Virtue Signaling Over Corpses 79


I was sent this lovely anecdote of Sean Connery today by a successful Hollywood screen writer. They said I could publish but did not want to be named.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was involved in a series of movie projects with Sean Connery. He was everything you’d like a Hollywood star to be in person: charismatic, gregarious, intelligent, very focused in meetings, a great raconteur. He’d often remind you of his Scottishness and in case you’re wondering, he was more attractive in real life than he was onscreen.

One day we were in a meeting in his office, discussing whatever was our latest venture. The phone on his desk kept ringing. He’d pick it up, put it back down to end the call, then the phone would start ringing again. Then his mobile phone started to ring and ring and ring. Annoyed, he buzzed the outer office on the intercom.

Sean: What’s going on? I’m in a meeting.
Office person: It’s Tony Blair.
Sean (exasperated sigh): I can’t talk to HIM right now.

Then he looked at us, shaking his head and said ‘Sorry about that.’ And we carried on with our meeting.

He will be missed but when Scotland is independent, he can be in your pantheon.

I have also been deluged with social media postings about Sean Connery’s reported views on slapping women.

Do we have to do this?

What he said is not defensible: but are there really people out there who have never in their life said or done anything wrong? The worst thing I ever did in my life (which was not at all criminal but was wrong) still gives me nightmares of remorse, quite literally. I wake up thinking about it. I hope and believe it is outweighed as a single incident in a life in which I generally tried to do good. But I would not want it dragged up for public gloating when I die.

Every single human has made mistakes. I don’t think there is any reason to believe that Sean Connery was a generally bad man like Jimmy Savile. His first marriage was unhappy but his second was very happy and lasted forty years. Connery was born the same year, into the same class and the same city, as my own father. Ten minutes walk between their homes. My father would have shared Connery’s views on women – some of my father’s views were very worrying. They were the views of a working class man brought up in Edinburgh in the 1930s and 1940s.

I am not a moral relativist. I think that Connery’s view was plain wrong, just as my father talking of people coming “off the banana boat” or “having a touch of the old tarbrush” was plain wrong. But I also know why my father did not understand it was wrong, and why by contrast I did know it was wrong. Part of the reason I knew it was wrong is that my father worked so hard to lift his family out of poverty and enable us to benefit from the great free educational opportunities the state then gave us – opportunities he never had, leaving school at 13. Who was I to sneer at him?

I recognise the vicious circle of destructive macho that led Connery to repeat the claims when challenged. I should say that pretty well all my father’s closest friends were black, he actively helped several refugees and there was an extraordinary gap between his extremely kind and completely colour-blind personal behaviour, and the horrible views he used to state. It was a peculiar kind of defiance or assertion of identity, not something real.

Even today, I wish I understood this better of my father. Likewise Connery: I suspect that by the time he was repeating in the 1980’s his obnoxious views of the 60’s, Connery was doing something similar. He was defending the remembered tropes of his class and community, no longer what he was actually living by. And did not know how to back down.

I like to think that in seventy years time, people will look back at today’s virtue signaling students who are swamping the internet with anti-Connery memes, and be horrified at the completely unacceptable views that today’s students hold in tolerating massive wealth inequality.

I repeat that I found Connery’s view on violence against women absolutely obnoxious. It is a good thing that such views are now beyond the pale. But that a ninety year old man expressed a single obnoxious view in 1969 and 1984 does not invalidate him as a human being. It is not the most important thing about him. We are mourning one of Scotland’s most talented sons, and perhaps the most famous. He did not have to be perfect; nobody does.

It is possible to bury the dead without virtue signaling over their still warm corpse.

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79 thoughts on “Virtue Signaling Over Corpses

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  • Caratacus

    Very well said, Craig. And simply and thoughtfully explained. Good men sometimes do bad things, and, occasionally, bad men will do something good. It is in the nature of things.

  • Goose

    Only to be expected in an age of woke authoritarianism. One slip-up such as a drunken tweet can destroy a reputation and career; a lifetime of charitable and otherwise altruistic endeavour, cast aside as complete strangers brand a person they don’t know ‘evil’ and entirely irredeemable based on as little as eight words. I don’t share J. K. Rowling’s political views, but I thought the twitter pile-on she endured over her views on transgender issues absolutely ridiculous. People demanding absolute conformity to their views, and seeking to crush dissenting opinion rather than engage in respectful debate.

