• Baden
    4.5k
    The Spectator supports the working class like the noose supports the hanged man. It's a British conservative magazine sympathetic to a British conservative party that is currently promoting a budget that hits the working poor disproportionately harder than any other sector in society. In fact, it's cuts are almost exclusively directed at the working poor. Why? Because most of them don't vote conservative. And it's not just me saying that, it's also Iain Duncan Smith, the former work and pensions minister who resigned for that stated reason.

    Anyhow, the left, in the UK at least, is supported and made up of plenty of working class people especially in the North. And not all of them eat Haribos and drink a lot as the Spectator would have us believe (in a crude attempt at stereotyping that sees them hoist by their own satirical petard). But really what it comes down to is: "They would say that wouldn't they". If there's any British institution that's anti-left, it's the Spectator. And it's not just middle class hypocrites they have contempt for either. Finally, no, it's not particularly funny or witty. Right wing attempts at satire almost never are.

    (And the reference to George Orwell is cringeworthy. Andy Shaw, you are no George Orwell.)
  • jamalrob
    1.8k
    And yet it's largely accurate, so it seems to me. At least if we take "Left-wing" in one of its ordinary, current senses.

    I know you're not denying any of this, but for the record:

    • The Spectator opposed American slavery in the 1850s and 60s and came into conflict with the conservative establishment because of this.
    • In the late 1920s it ran a campaign to raise money for the miners of Aberdare, where unemployment was 40%.
    • It opposed Britain's involvement in Suez.
    • It has supported the decriminalization of homosexuality since 1957 (perhaps before).
    • It opposed America's involvement in Vietnam.

    And in general it's always been a promoter of liberty against authoritarianism, has always questioned power, and has always had good, interesting, original writers, not all of whom are Tories or even sympathetic to them (Nick Cohen and Rod Liddle are Old Labour, and it's saying something that they've found a home at the Spectator).

    Of course, I'm not saying it's a Marxist journal in disguise or anything like that, and I'm not even denying it's a pillar of the establishment. What makes it particularly interesting now is that it is a pillar of the old, fading establishment, which has largely been ousted by a new one since the 90s. This gives it a refreshing, contrarian attitude. The New Statesman, by contrast, is quite boring, for some of the reasons given in the Spectator's light-hearted piece.
  • Thorongil
    3.1k
    I don't live in Britain, but I greatly enjoy the Spectator. Douglas Murray, Nick Cohen, et al are brilliant. I'm to the left of this newspaper on economic issues, but on civic and foreign policy issues, I couldn't agree more. It represents one of the last bastions of classical liberalism which has effectively been emasculated by the so called "progressive" left. To label this newspaper "conservative" is a misinformed slight.
  • Bitter Crank
    5.5k
    Unfortunately the link didn't work for me. At least they had a novel "404" message.

    Just a quick perusal of their site (couldn't read much without subscribing) made me think it was kind of a NEW YORKER type magazine -- longish (too long) articles, cartoons, upscale advertising, that sort of thing. I would expect it to be at least sort of liberal.

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  • Baden
    4.5k
    I would expect it to be at least sort of liberal.Bitter Crank

    I doubt many would characterize it as even "sort of" liberal in its current form. The Spectator's most well-known author and former editor is Boris Johnson, one of the favourites to be the next leader of the aforementioned Conservative party, scourge of the working poor. @jamalrob's statement that it's not a Marxist journal in disguise is like me saying Fox News are not Bernie Sanders' supporters in disguise. Let's not state the obvious to make it seem less obvious. To be fair, I am deliberately poisoning the well here because of my antipathy to all things Tory. But there's not much to argue with in the article. There are no real arguments. It's just a poor attempt at satire that's vaguely flirts with half-truths while dancing self-congratulatorily to the usual Tory tune.

    (None of this is to say there aren't good writers working for the magazine, of course, but Andy Shaw is apparently not one of them).
  • jamalrob
    1.8k
    There are no real arguments. It's just a poor attempt at satire that's vaguely flirts with half-truths while dancing self-congratulatory to the usual Tory tune.Baden

    There is nothing particularly Tory or right-wing about the article's observations.
  • Bitter Crank
    5.5k
    The Spectator opposed:jamalrob
    • American slavery in the 1850s and 60s and came into conflict with the conservative establishment because of this.
    • In the late 1920s it ran a campaign to raise money for the miners of Aberdare, where unemployment was 40%.
    • It opposed Britain's involvement in Suez.
    • It has supported the decriminalization of homosexuality since 1957 (perhaps before).
    • It opposed America's involvement in Vietnam.

