When Sir Roger Scruton sat down for a chat with New Statesman deputy editor George Eaton he was fully aware his interlocutor was a man of the Left, yet he would have entered the encounter in the belief that, their differing politics aside, his words would be reproduced with fidelity. They weren’t, which goes to show that even the smartest amongst us can fall victim to his or her own decency. Sir Roger is an honourable man and his mistake, one many conservatives make when dealing with the agents and operatives of the Left, was to assume Eaton likewise honest. He isn’t or anything like it, as is undeniable now that a transcript and audio file of their conversation has seen the light of day.
For those who haven’t been following the Left’s latest and typically multi-stage exercise in character assassination, Eaton bid Sir Roger adieu, went straight to his keyboard and wrote up a tall story replete with misquotations, out-of-context responses and, there is no other word for it, vile and filthy lies.
That was Stage One.
Stage Two saw Eaton take to social media, where he whipped the trolls who infest that medium into a blood frenzy — never difficult when the quarry is a conservative. Sir Roger was a racist, a homophobe, an enemy of Jews and Muslims alike and pretty much the all-round rotter, or so Eaton asserted.
Then came Stage Three, when the serried voices of the Left’s online echo chamber demanded the government of Theresa May fire one of the world’s great thinkers (his collection of short stories is reviewed in April’s Quadrant) from any and every official post to which he might have been appointed. It took just six hours before a spineless minister booted Sir Roger from a panel devoted to the promotion of architecture less ugly than a central planner’s brutalism or the look-at-me featurism that is your modern bureaucrat’s other notion of beauty. (Visitors to Melbourne can observe the tertiary symptoms of this condition on the short stroll from the pig’s breakfast eyesore of Federation Square to the windowless National Gallery Victoria’s bluff-walled stone fortress.)
Eaton’s lies had claimed their scalp and he celebrated by releasing a twittered photo of himself swigging champagne from the bottle. The caption: “The feeling when you get right-wing racist and homophobe Roger Scruton fired as a Tory government adviser.” Few sultans have ever been so pleasured by their harems than was Eaton’s ego by the accolades of congratulation from his online admirers.
And there matters might have rested except, unusually, there has now been a Stage Four. It hasn’t gone to Eaton’s advantage.
According to reports out of London — the Evening Standard‘s is typical — the ink-stained scoundrel has been asked “not to come into the office” while the New Statesman conducts an internal inquiry. What prompted this move further testifies to the mutable ethics of the Left, as no action was taken until a tape of the Eaton-Scruton conversation, which the New Statesman had point-blank refused to release, found its way into the hands of Douglas Murray and became the subject of the UK Spectator‘s latest cover story. The Evening Standard reports that a second investigation is also underway in an attempt to learn how, contrary to the Left’s standard operating procedure, the truth somehow got out.
That transcript, handily linked to a segmented audio file, can be read and heard here. Any conservative who deals with the modern press would be well advised to make a study of the questions and responses. The oleaginous Eaton is subdued and polite when putting his questions, never arguing the toss and most often capping Sir Roger’s answers with nothing more indicative of his devious intent than a series of bland ‘Hmmm’s.
What to take from this episode, other than the obvious and garden-variety counsel that the conservative who meets the modern press in the belief that a respect for truth, fact and decency is mutual will likely be gravely disappointed? In Sir Roger’s case, the shattering of this trust must have been even more hurtful, as he once served as the New Statesman‘s wine writer and would have presumed a certain degree of collegial respect.
If one accepts this episode as the latest example of the Left lying at every possible opportunity, then there is a practical lesson to be gleaned: record the encounter and make it available via the web even before your interviewer has published whatever defamatory bilge is in the works. The original is there for all to examine, an irrefutable yardstick by which any subsequent defamations can be judged.
The same principle should apply to all questions from reporters. Demand that they be submitted in writing and then, rather than allowing oneself to be verballed, questions and responses should also be posted online. If the reporter’s questions presage an apparent scoop of the ‘gotcha’ variety, which was definitely the case with Eaton’s quizzing of Sir Roger, publishing online will confer the additional advantage of ruining that scoop by alerting rival hacks far and wide.
It is sad that it has come to this, but this is the world the Left has wrought. As devious activism’s patron saint, Saul Alinsky, wrote in his Rules for Radicals, make your opponents live by their own prescribed standards of conduct. The Left has few, as George Eaton demonstrated, but such as there are can be turned against them if, and only if, conservatives accept that they are the one remaining minority open to bigotry and slander. That, and a willingness to fight.
Roger Franklin is the editor of Quadrant Online