The road to soundness. . . .
Many of the most brilliant Right-wing politicians, journalists and polemicists started out on the Left: Ronald Reagan, Christopher Hitchens, Peter Hitchens, Paul Johnson, David Horowitz, Martin Amis, Toby Young, Clive James, Rod Liddle… This isn’t a route I’ve taken myself because I never went through an egregiously stupid phase. But I quite understand and forgive those poor young whippersnappers who did – and really don’t blame them, especially if they were only doing it as a cynical bid to get into the knickers of hot hippie chicks.
So three cheers for another trot – George Monbiot – who has finally seen the light. Well, maybe one and a half cheers more like because our George still has some way to go before achieving Delingpolean levels of immense and unimpeachable soundness. But he’s definitely heading in the right direction. Just read what he says in his latest column for the Guardian’s Komment Macht Frei.
First some context. Monbiot is greatly exercised by the position taken by some members of the international Leftist brethren on the genocidal killing of 8,000 Bosniaks at Srebrenica in 1995 and of perhaps 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. He is disgusted at the way they have tried to play the significance of these massacres down, which he considers a betrayal of the kind of principles he always thought Lefties believed in.
So attempts to downplay or dismiss this crime matter too – especially when they emerge from the unlikely setting of the internationalist left. I’m using this column to pursue a battle which might be hopeless, and which many of you might regard as obscure. Perhaps I have become obsessed, but it seems to me to be necessary. Tacitly on trial beside Mladic in The Hague is a set of ideas: in my view the left’s most disturbing case of denial and doublethink since the widespread refusal to accept that Stalin had engineered a famine in the Ukraine.
I first raised this issue a year ago, when I sharply criticised a book by two luminaries of the left, Edward Herman and David Peterson. The Politics of Genocide seeks to downplay or dismiss both the massacre of Bosniaks at Srebrenica in 1995 and the genocide of Tutsis committed by Hutu militias in Rwanda in 1994. Their claims are extraordinary: that the cause of death of the “vast majority” of the Bosniaks at Srebrenica remains “undetermined”; that rather than 800,000 or more Tutsis being killed by Hutu militias in Rwanda, “the great majority of deaths were Hutu, with some estimates as high as two million”, while members of the Hutus’ Interahamwe militia were the “actual victims” of genocide.
What has changed since then is that the movement to which I thought I belonged has closed ranks: against attempts to challenge this revisionism, against the facts, in effect against the victims of these genocides. My attempts to pursue this question number among the most dispiriting experiences of my working life.
Monbiot feels especially let down by two men whom he considered to be heroes of the Left:
I wrote to Noam Chomsky, a hero of mine, who provided the foreword to Herman and Peterson’s book, asking whether he had read it and whether he accepted the accounts it contains of the Rwandan genocide and the massacre of Srebrenica. Watching that brilliant mind engage in high-handed dismissal and distraction has been profoundly depressing. While failing to answer my questions, he accused me of following the Washington script (I have posted our correspondence on my website).
John Pilger, who wrote a glowing endorsement of the book, volunteered this response: “Chef Monbiot is a curiously sad figure. All those years of noble green crusading now dashed by his Damascene conversion to nuclear power’s poisonous devastations and his demonstrable need for establishment recognition – a recognition which, ironically, he already enjoyed.” The leftwing magazine Counterpunch cited my article as evidence that I am a member of the “thought police”, and that the role of the Guardian is “to limit the imaginative horizons of readers”.
Thus has this infectious idiocy spread through the political community to which I belong. The people I criticise here rightly contend that western governments and much of the western media ignore or excuse atrocities committed by the United States and its allies, while magnifying those committed by forces deemed hostile. But they then appear to create a mirror image of this one-sided narrative, minimising the horrors committed by forces considered hostile to the US and its allies.
Yes, George. Quite, George. This is why Nick Cohen wrote his brilliant book What’s Left. It’s why Robert Conquest quit the Communist party in disgust and denounced all those fellow travellers and useful idiots – from George Bernard Shaw to Beatrice and Sydney Webb and Jean-Paul Sartre – who continued to support the Soviet system long after its barbarities had become evident. Hello, George? Duh, George! This is what the Left is like and always will be like. It’s why some of us are not on the Left, never have been on the Left and take an awful lot of flak from the Left when we point these small details of fact out.
Empiricism, that’s the thing. Things are either true or they’re not true. And if they’re not true it is clearly wrong to go on believing in them for the sake of ideological correctness. That’s what Lefties are doing all the time and, as you’ve rightly seen in this case, George – though sadly not yet on the issue of, ahem, “Climate Change” – it’s pernicious, corrupting and morally reprehensible.
Anyway, lecture over, dear Moonie Woonie. (I may call you Moonie Woonie, mayn’t I, now we’re on the same team, sort of? Or would you prefer Mooners? Or did you have a nickname at Stowe you’d rather I used instead?). Looking forward to meeting you at the next Ukip conference. Maybe we could do a double-header on a panel on – ooh, I dunno, let’s pluck a subject at random from the ether. Energy policy?
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