The inconvenience of the truth: Birmingham schools don't need a witch hunt
In the late 19th century, a meeting took place between Jewish elders that would have profound consequences for the world. At this meeting, the participants discussed how they could dominate the world to the advantage of the international community of Jews through control of politics, economics and the media. The resulting blueprint, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, was a conqueror's handbook and a terrifying plan for the enslavement of all non-Jews. And it might have worked, if copies of the Protocols hadn't leaked and fallen into the hands of a shocked world.
Except, of course, it was all a lie. The meeting never took place, the document, a fraud. it was a vile crypto-history, designed to confirm existing anti-semitism and reinforce the fears and prejudices of those who believed that blaming "the Jew" could be a solution to other problems. By 1905 they had already been shown to be a forgery, but that didn't stop Henry Ford paying for a print run of 500,000 copies in 1922 – you can have it in any colour so long as it isn't Jewish – or the Nazis using it as a teaching tool from 1933 onwards. Disproven over and over and over, the convenient fiction survives where the inconvenient truth does not: recent advocates of its authenticity include Gaddafi in Libya, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the Saudi Arabian Education Ministry, Hamas in Palestine and President Sadat of Egypt; anywhere that evidence is required of the global avarice of "the Jew". David Aaronovitch provides an excellent contemporary post mortem on its pseudo-history in his book Voodoo Histories.
Unfortunately, the tendency of people to embrace information that is novel, sensational or comforts their prejudices remains evergreen in human chemistry. From the BBC website:
An alleged plot to oust some Birmingham head teachers and make their schools adhere to more Islamic principles is being investigated, it has emerged. A letter detailing the plan, known as "Operation Trojan Horse", claims responsibility for leadership changes at four schools. These schools are Adderley Primary, Saltley School, Park View School and Regents Park Community Primary School.
The letter, which purports to outline "Operation Trojan Horse", has subsequently been sent to at least another 12 schools in the city - all believed to be vulnerable to takeover.
It states that parents could be encouraged to turn against the leadership team if they are told the school is "corrupting their children with sex education, teaching about homosexuals, making their children pray Christian prayers and [carrying out] mixed swimming and sport".
Among various claims in the letter is one that the group has "caused a great amount of organised disruption in Birmingham and as a result we have our own academies and are on the way to getting rid of more head teachers and taking over their schools".
Worrying indeed. But more worrying is that, upon reading the story in its entirety, we find that the letter in question hasn't even been validated as authentic.
It was sent to the city council in 2013 and has led to a number of investigations. Part of the inquiry will focus on whether the plot is genuine or fake.
So, just to repeat: no one knows if this letter is real or not. It might be true or it might not. Commonly, when extraordinary claims are made, extraordinary levels of evidence are required to authenticate them. Unless, apparently, they're newsworthy, or decent click bait. It's the same reasoning that informs the scandal rags and gossip mags to run headlines like 'Gwyneth in tears over new affair allegations' without, apparently, troubling their consciences.
This isn't to say the allegations are false of course; from what I've tasted of fundamentalism, there are undoubtedly people unhinged enough to think that this Trojan Horse sounds like a fine idea. But to say there actually is a conspiracy, plotting the overthrow of the secular/ Christian coalition of Anglo-Saxons and – let's be honest – white folks? Unproven. Every news outlet that ran this without an enormous bullsh** alarm should be ashamed of themselves. Burying the concerns over its validity in the last paragraphs won't do, when the lie is so toxic. Ask Lord McAlpine.
Here's an extract from a website it took me two seconds to find. I won't feed the author's lonely sense of outrage by linking to it:
'"The British authorities have invited this Islamic supremacism by ignoring its existence and demonizing those who called attention to its existence, behaving as if they were the problem rather than those Muslims who would move to impose Sharia values upon the UK. Now they are beginning to reap what they have sown, and one certainty is that there will be many, many more stories like this one."
And that's just one of the kinder comments I read today. Other headlines, from news outlets more mainstream:
Revealed: Islamist plot dubbed 'Trojan Horse' to replace teachers in Birmingham schools with radicals
Muslim Trojan Horse Fundamentalists 'Took over Birmingham Schools' in Jihadist Plot
(International Business Times)
'Jihadist plot to take over Birmingham schools'
Birmingham council investigates 'Muslim fundamentalist plot to take over local schools'
So far I've found one newspaper that substantially reported the view that the documents might be fake; it also carried a denial by one of the alleged authors, who said it was "a malicious fabrication and completely untrue".
First the allegation, then the investigation. By which point the damage is done. The Department for Education's Extremist Unit has investigated and concluded that it isn't worth a police investigation. Now the National Association of Head Teachers is investigating it in conjunction with the police, the DfE and Birmingham City Council. Liam Byrne, the local MP, is involved, claiming to have been in urgent talks with Ofsted and Michael Gove about it.
And good luck to them. I only hope that in the hunt for the truth, better questions are asked than the way the media have covered this so far. Education has enough to deal with, without witch hunts.