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The differences between British and American readers

The New York Times is the media institution that plays the most destructive role in American life

October 20, 2019

5:08 PM

20 October 2019

5:08 PM

New York

This feels strange. Since 1977, I have been writing the High Life column in the London Spectator and concentrating on American goings-on for a British audience. Now I am about to write the High Life for an American readership. Are American readers very different? You betcha, though they are supposed to speak the King’s, or the Queen’s, English.

Never mind. Both countries take their democracies seriously, and their freedoms even more so. One difference is that, over in the Old Country, people know that democracy is rare in distant parts of the world. Traditional societies in the Muslim world or in Asia are more respectful of the beliefs of their gerontocracies than of what we call majority rights. The Brits, having been imperialists in the past, know all about that. Democracy was unknown to the sub-continent, the Far East and Africa when sweaty, sunburnt blond Brits were running the world. Eighty years later, nothing has changed – except in India – although many African dictators call their states ‘Democratic Republics’.

Americans were not imperialists, or at least not as open about it as the Brits. James Polk took some small real estate from Mexico (California and Texas), and Teddy Roosevelt annexed places like the Philippines and some Caribbean islands under the pretense of protecting them from the big bad wolf of Spain. Again, never mind, this was in the past.

The difference today is that Uncle Sam has become an imperialist and the British Lion is happily confined inside his tight little overcrowded island. The American media, needless to say, have played along while posing as truth seekers. It is obvious even to a moron that the American presence in Afghanistan is a waste of money and men. But most of the media pretend not to see it. I first encountered this blindness in Vietnam, when I fell hook, line and sinker, as they say, for what the American embassy was telling me: ‘We are winning hearts and minds and establishing democracy for the Vietnamese people.’ All we managed, however, was to kill three million North Vietnamese, two million South Vietnamese, and 57,000 young Americans. And lose the war.

Thirty years later, on a much smaller scale, the good uncle did it again. He overthrew Saddam Hussein (who ran a tight ship and could control Muslim terrorist wannabes), turned Iraq into an ally of Iran, and destabilized the whole Middle East. George W. listened to the advice of the neocons, a Washington sect as poisonous as ivy and far more lethal. The neocons, I imagine, convinced Bush, and almost convinced a half-hearted Obama, that al-Qaeda and the Taliban were making great cars that would rival Detroit, were developing nuclear weapons and, unless we stopped them, and were going to invade America, hang our bankers, execute Hollywood producers and directors (I wish) and force our women to wear covers on their heads.

While all this has been going on, the Brits — although never openly showing it — have taken a great amount of pleasure. Do not forget that Uncle Sam made them pay through the nose for helping them at the start against the Nazis, and got their Caribbean holdings in return for 50 old destroyers. Rubbing Uncle Sam’s nose in it became a secret pleasure among certain Brits, especially those who speak proper English.


Then came The Donald: arrogant, abrasive, foul-mouthed, sanctimonious, self-important, a grievance monger. He’s all that and more, but he has something the Fourth Estate does not: he was duly elected by the American people. I was very surprised to find that British hatred of Trump is even more intense than in American cities such as New York and Los Angeles. The hatred for the 45th president of a great country remains unabated, especially among the lefties who now hog the British media.

Now they have a special reason to attack Donald. Another blond who raises their hackles, Boris Johnson, has become prime minister. Boris and Donald are one and the same as far as the BBC, the Guardian, and their millions of haters are concerned. Their latest trick is to believe that those who support Trump and Boris are all white supremacists. They claim a higher virtue by disdaining such people. The trouble is that cultural Marxists occupy the heights of education, entertainment, technology and mainstream media in both countries. This has pushed the culture of both nations way to the left. People like Trump and Johnson are trying to jerk it back towards the center.

I am not optimistic about the outcome of this great tussle. The only thing I know is that the New York Times is the media institution that plays the most destructive role in American life. Never in American history has such a confederacy of bigotry and outright lies been as successful as the Times has been in perverting the truth. Trump and Boris could be the antidote. Welcome to The Spectator.

This article is in The Spectator’s October 2019 US edition.

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