X Close

Are you an extremist? Liberals have become too scared of conflict

Centrists aren't always right. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Centrists aren't always right. Spencer Platt/Getty Images


June 13, 2022   6 mins

Someone once came up to me at a party and said “Hello, I’m John Smith, I’m a vulgar Marxist”. I’m still waiting for someone to step up and introduce themselves as an extremist. People don’t do this, of course, any more than they go around calling themselves Fatty or Bumface. Extremists are always other people. I myself stand in the centre, a paragon of moderate, judicious judgement, while on the fringes of my vision I can detect a number of freaks and fanatics ready to create havoc.

The problem is that so can they. They think white supremacism is common sense, while far off to one side is a bunch of effete eggheads who are conspiring to destroy the white race. What could be more extremist than that? What some see as obvious, others see as outrageous. Producing commodities may seem an obvious way to run an economy, but it didn’t feel like that to Aristotle. He approved of amassing goods which are necessary for the household, but condemned trade and exchange as contrary to human nature. The pursuit of profit for its own sake struck some medieval thinkers as perverted and unnatural. It was contrary to human nature, and would never catch on. An observer from Alpha Centauri, casting an eye over the mind-warping inequalities of the modern world, might well feel there was something to be said for this quaintly archaic opinion.

So does the truth depend on where you happen to be standing? Not necessarily. The world is full of mind-warping inequalities wherever you are. You might claim that they can be evened up, or that any other system would be even worse, but you can’t deny that Bono once bought a first-class aircraft seat for one of his favourite hats to be flown back from New York to London while others were rummaging in garbage bins for food. Nor can you deny that there are a lot of freaks and fruitcakes out there. It’s just that describing them as extremists doesn’t help, because condemning extremes implies that the moderate centre ground is always the right place to stand.

This is plainly ridiculous. What is the centre ground between racism and anti-racism, or slavery and freedom? Is moderate anti-Semitism permissible? Perhaps we should model ourselves on Bill Clinton, of whom it was said that when he came to a fork in the road, he took it. It’s a case of what one might call the extreme centre. What’s wrong with racists and fascists isn’t that they are a long way from the middle ground — so were the Suffragettes — but the nature of their opinions. “Far” needn’t mean “extreme”. Those of us who are on the far-Left happen to regard our views as entirely reasonable. That’s why we hold them. There are also those like the historian A.J.P. Taylor, who when asked by an Oxford appointments committee whether it was true he had extreme political views replied that he did, but that he held them moderately.

No doubt the allures of the middle of the road are part of the British tradition of compromise and moderation. It is said that if UK citizens ever switch to driving on the right, they will do so gradually. The origins of this spirit of compromise can be found not in the inherent decency and tolerance of the British people, but in the fact that a long time ago the English middle class decided not to confront the aristocracy over the barricades. Instead, they drew on that class’s prestige and authority in order to advance their own agenda and preserve the deference of the lower orders. We recently witnessed an example of that deference outside Westminster Abbey. At the same time, however, we witnessed the booing of the Prime Minister, which suggests that people who swoon over a little old lady can also recognise a shyster when they see one.

It’s hard for some liberals to accept that there are conflicts one side is going to have to win and the other is going to have to lose. They find this kind of talk intransigent, while postmodernists dismiss it as “binary” and so as uncool. Postmodernism first took off in the United States, where binary thinking is deeply entrenched, and represents a reaction to it among other things. A lot about the USA starts to make sense once one recalls that its Puritan founders believed that a small group of individuals were saved while everyone else was damned. “The good guys and the bad guys” is a common American phrase. The cowboy movie is based on such Puritanism, while binarism has governed US foreign policy from the Cold War to Isis. Even the cult of political correctness is an example of it, as the elect zealously scrutinise the language of the reprobate for its impurities.

Consensus isn’t always to be preferred to conflict. There was much talk during the Jubilee of bringing people together, discovering what we have in common, binding up old wounds and settling ancient quarrels. The only problem is that this is a lot more acceptable to Prince Charles than it is to railway workers, who are going to have to fight if they are to keep their families fed. The goal of politics isn’t to paper over the cracks in society but to expose its divisions so that they can be repaired.

