« "Aspiration" | Main | Wanted: a new Blair »

May 10, 2015



Can't stand her, but keep thinking I should have some 'Je suis Katie' pictures /avatars ready for the next controversy

An Alien Visitor

It doesn't appear from the comment above that she was saying vandalising war memorials isn't wrong, just that those who are getting hysterical about it see no problem with vandalising the welfare state.

My only problem with this is that it doesn't seem the correct way to go about arguing against austerity.

Richard Powell

An interesting example of someone who self-identifies as compassionate and liberal - philosophy lecturer no less - arguing against cognitive diversity:

Deviation From The Mean

"arguing against cognitive diversity"

It isn't cognitive diversity she seems to be arguing against but the very real attack on the most vulnerable people in society. You will be telling us next that opposing rape is akin to opposing cognitive diversity.

Richard Powell

Yes, I could have expressed myself better. Dr Roache isn't arguing directly against cognitive diversity, though she does seem to want to exclude about a quarter of the population from political debate, except on her terms. She seems to believe that people who think like her have a monopoly of reason. Her intolerance of views diverging from her own is clear and vividly illustrates Chris's penultimate paragraph.

Matt Moore

Which bases do libertarians stress?

I don't see this as a moral issue either way. It's criminal damage. Protest legally. Respect war dead legally. Leave each other alone.


What constitutes 'desecration' varies but taking a dim view of desecrating graves is pretty universal and certainly isn't a left-right thing. Wouldn't it be easier merely to point out that if you're going to make a protest about austerity, it might help your argument if you try to do this without being a complete dick?


"Many of those on the right who were outraged by the vandalism tell Muslims to tolerate cartoons of Mohammed..."

There is a difference, I think, between someone who draws an offensive Mohammed cartoon, produces blasphemous artwork and the like, and someone who vandalizes graves or war memorials.

If you want a way of disrespecting the war dead that's comparable to the Mohammed cartoons, you might try filming a pornographic video on a war memorial, or pasting adverts for your nightclub to it or something.


I value understanding how conservatives think in the same way that I value understanding how cholera spreads. It is useful scientific information. Actually caring if Rightists are offended,however, will simply lead to bending over backwards to accommodate their petulance, and that is a nigh on universal weakness of the Left.

Matthew Maloney

Cognitive diversity = evolutionary struggle = outcome/equilibrium of the most superior moral code?

Ralph Musgrave

Chris claims there’s “a ton of hypocrisy” involved in criticising the vandalism of public property while telling “Muslims to tolerate cartoons of Mohammed”. No hypocrisy at all. Not one ounce.

Reason is that damaging public property is invariably wrong. And where the property commemorates those who died in order to preserve free speech, democracy and so on, it is doubly wrong to damage it.

In contrast, requiring Muslims to abide by a very old and well established part of our culture, namely the freedom to publish cartoons that mock religion, well that’s 100% reasonable. After all, if Muslims are so keen on living somewhere where such cartoons are banned, they’re free to go live in a fully Islamised country.

Of course when the boot is on the other foot, and someone from the UK goes to a Muslim country and doesn’t abide by the local culture, lefties are up in arms. Now that’s what I call a “ton of hypocrisy”. And I agree with lefties there: when in another country one should respect its culture.


"Reason is that damaging public property is invariably wrong. "

Since when? Public property is in the hands of the existing regime - anyone who engages in a revolution would have to at some point damage public property - so are you claiming revolution is invariably wrong?

Also, referencing your own culture is not in fact a counterargument to stating that different people have different moral values, and claiming others should have to accept "your" culture if they move to "your" land is also not an actual counter argument.

If anything, your comment is a perfect example of the narcissism that the post decries.


This is all just playing with words is it not or semantic masterbation. Tories I am sure know perfectly well that people vandalising statues are not aiming to desecrate any thing and are just worked up over the election result. It is poor PR off course. How many restaurants were trashed by the bullingdon club?

The people who will suffer from Tory policy are still alive and capable of suffering while the dead are safely beyond their reach. So not a big deal objectively speaking.

There is also a pacifist case for saying war memorials are part of propaganda glorifying militarism. Are the events really about the dead or the political elite associating with them by proxy to get a benefit by association? The rulers keep starting wars and sending people to their death after all.


