Observer 18 February, 2017
If you are unlucky, and all of us are unlucky in the end, you will visit a doctor in the confident expectation that they can fix any illness as a mechanic fixes a car and learn of the vast areas of ignorance on the map of medical science. If you are very unlucky, you will take an autistic child to a doctor and learn that “autism” is a vague and flabby label. There isn’t even agreement on what causes it, let alone on what, if anything, might alleviate or cure it.
Into the gap, between inexplicable suffering and the inability to relieve it, pour the conmen. Last week, Andrew Wakefield, the most contemptible of the charlatans, arrived in Britain to exploit the false hopes and fill the nightmares of his native land.
Observer, 27 February, 2017
If you want to understand the opportunism and shallowness of so much English commentary, look at how former Marxist-Leninists have prospered. On Radio 4’s Moral Maze or in the rightwing press the same names reappear: Claire Fox, Frank Furedi, Brendan O’Neill and Mick Hume. Their audience is not told they were members of the Revolutionary Communist party, which reconstituted itself as Spiked magazine, or that their careers provide a parable of modern media cynicism.
As Leninists they were the most ultra of the ultra-left, the type who would argue that sanctions against apartheid were a bourgeois compromise, or more funds for the NHS were palliatives that postponed the day of revolution. By the 1990s, they realised that socialism was a dead end. They grasped something else: if they abandoned their calls for revolution, but kept their denunciations of environmentalism, liberal elitism and help for the victims of genocide, they would never want for media work.
The Observer 5 February 2017
Compulsive liars shouldn’t frighten you. They can harm no one, if no one listens to them. Compulsive believers, on the other hand: they should terrify you. Believers are the liars’ enablers. Their votes give the demagogue his power. Their trust turns the charlatan into the president. Their credulity ensures that the propaganda of half-calculating and half-mad fanatics has the power to change the world.
Observer 14 January 2017
Post-truth politics isn’t a coherent description of the world but a cry of despair. Propositions have not stopped being right or wrong just because of the invention of Facebook. Whatever the authoritarian cults who rage across Twitter say to the contrary, the Earth still goes round the sun and two plus two still equals four.
“Everything is relative. Stories are being made up all the time. There is no such thing as the truth,” cried Anthony Grayling. But unless the professor has abandoned every philosophical principle he has held, what Grayling and millions like him mean is something like this. Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and other liars the like of which they cannot remember, have made fantastical promises to their electorates. They said they could build a wall and make Mexico pay for it or make Britain richer by crashing her out of the EU.
The Observer, 7 January 2016
Nationalism always breaks its promises because nationalists hate enemies in their countries more than they hate the enemies of their countries. Millions of American conservatives proved it when they voted for Donald Trump, even though he was an open admirer of a hostile foreign power.
Local hatreds, not national security, moved them. They hated Obama more than they feared Putin. They hated political correctness. They hated – not without reason – the attacks on freedom of speech. They hated rich liberals and defence lawyers. They hated Black Lives Matter and immigrants speaking Spanish in the shop queue. They hated the “experts” who told them that fossil fuel caused global warming and gun ownership caused crime. For all their patriotism, when it came to the crunch, they cared as little for national security as the “reds” their ancestors condemned in the 20th century.
The Observer, 18 December, 2016
The only thing worse than sore losers is sore winners. They have the victory, the field is theirs, but still they scream bitter abuse at the defeated.
The millions who know that Brexit will shrink their world have every right to be angry. The young who voted to remain because they wanted to learn, work and love where they choose, without facing restrictions on which university they could study at and which husband or wife they could bring home, have every right to be furious too. As for EU immigrants in Britain and British immigrants in the EU, it is fair to imagine them directing an emotion more intense than anger at the 17 million people who took the cold-blooded decision to risk their future happiness.
Yet, instead of seeing the losers’ anger, we are witnessing a novel and graceless phenomenon: victors’ rage. Continue reading