Conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton has won a spectacular victory against the New Statesman – the left-wing magazine which interviewed him and then tried to smear him as a racist, bigot and anti-Semite.
The smear — a result of selective editing of the interview and malicious tweeting by the magazine’s deputy editor George Eaton — cost Scruton his job on a government advisory body. Among those who initially condemned Scruton for his alleged remarks were various Conservatives, including MPs Tom Tugendhat, Johnny Mercer and James Brokenshire, and former Chancellor of the Exchequer turned freesheet editor George Osborne.
But now journalist Douglas Murray has got hold of the original interview recording and analysed the transcripts in the Spectator. What becomes immediately clear is that Scruton was badly misrepresented. Not only is Eaton shown repeatedly trying to provoke Scruton into voicing provocative opinions he doesn’t actually hold, but it is also evident that the version of events Eaton subsequently presented in a series of trolling tweets bears little relation to Scruton’s measured, thoughtful discourse during the interview.
The fall out of this will be huge. Indeed, it is hard to overstate what a triumph this represents for free speech, sound thinking and honest journalism against the malign and increasingly devious and censorious forces of the modern left.
- Sir Roger Scruton, Britain’s most erudite, courageous, distinguished conservative philosopher and man of letters, emerges with his reputation burnished and enhanced.
- George Eaton, the New Statesman deputy editor largely responsible for the smear, has been exposed as a liar, schemer and manipulator who put dirty-tricks political activism before honest journalism.
- The New Statesman has lost much of the credibility as a respectable journal for thinking leftists.
- The squishy Conservative MPs who endorsed the witch hunt have trashed, possibly forever, their chances of being taken seriously as leadership candidates
- The Conservative government has been once more been exposed as cowardly, unconservative, all too willing to throw its champions to the wolves in a tragically misguided effort to curry favour with its leftist enemies.
- The mainstream media – including Conservative-leaning publications such as the Telegraph, the Mail and the Sun – also emerges with its credibility tarnished. None of these publications gave Scruton a sympathetic hearing. The Sun especially barded its reportage of the story with viciously critical editorialising which implied that Scruton was a contemptible, dangerously right-wing figure.
- In revealing detail we see exactly how Social Justice Warriors like Eaton are able to whip up social media storms in order to misrepresent and destroy conservative adversaries.
- While this expose will by no means put an end to such Alinskyite tactics, it will certainly make it harder for the left to get away with such trickery in future. In order to defeat your enemy, after all, you must first understand how he thinks and operates.
To understand why the New Statesman was so keen to claim Scruton’s scalp, you first need to understand a bit about his history. (If you’ve time do listen to our podcast chat here). Scruton was a precocious, lower-middle-class lad who won a scholarship to Cambridge (where he studied philosophy) and was subsequently radicalised by the 1968 événements in Paris, where he was appalled by the mindless damage wreaked by left-wing students claiming to hold the moral high ground.
I suddenly realised I was on the other side. What I saw was an unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans. When I asked my friends what they wanted, what were they trying to achieve, all I got back was this ludicrous Marxistgobbledegook. I was disgusted by it, and thought there must be a way back to the defence of western civilization against these things. That’s when I became a conservative. I knew I wanted to conserve things rather than pull them down.
Had Scruton embraced the politics of the liberal-left he would, of course, be a household name right now: endlessly invited onto BBC discussion programmes; running various government quangos before being made master of an Oxford or Cambridge college; elevated to the House of Lords.
But because he has stuck cussedly to conservatism – expounding its principles; exposing the weaknesses of its critics – it’s quite surprising that he managed to land even his knighthood. In his long, distinguished career, Scruton has done many brave and wonderful things fully deserving of reward – most notably his forays behind the Iron Curtain during Communism to smuggle books and support dissidents in Czechoslovakia, but also his work as an author, teacher and philosopher.
The problem for Scruton, as for all those of us who have chosen a similar path, is that there are no prizes for being conservative when the cultural and political establishment is in the hands of leftists and squishy liberals.
You only have to look at the current Conservative government – or indeed, in the U.S., at the swampier elements within the GOP – to appreciate the scale of the problem. If not even avowedly conservative institutions are capable of being conservative any more, how will conservative values ever stand a chance of being preserved?
Britain Launches Body to Make New Buildings More Beautiful, And Places Conservative Philosopher in Charge https://t.co/zOukjPgTHR
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) November 7, 2018
That is what was so depressing – but also so completely unsurprising – about the attacks on Scruton conducted by a number of Conservative MPs. Johnny Mercer, it appears, had not even heard of Scruton before he chose to comment on the garbled version of the interview shown him on Twitter by George Eaton. Mercer referred to Scruton in a tweet as “this guy.” And was apparently prepared to condemn him merely on the say-so of a known leftist activist – Eaton – with a track record of embracing really quite radically Social Justice Warrior positions.
