After the fall, the attempted rehabilitation: Roger Scruton was rightly sacked from his advisory Government role following publication of his comments in a Staggers interview, but now his pals out there on the right are rallying round in his defence. The problem for him, and indeed for them, is that this is a defence of the indefensible.
Scruton, let us not forget, was the founding editor of the Salisbury Review, which for many years was keen on “repatriation”, the removal of the UK’s non-white population to other countries. The publication also gained notoriety when it published “Education and race - an alternative view” by Ray Honeyford, which caused uproar in minority communities, not least because of the characterisations used - and the publication in which it appeared.
As Jonathan Portes has pointed out in a piece for politics.co.uk, Scruton has not changed his stance one jot since the 1980s. His work carries the strongest suggestion that the children of Muslim parents cannot be loyal to the UK. And Portes points up one particularly unpleasant and dishonest slice of Scruton’s bigotry.
“Immigrants ‘come as the heads of families, and even if the family might comprise four wives and twenty children, it arrives to a red carpet of legal privileges, eagerly unrolled by publicly funded lawyers, and to a welcome trough of welfare benefits that few indigenous citizens can claim, however much they have contributed to the common fund…The stock of “social housing” once reserved for the indigenous poor is now almost entirely occupied by people whose language, customs, and culture mark them out as foreigners. It is not “racist” to draw attention to this kind of fact.’” From as recently as 2006.
This is, as Portes puts it, part of an intellectual culture giving respectability to racism. Consider, for a moment, the justified uproar that would have resulted if Scruton, or indeed anyone else, had said that the children of Jewish parents could not be loyal to the UK. That is the oldest of anti-Semitic tropes - that of the “Disloyal Jew”.
This matters, because some of those defending Scruton are all too happy to transplant anti-Semitic tropes to legitimise their attacks on Muslims, not least Doug Murray the K, he of “Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board”. Murray, in a move that is not a coincidence, is the author of the latest attempt to excuse Scruton.
That article has, like so many other racism-legitimising pieces, been published by the increasingly alt-right Spectator magazine. It has been promoted by editor Fraser Nelson, the loathsome Toby Young, shameless Daily Mail pundit Sarah “Vain” Vine, the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole, and the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, the last-named grandly proclaiming the “Fundamental decency of Scruton”.
All are buying in to the idea that Scruton is merely the victim of some terrible leftist “character assassination” (to use the Spectator’s characterisation). But as the BBC has reported, their hero does not convince in his efforts to worm his way out of it, explaining away the claim that Hungarians were “particularly alarmed by the sudden invasion of huge tribes of Muslims from the Middle East” by saying he was “pro-Muslim for the most part”.
He was merely talking about the “perceptions” of Hungarians. Also, there was this priceless passage: “Asked if he thought the use of the word ‘tribe’ was de-humanising, he said ‘taken out of context, it is obviously not a very good phrase’. But he added: ‘There are an awful lot of my phrases that I regret…But that is what life is about. It is about trying to get across a point, reaching for the words and not necessarily finding the right ones. But it is only in the whole context that you can actually know what somebody means.’”
He had merely reached for the words and not necessarily found the right ones. That won’t wash. Remember “Immigrants ‘come as the heads of families, and even if the family might comprise four wives and twenty children, it arrives to a red carpet of legal privileges, eagerly unrolled by publicly funded lawyers, and to a welcome trough of welfare benefits that few indigenous citizens can claim, however much they have contributed to the common fund”? That wasn’t “not necessarily” finding the right words.
As Scruton put it, “it is only in the whole context that you can actually know what somebody means”. The whole context of that passage is dog-whistle racism. And there can be no excusing them as something taken out of context, as both he and his supporters have done in defending him against the blowback from the Staggers interview.
Jonathan Portes reminds anyone trying to mount another of those creative defences “They were a published essay, subsequently republished, presumably with his permission, in the Roger Scruton reader, which is still in print”. Scruton is still a racist bigot.
No amount of creative reinterpretation will change that fact. I’ll just leave that one there.
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