How many fingers am I holding up?

Theodore Dalrymple is the nom de plume of an English forensic psychiatrist. Way back in 2005, in an interview, he spoke about the end-stage of propaganda in a totalitarian state – the stage when it no longer matters that you know what you’re being told is the opposite of the truth:

Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

That was fifteen years ago, and our society has now reached the stage of Pravda in Soviet Russia, whilst managing to convince a good number of ordinary people that they still live in freedom. Perhaps (I am serious) they have already lost “all their sense of probity” and are no longer capable even of caring about truth. The education system has, after all, been in enemy hands for a couple of generations, whilst the churches provided no solid defence of truth for kids in Sunday School, but only pious platitudes.

They naively assumed the secular schools and universities were teaching, rather than indoctrinating, their offspring, even though it was being done openly, and though the Scriptures warn of a final deception that will cause those who do not love the truth to perish (2 Thess 2:11). The churches followed the world’s teaching that love negates moral law, even though their Lord predicted that it was the in fact increase of lawlessness that would make the love of most grow cold (Matt 24: 12). But when the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on earth? I don’t read that he will be looking for courageous doubters.

Some recent cases of propaganda require a couple of brain cells (though not many more) to make the requisite quizzical connections. There was a minor furore in Britain when BBC headlines described 27 police officers being hurt in “largely peaceful” BLM demonstrations. They changed the headline. But I’ve only just appreciated that the contemporaneous riots in the USA were also described by your principal media using the term “largely peaceful,” words similarly adopted ironically by many. It beggars belief that such a euphemistic gaffe would occur simultaneously to copy-editors in both countries: someone apparently had a script to work from, as well as a clear political agenda, for whatever reasons.

Do you remember all those politicians after the Sri Lanka bombings coming up with the neologism “Easter worshippers” at the same time? People saw immediately that it smacked of a crudely orchestrated attempt to downplay the idea of violence by Muslims against innocent Christians, so risking weakening the “White (Christian) Islamophobia” narrative. It was transparent, but by that stage they knew they could get away with it.

The second weekend of marches here was marked by predictions that “far right activists” would be arriving to (scare quotes) “defend” the statues in Parliament Square. Given that statues had been torn down in Bristol and elsewhere, and that the police had done nothing to stop the defacement of Britain’s greatest recent hero, Winston Churchill, the scare quotes were unwarranted, being intended to suggest their real aims were more sinister and hidden. In fact what was “hidden” by the press before, during and after the event was any recognition that a good number of the counter-protestors were army veterans marching up with their regimental colours, and even clearing up the place after their visit. Others were ordinary libertarian or just patriotic citizens. Only a few hundred in total turned up, and there seems no credible record of a single Neo-Nazi group or even a painted swastika.

Nevertheless, there were some violent elements, according to witnesses the result of too much alcohol, leading to another batch of minor police injuries. But even the Conservative Home Secretary concentrated, in Parliament, on her shock and horror at a “far right thug” descrating the statue of a martyred policeman by peeing on it… or, as the pictures actually showed, peeing beside it, the public toilets being closed beause of COVID and the guy having drunk 16 pints on the way down. It’s actually not easy to see why any Neo-Nazi would despise a policeman who lost his life to a jihadist on the rampage – but the photo could be made to fit the narrative, so it was made to do so by press, politicians and even the judiciary, as we’ll see.

Given the facts of that incident I wondered how thousands of BLM demonstrators had managed to remain continent for hours, and avoid offending press and politicians as the football fan did. They didn’t. You can find videos on YouTube of commentators walking around London after this weekend’s protests, and saying that the whole place smells like a cess-pit, much as it did after the Extinction Rebellion protests on behalf of “the environment.” Nevertheless, it was only the football fan who got a fortnight in jail for his cynical iconoclasm. I believe the guy who actually vandalised Churchill’s statute has still not been apprehended, even though he has given interviews to the press. It’s called “Equity,” in Newspeak, to be distinguished from “equality under the law” in the old, racist, system.

It’s no secret to any reader that the world’s press has of late been full of BLM protests, police injuries, bystander assaults and (in the US) murders, occupations, iconoclasm, cancellations and intimidation. Neither has it escaped notice that the organisation is founded and controlled by Marxists, and has avowed goals of overthrowing the police, the capitalist system and the family. This gives clear insight into the reasons for the otherwise mysterious destruction of statues of people as diverse as Jefferson, Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Baden-Powell, Ghandi and – at least in threat – Jesus Christ. There is less obvious insight into why our governments have acquiesced in the attempted eradication of our history. Statues can be defended if politicians have the will, and under the rule of law they should be.