    These are not exactly contemporary issues. Over a century and a half one would expect editorships and dominant themes to change somewhat.

    The New Yorker is a Spectator-type local magazine with a national following; glossy paper, excellent editing, publishes sometimes too long thoughtful articles, poems, cartoons, and lots of local NYC event info, is way too posh (appealing to those with substantial disposable income in an expensive city) to be a truly 'liberal' paper. It's an "A list" magazine. It appeals to the elite. Regular elite readers will be better informed, but that doesn't make them less elite. The interests of the elite limit their liberality.

    Media that cater to the prospects and problems of the elite do have plenty of interesting material to work with, like the problems of upward-mobile young elite families struggling to find just the right property in the best neighborhoods, the joys of the local bistros, restaurants, fine merchandise stores, the travails of long vacations, fascinating shows at the theater, remarkable art work at galleries, yada, yada, yada.

    One doesn't hear about the problems of the folks at the other end of the economic scale, except for the occasion feature story about some poor, but interesting, slob in the long balance of the economic continuum--where most of us live, like it or not.

    There are magazines for the quite well educated, reasonably comfortable poor slobs -- the Nation, Mother Jones, the Progressive, In These Times, Z, and some better-paper heavy duty Marxist publications. Maybe it's the times we are in, maybe they are running out of cash (they rely on non-advertising sources of income, like donations, subscriptions, etc.) but they aren't all that interesting -- the furrows their plows turn over are pretty much same old, same old. It isn't their fault, of course, that the lives and problems of the sub-elites are monotonous. "Not enough rent money", "empty cupboards", "car-broke-down-lost-job-now-homeless", war, war, war have the same flavor from decade to decade. Exploitation of the masses is a game of Monotony.

    So let's talk about how to find a really nice weekend cottage in a quaint New England village (or a quaint village in Olde England).

    THE CRITICAL PROBLEM for leftist papers of all shades of pink and red is finding a strategy to achieve economic justice that has better than a snowball's chance in hell of succeeding.
  • jamalrob
    1.8k
    THE CRITICAL PROBLEM for leftist papers of all shades of pink and red is finding a strategy to achieve economic justice that has better than a snowball's chance in hell of succeeding.Bitter Crank

    Maybe, but note that it's not a problem for the Spectator, which is not Leftist. As Baden's been saying, it's a conservative publication.
  • The Great Whatever
    2.2k
    Look, someone's upset the article's about them (notice that the working class is "them").
  • Thorongil
    3.1k
    But it's not. They have liberals and conservatives writing for them. Maybe "classical liberalism" just is conservatism nowadays, but I never got that memo.
  • jamalrob
    1.8k
    Well, it's popularly known as a conservative publication and its strongest and longest affiliation has been to the British Conservative Party. But it's true that the party political affiliation is informal and traditional rather than dogmatic, and as it says of itself, it doesn't hold to any party line.

    Because liberals have abandoned liberalism, it's sometimes left to conservatives to defend it, so there's often a confusion between conservatism and classical liberalism.
  • Baden
    4.5k
    Because liberals have abandoned liberalism, it's sometimes left to conservatives to defend it, so there's often a confusion between conservatism and classical liberalism.jamalrob

    That's a fair point. I honestly don't read it enough to judge to what extent it represents the classical liberal tradition. Anyhow, as I admitted earlier, I was addressing the messenger rather than the message. I'm happy to talk about said message if someone who can present a clear position worth debating is willing to lay it out. Plenty of worthy souls here I'm sure.
  • andrewk
    1.2k
    I read the article and found it a good case study in why right-wing people - like the author presumably - find it so hard to be funny. The article was just a long, lazy sneer based on a stereotype of a small minority of people on the left. From start to finish it says 'left-wing people are like this' or 'left-wing people think that' as if there were some authoritative source on which the claim was based. Lazy generalisations are not often funny, because they don't have that essential grain of truth behind them. Everybody knows they are just a straw man.

    It could have been funny, if the author had had a bit more imagination. Instead of writing it as a generalisation, he could have described an encounter with a self-righteous, ideological zealot of the type that he wants us to believe fits all left-wing people. Nobody disputes that some people like that exist. Tim Minchin shows how this is done well, and very funnily, in his song 'Storm'. Another good example is Bill Hicks' spiel about a zealot who wants American flag burning to be criminalised ('My daddy died for that flag!' 'Really? I bought mine. You know you can get them for three bucks at K-Mart').

