2019

I began this decade in London, a physical wreck, mentally ruined, almost friendless and facing the grim realisation that not only was “creative writing” a titanically stupid course to pick but my writing sucked. As bad as all this was, I also had to realise that given that I had grown up with a loving, well-off family and an at least half-decent level of cognitive aptitude this was almost entirely my fault.

I end this decade in Poland, relatively healthy, relatively happily, having made a lot of friendships I treasure and having gone some way towards achieving my almost-abandoned ambition to be a writer. I am not sure how this happened, and am under illusions that life could get worse again, but I’m very grateful that the decade brought such blessings.

With those self-indulgent thoughts out of the way, here is a self-indulgent list of my favourite articles of the year.

1. “How Britain Broke its Funny Bone”, Washington Examiner
2. “The Fusionism That Failed”, First Things
3. “Kevin D. Williamson Has a People Problem”, Spectator USA
4. “What My Polish Town Taught Me About Localism”, Unherd
5. “The Lost Futures of Mark Fisher”, University Bookman
6. “The Right Needs to Grow Up on Environmentalism”, Quillette
7. “Why Pro-Wrestling is Great Americana”, Spectator USA
8. “Joseph Conrad – Between England and Poland”, Agonist
9. “The Limits of Liberal Universalism”, Arc Digital
10. “Bernard Henri-Lévy is the Comic Romance of Liberal Technocracy”, Palladium
11. “The Origin of the Secular Species”, University Bookman
12. “Happy Birthday, Simpsons, But I Wish You Were DeadAmerican Conservative

The quality of my work is not for me to judge but I am at least pleased that in writing about everything from history, literature and religion to the opioid crisis, mass shooters and the college bubble, to pro wrestling, talk radio and Jackass it has been an eclectic 2019.

Thanks to everyone who has published, edited, argued with or read me. Have a happy Christmas.

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Miller, James and the Cultural Spirit…

So, farewell then Clive James and Jonathan Miller. Rarely is the waning of a generation as dramatic as when two of its most talented and prominent members die on a single day. Jonathan Miller, the upper-class Englishman, and Clive James, the working class Aussie expat, were two of the most versatile and hard-working intellectuals and personalities to emerge from Britain’s post-1960s cultural life. Miller was a satirist, theatre and opera director and fully trained research fellow in neuropsychology and medical history. James was a critic, poet, novelist and television presenter. Both men had more careers than most of us have hot breakfasts. Undeniably, they left no talent on the table.

Miller was a driving force behind the influential satirical stage revue Beyond the Fringe. Peter Cook might have been the funniest member of the cast but Miller was the most earnest. In one article he wrote about creating:

…the weapons necessary for the final overthrow of neo-Gothic good taste…The ranks are drawn up and the air resounds with the armourer’s hammer. When battle is joined one can only hope that blood will be drawn.

Miller’s biographer, Kate Bassett, notes that this militant tone amused the less serious Peter Cook, who said that blood was only drawn when a lady smacked him round the chops with her handbag.

Miller was a gifted wit and performer, with excellent timing and a long-legged physicality that the younger satirist John Cleese would perfect, but he had serious intellectual ambitions. Soon, he was writing about Marshall McLuhan and Sigmund Freud, and presenting interviews with Susan Sontag, to the scornful amusement of no-nonsense British critics.

Britons have a not entirely unjustified reputation for being “anti-intellectual”. At its worst that can entail a pig-headed contempt for anyone who writes with more complexity than Daily Mail columnists. At its best, however, it involves a sense for when intellectual abstractions have transcended the world as it is and entered a realm of mere verbiage. Miller, who had been so enthusiastic about the role of satire in skewering the high-minded pretensions of Victorian good taste, was dismayed when its comedic spears were turned on his earnest intellectualising.

Miller took himself off the stage. He found lasting success as a director of films, stage and television plays and operas. Here, his artistic and academic instincts could be rooted in human lives. Lord Harewood, one-time chairman of the English National Opera, said that Miller’s medical instincts as well as theatrical flair were important in his directing, as a story, however fantastical, should still “fit the facts”.

