Blasted

I was in the middle of a post this morning about the man who sells accordions from his post office when the Internet vomited me out like an unclean thing. Then the electricity failed for ten minutes; and after NTL started working, six hours after the collapse, there seemed too much to do to reconstruct the story. But I stumbled on “this”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/wrap/story/0,,1402525,00.html while writing a touting letter to Jared Diamond, and thought, what the hell, it’s not bad for journalism six months old.

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3 Responses to Blasted

  1. That seems to lead to a Guardian advert for The Wrap…

  2. Rupert says:

    Well, it could be a way of saying that paywalling stuff is a good idea for six month old journalism…

    R

  3. acb says:

    nyaaah:

    bq.. A worm’s eye view

    Is Atlanticism dead? Andrew Brown argues it will soon join communism on the scrapheap of discredited doctrines

    Monday January 31, 2005

    History is full of honest mistakes. Sometimes they change character and become mistakes that no honest person could make. Communism is an example.

    The list of really admirable ex-communists is long. Among my personal heroes, Denis Healey, Robert Conquest, Arthur Koestler, and Claud Cockburn had all been active party members. All of them joined the party in the 30s, when, in Britain at least, it was still an honest mistake to do so. I don’t see how anyone living under Stalin could have been an honest communist then, but this is because I am blinded by hindsight. Solzhenitsyn, for example, was a fervent believer in his youth.

    But by 1945, or 1947 at the latest, you couldn’t call communism an honest mistake. Anyone who wanted to stay a communist had to ignore so much evidence about the workings of the Soviet Union that they were in a condition of constant bad faith.

    There are no doubt plenty of Guardian readers who would argue that this was not the fault of communism, that it has never been really tried, and that without Stalin, or Russia, or Lenin, or the cold war, or some other excuse, things might have been different. There was a wonderful phrase expressing this in the last days of the Soviet empire, when apologists would take about ‘actually existing Socialism’ by contrast to the communism which didn’t actually exist, but which they would prefer to talk about.

    But in the end virtually everyone realised that the actually existing things were the only ones worth bothering with and that the ideals of communism were inevitably opposed to its practice. I still remember and admire the courage and seriousness of some of the hunger strikers I met in a church in East Berlin just before the wall came down. They were not risking beatings and worse for capitalism, but for a more just and purified version of something they would have called socialism.

    But we can see now that their hope was doomed. There was no halfway house. Political ideals without a country are twittering shades.

    Has the same moment of truth has now struck the conservative, or Atlanticist, movement? Like communism, this is not just a political philosophy, but one that has been incarnated in a particular country. British Conservatism of this sort is not just a theory about which institutions best promote human wellbeing, and about the way that change should be managed. It also supposed that these were incarnated in a particular country and its satellites.

    This might very well have been true. I’d have accepted it myself as true without any question five years ago. It seemed to me axiomatic. I had never heard of Alberto Gonzalez, nor dreamed of a Britain where the home secretary could denounce the Bar Council as dangerous liberals.

    But as we enter the second Bush term, it becomes harder and harder to see Atlanticism as an honest mistake. The language of liberty, of parliamentary government, and of the rule of the law which had seemed, so to say, incarnated in Anglo-Saxon practice now seem entirely meaningless when used by the Blair and Bush administrations. There has to be a moment when the betrayal of these ideals is so absolute that we doubt they can be properly incarnated in the countries where they had seemed rooted.

    It’s like a divorce. This is particularly difficult for Conservatives, who suppose that such an incarnation takes time, and grows naturally out of the small-scale values and practices of society. Constitutions and elections are not enough. They have to be animated by the right sort of pride. Senator Joe McCarthy was finished when he was asked “Have you no shame?”

    It’s hard to believe the question could wound our present leaders. To hear Bush praising liberty is like hearing Lenin praise fairness. Obviously this comparison is a little unfair to both men: Bush has not had his secret police shoot tens of thousands of people, and Lenin made his way in the world without help from his father’s friends. But there is one very important quality that their rhetoric shares. The words mean nothing, and in both cases this meaninglessness is what carries the real meaning – which is that the powerful can lie to us with complete impunity.

    Conservatives shouldn’t be shocked by this. Suspicion of the powerful and a distrust of unfettered government were the mainsprings of Conservatism. But they are rendered defenceless when the upholders of law despise it.

    The result, in Britain, has been a sort of madness among the conservative intellectuals. They excoriate Blair for Bush’s faults, and they have reacted to the Labour government’s proposals to introduce house arrest and internment without trial by blaming the European convention on human rights. It is not a European government that is pressing us to destroy the liberty we should be fighting for.

    * Andrew Brown maintains a weblog, the Helmintholog.

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