[Marxism] Their Highbrow Hatred of Us (NYT article hating Harold Pinter)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun Oct 30 05:07:25 MST 2005

(There is now a militant campaign being whipped up against British
author Harold Pinter who won the Nobel Prize for Literature this
year and who has become an intransigent critic of imperialism today.
Hatred of intellectuals, which is also sometimes a cover for hatred
of Jews, has long been a way to appeal to prejudice against people
whom you don't know and whose unfailiarity is key to the hostility
which some hope to generate through wildly-emotional commentaries
like this does. The author admits that Washington's hands are less
than squeaky-clean in the final paragraph. He, like the editors at
the New York Slimes did a bit cleaner a job promoting US interests,
but the thrust of this article is a bombastic assault on both the
character and reputation of one who doesn't think that the United
States should be free to rule the world as it sees fit.

(Linking Pinter to such figures as Gore Videl, Arundhati Roy, Noam
Chomsky and Tariq Ali shows readers what this "contributing editor"
to the New York Times magazine wants everyone to think. A similar
anti-Pinter screed appeared not long ago in the Wall Street Journal.

(Here in Cuba, Pinter's work and politics are greatly appreciated as
you can see from this recent issue of LA JIRIBILLA, the intellectual
website and print newspaper which devoted an entire issue to Pinter:

REQUEST: Spanish-fluent readers who would like to help out could
take a look at LA JIRIBILLA and help translate some of the articles
about Pinter there to share with English-speaking readers. PLEASE!

October 30, 2005
The Way We Live Now
Their Highbrow Hatred of Us

When the British playwright Harold Pinter was interviewed after
learning earlier this month that he won the Nobel Prize for
literature, he said that he might well use his acceptance speech in
December to "address the state of the world." This could prove to be
quite a revelation for Pinter's American admirers, who tend to know
much less about his politics than Europeans do. Still, they need only
go to Pinter's own Web site to learn that the author of "The Birthday
Party" and "The Homecoming" views the United States as a moral
monster bent on world domination.

Pinter's consuming anti-Americanism may have had little or nothing to
do with the judges' decision to award him the prize. Unlike Dario Fo,
the 1997 recipient notorious for his denunciations of the U.S.,
Pinter has written works that will remain long after his polemics are
forgotten. Even some conservatives have applauded the selection. But
whatever the intention, the Swedes have given Pinter the most
prestigious of platforms from which to broadcast his worldview - a
view that has become common currency, albeit in somewhat less toxic
form, in the highest reaches of European culture.

Pinter's politics are so extreme that they're almost impossible to
parody. "Mr. Bush and his gang," he said in a speech as the war in
Iraq approached, "are determined, quite simply, to control the world
and the world's resources. And they don't give a damn how many people
they murder on the way." Pinter sees the current president as only
the most recent exponent of the American hegemonic impulse. The
playwright was just as outraged by NATO's 1999 air war in Kosovo.
Though the bombing was essentially a last resort in the face of
Slobodan Milosevic's savage campaign of ethnic cleansing, Pinter
described it as "a criminal act" - the U.N. Security Council hadn't
approved - designed to consolidate "American domination of Europe."
He complained, in fact, of "the demonization and the hysteria" that
accompanied the NATO campaign against Milosevic and the Serbs.

These views are hardly unfamiliar in the United States; you can hear
them on any major university campus. Among public intellectuals or
literary figures, however, it is hard to think of anyone save Noam
Chomsky and Gore Vidal who would not choke on Pinter's bile. But the
situation is very different throughout Europe, where the
anti-American left is far more intellectually respectable. In the
Anglophone world of letters, John le Carré holds opinions similar to
Pinter's, as do the essayist Tariq Ali and the novelist Arundhati
Roy. These last two publicly root for the Iraqi "resistance" against
the infernal machinery of American empire. Roy has conceded that
despots like Saddam Hussein "are a menace to their own people" but
concludes that there isn't much that can be done about it save
"strengthening the hand of civil society" - a comment apparently not
intended as a joke.

All this talk about "resistance" and "antifascism" betrays the
origins of this virulent strain of anti-Americanism: support for the
"liberation" struggles in China, Cuba, Vietnam, Zimbabwe and
elsewhere. Iraq, in other words, is being superimposed on the old
"anti-imperialist" grid, with disgruntled Baathists playing the role
of the Vietcong. You might have thought that the end of the cold war
would have knocked the starch out of this Manichaean struggle, but
the far left has been unwilling to surrender the exhilarating moral
clarity of that era. Failure, in fact, may have driven elements of
the left deeper into opposition; the "socialist debacle," as the
political writer Ian Buruma noted in a recent essay, "contributed to
the resentment of American triumphs."

What, then, to do? Should we beam Radio Free Europe to the captive
states of France, Germany and England? Actually, I have a better
idea: get the C.I.A. to secretly subsidize the publication of
Pinter's political poetry, along with a worldwide tour booked into
major sports stadiums. The poet would be encouraged to recite such
clanking fragments of doggerel as the following from "God Bless
America": "Here they go again/The Yanks in their armoured
parade/Chanting their ballads of joy/As they gallop across the big
world/Praising America's God." Sunshine, they say, is the greatest

You cannot, of course, dissuade implacable ideologues, any more than
you can an implacable jihadist. But that's not the goal, either in
Iraq or in the West. The goal is to delegitimate extremism among the
great mass of people not yet lost to reason. Even here, there is no
getting around the fact that no nation as dominant as America now is
will be accepted as a benevolent actor; indeed, no nation so easily
able to advance its own interests will act benevolently most of the

But we could certainly help our case by boasting about our
benevolence less and proving it more - by acting, that is, in ways
that seem worthy of a great democracy. We might, for example, take
the wind out of the antifascist sails by accepting rules and
institutions - the Geneva Conventions, the International Criminal
Court, the disarmament provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty -
that practically everyone save us and a few outright malefactors hold
dear. We might cut our farm subsidies to improve terms of trade for
impoverished African farmers (and to show up European countries
unwilling to do the same). We might tiptoe less delicately around
authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and stand up more staunchly
for democratic forces. The battle of ideas, after all, is not to be
waged only in the Islamic world.

James Traub is a contributing writer for the magazine.

More information about the Marxism mailing list