Let Justice Be Done Though The Liberal Heavens Fall
The migration crisis and a fear of the far-Right has driven many on the Left to abandon equality before the law in favour of ‘noble lies’
Fiat justitia: F.W. Pomeroy’s statue of Justice at the Old Bailey (Rafesmar CC BY-SA 3.0)
Injustice, when it occurs, is overwhelmingly a product of racial, sexual and class prejudices. That notion, formulated in the abuse scandals of England’s northern towns, and developed by the willingness of the German and Swedish police to ignore migrant rapists, feels like the worst sort of right-wing propaganda.
It’s just “a good excuse to bash migrants and Muslims and tell feminists they don’t know what’s good for them,” said a writer on the New Statesman as she justified her silence. “If your interest in misogynist violence starts and ends with Cologne, you don’t really care about women at all,” said another, as she explained why she too had found pressing reasons to write about something else.
However cowardly and unprincipled their arguments were, a half-truth half-supported them. If you cheer on conservative journalists and populist politicians as they damn the politically correct for becoming the enemies of the very people they claim to defend, if you read the right-wing press, and have been persuaded that whites are discriminated against, or that new prejudices have replaced old corruptions, I’d ask you to calm yourself for a moment and look around.
In the 1970s, the courts convicted innocent Irishmen and women of the most atrocious terrorist offences. Judges and juries appeared to believe that one Irish suspect was as bad as another. If they weren’t guilty as charged, they were surely guilty of some other crime. Modern DNA evidence has revealed that at the same time black men in the United States went to their deaths because they were arrested by cops looking for an easy conviction and represented by lawyers too lazy, indifferent or drunk to defend them.
The most overpraised novel of the 1980s was Tom Wolfe’s inane, if well-written, Bonfire of the Vanities. It appealed to the ever-present paranoia and self-pity of the wealthy. Setting the scene for the police’s framing of an innocent Wall Street financier to appease the demagogues who whip up New York’s black mobs, a character cries:
You don’t even know, do you? Do you really think this is your city any longer? Open your eyes! The greatest city of the twentieth century! Do you think money will keep it yours? Come down from your swell co-ops, you general partners and merger lawyers! It’s the Third World down there!
Yeah, right, as they say in New York. No work of fiction was a worse guide to the future. No pretence that the elite were the new victims of injustice was as risible. From 1990 until the crash of 2008 the wealthy enjoyed a new gilded age so lucrative the obscure word “oligarch” — from the Greek oligarkhēs: oligoi “few” + arkhein “to rule” — passed from the lectures of classical historians into common usage. In London and New York, not one financier went to jail after the banking system they had looted so long and lustily collapsed. You do not find “masters of the universe” justly or unjustly detained in Anglo-American prisons. You find who you have always found: the poor, the black and the mad. A quarter of British prisoners were brought up in care, 29 per cent experienced child abuse, nearly half do not have a single educational qualification, and a good two thirds had been unemployed on the outside. I could go on, but I am sure you get the point: Old Etonians or Harvard alumni are not scratching their names on cell walls.
As for rape now, as always, the rapist is likely to be a man the victim knows, not a Muslim stranger or migrant who landed in Lesbos last month.
That said — and it is not said enough on the Right — suppose you were writing a novel about miscarriages of justice in 2016. What people and ideas would go up in flames in a modern bonfire of the vanities? Feminism would be the first to burn, because in our time of neurotic racial tension, certain crimes by certain men cannot be punished or even discussed. Their victims should lie back and think of multiculturalism. They should take one for the team.
In Britain it is hard to separate new prejudices from old. The women sexually abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, predominantly by gangs of British-Pakistani men, were white, working-class girls. Chavs, in other words, whose sufferings the authorities habitually ignore. But you have to be blind to ethnic politics to think that the race of their abusers did not help them get away with rape. Denis McShane, the Labour MP for Rotherham at the time, said:
I think there was a culture of not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat if I may put it like that . . . As a true Guardian reader, and liberal leftie, I suppose I didn’t want to raise that too hard.
Professor Alexis Jay’s report on the scandal said:
Several councillors interviewed believed that by opening up these issues they could be “giving oxygen” to racist perspectives that might in turn attract extremist political groups and threaten community cohesion.
The Victims’ Commissioner, Louise Casey, added a further fear: that truth-tellers would themselves be denounced as racists.
The same happened in Germany, where the authorities covered up rapes by migrants for days, and then blamed the victims by telling women to be more careful in future. In Sweden, where liberal ideals have turned rancid to a degree few foreigners comprehend, Peter Ågren, police chief in central Stockholm, said his officers dared not tell the truth about sex attacks on Swedish women at festivals because they did not want to play into the hands of populist politicians. Police officers in Stockholm, it transpired, are instructed not to reveal the ethnicity or nationality of any suspects lest they be accused of racism.
