes, and ultimately starve together.

“It would be grotesque,” observes Bartholomew, “to suggest as a subject for discussion the possible Pros and Cons of the Holocaust. It would be sickening to offer the idea that forced labour camps ‘helped people work together’ even if you expected children to knock the suggestion down.” The same should apply to Stalin’s reign of terror. But no: when it comes to subjects like Stalinist collectivization, “students are advised to give a ‘balanced answer.’ Students are to take into the ‘balance’ that up to 10 million people were starved or killed. The brutal enforcement of starvation of 2.5 to 7.5 million Ukrainians, know as Holodomor, is not mentioned.”

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The Kremlin

The reason for this is clear. In Britain, as elsewhere in the West, the people who formulate school curricula uniformly recognize the horrors of Nazism – but some of them are likely to have a soft spot for Communism, notwithstanding its own attendant horrors. “The communists in the Soviet Union,” Bartholomew reminds us, “were responsible for the deaths of a minimum of between 13 and 15 million people, the second worst rate of deaths caused by human action after those caused by Mao Tse Tung in China. But young people are not taught this.” And the less they know about “the terror, economic failure and mass murder that took place under communism,” the more likely they are “to be seduced by similar ideas.” Yes, that’s how it works.  

PewDiePie, Nazi?

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Felix Kjellberg, aka PewDiePie

It’s hard to know which is more embarrassing to have to write: the words “YouTube star” or the silly name “PewDiePie.” As it happens, the latter is an example – indeed, the prime example – of the former: PewDiePie, a 27-year-old Swede whose real moniker is Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, is the biggest of all YouTube stars.

It happened fast. A drop-out from a technology college, he tried unsuccessfully to get an apprenticeship at an ad agency. Then, six years ago, while working at a hot-dog stand, he posted the first of his homemade videos, of which he’s now made several hundred. By August 2013 he was the most subscribed user on all of YouTube. His videos routinely get millions, if not tens of millions, of views. He’s now accumulated a total of over 14 billion views. He makes tens of millions of dollars a year off of this stuff.

pewdiepie-400x240Now, many a discerning adult, if confronted with one of Kjellberg’s videos, might scratch his or her head over the young Swede’s success. It’s not exactly witty or sophisticated fare – and that’s putting it mildly. But his followers (largely teens and tweens) love him. In any case, his immense success led the folks at Disney to sign him in 2014 to a lucrative contract.

For a while there, he seemed to be moving from triumph to triumph.

pewdiepie-e1484319246136But his smooth ride hit a bump – at the very least – on February 14, when Rolfe Winkler, Jack Nicas, and Ben Fritz published a report in the Wall Street Journal about Kjellberg’s videos. Their investigation had been spurred by a recent incident that had caused a brief and limited flurry of controversy. On January 11, Kjellberg posted a video on which he explained that he had found two young Indian guys online who offered to display a message while dancing in the jungle – all for the price of five dollars. He sent them five dollars, and, doing what he had paid them to do, they danced and laughed on camera while holding up a banner reading “Death to All Jews.”

After showing the footage, Kjellberg told viewers: “I didn’t think they’d actually do it. I feel partially [!] responsible…” He then broke into giggles and said he had to give the guys “five stars” for doing what he’d asked. “Let me know if I should do more of these,” he said. “I don’t feel good….I’m not anti-Semitic…It was a funny meme…I swear I love Jews, I love ’em.” But the contrition, if that’s what it was, lasted two seconds. He did, after all, post the video – which to date has logged more than ten million views.

As the Journal reporters discovered, this was not an isolated case. Several of the videos posted by Kjellberg during the last six months, it turned out, contained “either antisemitic jokes or Nazi imagery.” If he had any real regret about the “Death to All Jews” incident, it had dissipated by January 22, when he posted a video showing “a man dressed as Jesus saying, ‘Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong.’” In another video, Kjellberg wears a Nazi uniform while watching a video of Hitler. At least once, he invited viewers to draw swastikas.

pewdiepieAfter the Journal‘s article came out, Disney cancelled its deal with Kjellberg. He didn’t have much to offer by way of a defense. All his “jokes,” he insisted, were offered in a spirit of innocent fun. The “Death to all Jews” thing was an effort to show “how crazy the modern world is.” One chilling revelation was that the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, according to The Guardian, had “run a series of articles about the YouTuber, describing him as ‘our guy’” and praising his work because “it normalizes Nazism, and marginalizes our enemies.”