    As for Sir Sean Connery, a great Scot indeed, and an avid supporter of Scottish independence, though the fact he lived in tax exile in the sunny Bahamas, meant the hypocrisy charge was always being thrown at him by unionist critics.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    Young Craig ( actually I am older than you are – but – not necessarily the wiser),

    I respond.

    Have you thought for a moment that a man – such as myself who spent fully a decade in the UK and then returned to the Caribbean – did have issues regarding proper an just and fair treatment?

    Thankfully – some things said then in the open – can’t be said now in the open – without serious consequences.

    However – there is – or ought to be – a set of principles and moral values which – maybe variation on a theme – but the humanitarian theme should hold constant.

    As you say about Connery – his was time and culturally specific attitudes and expressions – yet – when we think about the movies (including his) – think. Is it not true that Hollywood does mix the past with the present; the cruel with the compassionate; the Spartacus with the …?

    Well that is how they do it and – well maybe – Connery in certain ways was a master at his art – yet – towards women – still in a certain sense – a really big fart – on that aspect.

    Now – never said that ultimately you disagreed with me.

    So be it.

    All the best in the next place – Sean Connery,

    • Shatnersrug

      I hope people read Your comment and think on it. The views Connery espoused whether he meant it or not did have real effects on public behaviour, whether it was slapping your wife for ‘talking back’ or calling someone sooty and making them wait for longer for an appointment.

      They were views of their time that were very detrimental to a great many people and still are.

      I have no doubt that Connery was not the worst thing he has said or done just as we all aren’t, but we mustn’t just dismiss the criticisms as irrelevant ‘woke’ authoritarianism – though those words may have been weaponised against the left to shut down debate it doesn’t mean that they ought to be thrown out

  • Peter

    There was, what I thought, a nice obituary in the New York Times. It didn’t mention the issue of his views on women but it did have what I thought was quite a nice paragraph that shows the other side of the man:

    “A passionate golfer — he discovered the game about the same time he discovered James Bond — he was the only player at the Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles who carried his own bag. Yet he gave the million dollars he earned on “Diamonds Are Forever” to the Scottish International Education Trust, an organization he founded to help poor Scots get an education…he donated 50,000 pounds to England’s National Youth Theater after he read that the theater needed money. An ardent supporter of Scottish nationalism, he also gave 5,000 pounds a month to the Scottish National Party.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/31/movies/sean-connery-dead.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article

  • Onlooker

    Sighing. I knew the clowns would be chimping aboot decades-old stuff. Pity Sean wasn’t around to slap some sense into a few of these sneering wee pious pricks and prickesses. But he will be remembered. They won’t.

    • SomeBlokeFromCambridge

      Well, I agree. A man who brought more to the world than he took. And more slapping required 🙂
      I disagree with Craig’s views about many unimportant things, but follow him because I agree on those that are important.
      And I read all this stuff ” my father’s closest friends were black” – so f*****g what, they were people, that’s all. And things are of their time and culture. And I’m happy that anybody can hate me or discriminate against me for whatever reason; this is good, not bad. I don’t have to like them either, but I will just deal with them as individuals; good bad bigoted credulous bright ignorant: that’s just we unmitigated humans as we are.
      So, to Craig: good luck with independence (even if it brings you the Soviet paradise that I fear it might), good luck against the wee one and friends with their lawfare, my prayers are with Julian.

      • Muscleguy

        It won’t be a Soviet. It’s true that Scotland has a larger tail of far left people but they are a small minority still. Scotland is a communitarian place. We like people to get on but want them to remember those who cannot or do not get on. To remember where they came from. To give back.

        When Scotgov failed to pass on the tax cut for the higher rate taxpayers which meant those on that rate ended up paying more than they would in England (but not actually any more, just not less). Lots of them went on social media and on air to say they were happy to pay a ‘bit more’ to help those worse off than themselves.