Anyway, as you probably also know, a Black Lives Matter demonstration in a park in Reading last weekend was followed not long afterwards by the completely unconnected murder of three innocent people, and the serious injury of several more. In this case, the police initially said there was no terrorist connection, but later backtracked, and arrested a Libyan refugee. Currently, the motivation seems to be Islamist, with a strong undercurrent of mental health issues.

So the last fortnight or so has seen our nation subjected to riots and terrorism apparently from the extreme left, from militant Islam, and from individual mental instability. And so what did BBC’s prestigious Panorama documentary programme focus on it its Special Report on Monday? “Hunting the Neo-Nazis,” about a global network of Neo-Nazis apparently recruiting in Britain.

It may well be that such groups exist, and that they are trying to recruit – as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, they even stand a chance of succeeding if the tsunami of left “woke” propaganda from every organ of power and influence continues to make ordinary working people feel in danger of the extinction of their culture and the denigration of their very existence. But in fact, genuine fascist groups couldn’t even muster a significant presence at anti-BLM protests in London last week, let alone (unlike what is really going on in our streets, football grounds, Twitter-feeds and so on) pose any threat to our way of life. They’re as obvious a bogey-man as the shadowy “counter-revolutionaries” in Stalin’s Russia, or Emmanuel Goldstein in 1984, supposedly distracting you from reality, but fooling only the gullible.

It’s as if the BBC were saying, “You all know left-anarchism and Jihadist extremism are rampant across the world, because the news is full of it. But we’re the BBC, and we’re telling you to believe that the real risk is from invisible Nazis. And though you know it’s just crude propaganda, we don’t care – what are you going to do about it?”

The problem is that, once propaganda becomes Dalrymple’s nose-rubbing humiliation, some kind of political crisis becomes inevitable. Only the most stupid ideolog would really believe that a socialist utopia will grow out of this bullying and vindictive cult, a society free of racism, police, money, fossil fuels and all the rest of it. But those pulling the strings are not stupid ideologs. They know the chaos they are causing, and that is their aim. Why, you may wonder? If you need to ask, you just haven’t understood the times. Let’s close with some prescient words from George Orwell’s 1984 that explain all you need to know:

‘You are ruling over us for our own good,’ [Winston Smith] said feebly. ‘You believe that human beings are not fit to govern themselves, and therefore –‘

He started and almost cried out. A pang of pain had shot through his body. O’Brien had pushed the lever of the dial up to thirty-five.

‘That was stupid, Winston, stupid!’ he said. ‘You should know better than to say a thing like that.’

He pulled the lever back and continued:

‘Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?’

This is a Christian blog, so I won’t end on pessimism. Power was subverted by the suffering of the cross, which set in motion an inexorable salvific power through the cosmos. The prophet Daniel foresaw that it was the power of righteous suffering that would mark the crisis of the end times. For the resurrection of the righteous, so that they shine like the stars for ever and ever, and its counterpart of everlasting contempt for the wicked, arises out of the apparent triumph of power for power’s sake:

“When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed” (Dan 12:7).

A few statues, even of our Lord, may prove a small price to pay in the end.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
This entry was posted in History, Politics and sociology, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to How many fingers am I holding up?

  1. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Thought for the week: if a Christian (or a church) is not willing to stand up for gospel truth, against the world’s error, when there is still freedom to do so, then there is no way they will stand up for gospel truth under persecution.

  2. Elizabeth B. says:

    Though I dislike commenting online, I will venture another comment here. Regarding your thought for the week: On The American Spectator is this article The Church Collaborates on Its Own Destruction.
    Pretty much right to your point.

    In reading your posts, I get the impression that many British people don’t see this crisis as you do. Maybe more people have doubts but are not voicing it..yet.

    Here in the Deep South U.S., Tennessee-Alabama area, there seem to be quite a number of people suspicious and startled by the Covid lockdowns followed up by protests/riots. I see this personally. Friends and acquaintances, older people and younger, wealthier and not. Maybe it is because this is the South, much of it rural, and people tend to think more independently, in some ways.

    The other day I was in my local veterinarian’s office and was surprised when an acquaintance expressed disdain and fear of the out of control protests and predicted that Trump will win because of it. This was someone who had rather shrugged off the lockdowns. At the same place came another acquaintance who said that things are bad, and going to get really bad. This is someone who would laugh bemusedly at me when I would talk about how the lockdowns scared the heck out of me. Their business was doing ok and the husband still working, so not a big deal for them. But the riots have gotten their attention. From a friend, I hear of a 30 year old and his pals wanting to move out of the big city, that they all thought was so great, for the country. Oh, and the 30 year old says that Trump is going to win because of this. I know of others who are very concerned with what is happening to the country and are seeing that they have to question everything they hear.

    What I have realised about these people is that most of them are self-employed. The more educated professionals whom I know seem to parrot what the media tells us is happening. I find that very curious.

