[A-List] London Review of Books
Michael.Keaney at mbs.fi
Fri Mar 15 05:44:22 MST 2002
Dunno who this pompous ass is, but it tells us something about our old friend David Marquand, whom regular A-listers will know to be far less critical of and "outside" the "Third Way" than portrayed by this Ronald Radosh-type windbag. Indeed, Marquand most recently has been involved in yet another "network" organisation within the New Labour nexus, "The Hub":
Stephen Pollard: The editor who prefers to hear only her own views
'It's never difficult to find examples of how insufferably self-righteous the left is at its worst'
The Independent, 12 March 2002
An American intellectual, who has moved from radical leftism in the 1960s to being a staunch neo-Conservative today, once told me that life is so much easier on the right. "You don't have to think about what your correct response to anything should be. You just go with your first thoughts." I sort of know what he meant, except that my first thought after his observation was that he had got it the wrong way round. It's much easier being on the left, because then you know, you just know, that whatever you think about an issue simply has to be the only decent way of approaching it.
After all, you're on the left. And that means that, by definition, you have the moral high ground.
It's never difficult to find examples of how insufferably, and blindly, self-righteous the left is at its worst. I had my own experience when, as the research director of the Fabian Society in 1995, I sought to write a paper arguing in favour of selective schools. My proposal was rejected not on grounds of intellectual merit but, quite explicitly, because such a view was said to be incompatible with being on the left.
But you'd be hard pushed to find a more repellent example than the spat between the editor of the London Review of Books, Mary-Kay Wilmers, and David Marquand. After 11 September, the LRB established itself as the focus for left-liberal anti-Americanism and opposition to the campaign against terrorism. As one contributor, Mary Beard, put it: "America had it coming." Nauseating as such a view is, it reflects a large body of opinion among the LRB's readership, and there should be a space for such views. The New Statesman has taken a similar line, and its circulation has risen by almost a quarter.
Three days after the attack, Marquand, one of the LRB's regular contributors, was asked to review The Rivals , James Naughtie's book about Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Marquand is, by quite a long way, the finest writer on the left today. He has written a number of classics, all characterised not just by the strength of their argument but also by the clarity of their prose. And he is far from being a Blairite, let alone a lackey. Most of his pieces have been critical of "The Project".
In his LRB review, however, he turned to Blair's response to 11 September, which he summarised thus: "Blair's handling of the post-11 September crisis was impeccable." He filed his piece on 17 January. The next day, he received the following response from Ms Wilmers: "There's a problem... I can't square it with my conscience to praise so wholeheartedly Blair's conduct since 11 September... I feel quite strongly that the US response, and ipso facto ours, has been at the very least questionable... I hope you won't think I'm being doctrinaire - or incomprehensibly convoluted." She was, in other words, refusing to print his piece because she didn't agree with it.
As Marquand put it in reply to Ms Wilmers: "Frankly, I find your message outrageous... I have never before had a piece rejected on the grounds that it departed from the party line of the publication. I'm utterly shocked that the LRB should apply what amounts to censorship to its contributors... You wouldn't have been praising Blair; the praise would have come from me. If you feel really strongly that my opinions are shocking or wrong-headed, you could perfectly well publish them with an appropriate editorial disclaimer. What you are really saying, camouflaged by this talk of conscience, is that the contents of your paper have to conform to your personal prejudices, and that dissident voices need not apply. For a journal that purports to be one of opinion and debate, that is monstrous."
So what, you might think. Ms Wilmers has shown herself to be a pretty reprehensible editor who is now unlikely ever again to be able to call on the services of open-minded people. But then if that's how she wants to run her journal, that's her business.
Well, no. The London Review of Books is not her journal. It's ours. The LRB is Arts Council-funded, to the tune of £14,050 a year. Ms Wilmers is perfectly entitled to edit a journal which promotes only her own prejudices. But not with our money. The purpose of tax funding is to allow a variety of views to be aired. I disagree with the LRB's stance on 11 September, but I fully accept its right to hold such views - and to air them.
The likes of Ms Wilmer were the first to protest when, following a state-supported exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe photographs in the United States, there were moves to stop the National Endowment for the Arts from funding similarly "pornographic" events.
The sheer supercilious, pious hypocrisy fair takes the breath away. Then again, why should we be taken by surprise? Ms Wilmers says that the sentence about Blair's impeccability "just got to me". As a left intellectual, she knows, she just knows, that her reaction is the real test of an argument's worth. To hell with debate.
Full article at:
Mercuria Business School
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
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