Tweet Checking: The Grotesque Left That Thinks Albert Speer Had More Integrity than Tony Blair
The major problem with the moral psychology of many people today is this idea that because they believe the right things, signal the right things, and have an undying sense of their own decency, they are therefore “good people” and everything they do is “good” because of it. The fact, this is first position of being able to commit the most atrocious crimes and still be able to excuse them—“Hey! I’m good! Okay? Evil ain’t my bag!”
This total lack of introspection has been forced onto to us through various means, from Disney movies to viewpoint theory, and the result has been that people hold themselves as somehow absent from history, as though they are always a little bit outside of it, not affected by its forces, and able to stand back and comment as though they were watching TV, all the while indulging in comforting and convenient lies, and dismissing unpleasant and discomforting truths.
The truth is: nobody is excused from history, nor the darker regions of human psychology. Something like “I could never be a concentration camp guard!” is a facile and ahistorical approach to a question of moral being.
The lesson of thinkers like Zygmunt Bauman is that anybody could in the right circumstances could easily fill that role in a mechanised system. A guarded defence should not be your go-to, but a more direct question to the self: what evil exists or could arise within me, and how do I stop it directing my actions to bring evil into the world?
5. Otto English
I really do like Otto English; if you aren’t subbed to him on Twitter you really should be; but I can’t let this pass. Now I know that hatred of Piers Morgan can blind one so badly as to make mistakes, so in doing this I’m not being punitive as much as I’m living up to the original mission of this column: Tweet *Checking*.
The essay in question, “Shooting an Elephant”, is collected in my Penguin edition of Orwell’s Essays, and has no indication that it is allegorical. The editor of Orwell’s Complete Works once interviewed one of Orwell’s contemporaries who confirmed that the then colonial policeman had indeed been transferred as a punishment for shooting an elephant, and also that when asked by a biographer on the truth of the matter, his late wife Sonia Brownell replied: "Of course he shot a fucking elephant. He said he did. Why do you always doubt his word![?]"
4. Matt Zarb-Cousins
“Effectively backs” membership of the single market?
Michel Barnier would differ on that, claiming that May’s "facilitated customs arrangement" would open “up the risk of major fraud, additional bureaucracy and damage to EU businesses”.
Alex Barker in the Financial Times discussed the so-called ‘Chequers Deal’, noting that: “Services, which cover 80 per cent of Britain’s economy, are largely skirted over.” If services aren’t included, then there’s no way it can be said that the deal accepts single market membership. In addition to this: “The cabinet agreed to retain “regulatory flexibility” and accept less EU market access as a result.” Doesn’t sound like single market membership at all.
As Jonathan Portes, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at King's College, writes: “The good news [of the deal] does not extend to services trade. Here, there would be no common rulebook. And since services in general are not subject to tariffs or border controls, these provisions would do little or nothing to mitigate the impacts – primarily new non-tariff barriers – of leaving the single market.” He literally wrote the book on capitalism, so he should know: without alignment or common rules on services, we leave the single market.
As to what is aligned, namely on goods trade, Blair claiming that this is “the worst of all worlds” is completely correct because, as he writes, despite it’s intentions, the deal “won't work, won't end the argument and will simply mean a confused outcome in which we continue to abide by Europe’s rules [on goods] whilst losing our say over them.” The Chequers Deal doesn’t provide for EEA or EFTA membership to adjudicate on these issues.
It’s all another case of a barely disguised Labour surrogate attempting to uphold the Dear Leader’s mushed-up positio
3. Darren Grimes
You saw it here first ladies and gentlemen: the Leave Campaign embracing gay identity politics in an attempt to muddy the waters.
I think the alleged “snobbery” on people pointing out that Grimes was a fashion student has nothing to do without some latent homophobia, but more to do with people thinking: who the fuck is this little twerp whose political allegiances have waved radically, took some £675,000 off Vote Leave in violation of electoral law, and then ended up with a cushy job at the Institute for Economic Analysis.
The pro-EU movement has no—and should not have—any honour towards anyone who crusades against them just because of his sexuality. The results of Grimes’ actions will egregiously damage the livelihoods of Northern working class people, so playing that card as well is equally disgraceful.
2. Owen Jones
It’s not bad enough having to defend Piers Morgan (or at least confront a wrongful attack on him) in one column, I now have to defend capitalism—or at least confront some juvenile understanding of history. Communism is suddenly in vogue again, even if its proponents don’t seem to know what it is, and Jones is jumping on the bandwagon.
