December 18, 2001



This editorial by the Telegraph's Robert Harris is one of the best so far on the Left's crisis of content when it comes to Afghanistan and bin Laden. On George Bernard Shaw's willful credulity about Stalin and Soviet communism despite all evidence to the contrary, he writes:

But Shaw, a brilliant man, did believe it. Or, at any rate, he brushed away the arguments of those who didn't. He wanted to be convinced. And this syndrome - this stubborn refusal to accept what is plainly obvious - has, it strikes me, been the hallmark of many Left-wing intellectuals over the past three months.

Anyone who ever wondered about the extraordinary blindness of clever people towards the Soviet Union 70 years ago - all those Shaws, and Wellses, and Webbs, and G D H Coleses; all those subscribers to the Left Book Club - anyone, indeed, who thought we would never see such naivety again, has been able to enjoy a little trip down memory lane since September 11.


The Left made fools of themselves in the 1930s precisely because... they reasoned on the basis of their emotions: they wanted to believe in Stalin, therefore they convinced themselves that Stalin was worth believing in.

What we have seen this autumn has been a variant on the same theme: a desire that a villainous America should come a cropper in Afghanistan has led to a series of false predictions that a villainous America would indeed come a cropper. It has been founded on wishful thinking.

I think that is precisely right. Yet this desire for "villainous America to come a cropper," which has in certain quarters achieved the status of a kind of world-transfiguring and -determining faith, continues to baffle. What is the nature of such wishful thinking? I have yet to see a satisfactory explanation. Ideas?

Posted by Dr. Frank at December 18, 2001 10:21 AM | TrackBack