Gerard Killoran takes issue with left proponents of war, is the sub-head to an article in the Labour left magazine Chartist – and that really is what he does. He takes issue with the individuals rather than the arguments.
Christopher Hitchens, Johann Hari and Nick Cohen have all written enough articles about the Iraq war to give Killoran an abundant amount of material to criticise yet he never even quotes their arguments and chooses instead to attack them personally.
According to Killoran, Hitchens has: “followed Kingsley Amis’s well-trodden path from youthful leftism to middle-aged, red-faced, saloon bar reaction to end up to the right of his own ludicrous brother.”
Nick Cohen has commited the heinous crime of not replying to all of Killoran’s emails, so he has obviously lost the argument right? According to that logic, the ultra-prolific Keith Flett, should be Prime Minister.
(If you don’t know who Keith Flett is then you must never have read the letters page of any broadsheet paper or left-wing red-top -he is an SWP member and now, apparently, leader of the Beard Liberation Front – I kid you not)
Johann Hari, being under the age of 30, is predictably accused of naiveté and his old Guardian article about sleeping with a neo-Nazi and an Islamic fundamentalist gets dragged up again – quite what relevance this has to Iraq is not explained.
To be fair, the Chartist article does go on to deal with some of the issues made by the pro-war left but these are swamped by these rather childish personal comments. There is nothing wrong with personal attacks per se, George Galloway for example is made for them and left politics often thrives on them – we’ve all played the game.
But the problem is that it does seem to be a frequent tendency on the left to shoot the messenger rather than deal with the issues. If there is some information in an article in the Times or the Telegraph it is laughed out of court on the left. If someone is perceived as being wrong on one issue, he can’t be right on another.
Another element of this thinking is the idea of ‘selling out’. The view that if you alter your views it has to be for some material reason. Another way of conveniently ignoring ideas and argument and retreating into the comfort of conformity. Isn’t it time the left grew up a bit?