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A Reply to Nick Cohen

What’s eating Nick Cohen? That is what I found myself wondering as I read his intemperate review of my latest book. Cohen is, of course, perfectly within his rights to disagree with arguments he applauded when I made them ten years ago. But it should be possible to express a divergence of opinion in a courteous manner. Instead, I find myself accused of an ideological affinity with the European far-Right. In an inquisitorial tone, Cohen places me in the company of demagogues like Victor Orban, Matteo Salvini, and Marine Le Pen—a familiar illustration of the Left’s idle recourse to Godwin’s law: beyond a certain arbitrary threshold, any objection is enough to convict an opponent of Nazism.

I am reproached for being insufficiently negative about Donald Trump, even though I devoted two pages to criticising him. Would ten pages have been enough to escape Cohen’s suspicions? Twenty? It ought to be obvious to anyone as familiar with my work as Cohen is that I dislike Orban, Salvini, and Le Pen as much as he does. But my new monograph is not about the rise of European neo-populism. It is about the ways in which accusations of Islamophobia are used to silence Muslim dissidents, and as an instrument of blackmail to spare Islam the ordeal of criticism. Cohen’s complaint seems to be that I didn’t write a different book entirely.

Why is Cohen suddenly so hostile to arguments he once found sympathetic and laudable enough to make himself? Having declared himself an enemy of Jeremy Corbyn, I suspect he is anxious to reassure his readers that he is still on the Left. Even though he has renounced his membership of the Left on more than one occasion, a tribal affiliation still seems to be reflexively central to his identity and his reason for being. I took Cohen to be a free spirit, but his caustic review is the work of an enlisted journalist. The peculiar violence of his condemnation seems designed to excuse himself for having thought as I do in the past.

Perhaps without meaning to do so, Cohen’s approach to my book reproduces a tactic familiar from the Cold War. Just as we were once instructed that criticising the Soviet Union played into the hands of American imperialism, those who attack Ikhwani, salafi, Wahhabi, and Khomeinist fanatics today stand accused of promoting the interests of the nativist Right. This kind of Stalinist blackmail, as Cohen certainly knows, led generations of progressive intellectuals into cowardly silence and complacent appeasement of totalitarianism.

My description of the Islamic veil as a strategic tool in the struggle for control of the public space causes Cohen great indignation. But I have been saying this for 15 years, as have liberal Muslim intellectuals such as Kamel Daoud, Boualem Sansal, Fatiah Boudjahlat, and the feminists of the Maghreb. Cohen complains that I only denounce the Left, and not the Right. But this is because I expect more of a Left that was traditionally critical of religion and has now retreated into moral relativity. A stroke of the pen cannot erase the authentic treason of the progressive European intellectuals who have justified—indeed, excused—terrorism in the name of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or colonialism, or the “Arab-Muslim humiliation.” As I write, Corbyn is completing his transformation into a British Jacques Doriot, the French Communist who became a collaborator in 1940 and fought as a Waffen SS lieutenant on the Russian front.

Cohen claims that I invoke the phantasm of an Islamic invasion. But I do not wish to purge the continent of Islam, I only wish to see it domesticated in the public space, in the same fashion as Christianity and Judaism. France has lived with Islam since 1830 and has rejected the Anglo-Saxon multicultural model, the results of which do not strike me as especially convincing. Hasn’t the Left’s silence and whataboutism regarding rape gangs in Bradford and Rotherham been what has nourished the hard Right, rather than books like mine? Even as extremists in Pakistan are demanding the liquidation of Asia Bibi, it seems that England is hesitating to receive her on English soil for fear of provoking trouble. Is this Orban’s fault? Or Putin’s? The alarming and dramatic eruption of populism does not annul the danger of Islamisation, it aggravates it. To believe that we can combat one danger while surrendering to another is to nurse an illusion—this is not the first time in history that we have had to fight enemies on multiple fronts.

It is a pity to see so much bad faith on the part of such an intelligent man. In the wake of Brexit, the eminent dissident’s position that Nick Cohen has occupied until now no longer seems as attractive as the familiar warmth of the flock. But that is no reason to trample on what he used to admire or to excommunicate those who have not taken his chosen path. There is no need to vituperate and thunder at former allies in an attempt to disguise a change of mind and direction. Those who militated for 20 years against terrorism, obscurantism, and Islamofascism will be saddened to have lost his support, and may be left to wonder if it was authentic or just a posture. Certainly, if Nick Cohen thinks his about-turn will earn him the sympathy of a Left that hates and distrusts him, he is fooling himself. Nor will it spare him the contempt of his old fellow-thinkers whom he now disparages. That is why I ask him to return to his best sentiments and to put his talent, which is large, at the service of the causes he has always defended. Otherwise he risks appearing to be what he is not: a weathervane.