The “international slave trade”—by which I think he means the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade—is taken to begin in 1526 with the first trans-Atlantic slave voyage, well before most theorists consider capitalism to be in existence.
Colonialism itself appears as a factor of this earlier period, the model of political economy at the time being what economic historians now call mercantilism, not usually taken to be a form of capitalism, or if it is, in its most primitive form.
By the advent of industrial capitalism in the early 19th century, the trans-Atlantic slave trade was being oppressed by the British Empire, capitalism’s greatest proponent. And of course, slave trading has existed across history; the trans-Atlantic slave trade was but an extension of an African slave trade that had stretched up northwards through the Islamic caliphates and back east across the Indian Ocean for centuries.
What makes a famine “imperialist” exactly? The Irish Potato Famine was a terrible tragedy, but the sluggish response of British authorities probably had more to do with Malthusian and racialist thinking than imperialist attitudes—and you can’t rule out economic and land problems in Ireland that go back centuries to a pre-capitalist period. There is a general consensus that famines in India were aggravated by British rule, but pre-colonial India had a history of devastating famines, and the problem of malnutrition continues to this day.
You cannot say that fascism is directly a result of capitalism: one of the most important progenitors of fascism was Maurice Barrès, who coined the term “national socialism”, which he defined as “an ideology that incorporated the working class into national solidarity.” Important proto-fascist thinkers, included Georges Sorel, who praised violence and myth while hating democracy, intellectuals, and Jews, all in the name of the workers’ struggle, as well as groups such as the Cercle Proudhon, named for the mutualist anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, that worked to create a new what Zeev Sternhell surmised as “a society dominated by a powerful avant-garde, a proletarian elite, an aristocracy of producers, joined in alliance against the decadent bourgeoisie with an intellectual youth avid for action. When the time came, it would not be difficult for a synthesis of this kind to take on the name of fascism.” Mussolini spent much of his early political life as a socialist, and there’s a reason why they called it National *Socialism* at the beginning (even if Hitler himself grew to hate it). This is not to say that fascism is a form of socialism, nor deny that fascism was expressed in a capitalist form (it always invariably was), but fascism as an ideology is syncretic in origin and a product of nationalist modernity more than anything else, an attempt to fuse authoritarian views of the national mythos with a non-liberal model of political economy (usually corporatism or some form of class collaborationism). The attempt at a syncretic reconciliation between these disparate elements carries on to this day.
To reduce World War One to “an explosive clash between rival expansionist capitalist states”, as Jones does in a later defensive tweet (below) is to essentially both gloss over both the causes of war throughout history (expansive war has existed across history long before capitalism) and to ironically ignore the genocidal plans of the German Empire which were unique to them (and which the Nazis ultimately carried on), as the contemporary historian Arnold Toynbee quotes in his pamphlet The Destruction of Poland: “[According to witnesses] the Germans are intentionally bringing about a famine in the country, in order to compel the male population to emigrate to Germany.” (See also: Mitteleuropa Plan.)
Notice however that colonialism and imperialism is directly the result of capitalism, whereas the Holodomor is merely “a horror of Stalinism”, not a horror of communism.
“Unparalleled horror” you say? I really wouldn’t be so bold.
1. Harry Leslie Smith
It is truly perplexing that a World War Two veteran—and supposedly so proud of it—could write such a thing.
On the one hand, you have Tony Blair, universally hated for the Iraq War (which neither me nor my good editor ever supported), but so loved by Kosovar Albanians that many named their sons after him for saving them from genocide. And on the other, you have the Nazi architect Albert Speer, whose Nuremberg judgement made it clear that he made direct requests for slave labour (“directly involved in the utilisation of forced labour”), and reportedly in regards to sick slave labourers remarked: “There is nothing to be said against SS and Police taking drastic steps and putting those known as slackers into concentration camps.” There was a reason why Speer was sentenced to twenty years, and afterwards, he actually had the gall to be bitter about it, claiming that it had ruined his relationship with his family (and after his leader and dear friend had puffed millions of entire families into smoke).
Smith’s view is an old-fashioned romanticised one that Speer helped create himself after his release with his constant stream of self-flagellating works. The more modern consensus is that Speer lied in court and cooperated with the Allies to save his own skin.
I think it might be time to take Harry’s smartphone off him.
About the author
Harris Coverley writes the Tweet Checking column for Disclaimer and is constantly looking for readers to help him correct the worst of internet. No stupidity or falsehood is too great a challenge.
He lives in Manchester and holds an MA in Intellectual History from UCL. He also writes short fiction and poetry, the former of which only Disclaimer has had the good sense to publish.
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