    In both cases, the author protrays with excruciating wit and accuracy a repellent type of sanctimonious ideologue, without erring into the lazy, preachy territory of saying 'and everybody that does yoga / is upset by flag-burning is like that'.

    Sure, there are also left-wing comedians that make lazy, unfunny generalised accusations about right-wing people. Listening to them is like listening to a sermon in church - urk. So they tend to be the less successful ones. What I wonder is, where is the right-wing Bill Hicks or Tim Minchin? One thing is certain. It isn't Andy Shaw.
  • TheWillowOfDarkness
    1.5k
    I'd say it run deeper than just right-wing conservatives defending it. Classical liberalism is understood to be incapable of dealing with many issues important to the modern Left, for it fails to describe and deal with how the social environment impacts on the individual.

    In many contexts it would not be amiss to say that the classical liberal is a conservative and is targeted for failing to consider important issues.
  • jamalrob
    1.8k
    I know a lot of left-wing people and read a lot of left-wing journals and stuff, and although the piece is a caricature of a certain type of left-winger, I think it's an accurate one, of a type that has come to dominate the left (even if it's a minority). And if you think Tim Minchin and Bill Hicks are funny, well, there's no accounting for taste!

    It's true that conservatism is relative, and changes over time, but I think it's more complex. The Left has mostly abandoned the progressive and emancipatory in classical liberalism, without properly confronting its central conservatism, which is economic.
  • andrewk
    1.2k
    Wow, I got an email saying you replied. I tried for years to persuade PF to do that, with no success, other than an email at the end of the week saying who had replied - up to six days ago!
    Nice.
  • TheWillowOfDarkness
    1.5k
    Classical liberalism is sometimes economically conservative too. It's only progressive and emancipatory at certain points when it's demanded (e.g. socialism, workers rights, Marxism, economic polices which focus on building society). In the modern neo-liberal economic environment, it's also part of the politics which is doing nothing on economics. Classical liberals aren't confronting central conservatism on economics either.

    The disregard for classical liberalism goes to its understanding of the individual as without reference to identity. Out of post-moderism, the Left is describing many issues which the classic liberal dismisses or even considers contrary to principle to recognise. All too frequently, it outright suggests we ought to ignore issues (sometimes they are even economic) because all that matters is the universal identity of economic freedom. The classical liberal is considered "conservative" because they do not accept the distinctions of identity which allow the description of many social issues.
  • jamalrob
    1.8k
    The classical liberal is considered "conservative" because they do not accept the distinctions of identity which allow the description of many social issues.TheWillowOfDarkness

    But there are those on the Left, such us many Marxists, who do not accept identity politics either. I guess you would then say they're conservative, I don't know, but if so then your idea of what it is to be conservative has diverged from mine.
  • TheWillowOfDarkness
    1.5k


    Many would consider them part of the conservative team, yes. I'm not so sure I would call them conservative so readily because it doesn't fit their position so much. Classical liberals, since they tend to envision society as a question of free individuals interacting, share a certain distance from the social context in a manner similar to some conservatives-- if we just give everyone some basic freedoms, society will sort itself out and we won't have to think or describe too much about it.

    Marxist don't share this approach. Marxism actually one of the first instances of modern identity politics, where description of how society impacts people of particular identities becomes paramount. Their (part) rejection of identity politics tends not to be on the grounds it doesn't make sense (as with the classical liberal), but rather on a misattributed blame for the rise of neo-liberalism. Supposedly, identity politics (unless it's Marxism of course) has splintered society and got everyone so worried about trivial things that it can't effectively oppose neo-libealism. Meanwhile the neo-liberals are laughing all the way to the bank with how they've developed an economic culture where the involvement of government or socially concern economic policy is considered poisonous, to a point where even some Marxists are more worried about attacking proponents of identity politics than dealing with the economy.
  • jamalrob
    1.8k
    Marxist don't share this approach.TheWillowOfDarkness

    But some think that despite the shallowness of classical liberalism and its self-serving focus on property and formal freedoms, its emancipatory potential, such as it is, is under threat from identitarianism. From this point of view--my own, obviously--identity politics is conservative. And this is not just mud-slinging: one can see much in common between, for example, the identitarian notion of group rights, and communitarian conservatism. The reification of group identity is a related example: both the identitarian Left and traditional conservatives treat the individual as essentially black, white, etc., where these are understood as cultural essences. For both, the instinct is to slot an individual in his/her/etc place. Whether this is punching up or down is not in end fundamentally important, because they are reciprocally bound in the preservation of difference and the limitation of human potential.

    But you and I are not going to agree on that, I know.
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