Are my criticisms of Peter Hitchens unfair?

Luke P. writes from Britain:

I personally think that you and other commentators at VFR have been unduly harsh on Peter Hitchens, especially with such comments as that “he is an extreme and radical liberal” (the original poster) and a “fool” (the original poster and yourself), which quite frankly seem absurd to me as a regular reader of Mr Hitchens’s newspaper column and online blog (I have also read through his book, “The Abolition of Britain”). In your analysis, you appear to be jumping from his statements regarding race to conclusions regarding immigration, a leap which I would consider unjustified. I am sure that it has been previously pointed out on VFR that a low level of controlled immigration into a flourishing society will result in relative racial cohesion, even over a long period of time (certainly not total “racial purity,” but I am sure that this is not what any of us is arguing for). In which case, why are Mr Hitchens’s views seen as so disastrous, considering he is an opponent of mass immigration? He seems sound enough in general on the principles of conservatism, to write him off completely on the basis of his views on race (especially when the importance of this issue comes into focus mainly with regard to immigration) seems to me quite ridiculous.

LA replies:

Hitchens says, in the blog comment under discussion:

It is perfectly possible to preserve the national identity of this country without any racial restrictions. Anyone can become British, if he wants to, and he is allowed to. The problem is that our current rulers don’t want new citizens to become British.

Which means that Britain is not defined at all by ethnicity and race and that all people in the world in whatever numbers can become British, if they want to. Which means that Britain could become all black, Chinese, and Muslim and it would still be Britain. Furthermore, Hitchens previously said, in his original article under discussion, that people who do not share his views about the total non-importance of race are members of a “delusional cult,” who “specifically reject reason and truth in their discourse,” and who therefore “cannot really be treated as if they are civilised participants in the national debate.” His specific target was the BNP, but the thing about the BNP that he was targeting was their view that race is a component of Britishness. Well, I think that race is a component of Britishness, and so do a lot of other people who are not members of the BNP. According to Hitchens we are all delusional cultists who deserve to be treated with abusive contempt (a point he underscores) and expelled from politics.

Hitchens has thus declared total political war against conservatives who think that race and ethnicity matter, which includes many of the people who read and participate at this website. He wants such people to be treated as members of a delusional cult and to be expelled from politics. I don’t call for Hitchens to be a treated as a follower of a delusional cult and to be expelled from politics. For us to call him a “fool,” and a “liberal”—labels that are justified by the above statements in my opinion—is pretty mild language compared to the abusive language of contempt that he specifically recommends be directed at people like us. Since Luke is concerned about maintaining a moderate tone in debate, who is really the main offender here?

Hitchens’ views that I’ve summarized above place into a new light his previous arguments about immigration and show how weak they are.

In an article in April 2006, Hitchens gave a long and convoluted account of the Britain’s immigrant problem, which I analyzed here. Hitchens thinks that the immigration is driven solely by welfare policies which destroyed the will and ability of the British working class to work, and which created a need for more immigrants. Further, he says that the immigrants were not encouraged to assimilate, and that neither the immigration nor the lack of assimilation can be discussed because of the PC taboos. Thus the problem according to him is welfare state policies plus PC. He completely misses the main point, the modern West’s suicidal openness to the Other, which in turn is driven by the belief in non-discrimination as the highest principle of society. Of course he misses it, since he himself believes that non-discrimination is the highest principle of society—why else would he call for the expulsion from politics of people who think that the historic British and other Western peoples are values worthy of protection? If the belief that race and ethnicity matter is the worst political sin, then the belief that they don’t matter is the highest political virtue.

He wrote:

But in the long term, no effort is made to integrate them. They are treated as faceless numbers by both employers and politicians. In fact, it is in the interests of many politicians to keep them in defined areas and to court them as an ethnic block vote. Not that anyone ever openly says this. It just seems to happen again and again. And it is in the interests of others—who loathe our society in general—to use the presence of migrants as an excuse for introducing multicultural education and broadcasting, which sustain and deepen the divisions between migrants and the indigenous people.

Of course, the migrants are not numbers. They are people with hopes and fears and ambitions. They need places to live. They want to bring their families to join them. Their children grow up here and rightly consider themselves as British. They will not put up with the miserable jobs and wages their fathers accepted. They need schools and doctors. Encouraged to maintain their home cultures, they naturally begin to change the areas in which they settle, so as to be more like home for them—and incidentally less like home for those already there.

So according to Hitchens the only reason that non-European, black, and Muslim immigrants are not assimilating (and this is not to mention the vast hordes of Poles being admitted in the last four years) is that the government doesn’t encourage them to assimilate—implying that if the non-Westerners were encouraged to assimilate, they would, because, according to Hitchens’s recent blog comment, there are no inherent cultural and racial limits to the assimilation of non-Western people into Britain; all people in the world can assimilate to Britain, if they “want” to. This is not the view of a real conservative, but of a right-liberal who thinks that all people are the same and that it’s only left-liberal multiculturalism that makes them different.

