July 17, 2023
The recent news that the website of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London contained a derogatory description of Sir Winston Churchill, whose state funeral the building had held following the great man’s death in 1965, caused a fuss in certain non-woke quarters of the British media. According to the website’s ungenerous words (since altered), Sir Winston was “a figure of controversy” as “he was an unashamed imperialist and white supremacist,” most unlike his main wartime opponent.
I do hope one day to see the same website describe Nelson Mandela as “a figure of controversy” likewise, as “he was a big black terrorist who went around planting bombs on white people’s property,” but I think this might be every bit as lacking in historical perspective as the cathedral’s above-cited partisan description of Mr. Churchill was.
Stung by the backlash, the offending website’s text now simply says Winston was a figure of controversy “when viewed from a modern perspective.” Really? And what, precisely, does the word “modern” mean in this particular context? It means “from the perspective of the left-wing monoculture of our governing class,” does it not?
Churchill stands as a handy personal embodiment of Britain, her history, people, and national character, so to dismantle Churchill is to thereby dismantle the nation (and indeed the Western Anglosphere in general) itself in a much wider sense—and dismantling nations is what the contemporary left is all about. Therefore, as I have shown elsewhere, attempts to blacken Churchill’s name by spuriously accusing him of everything from cowardice to outright genocide are legion. Some now even make the argument he was worse than Adolf Hitler, which obviously isn’t true. Hitler was a vegetarian.
Carry On, Swallow That Camel
The pro-Churchill historian Richard Langworth has called this sad phenomenon “Churchill Derangement Syndrome,” compiling a long, debunking online A–Z of the great man’s alleged “crimes” in the eyes of the modern left, no matter how trivial, such as him once losing his temper and accusing Arabs of eating “nothing but camel dung.” Maybe he did, but most rational observers might conclude that, overall, being rude about foreigners does not quite outweigh playing the leading role in defeating fascism in Europe.
Therefore, as Langworth has also shown, false atrocities of a much graver kind have had to be laid incorrectly at Churchill’s door to discredit him more fully among an ill-informed public—yet the only way in which this can plausibly be done is to misrepresent his words or deeds in a highly disingenuous fashion. Consider the common claim that in 1919 official War Office minutes show that Sir Winston expressed himself “strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes” in the colonies (e.g., Welshmen in Tonypandy).
However, what his critics conveniently “forget” to note is that elsewhere in these same minutes, it is clear Churchill is talking not about deadly chlorine or phosgene, but tear gas, which he praised for leaving “no serious permanent effects” on the enemy. “If it is fair war for an Afghan to shoot down a British soldier behind a rock and cut him in pieces as he lies wounded on the ground, why is it not fair for a British artilleryman to fire a shell which makes the said native sneeze?” he asked.
And yet, the propaganda campaign is working. It is hard to imagine that, if the BBC ever ran a repeat of their 2002 public poll to find “The Greatest Briton” of all time, Sir Winston would top the charts so easily as he did back then, when his memory as our finest war leader was overwhelmingly uncontroversial (and, not uncoincidentally, back when the nation’s demographics were still rather more overwhelmingly white). So why the increasing crusade against his memory? It is hardly a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma…
The Dustbin of History
Ironically enough, the epicenter of blackening Churchill’s name today is Churchill College, Cambridge, an institution founded in Sir Winston’s honor back in 1960, a fact that should be surprising, but in our increasingly deranged post–George Floyd world somehow isn’t. In February 2021, the college notoriously hosted a symposium, “The Racial Consequences of Mr. Churchill,” which appeared to lend an open platform to non-whites with an obvious agenda to criticize Churchill as a worthless racist, most unlike those many enlightened black and Asian persons who sat on the panel, such as:
(1) Historian Dr. Onyeka Nubia, who has complained of the “white-British hegemony” of most of British history (an unavoidable hegemony, given the historically 99.9% white demography of the nation, you may have thought).
(2) Kehinde Andrews, narrator of docu-film The Psychosis of Whiteness and father of the pseudo-discipline of Black Studies in the U.K., who has claimed the English national flag of St. George evokes similar connotations as the flag of the Confederacy.
(3) Madhusree Mukerjee, author of an extremely misleading book wrongly blaming Churchill for a 1943 famine in Bengal that killed millions of Indians, thus allowing him to be painted as a genocidal maniac, just like Hitler.
