Current Contentions: In Defense of Churchill (1): Cancel Culture
Text of my Zoom address to the Chartwell Society of Portland, Oregon on 10 May 2021, 81st anniversary of Churchill taking office as Prime Minister. “Current Contentions: In Defense of Churchill” is available as an iTunes audio file. For a copy, please email email@example.com.
Part 1: Defense, defense
Senator Packwood, Justice Gillette, members and guests of the Chartwell Society: I welcome you, if only virtually, so you won’t even be able to throw rolls if I say something silly. Taking his first tv screen test, Sir Winston muttered: “Even though we have to sink to this level, we always have to keep pace with modern improvements.” At least you’ve made me put on a tie, which I haven’t done since the 2019 Hillsdale College Cruise.
Like everyone in our cowed and whipped world, I bow before the awesome powers of the Wu Flu. Defense, defense! We need a spark from God knows where, as Churchill said. Because if we’re prepared to be frightened and ruled by fear, then the only thing to do is fight to the last.
Seems we’ve heard such words before…
At least those alive and sentient on this day 81 years ago heard them—when as Jim Westwood says, Lord Halifax was not summoned to Buckingham Palace. It was that other fellow, the “half-breed American.” A civil servant remarked: “I spent the day in a bright blue new suit from the Fifty Shilling Tailors, cheap and sensational looking, which I felt was appropriate to the new Government.”
I’d like to quote Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn, whom you hosted two years ago: “If nature has changed to the point where people are ready to be despotized, then they’re going to be despotized, because there are always those ready to do that to them, and there are a lot of them right now. Ultimately that means the end of self-government, where the ordinary person gets to decide anything.”
The alternative is the promise Churchill held out, which as Dr. Arnn says is also the promise of America: “That each of us is entitled, under the laws of nature and of nature’s God, to live a full and human life.” But if we believe in that alternative, we’re going to need greatness and leadership.
Experts and the mental pandemic
I never thought I’d see the day when we would grow accustomed to the idea that free people should be policed on the advice of experts who disagree with each other and reverse themselves. Dr. Arnn often quotes something young Winston wrote to H.G. Wells in 1902, when Churchill was only 28:
“I cannot think that there can ever be a society governed by experts,” he wrote. “Expert knowledge is narrow knowledge…practical decisions involve weighing all the factors.” Five decades later he remarked: “Scientists should be on tap, but not on top.” 
No one can be an expert about all the factors involved in, say, Covid. And even as the pandemic eases, the mental pandemic continues. Ironically, the most virulent expressions of mental distemper—the most ferocious tocsins—are over here, and diminish as you move east. They’re weaned somewhat in London, and lose steam in Paris, where President Macron, leader of the free world, speaks for the defense. Not one French statue shall be toppled, not one street renamed, he says, because they are part of our history.
By the time you get to Prague, or Budapest or Bratislava, in the old Warsaw Pact, the tocsins are barely detectable. Thirty years ago, who would have guessed? It’s incredible that the capital which ought to be in the best position not to slide over the cliff is where we are most afflicted with the mental pandemic.
And Winston Churchill, of all figures, is a prime target of people drunk with the madness called cancel culture. We in the Churchill Studies business—and that includes you, for you know more about him than most—have adopted a siege mentality. Indeed Andrew Roberts and I contemplated organizing a rapid response defense team to confront each new lie as it erupts. We thought to use a friendly newspaper or cable channel. We gave it up when we realized the reality. Such is the mental pandemic that few who have made up their minds would let us try to change them.
It’s especially noticeable on social media, a fountain of ignorance Churchill never had to confront. In his day when you said something you usually signed your name to it. Anonymity is, I suspect, part of what drives the worst outbursts on Twitter.
Andrew has a much larger megaphone because of his inciteful biography, Churchill: Walking with Destiny. It’s the Churchill volume to read if you read only one. In March he teamed up with a brilliant young Ethiopian, Zewditu Gebreyohanes, in a point by point refutation of a one-sided panel in Cambridge, home of the Churchill Archives of all places, which relegated Winston Churchill to the outer reaches of Nazism.