        That doesn’t indicate a Soviet. It indicates a Scandinavian style social democracy. The Scandis want Scotland in their Council. They rightly see us as like them.

  • Republicofscotland

    Well said, we all have our foibles, but more often than not they don’t define who we are or what we do, our actions define how others perceive us, but no ones actions can be saintly all the time, I guess that’s the human condition right there.

  • Andrew Mcguiness

    “Part of the reason I knew it was wrong is that my father worked so hard to lift his family out of poverty and enable us to benefit from the great free educational opportunities the state then gave us – opportunities he never had, leaving school at 13. Who was I to sneer at him?”

    Well, a thousand times, “Yes!”

  • Leif Sachs

    Waging a culture war on the past combines intellectual laziness with annoying smugness. Modern day period dramas are full of such low-hanging fruit conventions. You can spot the good guys ‘n’ gals from a mile off by their signalling of 21st century liberal virtues, their anachronisms offset by the values of the baddies that are representative of the time in which the drama is set. The entire audience can pat their couch potato backs for being so superior to those barbarians from the past.

  • Kate

    Well said, Craig. I think you have the rights of this. I have the same memories as you – my father never, ever hit my mother or his children – which was an oddity in those days. But I remember my mom telling me once, that her neighbours used to tell her she was lucky, that ‘her man’ never hit her! Men hit women & women almost expected that kind of treatment. And that was Sean’s time. It’s how he was conditioned by the society he lived in. But as he got older, no doubt he realised you don’t do that. But men in those days couldn’t appear to look ‘soft’ or show feelings, so you couldn’t admit you couldn’t & wouldn’t hit women. This is such a different age – folks just don’t know what it was like…

    The thing is too… most people speak about not hitting women, but many of those same people are okay about hitting children. My father wouldn’t hit us. He smacked my brother once, and afterwards he told my Mom never to threaten any of us with ‘wait till your Dad gets home’, because he said he was NEVER going to do it again. He had too big a hand & was far too strong to be hitting a child. And he never did do it again. People are really only NOW having the conversation about hitting children & many parents are still resisting the idea of making striking a child illegal and call it ‘punishment for doing wrong’. Well… hitting women was once called ‘keeping her in line’ but thankfully we have recognised THAT is wrong. One day we’ll be having the conversation that goes, “No I’m not going to eulogise him/her. S/he used to hit her children! Imagine that!! An adult using violence on a helpless kid! And not just saying or doing it once! But A WHOLE CHILDHOOD of being smacked!!”

    Did Sean ever actually hit women – or just talk about it? Because I remember my older brother (he’d have been about 16 at the time) bragging to some mates about how he’d keep ‘his woman’ in line & not let her order him about! He never did hit a women & her NEVER WOULD!! He was actually soft as putty (& I can tell you the lady who became his wife brooked no nonsense from him & kept him in line! LOL!). It was simply bravado in front of his mates! See? Different times, different rules!! I’m not saying it is RIGHT behaviour. Only that you have to take another time, another society, into account. As youngsters of the future will have to when they talk about the ‘oldies’ & their disciplining of children…

    • john mckay

      *…his wife brooked no nonsense from him and kept him in line. LOL.*
      The hen pecked, the cuckolds, the slapped, …the irony.

    • Muscleguy

      indeed, I expect he was trying to get across that a slap was not a punch or a kick. In his day a slap and stopping there was a progressive act. We often fail to appreciate such things. Progress is a journey, not a destination, sometimes the steps are small, that is life. We should not judge the small steps of the past by the stricter values of the present but view them from the context of their times.

  • willie

    Sean Connery was a fabulous actor, a hugely talented individual, but he was more than that.

    Sean Connery was a power for good. . He contributed greatly to trying to make this world a better place and he was not afraid to use his celebrity to speak out on issues that many others would have politically shied away from. He contributed to programmes to bring forward and support truly worthwhile objectives. And he was, without doubt in the eyes of millions the world’s greatest Scotsman. A badge that he disregarded as an accolade undeserved.

    But that global actor, that man, I recall walking proudly down the Royal Mile when the Scots parliament reconvened.