If Miller yearned for higher intellectualism, Clive James embraced popular culture. The stocky, balding Australian could be found writing literary criticism in the London Review of Books or interviewing Boy George on his television show. His twinkling eye roamed across all aspects of human life, and he seemed as interested in a pop star as a poet.

For James, cultural variety was a rebuke to the dogmatic totalitarianisms of the Twentieth Century. In Cultural Amnesia, a book of essays about cultural and political figures James admired and deplored, he wrote about how the book’s theme was in a sense resistance to thematic unity. Man was too complex for any kind of rigid moral, cultural or political order, and humanism emerged from the sprawling and flexible amalgamation of his creative gifts.

James had an awful lot to say, and a tendency to want to say it all at once. His essay on Sophie Scholl, for example, veers off into an inexplicable digression about Natalie Portman. Like his colleagues Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens, he had a tendency to wield words like “liberal democracy” and “totalitarianism” less to add substance than to gesture towards it. His eclecticism had many admirable qualities, like curiosity and open-mindedness, but sometimes left one feeling that one’s cultural consciousness need not have rigid borders to have a more solid centre.

“There was never a time like this to be a lover of the arts,” James commented cheerfully in Cultural Amnesia. High and low culture were available to all. Yet he seemed increasingly disturbed by what popular culture had come to represent. His own adventures in pop music had produced sweet little songs like “Have You Got a Biro I Can Borrow” but now he saw “rap lyrics distinguishable from the “Horst Wessel Song” only in being less well written.” He could write a lusty savaging of Dan Brown’s Inferno but glumly accepted that Brown’s “complete lack of talent as a writer” would not prevent his books from being best-sellers. “Should you read this book? Of course you shouldn’t. Will you read this book? Of course you will.” Low culture is tremendously interesting, but one’s interest tends to be anthropological.

Perhaps what will survive of James is poetry: his poems, like “Japanese Maple”, but also his poetry criticism. This is a genre where the very name, never mind the work, is liable to send the reader dashing off towards the kitchen with excuses about unwashed plates but here James’ unbounded enthusiasm was an asset. He could write about Larkin and Auden with the excitement of a friend enthusing about the latest Netflix serial, and with no trivialisation of the poems. He wrote once that writing should “popularize without reading” and his essays achieve that. It is to his credit that with a direct line to publishers and producers he nonetheless insisted on writing about poetry, which shifts few copies and attracts few eyes. Here, in crystal verses, was a kind of clarity.

What should also survive of Miller and James is their seemingly inexhaustible creative energy. While one was a satirist and the other a critic there was never idle cynicism sneering through their work. Not everything they did came off, of course, but they were never satisfied with sniping from the sidelines, and never willing to be comfortably typecast. Where does it come from? Egotism? Partly, of course, as it does for all of us who make our work public. But I also think of a comment Miller made to James on a talk show about seeing joggers, “Pursued by death, always three feet behind, saying, “I can keep up.”” Both men knew they had a little time to let out their potential and to leave a little light for people who would follow them.

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In Defence of Mo Farah…

The banning of Mo Farah’s former coach Alberto Salazar from competitive sports for doping violations has raised questions about Britain’s 2012 Olympics hero.

Or, at least, it would have done were it not for the fact that British athletes don’t cheat.

Salazar, who has faced accusations of illegal and inappropriate activity both from investigators and from former colleagues for years, coached from 2011 to 2017, during which time the British athlete endured his greatest years of success.

But that must have been a coincidence because Farah is British and British athletes play fair.

One could justly ask oneself how Farah, a talented but unexceptional long distance runner who did not make the 5000m final in the 2008 Olympics and finished seventh in the 2009 World Championships, could become so dominant once he had begun to work with Salazar. One could ask oneself if it was possible for an athlete to bloom so suddenly after years of futile efforts without some kind of chemical assistance.

Well, one could ask that if it was not that doping is something the Russians do, not our upright British athletes.

One could be sceptical of Farah’s claim that he missed a drug test shortly after he had started working with Salazar – his second missed test in around a year – because he was asleep and was not roused by the doorbell.

Or, at least, one could if he was a suspicious continental.

One could find it curious that Farah’s former “unofficial facilitator” Jama Aden has been arrested for possessing EPO, and that Farah appears to have either told fibs about the extent to which he was involved with Aden or suffered a devastating memory lapse.
One could find it curious, that is, if Farah was a scheming Yank and not an upstanding Brit.

