Is a simple state of bare coherence too steep a requirement to ask from the anti-war Left these days?

One would hope not. After all, I doubt anyone really wants a world where the entire span of the left wing is a babbling mass of shrill accusations and nonsense, ensconsed in some elite (and ignored) institutions of no real influence, serving with their increasingly marginalized position to only discredit whatever good ideals they at least claim to still stand for. No one really does (or at least, no one should) want that precisely because an intelligent Left is a overwhelming benefit to the Right and to the swaying middle as well. In short, to everyone, since it serves to not only put forward its own ideas (and by virtue of being intelligent, its ideas would necessarily not be of the loony, reflexive anti-everything-related-to-our-society stripe that is showcased much too often recently), but by doing so effectively and reasonably causes the Right to sharpen it’s own arguments and ideology, and therein lies the magic of the marketplace of ideas that will persuade the middle to one side or the other.

While the entire Left may not have yet degenerated into the type of hermit-like elitist described above, shouting at everyone but listened to by none, hectoring and berating not even for any pretense of convincing the audience but only for the self-satisfaction gained in the act of feeling morally and intellectually superior in the act of denunciation, still with a frightening regularity these are the culturally dominant voices of the Left that are given the highest podiums to speak from.

Just recently, Steven Den Beste catalogued what could be a possible front runner to win the award for Highest-Pitched Breathless and Most Incoherent Rant in an Editorial. There, Harold Pinter comes out swinging with his Insanity Stick and doesn’t stop bashing away at reality until he has smashed every last edifice of common sense into pieces. Den Beste does an excellent (and remarkably restrained!) job of taking apart Pinter’s shrill silliness, and when one surveys the wreckage of pure drivel that becomes all too apparent once the Captain turns his sights to it, you can only hope that Pinter is one of those rare loons, the robustly misanthropic crank that curses the neighborhood kids whenever they pass his house, or perhaps that he’s just a not-quite normal guy who’s been palming his medication recently . You’ve got to keep in mind that he is a playwright, after all. Who could one think of being given over more to breathless melodrama and poorly constructed lines of thought?

Jonathan Glancey isn’t Harold Pinter. He doesn’t share quite the same appetite for lusty (and embarrassing) polemic. One senses in his writing not so much the red-eyed, teeth-gnashing Pinterian outrage as a kind of sad, condescending rue, and a sort of genuine idealistic yearning.

But the man is still shamefully confused and horribly incoherent, as well as crippled by his focus and energy being yoked inextricably to those increasingly ridiculous hobgoblins of the Left such as “consumerism” (exemplified by fast food) and military yahoos of the Dr. Strangelove variety. The amount of rank condescension in this Guardian editorial is so pure that Glancey should really consider bottling and selling the stuff. He could assemble a pretty good list of people for targeted advertisements just by surveying some EU and UN ambassador rosters .

Glancey first brings in the specter of Vietnam as a supposedly instructive example, but I, for one, am left feeling a little in the dark as to just what the point could be.

It was innocent Vietnamese villagers, though, who died at My Lai on March 16 1968. Led by Lieutenant William Calley, “Charlie Company”, a unit of the US Eleventh Light Infantry, massacred 500 unarmed villagers. My Lai was a turning point in the uncalled-for US invasion. How, Americans began to ask, could the US have God and “Charlie Company” on its side? In what ways was “Charlie Patrol”, President Johnson and the US morally superior to the Vietcong, Ho Chi Minh and an ancient Far Eastern civilisation?


It’s breathtaking how Glancey can take what was a single incident of poor leadership, a tense situation and overzealous soldiers which combined to make a tragedy, and impart the same moral responsibility to the entire United States, as if somehow this kind of massacre was the official policy of our nation and military, and then equate those entities with the horrendous actions of the communists from the North, whose official policy very often was just the kind of atrocity that happened at My Lai. I’m surprised he didn’t pull a muscle drawing this connection.

The really strange (or strangely pathetic) thing is that in the same paragraph he undermines this very proposition by approvingly quoting Abraham Lincoln who said that “Men who take up arms against one another in public do not cease on this account to be moral human beings, responsible to one another and to God,” which is a strong statement for the interpretation that the men themselves who ordered and committed the killing are the ones responsible, not some genocidal military or national culture from which they came, as Glancey insinuates.


