The reaction to the appointment of Sir Roger Scruton as a housing tsar to build ‘better, beautiful’ buildings this last week has shown explicitly the lengths some will go to further their political agenda. One the one side, the Red Roar website had a fun afternoon trawling through speeches the Conservative philosopher had made, finding ‘anti-Semitic’ messages that had clearly been taken out of context. These ‘offence archaeologists’ included the right-wing journalist Alex Wickham, who also must have had a deadline to hit without much to do, created the inevitable storm which was picked up by some ready to attack Scruton given the slightest chance.
Then we have the now customary tut-tutting and moaning from the conservative right. Pretending to speak for ‘the people’ as usual,’ these commentators are for some reason stuck in the delusion that they are not heard or listened to, blocked out by the ‘liberal media’ and fellow conspirators. Toby Young, Associate editor of the Spectator, is one such example. Obviously still bitter about his resignation, which he could easily have called off, over his appointment to the New Schools Network, Young indulged in a lengthy batch of ‘liberal’ bashing, one moment lamenting the identity politics that the left creates, while in the next lambasting the ‘social justice warriors’ and ‘snowflakes’ who rule supreme. Young then went on to criticise the ‘left-wing’ (imagine!) Red Roar, evidently ignorant of the admirable research of the website in question to showcase the anti-Antisemitism problems in the Labour Party which Young of course would support wholeheartedly. Scruton is the most elitist person you could describe, studying at Cambridge before going the traditional route through the channels of the Salisbury Review and the publishing houses, writing his Thinkers of the New Left, a critique of those yoofs with the strange modern opinions.
One important part of this issue also has not been raised. Roger Scruton may be an excellent philosopher and writer on architecture, but as a remorseless and grumpy blue conservative, his views on the buildings we should build are literally centuries out of date. Scruton would much prefer a new Westgate shopping centre to be built-in the Regency style, rather than a cost-effective and modern structure. He seems stuck in a delusion that there is a bottomless pit of money for public buildings and that every one must have a particular intellectual spirit, preferably based in the world three hundred years ago. This approach is both not practical and gets in the way of new, efficient architecture.
The writers on the right who claim to be fighting valiantly against the eternally evil ‘politically correct elite’ who look for offence in everything we say and do, would be better journalists if they could actually fulfil their important mission and not rise to the obvious bait. By labelling their opponents in derogatory terms and in generalised clans as part of the eternal ‘culture war’ that has engulfed America in the fight for virtuosity, the stupidly self-christened ‘silent majority’ will only increase the strife the pretend to fight against.