 

Pascal Bruckner is a French writer and philosopher. His 26 books, both fiction and nonfiction, have been translated in 30 countries.

Featured pic: Pascal Bruckner speaks at the Frontiers of Thought conference, October 2014.

59 Comments

  1. Robin says

    Thank you. I’ve read so much rubbish on various issues today to read this intelligent piece was quite a fillip.

  2. Peter from Oz says

    I am intrigued by the hair-splitting sophistry of those who know that conservatives are right on all the major questions, but who try to pretend that they are coming to the truth from the left. Accordingly, they whine about ”populism” and how Orban and Salviniare somehow evil whilst at the same time admitting that the left has assisted islam in its degradations.
    The rebel lefty will then tie himself in knots trying to make a ”nuanced” argument that somehow the solution to the problem can be found in the thinking of ”true progressives.” But the nuance is really just obfuscation and hand waving.
    The answer is clear, the oikophobia and cultural self-loathing propagated by the progressives has to stop. They have to change their default position from ”the Judeo-Chistian position is always wrong” to Western culture is great. They have to learn that to support western civilisation is not racist or xenophobic, because it is not a comparative exercise but an absolute one.
    This is not about decrying islam, but about standing up for our own culture. If we build up our own cultural confidence, then muslims will respect us much more. But’s what more important we will respect ourselves much more and realise that upholding our traditions will ensure that we can live lives in peace.
    Leftists remind me of adolescents who stay up til 4 in the morning debating every last definition, but who can’t balance a bank account or tie their shoelaces. They refuse to be adults and live in the workaday world, shouldering responsibility to uphold society. They want the freedoms guaranteed by the West but are not prepared to defend them, instead trying to find more ways to restrict them for others.

    • A C Harper says

      “But my new monograph is not about the rise of European neo-populism.”

      Arguably old populism has always been there, and not (generally) as awful as some would assert. The recent ‘change’ has been that the dominant leftish view of the last 40 years or so has lost its power to surpress unfavoured views.

    • @Peter from Oz
      To admit to being absolutely wrong on so many of the most important issues of the day is still no cause to proclaim any intellectual affiliation with the right. It’s not surprising, the right has made itself so unattractive that someone coming from the classical liberal camp where simple common sense is still possible is loathe to grant the right any sympathy whatsoever.

      I myself swing center-right and am often ashamed of the ‘loud’ conservatives (or Trumpians) for the manner in which they comport themselves. In the U.S. we call them the stupid party for good reason. While I find leftists completely nauseating at least they try to appeal to the cerebral cortex. Those still steeped in left-wing ideology and slowly seeing the appalling light at the end of the leftist tunnel will not side with the right on these grounds alone. They unfortunately think the left can be fixed – they are wrong.

      • Peter from Oz says

        Craig
        What is a classical liberal other than a right winger?
        Yes there are blusterers on the right, but there are just as many if not more on the left. But this an argument about ideas, not about people. Maybe people on the right bluster because they see so many on the left “intellectualising” things that are really obvious whilst at the same time applying no intellectual rigour at all where it is needed.
        The left has always been about seeing the world through the lens of oppression. First it was the working classes, now it is victim groups, who are the sufferers of oppression. All leftist intellectual endeavour is based upon that. It is all therefore tedious and in fact anti intellectual, because it is based on a false premise. It may be pretty or even well constructed but it is in the end illogical and of no value.
        I know that the old canard about scholars arguing about how many angels can dance on a pinhead is almost a cliche, when discussing useless intellectual speculation. But I think it is so apt when seeking an analogy to the so-called intellectual approach of left wing thinking. If there are no angels, then speculating about their activities, no matter how clever or nuanced is of no value. It leads to the sort of dogmatic thinking that we see dominating the left these days.
        A great intellect trying to uphold dogma is a wasted intellect.

        PS: although I have great sympathy with classical liberal ideas, I am rather more of a rococo or even a baroque liberal. Style is important in these things. Classical liberals are solid souls but are trapped with Doric and Ionian orders of thought. A few more metaphorical pieces of architectural whimsy are necessary for a more complete understanding of things.

    • Farris says

      @Peter excellent points.