He writes:

Given time and stability, I think they could eventually settle down, and if the official policy of multiculturalism were abandoned, real integration would take place over the next century. But for that to happen the migration would have to slow down [by how much?] so that we could all get used to each other. Which would mean no more cheap labour, and serious welfare reform too.

So his bottom line is, get rid of welfare and multicultural policies, reduce Britain’s unprecedentedly high immigration by some unspecified amount but still keep it coming at presumably very high levels, and everyone will assimilate. He complains of the huge scale of the current immigration, but in a 1,700 word article he does not say by how much it should be reduced. Let’s say for the sake of argument that he wanted the current immigration reduced by half. That would be draconian, right? But immigration is currently so high that reducing it by half would still leave it at a historically catastrophic level.

Hitchens thinks the problem is caused by the left’s lack of belief in human sameness and non-discrimination—when, of course, the belief in human sameness and non-discrimination is the very reason for the immigration and for Britain’s total lack of the moral will to reduce or end it. If Britain had maintained its pre-war, taken-for-granted belief that race matters, the very belief that Hitchens now demonizes, Britain would never have initiated the postwar immigration that has produced the problems that Hitchens now blames on the multicultural left. If Britain, acting on the basis of the race-blindness to which Hitchens himself subscribes, had not initiated the mass non-European immigration, there would have been no racial minorities in Britain for whose sake the multicultural policies were brought into existence.

The above considerations make me look with new eyes at a previous Hitchens article I had praised at the time. In July 2007 he wrote:

If people in Britain really fear the increase of Islamic influence over our society, then they should be much more concerned about reversing the multiculturalism that has encouraged and enabled Islam to extend its influence here. They should be much more concerned about the mass immigration that is establishing Islam here as a significant force. Yet many of the neo-conservatives who rail against Islam are keen supporters of open borders and mass immigration….

I took this to mean that Hitchens was saying that mass immigration should end. But now I think I read more into the article than was really there. Hitchens says that people should be “concerned” about mass immigration, and (sounding momentarily like yours truly) he criticizes the contradictory neocons who rail against Islam but support the mass immigration of Muslims. That’s sounds good, right? But look at it more closely. People should be “concerned about reversing the multiculturalism,” he writes [italics added]. But, when it comes to immigration, he simply says that people should be “concerned about the mass immigration.” He doesn’t say that anything ought to be done about the immigration, like stopping it or (heaven forfend) reversing it, as he wants to do with multiculturalism. But, of course, from Hitchens’s point of view, why should he say that anything ought to be done about the immigration? For Hitchens, immigration is not the problem, multiculturalism is. Amazingly, he states that multiculturalism is the cause of the spreading Islamic influence in Britain. He does not state that the population of almost two million Muslims in Britain, which exists solely as a result of Muslim immigration into Britain, is the cause of the spreading Islamic influence in Britain. Hitchens must believe either that Islam is completely compatible with British culture, or that, in the absence of that nasty multiculturalism, the Muslims would give up Islam. Either belief is the belief of a liberal fool. In any case, he espouses the standard neocon view that he pretended for a moment to be criticizing—that multiculturalism alone is what is damaging British culture, not the immigration of unassimilable peoples into Britain.

Finally, when we remember Hitchens’s current statement, “It is perfectly possible to preserve the national identity of this country without any racial restrictions. Anyone can become British…”, it becomes clear that he has no firm or principled basis on which to reduce non-European immigration. Peter Hitchens will continue to direct his fiery darts, not at Britain’s open immigration policy, but, on one hand, at leftist multiculturalists, and, on the other hand, at real conservatives who think that mass non-European immigration into Britain should never have happened in the first place and should be stopped.

- end of initial entry -

From: Jeff in England
Subject: Spot on regarding P. Hitchens.

Such an easy one to answer. You are being more than fair in reply to some very poor thinking by Hitchens.

If Hitchens had said he wants to allow a small amount of non-white people migrate to the the UK (or the USA) then he would be on stronger ground. But he is implying (as you say) that any group of whatever race or religious group can come in at anytime (which means huge amounts of such people would come) and that Britain would remain the same as long as those people ‘want to be British.’

This fairytale view is too ridiculous to comment on further. Britain would not be recognisable. The proof is that that is exactly what is actually happening. There is virtually unlimited immigration, and Britain is less recognisable by the day. End of story!

LA to Jeff:

Thanks for underscoring my main point so effectively. I was trying carefully to build a case, and was more tentative in my wording. You drove it through.

Dimitri K. writes:

It seems to me that what people like Hitchens are really sorry about is not that Britain becomes muslim, but that their excellent idea of peaceful muslim Britain seems to have failed. And they start to look for guilty—multiculturalists, fundamentalists, racists, government e.t.c.

LA replies:


Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 16, 2007 01:45 PM | Send

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