When in doubt, the liberal thinks of an equilibrium, but there are a great many issues on which we should throw balance to the winds. You can’t back the planet and the oil producers at the same time. There’s no middle way between rapists and anti-rapists. The point is not to accommodate the neo-fascists but to keep their hands off the levers of power. Behind the liberal’s addiction to balance lies the prejudice that conflict is bad in itself. But this, too, is surely absurd. It’s true that people shouldn’t be put in a situation where they have to fight. If the West hadn’t imposed colonial rule on other nations, those nations wouldn’t have needed to launch anti-colonial revolutions. If our ancestors hadn’t enslaved Africans, there would have been no call for slave uprisings. Given the circumstances, however, these struggles were entirely justified. Without them, apartheid would still reign in South Africa and Dublin Castle would still house a British Viceroy for the locals to take pot shots at. Finding conflict distasteful is fine for those whose interests are threatened by it.

There are, however, occasions when the middle ground is abruptly surrendered. The almost total exclusion of republican voices during the recent orgy of British self-adulation is a case in point. There are a large number of anti-royalists up and down the country, men and women who with the best will in the world can’t detect the slightest aura of mystery about Prince Andrew, but balance doesn’t extend to letting them speak. Instead, we have to make do with the views of a recovering royal, as conveyed to Oprah Winfrey.

Another case in point is the war in Ukraine. This, to be sure, is a matter on which one should be properly prejudiced. Putin’s morally obscene adventure has won the world-wide execration it deserves. Yet certain issues get quietly buried in the support for Russia’s bombed and tortured victims. What, for example, do we mean by European values, which Putin is said to be attacking? Is this another case of civilisation versus barbarism, as with the West versus radical Islam, and at what point might the contrast begin to merge into a genteel form of racism?

European values include freedom and democracy, which on any reckoning are precious commodities. Yet there are countries at the heart of Europe today where they are in notably short supply, not to speak of past dictatorships (Greece, Turkey) which managed to stay comfortably beneath the Nato umbrella. Was the illegal invasion of Iraq an instance of Western values? The European Union’s disgusting treatment of a bankrupt Greece some years ago doesn’t inspire much faith in the fineness of its civilisation. The same can be said about shipping refugees to Africa. An alarmingly large section of the European population support far-Right politics or outright fascism. Among them can be numbered armed Ukrainian groups like the Azov movement, which was identified as lying at the centre of global far-Right networks in a major investigation by Die Zeit. Some far-Right paramilitary groups were integrated into Ukraine’s state security apparatus by the former Interior Minister. You won’t hear much about that on Newsnight.

None of this justifies Putin’s murder of small children or his chauvinist fantasies of a Greater Russia. It just adds a little local colour. As for Russia’s nervousness of Nato, we are assured that the alliance is in no sense expansionist. It’s just that it keeps expanding. Like Topsy, it just growed. As in a game of grandmother’s footsteps, it creeps stealthily up on Russia until the nation swings round to try and catch it on the move, only to find it standing still wearing a look of injured innocence. It simply isn’t possible to view Russia’s bellicose nationalism outside the context of Nato’s increasing encroachment on its borders. When the United States felt threatened by the expansion of communism into Cuba, it invaded the island. It is of course by no means the only such adventure it has engaged in. Can we be sure that the barbarism is all on one side?

Nato presents itself as an association of equals, but it is in effect the military arm of the United States in Europe. This is why a former director of the CIA has described the war in Ukraine as a proxy war with Russia. This doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t be rooting for the Ukrainians. It means that viewed in global terms, this is not a confrontation between absolute goodies and unmitigated baddies, and that those who think it is are the victims of propaganda. Is this, then, a matter of standing in the centre? Not at all. What’s at stake isn’t some middle-of-the-roadism but an alternative world in which nuclear-armed superpowers would have ceased to exist.


Terry Eagleton is a critic, literary theorist, and UnHerd columnist.


Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

74 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago

I guess from the viewpoint of academia, so thoroughly left wing now for at least a generation, everything outside their worldview looks like “right wing extremism”.

