The first victim of political correctness is the truth, but politically correctness is far more than a conduit of lies and a cover for treacherous political policies. It has actually cost lives in a very specific sense. To understand this, one must examine the sad and peculiar deaths of two popular figures, Willem Mengelberg and Benny Hill, two martyrs in the war against political correctness.
Mengleberg was the long-time director of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. It is fair to say that without Mengleberg’s fifty-year long stint at the helm of the Concertebouw, the orchestra would not enjoy the prestigious reputation it does today. As a conductor, Mengleberg was masterful. The highly refined tonality he extracted from his orchestra, his poetic use of tempo rubato and his penchant to amend scores or make ‘changements’ as he called them, led to Mengleberg being widely praised and sought after.
Why then is so little said about Mengleberg in popular culture today and why did he die poor, depressed and in exile?
The answer is political correctness or more actually put, proto-political correctness. Mengleberg was what they call a musicians’ musician. He loved every element of performance, was exacting in his study of lengthy scores, premiered great works, and was beloved by members of his orchestra and by the composers of his day. When the fascist German forces occupied his native Netherlands, he continue to perform. He was a totally apolitical man and simply felt that even during the dark days of war and occupation, the music must never stop.
However, after the war, the Dutch government persecuted him as though he was some sort of war criminal. He was fired from his position at the Concertgebouw, stripped of his pension, was banned from performing publicly. and was forced to live in exile in Switzerland. He died in 1951, two months before his ban on musical performance was to end.
By contrast the German conductor Hermann Abendroth had joined the Nazi party. He too was stripped of his prestigious musical directorships after the war. But for Abendroth, the story did not end there. Working with the Communist government of East Germany, Abendroth rehabilitated his reputation and repented for his political errors. He spent his final years as one of the most respected artists in East Germany, so much so that he was the only man allowed to smoke inside the state radio broadcaster’s studios.
One of his crowning achievements was conducting Beethoven’s 9th symphony in Moscow with a Russian orchestra in 1951. Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy’ in the final movement of the symphony was sung in Russian, a true testament to peace and reconciliation after the war.
Yet for Mengleberg who never joined a political party, there was no such justice. Only poverty and death. He was one of the first victims of what one would now call political correctness. Two years ago, I wrote to the Dutch government asking them to posthumously exonerate Mengelberg of any wrong doing. I received no reply.
Benny Hill remains one of the most globally popular comedians from an English speaking country. Most remembered for his fast-motion ‘chase scenes’, Hill’s comedy was also highly witty and explored social hypocrisy in areas ranging from mass media, international-relations, the welfare state and the many quirks of British culture. He was also a talented poet and songwriter.
The Benny Hill Show was broadcast from 1955 until 1991. Its popularity remained steady both in Britain and around the world. However in the 1980s a so-called new wave of British comics appeared whose routines included diatribes ridiculing Hill. One of the most infamous such individuals was Ben Elton. These new comics were less funny men than they were political preachers. None of them were was talented as Hill and none explored political issues with the subtlety of Hill. It was around this time that the term political correctness first entered the wider lexicon, first in America and later in Britain.
Hill was fired in 1991 and became seriously depressed. They claimed he was old fashioned and ‘out of touch’. They called his comedy sexist and racist. It was neither. If anything, his comedy has aged far better than those of his political detractors from the cultural Marxist left.
Benny Hill lived for his work and without it his life became devoid of all meaning. In 1992, neighbours began complaining of a foul odour emanating from Hill’s flat. He was long dead and his body was decomposing. When the authorities took his corpse away, they found in the letter box, a contract for a new television show. Could this have saved his life?
Mengleberg and Hill are just two examples of public lives that ended in private ruin and sorrow due to the onslaught of political correctness. There are countless examples of ordinary individuals who have lost their lives, income, happiness and families because of this form of cultural oppression.
Although the mainstream media continue to publically ostracise anyone who violates their politically correct agenda, the election of the outspoken anti-PC Donald Trump gives one a glimmer of hope. This charade, this curse has blighted the west for too long. Time to end it now.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.