Still mulling over my closest approach to the Guardian in something like 25 years. It felt like getting near Mars or Jupiter or Krypton. You gaze down on the weird critters below, and wonder how they survive on that strange world.
Last Saturday, along with a few other people, I had some words of mine published in the Guardian. And the words attracted comment. One reader didn’t believe I existed. Another thought I was a parody. That was enough for me to beam down briefly onto the surface of planet Guardian, and assure the reader that I actually did exist. I doubt if I convinced him. I wasn’t sure he existed either.
I didn’t stay long in the comments. I have no wish to engage with antismoking Guardian readers, even if I was a Guardian reader myself for several years. I was fighting antismokers in Comment Is Free over 10 years ago until I just got thoroughly sick of them all.
I just don’t want to know antismokers. I have complete and perfect contempt for them. I wouldn’t want to be in the same room as Jeremy Corbyn, for example. He voted for the smoking ban, and that fact is all I will ever need to know about him. Just like it was all I ever needed to know about Hillary Clinton, that she was a virulent antismoker, in order to cease to pay any attention to anything she ever said about anything.
I think antismokers are small-minded people, obsessed with trivia. But then, I suppose I think that Guardian readers are also small-minded people, obsessed with trivia.
Back when I read the Guardian, it was above all a fashionable paper to read. You read the Guardian if you belonged to a metropolitan elite, with fashionably politically correct opinions. You were in with the in-crowd. And you could feel smugly superior to the poor, sodding Telegraph and Times and Sun readers. And back then I did belong to a metropolitan elite, and I was as politically correct as any of them. In fact, when I first heard of political correctness, I was delighted to find that I already was thoroughly PC.
And in that world of fashion, the important thing is to keep up with the current fashion. And being anti-smoking is currently very fashionable. And smoking tobacco has become very unfashionable. Smokers are looked down upon with the same contempt as people who wear bell-bottoms or have turn-ups on their trousers.
Fashions change very suddenly. For a while it was very fashionable for men (and women) to wear bell-bottomed trousers or “flares”. But almost as quickly as they became fashionable, they became unfashionable again. Fashion leaders are always one step ahead of the game. Everybody else is just following them, like runners in a marathon puffing along miles behind the leaders. (and running marathons is also a fashion, of course).
Smoking tobacco has become unfashionable. But fashion is always changing, and so it may well become fashionable again. In fact, I’m sure it will.
And fashion is always a consensus of some sort. In fact, whenever there is a consensus about anything, you may be quite sure that it is a matter of fashion.
Most of what anyone ever believes about anything is almost always a fashionable opinion of some sort. Or was a fashionable opinion at one time or other.
I have no interest in being fashionable any more. I held all the fashionable opinions of the 1960s and 1970s. I wore the bell-bottoms and beads as well. But I lost interest in fashion, and in fashion leaders. And my opinions have become increasingly unfashionable ever since.
The trouble with fashion is that it’s inconsistent. Things come into fashion, and then go out of fashion, and then come back into fashion. There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. It’s completely empty of any real content. It’s a form of virtue-signalling. You’re telling people that you’re in with the in-crowd, and that you know what the in-crowd knows.
And fashion is also tyrannical. The War on Smoking is being conducted with great brutality by fashion police. They want to make smoking unfashionable, and they’ve largely succeeded in doing so. And now they’re trying to making drinking and eating unfashionable too.
In fact, you might also say that being pro-EU or anti-EU is a fashionable opinion. The EU was something that became very fashionable in the late 20th century, a bit like bell-bottomed trousers. And now it’s becoming unfashionable again. And the shrieks and squeals of the Remainers are the wailings of people who have been caught wearing the wrong trousers.
It’s the same with Donald Trump. He’s a man who became very fashionable, all of a sudden – much to the dismay of Hillary Clinton, who had all the right fashionable opinions about everything. Her speeches were long lists of all the fashionable causes she supported. Everyone thought she was bound to win. But in the end she was caught wearing bell-bottomed trousers two minutes after they’d gone out of fashion. And the collective fit she and her supporters have been having ever since is really all about having fallen out of fashion. They thought they were the in-crowd.
Political correctness is a fashion. Was it very surprising that, just when I was wearing fashionable bell-bottoms and beads, I was also espousing fashionable opinions? But it’s precisely because it’s a fashion that political correctness is empty. It’s just what a lot of people think these days. One day they’ll all think something else.
One might even dare suggest that being a Marxist or Trotskyite or Maoist is also a fashion. It was very, very fashionable to be one of those in the first half of the 20th century. It still is rather fashionable in some circles. And, who knows, one day it may become fashionable again.
I was listening to Roger Scruton yesterday, talking to James Delingpole. He was someone whom it was as fashionable to detest in the 1980s as it currently is to detest Donald Trump. He appears to have become rather more fashionable today.
He said, circa 15 minutes into the recording below, that he had wanted…
“…to formulate a complete philosophy in answer to the complete philosophies of the liberals and the socialists. Because that’s what was obviously appealing to people in the 60s and the 70s in Marxism and also in its softer variants was that there was a complete philosophy of life contained in it. Whereas conservatives, as I got to understand them, were people who were getting through life without a philosophy, improvising, making adjustments, clinging to the things that they valued but without having any account of why it was that they should value them.”
After which James Delingpole remarked that, in his opinion, “there is no coherent philosophy of liberalism or Marxism.”
Which is also my view. You write an incomprehensible door-stopper of a book, like Marx did, and it becomes a new bible, which nobody reads because nobody can read it, but which is believed – or which it is fashionable to believe – contains profound truths about the nature of the world, which can be discovered like gold nuggets in its muddy silt.
Marxism is empty. It’s completely vacuous. But that doesn’t prevent it from it periodically becoming fashionable again. Like Islam. Or more or less anything else.