One wonders if they’ll ever have their “Wait. You mean we’re the bad guys?” moment, but they seem too far gone now.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago

They never will. I recommend Counter Wokecraft by Charles Pincourt and James Lindsay. The book lays out, in detail, the bad faith debating techniques, evident in spades in this article, that the woke use to advance their agenda.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
2 years ago

Unherd censored my comment when I called him out on this.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago

“What is the centre ground between racism and anti-racism” asks the author.

The answer, that he doesn’t seem to see is the simple idea that we are one race and that the existence of separate races is an unscientific 18th century concept that should be jettisoned. I am certainly not racist but neither am I anti-racist which seems to be simply another form of racism. Only an idiot considers the colour of a man’s skin indicates anything of fundamental importance about him as a person – something both racists and anti-racists seem to subscribe to.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

The pro vs anti examples TE uses are often specious, JB is right. I was struck by the argument that ‘there’s no middle ground between rapists and anti-rapists..’ – well, no, but who would ever describe themselves as ‘anti-rapist’ on their CV? Or ‘pro-rapist’, which would be the actual opposite term
? I’m sort of anti-death and anti-punching-people-unexpectedly, but struggling to find the middle ground between my position and those other (err..) straw men who are in favour of both.

Brack Carmony
Brack Carmony
2 years ago

For an article lamenting the binary thinking of the states, then says there’s no middle ground between two positions is a bit rich. Clearly if racism was a binary it could be as simple as racist and anti-racist, but it’s not, the very fact that it isn’t binary means there are tons of things in the ‘middle’
Even something starker as the rapist example, there are a myrid of ways to attempt to prevent rape. We could require that all men be jailed to prevent rape, or we could give women self defense classes, those are both anti-rape positions, but they are clearly not the same position.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
2 years ago
Reply to  Brack Carmony

So-called anti-racism is deeply and disgustingly racist. We shouldn’t tolerate it.

harry storm
harry storm
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

There can’t be a centre-ground between so-called “anti”-racism and racism because anti-racism IS racism. However, if one posits that anti-racism is different from racism — even though it isn’t — then non-racism would be the middle ground, and a very comfortable middle ground at that, based on colour-blindness, meritocracy, etc.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
2 years ago

If our ancestors hadn’t enslaved Africans, there would have been no call for slave uprisings.
Ah, so it’s perfectly fine for Africans to enslave other Africans and for Arabs to enslave Africans, both of which had been going on for centuries before the Europeans showed up. It’s just something that white people shouldn’t do. Good to know.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago

It’s nice to know that they’ve airbrushed the main reason why apartheid was dismantled when it was: the collapse of communism and USSR funded international revolution meant that Marxist militants in southern Africa had lost their funding and support and the DeKlerk et al decided it was as safe a time as ever to open up.

Forty years of sanctions and international protests achieved very little by comparison, despite the self aggrandisement of left wing radicals everywhere.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 years ago

and why does no one look at the economic, financial, commercial, cultural, and non- democratic disaster that the continent of Africa is now, and start asking the question… ” Why”?…… Because the answer will cause prosecution for ” racism?

Andy Butler
Andy Butler
2 years ago

Same could probably be said of the Northern Ireland conflict. There’s little doubt that the Provos received help from the USSR.

William Adams
William Adams
2 years ago

And don’t forget the Africans (Barbary pirates) who enslaved white Europeans in their millions during the 17th~19th centuries.

Last edited 2 years ago by William Adams
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

There is a major problem with this type of thinking, a problem that borders on racism – if it is acceptable/excusable for Middle-Eastern and African people to hold slaves and not Euopeans the implication is that somehow Europeans should know and behave better because they are expected to be more moral than the “poor benighted heathen”. Doesn’t this smack of racial superiority?

Giles Toman
Giles Toman
1 year ago

Yes it does. But, that is to be expected. If we Europeans entirely sink to this level, and feel OK about it, the world is going to be in trouble.

Zak Orn
Zak Orn
2 years ago

“What is the centre ground between racism and anti-racism” If you took those words at face value there is indeed no middle ground, but we live in a topsy-turvy world now where progressives have butchered language, in this world the middle ground would be… not being a racist (that’s the centre, where most people already are). Unfortunately words have lost meaning, the “anti-racists” are often racists, the new generation of “liberals” aren’t liberal, and the “anti-fascists” don’t even know what fascism is. 
I don’t think classical liberals are scared of conflict, they just don’t get involved with the daily manufactured grievances the “progressives” come up with. 