It is not just Farah’s legacy that needs defending. One could find it very odd indeed that Steve Cram, British long distance running legend and voice of BBC athletics, dismissed investigations into Farah’s camp as a “witch hunt” in 2015 and still maintains, without qualification, that Farah has done “nothing wrong”. One could find extremely strange that Paula Radcliffe, another British running legend, has responded to Salazar’s banning not with condemnation of the disgraced coach but with questions about the value of the the US Anti-Doping Agency investigation. One could point out that Cram and Radcliffe both have ties to Nike and Salazar runs the Nike Oregon Project.

But they too are British.

One could have concerns about the fact that Neil Black, UK Athletics chief, claimed to have “looked [Salazar] in the eye” and decided that he was innocent in 2017, and that UK Athletics ruled there was “no reason to be concerned” about his relationship with Farah. One might find the mealy-mouthed reaction of Seb Coe, head of the International Association of Athletics Federations, somewhat disturbing. One might even point out that Coe spent almost four decades serving as an adviser to Nike. This seem like a conflict of interest.

But he too is British. Not a Swiss greaseball like Sepp Blatter.

Overall, there are some grounds on which to feel a little cynical about the 2012 Olympics. Its “clean” reputation was soon ruined by a tidal wave of failed drugs tests from Russian, Kazakh and Turkish athletes. It seems to be true that the Russians had the most systematic doping program. But some might ask whether British athletes are immune from cheating, and whether our sunny image of “Team GB” has blinded us to at least some level of grubby behaviour?

Of course the answer is no. British athletes don’t cheat.

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Peter Hitchens on Poland and World War Two…

Peter Hitchens’ The Phoney Victory is an interesting and challenging book that aims its argumentative arrows towards the sacred cow that is Britain’s idealised image of the Second World War. One of Hitchens’ arguments is that it was wrong for the British government to assure the Poles that it would declare war on Germany in the event of a German invasion of Poland. I am not sure that this argument is correct but I have sympathy with it given Britain’s obvious unpreparedness in 1939.

Mr Hitchens, though, supports his case against Britain’s 1939 declaration of war by denigrating the Polish state. He writes, in his book:

We went to war in defence of a territorially aggressive, anti-Semitic despotism. Sometimes one has to do such things. But it is surely foolish to pretend that they are benevolent or principled actions. The common impression of a simple war of good versus evil was (even at this stage of the conflict) completely mistaken.

Completely mistaken. Of course, it is true that the Polish state, like any state, was flawed but for the idea of a war of good versus evil to be completely mistaken one would have to think this was not even a conflict of the significantly better against the significantly worse, and this would be a mistake.

Mr Hitchens considers the pre-war Polish nation to have been “territorially aggressive” because of its annexation of the Czech portion of Cieszyn Silesia. I happen to agree this was a moral and tactical mistake – morally because the Poles and the Czechs should have set aside their territorial disagreements in the face of eastern and western enemies, and tactically because it led other nations to become unsympathetic towards Poland in view of what they saw as a combined German and Polish assault on Czechoslovakia – but certain facts should be acknowledged. The first is that the area had been controversially granted to the Czechs after the First World War, after which local Poles had faced expulsion and discrimination. The second is that the Nazis would have invaded the area anyway, and the Poles, as Anna Cienciala writes in The Polish Review, aimed themselves towards “preventing German domination of all of Czechoslovakia.” While none of this, in my opinion, precludes the annexation from being a moral and tactical mistake, it shows that the description of Poland as “territorially aggressive” is true in a very limited sense, especially if one compared it to its rivals to the east and west (or, indeed, in a lesser sense, to the British Empire).

Hitchens calls Poland “deeply anti-Semitic in practice.” Polish anti-Semitism had certainly become more radical in the 1930s, not only among the nationalists of “Endecja” but among members of the government which had begun to flirt not only with the idea of voluntary Jewish emigration – which made sense, in some cases, with the rise of Zionism and the widespread mutual indifference to assimilating – but actual expulsion. As Hitchens observes, though, these tendencies were never manifested in anti-Jewish legislation. There was, indeed, no Polish Der Sturmer, no Polish Kristallnacht, no Polish Iron Guard and no Polish SS. Again, “completely mistaken”?