    Craig, I fear you did not need to mention and or defend Sean Connery from a few comments made over the years and comments so contemporary of his time. They were with woke focused angst exaggerated out of all proportion whatsoever. Sean Connery was a hero, and his like will be hard to replace.

    The world is a lesser place for his passing.

    But if we need something to remember him by, something that gives an insight into how he truly thought, consider the question and answer he gave at a graduation day on Princetown University. A student on asking ” what was the most important ting he had ever learned ” was given the instant response ” to read because everything else follows on from that ”

    That to me, to many, confirms the absolute basis of society. Education, education, education, and Connery knew and understood that to his very core and celebrity did not diminish it.

    RIP Sean Connery.

  • Alf Baird

    “Connery was born the same year, into the same class and the same city, as my own father.”

    Interesting you mention this Craig. Both my mother and father were likewise born in the same year and also lived in the same part of town as ‘big Tam’, my mother in nearby Dundee Street, and I think she also attended the same school. She told me she had danced with the young Connery at the Palais, however my old man was a champion ballroom dancer and a professional footballer at the time so my mum probably thought he had better prospects! I expect my mum and dad maybe also kent yer faither as they were the same age. As a laddie I used to deliver milk in Edinburgh, though not for the Co-Op, for the ‘Dummy’ (Edinburgh & Dumfriesshire Dairies’). You are right, times were very different, even by the 1960s, with many Scots leaving the country because of endemic poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunity in their ain laund. In the early 1960’s my parents bought a cheap ticket for all of the family to head for Australia, only prevented at the last minute by my grandmother’s illness and mother’s second thoughts. The effects of poverty and alienation on people was the cause of many societal difficulties, and still is. Tragically the only solution for far too many Scots was to leave their own exploited and mis-managed country.

  • Baalbek

    The ritual condemnation of recently deceased celebrities’ moral shortcomings, real or imagined, is as tiresome as the performative ‘grief’ displays that are common when a ‘beloved’ public figure, e.g. Diana Spencer, pops their clogs.

    People who think they ‘know’ their favourite celebrity like they know a good friend are deluding themselves and projecting their own insecurities and anxieties onto them. The media, of course, encourages this type of worship.

  • mark golding

    Tribute to a Royal Navy veteran – AB Sean Connery: – Scotland Forever!

    Sunset and evening star,
    And one clear call for me!
    And may there be no moaning of the bar,
    When I put out to sea,
    But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
    Too full for sound and foam,
    When that which drew from out the boundless deep
    Turns again home.
    Twilight and evening bell,
    And after that the dark!
    And may there be no sadness of farewell,
    When I embark;
    For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
    The flood may bear me far,
    I hope to see my Pilot face to face
    When I have crost the bar.

  • Baalbek

    Just learned that journalist Robert Fisk has died. His dedication to reporting the truth from war zones and territories under siege and occupation in the Middle East and Central Asia will undoubtedly be ignored by sycophantic mainstream hacks.

    I am equally certain he will be condemned as an ‘anti-Semite’, ‘Assadist’ etc. by people who think sitting in the comfort of their warm homes parroting official propaganda on Twitter makes them qualified to pass judgment on those who risk life, limb or career to reveal truths the establishment would rather keep buried.

    • Ingwe

      @Baalbek-he was one of the few journalists (alongside our host and John Pilger) worthy of the name. The world is truly a poorer place without him shining the light of truth into dark corners.

      • Baalbek

        I agree 100%. Sadly few, if any, mainstream journalists from the new generation are cut from the same cloth. John Pilger, Julian Assange, Craig and others were disowned by the mainstream and all of them paid a price for their dedication to truth. The message to new recruits could not be clearer.

        Fisk, and his colleague Patrick Cockburn, are tolerated by the Indy (perhaps to uphold its indy street cred?) but they would never be hired by the Guardian or the Times in this era of sycophantic journalism. Gone are the days when a Robert Fisk or a Craig Murray might be interviewed by the BBC for their on the ground experience in parts of the world subject to western ‘meddling’. Now it’s all smooth talking think tank twats and ‘journalists’ hired to promote the approved establishment line.

