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Columnists

Judging a Book by Its Cover

James Cary

James CaryA few years ago, bookshops began selling large numbers of books that had black or red covers, with red, black or white writing on the front. Klein's No Logo, Monbiot's Captive State and Bakan's The Corporation. I read a few of them. I even took a discounted subscription of New Statesman (which is also red, white and black).

I began to flag while reading Schlosser's Fast Food Nation. Soon I realized the low whining sound in my ears was not tinnitus but a mental condition picked up from prolonged exposure to books by Klein, Monbiot and company. (Oops. Not 'company'. Companies are bad. They can lead to oppression. Compatriots? Oops. No. Patriotism is bad too. Can lead to racism. Comrades?) Ultimately, I just didn't agree with their view of the role of the state. This affects everything. They assume all decent people want an interventionist state. They believe the government should provide things and plan economies. They are on the left. I am not.

Now when I see a book with a black cover, a white blob and some red writing, I tend not to bother. Daniel Finkelstein, of The Times and the Tories, has his own system. The warning sign is positive cover quote from Noam Chomsky. A recommendation from Chomsky renders the book unworthy of his precious time.

The Finkelstein system has the danger of doing to the Left what the Left enjoy doing to the Right. Labelling them. Labels are a powerful and deceitful way of removing someone from a debate, or writing them off. Sir Humphrey Appleby explains this to Bernard in Yes, Prime Minister. A Christian is in line to be the next Governor of the Bank of England, so Sir Humphrey encourages labelling him, calling him 'a lay preacher' and 'a zealot' with the intention of smearing his name.

The Left has had wonderful success with its labeling. Its smearing is second to none. In fact, it is now socially impossible to stand on the Right without shame. Right Wing = reactionary = conservative = capitalist = fascist = racist. If you are one of those things, you must be all of them. It's a triumph of spin and language.

'Fascist' is wonderful, visceral word that trips off the tongue beautifully. The 'F' makes it sounds like a swearing. Fascist. The next step is to call them a Nazi, joke about the train running on time and then put swastikas on their literature. They hate that. Because it works. It's so effective it is now widely believed that the Right must be Wrong simply because they are Fascists. Which they are not. Margaret Thatcher was accused of being a Fascist 25 years ago when she took on the miners. Which she was not.

I personally oppose an interventionist state. My understanding of the Bible is that the State has only a magisterial role to which all citizens, Christians and all, must submit. Beyond that the state has zero legitimate function. I am on the political Right. Why, then, must the deeply offensive assumption be that I am fascist. And therefore a racist? I am neither. I quite like England. I find jokes about the French funny. That's about as far as it goes.

I remember learning about Nazis at school - and hearing that the word is short for 'National Socialists'. Socialists. How can the Nazis be socialists if they're on the Far Right? Maybe the label is the problem. I've been reading Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg who points out the glaringly obvious that has been ignored for so long. Nazis were, of course, fascists. They were also racists. Mussolini, the darling of the Left in the USA for many years (until about September 1939) was a proper fascist - he practically invented it - but even he couldn't understand Hitler's extreme racism. Mussolini believed in revolution and state imposition through violence. But why pick on a race? Shalom Auslander says 'Racism makes no sense. There are so many reasons to dislike people...you're going to go with color?'

Ultimately, Fascists, like Communists, consider the state to be our only hope of delivering utopia or heaven today, tomorrow or soon-ish. So everything has to be subservient to the state, especially the church and the family. They advocate spending huge sums of money on vast public works. And they extend the powers of the police to enforce state-based liberty, and make certain opinions a crime in themselves. Er, isn't that the Left? And doesn't it sound familiar? Maybe New Labour's not a sell-out after all.