Some of the accusations made against Churchill—such as deliberately perpetrating mass murder against non-whites—were serious. Others were simply laughable, such as that he was a coward for not fighting in WWII personally, despite being an obese drunken pensioner at the time.
It appeared obvious that many of these haters possessed a far wider ideological agenda, using criticism of Churchill as a handy proxy to, as Dr. Nubia put it, “change the institutions within this country.” You may have thought such an agenda had succeeded already. It certainly has at Churchill College and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The Gathering Twitter-Storm
Churchill College’s symposium was led by Priyamvada Gopal, a professor of postcolonial studies who has in the past reportedly tweeted such delights as “White Lives Don’t matter. As white lives,” “Abolish whiteness,” and “I resist urges to kneecap white men every day.” This last tweet appears to have been a mere joke, but so was Churchill’s line about Arabs chewing camel turds, and he’s never given any leeway for it by the likes of her.
Following widespread criticism, the ongoing symposium was shut down in June 2021, leading to complaints of right-wing “cancel culture” from Professor Gopal, who claimed one critic had warned her that “my name was being forwarded to the commanding officer of an RAF [Royal Air Force] base near my home” as a target for aerial bombing; unlike her own lighthearted quip about kneecapping white people, this was obviously a much more plausible threat.
The thing about Gopal is that, whilst she is (reasonably enough) unwilling to be misquoted in the media herself, she is quite happy to share a platform with others who pursue similar tactics against Winston Churchill. In 2020, Gopal was paid £25,000 by the Daily Mail tabloid after a columnist carelessly attributed completely fake tweets to her that appeared to call for a race war, besides citing one of her above-mentioned genuine tweets in what was deemed a misleading manner (i.e., simply as “White Lives Don’t matter” without the subsequent phrase “As white lives.”)
According to Gopal, her full tweet was not racist against whitey, as it was simply making the point that Caucasian lives mattered only in the wider sense that they were human lives; their specific whiteness was an irrelevance. Or, as she told lefty British news rag The Guardian: “Whiteness does not qualify someone to have their life matter; the life matters but not the whiteness.”
You can certainly make that argument—substitute the word “blackness” for “whiteness” and I make it myself about Black Lives Matter all the time, I’m glad Ms. Gopal seems to agree with me here. And it is surely indisputable that Gopal, like everyone else, has the right not to be selectively misquoted just to make her look bad; everyone, that is, including Sir Winston Churchill.
Recall how Richard Langworth demonstrated how, when talking about unleashing “poison gas” upon natives, official records show conclusively Churchill was actually talking about tear gas, and that it is only possible to maintain otherwise by omitting his full quotes, whether deliberately or ignorantly.
One particular recent book that makes this very same error is the 2022 effort Winston Churchill: His Times, His Crimes by longtime hard-left U.K. activist Tariq Ali, a book so desperate to condemn its subject it apparently uses the fictional BBC TV drama series Peaky Blinders as a “source” for alleging Sir Winston ordered the murder of Irish nationalists in the 1920s.
Ali’s book was published by Verso, who in May 2023 put out a promotional podcast, The Cult of Churchill, whose chief talking heads were not only Tariq Ali, but also…Dr. Priyamvada Gopal. As is the vogue these days, the podcast came with a trigger warning for oversensitive ears, to the effect that “This episode contains references to some of the atrocities of the British Empire. There are references to racist language, as well as racial and sexual violence. Listener discretion is advised.”
Yet to judge by Verso’s accompanying write-up of the show, at least one of these highly upsetting “atrocities of the British Empire” was invented—namely, Churchill’s wholly nonexistent “advocating for the use of poison gas.” Surely, being such great academic experts on Winston Churchill: His Times and Crimes, you may have expected Ali and Gopal to have objected to inclusion of this faulty detail?
“I am pleased that the Mail has apologized for what it accepts were completely unfounded allegations,” Gopal said in 2020 when receiving her £25,000. If only it were not an impossibility under British law to libel the dead, perhaps the family and estate of Sir Winston Churchill could receive similar sums in compensation from the good folks at Verso and Churchill College, Cambridge—and possibly even the Dean and Fellows of St. Paul’s Cathedral, too.
According to Verso, Ali and Gopal’s podcast represented “a reminder that we cannot allow those in power to shape our national memories and perpetuate dangerous myths.” Yes, it certainly did—but not in the way the blurb writers meant it…
Would it have been better for humanity in the end if Hitler had won after all? Only in the limited sense that there would be no such institution today as Churchill College, Cambridge.