Charlie Quick
Charlie Quick
2 years ago
Reply to  Zak Orn

The terms anti-racist and racist, in so far as they’re both racist, remind me of the distinction between, a gnostic atheist and a gnostic theist. Supposedly opposite stances but so similar as they are both gnostic. To take neither stance is to be the other, when they’re actually agnostics who frankly couldn’t care less and dont want to waste their time on an fruitless debate.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 years ago
Reply to  Zak Orn

can someone please define ” racist”?!!!

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
2 years ago

Whitey.

Simon Tavanyar
Simon Tavanyar
2 years ago

It used to be simple: one who marginalizes and stirs resentment against individuals not because of their actions but because of their race. Now it just means “breathing” if you were born Caucasian.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
2 years ago

“Racist” means “Black Lives Matter activist”.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
2 years ago
Reply to  Zak Orn

“the “anti-racists” are often racists”
*the “anti-racists” are always racists
Excellent comment otherwise.

Chris Whybrow
Chris Whybrow
2 years ago

The reason why “NATO keeps provoking Russia by expanding” is because Russia keeps provoking its neighbours into joining, and the existence of Far Right militias in Ukraine pales in comparison to the scale of the misery Putin has inflicted on the world. The Russo-Ukrainian War is about as binary a conflict as you can get.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Whybrow

The NATO expansion is a false justification, Putin himself recently said it’s essentially a land grab in Ukraine comparing himself to Peter the Great. As you say, none of those countries that joined NATO were forced into doing so, they joined because they were fearful of Russian aggression and realised they realistically weren’t strong enough to defend themselves on their own. Putins actions in taking swathes of territory from Georgia and Ukraine show they were probably right to do so

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
2 years ago

One thing you’ve got to hand the left wingers like this writer is that their views are utterly predictable and meaningless.

William Adams
William Adams
2 years ago

He’s a “critic and literary theorist”, thus eminently qualified to pontificate on all subjects.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

I agree, but it’s also the same with right wingers; their views are utterly predictable and can often be meaningless too.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
2 years ago

Actually I believe this to be untrue. Peter Hitchens. ‘Obviously’ a rabid Tory? But he favours a nationalised railway.
The most important thing for a left-winger is not to have left-wing beliefs per se, but for all left-wingers to hold the same beliefs simultaneously and to publicly advertise the fact, a fact demonstrated most easily on Twitter.

Last edited 2 years ago by Arnold Grutt
Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
2 years ago

I detect no danger of Terry moving to the centre ground when he refers to the ‘railway workers, who are going to have to fight if they are to keep their families fed.’
(So difficult to make ends meet on ÂŁ60,000 a year.)

William Perry
William Perry
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

Quite. This household’s income is barely half that, and yet we haven’t starved yet, nor had to use food banks or demand handouts.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

Actually some railway workers are not paid that much – guards get ÂŁ30-35k; conductors >ÂŁ30k. Not low-paid by any means but not the ÂŁ55k – ÂŁ65k that train drivers get paid.

Mark Turner
Mark Turner
2 years ago

Thats the problem we have though isnt it, you, on the left think your views are reasonable and fine and anyone who’s views are to the right are fascists, extremists and beyond the pale…likewise the weak argument about the middle graound, – of course there is no acceptable middle ground between rapists and anti rapists, thats childish in the etxreme, but however, there is plenty of middle ground on the race, gender ideaology and political playing fields. For example, me thinking that immigration needs managing carefully and there is a problem with, within a generation sowing the seeds for the majorty of people within this country to become black and asian does NOT make me racist or extremist, it just makes me someone who has a differing view from yours – I happen to think that a sensible proportion of immigrants is a good thing, just that we are well past that sensible proportion now. My view is just as valid as yours and not a whif of racism or extremism there at all….I have nothing against differntly coloured people etc per se, I simply dont want their culture taking over mine……In much the same way we defended this country from another culture taking over 70 years ago…….