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Gustav V of Sweden

Is Kjellberg a Jew-hater? Maybe, maybe not. But the ease and reflexivity with which he resorts to Nazi and anti-Semitic tropes reflects a mindset that has prevailed in his country throughout its modern history. During World War II, Sweden, which was officially neutral, aided the Nazis in a number of ways. Also, while the wartime king of Denmark famously stood up for his Jewish subjects against the Nazi occupiers and his Norwegian counterpart, Haakon VII, went into exile in Britain for the duration, Sweden’s king, Gustav V, happily socialized with Hitler. Today, Swedish Jews are routinely terrorized by anti-Semitic Muslim immigrants, and many of those Jews are fleeing the country to save their skins – a disgraceful state of affairs that very few gentile Swedes bother to speak up about, and that the Swedish media largely ignore.

Which raises the question: does Kjellberg ever “joke” about Islam? We suspect not.

South Korea kicks out Samsung’s pet prez

Park Geun-hye

For the last few months, we’ve been following the growing South Korean corruption scandal that involves the Samsung Corporation, President Park Geun-hye, and the President’s best friend Choi Soon-sil. In a country where corruption scandals involving ties between top political leaders and the powerful chaebol – the immense, family-controlled conglomerates that are the pillars of the nation’s economy – are a frequent occurrence, the present scandal was the biggest ever.

South Korea’s Constitutional Court

On Friday, that scandal came to a climax as the eight justices on the country’s Constitutional Court voted unanimously to remove Park Geun-hye from the office of the presidency for committing acts that “betrayed the trust of the people and were of the kind that cannot be tolerated for the sake of protecting the Constitution.” The court’s move, which followed the suspension of Park’s powers in December when the national legislature voted for impeachment, and which took effect immediately, was without precedent in South Korean political history.

Choi Soon-sil in police custody

The unseating of Park caused joy in some quarters and fury in others. A protest outside the courthouse by supporters of Park turned violent, with two protesters dying in the melee. As for Park, now that she no longer enjoys the immunity from prosecution that comes with being president, she is likely to be tried on charges of bribery, extortion, conspiracy, and abuse of power for having extorted millions of dollars from Samsung and other firms in collaboration with her lifelong friend Choi Soon-sil.

Lee Jae-yong

Park’s ouster on Friday followed the arrest, on February 17, of Lee Jae-yong, the de facto head of Samsung, and the announcement on February 28 that prosecutors would be indicting Lee “on charges of bribery and four other offenses.” As Choe Sang-hun wrote in the New York Times, “Samsung, the nation’s largest conglomerate, has been tainted by corruption before. But the company has been considered too important to the economy for any of its top leaders to spend time behind bars — until now. The jailing of Mr. Lee, who is facing trial, is another potent sign that the old order is not holding.”

The Constitutional Court’s ruling marked a victory for honest government and above-board business practices. As Choe noted, the constitutional orderliness of the process also demonstrated how how far South Korean democracy has come in the last half-century. Ahn Byong-jin of Seoul’s Kyung Hee University told the Times that “the curtain is finally drawing on the authoritarian political and economic order that has dominated South Korea for decades.”

Park’s supporters clash with police

The verdict may also, alas, turn out to have a serious downside. To quote Choe, Park’s departure “is expected to shift South Korean politics to the opposition, whose leaders want more engagement with North Korea and are wary of a major confrontation in the region. They say they will re-examine the country’s joint strategy on North Korea with the United States and defuse tensions with China, which has sounded alarms about the growing American military footprint in Asia.”

Hwang Kyo-ahn

In other words, South Korea, which in recent years has been a reliable bulwark of democracy in the region, may end up being led by people who are eager to appease Kim Jong-un and Beijing and to distance themselves from the U.S. and other democratic allies. The election to replace Park must take place within sixty days; in the meantime, an ally of Park’s, Hwang Kyo-ahn, will serve as acting president. According to the Times, the Trump government “is rushing a missile defense system to South Korea so that it can be in place before the election.”

