BOOKS: by Bill JamesNews Weekly
WHAT'S LEFT? How Liberals Lost Their Way, by Nick Cohen
, May 26, 2007
The Left's capitulation to tyrannyWHAT'S LEFT?
How Liberals Lost Their Way
by Nick Cohen(London: Fourth Estate)Paperback: 400 pagesRec. price: AUD$35.00Nick Cohen has impeccable leftist credentials. When he was young, his English mother refused to buy oranges from fascist Spain or Portugal, or apartheid-era South Africa, or Nixon's USA, or “Zionist” Israel. He claims that it became a race between Franco dying, and his whole family coming down with scurvy.
Cohen has always resisted the loony left in its sinister Stalinist, Maoist and Trotskyite permutations. He does a glorious job on the Workers' Revolutionary Party, of which that oppressed proletarian Vanessa Redgrave was the leading luminary. However, he is more concerned today about the moderate, or humanist left, which he confusingly calls the liberals.Government meddling
It is common in the United States for left-wingers to be called liberals, but not in the United Kingdom. Historically and etymologically the term liberalism refers primarily to the value of freedom. The left on the other hand, even the parliamentary democratic socialist version supported by Cohen, places equality above freedom, and is prepared for considerable government meddling and impositions, in the form of taxes, regulations and bureaucracy, to achieve that end.
That semantic quibble aside, this is an extremely courageous and important book. Cohen has risked banishment to outer darkness at the hands of the trendy left, which controls academe and the media, by telling the truth about the left's capitulation to fascism.
Cohen is openly critical of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, but he is astounded and distressed that the Left is prepared to hysterically demonise them for their relatively minor faults while blindly throwing its support behind outright, theocratic, totalitarian fascists such as Saddam Hussein, and Islamo-fascist organisations such as Hamas.
Any cause, any country, which is anti-Western can depend on having its atrocities ignored, rationalised or glorified by the left. As Cohen says, “Tony Blair and George W. Bush may have been mistaken about much, but are right about one big thing. We will still have to confront a psychopathic totalitarian movement that will murder without limit for decades.”
Just a list of the names culled from a flip through the book conveys the low, dishonest mentality which he is out to expose. They include Ken Livingstone, George Galloway, Alexander Cockburn, Tariq Ali, Edward Said, Jean-Paul Sartre, Eric Hobsbawm, Robert Mugabe, Noam Chomsky, Harold Pinter, Arundhati Roy, Margaret Drabble, Martin Heidegger, Osama bin Laden, Michael Moore and Richard Dawkins.
John Pilger's name is missing, but is evoked by mention of other opponents of the Iraq war who, like Pilger, publicly profess support for the beheaders and suicide-bombers in their struggle against the forces of liberal democracy. Pilger is also called to mind by Cohen's revelation that left-wing journalist Robert Fisk, like Pilger, has had his surname made into a verb. To pilgerise is to distort and sensationalise information. To fisk is to factually refute allegations, a treatment to which Robert's writing is regularly and necessarily subjected by sharp-eyed online scrutineers.
On the other hand, Cohen offers an example of a positive hijacking of a name in Moynihan's Law, which states that the number of complaints about a nation's violation of human rights is in inverse proportion to its actual violation of them. This explanation of why the media obsesses about Guantanamo Bay and ignores North Korea, is named after Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
Other names cited from the freedom team are Robert Conquest, Hannah Arendt, George Orwell and Albert Camus, along with some who are equally heroic, and equally despised by the left, but less well-known. The “Iraqi Solzhenitsyn”, Kanan Makiya, is one example.
We are prone to think that post-modern relativism, subjectivism, obscurantism and anti-intellectualism are products of the left, but Cohen is by no means the only leftist to subject them to detailed refutation and devastating ridicule. He reports that when Michel Foucault was asked about Iran's theocratic suppression of academics, the philosopher explained that Iran “did not have the same regime of truth as ours”.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the left's toleration of Islamofascism is its anti-Semitism, usually euphemised as “anti-Zionism”. Not only are Israel's shortcomings grossly exaggerated and its enemies' appalling human rights abuses overlooked, but there has been a revival of conspiracy theories of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion
variety, according to which Jews control the world through their manipulation of the United States government and global finance. One of Cohen's prize exhibits, Noam Chomsky, has distinguished himself by not only denying the Khmer Rouge's genocide, but by defending a notorious Holocaust-denier.
It is tempting to quote Cohen endlessly, because he nails so succinctly the mindset which every day we hear on the ABC, and read in the Fairfax press. To finish, just two gems:
“Contrary to the fashionable post-modern theory of the time, people don't always hate the alien 'other'; more often they hate what they know … left-wingers were likely to have a deeper loathing for [John Howard] than for Saddam Hussein or Kim Jong-il.”
“Never underestimate the effect of parochialism on small minds that can't get beyond a hatred of injustice in their own countries.”