Nunya Business
Nunya Business
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Turner

I would posit there is a middle ground even on rapist and anti-rapist. For example, “She could reduce her risk of assault by avoiding excess alcohol intake at the house party.” This is not a statement as to how the world should be, but a statement of how the world is. Many Twitterati, however, place the mere utterance of this or similar sentiments on par with being a rapist.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Nunya Business

Exactly. We have to live in the world as it is, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t try to improve it, only that we have to acknowledge it as it currently is. If a young woman totters down a dark alley whilst half cut she is risking an attack, again, I’m not saying that she deserves it, but she is placing herself at risk because of the way the world is.

Nhoj Drib
Nhoj Drib
2 years ago

Yes indeed. Anybody who drinks to excess and then totters down a dark alley is asking for trouble. But that does not mitigate the actions of an attacker. Their responsibility is to help that foolish person to a place of safety not to take advantage of them.

Fran Barrett
Fran Barrett
2 years ago

‘The almost total exclusion of republican voices during the recent orgy of British self-adulation is a case in point. There are a large number of anti-royalists up and down the country, men and women who with the best will in the world can’t detect the slightest aura of mystery about Prince Andrew, but balance doesn’t extend to letting them speak.’
Whilst there are numerous contentious corkers in this oafish article (or is it a spoof?!), the above paragraph captures Tezza’s monstrous political ego perfectly. The Platinum Jubilee was a celebration of our monarch’s 70 year reign, shared by millions of her subjects at home and overseas, a very happy long weekend of unity from what i experienced and observed. But NO! Why weren’t Tezza and his mates given the opportunity and airtime to be anti-everything and protesting about all sorts of stuff and spoiling everyone’s fun?! Perhaps he did what i suggested to a Republican friend – stay at home all weekend and pull the legs off spiders………

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Fran Barrett

I wan’t actually aware that anti-royalists were prevented from speaking; I have anti-royalist friends and neighbours who were very vocal. However, there is a difference between having the right to speak and having the right to be listened to; I reserve the right to not listen when the speaker is just ranting.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
2 years ago

Twitter was a complete ‘republican’ anti-monarchist beanfest for about a week. This point of view is so heavily suppressed to the extent of every mention of it only gaining anything from tens to thousands, and occasionally even hundreds of thousands of likes and retweets.
Eagleton is actually an establishment figure.

Last edited 2 years ago by Arnold Grutt
Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
2 years ago

I think it was Steven Pinker who said something about this. I hope I got that right. He called it the North Pole effect. He was talking about left wingers but I think it’s more generally applicable. If you stand on the north pole then whichever way you face is south. The north pole represents left wing opinions and any other view is south or right wing. Of course a right winger standing on the south pole might see all views as left wing.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Except left wing opinion is often little different to right at the extremes. I remember comparing Fascist Spanish propaganda with Czech Communist propaganda with a Czech friend and they were almost indistinguishable in substance. The German National Socialist Workers party was merely an extreme nationalist form of Socialism as the name of the party implied.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray
harry storm
harry storm
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Oh no not again. The Nazi party was an extreme right party, as evidenced by 1) Hitler’s hatred of socialists and communists; 2) the support Nazis received from big industry; 3) the support Nazis received from other far-right parties like Hugenberg’s Nationalists; and 4) Hitler’s racial policies.
The fact that Hitler’s party had “socialist” in its name is about as meaningful as the “democratic” in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, i.e. North Korea.

William Adams
William Adams
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Poles apart, indeed.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
2 years ago

Zero-sum thinking is the mark of any true zealot, and it’s used liberally here. The author states “you can’t back the planet and oil producers at the same time” reducing a very complicated set of economic, environmental, and societal problems to ‘good’ and ‘evil’, and then, of course, cites something nearly universally loathed, rape, as the analogous good vs. evil. Classic bait and switch. There’s no debate, no nuance, just good and evil, the faithful and the heretic, the pure and the unclean. To quote a favorite pop-culture phrase, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

burke schmollinger
burke schmollinger
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

I read that line about oil companies and all I can think is nothing has done more to reduce our use of coal in the US than the fracking revolution. And much of the modern coal use dates to Jimmy Carter, the Proto-Progressive President who had to deal with massive oil shortages and required the diversification of energy (ie burn more coal, not oil or gas).

