Nobel Prize for Smugness
Well, smugness is a good thing, of course, but there is such a thing as too much of it.
Lots of people move to the right as they grow older, and newspaper commentators are no exception…So what are we to make of Nick Cohen, the most uncompromising left-wing columnist in the British press for most of the past decade? How far right is he going?…Cohen, who continues to write for the NS as well as the Observer, argues that the left has gone right, not him. The left should be secular and liberal, he says, but the anti-war movement has, in effect, found itself supporting Islamic fascists. “To read the liberal press,” Cohen tells me, “you would think the authentic Muslim is a religious fanatic. But there are Iraqi and Kurdish socialists and communists. I can talk to them. Most liberal journalists can’t and won’t.”
Ah, I see – that’s turning rightward, is it? Saying the left should be secular and liberal? Saying it’s worth talking to Iraqi and Kurdish socialists and communists? I see. Interesting definition.
What causes left-wing commentators to slip their moorings in their 40s? Perhaps some just follow the cliché that if you are not a socialist up to 40, you have no heart and, if you are still one after 40, you have no head. Others find that property ownership or parenthood make them right-wing. Others again get mugged or burgled. I suspect a good many just want more income; after all, there are only a few left-of-centre newspapers and magazines and most of them pay badly, or not at all. But I fear there is another reason. Leftwing commentators get bored…Cohen and Hitchens are among the cleverest people I know. In the end, I guess, the left proved too much of straitjacket for their restless minds.
So out of boredom they abandoned the dull old left for the meretricious excitements of – secularism, human rights, feminism, universalism, the Enlightenment, reason, equality and justice. Why those shallow frivolous shits. Leaving their comrades behind to plod along with the grim boring old duty of cheerleading for religion, cultural relativism, female subordination, communalism, postmodernism, anti-science, and inequality and injustice provided it’s the Other perpetrating it.
That column really does take the biscuit. Note the complete and total failure to engage with the ideas in question. Note the condescending armchair cause-excavating. Note the insulting quality of the suggested causes. But mainly just notice the stupid anti-intellectual bypassing of the ideas. [stupid voice] ‘Maybe the right smells better. Maybe the right has better sex. Maybe the right can get them tickets to sold-out plays. Maybe the right lets them sit next to it at playtime. Maybe they’re mad at the left because it broke their Spiderman doll.’
Or maybe, just maybe, they have real reasons, not venal or corrupt or frivolous or stupid or infantile ones. Unlike the people with the tricky rucksacks, they say why they do what they do, why they think what they think and write what they write, so we don’t need to sit around spinning theories about their reasons. But if we did we could hardly come up with stupider ones than those.