Their response to “The Racial Consequences of Mr. Churchill” is on Hillsdale’s Churchill website. Read it and you’ll marvel at the willful ignorance and slipshod history of the panelists. They remind me of Churchill’s description of orators who, “Before they get up, they do not know what they are going to say; when they are speaking, they do not know what they are saying; and when they sit down, they do not know what they have said.”
Moreover, wrote Roberts and Gebreyohanes,
a racist or white supremacist wants bad things to happen to non-whites, whereas Churchill dedicated much of his life to protecting: Punjabi farmers from invading Taliban tribesmen, Sudanese civilians from the Khalifa’s slave-trading, Cape coloureds from the Afrikaaner republics, Indians from the Japanese (who killed 17% of the Filipino population from 1941 to 1945), amongst many other examples.
As Churchill put it:
We will endeavour…to advance the principle of equal rights of civilized men irrespective of colour. We will not—at least I will pledge myself—hesitate to speak out when necessary if any plain case of cruelty of exploitation of the native for the sordid profit of the white man can be proved.
Ms. Gebreyohanes’ part in all this is one of the most encouraging things about the defense effort. She can’t be accused of any of the biases they like to throw at old-time Churchillians. (Incidentally, while working on this paper, she filled me in on what Ethiopians think of Haile Selassie, their famous leader. She says it is much less than Churchill thought of him when he was thrown out by Mussolini in 1936.)
The Hillsdale College Churchill Project has benefitted from the work of prominent Indian historians, on the long, badly misrepresented role of Churchill in the Bengal Famine: the hottest topic in the broad array of “Churchill Derangement Syndrome.”
Zareer Masani, biographer of Indira Gandhi, painstakingly describes Churchill’s efforts to alleviate the famine:
The true facts about food shipments to Bengal, amply recorded in the British war cabinet and government of India archives, are that more than a million tons of grain arrived in Bengal between August 1943, when the war cabinet first realised the severity of the famine, and the end of 1944, when the famine had petered out. This was food aid specifically sent to Bengal, much of it on Australian ships, despite strict food rationing in England and severe food shortages in newly-liberated southern Italy and Greece.
Dr. Masani noted that the deplorable things Churchill said about Indians, always quoted over the Bengal famine, were in fact aimed at Delhi separatists, not the Indian people. Further, they have mainly one source—Leopold Amery, his Secretary of State for India.
Churchill loved to tweak the excitable Amery. He never dreamed that 75 years later, Amery’s diaries would be dredged up to prove he hated brown people. In fact Churchill made fun of everyone: Britons, Arabs, Americans, Chinese, Italians, Albanians, regardless of whether they were white or any other color.
Churchill respected peoples…
…when they deserved respect. “I cannot see any objections to Indians serving on His Majesty’s Ships where they are qualified and needed,” he wrote in 1942, “or, if their virtues so deserve, rising to be Admirals of the Fleet.” Later in his war memoirs he wrote:
The unsurpassed bravery of Indian soldiers and officers, both Moslem and Hindu, shine forever in the annals of war…. Upwards of two and a half million Indians volunteered to serve in the forces, and by 1942…were coming in at the monthly rate of fifty thousand…. The response of the Indian peoples, no less than the conduct of their soldiers, makes a glorious final page in the story of our Indian Empire.
In July 1944, over lunch with the Indian statesman Sir Ramaswamy Mudaliar, a member of the war cabinet, Churchill was heard to say “the old notion that the Indian was in any way inferior to the white man must disappear.” He was quoted as saying: “We must all be pals together. I want to see a great shining India, of which we can be as proud as we are of a great Canada or a great Australia.”
Reality checks, honest debates
Tirthankar Roy of the London School of Economics led the defense against the leading text of the British Empire Hate Lobby. He showed that under the Raj, things got better not worse for the Indian masses by almost every standard of measurement: “As a society that had invented the idea that the touch of another person could cause pollution,” Dr. Roy wrote…
India did not need the British to know how to oppress and degrade other people. British rule, imposed from the outside, unleashed forces of change, weakening this home-grown cruelty. The Depressed Classes welcomed the British as their deliverers from age-long tyranny and oppression by the orthodox Hindus. The migration of millions of Indians from servile labour back in their villages to mines, factories and plantations all over the Empire created the possibility of real freedom. Of course, after the war, most Indians believed the British needed to leave for India to thrive. But they did not think that the British were the root of India’s problems.