Smearing critics: Jonathan Brown

He occupies an influential position at Georgetown University, from which – as we’ve seen this week – he defends Muslims who own slaves, champions old Muslim men who marry little girls, and spews double-talk in an effort to cover up Islam’s unequivocal view of homosexuality as a capital crime. For years he’s routinely expressed opinions that would have gotten a non-Muslim fired from almost any major university in the United States. And nobody has stood up to him.

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Robert Spencer

Well, almost nobody. In fact, Robert Spencer, the author of several books about Islam, has repeatedly challenged Jonathan A.C. Brown‘s systematic lies. On January 30, Brown responded to Spencer’s critiques in a lecture at Gonzaga University, offering to debate Spencer anytime and claiming that he would “mop the floor with” Spencer. Spencer promptly accepted the offer via Twitter. Instead of trying to arrange a time and place, Brown replied with a personal insult: “my God you’re ugly.” At this writing, Brown has yet to issue a serious response to Spencer.

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Laila Al-Arian

Andrew Harrod, a writer for the Campus Watch website, attended the lecture with which we began this week – the one in which Brown whitewashed Islamic slavery. Or, in fact, he had tried to attend the lecture. In the article he wrote afterwards, Harrod reported that Brown had first observed him, Harrod, in the audience while preparing for the lecture with a fellow professor and “two veiled…assistants.” “Brown,” wrote Harrod, “became visibly irritated” on seeing him. Harrod had covered previous talks by Brown, and Brown has responded to Harrod’s criticism by calling his articles “stupid.” Brown slammed Harrod’s pieces and asked him if he intended to avail himself of the refreshments offered at the event. Brown’s colleague then asked Harrod to leave – a perfect illustration, argued Harrod, “of how he and his fellow Islamism apologists handle opposing views.”

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Sami Al-Arian

One last thing about Brown. He’s married to Laila Al-Arian, a producer for Al Jazeera television and the daughter of Sami Al-Arian, a former professor at the University of South Florida who was held in house arrest and then deported to Turkey in 2015 for aiding members of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Al-Arian is definitely a figure worthy of attention by this website; but we’ll have to get around to him on another day.

Whitewashing gay murder: Jonathan Brown

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Jonathan A.C. Brown

We’ve heard Jonathan A.C. Brown, a convert to Islam and professor at Georgetown University, defend Islamic slavery and Islamic child marriage. What does he have to say about homosexuality? This is a tough one: for an American academic in the twenty-first century, openly opposing homosexuality is simply not tenable. But for a Muslim, it is the only view that is acceptable by God.

In one talk, he approached the subject this way: unlike their Christian counterparts, he insisted, Muslim scholars don’t see same-sex attraction as “unnatural.” In fact, they don’t judge attractions at all. No, they just judge actions – they rule on what people do, not what they feel. And, yes, under Islam “a specific act is wrong.” Which act? Why, the “act of Lut.” (Christians know him as Lot.) In other words, sexual intercourse between males. Under Islam, he acknowledged, that’s a “sin.” But he was quick to add that Muslim judges, out of the goodness of their hearts, strive to “err in mercy” rather than to “err in severity.” Which is to say that they strive to let offenders off in cases of insufficient evidence – strive to grasp onto whatever “ambiguities” they can find. “It’s almost like don’t ask, don’t tell,” he said. If you can keep it behind closed doors, you’ll probably get away with it. Of course, this claim is sheer nonsense, and by making it Brown is dropping down the memory hole countless amply documented cases of young men being hanged or stoned or thrown from the roofs of buildings for the crime of homosexuality.

