As the BBC reported yesterday, “Conservative philosopher and author Sir Roger Scruton has died at 75 after a battle with cancer. The author of more than 50 books on aesthetics, morality and politics, he was also a government advisor. Supporters hailed him as ‘the greatest conservative of our age’”. The report also touches on a series of reasons why Scruton was not a universally popular figure across the political spectrum.
That, though, is not allowed to enter for those out there on the right, where Doug Murray the K has suggested that Scruton “seemed bigger than the age”, whatever that means. The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog have asserted that Scruton was “A giant amongst men”. But the most significant grovelling has come from the loathsome Toby Young, given a platform by the Daily Mail.
Here, Tobes, who is soon to launch what he calls the Free Speech Union, predicated on the idea that the Rotten Lefties™ are shutting down that freedom of speech, has claimed that Scruton was “vilified by the liberal establishment for daring to challenge the fashionable nostrums of our age … Because of his right-of-centre political views, he never would climb to the top of the greasy pole at Oxford and Cambridge”.
So perhaps we should consider what “right-of-centre political views” means in the case of Roger Scruton. He founded the Salisbury Review in 1982, of which he later claimed “It cost me many thousand hours of unpaid labour, a hideous character assassination in Private Eye, three lawsuits, two interrogations, one expulsion, the loss of a university career in Britain, unendingly contemptuous reviews, Tory suspicion, and the hatred of decent liberals everywhere … And it was worth it”. Why might that have been?
Well, for starters, the Salisbury Review in its early days advocated a policy of what it called “repatriation”. And as Tobes mentions, it also championed the cause of racist headmaster Ray Honeyford, whose article for the magazine was not just about “questioning the benefits of multicultural education”, to use Tobes’ happy phrase.
It was littered with the most unfortunate and indeed inflammatory language. Scruton also embraced fox hunting, and he was free to do so. Others were in turn free to call him out for it, as they also did when “In 2002, he was criticised for writing articles in defence of smoking without acknowledging that he was being paid by JTI, one of the largest tobacco companies”. Yet he had no problem getting all those books and pamphlets published.
Tobes protests that “Sir Roger could be insouciant about the ignominy his views attracted, but the truth is he was a sensitive man who was often wounded by criticism. He found the almost universal derision that greeted his book Thinkers Of The New Left (1985) particularly hard to bear”. Two things here. One, by that time he knew what was going to happen when he slagged off the left. And Two, he also got that published.
What Roger Scruton’s career has shown all those, like Toby Young, who blubber about having their free speech abridged by Rotten Lefties™, is that whatever his views, he never had any problem putting them before the public. He was not censored, quite the opposite: he enjoyed freedom of speech, and his opponents enjoyed theirs. That is all.
Racism never seems to have a problem getting published. I’ll just leave that one there.
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