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Monday, 17 January 2011

Jack Straw, political correctness, Question Time and the ‘M’ word


- From the Ray Cook blog, 16th Jan 2011

I may be a little off topic here, after all, this blog is about Israel, Jews, the media, antisemitism and Zionism.

So why am I writing about the media and how it reacted to former Home Secretary and Justice Secretary (and MP for Blackburn) Jack Straw’s comments on a specific court case about the sexual grooming of young girls in Derby?

Two men were jailed for picking up under age girls over an extended period and then sexually abusing them, raping them and physically abusing them.

So how is this connected to my usual topics?

Well, as I see it, this is a mirror image of the accusation that anyone in the Jewish community who characterises much of the discourse in the media, and by elements in the far Left and Muslim community, about Israel as ‘antisemitic’ is immediately accused of ‘closing down the argument’.

In other words, the accusation of antisemitism is itself off-limits and is seen as an easy way to rebut attacks on Israel when any other counter-argument would fail. It’s the ace up the pro-Zionist sleeve, so they say, which is pulled out at every opportunity.

Yet, accusations of Islamophobia, racial stereotyping and even racism are hurled at Jack Straw because he dare draw an obvious conclusion from irrefutable statistics. My point is no-one is then accused of ‘closing down the argument’ or using the ‘race card’ to deflect these criticisms.

Let’s remind ourselves what Jack Straw said:

"Pakistanis, let’s be clear, are not the only people who commit sexual offences, and overwhelmingly the sex offenders’ wings of prisons are full of white sex offenders.

But there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men… who target vulnerable young white girls.

We need to get the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on and to be more open about the problems that are leading to a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way."

These young men are in a western society, in any event, they act like any other young men, they’re fizzing and popping with testosterone, they want some outlet for that, but Pakistani heritage girls are off-limits and they are expected to marry a Pakistani girl from Pakistan, typically.

So they then seek other avenues and they see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care… who they think are easy meat.

Straw’s big mistake was to use the word ‘meat’. This allowed feminists and the self-righteous to change the argument away from a problem in a particular community to attack Straw himself.

It is clear that Straw was doing all he could to address the problem honestly and at the same time to point out that this is not an attack on the Pakistani community per se. The use of the ‘M’ word was a mistake but he was referring to the perception of others, the perpetrators themselves, not his own perception of these girls.

The statistics support Straw’s argument. The Daily Mail reported on January 5th:

… researchers identified 17 court prosecutions since 1997, 14 of them in the past three years, involving the on-street grooming of girls aged 11 to 16 by groups of men.

The victims came from 13 towns and cities and in each case two or more men were convicted of offences.

In total, 56 people, with an average age of 28, were found guilty of crimes including rape, child abduction, indecent assault and sex with a child.

Three of the 56 were white, 53 were Asian. Of those, 50 were Muslim and a majority were members of the British Pakistani community.

The BBC News website smacked my gob when it reported all this here:

Keith Vaz who is chairman of the home affairs select committee “said it was wrong to stereotype an entire community and a proper inquiry was needed.”

Surely this was not stereotyping of a whole community.

On BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme he said:

"What I don’t think we can do is say that this is a cultural problem. One can accept the evidence which is put before us about patterns and networks but to go that step further I think is pretty dangerous."

Why can it not be a cultural problem? Is not Keith Vaz jumping to a conclusion before the enquiry he is so keen to have? Do not the statistics actually indicate quite the reverse?

He thinks it is ‘dangerous’ to draw the conclusion. Why is everyone trying so hard to deny such clear evidence? Why is it dangerous? Do we have sacrifice truth so as not to offend a minority because there are elements in society which will leap on this to push a racist agenda?

How many times have we seen criminals gratuitously and unnecessarily tagged as ‘Jewish’ when there is no pattern within the Jewish community for the crime of which they stand convicted?

The issue is clear from the statistics that there is a problem, as Jack Straw correctly identified, with Pakistani-origin men of a certain age. If these crimes were committed by predominantly non-Pakistani-origin men of a certain age then it would be wrong to call this a problem specific to that demographic.

Next up in the BBC article was Helen Brayley, from University College London’s Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science.