My colleague David Paxton looked at these and other examples of fear of the far-Right and aptly described them as a “noble lies, told to prevent us idiot yokels from becoming a mob. People are stepping out from their job descriptions and moonlighting as censors.” He might have gone further. The refusal of the police and public authorities to follow the law they are meant to uphold demeans the societies they are meant to serve.
They see Britain as a 21st-century Weimar Republic where the smallest incitement could lead to pogroms and tyranny. The white men and women around them are not fellow citizens but closet fascists, who must be kept in ignorance for fear that they will dress up in black leather and attend torchlight parades. In these circumstances, abused girls aren’t victims, but inconveniences who must be suppressed for the greater good.
They do not notice that only a tiny minority engage in violent far-Right politics in Britain and the rest of Europe. More culpably, they do not understand that the best way to encourage racist politics is to practise them yourself: to discriminate against victims if they are white; and in favour of perpetrators if they are not.
I do not need to be told that there are sexist rabble-rousers, who will turn into feminists when Muslim men or migrants rape and abuse. I am not shocked to learn that their protests are insincere and they no more care about the rights of women than any other right. The point is to fight them, not to become like them.
Whether in Britain, Germany or Sweden demagogic hucksters can now say that whites are the victims of new injustices, and, unlike Tom Wolfe, they have truth on their side. “Liberal” society has provided them with everything they need to power a backlash: victimhood, a corrupted establishment abandoning its duties for the sake of “political correctness”, official mendacity, and a hypocrisy that at one moment announces that modern Europe is all for equal pay and the emancipation of women, and at the next is unwilling to even acknowledge the facts of a rape.
Our demagogues would have another reason to be grateful. Crime is individual; the responsibility lies with the perpetrator. But identity politics deny individuality and bring collective calumny. Sometimes because of benign motives, sometimes because of the fear of allegations of prejudice, its devotees mirror racists. They do not understand that by ignoring individual crimes to protect a wider group, they are implicating the innocent.
What is a refugee from Assad meant to think of alleged liberals who believe they are protecting him by acting as if all migrants are potential rapists? Why should a British Pakistani be grateful for policies that tar him by association with abusers?
You could not create a more toxic recipe for nativist populism if you tried. The wonder of Europe’s present condition is not that populist parties are powerful but that they are not dominant, the more so when so many of their opponents do not understand their own countries, and are stuck with a version of multiculturalism that no longer makes sense.
I cannot think of a book I have admired more recently than Ben Judah’s This is London (reviewed on page 53). He treats London as a foreign city and instead of pontificating about immigration goes out and meets immigrants. Although it is a work of reportage, Judah’s statistics give a shorthand account of how Britain is changing.
Every week 2,000 migrants arrive at Victoria Coach Station. There are more people in London who can barely speak English or cannot speak it at all than live in Newcastle. There is a whole African city in London of 550,000 people, which has grown by 45 per cent since 2001. There are vast numbers of illegal immigrants living beyond the law — 600,000 according to Judah. Between 1971 and 2011, the white British population of London slumped from 86 per cent to 45 per cent.
Our multiculturalism is not so multitudinous. It encompasses a handful of groups alongside the established whites: Afro-Caribbeans, Indians, Sikhs, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and at a pinch the Irish and the Jews. The new Britain is diverse in a way the proponents of “diversity” have barely begun to comprehend. Modern London is filled with Lithuanian tramps, Filipino maids, Arab playboys, Russian oligarchs, Vietnamese skunk dealers, Hungarian au pairs, French bankers, Congolese cleaners, Brazilian hotel workers, Korean grocers and Polish builders.
The old world of ethnic politics, where sensibilities were smoothed with Black History Months and Holocaust Memorial Days, and “diversity” meant only dealing with the often self-appointed spokesmen of a handful of groups, has gone. You cannot “celebrate” half the cultures on the planet or emit fake or real pieties on how each is special in their own way.
We should stop playing shabby games of ethnic favouritism with the victims of crime, which should never have been played in the first place. Whether a child is abused by a white celebrity or Pakistani thug, or a migrant taking advantage of unknown freedoms, says nothing about whites or Pakistanis or asylum seekers, and everything about them. We should do what we should always have done and insist that equality before the law is the best way of integrating newcomers as well as being a blessing in itself.
Fiat justitia ruat caelum runs the Roman law motto engraved at the Old Bailey — “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.” It is a grandiloquent sentiment. No one but criminals hopes that justice won’t be done. Many migrants have come from countries without basic rights, and admire rather than damn Britain for possessing them. The heavens would stay where they are if Europe did justice and told the truth.
The argument for equality before the law is so obviously right, I would not need to make it had not alleged progressives turned themselves into Chicken Lickens, and convinced themselves the sky would fall down if they did not hide and lie. They do not understand that the best way to bring the disaster they fear is to carry on behaving as they are now.