Brown actually was invited to write about homosexuality for Variety, the Hollywood trade paper. After same-sex marriage became the law of the land in 2015, Variety published a special issue on the subject, containing dozens of articles and interviews. Brown was their Muslim authority. His contribution was a masterpiece of evasion, which danced around the topic at length before concluding with the following paragraph:

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Islamic tolerance for homosexuality

The issue of gay marriage in America is a tough one for Muslims. On one hand, it’s nigh impossible to construct an argument by which sexual contact between men, let alone anal sex, is considered permissible in God’s eyes. On the other hand, attempts to ban the Shariah in the U.S. threaten Muslims’ ability to have their own marriage contracts. Like gays, they want to be able to define marriage free from majoritarian cultural biases. So many Muslims are willing to support the rights of other Americans to shape marriage according to their particular beliefs. Muslims expect their beliefs and relationships to be respected in return.

As one reader commented: “That last paragraph made little sense. Are Muslims against homosexuality or are they not?” Another knew the answer: “Nice snow job.” A third asked: “Why is Variety running muslim [sic] propaganda?” And a fourth spelled out the facts: “The intellectual dishonesty of this article is just staggering. Why is this Muslim cleric [sic] not openly explaining that homosexuality is punishable by death according to the respective scholars of all sects in Islam?”

Why, you might ask, hasn’t anybody who knows the truth about Islam publicly taken on Jonathan Brown’s claptrap? Actually, somebody has. Or has tried to. We’ll wind up with that story tomorrow.

Championing child rape: Jonathan Brown

Jonathan A.C. Brown is a Muslim convert, a professor at Georgetown University, and a man who has made it his business to “explain” Islam – and, in particular, to justify some of its least justifiable aspects – not just to his students but to audiences around the world. During the last couple of days, for instance, we’ve looked at a 90-minute lecture he gave recently on Islamic slavery, an institution that he defended in a breathtakingly mendacious manner.

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Jonathan A.C. Brown

Brown has praised Muhammed ardently. “He was the best person in every situation,” Brown has said. “Jesus is always kind and forgiving. But sometimes you can’t be forgiving. You shouldn’t be; sometimes you have to be soft and sweet and sometimes you have to be direct and harsh; sometimes you have to be patient and at other times you have to act quickly. There isn’t always one rule that you can apply to your life that will tell you how to act. You have to be able to read the situation and act in the best way. The Prophet knew how to do that; that is inspirational.”

Brown opened one lecture about Muhammed by saying how much he hated having to expose Muslim audiences to negative Western characterizations of him – some attitude for a man who professes to be an educator. Brown reported, as if it were an objective historical fact, that a tree stump on which Muhammed supposedly sat while teaching his followers later made whimpering noises because it longed for Muhammed’s presence.

A quick search on You Tube takes us to other, briefer presentations about Muhammed. In one of them, he is asked by an audience member about Muhammed’s “marriage” to a six-year-old girl named Aisha – a marriage that was “consummated” when Muhammed was 53 and Aisha was nine.

Brown’s response to the questioner began in a curious way. “You seem agitated by this,” he said. “What makes you uncomfortable about it?” Brown made it clear that nothing about the matter made him uneasy. And until just a century or so ago, he argued, nobody else was bothered by it either. During Muhammed’s lifetime and for generations thereafter, a lot of non-Muslims criticized Islam and its founder on a great variety of grounds, sometimes making things up, sometimes focusing on actual details of his life. “His sex life was target numero uno,” Brown said. Infidels pointed to Muhammed’s polygamy and his marriage to his own daughter-in-law. But, according to Brown, nobody attacked him for marrying a little girl. Not until 1905 did one critic mention it, rather mildly and tentatively. Why? Because in pre-modern peasant societies, explained Brown, “everyone” married underage girls. People had sex drives and they acted on them.

koran“If you’re just living in a desert and you’re tending goats all day” and you have a normal sex drive,” asked Brown rhetorically, “why in God’s name would you not get married?” To suggest that an aging medieval goatherd should not marry a girl young enough to be his granddaughter, charged Brown, is “anachronistic” – we’re judging Muhammed by the standards of our own day. The problem here, of course, is that Brown wasn’t just trying to contextualize behavior that to us, in the year 2017, seems deeply immoral; he was exalting the actions of a man whom his own religion holds up as an example of human perfection, and suggesting that the problem lies not in that man’s conduct but in the so-called moral standards of our time. When viewed through the eyes of Allah, in short, Muhammed’s intercourse with Aisha is no crime but an act of great virtue – and if we can’t see it that way, the flaw lies in us, not in the Prophet.

