Sir Roger Scruton, the United Kingdom’s pre-eminent conservative philosopher, has held firm after the left-wing New Statesman published an interview parsed to make him look like a bigot, resulting in the Tory government sacking him from his role on the Building Better, Building Beautiful architectural commission.
Sir Roger, a once working-class grammar school boy turned professor of aesthetics, noted for his support for traditional, human-scale architecture and past activity behind the Iron Curtain helping the underground universities which operated clandestinely under the noses of communist dictatorships, was accused of anti-Semitism, anti-Chinese racism, and “Islamophobia” in the wake of his interview with George Eaton of the New Statesman, among other heresies.
Do as you like. But do not pretend this is journalism. This is activism. That’s fine too. Activism can be good or bad. Couple this with your half-quotes from Scruton & the fact that you deleted this image when you realised how bad it looks, and this is rather dishonest activism. pic.twitter.com/cRlzyilpFy
— Maajid – (Mājid) [maːʤɪd] ماجد (@MaajidNawaz) April 11, 2019
Britain’s governing Conservative and Unionist Party — only a notionally conservative organisation in most respects, having become a vehicle for “muscular liberalism” under former prime minister David Cameron, and for “social justice” under his successor Theresa May — was quick to panic and sack the venerable scholar, with the enthusiastic support of the leadership of the modernist-dominated Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
This hasty sacrifice was not met with universal acclaim, however, with Labour’s Kate Hoey tweeting that she was “Extremely disappointed in
@georgeeaton“, having “assumed he was a reputable journalist”, and the New Statesman‘s own editor sharing Sir Roger’s response to the manufactured controversy, published by the Spectator.
Good to see @JasonCowleyNS retweeting @Roger_Scruton’s measured response to the manufactured outrage and selective quotation of @georgeeaton’s “gotcha” journalism. Noticeable that Jason has tweeted nothing in support of Eaton https://t.co/6exiBs8wpI
— David Goodhart (@David_Goodhart) April 11, 2019
Sir Roger, 75, opted not to apologise for any offence and plead for readmission to polite society, as has become customary for right-leaning public figures subject to left-liberal outrage mobs, but to turn on his pursuers in characteristically robust, yet measured, fashion.
“I recently gave an interview to the New Statesman, on the assumption that, as the magazine’s former wine critic I would be treated with respect, and that the journalist, George Eaton, was sincere in wanting to talk to me about my intellectual life,” Sir Roger began.
“Not for the first time I am forced to acknowledge what a mistake it is to address young leftists as though they were responsible human beings.”
It transpires that Buzzfeed journalist Alex Wokeham also mislead MPs on the matter of Roger Scruton. Perhaps people could start making up claims about these hacks? Why not? If all’s fair etc? https://t.co/7xWZDXi6Yo
— Douglas Murray (@DouglasKMurray) April 11, 2019
Antisemitism and racism are wrong. Good journalism matters in highlighting issues. We can only act on the basis of information given, that's why accuracy matters. It seems I was misled by the New Statesman's report. https://t.co/fRGQHDQ7Du
— Tom Tugendhat (@TomTugendhat) April 11, 2019
Characterising the various charges against him “an unscrupulous collection of out of context remarks, some of them merely words designed to accuse me of thought-crimes,” taking particular issue — as have many observers — with the way in which Eaton chose to parse his comments about the Chinese people.
On social media, Eaton presented Sir Roger’s statement as follows:
Roger Scruton on the Chinese: “Each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one and that is a very frightening thing.”
In the print edition and original online edition of the interview, this appeared as “They’re creating robots out of their own people… Each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one and that is a very frightening thing.”
Finally, Eaton added the full quote to the online edition of the interview after persistent questioning:
“They’re creating robots out of their own people by so constraining what can be done. Each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one and that is a very frightening thing.”
This seems to suggest Sir Roger was not making any racial statement about the nature of the Chinese people, as Eaton’s original quote may have appeared to suggest to many observers, but a statement about the Chinese Communist Party regime’s efforts to impose a certain uniformity on its citizens, through totalitarian initiatives such as the “social credit” system.
“I was describing the attempt of the Chinese Communist Party to achieve conformity of behaviour in everything that might threaten its comprehensive political control, and I think it is fair to describe this as an attempt to robotise the Chinese people,” Sir Roger confirmed in the Spectator.
“The Communist Party expects each person to replicate the behavioural code, not questioning its authority and finding safety in imitation. Many people see the threat of this in the attitude of Beijing towards Hong Kong [and] the internment of a million or more Uighur Muslims, in order to clean their minds of the dangerous God idea and re-programme them with the Party idea instead.” he expained.
“If we are not allowed to criticise this as the robotising of the victims, then what are we allowed to criticise and how?”
Delingpole: Cowardly Conservatives Sack Roger Scruton for Political Incorrectness https://t.co/IFgsqYbdxS
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 10, 2019
Sir Roger also tackled the charge that he has described “Islamophobia” as a propaganda word “invented by the Muslim Brotherhood in order to stop discussion of a major issue”.
“It seems that by questioning this word and pointing to its origin in the Muslim Brotherhood’s propaganda campaigns I am somehow showing myself to be guilty of the offence that it describes,” he stated unapologtically.
“I deplore the current use of this word, since it implies that there is some peculiar and irrational state of mind from which all objections to Islam proceed. I myself distinguish Islam, as a faith and a way of life, from the radicals who commit crimes in its name.”
The New Statesman’s deputy editor lied about what Roger Scruton said and has now deleted some of these claims after getting Scruton sacked. Perhaps readers might ask @JasonCowleyNS why invention, misquotation and distortion are not sackable offences at the New Statesman?
— Douglas Murray (@DouglasKMurray) April 11, 2019
Sir Roger also refused to apologise over accusations of homophobia: “Apparently I once wrote that homosexuality is ‘not normal’, but nobody has told me where, or why that is a particularly offensive thing to say,” he observed.
“Red hair too is not normal, nor is decency among left-wing journalists,” he quipped.
“In Sexual Desire (1986), I argued that homosexuality is different from heterosexuality, but not in itself a perversion. And I tried to explain the negative response that many people have towards homosexual relations in other terms,” he pointed out.
I’m not that angry about the unethical behaviour by the lefty Journos who executed this hunt against Scruton. I know what they are. But this tweet should be remembered. The lack of humility, the lack of courage and the lack of decency is profound. https://t.co/RTl5ZIYdp0
— Laura Perrins (@LPerrins) April 11, 2019
“We in Britain are entering a dangerous social condition… We are being cowed into abject conformity around a dubious set of official doctrines and told to adopt a world view that we cannot examine for fear of being publicly humiliated by the censors,” the scholar concluded.
“This world view might lead to a new and liberated social order; or it might lead to the social and spiritual destruction of our country. How shall we know, if we are too afraid to discuss it?”
This is unethical journalism. You can't interview someone and then edit their comments so that readers will infer racism, when clearly @Roger_Scruton was referring to the generational replication of communist ideology. Has @georgeeaton deleted his tweet because of disk space? pic.twitter.com/GHL7w45fF2
— Adrian Hilton (@Adrian_Hilton) April 10, 2019
"In the world of political correctness there is no presumption of innocence, but only a hunger for targets"
— Roger Scruton Quotes (@Scruton_Quotes) April 5, 2019
You can read Sir Roger Scruton’s response to his detractors in full here.