July 17, 2005


Let's not be fooled by the forces of moderation (Frank Johnson, The Australian, July 16th, 2005)

There we Londoners were on that Thursday morning, going about our traditional business of being all multicultural and vibrant under mayor Ken Livingstone.

Suddenly we were innocent victims. On our Walkmans as we struggled into work, or over the radio for those of us still in bed, and from the editorials in the liberal press the following day, came explosion after explosion.

"We must tackle the root causes of terrorism ... legitimate grievances ... Palestinian state ... end to Israeli settlements on the West Bank ... bombs wholly unrepresentative of Muslims in this country ... we in the faith communities united in condemnation ... Archbishop of Canterbury ... global warming ..."

On and on went the politicians, bishops, enlightened chief constables and liberal editorialists. Evidence soon emerged that all the cliches went off within seconds of one another. They were the work of experienced professionals trained to use them about any subject. Most of them live in this country. Many have British citizenship. They are taught never to write or say anything original. Only a few days before they had targeted Gleneagles. The ozone layer, African debt, Islam; it is all the same to them.

But we Londoners can be proud of the way we took it. They did it to us before over, among other things, Northern Ireland. We are used to it. We went through even worse during the Blitz. We are not going to give in now to a cell of crazed liberals.

What drives them to do it? Well, there is much dispute about that. Hatred of the West is undoubtedly a factor. It would be foolish, however, to rule out the possibility that some of them really believe what they write or say. But they would tend to be the dupes, easily manipulated by cynical imams with religious titles such as controller of current affairs or comment editor. These characters do not believe for one minute that a Palestinian state or a US withdrawal from Iraq would make any difference. They make a good living and enjoy a certain social status in Islington and Camden Town by stirring up moderation.

It is vital, however, that these terrible incidents should not provoke hatred of, and a backlash against, the broader liberal community. Most liberals have never planted a cliche in any newspaper. They read them, but that is because there is no alternative. They can hardly be expected to read the Tory press. Still, one must admit, the first time I went on the Tube after all those editorials and pronouncements I harboured unworthy suspicions. Any one of my fellow passengers could be a liberal. He or she could be travelling to a newspaper office or a BBC studio to set off another piety.

Take that man sitting opposite. He is wearing an earring and a summery floral T-shirt, and is flicking through Gay News. He could easily be a liberal bishop. But that is stereotyping on my part. He could just as easily not be. He might be a modernising Tory. But my first suspicions about him were exactly what the perpetrators of moderation wanted me to harbour. They wish to divide us, to make us suspicious of one another.

Posted by Peter Burnet at July 17, 2005 6:38 AM

A "modernising Tory" might be flicking through Gay News.

But would he be "wearing an earring and a summery floral T-shirt" ??

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at July 17, 2005 8:09 PM