Novelist and University of Manchester Creative Writing Professor Martin Amis answered some reader questions at the Independent about a month ago — including some questions a journalist seeking to appear even-handed would never dare ask. This is a good thing. Amis seems at his best when provoked.
Along with Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan, Amis has been accused of being a British literary neo-conservative, or Blitcon for short, in the New Statesman. So some of the questions appear to come from the sector who agrees with that assessment. For example:
The phrase “horrorism”, which you invented to describe 9/11, is unintentionally hilarious. Have you got any more? JONATHAN BROOKS, by email
Yes, I have. Here’s a good one (though I can hardly claim it as my own): the phrase is “fuck off”.
I wasn’t describing “9/11”, as you call it. I was describing suicide bombing or suicide-mass murder. And the distinction between terrorism and horrorism is a real one. If for some reason you were about to cross Siberia by sleigh, you would be feeling “anxiety”; when you heard the first howl of the wolves, your anxiety would be promoted to “fear”; as the pack drew near and gave chase, your fear would become “terror”; “horror” is reserved for when the wolves are actually there.
And in a question referring to Amis’ famous father, Kingsley Amis, author of Lucky Jim:
How do you think you might have ended up spending your working life if your father hadn’t been a famous writer? JOHN GORDON, Eastleigh
Well, John, that would depend on what my father had chosen to do instead. If he had been a postman, then I would have been a postman. If he had been a travel agent, then I would have been a travel agent. Do you get the idea?
But what motivated me to post this colloquy was Amis’ views on a London protest he witnesses shortly after returning to England:
The most depressing thing was the sight of middle-class white demonstrators, last August, waddling around under placards saying, We Are All Hizbollah Now. Well, make the most of being Hizbollah while you can. As its leader, Hasan Nasrallah, famously advised the West: “We don’t want anything from you. We just want to eliminate you.” Similarly, when I went on Question Time the other week, a woman in the audience, her voice quavering with self-righteousness, presented the following argument: since it was America that supported Osama bin Laden when he was fighting the Russians, the US armed forces, in response to September 11, “should be dropping bombs on themselves!” And the audience applauded. It is quite an achievement. People of liberal sympathies, stupefied by relativism, have become the apologists for a creedal wave that is racist, misogynist, homophobic, imperialist, and genocidal. To put it another way, they are up the arse of those that want them dead.
(Emphasis mine.) Thank you, Amis. The self-destructiveness of this mind-set, not to overlook its deadly irony, cannot be exposed enough. I don’t necessarily think there are a lot of U.S. Democratic Party leaders who would join a pro-Hizbollah protest; but they and the “netroots” certainly do invest more time and energy expressing outrage at our own democratically-elected leadership than they ever do against this most illiberal of cults.
Maybe when Bush is out of office, this tendency will fade. I hope.
(Thanks for the tip to DodgerThoughts commenter Andrew Shimmin!)