“The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum,” one of the most famous novels by Heinrich Böll, the German winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, relates how an ordinary housewife becomes the victim of a callous journalist. In the story the reporter, Werner Tötges, works for Die Zeitung, a right-wing mass circulation paper. Tötges deliberately ruins the life of Katharina Blum, a divorced housewife, who has met Ludwig Götten, a bank robber on the run from the police.
Katharina is innocent. She does not know who Götten, whom she bumped into at a carnival party, really is. Nevertheless, since Götten has escaped the law, Tötges concocts a story depicting Katharina as Götten’s accomplice. The journalist tracks down her friends and family, including her ex-husband, and publishes a wild story in which Katharina Blum is depicted as a fervent communist and an accomplice of Götten.
In order to set the record straight, Katharina agrees to grant Tötges an interview. The journalist, however, distorts her story to inform his readers how “cold and calculating” she is and to cast suspicion on her socialist father and brother. Die Zeitung crushes Katharina and her family completely, causing the death of her sick mother. When finally Tötges forces his way into Katharina’s home and proposes to let her off the hook if they have sex together, she ends the ordeal by shooting him, aware that her life has been utterly destroyed.
Today Katharina Blum’s story is being repeated in real life. The setting is not Germany in 1974, but Britain in 2007. Katharina Blum is called Simone Clarke. She is not an ordinary housewife, but the leading ballerina at the English National Ballet (ENB). She does not stand accused of being a commie accomplice of bank robber Götten, but a fascist accomplice of Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party (BNP). The paper intent on destroying her is the left-wing Guardian and the callous journalist is one Ian Cobain.
Let us start with the latter. Cobain is a former winner of the “Amnesty International Award for investigative journalism into human rights.” Last year, Cobain joined the BNP and was a member for seven months without disclosing his identity. The journalist, who regards the BNP as a dangerous racist and fascist organization, quickly made it to the BNP’s Central London Organizer. If Cobain is right about the Party’s nature, there is little doubt that he succeeded in this remarkable feat by posing as a hardline racist and fascist. In his position as the BNP’s London Führer Cobain managed to get hold of the Party’s membership list. On 21 December he published a piece in The Guardian in which he disclosed the names of several BNP members, while criticizing the Party for its “clandestine” and “secretive” methods and reproaching the very people from whom he had concealed his true identity by using a pseudonym, for their “use [of] pseudonyms to conceal their true identities.”
Though it belongs to the basic rights of citizens in a democracy to join any legal political party without telling the whole world, the winner of the “Amnesty International Award for investigative journalism into human rights” deliberately and knowingly violated the privacy of various people by disclosing their membership of the BNP, which is a legal political party. One of Cobain’s victims was Simone Clarke, the principal dancer of the ENB. Clarke can hardly be called a racist. The 36-year old ballerina lives with a dancer of Chinese-Cuban extraction with whom she has a child of mixed race.
Cobain’s article depicts the BNP members as negatively as possible. However, the only statements which the journalist was able to extract from Simone Clarke in his seven months at the helm of the London BNP were her comment that she believes immigration “has really got out of hand” and her remark “If everyone who thinks like I do joined [the BNP], it would really make a difference.”
Cobain’s article in Die Zeitung – oops, The Guardian – was enough to ruin Simone Clarke’s life. The ballerina was confronted by self-righteous Guardian readers, including (if one can believe The Guardian – but one cannot as we shall see) some of her ENB colleagues. They demanded that she apologize, repent and grovel at their feet. The real life Katharina Blum, however, is as brave and defiant as Heinrich Böll’s fictional one. On 30 December Clarke told The Mail on Sunday that she realizes “My life has changed.” She said: “Everything will be different now. I will be known as the BNP Ballerina. I think that will stick with me for life. I’d rather it wasn’t like that but I don’t regret anything. I will stay a member.”
She added: “I am angry because I don’t think it should be public knowledge who someone votes for. People are easily offended by political views, whatever the persuasion, and for that reason I think it should stay private. As far as I’m concerned my conscience is clear. As for the journalist who spent months snooping around, he’d find more dirt under his fingernails than he’d ever find on me.”
She also explained why she had joined the BNP. She said it had to do with “the things I think about all the time, mainly mass immigration, crime and increased taxes.” These are issues which many Europeans worry about. It is exactly because mainstream parties, such as Tony Blair’s New Labour and David Cameron’s New New Labour, do not address them that parties such as the BNP are able to fill the political vacuum.
Simone’s audacity prompted The Guardian to increase the pressure. The paper is clearly set on ruining her career by making her a liability to any subsidy-dependent employer. On January 1st it published a piece by Hugh Muir, one of Werner Tötges’ – oops, Ian Cobain’s – colleagues, entitled “BNP ballerina defies rising clamour to sack her.” Until then no-one had asked for Clarke to be sacked, but the paper rang a couple of radical ideologues of multiculturalism to ask them to comment on the affair, knowing in advance that they would demand her dismissal from the ENB.