      Basically you have one group arguing facts pitted against another group arguing feelings.
      No amount of clever rhetoric can convert feelings in too facts but it is amazing how many people can be taken in.
      “It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.”—Ronald Reagan

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Peter from Oz

      During a long discussion with another Peter from Oz at ‘The Conversation’, Peter, a very virtuous and PC fellow, excoriated me for my Islamaphobia, but as the discussion went on he eventually said that be believed that after two generations the Muslims would become beer drinking boguns just like himself. It turned out that he was a cultural supremicist! That the Muslims really wanted to be gay-feminist social Marxists just like bwana. Ironically it was myself who respected their culture enough to say that, no, they did not want to be just like him (or me), in fact that was the last thing they wanted. So you are correct in saying that recognizing the fundamental differences between our cultures is not ‘hate’, in fact it might really be more respectful and more genuinely ‘multicultural’.

      • Peter from Oz says

        Ray Andrews

        That other Peter from Oz is definitely not me. 🙂

    • scribblerg says

      Very well said, and echoing my sentiments. I want to focus on this aspect of focusing on the ‘dualistic mind’ of the Leftist who considers himself ‘reasonable’. I mean the one who will occasionally say , “Well of course we need to enforce immigration laws”, as more of a throwaway line when cornered of course, but still, such things do come from some of them as they attempt to distance themselves from the Left.

      Brett Weinstein and even Same Harris come to mind. Their tiresome apologia and distancing is boring and unoriginal. It sounds stale and wooden, yet they preen. Is it all mere sophistry and mental masturbation? “Be bound by your own reasoning” is what I find myself wanting to scream at such talkers most. Why does freedom of speech matter? Because it’s a fundamental aspect of being free of a tyrannical govt. and is also a reflection of free thought. But of course we wouldn’t accept just having free speech, we also expect free association and the freedom to travel about as we see fit in public areas, among other aspects. All these freedoms add up to the experience of being free and they are of a part with each other, and necessary conditions for freedom to exist in a meaningful way. in other words, to stand for a part is to necessitate one to stand for all of them.

      Put it this way. If I’m free to worship Allah, I’m free to curse him. Period. End of conversation. And I mean free from fear of attack in civil society as well. I remember the famous Serrano work at a fed funded art exhibit in NYC in the ’90s, a crucifix in urine. I don’t remember the artist needing 24/7 police protection from Christian radicals. If we can’t admit the basic, civilization-level conflict that we are in and have the gumption to love and stand for our own people, who are we as a people? Why do we have an expectation that we will even survive, let alone dominate if we don’t love ourselves? It’s so bizarre.

      And oh yeah, speaking of freedom of speech in the U.S., I’m free to be a racist if I want to, it is not a crime of any sort. In fact the first case the U.S. ACLU fought was for the KKK’s right to march, standing against local forces who wanted to prevent it. If you doknt understand this statement and position, you don’t understand what it means to be free.

      As for Islam, we are in a civilizational level competition, Samuel Huntington was correct. It seems other people’s can internalize this easily, why do we not get that Christendom and Western Civ are real things and that we have an identity and nation and people we emanate from and want to form a society with? And that this circle isn’t open to all ideas and people’s?

      Why are we unilaterally disarming and surrendering and in fact, empowering and enabling our rivals? Look at what we’ve done with China. Most Americans don’t know how the basic intellectual foundation of Chinese universities and education and industrial technologies were nurtured into being in China by overt and covert U.S. support, along with much direct action. We literally modernized China, and even today, there are 350,000 Chinese students in U.S. universities. We enable those who’s aim is to destroy us. Read the recent Hoover Institution expose on China, you’ll see many of those students are stealing intellectual property from the labs and universities they work in, among other things, and providing them to the Chinese govt and industries under coercion. This is just one of many ways they plunder and exploit us.

      They’d never have been able to do if we didn’t give them all the means necessary. Communist China would have failed as the Soviets did without our aid and guidance. What always gets missed by the trite analysis of the collapse of communism is that the Western world was modernizing on so many fronts that the comparison was not able to be papered over anymore. China would have collapsed and communism swept away there just as in the USSR, but we wanted to play them off of the Soviets so we aided them.

      Turns out Mao played Nixon and Kissinger. Today? Most Americans seem blissfully unaware that the Communist Party is alive and well in China, and that in fact, the People’s Liberation Army reports to the Communist Party, not the Chinese govt…They seek global hegemony and are Sino-Supremacists in shocking and overt ways. Yet even now, even after Kissinger turned on the Chinese formally in 2015, the ‘Panda-huggers’ cannot stop apologizing for China.