The Manichaeans are boring generally, but when they get into complex issues it becomes unbearable.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago

I used to live in a town that had 17 clones of this author serving on its council. Every decision they made was a disaster, the city hemorrhaged money, businesses closed, drug addicts OD’d at ten in the morning on Main Street. The Terryclones simply couldn’t see beyond their own ill considered, ego-based articles of faith. We sold up and moved to Florida.

Cantab Man
Cantab Man
2 years ago

“Postmodernism first took off in the United States, where binary thinking is deeply entrenched, and represents a reaction to it among other things.”

A dominant ideology and its adherents who hold power do not like a challenge, even when the whole movement is running headlong over a cliff.

Postmodernism was a liberal challenge to conservative orthodoxy in order to unfreeze the rigid standards and change them.

But once the liberal challenge was successful, many liberals turned radical progressive and jettisoned the remaining Classic Liberals from their midst.

Now that the Left is fully dominant in the US within the government, academia, business and the media, postmodernism is jettisoned and in its place is the same binary rigidity that conservatives held 70 years earlier.

To suggest that there may be another side (or 10) that’s worth listening to even if it’s uncomfortable is now far more accepted/acceptable on the Right than the Left. And this is why Classic Liberals, Libertarians and Conservatives are often aligned against the fanatical Progressive movements of today. Something unthinkable 70 years ago.

Last edited 2 years ago by Cantab Man
Richard Craven
Richard Craven
2 years ago

“What is the centre ground between racism and anti-racism …?”
Not being racist, you moron.
“Those of us who are on the far-Left happen to regard our views as entirely reasonable.”
Own your fascism.
“We recently witnessed an example of that deference outside Westminster Abbey.”
Whenever you lot get hold of the levers of power, terror, torture, famine, and mass murder inevitably follow. We’re grateful to the Monarchy for its 330 year role in preventing this.
“The point is not to accommodate the neo-fascists but to keep their hands off the levers of power.”
Stunning lack of self-awareness.
“An alarmingly large section of the European population support far-Right politics or outright fascism.”
Your own Marxism is outright fascism.

Last edited 2 years ago by Richard Craven
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 years ago

This “Wokeism” era reminds me of my adolescent days in the late 1960’s…. My parents and their ilk were convinced that anarcho communism was on the verge of destroying the world… Viet Nam, where no other country would support America, the draft, and its protest, the long haired, Afghan coated hippies, and the ” come the revolution” pop groups, Paris ’68, The free sex and pop festivals all proclaiming the revolution, race riots, Rhodesia, Britain facing an exodus from Aden, Israel Arab conflict…… Northern Ireland brewing, and yet, it all faded, and disappeared, like the then pop stars, now found farming estates, shooting, judging Fox Hounds and sending their kids to smart public schools, and the ” come the revolutionites” perhaps all becoming line managers, local authority clerks or solicitors.

However, as there were no mobile phones or internet, it all travelled more slowly: summer holidays on the Italian Riviera dei Fiori were devoid of would be hippies,and revolutionaries, and short haired young men preferred big motorcycles, monogrammed hand made shirts, hand tooled loafers … and yet by the 1970s The Red Brigade appeared in Italy….

Perhaps it it is ” plus ca change’ and change back?

William Adams
William Adams
2 years ago

Marxists like Terry subscribe to the BLM school of race relations. They sneer at Martin Luther King’s message.

Last edited 2 years ago by William Adams
David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago

Well, I do know, that were I in Europe, I would be an extremist, far-right in particular. In Europe to be a far-right extremist, it suffices to have noticed that every fiqh of Islamic sharia is deeply illiberal and to conclude as a result that unfettered immigration to the West from the Islamic world is a very bad idea, and to say so publicly. I have noticed this and drawn the conclusion (and as you may notice just said so publicly).
On my side of the Pond, I’m not sure that makes me an extremist. Here, I suspect the fact that I regard the statistics about black-on-black violence and black-on-police violence as vitiating the dominant narrative about racism being the cause of police shootings of unarmed black suspects (and the fact that I won’t as a matter of course capitalize black in reference to people of sub-Saharan African ancestry), and moreover regard the biological fact of human sexual dimorphism as relevant to public policy suffices.
Of course, in a rational world, I would most assuredly be regarded as a moderate: my economics is thoroughly Hayekian (including embracing his views on universal basic incomes and a state role in health insurance — properly so called, not pre-paid health care, insurance against unforeseen catastrophic expensed due to the need for medical care) and my political philosophy is Lockean, even if I have some sympathy for pre-Enlightenment view (being an Eastern Orthodox Christian, tends to give one sympathy for monarchist positions, even if one really doesn’t fully embrace them).
Alas, we live in an irrational world, and as a Lockean, I will echo Barry Goldwater, “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

Last edited 2 years ago by David Yetter
Richard Craven
Richard Craven
2 years ago
Reply to  David Yetter

You’re a good bloke.

