29.9.09

Opinion

Don't like uncomfortable ideas? Prefer to play “Let’s Agree”?

Or perhaps your loud opinions put a damper on the party and send guests scuttling for the exits?

This book could cure both ills.

Harry Stein’s “I Can’t Believe I’m Sitting Next to a Republican” is a lifestyle guide for those who outrage.

Yes, it’s published by Encounter Books, which was partly founded with CIA money. But that would put a self-styled "progressive" in good company with half the Third World’s English-speaking leaders, who went to schools financed by the CIA.



Years ago I found myself at an intense gathering of the British Trotskyite group Militant, a cocktail party without the cocktails. At the time Militant was trying to infiltrate, suborn and control the Labour Party. Later the same week friends invited me for drinks with the Monday Club, sort of a Conservative Militant group except they weren't Trots and they liked Champagne.

Friends, at opposite ends of the political spectrum? Quelle horreur! But then I've never been able to understand, much less stomach, political correctness.

Politics is a freakshow and there's as great a variety of political animals as there are beasts in the jungle. So why is mainstream political journalism so po-faced?

Perhaps, journalists should read this book too.

The interview:


It is not fun to be a social pariah. It's so much easier to keep your mouth shut and get along with everyone. So that's certainly a large part of it. But, too, in many professional realms -- academia, the arts, media, social work, mental health, to name a handful -- it is nothing short of dangerous to be openly conservative. I deal with this quite a bit in my book, citing heroic (or, perhaps, if this is one's view, fool hardy) souls who've been open about their politics and dealt with the consequences. I have enormous admiration for these people. As one guy in Hollywood, a line producer, put it to me when I asked him whether his views had hurt him professionally, he said he guessed that they had. But, he added, at the end of his life, "I honestly can't see myself saying 'Gee, if only I'd kept my mouth shut, I could've worked on Spiderman 7."

The book:
The fact is, in key ways, those of us living and working among such people often know them better than they know themselves. Unable as we are to avoid the media they take as gospel—NPR, the networks, The New York Times or its local equivalent—we’re on intimate terms with their most passionately held beliefs and convictions. We know who they admire and who they despise; we know in advance how they’ll react to every controversy, every utterance by a public figure; we anticipate, politically and public policy-wise, their sighs, their frowns, their ups, their downs.

But that's the point: The people he describes also know how their fellows will respond to a set of predefined views on a limited range of issues deemed, in that 60's phrase, "relevant".

This provides a ready supply of safe topics of conversation, much like the previous evening's television soap operas. Nobody says anything off-script in the game of Let's Agree.

They ape a set of stylized responses, masquerading as belief. Yet they reject belief on the pillar of relativism.

Far from radical or progressive they make the Victorians look like firebrands. More tea, vicar?


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