      What kind of society is so self-destructive? Answer: One that will not last much longer.

  3. Sydney says

    This was tedious. I’m sure it’s a feather in Quillette’s cap to have superstar intellectuals elbowing each other on its pages, but I can’t think of anything less useful to the world. The left has been wrong about almost everything it got its hands on. And if any idea was correct for a while, it eventually went too far. They’re both wrong. Marine Le Pen is not a demagogue. Donald Trump is an eccentric but excellent leader. Islam brings trouble wherever it goes. There. Fixed it.

    • Giselle P. says

      “This was tedious.”

      Goodness yes. Two men mindreading each other, both of whom should know better.

      Quillette, you had the one good immigration article the other day. Don’t go back to this. Be better.

      • Paolo Pagliaro says

        A booming economy, the craziness of AGW activists and restricted and their grip on political power severely obstructed, new respect abroad, sensible social politics internally, opposition to the globalist narrative the left is trying to impose worldwide.
        If the media were not constantly screaming “NAZI!!!” for the most unremarkable events and decisions – very often exactly the same ones adopted by Obama – it would be a very quiet and successful mandate.

      • Jeremy says

        He’s been a great leader only in the sense the he saved us from leftist policies being enacted. The man is otherwise clearly unfit to be president.

      • Jeremy says

        I also shoukd habe given him credit for appointing two quality Supreme Court nominees and also for slashing a lot of excessive regulations on businesses. On a personal level though Trump is an absolute mess.

    • Angela says

      I’m glad he saved us from Hillary Clinton, but that doesnt excuse the ridiculous statements Trump makes on a regular basis. He’s clearly unfit to be president and I pray he will voluntarily step down in 2020 and throw his support behind another republican.

      • Angela says

        Pence is too religious for my classical liberal taste, but he would at least be a very good leader from a personal stand point. He oozes a very strong and stoic masculinity while also being clean as whistle when it comes to personal behavior. He also cleaned the floor with Tim Kaine during the VP debate.

  4. Andrew Leonard says

    According to Nick Cohen (in the video), the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership has brought about a moral crisis, because:

    “Here you have a politician who goes along with regimes which we old lefties used to call from the extreme right.”

    We live in a world in which Feminists defend Islam and refuse to condemn paedophilic rape gangs, anti-racists express strong anti-white sentiment, anti-Nazis espouse anti-Semitism, and anti-Fascists regularly threaten, intimidate and use violence on the streets. I don’t see how the Socialist Jeremy Corbyn’s support for Islamo-Fascist groups is out of place in the current era, let alone enough to cause a moral crisis.

    However, I would suggest the following points are truer than not:

    • A self-described Feminist is no more or less concerned with women’s rights and welfare, than is the average citizen

    • An anti-war campaigner is no more or less interested in stopping wars, than is the average citizen (think how quickly they “lost interest” after Obama won)

    • A self-identifying anti-racist is no more or less likely to hold strong prejudices against some racial or ethnic groups than the average citizen

    • A self-identifying anti-Nazi is no more or less likely to hold and express anti-Semitic views than someone that person labels ‘Alt-Right’

    • A self-described anti-Fascist is no more or less likely to espouse statist views and use tactics associated with Fascists, than either a fake or real Fascist

    • A self-identifying climate change ‘believer’ (aka Warmist) is no more or less likely to support policies that reduce carbon dioxide emissions, than is a supporter of the coal industry (think opposition to fracking and nuclear)

    • A self-identifying proponent for Diversity and Inclusion™ is no more or less likely to tolerate a lack of diversity in workplaces, or to advocate and participate in exclusionary policies and actions, than is the average citizen

    • A self-identifying opponent of ‘hate speech’, is no more or less likely to, by their own standards, ignore, tolerate, congratulate and express ‘hate speech’, than those they label with this term

    • David Calvani says

      I agree with your 8 points.

      However, I am troubled by this statement: “I don’t see how the Socialist Jeremy Corbyn’s support for Islamo-Fascist groups is out of place in the current era, let alone enough to cause a moral crisis.”

      I would say that the moral crisis is exactly that Corbyn’s support for Islamo-fascism is not out of place nowadays IS the moral crisis.

