Ed Driscoll

Mary Whitehouse Finally Triumphs in England


The sexy girl atop this post really is necessary to the plot — honest. But first, some backstory to explain why she’s there. If you’ve ever read a history of Monty Python’s Flying Circus during its years on the BBC (before it entered into near continuous reruns on PBS starting in the mid-1970s), at some point, the name Mary Whitehouse will pass by as a fleeting reference. Here’s how Wikipedia explains her:

Constance Mary Whitehouse, CBE (née Hutcheson, 13 June 1910 – 23 November 2001) was an English social activist known for her strong opposition to social liberalism and the mainstream British media, both of which she accused of encouraging a more permissive society. She was the founder and first president of the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, through which she led a longstanding campaign against the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). A staunch social conservative, she was disparagingly termed a reactionary by her socially liberal opponents. Her motivation derived from her traditional Christian beliefs, her aversion to the rapid social and political changes in British society of the 1960s and her work as a teacher of sex education.

Born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, Whitehouse became an art teacher, at the same time becoming involved in evangelical Christian groups such as the Student Christian Movement and Moral Re-Armament. She became a public figure via the Clean-Up TV pressure group, established in 1964, in which she was the most prominent figure. The following year she founded the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, using it as a platform to criticise the BBC for what she perceived as a lack of accountability, and excessive portrayals of sex, violence and bad language. As a result, she became an object of mockery in the media, especially by the BBC.

During the 1970s she broadened her activities, and was a leading figure in the Nationwide Festival of Light, a Christian campaign that gained mass support for a period. She initiated a successful private prosecution against Gay News on the grounds of blasphemous libel, the first such case for more than 50 years. Another private prosecution was against the director of the play The Romans in Britain, which had been performed at the National Theatre, which she withdrew when it became clear she was about to lose.

Whitehouse’s campaigns continue to divide opinion. Her critics have accused her of being a highly censorious figure, and her traditional moral convictions brought her into direct conflict with supporters of the sexual revolution, feminists and gay rights campaigners. Others see her more positively and believe she was attempting to halt a decline in what they perceived as Britain’s moral standards. According to Ben Thompson, the editor of an anthology of Whitehouse-related letters, in 2012: “From Mumsnet to … feminist anti-pornography campaigns [and] the executive naming and shaming strategies of UK Uncut, her ideological and tactical influence has been discernible in all sorts of unexpected places in recent years.”

And how. Which brings us to “Britain’s Crazy Decision to Ban ‘Beach Body’ Ads,” as explored by fashion journalist Lizzie Crocker in the Daily Beast:

Protein World’s ad campaign went up in London’s tube stations several weeks ago, prompting a scathing, widely-shared editorial in The Guardian.

Writer and co-founder of the Vagenda blog, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, had returned from Cuba to jarring reverse-culture shock in the “dark, putrid bowels of London’s underground system.”

It was only after visiting Cuba, a totalitarian country where there are no advertisements, that she realized “how much my field of vision is occupied without my consent by images and messages that want to sell me stuff (and, being a woman, it’s usually based on claims that it will make me look better).”

The emphasis here is mine. Cosslett is not simply deploying the language of sexual assault in a heavy-handed metaphor. She’s applying victimhood rhetoric to the larger feminist cause, depicting women as emotionally fragile and easily-traumatized, no matter how banal the offense.

Cosslett feels “attacked” by marketing messages from brands like Protein World, which “will continue their sexist advertising tactics for as long as we let them.”

But her “call for resistance” is patronizing to women with its demands that they be protected from everyday imagery. Now that the ASA is intervening with Protein World’s campaign, they won’t be assaulted by the sight of a model’s navel on a large billboard in the tube.

