Andrew Breitbart's War Comes to Britain
In the Spectator recently, my old friend Toby Young described a dilemma which all those of us right-wing persuasion must face up to in the end: should you soften your position in order to find some common ground with people whose stupid political ideology you loathe and despise? Or should you stay true to your principles and risk being marginalised as, at best, unreasonable and, at worst, as a fruitcake, a crank, a dangerous extremist?
Young was talking in particular about his battles with the hard-left educationalists who were trying to sabotage free schools like the one he helped set up in West London. Some parents urged him to take a more emollient line with his attackers. And for a moment Young was tempted:
"Shouldn’t I offer to meet with the school’s opponents, such as the shop steward of the Ealing branch of the NUT [National Union of Teachers], and see if there were any concessions we could make that might secure their support?"
But then he took some advice from Lord Adonis - a fellow warrior in the battle against the progressive educational establishment (aka The Blob). Lord Adonis's view was that with an enemy like this, negotiation was out of the question.
‘They’re not interested in “constructive dialogue”,’ he said. ‘Don’t you get it? If you extend any sort of olive branch to them they’ll see it as a sign of weakness and move in for the kill. I dealt with exactly the same people — the Socialist Workers’ Party, the Anti-Academies Alliance, the National Union of Teachers — for most of my ministerial career and, believe me, they would rather stick pins in their eyes than admit they have common ground with someone like you. Their attitude to free schools is the same as their attitude to academies: they won’t rest until every last one has been razed to the ground.’
Quite a few people, I imagine, would be shocked to hear a moderate ex-minister from Tony Blair's New Labour administration sounding so "unreasonable". After all, aren't we always being told by the experts that elections are won in the "centre ground"? That moderation in all things is the wisest policy? That everyone has a right to their opinion? That compromise and negotiation rather than dogma and ideology will always achieve the best results?
I have at least two problems with people who cleave to this kind of woolly centrism. The first is that they've probably not thought hard enough ever in their lives to form a worthwhile opinion on anything. And the second is that they've clearly never experienced what it's like to be on the front line of the war on cultural Marxism.
This war has many theatres: radical feminism; progressive educationalism; the Nanny State; political correctness; race; disability; Islamism; communitarianism; environmentalism; and so on. But the techniques used by the enemy are always the same: vicious ad hominems; appeals to authority; feigned outrage; legislative bullying; attempts to close down the argument; lies; threats; smears; sabotage...
All these I have experienced many times myself as a right-wing blogger and let me tell you, it isn't for the faint-hearted.
"But what is it about my argument that they find so objectionable?" I've often asked myself. "What exactly is so evil about arguing, say, that schools should teach kids rigorously, or that climate scientists should do more science and less political activism, or that bigger government only perpetuates the power of a corrupt elite at the expense of ordinary people?"
And the conclusion I've long since reached is that there are some people out there who you're simply never going to reach through logic or sweet reasonableness or basic courtesy. These people will always hate me - and those who think like me - as a matter of fundamental principle. It's an ideological clash of total opposites: tyranny v liberty; poverty v prosperity; hysteria v reason; the state v the individual; misery v happiness.
So in what way, may I ask, would it be a sensible policy to halve the difference between those two extremes in order to reach some kind of "reasonable" consensus?
It's what I call the 'Dogshit Yoghurt Fallacy'.
On one side of the argument are those of us who think yoghurt works best with a little fruit or maybe just on its own. On the other are those who believe passionately that what yoghurt really needs is the addition of something more earthy, organic, recycled - like maybe a nice scoop of dogshit.
Now you can call me a dangerous extremist if you like, for refusing under any conditions to accommodate the alternative point of view. Or you could call me one of those few remaining brave souls in a cowardly, compromised world still prepared to tell it like it is: that dogshit into yoghurt simply doesn't go, no matter how many expert surveys you cite, nor how eco-friendly it shows you to be, nor how homeopathic the dosage.
Which is one of the things I always admired about the late Andrew Breitbart.
I never met him in real life unfortunately, but we did follow one another on Twitter. I sensed in Andrew - as I hope he did in me - a kindred spirit. We were both happy warriors, because how could you not be when your cause is so just and all the arguments are on your side? And we both took no prisoners because why would you want to take prisoners when the moment you do, your enemy rolls over to reveal the primed grenades he has ready to drag you down with him to hell?
Whenever one of Andrew's enemies sent him a particularly unpleasant Tweet - which they used to do most of the time - he always took great pleasure in retweeting the hate in order to show the world what the people he was up against were really like. I do the same, partly in homage to the hero I never met, partly because, as Andrew did, I wear such hatred as a badge of honour. When you're taking flak it means you're over the target.
So thanks, Andrew, for creating the website which has become my new home.
And viva la revolucion!