The Guardian proceeded according to a classic textbook method, also described in Böll’s book. First Muir set the tone by depicting Clarke as an aggressive right-winger who in her interview “hit out at her critics.” As everyone knows, Fascists “hit out” at people. The Guardian, however, never hits out.
Then Muir pointed out to the readers (as he undoubtedly also did to his interlocutors) that the ENB “is publicly funded and is therefore obliged by the Race Relations Act of 2000 to promote good race relations” while Clarke’s “views and policies […] appear to conflict with equality policies [...] laid down by the Arts Council England, which subsidises the ENB to the tune of £6m a year.”
Lee Jasper, the first of Muir’s quoted contacts, was happy to give Muir what he was looking for. Jasper is the Equalities Director for Ken Livingstone, the far-left Mayor of London, as well as the Chairman of the National Assembly Against Racism. “I think she should be sacked,” he said. Muir also notes that Jasper “called on [ENB] funders and David Lammy, the arts minister, to intervene.” In reality this sentence is to be read as a call from The Guardian itself.
Muir also rang Inayat Bunglawala, the president of the radical Muslim Council of Britain. Bunglawala, a radical islamist, is an old acquaintance of The Guardian. The paper knows that he is not favourably inclined to ballet because in 2001 he told the paper that, though he “accepts music,” he “frowns on concerts where there is unrestricted mixing of the sexes.” This, of course, includes ballet. He, too, was happy to give Muir a quote, saying that the Clarke affair “will taint the ENB in the eyes of many minority communities. Questions need to be asked about how someone in that position can be allowed to abuse that position to promote the BNP.”
What The Guardian failed to mention to its readers in this respect is that Clarke has never abused her position to promote the BNP. On the contrary, she told The Mail on Sunday that if The Guardian had not disclosed her membership she would never have mentioned it herself, because “I don’t think it should be public knowledge who someone votes for. People are easily offended by political views, whatever the persuasion, and for that reason I think it should stay private.”
Muir also claims to have spoken to a spokeswoman for the Commission for Racial Equality, which polices race relations legislation. She allegedly told him the Commission was monitoring events: “We will be interested to see what action the ENB takes given that it has a member expressing such views in public.” What views had Simone Clarke expressed in public? Her regret that The Guardian had exposed her against her wishes, her “hitting out” at the callous Cobain, and, since she now felt she has no other option but to explain her BNP membership, her worries about mass immigration, crime and rising taxes, as well as her honest conviction that the BNP is the only party willing to address these issues. As Muir’s “spokeswoman for the Commission for Racial Equality” is not named, however, it is possible that he made up the comment.
Finally, The Guardian mentioned that, contrary to the paper’s assertion a few paragraphs earlier that Clarke had also drawn criticism from some of her ENB colleagues, there had been no criticism from them so far. Muir writes: “Nine of [Clarke’s] 10 principal dancers at the ENB are immigrants and she suggested that this may have muted the internal response, adding: ‘There are a lot of foreign dancers who have probably never even heard of the BNP.’” It is not surprising that Clarke’s ENB colleagues had not made much of a fuss about the affair because everyone, including Clarke’s colleagues, realizes well enough that she does not have problems with immigrants but with radical Muslim extremists, those enemies of European civilization of whom The Guardian is so fond. Indeed, in 2005 this paper knowingly (but without informing its readers) employed someone who was a member of an Islamist group and condoned terrorists, as a trainee journalist and op-ed writer.
Though the Clarke story is still unfolding, it is easy to predict what will happen in the next few days. The Guardian is after poor Simone’s scalp and will not rest before it gets it. Meanwhile, other bloodhounds have joined them. One of them is Karen Chouhan of the Black Londoners’ Forum (BLF), who stated that Clarke’s “views represent an affront to multiculturalism and is inconsistent with the ENB’s statutory race equality duty.” Chouhan even suggested that the ballet arts may be tainted by Nazism: “We should not forget the central role that culture and the arts played in the ideology and propaganda of National Socialism during the early years of Nazi Germany, right up until the fall of the Third Reich in 1945.”
Next week, Katharina Blum – oops, Simone Clarke – will take the lead in the ENB’s production of Giselle at the London Coliseum. If she has not been sacked by then, I would not be surprised to see Guardian readers stage demonstrations to force the ENB to oust the ballerina who was targeted by callous Cobain, the Amnesty International human rights advocate.
In Böll’s script the journalist gets punished. Katharina shoots Werner Tötges when he comes to her door to demand sex. Böll wants his readers to believe that there is justice in the world and the reporter gets what he deserves. In real life, if Clarke is sacked, Cobain’s status as a journalist will only be enhanced.