As Iowahawk tweets today with a flashback to Orwell’s 1984, “The Junior Anti-Sex League is on the case” against the above “Doubleplus ungoodthink hotbod.” To understand how England transformed itself in a half century from postwar “Swinging London” to the censorious socialism predicted by Orwell, over on the right-hand side of the aisle, Robert Tracinski of the Federalist explains “The Paradox of Dogma: How the Left Is Crippling Itself.” As with most of the left’s worst ideas, it starts on college campuses:

The cultural and political left is cocooning itself in a bubble of ideological uniformity. This is intended to totally suppress dissent on key issues by making it impossible for anyone to even express a divergent opinion. The result is to entrench leftist dogma, in the hope that a whole generation will graduate from college unable to engage in thoughtcrime.

That’s the dilemma for anyone trying to overturn any aspect of this dogma. How can you debate an issue and change anyone’s mind, when the discussion has been rigged so that your viewpoint is dismissed as illegitimate before anyone has even heard it? So the new orthodoxy seems impenetrable and its hold on the young unbreakable.

Yet the safe space described by Shulevitz, with its Play-Doh and frolicking puppies, captures the infantilizing nature of the ideological bubble. As Shulevitz puts it:

People ought to go to college to sharpen their wits and broaden their field of vision. Shield them from unfamiliar ideas, and they’ll never learn the discipline of seeing the world as other people see it. They’ll be unprepared for the social and intellectual headwinds that will hit them as soon as they step off the campuses whose climates they have so carefully controlled. What will they do when they hear opinions they’ve learned to shrink from? If they want to change the world, how will they learn to persuade people to join them?

If I were to come up with one idea for how the left could cripple itself over the long term, it would be: teach your young adherents that ideological debate is an abnormal trauma and that it is a terrible imposition to ever expect them to engage in it. It is a great way of raising a generation of mental cripples. And that is exactly what they have set out to do.

The result, as Reason’s Nick Gillespie vividly describes back at the Daily Beast, is that 21st century universities “are raising human veal that cannot even stand on their own legs or face the sunlight without having their eyeballs burned out and their hearts broken by a single deep breath or uncomfortable moment. I’m just waiting for stories of college deans carrying students from class to class on their backs.” Like myself, Nick received his education just before political correctness began to fully descend upon college campuses:

Attending Rutgers in the early ’80s, you could walk from one end of the centuries-old College Avenue Campus to the other and encounter screaming matches over divesting the stocks of companies that did business in South Africa, whether Nicaragua was already a Soviet satellite, and the supposedly self-hating theology of Jews for Jesus.

Hardly a week went by, it seemed, without a public demonstration for and against the burgeoning gay rights movement, a protested showing of the anti-abortion movie Silent Scream, and debates over how great and/or evil Ronald Reagan actually was. The whole idea of college was about arguing and debating, not shielding ourselves from disagreements.

Even as it seemed to be an all-you-can-eat buffet of exotic new ideas, outrages, and attitudes, it wasn’t paradise, and I shudder to think of the insensitivities that were taken for granted by the privileged and internalized by the oppressed of the day. Nobody wants to return to the days when campus was segregated by race, gender, and lest we forget, class.

But the way students and especially administrators talk about college today, you’d think parents are paying ever-higher tuition so their children can attend a reeducation camp straight out of China’s Cultural Revolution. It’s as if college presidents, deans, and the ever-increasing number of bureaucrats and administrators and residence-life muckety-mucks walked away from Animal House firmly believing that Dean Wormer was not only the hero of movie but a role model. At all costs, order must be enforced and no space for free play or discord can be allowed!

In America, Dean Wormer has won. In England, Mary Whitehouse finally triumphed. How’s that “Progressivism” working out these days?

Update: Latest version of the Newspeak Dictionary has been published. Outer Party members are advised to discard previous doubleplusungood oldthink versions immediately:

More: Allahpundit rides the PC Mobius loop: “We’ve reached an odd moment culturally when leftists in the government hector us to lose weight and avoid the health risks from obesity while leftists outside the government hector us to stop ‘body-shaming’ and accept that people come in all shapes and sizes. Can’t wait to find out who wins!”