With the experience of Vietnam behind them, what is the moral impulse driving George Bush and Tony Blair to war in Iraq? If Washington and Westminster know what they are fighting against – Saddam Hussein and his “weapons of mass destruction” – what are they fighting for? Is there more to it than installing an oily new regime in Baghdad subservient to Sheriff Bush?


This reveals that either Glancey has had his head buried in a hole in the ground with his eyes shut and his fingers stuck in his ears while he sings loudly to himself for quite some time now, or that he is a deliberate liar .

For somehow, he has failed to make any mention of the extensive discussion that has gone on already concerning the fate of post-war Iraq: the issues involved in establishing the rule of law and markets, of creating the machinery of a civil society, how to get opposition groups to work in concert, how the government can maximize freedom and human rights, etc.

But of course he doesn’t mention any of this. His intention here isn’t an honest, forthright discussion of the future problems of Iraq. He wants to lob clueless insults that will make the folks in Soho and the Village twitter with knowing approval, as when he writes,


Or a military administration led by Tommy Franks, a general who looks as if he has walked straight off the set of Dr Strangelove?


A less substantive criticism was almost never made, and if Glancey’s mission was to make himself look like a silly twit to all but a few pretentious types who already agreed with everything he could possibly say anyway, well, he’s got that one in the bag. Glancey has shown his true colors here, as one whose chief finding of fault lies in the embarrassingly superficial comparison to a movie character that to the author is apparently considered a real zinger.


What can our civilisation offer this ancient land, still free of the excesses of US consumer culture, beyond “regime change”?


Throughout the article, Glancey pretends to actually be for something, rather than a rabid dogmatic reactionary who is automatically against anything vaguely connected to US/western culture, apparently trying to disassociate himself from the type of opinion-thrower that Pinter so enthusiastically exemplifies. But once again, Glancey’s let his cards show, and you can see him for what he is: a member of the Monbiotian variety of anti-Western, anti-progress, anti-wealth, anti-everything but the “authenticity” of third world poverty culture. He later claims that he really does want to bring the benefits of Western progress to the people of Iraq and make their lives materially better, but like insane Islamofacists outraged at the triumph of Western liberal values over their traditions which have rendered them non-competitive, he wants the wealth and prosperity without the capitalism and spread of Western culture that always goes with it to a substantial degree .


Is our creed more than a confusion of cheap energy, discriminatory education, junk food, shopping malls, cynical housing, privatised public services, property deals, celebrity culture, the machinations of multinational corporations, leisurewear, chic pornography, the right to bear arms, and a deep-seated fear of the Saracen bogeyman handed down in popular legend, and half-baked government dossiers, from the crusades?


A useful list. I’m sure those that run in his political circles tell it to their kids when they want to scare them.

“You better be good little Jimmy, otherwise the heartless multinationals will come out of your closet and steal your authenticity.”

“Mom!! I think there are some privatised public services under my bed!”

And really now, a “deep-seated fear of the Saracen bogeyman handed down in popular legend”? I sometimes wonder how often people on the Left get out. I mean, they like expereincing nature and encountering other cultures and having new experiences and all that nice stuff, no? Presumably then they would be inclined to look at the world beyond their carefully constructed fantasy land of ignorant bigots lurking behind every man’s eyes just itching to bash in the skull of some unrustworthy, shifty-eyed Moorish brute.

Glancey and company really need to get together on this one, and hash some things out. Invite Pinter, even. He needs help the most . Sit down, have a conversation with each other about whether or not you can really keep saying this stuff with a straight face. But be sure to bring some people other than those with decade long subscriptions to Liberal Elitist Orthodoxy magazine, some who you can actually have a discussion with whose ideas you’ll honestly engage, because, well, that’s your whole problem. You bounce ideas only off yourselves and you end up writing and thinking the kinds of things discussed above, getting more and more unpersuasive, and more and more irrelevant with each new day. Frankly, you’ve turned yourselves into an increasingly marginalized, protected industry, with insanely high tariffs on any contrary ideas that would try to penetrate your strangled custmer base. You’ve made yourselves non-competitive, folks. Time to rejoin the marketplace of ideas.

last update : 19-4-2018

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