What will they say of me if I’m assassinated with a sharpened carrot by some deranged vegan or clubbed to death by the Duke of Gloucester with a scale model of one of the vast wind turbines he plans to inflict on the Northamptonshire countryside?
This isn’t a question I feel comfortable asking even in my head, let alone in a place where real people can actually read it.
First, I don’t want to give the wrong people out there any funny ideas.
Second, I’ve got this superstition that if you say stuff like that it makes it more likely it’s going to happen.
It’s not just a superstition, either, it’s an observation borne of reading lots of military memoirs and seeing lots of war films. Whenever a character feels funny, or forgets his lucky charm or has a sudden premonition of his own doom you can be sure as eggs as eggs he’s not going to survive the day.
Not, incidentally, that I have had such premonition. It’s just that I’ve been following the case of the Danish journalist Lars Hedegaard – an outspoken critic of Muslim fundamentalism – who narrowly escaped being assassinated this week on his doorstep by a man with a gun.
And what bothers me about the incident, apart from the incident itself, is how little it has been reported. The reason for this, my friend Douglas Murray has suggested – and I’m inclined to agree – is because of an attitude in our liberal media (mostly – but not wholly, I fear – subconscious) that “people like that” kind of have it coming to them.
By “people like that” I mean pretty much anyone of a right-wing persuasion who sticks his head above the parapet and says the unsayable, as the Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn did about Islam and immigration before he was murdered by an animal rights activist, and as the Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh did, also mainly about Islam, before he too was savagely murdered in the street.
After the Theo Van Gogh killing I was talking to an old flame of mine from my Oxford days – lovely girl, apolitical, not a malicious bone in her body – about the incident. She’d been living in Amsterdam for a few years so I was interested to hear her take on it. And what she said shocked me almost more than the killing itself.
“Oh you don’t understand,” said my lovely, sweet friend. “What you have to realise is that Theo Van Gogh was a provocateur. He was constantly saying outrageous things and looking for trouble.” In other words, the bastard deserved it; invited it.
Did he? Did he really? Did Theo Van Gogh really deserve to be shot eight times in the street with an HS 2000 handgun, semi-decapitated with one knife, stabbed in the chest with another, then have both knives stuck in his body with a five page note attached?
Is that really the result he was striving for, would you say?
Personally, I’m guessing not.
I reckon what Theo would have much preferred would be to have lived to 101, chain-smoking furiously all the way, and peacefully in his bed by his son Lieuwe, perhaps as a result of exertions earlier during a coke fuelled romp with an attractive blonde 70 years his junior.
He would have wanted this a) because it’s a much more congenial way to go and because b) it would have been an indication – not a major one, but an indication, at least – that the tide had turned during his lifetime and that he’d begin to win the argument.
There’s a popular misconception that people in the media such as Van Gogh, or the similarly late Andrew Breitbart, or, er, me who say outspoken, provocative things do so because they’re pathetic attention-seekers who’ll do anything to get noticed, perhaps to make up for the lack of love they received as children.
But it’s not. If you’re born a pathetic attention seeker, there really are a million and one better ways of getting your fix. You can become a politician. Or a rock star. Or a Radio One DJ. Or a TV personality. Or a flasher. Or a streaker. Or the assassin of someone famous like John Lennon.
Certainly, though, the main reason I write and speak and Tweet to provoke – and I’d hazard a lot of money it was the same with Breitbart and Van Gogh – is from a mixture of rage and a sense of holy duty.
I do it because I’m fucked off. Really, really, really fucked off from the moment I read the first story of the day in my newspaper or online till the second I finally manage to turn off my dark thoughts about how fucked the world is and finally manage to fall asleep. What fucks me off are the increasing assaults on our freedom of speech. I say what I say and do what I do to test its bounds. But I wonder whether it’s worth it any more. We’ve reached the point where, it seems to me, that you can be judged more harshly for what you say or the way you say it than on your actual deeds. Perception is all. You can be the biggest, most incompetent, ruthless bastard; you can cheat on your wife with rent boys; you can ruin thousands, hundreds of thousands of lives with the policies you introduce. But so long as you manage your image OK, talk nicely, say the right things at dinner parties, never offend the social mores of our time, then you’re off scot free.
George Macdonald Fraser wrote about this in 2008, his parthian shot before he died. Where initially – in the Seventies and Eighties – his Flashman character was more or less admired for his roguishness (redeemed by his unflinching honesty), in the Nineties something started to change. Critics began commenting on Flashman’s political incorrectness “in order to make a point of distancing themselves from it.”
“ I find the disclaimers alarming. They are almost a knee-jerk reaction and often rather a nervous one, as if the writer were saying: “Look, I’m not a racist or sexist. I hold the right views and I’m in line with modern enlightened thought, honestly. They won’t risk saying anything to which the PC lobby could take exception. And it is this that alarms me – the fear evident in so many sincere and honest folk of being thought out of step.”
That was five years ago. Things are worse, now. So much worse that I quite often ask myself whether it’s even worth going on doing what I do.
See it seems to me that this battle is already lost. Our politically correct culture has grown so decadent it is beyond repair.
Suppose that vegan were to finish me off with his sharped carrot tomorrow. The worst thing about it wouldn’t be the undoubted pain and humiliation of succumbing to death by vegetable at the hands of a bloodless tofu-muncher.
The real horror would be this. Everyone would think I kind of had it coming to me. Almost no one – save Douglas, and what few other Happy Warriors there are left: no more than about 20 of us in the media I’d say – would have the moral and intellectual clarity to understand why I didn’t.