      • Andrew Leonard says

        You are right David. Corbyn’s position is of great concern. Other than being sarcastic, I guess what I’m getting at is that Corbyn’s position is not hard to fathom when compared to the extent of contradictory positions we see today.

        More importantly, I’m saying that the advertised political positions taken by individuals are not predictive of their specific positions, in general, especially when those positions result in ideological dilemmas. This point is fairly critical for political debate, because being labelled for example, ‘racist’, does not hurt as intended if the labelled individual is aware that the labeller is no more likely to possess anti-racist virtue than then man or woman in the street.

  5. Stephanie says

    It’s sad so many authors feel the need to run away from figures on the right. No wonder the leftists have got you good, you’re bending down and showing your neck.

    A significant proportion of Muslims believe dangerous things about non-Muslims. Their culture is incompatible with modernity and Western culture, and as the author says domesticating it into a neutered form is an unequivocal necessity. However, it is unlikely Muslims will be keen to get with the program. When that inevitably happens, Western countries need another way to bring back stability. Saying from the get-go that kicking out people who refuse to integrate isn’t going to happen leaves you with very little tools, and likely failure.

    That being said, I haven’t read the book. I just think the tone of this article was too apologetic at times.

    • Jeremy says

      You can’t kick out all the ones who were born there and have citizenship. So whether it’s easy or not the focus has to be on mitigating harms.

      • Jeremy says

        And a huge percentage of those radicalized are in fact the ones who were born in Europe btw. Europe can and should limit future immigration, but that doesnt solve the problem they’re facing.

  6. Small wonder, that diversion of opinion between an Anglosaxon and a French intellectual and political commentator, it would be funnier where they would agree on something like colonialism and islamophobia. Both are from a tradition of colonialisation in muslim regions (no nations as yet, that came only after decolonialisation), and both have their own traditions to deal with the differences in the degrees of multiculturalism.
    I can imagine that the opinions of a “liberal” muslim like Kamel Daoud is the drip that is just too much for both to keep aloft, here, it is almost impossible to agree between the 2 cultures. Why whine and complain about that here on Quilette?? It is at it is, you can’t undo your own traditions, culture and ways of seeing and judging diversity , immigration and need of acculturation.
    In the NLs, also a nation with a history of reigning muslim populations, our latest blurb is the law against exposing burquas in public. – We are not going to enforce that law- says the (leftish) mayor of Amsterdam. In the journals and TV programs, this is more oil on the fire of pro and against diversity and freedom of religion. It’s funny, it never stops.

  7. Well i have not had anytime for Nick Cohen since his argument against oponents of the Iraq war on the basis that arguing against the war was racist! It was unpleasant, illogical and self serving and an example of the dangerous modern trend in which it is not sufficient to disagree with someone but necessary that they are demonised as evil.
    My issue is that Pascal’s reply does the same –
    ” As I write, Corbyn is completing his transformation into a British Jacques Doriot, the French Communist who became a collaborator in 1940 and fought as a Waffen SS lieutenant on the Russian front.” .
    That the article has this passage while complaining about the lefts idles recourse to Godwin’s law shows either stunning hypocrisy or lack of self awareness. Personally I think Corbyn a disaster, wrong on most issues and an example of a sanctimonious form of moral cowardice in which difficult choices are avoided or ignored in order to claim clean hands and moral superiority.I think he would be a disastorous prime minister. Can’t we just say that without needing to compare him to a nazi collaborator?

    • Godwin deserves a statue for that! My God, was he right, could he have known what he had started with that idea (where? in which book or journal? when?)?? It’s popping up literaly everywhere, and all the time.

      • Jorge says

        At this point, invoking Godwin’s Law should be the new Godwin’s Law. Sometimes the analogies are apt.

  8. D.B. Cooper says

    While spectating the occult and frequent recriminations being thrown around with shameless abandonment mostly by a fermenting quinquagenarian and to a lesser extent a justifiably somewhat choleric sexagenarian of the bourgeoise class is always great fun; the truth of the matter is the chronological senility of this sandbox fight is not what brought me here. In fact, the reduction of aristocratic propriety, even if only in temporary suspension, is or can be in many ways a ‘public good’ of sorts – sometimes simply witnessing the ethical fragility of our better has a peculiar way of assuaging the gratuitous contempt we have for the elite. That is to say, one of the more sheepishly infectious parts of the human condition is its reliability finding (unassisted and unknowingly even) a degree of enjoyment in watching the strongman stumble… even when the man is stumbling into the same mud… you’re in.

