But, Johnson tells us: “We cannot now try to edit or censor our past. We cannot pretend to have a different history”. Yet lies and erasures are crucial to the myths on which Britain’s official self-image is founded, and crucial to hiding the means by which those who still dominate us acquired their wealth and power.
Consider the concentration camps Britain built in Kenya in the 1950s. “What concentration camps?” you might ask. If so, job done. When the Kikuyu people mobilised to reclaim the land that had been stolen from them by British settlers and the colonial authorities, almost the entire population – over 1 million – were herded into concentration camps and fortified villages. One of these camps, as if echoing Auschwitz, had the slogan “Labour and Freedom” above the gates. Even Eric Griffith-Jones, the attorney general of the colonial administration in Kenya, who was complicit in these crimes, remarked that the treatment of the inmates was “distressingly reminiscent of conditions in Nazi Germany”.
Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of prisoners died. Many succumbed to hunger and disease, including almost all the children in some camps. Many others were murdered. Some were beaten to death by their British guards. One, as the governor of Kenya, Sir Evelyn Baring, acknowledged in a secret memo, was roasted alive. Others were anally raped with knives, rifle barrels and broken bottles, mauled by dogs or electrocuted. Many were castrated, with a special implement the British administration designed for the purpose. “By the time I cut his balls off,” one of the killers boasted, “he had no ears, and his eyeball, the right one, I think, was hanging out of its socket”. Some were rolled up in barbed wire and kicked around the compound until they bled to death. If you know nothing of this history, it’s because it was systematically censored and replaced with lies by the British authorities.
This erasure of the truth was conscious and deliberate.
The hidden Kikuyu documents that came to light in 2012 were part of a larger archive, most of which was systematically destroyed by the British authorities before decolonisation. Special Branch oversaw what it called “a thorough purge” of the Kenyan archives. Fake files were inserted to take the place of those that were expunged. “The very existence” of the deleted files, one memo insisted, “should never be revealed”. Where there were too many files to burn easily, an order proposed that they “be packed in weighted crates and dumped in very deep and current-free water at maximum practicable distance from the coast”. So much for not editing or censoring our past.
I urge you to read the whole of this article.