The Left

Penny Dreadful

It seems Harry’s Place’s is in trouble with another member of the expensively-educated bien pensant community again. Laurie Penny posts these words about us on The Samosa:

Harry’s Place has pursued what has been seen as a ‘witch-hunt’ against any Muslim or Muslim-ally who does not fit the site editors’ strict definitions of ‘moderation’; to whit, near non-involvement in politics.

Oh dear, not that old failure to distinguish between two entirely different, obviously unconnected things again.

Our critic describes herself as a socialist, feminist, deviant, reprobate, queer, journalist, aspiring author, freelance copywriter and sometime blogger. Well, good for her, but she might as well have added ‘logically-challenged’ and ‘hopelessly muddled’ to her impressive list of self-descriptions.

Let’s get this clear. Harry’s Place is – inter alia – a website to which those individuals who have an animus against theocracy (and its enablers) are welcome to contribute, either above the line or below. We’re against political agitation towards and arguments for any form of  state which privileges members of certain religions and we don’t pull our punches when attacking individuals or groups in favour of such reactionary set-ups. Like good anti-racists we don’t care what colour these people are either. This stance used to be pretty non-controversial on the left.

I should clarify something else too. We’re not against religious people taking an active part in politics – quite the reverse. It’s been a recurring theme on this blog that individual believers and faith groups can do more to tackle reactionary politic0-religious ideas than sites like this can ever do. We need more of them to speak up.

So what’s the problem? I think it’s one of focus in this case. People like Ms Penny – home counties raised and not long out of university – simply haven’t had that much time to reflect on matters beyond their own limited life experience and can’t therefore recognise political reaction if it comes with more melanin than she herself inherited, even if it spells out its ultimate aims in the blood of women shopping at market places. To Penny and her ilk Muslims and Islamists are synonymous, and a principled attack on the ideas of the latter can be seen through the fog of ignorance as a vicious baiting of the former. I’ll say it again: it’s not and making out that it is is almost as silly as stating that the Euston Manifesto was conceived to demonstrate its signatories’ support for the Iraq war, which is what the article claimed before a Harry’s Place commenter pointed out that error yesterday and the howler was removed.

The latter half of Ms Penny’s self- description is worth reading in an attempt to remind ourselves what’s gone wrong with the left:

She lives with toast-eating pagans in a little house somewhere in London, smoking and drinking and plotting to subtly re-arrange the world to suit her ideals.

I’m fine with pagans and have no problem with toast but isn’t there something a bit self-indulgent about the words after the comma? She might have a column in the Morning Star but since when did Socialism mean the rest of us had to be rearranged to suit the whims of a self-obsessed privately-educated, Oxbridge-cocooned twenty-three year old? Wasn’t socialism, at least in theory, about something else once upon a time?

You can say what you like about the English upper middle-classes, but you’ve got to admire their sense of entitlement, haven’t you?

Gene adds:
Laurie Penny responds in the comments below at 16 November 2009, 1:47 pm and at 16 November 2009, 1:58 pm.

And in more detail here.