Norway: The Amy Winehouse Connection

5 August 2011

5:38 PM

5 August 2011

5:38 PM

One of the most irritating aspects of modern journalism is the tendency to make spurious
connections between unconnected phenomena. The non-existent links between Saddam’s Iraq and al-Qaeda is the most obvious and pernicious of these. Many conspiracy theories originate from
making connections where none exist. So when I tell you I am about to connect the death of Amy Winehouse to the massacres carried out by a right-wing anti-Muslim extremist in Norway, I would
forgive you for being sceptical.

Both stories were running around my head while I was on holiday last week and I can’t stop thinking about them. I run the risk of sounding a combination of pretentious and fogeyish when I say
that both tragedies have made me think that in western culture we do not do enough to look after our young people and help them make the transition from childhood to adulthood.


Amy Winehouse and Blake Fielder-Civil were two pathetic children who failed to mature into fully-fledged adults. The singer’s second album, Back to Black, is not just a record of the
aftermath of a failed relationship, it marks the singer’s inability to cope with life as an adult. Rehab, the grammy-award winning single, is the cry of a brat, a celebration of arrested

And here is where I get really fogeyish: I don’t think it is entirely unreasonable to suggest that young people experiment with extremist politics for similar reasons that that they
experiment with drugs. And it is no coincidence that Breivik decided to massacre a group of young people on a political education camp. He was intending to exterminate the next generation of
Norwegian progressives.

We don’t much go in for political education camps in this country. But the best way we could show solidarity with the young people of Norway is to begin doing just that.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Good thought.

  • rndtechnologies786

    Good thought.

  • James Yankovic

    Mr Stephenson,

    I realize I’ve come deplorably late to this discussion. But all the more compelling reason, it seems to me, that I should get this URGENT message out without further delay.

    First of all, would you please be so kind as to inform Mr John Ward that he is both completely and certifiably WRONG?

    It is a fact that governments do a deplorably bad job of taking care of citizens. And what that means is that ideally – i.e., eventually – nobody should take care of anybody. And that, I assure you, quite regardless of age, infirmity or level of intelligence. These latter conditions remain obstacles at present, I admit. But there is no reason to suppose they will continue to impinge on the majority of us once a properly demanding ethos of self-responsibility has become pervasive. In essence we are all adults here. And those of us who aren’t YET would do well to expedite their own entry into adulthood as quickly as possible – and with as little guidance as necessary from other busy and productive people. Or at least they’ll do so if they know what’s good for them.

    Of course there will always remain the need for rational incentives. Details can and will be worked out. For now, the fact that children above a certain age (to be flexibly determined according to the pace of social change and the needs of economic progress) will be held solely and fully responsible for ALL poor choices ought to make the little bastards think twice about making a bad job of adulthood. Meanwhile, as the rest of us continue both to hone our skills of self-responsibility, and to find yet wider and wider areas of life in which to be self-responsible, we shall invariably find more and more things to do, and more and more ways to make money. With the result that we shall have both less reason and less time to think OF anyone but ourselves and (rather more obliquely) our customers. And even less time or need, assuming we’re being sufficiently productive and entrepreneurial, to think FOR ourselves – at least on the bigger issues of the world at large. Nearly all the truly useful people I know get their opinions ready-made from one big media conglomerate or another.

    Finally, it is a fact that, over the past generation in both our countries (US and Britain), intelligent people in numbers unprecedentedly large for our lifetimes have come to subscribe to the values above-listed. With the results being the unprecedented levels of wealth, productivity, efficiency and happiness we now enjoy.

    If you have any further questions, kindly take them up with Messrs Derek Pasquill and Disgusted in Tunbridge Wells above. Their brand of clipped, derisive, dismissive arrogance in political discourse has been serving the Western world splendidly for at least the past 15 years. And no doubt it will be even more frequently employed as things heat up.

    Regards and best wishes,
    J R Yankovic

  • Derek Pasquill

    No wonder the country is burning with analysis of this calibre.

  • Disgusted in Tunbridge Wells

    Uh, what a gibberish post. He should have stopped after the first sentence.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Martin Bright : 3.32pm

    “I was just wondering if we care enough for our young people”

    Well, once again I’m indebted to John Ward, who in his essay yesterday (*) wrote this:-

    “Organised religion, when mated with sovereign power, is the most dangerously visceral animal on the planet. It has caused more deaths comparatively speaking than any other single factor

  • In2minds

    So Amy Winehouse sounded like the cry of a brat? Well maybe, but in the many pages of tributes written since her death I did find a redeeming story. It was said she was at some kind of celebrity awards ceremony. On stage and droning on was Bono, one can imagine the usual stuff about poverty and climate change, ” I don’t give a fuck about this”, yelled Winehouse. Had I been there I would have applauded.

    “We don’t much go in for political education camps in this country” –

    True but political correctness and propaganda from ‘progressives’ is found in all sorts of places and Winehouse had the right attitude towards it!

  • Martin Bright

    Just to clarify, I wasn’t saying that Breivik and Winehouse were cut from the same cloth. I was just wondering if we care enough for our young people. And of course it’s right that political education camps are not the answer. But perhaps a rite of passage of some sort is needed.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Rhoda Klapp : 8.07am

    This is all very well if the highest level of morality it is possible to reach is acceptance and obedience of a set of fixed rules imposed by the majority. To some, however, the quality of this morality is inadequate, because it includes compromises to those who have not been able to throw off the egocentricity of their childhood years. Some of us have personal feelings that desire us to behave better than existing law requires us to, and we would like other people to be given the encouragement to follow us – something that is made more and more difficult as acceptance, conformity and obedience to the rules are promoted as the ultimate duties of responsible citizenship.

