FLC145, Emma Chamberlain and the Astor Theatre: How Dissidents are Treated in Modern England, Sean Gabb, 14th April 2006

Free Life Commentary,
Issue Number 145
14th April 2006

Emma Chamberlain and the Astor Theatre:
How Dissidents are Treated in Modern England
by Sean Gabb

About a hundred yards from where I live in Deal is the Astor Theatre. A nondescript building in an Edwardian terrace, I walk past it every time I go to the railway station. I used to pay some attention to its forthcoming attractions notices. But these never displayed anything vaguely attractive to me, and I soon stopped paying attention.

The Theatre is now suddenly in the news. The main headline in this week’s Dover Express reads: “Drama tutor is the ‘face’ of BNP”. Apparently, Emma Chamberlain, who teaches drama classes at the Theatre, is a presenter for the BNPtv news service of the British National Party. This story covers most of the front page and nearly the whole of the inside front. There are photographs of Miss Chamberlain, descriptions of the work she has done for the BNP, and a listing of the sort of things in which the BNP believes—these ranging from deportation of illegal immigrants to resisting the Islamisation of Britain.

The Artistic Director of the Theatre is quoted as not having known that Miss Chamberlain was an active member of the BNP. He expresses his complete confidence in her abilities.  He then promises to consult with the Trustees of the Theatre to see if she should be dismissed. Gwyn Prosser, the local Member of Parliament, avoids all pretence of hypocrisy. He insists she should be dismissed for her opinions. He says:

“I look upon the BNP as an evil, right-wing, fascist organisation. Anyone that espouses the beliefs of that party should not have anything to do with young people. If my child were in that class [taught by Miss Chamberlain], I would take them out immediately.”

Now, this is an interesting story. It may report events in a part of England that few visit. But can be used to illustrate much that is wrong with modern England as a whole.

To begin, it is obvious that the story is not really an item of news, and never was intended to be such. It is of no reasonable interest to anyone what may be the opinions of a drama teacher at some obscure theatre that does not appear to take money from the taxpayers. This is not news.

But then, The Dover Express is not really a newspaper. Despite its name, and despite its correspondence address, the publication is owned by Trinity Mirror plc. This, according to its website, publishes “over 75 free and paid for titles in London and the south east of England”. Its overriding objective is to make money from advertising. Even when there is a cover price on one of its publications, advertising revenue makes up at least half the total revenue—and often very much more than that. The gathering of local news, this being so, is not a priority for any of the titles owned by Trinity Mirror. It is something to be done as cheaply as possible and with as little friction as possible.

These facts make just about every local newspaper into a client of its local authority. A large fraction of its advertising is from the local authority— jobs, tenders, notices and the like. Local authority advertising does not require much soliciting. Invoices to local authorities are usually paid on time, and are usually paid on good rates per line or word. The same is true of the news. This can be gathered very cheaply by reporters sat in their offices and sifting through the weekly harvest of news releases. Most stories are rewritten releases. And most of these releases come from the various departments of the local authority.

It would be commercial folly for a local newspaper to do other than the bidding of its local authority. Any disobedience brings the threat of no more advertising and no more news releases. Chris Tame once explained to me just how effective this threat can be. When he was working as a press officer for Lambeth Borough Council, he was given the job of stopping the local newspapers from breaking a story that would have embarrassed several Councillors and senior administrators. Someone had videoed a youth from whatever borstals are now called having sex with his mother. The video showed identifiable other parties touching the couple during the sexual act and masturbating. You would think this was hot news. You would think any newspaper would go through every court in the land to defend its reporters and its right to publish their findings. Not so. It took Chris barely an hour to get back every copy of the video. He even got to keep his own copy. All he had to do in each case was threaten the advertising manager.

This was not an isolated case. Local government has always and in all parts of England been an opportunity for gross moral corruption; and the local newspapers have generally helped cover things up. More recently, though, local newspapers have been recruited into what the Marxist thinker Louis Althusser called “the ideological state apparatus”. They do not simply maintain the fiction that local politicians are men of good character. They also now act as propaganda fronts for the ruling class of which these local politicians are junior members. They carry stories that validate or reinforce the claims of the ruling class. They carry attacks on the enemies of the ruling class. We have a ruling class that wants a complete transformation of the ways in which this country is governed and of the ways in which ordinary people think and associate. Its project is the creation of a politically correct dictatorship. Because this project is fundamentally against human nature, it must be actively propagandised to the point where nothing in any media outlet can be regarded as other than political – nothing, that is, short of the weather reports and football scores. And anyone opposed to the project must be ruthlessly smeared and otherwise destroyed.

That is the real purpose of this story. Dover District Council is controlled by the Labour Party. It relies for its control on the white working classes. These have begun at last to realise that the Labour Party does not regard their interests as part of its reason for being. Most of them have given up on voting. Some of them are attracted to the BNP.

There are, I think, no elections this year in or around Dover. But there are elections elsewhere in the country, and the ruling class plainly regards the BNP as a standing electoral and ideological threat. Its leaders are prosecuted and prosecuted again for offences that did not exist when I was a boy. Its activists are hounded from government jobs, and government workers are increasingly tendered loyalty oaths in which they are called on solemnly and sincerely to abjure the BNP and all its principles. The intention plainly is to create a society in which activists of dissident organisations cannot make a living unless they are entrepreneurs or have skills too valuable to be turned away, and in which the various organs of state are packed or terrorised into obedience to the ruling class.