On Twitter, Hitchens offers the belief that if Britain and France had not made assurances to Poland, Poland would have been an ally to if not a member of the Axis Powers (I know Twitter is a place for first thoughts more than firm conclusions but if something can be asserted it can be discussed):

Without the Anglo-French guarantee they might well have been on very good terms with Germany…Poland was among the first countries to sign an international treaty with Germany in 1934…Colonel Beck was love bombed by Hitler and Ribbentrop.

Poland had also signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union in 1932. Are we to believe that had it not been for the British and French assurances, the Poles might have been allies of the communists? To be sure, the Poles preferred the Nazis to the Soviets – who, after all, had invaded Poland within memory and were ratcheting up their persecution of ethnic Poles living in their territories, which would, in 1937, culminate in quasi-genocidal mass murder – but they consistently refused to join a united front against Stalin. Stanisław Żerko writes in “Poland, Germany and the Genesis of the Second World War”:

Ribbentrop made the last attempt to convince the Polish in the second half of March 1939 after the final breakup of the Czechoslovakian state and the establishment of the Protectorate of Czech and Moravia. The reply passed on from Beck by ambassador Lipski on 26 March 1939 did not leave any room for delusion. “The Poles will remain our enemies” were the Führer’s words noted down by Goebbels.

This was before the Anglo-Polish alliance.

In short – and I am aware that this might be tedious to anyone not invested in Polish history – it is quite legitimate to argue that assurances the British and F the made to Poland were hubristic or insincere, but there is no reason to obscure the stark inequalities of evil that separated the German and Soviet aggressors from their Polish victim.

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Art for the Age of Social Media…

A YouGov poll on behalf of Homes & Antiques magazine has revealed that Banksy is Britain’s favourite artist. To be clear, I do not mean that he is Britain’s favourite living artist. I do not mean that he is Britain’s favourite British artist. No, he is Britain’s favourite artist of all time. Jog on, J.M.W. Turner. Goodbye, Vincent Van Gogh. Catch you later, Caravaggio. It’s Banksy for us.

Now, I have no wish to sound too much like a snob. I am not an art expert. As a matter of fact, I am barely an art beginner. Ask me to explain the difference between Monet and Manet and I’m liable to explain the difference between the letters “o” and “a”. Take me to the National Gallery and after an hour I’m likely to be grunting, fidgeting and recommending that we head out for a cool beer.

Still, it is grim to think that Bansky is the most popular artist among modern Britons. When I read the news I checked to see if the poll had been conducted among four people in a fashionable Soho bar but an impressive two thousand people has been polled. Banksy? Banksy.

Forgive me for quoting the editor of Homes & Antiques at length but I want you to appreciate her words in their full glory. “It is both surprising and exciting to see Banksy at the top of this poll,” she says:

His appearance in the top spot is reflective of the current popularity of street art, which is a burgeoning collecting area. This enigmatic character has done so much to make art accessible – he takes it out of the gallery walls and onto the streets, literally. And with his dark sense of humour and secretive approach, he truly has captured the hearts, minds and gaze of the nation.

If Banksy has made art “accessible” he has done so not just by putting his stencils of the side of buildings but by pandering. At best, his work is cute, filled with mildly counter-intuitive contrasts, like an anarchist throwing a bouquet of flowers, police officers kissing and Queen Elizabeth in David Bowie’s make-up. None of this is profound. It is cute.

Banksy has flaunted his rebellious credentials by, for example, setting up a picture frame that would shred a copy of his famous piece “Girl with Balloon” after it had sold at auction for $1.4 million. Why paying so much for the remains of the picture rather than the picture itself was much more absurd is vulnerable to questioning and, indeed, the art world proved that trying to satirize its appetite for junk is a futile endeavour, as the strips of paper increased in value.

Of course, the stereotypical fogeyish take would be that this is the nadir of modern art, of tendencies, that is, that gave us such grim, charmless cultural flotsam as Damien Hirst’s skull, Tracey Emin’s bed and the absurd creations of Jeff Koons. Naturally, I do think that is grim, charmless cultural flotsam. But Banksy’s work is very different.

