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Friday Ephemera

Intellectual Life

Today’s Guardian editorial sings the praises of that “radical literary magazine,” The London Review of Books: 

So essential to Britain’s intellectual life... The editorial care taken is a cause for wonder and cheer.

The LRB is also praised for,

The standard it keeps up.

Those who diverge from the Guardian’s definition of standards may feel less enthusiastic. Let’s not forget the LRB’s default anti-Israel bias, perhaps best summarised by the magazine’s editor, Mary-Kay Wilmers, who told the Sunday Times: “I’m unambiguously hostile to Israel because it’s a mendacious state.” There’s also the LRB’s history of excusing Islamic terrorism with wild inversions of reality. As, for instance, when Charles Glass fawned over the  “uncompromising programme” of Hizballah and its “intelligent” use of “car bombs, ambushes, small rockets and suicide bombers.” It’s always heartening to see literary intellectuals being titillated by random savagery and casually disregarding the openly genocidal statements of Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah. I suspect readers of the LRB will be studiously unaware that in 2003 Hizballah’s TV channel broadcast a 30-part “history” series based on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But then this is the kind of “intellectual life” that sees fit to publish a breezy hagiography of – wait for it - Robert Mugabe

We’ve seen such things before, not least in the Guardian itself, and in such elevated organs as the New Left Review. As when the Marxist art critic Julian Stallabrass pondered the “spectacle” of terrorism and seemed more than a little aroused by the “vanguard politics” of “Islamic revolutionaries” who “harden themselves against mundane sentiment.” According to Mr Stallabrass, “the 9/11 attacks did no more than return to the US a taste of the force it has wielded across the globe.” A view shared by the Cambridge historian and LRB regular Mary Beard, who described the events of that morning as a “predictable outcome of US actions,” while putting the words terrorist and terrorism in ironic quotation marks. Ms Beard also pondered the feeling that “America had it coming” and likened jihadist terrorism to “extraordinary acts of bravery.” The Guardian’s then comment editor Seumas Milne also framed terrorism in quotation marks and said with eerie confidence, “Americans simply don’t get it.” This, on September 13, while human dust was still, quite literally, settling on Manhattan.

The London Review of Books is of course Arts Council funded.