March 27, 2008
Seumas Milne’s readiness to abandon facts and rhetorically fellate theocratic thugs has been noted many times, along with his fondness for Stalinism and nostalgic Communists. At the Guardian, under Milne’s editorial wing, Milosevic groupies and other assorted rogues have been favoured with a platform from which to misinform readers. In today’s Guardian, the former comment editor and current associate editor accelerates his descent into cartoonish absurdity and attempts to paint religion as an ally in some radical crusade against the evil capitalist system. A system of which Seumas, son of Sir Alasdair Milne, is a notable beneficiary.
Milne sees the scope for
Stronger alliances between the secular left and religious progressives against poverty, capitalism and war… Religion can play a reactionary or a progressive role, and the struggle is now within it, not against it. For the future, it can be an ally of radical change.
Well, perhaps. But given Milne’s extensive history of regarding religious fantasists and bigots as “progressives” and worthy of propaganda space in a “progressive” newspaper, some doubts may spring to mind. This, after all, is a man who gave space to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb ut-Tahrir and apologists for ritual murder, and who describes Tariq Ramadan, who dreams of an Islamised Europe, as “progressive” and a “liberal academic.” Even less convincing is Milne’s depiction of those who take a different view – say, by criticising aspects of Islam or insisting on the separation of church and state – as
Secular absolutists whose attitudes uncannily mirror those of religious literalists.
Thus, an advocacy of critical thought and self-determination is deemed to “mirror” an urge to impose on others the purported will of hypothetical deities. The arguments of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins are, it seems, in no way distinguishable from those of people who do this. Or this. Or this. Perhaps Seumas has started channelling the wisdom of his colleague, Madeleine Bunting, whose search for “authenticity” and disdain for Enlightenment values - of which she, a female journalist, is another beneficiary - are aired at regular intervals. Certainly, a sense of déjà vu is hard to miss, not least when those who criticise religion, and one in particular, often for very good reasons, are denounced by Milne as
Apologists for western supremacism and violence.
As Alan Johnson pointed out, and as was subsequently confirmed, it’s a signature of Milne’s commentary that practically no-one may disagree or refute his claims, even on matters of basic fact, without immediately being labelled a “NeoCon”, “Islamophobe” or “warmonger”. Words which, among some, are immensely effective in shutting down rational thought. One particular passage stands out to illustrate Johnson’s point and highlight Milne’s contortions:
Panicked by the rise of radical Islamism and the newly assertive religious identity of migrant communities in a secular Europe, the anti-religious evangelists are increasingly using atheism as a banner for the defence of the global liberal capitalist order and the wars fought since 2001 to assert its dominance. At the same time, they are unable to recognise the ethnic dimension of their Islamophobia, let alone the deeper reasons why people continue to search for spiritual meaning in a grossly destructive economic environment where social alternatives have been pronounced dead and narcissistic consumption is king.
One might wonder if the above also illustrates how the mind of a true believer, in this case Mr Milne’s, can so easily come undone.