J O
J O
2 years ago

‘You can’t back the planet and the oil producers at the same time.’
Stopped reading this nonsense right there. There is a perfectly rational argument for backing current oil production and future world saving and whatnot. The modern world currently runs on oil and you simply cannot shut off the taps. Its that blessed simple.
Personally, I have embraced the fact that I am an extremist in the viewpoint of many of my fellow Americans. We live in a bizzaro world and, as far as I can tell, being a sane rational person makes you an extremist.

Heather Erickson
Heather Erickson
2 years ago
Reply to  J O

Fellow American here! Could not agree with you more. Being sane is extreme these days. Like you believe a woman is born a woman?? No way, dude!

Robert Gibson
Robert Gibson
2 years ago

His comparison between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the US-backed assault on Cuba in April 1961 is far too close. The “Bay of Pigs” fiasco was an invasion of Cuban exiles trained and financed by the US. It was not a full-blown attack by the US military, who pleaded in vain for Kennedy to give them the go-ahead.

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
2 years ago

Hmm. Those “Puritan founders” of the United States wanted to build their Utopian “City on a Hill,” a place where they could impose conformity to their norms. That Utopia did not tolerate tolerance.
Meanwhile, the author leaves out those other “founders”–like the folks who settled Virginia or ventured beyond the mountains into the Ohio River Valley. They just wanted to make a buck and be left alone.
Today’s progressives may perceive themselves as liberal, but they’re not. They just want to impose their neo-Puritan vision on the rest of us.
Religious Freedom: Who Cares?The neo-Puritanical will to build a “City on a Hill” motivates a militant cultural imperialism.https://dvwilliamson.substack.com/p/religious-freedom-why-we-should-care
Only Progressives think they’re Liberal.One person’s concept of the “common good” does violence to another person’s individual rights.https://dvwilliamson.substack.com/p/stop-calling-progressives-liberals

Henry Haslam
Henry Haslam
2 years ago

if one is seeking truth, wisdom or understanding, one may well end up with an extreme opinion. Fine.
Politics is different, especially if votes have a say. Here, we are right to seek some kind of middle way, a way that is acceptable to all. It was Margaret Thatcher’s aim (and achievement) to move the middle ground.

harry storm
harry storm
2 years ago

Eagleton talks about NATO “expansion” as though NATO were a conquering force steadily gaining territory until it reaches Russia’s borders. Like so many lefties (and others), he completely ignores the democratic wishes of the countries that pleaded to join NATO because of their extremely justifiable (and historical) fear of Russian domination. Also, like all lefties, he gives us the usual mash about the Iraq invasion, British imperialism, blah blah blah, as a “whatabout, whatabout” counter to the West’s condemnation of Russia’s invasion. Frankly, I find him quite revolting.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago

White Europeans didn’t invent slavery and reported rape incidents massively increased in post – apartheid South Africa.

Nhoj Drib
Nhoj Drib
2 years ago

I really enjoyed this article because for once I found myself reading the opinions that I hold, only expressed coherently. I was then amazed and distressed to find a barrage of disagreement expressed in the comments. I am beginning to find a nasty tide of opinion growing in the country nicely encapsulated in the conservative back benchers who seem to drive Boris. I am not really interested in labels. I am neither Tory nor Socialist, neither woke( whatever that new fangled word means) or I awoke. My only loyalty, and the source of my moral compass, is to the values of JC as captured in the Biblical accounts of his actions and teachings. All of the evils referred to in the article and responding comments can be judged against the Sermon on the Mount. Ultimately by the two commandments Jesus emphasised -Love God and Love your neighbour. It’s not complicated to understand although of course difficult to follow. Finally I do not understand how being anti-racist can be construed to be a form of racism. Being anti vegan is not a form of veganism. They are both philosophies of life but that’s a different matter. Have a happy productive day trying to make the world a better place.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago

Cutting the King’s head off was not particularly deferential, nor was creating a huge army and killing thousands of his supporters in battle.

