Some commentators who have opinionated about the recent murders in Afghanistan, murders supposedly committed “in response to” a US pastor’s burning a copy of the Koran, have resorted to what I ironically call “good racism”. Bad racism is what unemployed people living on council housing estates display when they blame their being unemployed on immigrants. Good racism is what people in desirable jobs express when, for example, they prefer to hire better-off non-whites over worse-off whites for other desirable jobs or, in this case, when people in the West treat people in the East as though they were too primitive to be capable of moral discrimination1.
A friend on the Right, Claire Berlinski, wrote aptly about this today, just as I found myself engaged in an increasingly surreal dispute on Twitter with a representative of The Democratic Society. If the person responsible for The Democratic Society’s Twitter output is who I think it is, he isn’t a member of a tiny pseudo-Leftist sect like the Socialist Workers Party, but a man whom I engaged in what-seemed-sane conversation in a pub after a Labour Party Conference fringe meeting a couple of years ago. Our bite-sized debate today was triggered by this gobsmacking tweet from him:
Sometimes I think the only way to make this kind of poison unacceptable in educated middle-class circles is to keep pointing at it and pointing out how poisonous it is until you lose all your educated middle-class friends. You can visit our respective Twitter pages to browse the rest of PootBlog‘s debate with demsoc. I left the discussion because I was lost for words. I had hoped he would think better of his original remark and delete it, but, instead, the subsequent attempts to explain it spiralled on, like the words of a man on a bus trying to justify an “I’m not racist, but…” outburst.
I wanted to give its author the chance to delete the tweet because, if he isn’t already embarrassed by it already, one day he will be; so I waited some hours before taking a snapshot of it here for future generations to gaze upon in head-shaking wonder as one might at a clip of The Black And White Minstrel Show.
Perhaps its author will be round later to object to being taken at his own words, like this guy did back in 2006. Follow the trackback link at the bottom of the comments below that PooterGeek post to enjoy the full glory of the subsequent thread, the finest of the examples here of people ranting at me for misrepresenting them by quoting their own words and linking back to their original context.
That last link reminds me that one of the most common accusations aimed at the authors, signatories, and supporters of the Euston Manifesto was that we had erected “straw men” to rail against; that the bizarre, illiberal, irrational, racist drivel that had been spilling from the lips of self-proclaimed Leftists since the turn of the century was a figment of our imaginations, or vanishingly rare, or restricted to the output of an extremist minority. This was absurd for at least two reasons:
- The manifesto’s original signatories had accumulated a vast, linked, documentary corpus of examples of exactly this kind of nonsense—from supposedly respectable, mainstream sources—a corpus so vast that critics (sometimes the same people) accused us of being obsessed with such stuff.
- Even as one group of our critics accused us of making this stuff up, other critics actually generated still more of it in a response to the manifesto itself.
Five years on, the drivel continues to spill out:
The UN’s chief envoy to Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, blamed Friday’s violence in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif on the Florida pastor who burnt the Koran on 20 March.
“I don’t think we should be blaming any Afghan,” Mr de Mistura said. “We should be blaming the person who produced the news – the one who burned the Koran. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from offending culture, religion, traditions.”
No, that is exactly what freedom of speech means. Freedom to say only that which fundamentalists deem inoffensive and respectful—or suffer bloody consequences—is no freedom at all. It’s the shroud that imprisoned us in the darkest of the Dark Ages.