Surely just the media at play here. Laurie has a point but it is a bit subtle for the mass media and it is an open goal for the professional and amateur whiners and a (deliberate?) gift to a cynical media. I am sure Laurie knew this but controversy is good for business. Morality - Politics, pulleeezzze

Ralph Musgrave


99% of “public property” is used for very mundane and useful purposes, e.g. the London Underground. You’re saying that if a political party you don’t like is in power, you’re entitled to vandalise London Underground stations are you? Never heard anything so absurd.

Of course if by “public property” you’re referring to something obviously political, like a statue of Margaret Thatcher, then that’s A BIT different. But even there, if the statue is erected by a democratically elected government, I’d favour the arrest of anyone vandalising it. Demonstrate by all means, but vandalise, no. Moreover, war memorials are very non-political: the vast majority of Labour as well as Tory voters respect those who died in the two World Wars.

Re requiring incomers to abide by domestic customs and norms, you’re saying it’s OK for me to go to a Muslim country where alcohol is banned and openly drink alcohol are you? As I suggested above: typical leftie hypocrisy. Lefties are too brainless to produce constructive ideas, so they resort to vandalising their own culture. (As an illustration of leftie brainlessness, witness the Labour Party’s supine aping of right wing ideas on austerity, deficits and national debts).

Larry T

Ralph, it's blindingly obvious that the people's primary objection to the war memorial graffiti isn't that it's "public property" which will cost taxpayers a few quid to clean, it's that defacing it shows a total lack of respect for the war dead.

So Chris is right, it's an issue of moral sanctity. (Since you're struggling, I'll offer you a better argument: it is simply better morality to hold graves, etc.. sacrosanct than injunctions against religious imagery.)


Just the other day I finally got round to reading The Righteous Mind, and here you bring it up.

I think Professor Haidt gives us a very clear vocabulary for explaining, among other things, why religious freedom is so hard to maintain. Different religious groups have different conceptions of sanctity. What one person sees as deeply holy another person might see as purely functional, so that Laurie Penny's comparison of the welfare state to a war memorial might be unintelligible to someone who regards the welfare state simply as a set of policies and institutions to be evaluated by their effectiveness at helping poor people get on, rather than as a transcendent force that sanctifies society. Likewise, the depth of horror that many people feel when a war memorial is vandalized is unintelligible to those who regard that memorial in purely functional terms; clean it up, and it sends the same message it sent before. The uncleanness that bothers those who are most horrified is a ritual impurity, not the marks that bleach or acetone can remove.

What really makes it difficult for people with different senses of the sacred to share a homeland is that something which one group regards as the most sanctified of all things might strike another group as the vilest of all pollutions, and vice versa. Go to an old church and look at the niches from which the Puritans tore the visual artwork during their days of iconoclasm, and think of all the other religious conflicts in history.

War memorials are very much part of this kind of thing. They appeal to Professor Haidt's Loyalty and Hierarchy axes, but to Sanctity as well. So, if you regard a particular war as an abomination, a particular cause as hideously unjust, then a memorial commemorating those who died to advance that cause may strike you not only as a symbol of disloyalty and subversion, but also as a pollution of the space it occupies. Imagine if a memorial to the Kouachi brothers were erected outside the front window of the offices of Charlie Hebdo. Would it be enough to drape that memorial with a cloth so that no one could see its message? Would it be enough to remove it quietly and replace it with a flagpole flying the Tricoleur? Or would you feel an urge to destroy the memorial as noisily and dramatically as possible and to put some object on the site to which the Kouachis would have objected (perhaps an obscene image of Muhammad)? Indulging that urge would hardly be necessary to display one's loyalty to France, and would likely involve violation of the hierarchy of the French state. It would make sense only as an attempt to exorcise the ritual impurity that association with the Kouachis would bring upon the site.

Now, the protestors who scrawled "Fuck Tory scum" under the words "Women of World War Two" were probably not objecting to the women of World War Two, not even to those among them who took Tories with poor hygiene as lovers. Still, to the extent that the war memorial is a symbol of the state and the Cameron government has come to be identified with the state, presumably they would have seen the memorial as an unclean thing and their graffiti would be an attempt to purge its uncleanness.

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Blog powered by Typepad