    No, admittedly, the verbal pugilism of the elder class is not all that interesting – my apologies to any senior pugilists in attendance, I’m sure you float like a butterfly. At any rate, the antagonist in this tragedy of errors (that would be Cohen least there be any confusion) reminds me of the type of guy who buys his political affiliations by the day or under the compulsion of a bandwagon fallacy, take your pick. Furthermore, it should be said, if his more recent behavior is any indication of what capricious channels of backwards causation can lead to, I wouldn’t be surprised (nor should you) to find that Cohen-the-Unpredictable doesn’t also buy his ideas at a similar rate and manner; never mind his idiopathic acquisition of deeply held principles. i.e., the tail wagging the mind at work.

    Having a wealth of experience disagreeing with my wife and other opponents of the fairer sex (emotional/physical scars provided by request), I can stretch myself to imagine how someone’s reasoning faculties could be prone to the type of volatile and/or faddish incongruities that can mirror a symptomatic adolescent’s untreated ADHD; but what I can’t seem to wrap my mind around is “Cohen-the-Fickle’s” increasingly insufferable jihad sectarian attack on common sense – which I happen to be a big fan of as I find it to be terribly useful in negotiating this ‘post-fact world’. While it’s true, the currency of unreliable people is notoriously short, “Cohen-the-Fickle’s” open border’esk pedestrian screed bad faith incitement is an especially egregious display of his mercurial temperament gone too far; and therefore, warrants a dedicated undressing of what can only be described as a fairly unimaginative example of the governing principles of rank hypocrisy.

    Not that Buckner needs any help zipping “Cohen-the-Fickle” in a clown suit as evidence by the skillful prudence pervading Frenchie’s most recent endeavors; which actually brings me to the original point I wanted to make on Buckner’s response – who, by the way, seems like just my sort despite being French.

    As I was saying, I originally intended to mention a regrettable manifestation of envy; which is that I’m always left a little unsettle after coming across one or another inimitable prose stylist of Mr. Buckner’s class (his national affiliations notwithstanding), if only because – I’m both sad and ashamed to report – it is a disquieting reminder that men of his making, of his talent, are not simply my better – by some order of magnitude I care not discuss – and undoubtedly yours as well; but even more troubling is that they seem to exist (a statement so obvious one can be excused for thinking it self-evident) in numbers that, seemingly, proliferate at a rate my ego would otherwise like to believe should violate the constraints of a normal distribution (a fat, fat tail). Lies, damned lies, and statistics, Mr. Clemens…

    But after some reflection, I’ve come to realize the only reasonable conclusion a prudent man – a man on the Clapham omnibus, for example – can make is that, I must have been cheated at the root, either by God or by chance, I do not know. The derivation of this orphaned state of affairs is less important to me than adducing the plausibility of the anemic primogenitors in question. A reductive exercise, to be sure. Yet, the theoretical utility of postulating such states in order to explain what plainly appears to be a brute fact about some incurable (i.e. social interventions) degree of talent – intellectual and otherwise – that separates the average man (duly represented in this case by an ol’ country boy raised in the grip of poverty) from the exceptional man (unfortunately, represented by a writer raised in the grip of something considerably worse – France). As an aside, I remember being similarly disappointed the day I realized (and accepted) I would never dunk on a 10’ rim. A sad day, to be sure.

    For anyone who’s experienced a similar mugging at the hands of reality, you may find some solace in a piece of advice my mother once gave to me on the Eve of Xmas in my 8th year of life.

    D.B.,” My mother said as I was trying to count presents with my name on it, while trying to look as those I wasn’t counting the presents with my name on it. “You know how to make sure you have a good Christmas this year?

    No, Mam.” I said, eagerly, thinking, hoping there were more hid away somewhere… anywhere.

    LOW EXPECTATIONS!” She responded with the honesty of an overworked oncologist.

    It’s still the best advice I ever got. Write that down.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @D.B. Cooper

      World-class art there DB, but shorten them a little and write more of them instead.

    • His name is Bruckner, D.B.C., so like the famous Austrian composer. Sometimes, you see his name spelled in cyrillic, so, maybe from russian descendance? Via a German speaking nation? For some reason, I always look for descendance and cultural affiliations, generally, it explains more than half of what one stands for. Ayn Rand being the best example!

  9. Sean S says

    I would be thrill if someone put me in the company of Marine Le Pen, etc.

