Back in April, I wrote about how The New Statesman writer George Eaton savaged the conservative British philosopher Roger Scruton with an interview. The interview claimed to show Scruton saying racially prejudiced things against Chinese people, and encouraging anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Hungarian society. To anyone who had listened to or read Roger Scruton’s remarks in the past on these topics, it was obvious that the interview was cutting short and decontextualizing Scruton’s words.
No matter, the desired result was achieved. Within hours of the article being posted, Scruton was sacked from a government commission in which he was putting forth the rather obvious idea that beautiful housing projects and traditional architecture are not only fitting for the dignity of humans who would dwell in them, but that they help solve the political problem of people opposing new and needed housing. This was especially nasty given that Scruton would have trusted The New Statesman as an honest publication of the Left, one that used to employ him as its own wine critic. Eaton crowed about his coup against Scruton on Instagram, holding a bottle of champagne.
I wrote about the controversy as it was happening. And eventually Douglas Murray of the National Review Institute uncovered the tapes of the interview and revealed their contents at The Spectator. To many journalists it may have been obvious how George Eaton got his scalp. But Murray’s detective-like examination shows the tricks behind the “hatchet job” to a general readership, and that was invaluable in itself.
Today, with Roger Scruton, The New Statesman printed an apology and clarification — acknowledging, in a lawyerly way, the technically “accurate” but misleading and incomplete nature of their interview, and publishing the full transcript. It comes with an apology. This attempt at decency is hardly launched with the same gusto as the original attack. And hardly undoes the injustice. But I suppose it’s something. A concession to reality, at least.