Archive for October 21st, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened To Me On The Way To The Style Section

Certainly not at all in preparation for the upcoming bombing of Iran, but rather in a light ‘fun quiz!’ feature for all the family, Sarah Baxter is concerned with which side one is on in the new culture wars:

My own test for spotting a phoney liberal is as follows. If you think Bush is a fascist and Castro is a progressive, you are not a democrat.

Is Bush a fascist? Probably not, but I would prefer that he was a fascist who kept himself to himself than a war criminal and terrorist who pre-approves the bombing of civilians. UPDATE: And then laughs about it. Chris Floyd:

Not even Hitler or Stalin ever turned war into such a macabre public joke. But Bush did, in front of the national press — whose high mandarins roared with laughter at the sickening display.

You can tell that this article isn’t aimed at people who spend their time torturing themselves to despair with the big questions of our age.

It is no longer possible to tell at a glance which side people are on. My husband, a photographer, has long hair and wears T-shirts and cargo pants. We live in stuffy Washington, where almost everybody wears a suit and tie but secretly longs to be artistic and hip. On the school run, nice lawyers confide to him that they hate George Bush, despise the Iraq war and are not as reactionary as they look.

I wish I was married to Sarah Baxter’s husband too. He sounds cool. But hang on – it looks like beneath the luscious tresses beats the pulsating thinking organ of a Voltaire:

They are completely thrown if he tells them he dislikes Islamo-fascism more than Bush, is glad to see the back of Saddam Hussein, supports Nato against the Taliban and thinks the Iranian mullahs should never be trusted with a nuclear bomb. He considers himself an antifascist who believes in the secular values of the Enlightenment and human rights. There is nothing radical about being tolerant of the intolerant, he says.

Swoon. Well, if Sarah Baxter’s long-haired lover can stick one to the suits while sticking up for George Bush, perhaps bombing Iran wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all!

Reading this article accompanying the ‘quiz’, I was put in mind of Gustave Gilbert’s interview with Hermann Goering:

Göring: Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.

Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only the Congress can declare wars.

Göring: Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

In a globalized society, patriotism won’t wash in soi-pensant liberal circles. What is required is the denunciation of liberals for their lack of authentic liberalism. One might be instinctively opposed to high altitude bombing, but think again: what if the incineration of children is required in other to stop other children from being incinerated? What if women’s rights can only flow from women getting bombed? A good dose of intellectual bullying serves to bamboozle and -more important- quell dissent.

To be sure, most Sunday Times buyers could not give a toss about the substance of the arguments of the likes of Nick Cohen, Christopher Hitchens, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Irshad Manji: all near-permanent fixtures in the many articles of this nature -We are Supreme/The Chicks will cream/For the Enlightenment blah di blah- that have proliferated since the pre-Iraq war invasion days.

The function these people fulfil is far more important their specific ideas. The point is to marshal approval for US foreign policy with its bombings, invasions and occupations.

To the generally disengaged, the idea that the ‘left has lost its way’ is all the more palatable if it comes from a ‘leftist’ and the idea that ‘we are at war with Islam‘ is all the more palatable if it comes from a former Muslim.

What of Baxter’s ‘authentic’ liberals? Christopher Hitchens recently voiced his support for Rudolph Giuliani’s presidential bid. Giuliani is opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state, and is advised by Norman Podhoretz and Daniel Pipes.

Here is what one commentator had to say about Pipes some years ago:

I believe that Islamic nihilism has to be combated with every weapon, intellectual and moral as well as military, which we possess or can acquire. But that is a position shared by a very wide spectrum of people. Pipes, however, uses this consensus to take a position somewhat to the right of Ariel Sharon, concerning a matter (the Israel-Palestine dispute) that actually can be settled by negotiation. And he employs the fears and insecurities created by Islamic extremism to slander or misrepresent those who disagree with him.


On more than one occasion, Pipes has called for the extension of Israel’s already ruthless policy of collective punishment, arguing that leveling Palestinian villages is justifiable if attacks are launched from among their inhabitants. It seems to me from observing his style that he came to this conclusion with rather more relish than regret. And, invited recently to comment on the wartime internment of the Japanese—as a comparison case to his own call for the profiling and surveillance of Muslim and Arab-Americans—he declined on the grounds that he didn’t know enough about the subject. One isn’t necessarily obliged to know the history of discrimination as it has been applied to American security policy—unless, that is, one is proposing a new form of it.

(That was Christopher Hitchens, in case you hadn’t already guessed.)

Hirsi Ali is now an employee at the American Enterprise Institute, and admits to seeing eye to eye with John Bolton (‘We must attack Iran before it gets the bomb’) most of the time, particularly with Bolton on Iran.
Irshad Manji has learned to love the Israeli separation wall.

No ‘phoney liberalism’ there, then.


As stacks of her prize-winning novel sat heaped on a table, the stern-faced Dublin-born author was swept into an ante-room on arrival at the Harty Room of Queens, and refused to emerge for even a minute to meet one reporter and one photographer who had learned about her public appearance.

The Sindo tracks down Anne Enright, who apparently dislikes the McCanns.

As a pressure cooker full of lentils sat heating on the stove, I read Anne Enright’s piece in the LRB. There is nothing remarkable about it in terms of what it expresses, though it is very well written.

This paragraph in particular caught my attention:

There are problems of active and passive throughout the McCanns’ speech. Perhaps there are cultural factors at play. I have no problem, for example, with Kate McCann’s reported cry on the night of 3 May: ‘They’ve taken Madeleine.’ To my Irish ears ‘they’ seems a common usage, recalling Jackie Kennedy’s ‘I want the world to see what they’ve done to my Jack’ at Dallas. I am less happy with the line she gives in the interview when she says: ‘It was during one of my checks that I discovered she’d gone.’ My first reaction is to say that she didn’t just go, my second is to think that, in Ireland, ‘she’d gone’ might easily describe someone who had slipped into an easy death. Then I rewind and hear the question, ‘Tell us how you discovered that Madeleine had gone?’ and realise that no one can name this event, no one can describe the empty space on Madeleine McCann’s bed.

To my Irish ears, ‘they’ve taken Madeleine’ doesn’t seem that common a usage at all. And JFK was the most powerful person in the world at the time of his death, and therefore a plausible victim of an undefined ‘they’, whereas few people knew who Madeleine McCann was when she disappeared.

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October 2007