Somewhere on A1A...

Thursday, October 31, 2002

I want to come back to this and offer a more personal impression, but that will have to wait until I have a little more time. Thanks to the Instantman for the link to this interview with Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens' view of multi-culturalism's influence on the left deserves much more attention.

Though it is a risk to summarize Hitchens' carefully nuanced opinions, it is fair to say that he sees in the left's reaction to Sept. 11 a failure to understand a profound change in world relations — a failure that makes the left irrelevant. The old political conflicts — and the old paradigm of opposition — are largely fading, and they've been replaced by a global conflict of theocratic states or movements against secular states. A conflict between God and reason, perhaps, with Hitchens very much allied with the latter. And that is a natural position for a leftist, he says, but the left has become so mesmerized by multiculturalism that it will not criticize even those cultures that oppose freedom.
His mention of Political Correctness, also deserves attention.
Then there are things about the language. The great lesson Orwell taught me was the connection between the struggle over language and the struggle for freedom — for free thinking — and that you have to realize that so many traps lurk in the language so that a term like "collateral damage" I think would obviously be easy meat for him as a way of describing dead civilians. I'm impressed that when people hear phrases like that, they think of Orwell. But I think he would also object to people who say: "No war on or with Iraq." That's using language for propaganda also, in a very base and I think a very crude and obvious way.

Does it surprise you that that would happen on the left? Would it have surprised Orwell?

It certainly wouldn't have surprised him because his essay "Politics and the English Language" and his other reflections on this certainly do address themselves to power and the way that power distorts. And in particular most of his favorite examples are from what the French used to call the langue du bois, the wooden tongue, which I'm afraid to say we know under its more farcical pseudo-compassionate form of political correctness. It used to be better known as a language of thuggery used by the Communist left. Actually, a bit of both of these is involved in the witless slogan "no war with Iraq," or "no war on Iraq."
In telling us why he has become disillusioned with the left in America and why he left The Nation, Hitchins touches on so many feelings that influenced my change from Yellow Dog Democrat. I need to write more about that.


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