She actually wrote the first academic analysis of child sex trafficking which is something rather different. Nevertheless, she too is trying very hard to deny the statistics:

"So by racially stereotyping this early on without a national scoping project… we don’t know what the situation is in other areas around the country… you might be leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy of if people are looking for Asian offenders, they will only find Asian offenders.

So now we have an enquiry and a scoping project. I submit that a lot of public money could be saved by the glaringly obvious statistics that we already have before us. When it comes to a certain section of British society we have to tread on eggshells, it seems, and do everything possible to deny, obfuscate or defer the obvious conclusion."

Next up, Ed Miliband, who you may forgiven for forgetting is the leader of the Labour Party.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Straw was right to say there must be zero tolerance of criminal activity against young girls in any community.

But he added: “That said, we’ve got to be careful about generalisations about particular communities. As Jack himself said, we find sexual crimes committed by people of all backgrounds.”

So here we go again but this time with ‘generalisations’. He has invented this. Jack Straw was, in fact, very specific. He neither generalised or stereotyped. However, once again, someone is emphasising a politically correct scepticism rather than face facts.

It required a member of this ‘stereotyped’ community to actually tell it how it is, albeit whilst still denying that the problem was cultural and attacking Jack Straw for suggesting it was.

Mohammed Shafiq, director of the Muslim youth group the Ramadhan Foundation, rejected any suggestion such abuse was “ingrained” in Britain’s Pakistani community, but he said it was an issue.

He said: “I first raised this two or three years ago and I got a lot of stick within the community from people who said I was doing the work of the BNP and stigmatising them.

“Most people didn’t realise the seriousness of it. But now, after a series of court cases, things have changed. I have had a lot of support.”

But he added: “These gangs that operate are criminals. There’s nothing in their culture, there’s nothing in their religion to suggest that this sort of thing is ingrained.

“And for Jack Straw, a former home secretary, to suggest that this somehow is ingrained within young Pakistani men, I think is quite dangerous.”

Again he twists what Jack Straw said. No-one suggested it was ingrained or somehow connected with religious beliefs. What Jack Straw said is that it is a problem with a certain element of the Pakistani community and that means it is cultural. Religion was never mentioned. While acknowledging that Jack Straw was correct in identifying the problem, at the same time he was somehow incorrect.

Melanie Phillips does believe this behaviour is fuelled by religious culture and you can read her alternative take here.

The BBC article continues with another apologist who ignores the statistics:

Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardo’s, called for more research to be carried out.

He said: “I don’t think this is so much about targeting white girls – because black girls are also victims – it’s about targeting vulnerable, isolated girls.”

Eh? What black girls? The report quoted above clearly states that in ALL cases the girls were white. That in itself is interesting.

Finally from the BBC someone who has direct experience:

"Ann Cryer, a former Labour MP for Keighley, she had been made aware of a problem in her constituency in 2003 after she was approached by about six mothers who said their daughters were being groomed for sex by Pakistani men.

She said she tried to intercede with the community by asking a councillor to speak to Muslim elders, but they said it was not their affair."

“Instead of drawing it to a conclusion then, it’s drifted on, so it seems now every year we’re getting more cases of very young, sometimes 12-year-old girls being abused by these gangs of men. I wish it would stop, I wish it would go away,” she said.

Then, on Thursday, my gob was well and truly smacked by the BBC’s Question Time. This is a debate programme where public figures, mainly politicians, but also journalists and others with an opinion, are confronted by a studio audience with their pre-selected questions on topics of the day.

This week someone asked: Was it right for Jack Straw to say that Pakistani men saw young white women as ‘easy meat?’.

The question is already loaded and ambiguous and is actually the wrong question. Firstly Jack Straw did not say all Pakistani men think this way as the questioner implies. he has already skewed the arguement. Secondly, he puts the emphasis on the ‘easy meat’ blunder without addressing the actual issue.

Nevertheless, the panel all took this as an opportunity to show their PC credentials, their total lack of of racism and their multiculturalism. But it was the extent to which each of them evaded the question or subverted Jack Straw’s concerns, sometimes to a ludicrous extent, which infuriated me.