Hirst, Emin and Koons have never had mass popularity. Joyless critics might test the limits of their vocabulary to rationalise their status as notable artists but the average man and woman has little time for their work, which is evident from their absence from the poll that Banksy won. While those artists have been symptomatic of the alienation of cultural elites from both popular taste and artistic tradition, Banksy represents the flattening of culture that has been enabled by the Internet.

While his fame precedes the rise of Facebook and Instagram, Banksy is an artist for the age of social media. If you scroll down the timeline of your preferred platform you will see a bewildering array of images: jokes, selfies, cat pictures, inspirational memes, “food porn”, political cartoons, real porn et cetera. You can click “like” and move on in the space of mere seconds.

Banksy’s stencils are perfectly suited for this inattentive time. None of them demand more than a moment’s thought. “Sorry,” reads one slogan, “The lifestyle you ordered is currently out of stock.” Oh, I get it. Click. Liked. “I don’t believe in global warming,” reads another, painted underneath a bridge so that the water covers the bottoms of the words. Oh, clever. Click. Liked. Someone might suggest that I am expressing my political prejudices here. Well, perhaps a little. But I do worry about the encroachment of consumerism on human meaning and identity, and I do believe in global warming. The problem is that his points are made in such a thunderously unsubtle style that one can only nod, or smirk, or grunt, or click like and move on. They will never haunt the consciousness like, say, The Third of May 1808 or Massacre in Korea, having none of their visual power or thematic depth. At most, they entertain it briefly, like Hallmark cards that grew up and went to art school.

To be fair, it is not as if Banksy has ever claimed to be a great artist. I think that the elusive cultural giant sees himself as more of an entertainer. It is hard to believe that his full-sized theme park parody, Dismaland, was created with as much earnestness as it was mischief. Pricing tickets at £3, and thus ensuring that the project was bound to lose him money, represented a genuine commitment to accessibility.

Accessibility, though, is not the same as quality. Banksy’s work critiques the shallow cynicism of our world but also reflects it. “Mobile Lovers”, for example, depicts a man and a woman embracing while looking at their phones behind each other’s backs. (We are obsessed with phones. Do you get it?) Banksy allowed the Bristol youth club owner on whose door he had painted the piece to sell it and, thus, save his club, again you have to admire his principles. Still, the work seems rather hollow when the man and woman could well be “liking” Banksy pieces on meme pages.

Conservatives are not known for their fondness for the Frankfurt School but it reminds me of Theodore Adorno’s theory of “pseudo-individualisation”. Standardised opinions are broadcast through standardised tropes, in easily digestible chunks of art, yet the viewer feels subversive for appreciating them.

We have been replacing a lack of cultural quality with cultural quantity. Instead than having rare moments of beauty, power and insight, we (or, at least, many of us) face a ceaseless barrage of the cute, the curious and the clichéd. Rather than seeking out artworks which flicker in our minds long after we have stopped looking at them, we browse past endless images that light our brains up like catherine wheels. Images are almost too accessible. We can see everything, and nothing matters. Like. Like. Like.

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An Emigrant Dreams of Cricket…

Around the end of March, cricket players emerge from hibernation. One can see them creeping out, these humble white-clad creatures, from the run-down sports halls where they spend their winter months. Nervously, they scan the skies. For predators? No, for black clouds. If it is raining then they loiter gloomily in their pavilions but if the p is fine they stumble out onto their pitches and begin their strange, competitive summer rituals.

I still miss it. I have been living in Poland for six years and cricket players are harder to find in Poland than Scientologists. The Krakow Cricket Club is a noble endeavour, which attempts to organise tournaments between expats in Poland’s second city, but my smallish hometown is not a participant and I have as much chance of convincing my friends to take up a cricket as I have of bringing them to teetotalism.

Sometimes I try explaining cricket to Poles. They are very nice about it. They smile and nod as I talk about bowling, batting and fielding but soon their eyes glaze over as if I am trying to detail the arcane theology of a distant faith. In a way, perhaps I am.

The longer I live here, the stranger that cricket seems to me. Who on Earth had enough time to enjoy a game that is determined over the best part of a week? How the hell did people take to playing a sport which demands that most players do absolutely nothing for most of a game? What spell did Britons put on their colonial subjects to ensure that they, but only they, would be cricket lovers? Such thoughts never occurred to me in England. Everything seems very normal when it is familiar.