And this, folks, is what they’re teaching at Georgetown University – which, don’t forget, is a Roman Catholic institution.

More of this tomorrow.

Freedom is slavery: Jonathan Brown

Yesterday we met Jonathan A.C. Brown, the head of Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. A 1977 convert to Islam, he’s been fiercely defending it ever since. Never before, however, has he made headlines like the ones he made recently after giving a lecture about Muslim slavery. His main point was to contrast that institution, which he painted as benign, to slavery in the pre-Civil War American South, which he fully recognized as malignant.

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Jonathan A.C. Brown

In his lecture, Brown served up a flurry of statements – supposedly statements of historical fact – that were plainly designed to muddy the waters about the subject at hand. At certain times and in certain places during the history of Islam, he argued, certain people were “technically slaves” but lived very well. Indeed, he insisted that in the Ottoman Empire, some people who were categorized as slaves wielded considerable power and enjoyed great respect. A slave in Mecca around the year 1400 “received no pay from his master, but the master paid for his food, clothes and shelter,” and “in this regard the slave was no different from the master’s own son.” (This could, of course, be said about most slaves in most places at most times in history.) Moreover, factory owners under Ottoman rule “preferred using slave labor because slaves would not leave for seasonal work elsewhere,” and those slaves were thus “more like wage laborers working for a set term in a master/servant relationship than slaves.”

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Georgetown University

All of which, Brown claimed, raises such questions as these: “Is it the label slave that matters or the reality…behind it?” “What does ownership mean?” “[W]hat does freedom mean?… Almost no human being is free of dependence on others and on society as a whole.” Everything, you see, is relative: “ownership, freedom and exploitation come in shades of gray. They exist on spectrums.” Any academic who dared to say such a thing about slavery in the antebellum American South would, we suspect, not keep his job for long.

Brown brought up the Muslim sex-grooming ring in Rotherham, England, whose members held hundreds of infidel girls as sex slaves. His claim: “the majority of offenders were actually white men.” This is sheer fiction – a bald-faced lie. He also maintained that “the legal right to own other human beings was abolished globally” decades ago. This, too, is a lie: slavery persists in many countries today, predominantly Muslim ones.

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Umar Lee

It’s no wonder Brown’s lecture made headlines – and caused outrage. One student who attended it, Umar Lee, wrote the next day that he had been shocked to hear Brown describing Muslim slavery “in glowing terms.” Commented Lee: “I thought the Muslim community was done with this dishonest North Korean style of propaganda.” While focusing on “the injustices of prison labor in America and a myriad of other social-ills,” Lee noted, Brown had avoided mention “of the rampant abuse of workers in the Gulf, the thousands of workers in the Gulf dying on construction sites, the South Asian child camel-jockeys imported into the United Arab Emirates to race camels under harsh conditions, or the horrific conditions of prisoners in the Muslim World (the latest news being 13,000 prisoners executed in Syria).”

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Slave children: an image from the Muslim world

Lee disputed one after another of Brown’s assertions: the idea that Muslim slavery “wasn’t racialized” is absurd; so is the claim that it was “kinder and gentler” than American slavery. Nowhere in Brown’s lecture did he mention “kidnappings, harems, armies of eunuchs, and other atrocities.” Lee and other members of the audience asked Brown questions after the lecture, in reply to which Brown offered even more sensational claims than he had during the prepared talk: “It’s not immoral for one human to own another human,” Brown remarked, explaining that “being an employee is basically the same as being a slave” and comparing slavery to marriage “because his wife held rights over him.” As for the widespread phenomenon of slave owners raping slaves, Brown told Lee that “[c]onsent isn’t necessary for lawful sex,” his reasoning being that “consent is a modern Western concept.” And when one member of audience apparently challenged him just a bit too much, Brown shot back with the indisputable fact that Muhammed himself had owned slaves. “Are you more morally mature than the Prophet of God?” Brown asked. “No, you’re not.” Well, that settled that.

Pretty outrageous. But, as we noted, this slavery lecture was far from the first time Brown had made public statements deserving of outrage. We’ll look at some of those tomorrow.