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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Thou shalt not criticize an establishment pundit

For media establishment pundits ranging from lowly tabloid hacks all the way up to the Brahmins of academic political correctness, the world seems to be a much more intellectually hostile place since September 11 2001. Previously unchallenged opinions about the way the world works are now being judged under the harsh light of reality cast by two burning skyscrapers in New York.

One of the good things to come out of the horrors of that day is that the western world, or at least the dynamic Anglosphere part of it, is undergoing a most astonishing intellectual ‘shake out’. The system is in a state of flux and it is unclear what the zeitgeist is going to feel like when it all starts to settle down again. One thing is for sure, it will be different.

Former prince of the statist ‘left’ Christopher Hitchens is a striking example of this process. Whilst always articulate and insightful, it seems he is also possessed of a critically rational mind capable of simply jettisoning the demonstrably false when the evidence deems that the correct thing to do. One only has to read his devastating carve-up of former fellow travellers like Noam Chomsky to see just how far he has come. In his article in the Guardian called “Ha ha ha to the pacifists” he pours scorn on those who would side with the vilest regimes in the world and claim moral superiority.

Of course people do not like being proved wrong, and they like others pointing out their cock-ups even less. Last night I was listening to pundit-lite Michael Brunson on the TV reviewing the early editions of the British newspapers. At one point he became almost apoplectic with a double page spread in the print version of The Sun (a low-brow tabloid) titled ‘Shame of the Traitors’. This article quotes the Guardian, New Statesman, the Independent, the Mirror, members of Parliament, members of the European ‘Parliament’ and sundry others. All made dire predictions about the war, questioned the morality of it and scorned its progress.

So was Michael Brunson angry that the pundits had got it so wrong? Hell no! He was outraged that a lowly tabloid like The Sun had questioned the motivation of people making clearly ridiculous unsupported claims to the point they could be described as giving ‘aid and comfort to the enemy’. He said “I fail to see the point of this whole article” and “Why should they criticize people for saying that they believe?”.

To give you some idea of what the people whose ‘honour’ Michael Brunson was defending were actually writing:

“Opposition leaders about to quit battle against Taliban. US blunders leave key fighters disillusioned. Key Afghan opposition commanders are on the verge of abandoning the fight against the Taliban because their confidence in US military strategy has collapsed. Insurgents are no longer willing to infiltrate eastern Taliban-controlled Afghanistan because they believe American blunders are destroying the opportunity to spread revolt against the Islamist regime.”

Rory Carroll, the Guardian, November 9: the day Mazar-i-Sharif fell to the Northern Alliance! This ‘news’ is either Taliban propaganda, astonishingly bad reporting or simply made up to suit Rory Carroll’s anti-Americanism. Take your pick.

“If the Northern Alliance does take Kabul on, the battle is likely to be very bloody. The recent successes of the Northern Alliance are unsurprising but it will take more than carpet bombing to win southern Afghanistan.”

Richard Norton-Taylor, the Guardian, November 13: The recent successes are… unsurprising? I guess Norton-Taylor was not reading the Guardian on November 9 beacuse if he had, he should have been utterly astonished that the Northern Alliance was winning! Moreover in reality Kabul fell with a whimper, not a roar.

“The message we want to get out is simple – stop the bombing…Recognize that bombing pleases one person above all others – Osama bin Laden.”

Tam Dalyell, Labour Member of Parliament, November 1: so if the Taliban and Al Qaeda were asked “would you like the bombing to continue or stop?”… presumably Tam Dayell would have us believe that they would say “Continue, we would like some more of that invigorating bombing please”.

Judging from Michael Brunson’s remarks, it seems that being correct is not a very important part of a pundit’s job. However what is really important is not to point out the stupidity of other pundits or, even worse, that a great chunk of what they said was proved by events to be completely incorrect. That simply is not cricket!

And higher up the established media food chain, no wonder they really hate people like Christopher Hitchens, as he cannot be dismissed as a mere hack for some boorish English tabloid… not only is he making the doves of the ‘left’ and ostriches of the ‘right’ look extremely bad, he is an apostate who has been attacking Sauron Chomsky himself. Hitchens is actually calling himself a libertarian these days. As Bob Dylan sang: Oh the times, they are a’ changin’

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