Look at the words used in this story to describe the BNP. It is a “hard right-wing” organisation. Its political views are “controversial”. One of its leader is “awaiting retrial on four race hate charges and was the subject of a Channel 4 documentary Young Nazi and Proud“. We are assured that “[m]embership of the BNP is not illegal, and the party has several local councillors across the country”. But the main impression any reader of the story is supposed to carry away is that the BNP is not to be tolerated beyond the bare formality of the law, and that anyone daring to be open about holding such opinions can forget about a career or even peace of mind. The language used is not neutral. It is a tool of propaganda.

On the front page of the newspaper is a picture of Miss Chamberlain. She is sat on a railway train looking back at a cameraman who has obviously just walked up and called to her. I suppose that was when she was “[c]onfronted by the Express“—and note the use of that hard, accusatory word. No wonder her reported comments made little sense—assuming, that is, they have been accurately reported.

Miss Chamberlain, I have little doubt, will lose her job. The Astor Theatre will then be congratulated on its stand for “tolerance” and be allowed to sink back into obscurity. And the scum who call themselves journalists and who wrote up this story—and who in other times and other places would have found employment as informers and agents of provocation—will move on to their next assignment.

But let us return to Mr Prosser, my Member of Parliament. I am never sure when I see him whether I should laugh at him or just vomit over him. He is not quite the most disgusting politician I have met. But he comes reasonably close. Forget his denunciation of the BNP as “right-wing and fascist”. These words have no meaning other than to express disapproval by the ruling class. Take the word “evil”. Now, I do not support the BNP—I am a libertarian: it is a white nationalist organisation. But I am not aware that the BNP has yet formed a government in this country, and that the policies of this government have given us wars of imperial aggression in the Balkans and Middle East and a police state at home. Mr Prosser has given his unwavering support to just such a government. He must take a share of responsibility for its acts. If anyone is evil, it is he. If anyone is not to be allowed for his opinions near children, it is he. If anyone deserves to be driven from the presence of the respectable people of his constituency, it is he.

All this being said, what is my opinion on the Chamberlain case? Do I think it right that she should keep her job—even if it may be partly funded by the taxpayers? Should she be allowed to continue teaching drama to children during the day and interviewing Nick Griffin after dark?

My answer is yes. I could take a basic libertarian position on the matter of association, and announce that her employment was purely a matter for the Astor Theatre or for anyone funding the Astor Theatre. But this basic libertarianism is not enough for me. I believe in tolerance. I can imagine a libertarian society in which no rights were violated, but where people chose to associate in mutually exclusive groups that allowed no intellectual disagreement within or difference of lifestyle. So far as there would be far less positive oppression, this kind of society would be an improvement on what we now have. I would not, however, regard it as the best of possible worlds. There is much to be said for agreeing to disagree with others and for not dwelling on points of difference.

If we had a small state, I should certainly agree with the proposition that those employed by the taxpayers should not be allowed to become activists in any political organisation. But we do not have a small state, and the millions employed directly or indirectly—often people whose legitimate career choices force them to work of the state—are at the moment required to act and speak as if they shared the opinions of the ruling class. Until we can liberate these people from state control, I think we should press for them to be allowed to express their opinions whatever these may be. People should be employed regardless of their stated opinions. They should be disciplined only when their opinions affect the quality of their work.

The standard reply to this argument is that there are some opinions so loathsome and corrupting that those holding them cannot be trusted to do their jobs. I have heard this most recently said of the lecturer Frank Ellis, suspended from his job at Leeds University for having denied the equality of the races and sexes. According to someone called Hind Hassan, treasurer of Unite Against Fascism at Leeds University and quoted in The Guardian on the 17th March 2006,

“This is a fight that is going to go on and on until we get rid of this man. It has gone beyond an issue of freedom of speech or academic freedom and now directly impinges on the rights of students to live and work in a safe and tolerant environment. How can female students or those from ethnic minorities possibly get a fair educational experience?”

The counter-reply is that anyone who feels physically intimidated by an argument should not be at a university. Of course, the advocates of censorship have always justified themselves with talk of protecting others from harm. Those who wanted to stop people from reading about sex spoke of protecting us from depravity and corruption. The Inquisition was firm about protecting the young and ignorant from the contagion of heresy. These “anti-fascists” are no different.

I grant that children do have certain entitlements that adults do not; and if Miss Chamberlain were known to be preaching her opinions in her classes, there might be some reason for concern. But there is no evidence that this is the case. The report in The Dover Express goes out of its way to tell us that she is an exemplary teacher.

That being so, her opinions are a matter for her alone, and she should not be prevented from teaching drama at the Astor Theatre.

But, as said, her opinions will be taken into consideration. Her teaching days are coming to an end. Miss Chamberlain is a dissident in this country, and she and her friends had better get used to being second and even third class citizens.

Final Note. The Dover Express invites all its readers to comment on the case of Miss Chamberlain. If you have an opinion you would like to be registered, please write to:

Dover Express
41 High Street
Dover
Kent CT16 1EB
newsdesk.doverexpress@kentregionalnewspapers.co.uk

© 2006 – 2017, seangabb.

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