Ripping off the Mask

Then there was that Nick Cohen piece answering that excommunication by Peter Wilby that I commented on last week. He criticises the same thing I did.

The least attractive characteristic of the middle-class left – one shared with the Thatcherites – is its refusal to accept that its opponents are sincere. The legacy of Marx and Freud allows it to dismiss criticisms as masks which hide corruption, class interests, racism, sexism – any motive can be implied except fundamental differences of principle. Wilby went through a long list of what could have motivated mine and similar ‘betrayals’. Perhaps we became right wing as we got older. Perhaps we wanted to stick our snouts into the deep troughs of the Tory press. Perhaps taking out a mortgage committed us to the capitalist system or having children encouraged petit bourgeois individualism of the most anti-social kind. Generously in light of the above charge sheet, he plumped for the conclusion that our restless minds just got bored with the ‘straitjacket’ of left-wing thought. We left the slog of building a better world to the decent plodders.

And not only that its opponents are sincere, but also that its opponents are in fact motivated by what they say they are motivated by: ideas, facts, thoughts, evidence, reasons. That the motivation is in fact cognitive rather than fiscal or procreative or some other stupid venal trivial factor. That’s the part that irritates me. It’s not just the smug ‘I know why you’re doing what you’re doing even if you won’t admit it so ha’ trope – although that is plenty irritating all on its own – it’s also the underlying assumption that ideas aren’t strong enough to motivate anyone. Well why wouldn’t they be? Why? Because we’re all dime-store Freuds and think every rational explanation is necessarily a mask for a desire to have sex with the dog or to eat our best friend for lunch? Let’s hope not, because surely dime-store Freudianism (and the upmarket kind too) has been well and truly discredited for some time now. Sometimes a cigar is indeed just a cigar, and a rational reason really is just a rational reason.

…when confronted with a movement of contemporary imperialism – Islamism wants an empire from the Philippines to Gibraltar – and which is tyrannical, homophobic, misogynist, racist and homicidal to boot, they feel it is valid because it is against Western culture…Who is going to help the victims of religious intolerance in Britain’s immigrant communities? Not the Liberal Democrats, who have never once offered support to liberal and democrats in Iraq. Nor an anti-war left which prefers to embrace a Muslim Association of Britain and Yusuf al-Qaradawi who believe that Muslims who freely decide to change their religion or renounce religion should be executed.

That’s a very genuine reason to say ‘No thanks.’ A more convincing explanation is surplus to requirements.

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