    • Jack

      Already started

      I had lunch with Robert Fisk as an MA student in 2005, Australia. I was awed by his bravery, resilience, writing style, and passion for the truth. Then came post-2011 Fisk who whitewashed Assad’s crimes. It saddened me. I could not reconcile the two Fisks
      https://twitter.com/_amroali/status/1323005612272291846

      Robert Fisk spent the last 10 years of his life whitewashing the most heinous war crimes of the 21st century. This is the legacy he leaves behind.
      https://twitter.com/OzKaterji/status/1322998438095659012

  • Baalbek

    Note: In case it’s unclear, I do not include Craig’s piece on Sean Connery, or the comments in response to it, in the ‘performative grief’ category I criticized in my previous post.

    • Ingwe

      No clarification required, Baalbek. Your meaning is clear. Let me be clear as well that Jonathan Cook must be added to the names of journalist in my earlier post. There are others too but not that many.

  • FranzB

    CM – “It is possible to bury the dead without virtue signaling over their still warm corpse.”

    On virtue signalling over poltical corpses, I see that Andrew Rawnsley thinks that Jeremy Corbyn is ” …. a victim only of his own arrogantly self-pitying, self-denying delusions” in the Observer. The same Andrew Rawnsley who thought the Iraq war was all over in April 2003 (“Those who said war would be a catastrophe now say the same about the peace. Tony Blair will have to confound them again”).

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2003/apr/13/iraq.iraq

    Meanwhile, a real journalist, Robert Fisk, who was highly critical of the UK’s Middle East policy died on 30th October. In his 2003 article, Rawnsley uses the phrase “That is the burden of the democratic imperialist ….”. The sort of phrase of which Fisk would have made mincemeat.

    https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-the-case-against-war-a-conflict-driven-by-the-self-interest-of-america-119053.html

  • Jim

    Never could understood why Edinburgh Council never jumped at the chance to have some tourist attraction promoting Mr Connery. Such a wasted oppertunity. All there is to mention him is the tiny plaque on the end of some crappy hotel, which should of have The Connery Suite at least, but no. Not even a pub named after him, no museum, no statue, nothing. I’ve always found it very sad. One of our best exports and a true humanitarian. What with this current administration and all this virtue signaling, i fear nothing will be built to commemorate him.

  • Jack McArthur

    Nature in general supports the use of corrective force to prevent harm when reasoning is not an option.
    Absolute pacifism seems immoral if it allows evil to thrive.

    I wonder what percentage of those who would prosecute a parent for so called violence towards their child also believe its moral to dismember a baby in its mothers womb.

  • Brian Barker

    I cared for my father through the onset of dementia and on till his eventual demise from that horrible disease. He was born in 1926 and was a working man of his generation. I resented caring for him initially for many reasons including his continued use of language which is now considered unacceptable. He was possibly the kindest, gentlest man I’ve known and cared beautifully for my mother through her long decent to her death also from dementia. The last book he was capable of reading and understanding was The ragged trousered philanthropist which he picked up from the library. He stopped after about a third and I asked if he wasn’t enjoying the book. He replied that he didn’t need to read it as he’d lived it. After that day I felt shame at my resentment as my gilded life of good education and safe upbringing was down to his years of exploited hard graft. Now he’s gone I miss him, even the inappropriate language. I just wish we all had the benefits of a decent education that allows us to be better informed about the way the world works and to live a better life as a consequence.

  • Giyane

    I had no idea my hero 007 had unheroical aspects till now. Our parents upbringing were unimaginably different to our own. That was because they refused to visit the awfulness of their own upbringings onto their children. All of us are human buffers between our received world and our own inner vision.

    Sean Connery is a hero to me because the 1950s were so sexually repressed, and here was 007 picking up beautiful intelligent women like sweeties. Muslim children’s sexuality is gently nurtured by promises of later marriage. My parents didn’t allow a chink of desire ever to be mentioned.

    No good is ever achieved by harsh control and denial.
    Which reminds me . If Scottish women were brought up in the fear of getting whacked , maybe that explains the malice behind the feminist plot against Alex Salmond. A malice which hitherto has been a mystery.