  • Matthew Blott

    @ Erica Blair

    Actually it had worked, I’d never heard of Shire Network News until you mentioned them. Nor had anyone else reading this thread I suspect.

  • Ian Walker

    There should only be one political education camp, and it should be called “real life”

    The increasing disassociation of the political class from the general public is a cause a much of the woe of the last quarter century.

    At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, presumably you think the Hitler Youth was a good idea too?

  • william huber

    Let’s see : Saddam built the biggest mosque in the world and dedicated it with a Koran written in his own blood, paid $25,000 reward to the families of suicide bombers, declared the 9/11 attacks a great first blow for Islam…etc–but anyone seeing a connection with this behavior and al Qaeda is spreading pernicious lies. But , while pampered rock stars have been killing themselves off with drugs for generations, Bright sees a logical connection with their behavior and 32 year old neo-Nazi killing people in Norway. Really ? If you wrote this piece sober , Mr. Bright, maybe your “old Fogeyish” thinking could use a CAT scan

  • Archibald

    Mr Bright, I am having great difficulty following your logic.

    Amy Winehouse happened to get involved with a person with an addiction (as people of all ages do), and no doubt being thrust into a level of fame we can’t even begin to imagine also played a very large part – it would appear she struggled with it, as many do. She perhaps also like many people (of all ages) had an addictive personality.

    Given this, trying to squeeze an article out of the idea that a dead person you and I know little or nothing about was an immature brat who was unable to make the transition from childhood to adulthood seems in bad taste. Perhaps worse, you then go on to suggest that because some 32-year-old adult nutter went on a killing spree murdering dozens of kids, kids should go to political education camps to prevent THEM from dabbling with extremist politics. This seems about as sensible as suggesting that perfectly normal kids are taught at school not to fly planes into buildings.

    I agree with you that one of the most irritating aspects of modern journalism is the tendency to make spurious connections between unconnected phenomena. Perhaps more irritating is to write regarding spurious connections between such ‘phenomena’ that have been presented as fact with no evidence that they even exist. That’s not pretentious or fogeyish. When you use some of the language you did, it’s just a bit sad.

  • Baron

    Rhoda, well said, very little anyone of out phylum would disagree with you at 8.07, Baron doesn’t.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Baron, one of my gurus puts it as ‘Thou art delivered to thine own keeping’, and it would be a good idea to me, if probably anathema to Martin, if everybody was made aware that, primarily, you are responsible for what happens to you. I do not see any conflation betweeen Winehouse and the norwegian nutcase. HE is probably a sociopath. She was merelt self-destructive and a successful (and good) singer. Had she not been a singer, she could have done it to herself without any public notice, a private tragedy for her family which she alone decided to inflict. Yes, decided. Does Martin propose sending kids to camps to learn how not to end up like Amy? Not his responsibility. Not mine either. Not the state’s , or the nations, or the EU’s. And likely to do damge if they teach anything other than that you are responsible for what happens to you. But no socialist is going to be happy with that message, as taking over people’s responsibilities is the core idea of socialism.

  • Baron

    actually, Rhoda, this may be one of the rare occasions Baron disagrees with one of his gurus, Martin’s point that some of our young generation are at their wit’s end, do things that beggar belief (not only vis-a-vis politics, drugs but also commit suicides, self-mutilate, kill for a bet and stuff) warrants more than just a brush off, it may contain more than a grain of truth, normanc hints at it well.

    we rant about children, the young, the future generation, protect them whilst feeding them falsities galore, they enter the adult world, they discover life’s tough, laboured, often unfair, the dreams of ‘we’re all equal” and stuff seem unattainable even if for genuine reasons like the lack of ability, the promises of pain free, easy life unfulfilled, some get confused, seek to do something, anything that would give them an instant recognition, or look for the continuation of their dreams in drugs, the vast majority of course adjust like normanc, Baron, reconcile themselves to the limitations of the human condition.

    unlike Martin, Baron doesn’t see tthe solution in direct interference, camps, more agencies of the state meddling in the young peoples’ lives, more honesty, trust, emphasis on responsibility towards fellow humans in the society at large would do a better job, he reckons.

    camps run by political parties, however well intentioned, ain’t the answer, they remind Baron of similar gatherings in the gulag run by the Red Menace, of the Austrian corporal’s Hitler Jugend, of Putin’s Nashi, nope, it’s not the place we should go to.

    Erica Blair, please.

  • normanc

    I don’t think it’s quite right to say ‘young people’, more a personality type. As someone who got high more often than he should have it wasn’t because I was seeking to live on the edge or rebel or any such rot – I just liked the feeling.

    I guess it’s the same as those who dabble in extreme political views.

    The danger comes when people get sucked into that world and start to drift away from reality, whether it be the drug addict who thinks a line of coke with his Monday morning coffee is a good way to start the week or the extremist who thinks shooting / blowing people up is a legitimate way to draw attention to his views.

  • Erica Blair

    Bright is trying to deflect attention from his own association with the far right ‘anti-jihadists’ of Shire Network News.

    It hasn’t worked.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Run that by me again, it appears to make absolutely no sense at all, but then perhaps I need re-education.