(After a number of people were stabbed or mown down by an Islamic terrorist on Westminster bridge, for example, Eaton thought it appropriate to tweet about the “magnificent diversity” of those injured.)
This guy! Let’s just savour, for a moment, the absurdity of this.
Johnny Mercer, a Conservative MP, had not only not heard of his party’s most distinguished living philosopher; but, furthermore, was so comfortable with his own ignorance that he was prepared to flaunt it on Twitter. Even when offered the chance to climb down and admit his mistake in the Spectator, Mercer instead chose to double down with a non-apology apology in which he spent more time boasting about his own qualities (“I’m a politician who believes in winning elections for my side”) and virtue-signalling (“Imagine being a young gay man on an estate in Plymouth”) than he did on reflection or on repentance.
One political observer told me: “Mercer has judged this one so badly that he has killed his chances of ever being elected Tory leader.”
I agree. And frankly, good riddance to his chances.
Offense Archaeology: Leftist Outrage Mob Smears ‘Islamophobe’ Conservative Roger Scruton https://t.co/ix7gvoeglX
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) November 7, 2018
Mercer, though, is symptomatic of a much wider cultural malaise.
The Conservative columnist John O’Sullivan once famously formulated a law which says: “All organisations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing.”
But the situation now is worse, far worse, than O’Sullivan could have predicted.
We have now reached the point where not even right-wing organisations are capable of being right-wing any more.
Take the Sun, champion of Margaret Thatcher and, more recently, of Brexit. Its report on what it called Scruton’s “racist rant” was so left-biased and politically correct that you might just as well have been reading the Guardian, the Mirror – or the Socialist Worker.
This is why Douglas Murray’s scoop in the Spectator — how did he get those tape recordings, I wonder — represents such a watershed moment in the broader culture wars. It catches the left red-handed doing something which they’ve been doing, almost with impunity, for years. It reveals these leftists for the ugly, devious, lying, bullying cheats they are – and snatches away the one thing they value above all else: the ability to pretend that they have claim to the moral high ground.
As Murray points out, the Scruton affair was just a replay of the Covington Boys scandal which was, in turn, a replay of the defenestration of Tim Hunt — the Nobel Prizewinning scientist who lost his job because some leftist agitator had wilfully misrepresented one of his speeches.
This is the left using the same playbook, time and again, to destroy its opponents: by stripping away all context, accusing them of bad faith where none was intended, and whipping up mob outrage.
As Murray writes:
The hit job on Sir Roger can be seen as a classic of the genre: he was sacked within five hours of the Twitter storm breaking. His fate offers a perfect case study in the art of modern character assassination.
Apart from being a teacher and a philosopher, Scruton is also the author of several fictional works in which with elegance, melancholy and shrewd observation, he chronicles the slow decline of Western civilisation.
In his excellent short story collection Souls in the Twilight one of his characters, clearly based on himself, says: “Henceforth nothing mattered to me save culture…”
It’s a cry of despair – an acknowledgement that the world is going to hell in a handcart fast and that the only way of transcending it is to focus on the eterna. But it’s also an affirmation: things may be bad, really bad, but there are still human achievements, in art, music, architecture, literature, culture generally, which will always be there to remind us what is beautiful and true and worth striving for.
Yes, it highlights that slightly unworldly quality that explains how Scruton could have walked so easily into the bear trap of an interview with one of the new breed of left-wing journalist: the kind that sees journalism on all occasions as merely a branch of political activism.
But it also, I think, captures how a lot of us feel about these weird times we’re living through: that we’d really much rather be left alone to decide for ourselves what is valuable in the world rather than forever being nagged into political correctness by our increasingly all-embracing left-liberal culture.
As Scruton says in How to Be a Conservative:
“Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created. This is especially true of the good things that come to us as collective assets: peace, freedom, law, civility, public spirit, the security of property and family life, in all of which we depend on the cooperation of others while having no means singlehandedly to obtain it.”
These are precisely the values that leftists like George Eaton are trying to snatch away from us. Tradition, culture, customs, institutions – the means by which we preserve what is best about our past – have no place in the year zero mindset of those “progressives” on their endless mission to remake the world anew and build their Socialist New Jerusalem on the ruins of Western civilisation.
For these leftists, the end always justifies the means. What does it matter if you use lies and subterfuge to trash a man’s reputation and get him sacked if it means you can claim a conservative scalp at the end of it?
It is time we reclaimed our culture from these scumbags. They are a poisonous minority and we have surrendered to their bullying for far too long.
As Douglas Murray says:
Our world is replete with complex matters that need discussing. We need philosophers, thinkers and even politicians of courage to help us find our way through this. We live in the age of character assassination. What we now desperately need is a counter-revolution based on the importance of individuals over mobs, the primacy of truth over offence, and the necessity of free-thought over this bland, dumb and ill-conceived uniformity.
A counter-revolution. Yes! See you all at the barricades…