Chairman David Dimbleby changed the focus of the question by stating that 50 out of 56 men convicted of this crime, as mentioned above, were Muslim and mainly Pakistani. Indeed, throughout the debate he tried desperately to get the panel to address the statistics, but they side-stepped it.

The first panellist was James Caan who is a successful businessman an entrepreneur and a member of the Dragon’s Den team on the BBC; he also happens to be of Pakistani heritage.

"I think irrespective to what nationality you are, I think the crime itself is an atrocious crime and I think the crime itself is what should be in focus and not necessarily .. which race or colour you are in. If you commit a crime … you should be punished for that crime [applause from audience] And I think what’s happened … is that the media has got so carried away about, you know, which ethnic group it is, … and I don’t think that really matters. We need to focus on the issue at hand … what’s happening to these young ladies who are vulnerable in society …"

So Caan’s rather poorly argued case is that we have to ignore the fact that 50 out of 56 were Pakistani and we have to be more concerned about getting vulnerable girls off the street. But they wouldn’t be as vulnerable if they weren’t preyed upon by these gangs, would they, James?

Dimbleby then tells Caan that the point is that this is an ‘Asian’ issue (even Dimbleby can’t bring himself to say Pakistani) and he quotes Ann Cryer. He states it’s a cultural matter. Caan just repeats that it doesn’t matter who you are ‘a wrong is a wrong’. An absurd response because no-one, as Dimbleby points out, is denying it is wrong. He again puts it to James Caan that this is a cultural phenomenon. Caan says he does not see this and he ‘looks beyond the whole issue of race or culture’ . Again he ducks the question and reiterates that, whoever you are, it is wrong whilst confirming that we live in a multi-cultural society.

His definition of ‘multi-cultural’ seems to be that your race or culture is somehow subsumed into a homogeneous melting pot where everyone is just ‘British’. But multi-culturalism is the exact opposite of this definition; it is characterised by different cultures existing side by side and distinct from each other where mutual respect and toleration enables society as a whole to function.

The next panellist was Diane Abbott who is a Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and she is of black West Indian heritage. Her constituency is very mixed ethnically and culturally diverse. She has Hasidic Jews, West Indians and Asian minorities in her constituency.

Her answer revealed her to be in complete denial of the whole basis of the question. She first states that Jack Straw is a friend, so we know she is about to criticise him. She ‘found his language distasteful’. Well I have already said that the “M” word was a blunder.

"If Jack thinks that it is a particular Pakistani crime to go out and groom under-age girls and pimp them out [yes, she did say that and isn't that just as distasteful?], why didn’t he do something about it when he was Justice Secretary?"

She does have a point, but it does not change the statistics. She then goes on about how she was on an all-party commission on prostitution and that girls who are or have been in care are particularly liable to be vulnerable to be picked up, given drink and drugs and then used by gang members for sexual gratification.

So it’s now the girls fault, is it, Diane?

"I know of no evidence that this is a uniquely Pakistani crime."

Who said it was? But it is a preponderantly Pakistani one if you look at the statistics.

Abbott says it is right to have a survey and establish the facts. But we have them, don’t we?

It won’t help these young girls by claiming it is a particular problem with a particular group of men.

Yes it would if the facts point to this crime being mainly, though not exclusively, the product of a particular culture. Surely it would be helpful if that fact were established and eradicated or ameliorated by communal or other action. How desperately Diane Abbot tries to convince herself, and us, that the facts can be discarded because it cannot be the cases, that it is impossible in her multi-cultural nirvana for any crime to be disproportionately prevalent in any community.

Then she repeats James Caan’s point that we should focus on the crime. No doubt this is to ensure the purity of the multi-cultural vision rather than admit that it can sometimes produce culturally based anomalies such as this.

Abbott receives muted applause from the audience indicating they are not convinced by her argument which is onlt marginally better than Caan who is not a politician.

An audience member says it’s a form of racism for Jack Straw to associate a particular crime with a particular ethnic group. Well, it would be if the claim were not supported by facts. PC rules OK once again.

If the facts don’t fit, deny them.

Apparently young Asian men are being victimised by Stop and Search just like blacks were at one time. She ignores that fact that these men were not that young (late twenties) and had families. The young female Asian audience member gets more applause than Diane.