      • giyane

        N_

        I can buy into Queen Elizabeth II 100% if I ignore what is done in her name by politicians and I can buy into Sean Connery destroying cat stroking Slavicspeaking megalomaniacs and advertising MI6 with ultra soft porn. Pure fantasy. But you wouldn’t catch me opening a hotel room door with nothing on , like the other 007.

    • PortJim

      There must be more to their malice than that – it is (not was) very targeted.
      Nevertheless, I do think that there is a strong streak of misandry running through parts of our society. I trace its start back to the “zero tolerance” campaign of the 1980s, with its selective condemnation of “male violence against women”. That condemnation was right, but the subliminal impression was left that other violence – man-on-man, woman-on-man or even woman-on-woman – was ok. In that campaign and various others, right up to “me too”, there has been a common theme – men are the enemy, the threat, the villains. We end up in the situation where it is seriously suggested that, in rape allegations, the accuser should always be believed, implicitly because she is a woman and why would she lie about it.
      You see the disparity on screen as well – if a man hits a woman, he is (rightly) considered a thug. If a woman hits a man, she is “feisty” and that is seen as admirable.
      It would be nice if we would just treat each other with dignity and tolerance.

  • Jack

    I was surprised when I saw that interview with Sean some years ago, however, – today the whole virtue signaling identity politics have been taken too far which result in people do not dare to talk about certain subjects, that hurts freedom of speech.
    Connery should of course be remembered as the great actor he was and not by some claim he made decades ago.

    • N_

      Look at the cause Connery acted for. Or do you just admire everyone who has a practical skill?
      Hitler was a highly skilled speaker. So is Trump.

  • Stevie Boy

    A sad passing, a man of substance and my boyhood hero, we have so few real people nowadays. Coincidentally, two months and one mile seperates from my father’s birth.

    Also today: RIP the brilliant Robert Fisk.

    • N_

      Gazing at and worshipping “hero” figures on the screen, and celebrities generally, works against the development of one’s “substance”.

  • N_

    Would it be “virtue signalling” or “political correctness” or some other sin against right wing culture to recall the undeniable fact that Sean Connery was a major figure in worldwide public relations for MI6?

    • giyane

      N_

      Yes. Should Vladimir Putin also be condemned for posing, advertising the Kremlin. fantasy fantasy fantasy.
      Just as Sean Connery’s ideas on whacking women are cultural fantasy. The part of the mind that deals with sexuality is very tightly controlled and it is equally pure fantasy for feminists to say that they can mess around while their male partners are buttoning up their desires. The same energy that allows us to live in a civilised fashion will never accept one rule for himself and another rule for another man relaxing the rules while he is keeping himself under tight control. The feminist fantasy that it should make no difference to their partners if they are unfaithful is a much bigger level of fantasy than 007, or bouncing a lady’s hair in the lift.

      The fact that some professional women actually believe that they are equivalent ought to be a sackable offence because it means they are not living in the real world. I listened to a song sung by Cliff Richard called Anniversaries on Friday which spun the worn-out male Romantic delusion that male desires for attractive women are somehow enabling those women who have forgotten about them to exist.
      I fancy, therefore you are. M. Macron clearly inhabits that insane world of French laissez faire. It is an absolute and catastrophic male delusion, mentally stalking women.

      It is an absolute and catastrophic female delusion to think that a man bouncing your curls means he has sexually assaulted you. IMHO

  • John Monro

    You do step on quicksands when you try to explain Sean Connery’s remarks about slapping a woman. He did do this, apparently, and he shouldn’t have. But the relationship associated with this behaviour would seem to have been a very fraught one. People do lose their rag and hit out. Where he was wrong was trying to minimise it and suggest it was somehow acceptable. He was wrong then and he’d be more wrong now. But as you say, there’d be very few people buried today without some warts being buried with them. I’m not sure why you should be deluged with e-mails about this, but it’s a fair riposte for you to set his character and achievement in context in your post today. RIP Connery, Sean Connery. RIP too Robert Fisk, who should be any humane and interested person’s hero. I heard him speak at a writer’s event here in New Zealand some years ago. The honesty and understanding of a quiet and unassertive man was an antidote to so much grandstanding by others who knew so little in comparison.

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