It’s unfair. My argument should be as loud as yours

By Stephen Pollard, chairman of the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, a new think-tank that will be launched soon (THE TIMES, 13/02/07):

I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore. If I hear another person refer to me as a “Times contributor”, I am going to explode with anger. When Matthew Parris writes, he does not write for me. When Alice Miles writes, she does not write for me. I am Stephen Pollard. No one else speaks for me.

The last straw was walking into a restaurant and being greeted as Mr Finkelstein. So what if we are both fortysomething ginger-haired Jews who write for The Times? Do I not have an identity of my own?

They get the chance to write every week. I have to make do with occasional appearances. I call that crude censorship, just because I hold different views. Surely I should be given the chance to write whenever they do, so that I can make clear to you, dear reader, that we do not all have the same opinions. But the powers that be at The Times won’t let me. They are, clearly, waging a campaign to silence me, by only allowing me to write every other week.

It seems I’m not the only one who is censored in this way. According to a new organisation, Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), those Jews who disagree with the policies of the Israeli Government are silenced by the rest of the Jewish community. As Brian Klug, one of the founders of IJV, writes: “Individual dissenting voices get lost or drowned out when weighty bodies (like the Board of Deputies or the Chief Rabbi) appear to speak on behalf of all Jews in Britain. It is the combination of these two factors that closes down a debate that should be open.”

Looking at the signatories to IJV’s founding statement, one can see what he means about voices being drowned out. There’s a bloke called Harold Pinter. No idea who he is or what he thinks about anything. There’s another one called Stephen Fry. Who is he? He seems to be wholly absent from the TV and newspapers. And there’s a Professor called Eric Hobsbawm. Some kind of historian, apparently. Never heard of him. Never read a word of his in the newspapers.

Anyway, Googling the Pinter chap, it turns out that he’s a playwright. Some of his plays have titles such as Old Times and The Homecoming, so he appears to be some kind of nostalgic Tory.

Forgive me for labouring the point, but really! There has never been a shortage of preposterous arguments emanating from intelligent minds, but few match the idea that Jewish opponents of the Israeli Government are somehow denied access to the media to put their point across.

IJV are far from the only people whose viewpoint somehow manages both to dominate the media but who also complain that their voices are squeezed out of it. Pinter barely has to think an anti Western thought and it’s splashed across every newspaper. Indeed, I do not recall a shortage of coverage when he wished it to be known that he was joining the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic. Should there be other genocidal butchers he wishes to defend, I have no doubt it will be duly, and prominently, reported.

IJV’s complaint is simply a variation on the recurring theme of those whose shtick is that they are somehow brave dissenters against an overwhelming consensus. Whenever one reads the words “political correctness” it’s now more often than not in the context of a lamentation that it is impossible to stand up to the growing dominance of political correctness. That such a complaint is made in a weekly 1,000word column in the national press qualifies usually escapes the notice of the writer. I think the correct term is “unintentional irony”.

In The Wicked Son, David Mamet’s new book on antiSemitism, he describes a version of this trick as the Hot Hen’s Kiss – when proof is manufactured to buttress a belief that flies in the face of objective reality. Take the supposed evidence of those who claim that Shakespeare did not write “his” plays. He had little formal education, little exposure to the court and had not travelled. So he could not have written with the breadth and scope that the plays necessitate. To prove this, they cite a secret code devised by Francis Bacon, which is comprised of As and Bs. Examining Shakespeare’s works, they claim to find a similar code, which reveals the hidden word SASSOHHKINTE – an anagram for SHAKS IS NOT HE. Bingo!

The same letters, however, also read A HOT HEN’S KISS – proving nothing other than the willingness of those who wish to prove a point to distort objective reality to further their cause.

Those whose views dominate the media – that Israel is a criminal state, that Western foreign policy is the cause of terrorism, you know the sort of thing – but then complain their voices are never heard are classic Hot Hen Kissers. Their version of the “Shakespeare didn’t write his plays” trope is “we are silenced”. And their equivalent of the “evidence” of the Francis Bacon code is to point out the number of pieces written by those who take a different view from them. Neither proves anything.

Far from being silenced, the likes of IJV get, if anything, a disproportionate amount of space – just as do those such as Harold Pinter who believe that Slobodan Milosevic was a peace-loving leader concerned only with the material betterment of his people, rather than a genocidal butcher.

The truth, as any successful editor will tell, is that diversity sells. Yes, people like to have their prejudices confirmed. But they also like to be challenged, and to have a different take on the usual roster of subjects. Dull conformity is, well . . . dull.