  10. Paolo Pagliaro says

    Orban and Salvini are not far-right. Why do so many otherwise sensible people fall for the absurdities of the left? Don’t they know that the left always overstates, in order to move the perception step by step?
    Being against unrestricted immigration is not far-right, is simply normal.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Paolo Pagliaro

      The funny thing is that open-door immigration people, when you ask them how many immigrants they are personally hosting in their own homes, get very nasty. Yet, if borders on countries are bad, then why are locking doors on homes ok? Even the most Correct immigrationist probably has a door on his place, a lock on that door, and feels she has the right to decide who will enter and on what terms. A Nazi after all.

  11. Charlie says

    Cohen is part of the middle class left wingers who are irrelevant to the average person. The Labour Party was founded in the late 19th century by practical pragmatic tough patriotic skilled Methodists and Non- Conformists endowed with common sense and common decency who wished to improve the quality of lives of the poor e.g Ernie Bevin, Keir Hardy. Those from middle class backgrounds such as Clem Attlee fought in WW1 and lived in the East End of London.From the 1930s, as Orwell pointed out, middle class types joined the Labour Party : they did not love the poor but just hated those wealthier than themselves. In fact they had no skills to improve the quality of lives of the poor such as building water and sewage system, decent housing, etc, etc.

    Since the mid sixties the number of old fashioned Labour types have declined and been replaced by under achieving effete impractical middle class art graduates who are indifferent to the poor and just feel spite towards those more successful. The reality is that the middle class Lefty has far less in common with the rugby league playing Chapel attending craftsman than the Public School educated rugby union playing army officer land owner. The tough practical working class people despise the effete impractical middle classes but often respect the tough down to earth landowner or businessman. Prime Minister Callaghan was a Sunday School teacher and had no time for effete degenerate Liberals.

    Cohen has criticised his fellow effete impractical middle class socialists and now has nowhere to go. He has to write something to justify his existence. Perhaps he should give up writing and run a pub? Most middle class socialists remind me of a rowing song ” Craven A ” of which one of the lines is ” He was no f…… use at all “.

  12. The Ulcer says

    “It ought to be obvious to anyone as familiar with my work as Cohen that I dislike Orban, Salvini, and Le Pen as much as he does.” You shouldn’t have to prove this to your critics, or in these pages. I am dismayed by the fact that we always have to make sure everyone knows who we dislike before credibility is proffered.

  13. The Ulcer says

    Read Salman Rushdie’s memoir “Joseph Anton” to find out firsthand just how far national leaders and public institutions will go to cast the victim as the villain.

  14. codadmin says

    Cohen won. Not because he’s correct, but because Bruckner is desperate to prove the wrongness of Cohen’s smears.

    It’s always the same pattern. Leftists attack, non-leftists apologise or, at best, defend.

  15. X. Citoyen says

    One would think it would be obvious to “intellectuals” that making the quality of argument and evidence contingent on the moral purity of the arguer is irrational. You’ve effectively internalized the genetic fallacy. From a practical standpoint, it’s self-defeating: You end up making heterodox opinion impossible because any deviation from orthodoxy automatically invites questions about your purity.

    “Sleep with the pigs…” and so forth.

  16. Philoctetes says

    Whatever. A well regarded lefty Brit journo is harshly critical of an academic most people have never read, never mind heard of. It’s pathetic all round. First for Cohen to stoop so low as to address the dreck in said book. And then for the author to write a screed saying Cohen not only misunderstood him but was even mean as he did so. To quote the troll in chief, “sad!”

  17. Tome708 says

    Guess I don’t care what Nick Cohen thinks. Next article

  18. David Calvani says

    I have to disagree, Meghan, with the sloppy way you use the terms ‘left’ and ‘right.’ (Notwithstanding that such use is commonplace.)

    The Left is that which supports socialism (or progressivism more generally). The Right is that which opposes socialism (or progressivism more generally). Whether or not some group is nationalistic in its outlook is beside the point.

    The terminology had its origin in the seating of the French Estates-General. I do not see how the notion that Right = Nationalist; Left = Anti-Nationalist fits.

  19. Stef M. says

    I’m glad to read a longstanding voice of reason from continental Europe at Quilette.

  20. martti_s says

    Am I getting this right: If I publicly dislike Marine Le Pen, Victor Orban, Donald Trump and Matteo Salvini, I have bought myself the right to criticize Islam or the things some people claiming to be Muslims do as a group or as individuals, motivated by their reading of the religion?

