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     Volume 4 Issue 61 | September 2, 2005 |

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Christians Preach Hate, too

Why do George W Bush and Rupert Murdoch think so highly of a dangerous demagogue?

Richard Ingrams

One aspect of the preachers of hate debate which has gone unnoticed is that any new laws would have to apply to Christian preachers as well as Muslims.

In that case, people like American evangelist Pat Robertson could well find themselves in trouble. Last week, for example, Robertson was calling for the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, to be 'taken out', in other words, murdered. (He later tried to get out of it by claiming that 'taking people out' didn't necessarily involve assassination.)

This Christian preacher of hate, it turns out, enjoys a cordial relationship with George W Bush, who might well come to his aid if he were under threat. But he could not deny that, in many respects, there is nothing to distinguish him from his Muslim brothers. He hates homosexuals, for example, and has even on occasion spoken out about what he calls a 'Jewish money conspiracy'.

It is not widely known that Robertson has another very influential admirer, in the person of Rupert Murdoch. Andrew Neil, in his memoirs published in 1996, records that when Robertson stood as a presidential candidate in 1988, Murdoch told Neil: 'He's right on all the issues.'

Of course, the Dirty Digger was wise enough to keep his opinions to himself, otherwise, the public might start to think he was a dangerous, right-wing lunatic.

Power failure
Cambridge University has always had a tendency to produce impractical dreamers, whether on the left or the right. That is because, unlike Oxford, which is a big, industrial town as well as a university, Cambridge is a remote, academic oasis cut off from the day-to-day concerns of ordinary folk.

Maurice Cowling, the historian and fellow of Peterhouse Cambridge who died last week, was a famous right-wing guru who once wrote an article suggesting that we should never have gone to war with Hitler because the conflict had paved the way for a socialist state in Britain.

One obituary of the old boy contained an interesting phrase in connection with Cowling's historical writings. It referred to 'the Conservative party's unerring instinct for power', an expression that now seems almost laughably obsolete.

In the present context, an unerring instinct for power would concentrate Tory minds on choosing as their next leader the man most likely to discredit Blair, Brown and the Labour party and simultaneously appeal to voters. They wouldn't worry about his views on the euro; they certainly wouldn't agonise over whether he might be too old at the age of 65 (Clarke) or 59 (Rifkind).

As it happens, these two elderly gentlemen are alike in that they both voiced vehement objections to Blair's disastrous Iraq adventure, which has resulted in the death of thousands of innocent civilians and many British servicemen, as well as increasing the terrorist threat to Britain.

Yet instead of rallying behind the only two candidates to get it right, their opposition to the war is actually being held as a black mark against them. It all suggests that the unerring instinct for power has been replaced by a death wish.

Cook their goose
It is hard to know how seriously to take the avian flu threat, with so many experts all saying conflicting things. However, there seems to be general agreement that if the plague comes to this country, it will be brought here by migrating birds.

A debate is already beginning about whether farmers should be compelled to shut up free-range poultry to prevent the disease infecting chickens and possibly even humans.

One suggestion which I have yet to see made is that those migrating birds should be gunned down by hundreds of trained marksmen. Even as things stand, many farmers are already concerned about the vast flocks of wild geese that descend on their fields year after year.

But any proposal to kill large numbers of birds, even with the aim of preventing a plague which in the view of some experts could rival the black death, would be met with hysterical opposition from powerful organisations such as the RSPB. We live in an age when the welfare of guinea pigs and birds is considered by many people as more important than that of humans.

Even as I write these words, sinister black kites are circling overhead. They were introduced some years ago by bird lovers and are rapidly multiplying. Soon, because they are ruthless predators, they could be commonplace all over the country. But woe betide anyone who takes a gun to them or even, like me, suggests that, as with those migrating geese, a cull is long overdue.

This article was first published in The Guardian's Observer Magazine

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