Thursday, September 13, 2007

Book review in a lift - The Fallout

OK, so the idea that I could describe a book in the time it took our lift to get the 8th floor is somewhat tested this month. Let's pretend I'm either in the lift of our Yorkshire office, or at the Beetham Tower in Manchester (where I'm going tonight). Here's a longer review than normal of Andrew Anthony The Fallout: How a Guilty Liberal Lost His Innocence. This review will be published in the next issue of Success magazine, which we produce for Manchester Metropolitan University.
It used to be fairly clear what it meant to be on the left of the political spectrum. You were against poverty, sexism, racism and injustice. You supported free speech, gay rights and a redistribution of wealth to make society fairer. You were viscerally suspicious of anyone in business. However, a number of epoch defining historical events have thrown that left label into complete flux. First, the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the death of Soviet era socialism, effectively slayed socialism as a touchstone, or ideology. Then when identity (race, sex, sexuality) replaced class, along came 911 and the war on terror that followed which confused everyone again. Andrew Anthony’s personal journey from London council estate, to Nicaraguan coffee fields through to a career as a writer for liberal newspapers such as The Guardian and The Observer has led him to question the basis of what it means to be a liberal in 2007. He questions the moral climate that sees so many people march in such numbers on London streets against the prospect of regime change in Saddam’s Iraq, or when prominent writers like John Pilger explain the 7/7 bombers as part of a movement against American imperialism. He also poses some uncomfortable questions. If the 7/7 bombers were disaffected and society was to blame for their actions for alienating them as Muslims, then why was the same excuse not brought out for nazi nail bomber David Copeland? Sounds ridiculous when you put it like that, doesn’t it?
One of the most powerful chapters in the book takes in Holland, where film maker Theo van Gogh was butchered in the street by an Islamist for insulting the prophet.
Taking in difficult subjects like race, crime, freedom of speech and the rule of law, it is at times an exhausting read, but still has funny bits, which draw a smile rather than the frowned not which seemed to grip me all the way through.

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