Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Day of the Left

In Frederick Forsyth's thriller The Day of the Jackal, an anonymous assassin is hired by a French terrorist group to assassinate Charles de Gaulle. Now, in the equally thrilling follow-up 35 years later, Mr Forsyth has created an even more chilling anonymous supervillain. Like the Jackal, whose real name is never revealed, this master criminal goes by a sobriquet, "The Left". Like Napoleons of Crime before him - Ernst Stavro Blofeld or Macavity the Mystery Cat for example - The Left is everywhere, controlling actors behind the scenes.

Perhaps The Left's most audacious crime was the day in 2003 when, being a master of disguise, he slipped under the noses of the Metropolitan police camouflaged as one million so-called peace marchers. In a rare interview with Aaronovitch Watch Incorporating Nick Cohen Watch, he explained how. "Well, being a Muslim woman calling for Sharia Law was easy - just slip on a burqa and away you go. But some of the gear that crusties and students go about in these days. It was horrible, frankly. The best day of my life of course, but the worst too. What was the hardest? Getting the colour right for George Galloway took ages, but the accent was no bother at all. Just do Alex Ferguson, ye ken, and they Sassenachs can no tell the difference. Hoot."

This, at least, is the book reviewed by Anthony Daniels (not that one) in the Sunday Telegraph. OK, it's not by Freddie Forsyth (who is a diligent researcher), but by a journalist called Nick Cohen. (Update: link.)

With the comprehensive victory, both practical and ideological, of market economies over planned economies, the Left had to invent a new stick with which to beat the status quo. It was not enough that, as always, there were plenty of particular grievances over which the virtuous could display their deep concern; a new overarching principle was required. Cultural and moral relativism served the turn.
This enabled the Left, according to Cohen, to engage in perpetual double standards.

Cohen doesn't comment much on economic matters, but my reading of him suggests that while he won't deny that the Soviet Union collapsed and that America is generally wealthy, he doesn't believe in the ideological victory of market forces. He seems to be for Brownite intervention rather than for out-and-out laissez-faire economics. I haven't read the book, but I suspect Dr Daniels' adumbration of Cohen's argument of inaccurate precis. Nor can I really believe Cohen would recognise himself in the sarcasm of "over which the virtuous could display their deep concern" - as if every kind of protest (boycotting Outspan for example) was merely a posture.

Daniels' review looks favourable, and Nick may take is as such. But it's much less kind toward what Nick seems to believe than it appears.

It is against this sickness - that of chronic dishonesty - that Mr Cohen writes, not always with the greatest possible conceptual clarity.

"This sickness" is the Left's "objective" support of Saddam. Apparently right-wingers (there is no villain called 'The Right' in this review) like Alan Clark, who approved the sale of the "Supergun" to Saddam, experience no cognitive dissonance. Daniels says in conclusion:

Indeed, it is time we abandoned this simple one-dimensional scale upon which everyone can be conveniently but lazily placed; if we really need such a scale, I would prefer honest and dishonest. Though I disagree with him on many things, I think Mr Cohen veers strongly towards honesty.

But he's already equated "the Left" with "dishonesty" above and he has also said When he gets round to this analysis, he will cease to be a man of the Left... ("This analysis" is thinking of others as 'conscious human beings' rather than 'inanimate vectors of forces'. I bet our Nick will be as suprised as I was to learn that that's how he sees the world.) Far from being honest, Daniels seems to me to want to simply change the names 'left' and 'right' to 'honest' and 'dishonest'. Less a deep philosophical insight than a PR exercise.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Chris Baldwin said...

"a new overarching principle was required. Cultural and moral relativism served the turn." - right-wing tosser

Is this right-wing tosser saying that cultural and moral relativism constitute a metanarrative for the Left?

2/04/2007 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger splinteredsunrise said...

Talking of right-wing tossers, anybody see Delingpole's rave review in yesterday's Hate on Sunday?

2/05/2007 10:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thought I'd put a link to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald which nicely summarises the Decent position on Islamofascist terror and 'the Left's' complicity in it. I don't think we have any Decents in Australia so this is unfortunately just a right-winger's support for their noble cause.

http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/appeasement-takes-hold-again/2007/02/04/1170523957031.html

Really is something in there for everyone what with references to the French (boo), Socialists (hiss) and Appeasement.

2/05/2007 01:04:00 PM  
Anonymous little keithy said...

err isn't there an obvious reverse argument. ie a group of leftists put their lot in with the most right-wing US administration since, well Reagan, staffed by loons such as Perle etc. These ex-leftists believed that people like Negraponte, who was helping El Salvador run death squads, were going to bring peace and love to Iraq (I notice the old murderer is in charge of LA affairs in Washington, claiming that Chavez makes unhelpful interventions into other countries.)
If Bush was some lefty president out of the West Wing then ok, I'd still disagree but there is an argument worth having. But this was Bush.
Pot, kettle, black are flasing through my mind

2/05/2007 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Well, another way of putting it (and indeed the whole Decent position) is that you can win any argument in the world if you insist that only the elements that suit you should be taken into consideration. So if all that matters is that Saddam delenda est then of course nothing else is important, by definition.

Now I'm sure the Decents wouldn't accept that this is wht they argue for, but nevertheless that is, in essence, what they argue and how they argue it. (For a start, it enables them to avoid the question of why the war was promoted with such an outrageous series of lies, which would normally be strange for such an obviously admirable moral crusade.)

2/05/2007 02:51:00 PM  

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