    And what is this “I do not agree with everything he says, but…?”
    If somebody makes an intelligent point and I bring it up in a discussion, does it mean that my soul belongs to that person unless I state otherwise? I remember having read a smart comment or two from both authors. How can I deal with it? How can I take sides here? isn’t that what I am supposed to do on a forum? Luckily, less so on Quillette, at least up until now.

    BTW have people completely forgotten who and when launched the word ‘Islamophobia’ and what was his/their purpose? Isn’t it funny how the ‘progressives’ not only picked it up and assimilated to their vocabulary but also used the same model for neologisms such as ‘homophobia’ or ‘transfobia’ or whatever term that is intended to cast a moral shadow of the opponent’s likes and dislikes.

    Amazing, how well it works!

    • Phobias are indispensable in our time of victimhood and tribalism, without it you won’t come far. The foremost best (and I know it only for about one yr now) is oikophobia. All of them able to provide large and lasting (for the time of this hype) impact.

      • martti_s says

        I had to Google that one up. Oikophobia is the opposite of xenophobia so it must be good.

        • That needs some explication Martti, because oikophobia was invented by some dutch politician ,himself called xenophoob by his adversaries.This politician thinks we are not proud enough on our own culture and civilisation, and are in danger of losing that culture due to immigration. So, oikophobia, for him, is something we should avoid.
          If you are somewhat older, as I am, it’s funny to see how all this develops in just some decennia. In my youth, there was no discussion on any phobias, they didn,t exist, because there was only one superior and powerful race and culture, that of the white western man, it was never said so stern, but it was clear for us, young and adult citizens, and very interesting to hear from some sociologists and anthropologists on university colleges (so, for the young people only) that non-western cultures ( as they were called at the time) also had some virtues and something to take serious. I still remember those lectures, what, what, what? And indeed, the towel and the pyama and the spaghetti, we just had these things from the East.
          What a difference with what you see now, all cultures, religions and individuals (regardless of their sex, race, religion) are equal and have the same rights to pursue happiness. But, but, but……. now they are intruding this nice, rich, well organised and structured western bastillon, and also want their rightful (not their, but our idea) part of the pie. What now?? Wir schaffen das, says Frau Merkel.
          And Nick and Pascal Bruckner elbow one another over islamophobia yes or no, the francophone against the anglophone, modern pomostyle (you have in it easy in the far north, almost no immigration and multi-culti, if you don’t count the Laps).

          • Not really invented by the Dutchman, but taken over (from Scruton) and given a new, local meaning.

  21. xyz and such says

    “Even as extremists in Pakistan are demanding the liquidation of Asia Bibi..”

    Even within your own description you are acting the apologist and giving credence to the notion that it’s only some small segment of ‘extremists’ who are guilty of these behaviors.

    From everything I’ve seen, it is the general population that are widely demanding she be killed for the high crime of saying she does not believe in the prophet mohammad; despite the protections even within the law of the land that does not require non-believers to be held to this standard. This is part of the problem when we aren’t willing to point to the fact that these behaviors aren’t from extremists, but are held by the large majority of the muslim population. To pretend that the majority are not in favor of extremist and fundamentalist aspects of the religion is to encourage wolves in sheeps clothing.

  22. Again about xenophobia, I came across the term xenomania, today in my newspaper, a better opposite to oikophobia of course. And, in the same paper, something more about the difference between French and Anglophone. I had never heard of Eric Zemmour, author of Suicide Francais, in which he described the French nostalgy about the times that France was still France, and not yet a nation overrun by American, Anglo and Non Western influences. The nostalgy for croissant jambon-beurre, iso the intruding and everything else overruling Hamburgers. Interesting, and I wonder, how come, so few comments here, where two giant Western intellectuals elbow one another (expression learned from Sydney), and so many, when it is about the subject TRANS, LBTG………. and other deviant sexual appetites (even where the title suggests it is about Darwinian or ID evolution), is that to please our new born star Vicky H.? More shame and scandal in the family??
    For me, not an improvement, what the hell is happening here??

  23. Ike the Spike says

    This dude writes good English for someone whose first language is French, mais non?

    • Could it be that his lines, before being offered to the publisher, were seen and corrected by somebody more fluent in English as he is? I wonder, the answer of Nick in French, without editing! It would be a stumbling without end, but, still, admirable, well tried, courageous. Alas, such a thing does not exist, just imagine, Xi responding in French (or Trump in French, somewhere under the Arc de Triumphe).

  24. Jmholt@me.com says

    Excellent writing! This is why I read Quillette.

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