Abhijit Sarkar of Oxford wrote a controversial thesis suggesting that Muslim-Hindu prejudices were at the heart of the food shortages:
The All-India Grand-Assembly pursued the famine for political purposes. It alleged that the Muslim Bengal government was creating new Muslim grain traders, undermining the established Hindu traders. It publicized the government’s failure to avert the Bengal famine to prove the economic “unviability” of creating a separate Pakistan.
There is much debate about Dr. Sarkar’s theories among Indians. I’m happy to say that we’ve published both the pros and cons, made in good faith, and a desire for the truth.
We are proud to welcome scholars East and West in defense and debate of accurate history. A “Churchill Derangement Primer,” which you can find on my website, lists every accusation and attack from “A is for Aryans” to “W is for White Supremacy,” providing links where you can find sober, honest, footnoted discussion of the charge in question. The truth doesn’t always favor Churchill. But the average isn’t too bad.
For instance, we have published “Hearsay Doesn’t Count: The Truth about Churchill’s Use of Racial Epithets.” I ran every offensive racial or ethnic slur through our digital resource. A hundred million words by and about Churchill, including his own books, articles, speeches, letters and papers.
I began nervously—didn’t know what the result would be. I found that they are extremely rare. For example, I could find not one instance of Winston Churchill using the n-word, or even being quoted using it, though Leo Amery used it frequently. Will the historians who consistently accuse Churchill of it revise their screed? We’re waiting.
Churchill’s defense also benefits from the fact that he is as respected as ever among the broad mass of people. Six months ago Richard Cohen established an independent Facebook group called simply “Winston Churchill.” You can post anything you want there. About 95% of the posts are positive and they come from all over the world. In six months—I’m amazed by this—the group has grown to nearly 20,000 members. In India, Amman Merchant and Herbert Anderson have established blogsites puncturing Churchill slander. And Hillsdale’s Churchill Project has 60,000 subscribers. These are encouraging numbers.
Continued in Part 2: Precepts for the Defense of Churchill
 The morning after, I was accused of using a “racist term” (Wu Flu). I looked up the euphemism in the Urban Dictionary, which would say it’s racist if it were. Such is the “mental pandemic” that it sets the terms of the debate by labeling something racist. If you dissemble, you acknowledge it. So don’t dissemble! Wuhan is not a race. China is not a race. If everything today is racist, then we’re all racists.
 Larry P. Arnn, Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar, Franklin, Tennessee, 26 April 2021. Audio link to be posted later.
 Winston S. Churchill to H.G. Wells, April 1902. WSC to Anthony Montague Browne, ca. 1959 in Montague Browne, Long Sunset (London: Cassell, 1995), 265.
 WSC on Lord Charles Beresford, 20 December 1912, in Richard M. Langworth, Churchill by Himself (New York: Rosetta Books, 2016), 325.
 Andrew Roberts and Zewditu Gebreyohanes, “Cambridge: ‘The Racial Consequences of Mr. Churchill,’ a Review,” Hillsdale College Churchill Project, 14 March 2021. (All websites cited were accessed in May 2021.)
 WSC, House of Commons, 28 February 1906, in Randolph S. Churchill, Winston S. Churchill, vol. 2, Young Statesman 1901-1914 (Hillsdale, Mich.: Hillsdale College Press, 2007), 163.
 Zareer Masani, “Churchill and the Genocide Myth: Last Word on the Bengal Famine,” Hillsdale College Churchill Project, 27 January 2021.
 WSC to Admiral Little, 14 October 1939, in Martin Gilbert, The Churchill Documents, vol. 14, At the Admiralty, September 1939-May 1940 (Hillsdale College Press, 2011), 240.
 WSC, The Second World War, vol. 4, The Hinge of Fate (London: Cassell, 195o), 182.
 Andrew Roberts, Churchill: Walking with Destiny (New York: Viking, 2018), 785.
 Tirthankar Roy, “The British Raj According to Tharoor; Some of the Truth, Part of the Time,” Hillsdale College Churchill Project, 7 August 2020.
 Abhijit Sarkar, “The Effect of Race and Caste on Relief in the Famine, Hillsdale College Churchill Project, 29 January 2001.