Every year I notice the beginning of the cricket season. I look at who England are scheduled to be playing. I check where Joe Root’s batting average stands. I feel a little pang of sadness that I won’t be playing. But I take less and less interest in the actual cricket. I stopped keeping track of the English line-up about six opening batsmen ago. Cricket seems too far away to follow.

I’m not complaining. One could hardly move to Siberia and moan about the lack of fresh pineapples, or to Kuwait and whine about the dearth of breweries. Perhaps one reason I ignore the cricket is that I want to preserve the idealised image of the sport that I have: an image of lush cricket fields, and rust-nibbled pavilions, about which watchful players compete amid the sound of ball on bat and cries for LBW.

It is faintly absurd to have such an idealised image because I was not much of a cricket player. I had my moments, now and then. A five wicket haul against an older team is a happy memory. Sure, I think my less-than-medium pace seemed so unthreatening that the lads got overconfident but, still, it was five wickets.

Failure was more common than success. I was too scared of it. I was scared of being out, and batted awkwardly. I was scared of bowling wides and ended up bowling too straight. I was scared of dropping catches and invariably did as I overthought the angle and the pace of the ball. I made little changes to my batting stance or my run up in the hope that my performances would suddenly improve but my technique was not the problem as much as my attitude.

I was too stressed and analytical, in sport and in life, and minor adjustments only compounded that. So, I left cricket, as I would leave England, hoping that a change of circumstances would make a difference.

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Roger Scruton, and the Anatomy of a Hit Job…

Roger Scruton is the grand old man of English conservatism. Over four decades he has produced book after book, writing on politics, philosophy, music and architecture among other subjects. He has taken on the left (in Thinkers of the New Left), and libertines (in Sexual Desire), and philistines (in On Beauty and others). He smuggled books to Czech, Polish and Hungarian dissidents behind the Iron Curtain. He was knighted in 2016. Taking payments from tobacco companies in exchange for anti-prohibition represented a blip in an honourable career but overall the worst thing you can say about his life is that it is a shame his status as an English conservative intellectual has been such a lonely one.

When, last year, Scruton was appointed an unpaid adviser to the Housing Ministry there was a minor scandal. Buzzfeed and its energetic buzzybodies dredged up all manner of quotes to suggest that Scruton was beyond the pale. He said that there was a “Soros Empire” in Hungary! Well, yes, but he used “empire” in the sense that one might say “Koch Empire” not “Galactic Empire” and had even appealed to Viktor Orban not to close the Soros-funded Central European University. He said “Islamophobia” does not exist! He said it was a bad descriptor, not that there is no such thing as anti-Muslim hate. He said that homosexual relations are “not normal”. He said that only monogamous, heterosexual, marital relations were normal. That might offend many people with many different lifestyles but it is not “homophobic” any more than it is “cohabitophobic”.

For once, the Conservatives did not succumb to liberal and left-wing pressure. Scruton kept his place. Their fragile backbone collapsed less than six months later when Scruton did an interview with the left-wing New Statesman. Accepting the interview was a mistake, but understandable. Scruton had been the magazine’s wine columnist for years and imagined that he was in friendly if not comradely hands. Sadly, the New Statesman has become little more than Buzzfeed with book reviews.

The publication of the interview was announced to the world by the interviewer, New Statesman Deputy Editor George Eaton, who wrote that Scruton had made “outrageous remarks” about Hungarian Jews”, “the Chinese” and “Islamophobia”. Outrageous? I read on with interest.

The first sign that the interview is going to be mendacious comes when Eaton refers to Scruton calling his farmland “Scrutopia” as being “unintentionally comical”. Intellectual charity demands not only the presumption that our opponents can be honest and intelligent but that they can have a sense of humour. It is intentionally comical.

