Jun 2003 Journal

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Everest of illogicality

On the eve of the Iraq War the serried ranks of luvviedom gathered at a Concert for Peace in London's Theatre Royal. The director of the Globe recited appropriate lines from Shakespeare. Harold Pinter read a poem articulating the Roman precept 'If you want peace prepare for war' - which in the violently peace-addicted playwright's mind means war on America. The evening reached its climax with Dame Judy Dench belting out the title song from Cabaret.

This high point struck me as the Mount Everest of illogicality. After all, Cabaret, the musical of Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin, was imbued with regret that so little had been done to thwart Hitler. Pressing the title song into service to impede politicians with the courage to thwart the Arab mini-Hitler is like showing the 'birth of the Ku-Klux-Klan' sequence from Gone with the Wind at Martin Luther King's funeral.

Harold Pinter's poem was commissioned by the current editor of the Guardian - the ill-chosen successor to the legendary CP Scott who, as intermediary between Chaim Weizmann and Lloyd George, helped bring about the Balfour Declaration. The Guardian-sponsored rant ended 'Your eyes have gone out and your nose/ Sniffs only the pong of the dead/ And all the dead air is alive/ With the smell of America's God.'

Around 1900 the German Social Democrat leader August Bebel dubbed antisemitism 'the socialism of fools'. Given that Pinter's constituency are the Guardian and Le Monde reading classes, one is tempted to say that now - 100 years on from Bebel - anti-Americanism is the antisemitism of the intelligentsia. In the contest between fools and thinkers the former had a built-in advantage. The antisemites had the sound instinct to make the most impotent people on earth their quarry. Anti-Americans, on the other hand, are gormless enough to tangle with the preponderant guardians of world order.
Richard Grunberger

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