OBE for feminist activist – an awkward move by an embarrassed ruling class
James Delingpole has written an appropriately snarky piece, published on Breitbart, about feminist activist Caroline Criado-Perez receiving an OBE. Previously, Caroline C-P had advocated putting the face of a woman (other than the Queen) on the next edition of 10-pound notes. She was successful in her campaign, and soon we will be reminded of Jane Austen every time we spend some cash in the old-fashioned, physical way. As long as it’s still legal to do so. C-Ps only other achievement on record is that she complained publically in 2012 when the Radio 4 Today programme had only male interviewees on the subject of teenage pregnancies and breast cancer.
Anyway, as soon as the Bank of England announced in 2013 that it had decided in favour of Jane Austen, all hell broke loose for Caroline, apparently. According to Wikipedia,
This decision by the Bank of England resulted in numerous threats, including threats of rape and murder, made against Criado-Perez and other women on Twitter from the day of the Bank of England’s announcement in July 2013. At this point Criado-Perez herself had been receiving about 50 such threats each hour, and found somewhat inadequate the suggestion that she fill in an on-line form for Twitter detailing the behaviour she had experienced. At the height of the abuse, Craido-Perez “lost half a stone in two days” and “couldn’t eat or sleep”. She commented later: “I don’t know if I had a kind of breakdown. I was unable to function, unable to have normal interactions.”
One of the trolls who were caught and sentenced was a woman. Wikipedia writes:
When asked on the BBC Newsnight programme in early January whether she was surprised that one of the convicted Twitter abusers was female, Criado-Perez said that the woman in question had “internalised” misogyny already rampant in society as a whole.
Now Criado-Perez has received an OBE for, according to the Birthday Honours List, “services to Equality and Diversity, particularly in the Media”. Oh yeah? Delingpole complains, in his very entertaining way, that C-P is only “some kind of desperate, attention-seeking, political activist cum low-rent blogger”, an “annoying uber-talentless rabblerousing flibbertigibbet”, and points out that even the Beatles only got an MBE, one notch down from OBE. (Both Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are still only MBEs, not that I care.) Delingpole also points out that at the time the Beatles were awarded, “many earlier recipients of the award were so disgusted that they handed their gongs back in protest.” But now, nothing of the kind happened. I’ll come back to that in a minute.
First, about the awarding itself. It’s obviously a case of compensation for guilt feelings on the part of the ruling class. They were not able to effectively protect one of their useful idiots, and were publically seen to be failing to do so. They took it out on some of the worst trolls (and, to be fair, sending rape and death threats is pretty bad behaviour, whatever the reason), but they could not take it out on all of them, as they probably dearly wished. So they sublimated their urges and inordinately awarded their little pawn instead. And they did it in such a way that you can almost hear them say “that’ll learn ‘em”.
In this topsy-turvy world, in which a white woman claims she is black and a Nobel Prize winning biochemist gets hounded out of office for a harmless joke, nothing is normal. However, in the present case not even the cause for this upset was “normal”. Why on earth were people exercised in the first place about the fact that some activist had managed to get a woman’s face on a “bank note”? I mean, really. Talk about picking your battles. These people are not even a millionth as upset as this about unbacked fiat paper money being a prime instrument of exploitation, the prime cause of economic upheavals.
But we shouldn’t judge them too harshly. They too were sublimating. Having gone to school in the belief that they actually learnt something useful there and having consumed a lot of “TV”, they feel confused and helpless in the face of actual goings-on in the world. They know, or sense, that “something” is wrong with “money”. But they can’t quite put their finger on it. Nobody they think they can trust is telling them. So they vent their resulting anger on someone who seems to be “messing” with the money. Someone who is roughly on a par with them, i.e. not the Governor of the Bank of England, the Prime Minister or some other kind of high ranking ruling class member. They turn on someone who is doing something they can “comprehend”, something they sense has to do with them being taken for a ride.
Normally, it is the ruling class who find a scapegoat they can hang out to dry for their own failings. This time, a mob spontaneously found someone who seemed to them to offer herself as a scapegoat, one who happened to be on the side of the ruling class (ironically, something C-P is probably not even aware of). So the ruling class handed her an OBE. They did this in full knowledge that there wouldn’t be a backlash in the form of other OBEs being handed back in protest. 50 years have gone by since the Beatles were handed their MBEs. It’s in the nature of these awards that they are only handed to people the ruling class approves of. It’s always been thus, only the composition of the ruling class has changed. So people with OBEs will today not protest. They understand exactly why Caroline Criado-Perez received the award and will keep quiet. And everyone else, apart from exceptions like Delingpole, will just be dumbfounded or not care.
Ayn Rand actually described an equivalent scenario in Atlas Shrugged. The person objectively responsible for the train tunnel disaster, one Kip Chalmers, is himself killed in the tragedy. But because he was a member of the ruling class, blame is spread anywhere and nowhere. Instead, his mother, “Ma Chalmers”, is handsomely compensated, however without the connection with the disaster being officially admitted. Without any corresponding qualification, she is appointed the nation’s food tsar. She then diverts lots of trains to soy bean transport, which results in the wheat harvest rotting.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Caroline C-P were given a “Ma Chalmers” job sometime in the future (if only to further “justify” her rather premature award). But that would be incidental. The main message from this whole episode is: Directionless anger is rising, and the ruling class’ reactions are beginning to look rather awkward.