    Right before the shutdown, my music performance major child was surprised to find that her fellow musicians thought the whole Covid thing was some orchestrated event to enable some group to gain power. Speaking of college, we are wondering what kind of nonsense will greet them when the new school year starts. Will they be expected to take the knee or be shamed? What kind of future does a music major have anyway?

    These days I am trying to figure out if this is a country that will be safe for my child. And if not, then what or where.

    Ultimately, as you point out your your last paragraph, we aren’t here to have an easy life. Maybe it gets harder from here. And maybe that is the point.
    Thanks for your writing.

    • Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:


      Your point about the educated being the biggest sheep: Jacques Ellul anticipated this decades ago in his book on propganada: it is actually the most educated and best-informed who succumb most easily to propaganda, because they are most exposed to the message.

      The artisan gets on with his trade – the intellectual gets indoctrinated with critical race theory at college, spends time on Twitter and Facebook between offfice tasks, listens to the (main stream) news, etc. It was no coincidence that it was the rich and educated who pushed for eugenics in the last century, and the ignorant Catholics and Fundamentalists who opposed it.

      That divide is not universal, of course: there are independent academic minds out there. But since their trade is sharing opinions, they have more to lose by being an outlier than a cleaner thinking as she works.

      Britain is, indeed, smaller and less rural, with more standardised state education. That’s both good and bad – the Ku Klux Klan wouldn’t last five minutes here, but the Evangelical church, being historically and geographically less diverse, is perhaps more vulnerable to apostasy… or, judging by what i know of American Christianity, perhaps not. We’re more trusting of others’ orthodoxy, which lays us open to abuse of that trust.

      PS – I don’t think there’s a place to escape the current situation. That is what, in biblical terms, is unique about the final struggle: there are no virgin lands for the Mayflower to flee to, so we need strategies for staying faithful where we are planted.

  3. Elizabeth B. says:

    Jon, thanks for the reply.
    Your point about “staying faithful where we are planted” is well taken. And that goes to the why I am here reading your site from across an ocean. It’s part of a truth seeking quest going back to my latter 20’s that continues 20 some years later. Somehow, I stumbled onto this site in my search for good writing about intelligent design. I realize that you aren’t necessarily (actually am a little unclear here) a proponent of that theory, or at least not in the way most of the ID’ers are. I used to receive updates from Biologos, but unsubscribed, didn’t seem to help my understanding of anything. You have some interesting ideas about all this, even more so after I read an anthropology text which discussed many of the human type fossil finds. Anyway, all a search for truth. I really need to finish your book, Generations of Heaven and Earth, which I have in print and now on the Kindle. To my dismay, I see that I need to read another book to understand yours, so I got Swamidass’ Genealogical Adam and Eve. This reminds me of 84, Charing Cross Road where Helene Hanff has to keep buying a new book or three to educate herself to read the one. And I already have such piles of books to get to.

    Anyway, I am trying to find out a bit of everything. I would email you with all these comments, but I don’t see a contact, so I will put it here. There is an American podcast I listen to, The Literary Life, They pick some books or essays to read, share the schedule, then do a series of shows about the book. They have a Patreon page which I support. I just love it.

    It would be fabulous to find someone doing this for theological type texts. To take a book or essay, say one of your own, or Swamidass, or Owen Barfield, or C.S. Lewis, or even books of the Bible, or Chesterton, or Aquinas, etc. etc. The list would never end. Do a show or series of shows about that book. For an example, I know of no better show that the one I mentioned just to get an idea of how one could go about it. Other shows do this with literature, Circe Institute has a number of shows. Literary Life is my personal favourite.

    If you know of someone doing this, please let me know. I would love to listen to something like this. If not, if it is up your alley, maybe you might consider it. Literary Life started out with 2 hosts and now there are 3. They all bring something. But it could be done solo if a person is particularly engaging.

    Just a thought. Hopefully not out of line.
    God bless you and yours for this site!

    • Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

      My relationship with ID is partly that it regards itself as a “scientific project,” whereas I’m interested an a theology of creation. And also that for nearly a decade I was arguing on BioLogos for a truly Theistic (as opposed to Deistic) evolution. The labels just tend to get one relegated to a “camp.”

      Josh Swamidass and I had common ground in that approach, though he is more “laws of science” orientated than I am. We conceived the books on Genealogical Adam as a matching pair – in fact he has suggested that my God’s Good earth and The Generations of Heaven and Earth, together with his book, form a trilogy. That’s flattering, because his book is a best-seller in religion, and mine aren’t. Sorry if that commits folks like you to additional expenditure!

      The review channel sounds a good idea, for a couple of interesting people committed to reading and reviewing! Apart from lacking the time and screen skills, my own problem would be that I’d want to review the books I really like, and people would object I was neglecting the other stuff. Which I would be!

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