One of my complaints in life is that people never go back. Someone says something, that something turns out to be absolute rot, and the someone just sails on, without any acknowledgment of error, without contrition, without reform — because people never go back. This was especially maddening after the Cold War. All those people who said that you could never challenge the Soviet Union, that you had to coexist, eternally, that Reagan was a madman? They just sailed on to such positions as the presidency of the Brookings Institution.
Hell, what am I thinking? They sailed on to such positions as president of the United States, vice president of the United States, secretary of state . . .
Actually, as you know, someone went back — someone went back to who said and did what during the Cold War. That was Mona Charen, in her book Useful Idiots
Anyway, this is all prelude to a column by Christopher Booker, here. It was published in the Telegraph on December 29. The column begins,
There could be few more apt epitaphs for the year now ending than a recollection of the headlines in April that greeted a stark warning from the Environment Agency. Fuelled by the predictions of the climate-change-obsessed Met Office (and the official policy, since 2007, of the similarly fixated EU) that we will have “hotter, drier summers” for decades to come, the agency foretold that the drought conditions of the early spring were likely to last “until Christmas and perhaps beyond”. The prophecy was swiftly followed by the wettest late spring, the wettest summer, the wettest autumn and the wettest Christmas we have ever known — eight months of near-continuous rain and floods amounting to England’s wettest year since records began.
I am not a believer in scorekeeping and score-settling. In fact, I think those things can be awfully destructive. There is much utility in forgetting — or in sweeping under the rug. But every now and then it’s useful or necessary to go back: to check the record, to hold people to account.
That’s not too harsh, is it?
Over the years, a genre has developed in journalism: the left-wing hit piece on a National Review cruise. What happens is, someone from a Left magazine signs up for one of our cruises. He goes on the cruise and then slashes us in print.
I have read two of these pieces, I believe. They are nasty, poisonous things. The last one I read was published in The New Republic. It was disgusting from beginning to end — dripping with cruelty and distortion.
Later on, the author of that piece was caught in a scandal: fabrication and other dirty deeds. He was stripped of some big prize. But The New Republic was apparently happy to publish his attack on us. I haven’t read The New Republic in a long, long while (for that piece and other reasons — reasons that pre-date the attack on us).
These anti-us pieces are full of mockery and mendacity — also the grossest selectivity. Hundreds of people go on our cruises. I think we’ve had up to 800, all at once. There are always a few ding-a-lings in the crowd, but most are decent, admirable, sincere people. Even some of the ding-a-lings, actually.
What do the attackers do? Focus on the worst, naturally — the most mockable, the most lampoonable.
They never talk about, say, Bernard Lewis discoursing on the Middle East. He’s only the world’s greatest Middle East scholar. Or David Pryce-Jones reflecting on France. Or Paul Johnson explaining Churchill. Or Anthony Daniels analyzing crime. Or Daniel Hannan deconstructing the EU. Or Milton Friedman lecturing on economics. (He’s gone now, but he was once an NR cruiser.)
No, no — they would never notice such things. They would rather report what some drunk said in a bar (allegedly).
Why am I bringing this up now? Readers have pointed out to me that such a piece was published in New York magazine. Don’t these Left journos tire of imitating one another? Aren’t they embarrassed to play the same trick over and over? I haven’t read the new piece, and doubt I will. Once you’ve read two or three of these pieces, you’ve read them all. I responded to the New Republic thing — at length, as I recall. I’m not up to responding further.
As I’ve said in previous columns, NR cruisers are a diverse crowd. They are all conservative, yes, and they all like National Review, yes — though we’ve had some hostiles. And not just left-wing journalists. Anyway, they are all human, making them diverse.
Some are healthy, some are sick. Some are happy, some are morose. Some are religious, some are atheist. Some are bright, some are less so. Some are boisterous, some are shy. They’ve been through wars, divorces, the death of children — you know, life. They don’t come from a cookie cutter. They are individuals (and they respect individualism).
Our attackers portray them — portray us — as a monolithic blob, of course.
I will now say something that will make many gag: A major impulse and emotion in this crowd is love. Love of freedom, love of ideas, love of democracy, love of Western civilization, love of country, love of people. A major impulse and emotion in our attackers is hate — certainly scorn. In recent years, I have come to think of the Left as one big hate group. Hate is the very fuel of their lives. I suppose you can see this on MSNBC most any night.
I doubt that NR will ever send a reporter on a Nation cruise, to mock and revile it. We have other things to do. I went to Renaissance Weekend once — as an invited guest, I should say. Enjoyed it, for the most part. Wrote it up gently. (Go here, if you like.) Praised the organizers, who are wonderful people.
Maybe NR will receive such treatment one day. And maybe one day I’ll beat Tiger and Rory in a playoff at Augusta.
Well, I’ve gone on and on, and I’d better stop! Let’s see — don’t have any music for you, at the moment. Don’t have any language. Food, care for some food? Went to a new Cuban place, in Harlem. Terrible, terrible arroz con pollo. High-school cafeteria, at best. Oh, but the mamey milkshake afterward! Made up for it. I had never heard of a mamey (if I can say “a”). A new fruit to me. (What an odd sentence.)
Hang on, I have a poem for you. Around New Year’s, I thought I should read Tennyson’s poem again — the one about ringing out the old and ringing in the new. Hadn’t read it in ages. Thought I might find it a little — you know, hokey. On the contrary: a masterpiece. If you haven’t read it in a while, give it a try: here. Every stanza is just right (not that anyone died and made me Helen Vendler).
To order Jay Nordlinger’s book Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.