Oliver Dowden, culture war and selective history

A few weeks ago a dozen police officers were ordered to surround the plinth of a statue of Winston Churchill near the Palace of Westminster to protect the masonry from protesters.  That absurd stunt by the heavily politicised Metropolitan Police was roundly and rightly mocked by observers.

Invention of a “culture war” by conservatives is one of many inevitable consequences of their desperate need both to distract people’s gaze from rabid government corruption and to induce public support for extreme nationalism.  The latter is useful in lessening objections to authoritarian acts by government.  There is the additional fear among the exploitative elite that if people reject prevailing perceptions of the history of Britain then they may also reject the entire undemocratic structure of the country.

Venal Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government Robert Jenrick expressed his horror that monuments to some of worst protagonists in British history were defaced, removed or dumped in a river.  His response was to change the law so that councils will need planning permission to remove a statue.

Responding to publicly funded museums’ decisions to educate visitors Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden (update: succeeded by Nadine Dorries in September 2021) invented a quango, Heritage Advisory Board (HAB), to facilitate government interference.

In Dowden in Telegraph his explanation of the role of HAB was a contortion of language and logic.  The quotes below, from the same paragraph in Dowden’s article and written in this order, revealed contempt for the intelligence of readers.

Museums and other bodies need to have genuine curatorial independence.”
But, independence cuts both ways.” – This sentence is particularly meaningless.  Independence is an absolute, not co-dependent.
Heritage organisations should be free from government meddling but the people who run them also need to stand up to political fads and noisy movements of the moment.” – The qualifier therein reduced anti-racism to a “fad” and a “movement of the moment.”
Heritage organisations should take into account the views of the entire nation whose taxes pay for them.” – No, heritage organisations should deal with facts.
Dowden took out his dog whistle: “I want to make sure the boards of these bodies are genuinely diverse and not solely governed by people from metropolitan bubbles.”

The sequence of comments from Dowden above, and the rest of his article, used the familiar template of conservative exposition where a supposed intent is declared and then further explanation showed that the real intent is the opposite.

The Tory government is interfering in schools, universities, museums and BBC to try to direct political perspective, to censor knowledge and to encourage unthinking pseudo-patriotism.  It is a pattern seen before in history.  But, if Tories are successful, people in Britain won’t learn that history.

Oliver Dowden, culture war and selective history

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s