While often mocked by those explicitly on the Right (or perhaps just those who would consider themselves part of the anti-rabid-Left), I always thought the Guardian could claim a certain amount of respectability and prestige, if not in America then at least in Britain. Indeed, that’s one of the reasons I always thought those in the Blogosphere hammered away at it so often. That was probably the chief animating reason for my own forays into Guardian Fiskitude, for I saw it as one of the most sacred bulwarks of mainstream liberalism. If one simply wished to find some truly ridiculous and strident liberal fanatacism to laugh at, then one need look only as far as Indymedia or the Democratic Underground, where almost every regular would make most mental hospital inmates remark, “Whoa, that guy is nuts.”

However, while holding up such disconnected maniacs for ridicule is certainly fun, it really doesn’t serve any purpose beyond showcasing the extremity that a few fringe morons can achieve if they put their non-minds to it. Reading John Hawkins quoting DU-mbasses who, in their typical “Wake UP America!!! You live in a FASCIST POLICE STATE!” tone make claims like Frist planned and caused that highway accident so he could get some good press is golden yuk-yuk material, but it says as much about actual liberalism in America as would the Turner Diaries say about conservatism.

But I always thought the Guardian was a worthwhile target . To be sure, much of the commentary is downright silly, even aggressively so, but what matters when picking your rhetorical targets is not really the quality, but the percieved quality. No one serious disputes that the Democratic Underground is a place for people who order tin-foil at the bulk rate, but I was always under the impression that the Guardian, for all its frequent foolishness, was still considered to be at the forefront of liberal thinking in the mainstream press. I’ve never lived in England or communicated heavily with any number of people who could change that view, and thus had no evidence to the contrary. Indeed, I always took the continual Fiskings that the Guardian suffered in the Blogbowl as a good indication that the thing was at least worth attacking.

A reasonably liberal friend of mine has a forum account at Something Awfula purposefully crude and often hilarious humor site. Basically all the content that comes from the small group of official contributors is slightly to strongly left wing, and as far as I know, the forum comments follow that trend to some extent.

Well, I was venting to him about this Guardian commentary on racism in the LOTR, originally highlighted by Jonah Goldberg, and his reaction was, “Dude, the Guardian? What’s to get so worked up about? It’s a trash rag as far as I know . All the british guys on SA are constantly bagging on it.” I think it’s safe to say these weren’t exactly Tories.

Anyway, not an exhaustive study, to be sure, but I think it says something.

So perhaps you shouldn’t get so worked up about the above commentary by John Yatt, that accuses LOTR of being not much more than a thinly disguised “Birth of a Nation” in a fantasy setting, where “orc” is just a racist code word for “darkie.”

Apparently, to Mr. Yatt, any being that is brutish, ugly, violent and stupid immediately simply must be a reference to those of African ancestry, which, as Goldberg notices, begs the obvious suggestion that perhaps Mr. Yatt should be examining his own views on blacks if he so immediately sees such a connection while almost no one else does .


One is tempted to ask who is the real racist here? On the one hand we have people — like me — who see horrific, flesh-eating, dull-witted creatures with jagged feral teeth, venomous mouths, pointed devilish ears, and reptilian skin, and say, “Cool, Orcs!” On the other hand we have people, like Mr. Yatt, who see the same repugnant creatures and righteously exclaim “black people!”


One really need go no farther than that in defending LOTR aginst cries of racism, because Goldberg’s response aptly sums up the fact that the matter isn’t even about Tolkien’s book, but rather about the deranged racialist agenda of so many people in our present cultural clime. In short, the accusation is so patently idiotic that it doesn’t deserve any serious refutation textually demonstrating that Tolkien actually took his inspiration for the orcs from some source other than the KKK.

But hey, I’m feeling generous. Stupidity sometimes has that effect.

Contrary to what so many on both sides of the LOTR love/hate divide wish to believe, the LOTR is not an allegory making some masked argument about specific historical events. Sauron isn’t Hitler . Theoden isn’t Chamberlain. The Orcs aren’t the Zulu nation.

Tolkien was a devout Catholic (his constant arguments about faith are one of the things that eventually converted C.S. Lewis from agnosticism to Christianity), and to be sure, there are Christian elements that can be discerned in LOTR. There are also shades of political argumentation, but as Goldberg points out, they are timeless and universal themes rather than specific allusions, such as whether people will choose to stand up to evil rather than try to simply weather it and not get involved.

But more than anything as regards his fiction writing, Tolkien was a student of Anglo-Saxon folklore and myth . He’s the author of “Beowulf and the Critics,” still considered after 70 years to be the definitive commentary on that epic poem. An examination of Tolkien’s “day-job” work would quickly reveal that the LOTR takes its primary starting point from the old folkloric traditions of hero quests, and that the orcs most likely have much more in common with Grendel than any racist notion of African savages. Of course, Tolkien has also injected much culture of his own English countryside and culture into the novels, but to constantly look for some hidden agenda (especially a racial one) that focuses so centrally on present day issues is to disregard the kind of writer and thinker that Tolkien was.

Maybe the Guardian really is largely seen a trashy pile of rags in Britain as well. Judging from the editorial standards that would allow rambling journalistic guano like Yatt’s piece to pass through the quality control boys’ hands, I’d have to say that sentiment, if there, is well-deserved.

last update : 19-4-2018

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