William Adams
William Adams
2 years ago

The only explanation is that they are reduced to scraping the bottom of the barrel. Perhaps they only pay a pittance.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
2 years ago

I believe in Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt’s notion that the political is the distinction between friend and enemy. I.e., there is no politics without an enemy.
So, naturally we all think of people that think like we do as nice fuzzy centrists that get together down the pub. Whereas people that disagree with us are enemies. And we agree with Capt. Hastings, viewing his vandalized Lagonda, that “hanging’s too good for some people.”
Yes, what DO you think about extremists that vandalize Lagondas?

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
2 years ago

I think that Aston Martin provides skilled and fulfilling employment to thousands of hardworking people, and if Capt. Hastings whoever he is wants to buy a Lagonda, good for him.
And I’m an aggressively anti-woke conservative with some classical liberal sympathies, not a nice fuzzy centrist, so speak for yourself.

Last edited 2 years ago by Richard Craven
Haza Picton
Haza Picton
2 years ago

Don’t think most people would call u extremist for those views? I mean right of centre for some of them sure but we’ve had a democratically elected conservative government in the UK for the last 12 years who agree with most of that so are you really saying 43% of the electorate are being consistently called extremist? Don’t think it really adds up and is more a boogie man image of a few people on the left taken out of context

Haza Picton
Haza Picton
2 years ago

Thanks Terry, interesting article about liberalism and instinctive centralism

Johnny Patillo
Johnny Patillo
2 years ago

It is so hard to discern the left from the right these days. Even if one lightly questions the USA’s undying love for Israel they are accused of being antisemitic.If one points out how gun laws did not stop crime in Central American countries then that person is a paranoid White Supremest. I guess the best move right now is to wait untill the USA is nolonger a functional sosciaty. Then we can try something new.

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
2 years ago

Sophistry

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
2 years ago

“The almost total exclusion of republican voices during the recent orgy of British self-adulation is a case in point.”

Yes, it’s rather like going to a jazz concert, which of course excludes by definition any other type of music. This is not ‘disappearing’, ‘suppressing’ or ‘handicapping’ non-Jazz music fans. In fact it doesn’t involve even thinking about them at all. Yet more thought-free BS from Eagleton.

Last edited 2 years ago by Arnold Grutt
Richard Katz
Richard Katz
2 years ago

One small complaint for the author:

model ourselves on Bill Clinton, of whom it was said that when he came to a fork in the road, he took it

The quote is “When you come to a fork in the road, take it,” was said by Yogi Berra well before Clinton even got into politics.

Johnny West
Johnny West
2 years ago

Totally agree with the main point, and here’s a quick way to self-diagnose. Ask yourself if there is any significant issue on which you hold an “extreme” (non-mainstream… let’s define this as outside the Overton Window) opinion? If not, you are an unthinking liberal. This doesn’t mean of course that you then have to rush off to join an ideology which rejects the mainstream to every particular, which would be just as mindless. Healthiest is most likely to be holding a mixture of views some of which are mainstream and some of which are not – although you shouldn’t hold any particular view for that reason! Funnily enough this is a key factor in the shrinking of the space of free speech… because opinions then become determined largely by social positioning… otherwise known as virtue signaling (which is imho ubiquitous along the political spectrum, as Eagleton points out).

Tommy Abdy Collins
Tommy Abdy Collins
2 years ago

‘If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear’.
However I am delighted to see that UnHerd has cancelled Arnaud Almaric, whose recent controversial remarks were well ‘beyond the pale’.

chris redman
chris redman
2 years ago

Many women’s experiences of Sexism and Blacks experiences of Racism have left many of them hurt and angry and feeling powerless and outside the charmed white male world. That seems to be OK with many of the commentators in this discussion. However anti-racism and anti-sexism are the best intellectual tools for white men to use to change their attitudes and behaviour and to reduce some of the damage done in this society.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  chris redman

Racist and sexist