Dimbleby is apparently bemused by this PC blindness. He repeats the patent facts, but Abbott is not having any of it. She says it was in a part of the country with a very large Pakistani population (Derby) . “If you went to Newcastle you would find that most of those sorts of cases involve a white man.” The demographics would be different.

How desperate can you get. Firstly the 14 cases were across England and were naturally in areas where there was a Pakistani community. But is Abbott saying that 50/56, that’s 90% of the population of Derby, and other areas where these crimes occurred, is Pakistani? With her Oxbridge education I am surprised she cannot do simple arithmetic. Once again, the facts must fit her world view or they must be subverted to fit.

Panellist number three is Jeanette Winterson a writer, journalist and broadcaster and Oxford graduate whose books look at gender issues and sexuality.

Her answer was to focus on women always being at ‘the bottom of the heap’ [Isn't that as offensive as the 'M' word?] ‘across race and across class’.

She emphasises the “M” word and avoids the real question. She ignores the race and ethnic question and specifically says ‘it’s a women’s issue, I don’t want to turn it into a race issue’.

As I have already said, if you ignore the statistics, then you do not improve the vulnerability of women. If women a vulnerable because of men’s attitudes, and a majority of those men come from a particular ethnic background, then targeting that community would help women in a more effective way than if we ignore race because it makes us feel uncomfortable and liable to self-accusation as racist.

Charles Kennedy, former leader of the Lib Dems tells us that it is the responsibility of politicians ‘to choose their words with care’. he doesn’t say which words he is referring to. Let’s presume it’s the “M” word. So he too is answering the audience member’s question without addressing the issue as defined by David Dimbleby.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education is the final panellist. He agrees with an audience member who says ‘we’ should put our own house in order’ citing the Catholic Church’s problem with grooming of young boys. He also expresses agreement with Charles Kennedy.

However, Gove is more subtle; he makes a party political point by accusing Jack Straw of making unnecessary public statements which can damage community relations when ‘the authorities’ are already aware of the problem.

Gove also tells us that if there is a particular problem in a community it is often the case that outsiders are ‘particularly ill-equipped to address those problems’. It is somehow ‘counter-productive’ to be ‘lectured from outside your community’. Finally he makes the Winterson point that society has let down these vulnerable girls.

Is he really saying that the Pakistani community has to sort out their own problem? What if they don’t? Furthermore, his approach actual emphasises that in this country individual ethnic communities have some sort of right to autonomy, even when that community has a particular penchant for a particular crime.

If the Romany community had a predilection for car theft (which they don’t, of course) or the Hasidic Jewish community were disproportionate offenders in Rackmanism, is Gove saying that the government would have a hands-off approach and leave it to those communities to put their own house in order?

One member of the audience suggests that outsiders can often see what insiders do not or don’t want to see. Gove believes that the community is, indeed, engaged in a ‘lively debate’ on this and other issues and if we outsiders have to comment we should do so ‘respectfully’.

So once again the Pakistani community and, presumably, any other community that finds itself in this position, is ring-fenced when it comes to criticism or public debate because they may react badly to ‘outsiders’ pointing out their failings. What of the community of white girls who are being targeted? Do they care about the sensitivities of their assailants’ community or do they just want to reduce the instances of this crime?

It’s as if the Pakistani community’s sensitivities are more important than the protection of vulnerable girls.

I don’t want it to appear that I have an animus against the Pakistani community or 20-something Pakistani men. I would make the same point whatever community is being protected in this way.

It may well be the case that covert investigations are under way with these shady ‘authorities’. The point is that when a politician makes a statement which is truthful, but clumsily worded, any number of people come down on him/her like a ton of bricks in self-righteous indignation and spout a number of different reasons, mostly spurious, as to why he/she should keep mum.

So, bringing this back round to my usual topic: when it comes to the sensitivities of my community, the Jewish community, the attacks on Israel are relentless and remorseless and I feel vulnerable because of the lack of caution in the press and by politicians which these same politicians and journalists are exercising when it comes, in this case, to the Pakistani community.

Why are their sensitivities more important than mine?

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