Eaton soon moves on to the “outrageous” stuff. He casually lies that Scruton had said “Hungarian Jews”, rather than some Hungarian Jews, are part of a “Soros empire” and asks Scruton if he still holds this opinion. He does. Eaton says that his words are “heedless of the anti-Semitic portrayal of the philanthropist George Soros as a Jewish puppet-master” but while Jew-haters have certainly exaggerated Soros’ power, influence and malice it is nonetheless true that Soros is a powerful patron in liberal causes in Central and Eastern Europe, including Hungary. Perhaps one should avoid the term “empire” if one is being cautious but it is a correct use of the term in a colloquial sense. (Interestingly, one left-wing magazine has published a profile of Soros with the far more overheated claim that he is “the uncrowned king of Eastern Europe” with a “financial stranglehold over political parties, business, educational institutions and the arts”. That magazine? Why, the New Statesman.)

Eaton moves on to the next charge on his rap sheet. Scruton thinks that “Islamophobia” is a “propaganda word” “invented by the Muslim Brotherhood”. I think Scruton is misinformed on the origins of the term. The claim that it was invented by the Muslim Brotherhood dates back to an unsubstantiated claim by the American author Claire Berlinski, and even Robert Spencer rejects it. Still, Scruton’s rejection of the term as being an attempt to pathologise concerns about Islamic theology is defensible. He does not deny that anti-Muslim hatred exists, and he does not hate Muslims or Islam himself, as Jibran Khan writes for National Review.

The next of Eaton’s claims is the most duplicitous. “Remarkably,” he writes:

…he commented of the rise of China: “They’re creating robots out of their own people… each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one and that is a very frightening thing.”

This is the comment that Eaton claimed referred to “the Chinese”, as if it was a comment on the essence of their being. As any idiot can tell, however, even with Eaton’s convenient ellipses, Scruton is not talking about the Chinese character but the ambitions of the Chinese government, which has implemented extensive schemes for social control. It is not correct, of course, that their plans have been so successful that each Chinese person is “a kind of replica” but somewhat exaggerating the power of a quasi-totalitarian government is not a mortal sin.

The one real mistake that it appears Scruton made, unless he was misquoted by the shameless Eaton, was referring to the 2015 influx of Middle Eastern and African migrants into Europe as an “invasion”. There were hostile men among the migrants but to believe the migrants constituted an invading force is to believe they were hostile as a whole and deserve violence. I do not think Scruton believes this but in that case he should not have used the word.

Still, we are not invited to debate Scruton’s ideas and language here. We are being ordered to expel him from our ranks. The Conservatives caved in. James Brokenshire, the Minister for Housing, sacked Scruton within hours of the interview appearing. As a chorus of liberals and left-wingers denounced the great man, Tories rushed to join in. Tom Tugendhat MP announced, “Antisemitism sits alongside racism, anti-Islam, homophobia, and sexism as a cretinous belief that has no place in our public life and particularly not in government.” That is quite a list, Tom. Why did you not throw in transphobia while you were at it? Johnny Mercer MP echoed Tugendhat’s words. “No brainer,” he wrote of Scruton’s expulsion, “Let’s not take our time on this.” Eaton posted a photo of himself swigging champagne on Instagram to celebrate getting a “racist and homophobe” sacked.

It is pointless to complain about Eaton’s behaviour. Why waste one’s breath complaining that a fox eats chickens? It is unpardonable, however, that Conservatives were so keen to do his bidding. Tugendhat has meekly said that he was “misled” but “can only act on the basis of information given.” Why did he have to “act”? Why could he not have reserved comment until he had analysed the interview? Is he so stupid that he trusts the New Statesman automatically or such a coward that he will throw a man under a bus rather than risk being associated with them? Mercer has at least stood by his words, saying he objected to Scruton’s reference to “invading Muslim tribes”. Well, so did I. But what does it say about Mr Mercer that he will abandon Scruton, who has fought for the causes that MP represents for longer than he has been alive, over a single comment, in the face of left-wingers who consider Scruton unpardonably offensive despite being or associating with communists, friends of North Korea, IRA apologists and other such unlovely ideologues. What kind of masochistic puritanism is this?

Unlike Scruton, I do not believe in Brexit. I think it has been an enormous waste of political capital that will not bring a golden era of independence but a grim parade of embarrassing deals with obnoxious regimes. Like him, however, I have less than no hope for the Conservative Party. If it will not fight for a man who has been defending its ostensible ideals for four decades, in the face all manner of libels, then it will not fight for me and it will not fight for you.

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