“It would be great if you went away. White, middle-class men. We’d just walk in, wouldn’t we?”Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
[I]t is worth recalling the almost genocidal class hatreds of many leading liberal-left intellectuals…
Cohen’s piece mentioned his own excellent book What’s Left?, which gives an account of the appalling regimes, individuals, and belief systems the modern Left increasingly believes it is acceptable to support or to protect from criticism. Cohen is not yet David Horowitz, the American ex-Marxist who crossed the floor so thoroughly he has published an exposé of the American Left which runs to several volumes and gives no indication that the author has said all he wished to say on the subject. But Cohen – like fellow Spectator journalist Rod Liddle – is self-aware enough to recognise that although he is a creature of the Left, that Left has changed to something he can no longer take moral sustenance from. Still, Cohen’s What’s Left? is the nearest thing we have to Horowitz’s Black Book of the American Left.
Cohen was still writing What’s Left? when the Euston Manifesto was produced, but his Spectator piece reminded me not just of the book itself, but of a particular review which could be used as an object lesson in what is wrong with the contemporary Left at the precise time when their authentic, principled presence is needed more than ever.
The review took place on the now-defunct 18 Doughty Street, a passable online televisual forum I rather miss. Present with Cohen were Iain Dale, mild-mannered blogger and radio presenter, and the journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. They were there precisely to discuss What’s Left?
I will not dwell on Alibhai-Brown, except to say that P G Wodehouse’s finest comic creation, Bertie Wooster, would surely have described her as a ‘Gawd-help-us’. Brown is the type of Leftist journalist who, for example, expresses a wish that white men die out, then gets trembly of lip whenever someone expresses mild concern about a cause she herself champions. She is arrogant and boorish, an exemplar of the new brown skin female privilege.
Cohen is just as polite and mild mannered as Dale, and a discussion between the two of them (Dale is notionally a Conservative) would have been an enlightening pleasure to watch. Sadly, the producers allowed Brown to infest the studio. After ranting at the embarrassed Cohen on the theme of betrayal – having been given to understand that the book under review was a criticism of the Left - Brown finally dropped her bombshell; she hadn’t read What’s Left?
This small consideration didn’t stop her having plenty to say about the book, and in this she has become, for me, the unwitting (and, in her case, witless) totem of the flaw running through the 21st-century Left like a profanity in a stick of rock. She was opinionated, rude, overbearing and ill-informed. Everything, in fact, for the modern liberal-left lifestyle.
The Left demands ideological lockstep. It requires uniformity of thought and belief (one reason it idolises and excuses Islamism), and woe betide the Leftist who has not ticked her checksheet of faddish causes and displayed the correct attitude to anything not on that list. Among other things, this insistence on ideological homogeneity means that other viewpoints are verboten, and adherence to them is automatically heresy. You take the party line or you go to the Gulag; there is no room for discussion. As anyone who has taken part in genuine debate knows, anyone who was at university before the intellectual Great Terror began, without looking at a range of viewpoints, you are not debating, you are instructing.
This why our universities are now anti-intellectual hen-houses where free speech is banned. This is why politicians have to tread on egg shells lest they fall foul of the thought police of social media. This is why dozens and even hundreds of column inches can be devoted in any given news cycle to a public figure’s use of a noun or a verb on Facebook or Twitter. This is why there is now a form of ‘polite’ conversation, ‘polite’ coming as it does from the same root as ‘police’.
The Left’s obsession with policing language forces them to overlook the main problem of our Western age entirely; the problem of the elites. As soon as the Left and the Right – whatever they now are – unite in the realisation that they are on the same side against a powerful foe, then progress in rehabilitating the West may begin. But while the Right must learn to adapt and survive, so too the Left must shed its slavish adherence to the banning of free expression. Alibhai-Brown, it should be noted, went on record as being in favour of a controlled press. Her reason? The threat to humanity which necessitates a Goebbelsian political control of the media? UKIP.
I have noticed an interesting phenomenon in recent years, comprising of a set of warnings given to me concerning someone to whom I was about to be introduced. It has happened several times. Curiously, it is almost always women who feel it necessary to issue this political weather warning. ‘Such-and-such is okay’, they will say, ‘but he’s really Right-wing’. Now, viewed through a certain Leftist tragic mask, ‘Right-wing’ may mean pondering whether quite so much immigration is an economic necessity, questioning whether certain cultures should be afforded quite as much respect as they are, asserting the self-evident supremacy of Western culture, having pro-life beliefs, or any conventionally Christian belief, defending free speech and a host of other ‘micro-aggressions’. I understand the impulse to warn. Back in London I have friends who would say exactly the same thing, mutandis mutandis, concerning an acquaintance they deemed to be of the far-Left, the ‘far-Left’ being a perfectly acceptable and appropriate grammatical construction you will never hear on the BBC.
I hope Cohen goes on and on. He is the precise antidote to the intellectually club-footed Alibhai-Brown. The Left, if it is to retain any claim to guard whatever is left of the national conscience, needs journalists of the calibre and integrity of Cohen just as much as it needs to jettison posturing charlatans such as Brown.