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Dan Hind, author of The Threat to Reason


Below is the second part (first part was yesterday) of my interview with Dan Hind, author of The Threat to Reason (Verso):


Yesterday, Dan had a piece on the Guardian's Comment is Free blog. Goodness knows why, but the Guardian blog always seems to attract some right nutters on its comments threads. Anyway, over to my continuing conversation with Dan ...


Mark Thwaite: Speaking with you, in one sense you seem surprised that your book even needed to be written. I'm surprised you're surprised! It seems to be that - particularly since 9/11 - the ruling elites of the UK and US have become dangerously tyrannical and that is obvious for all to see.


Dan Hind: Certainly our rulers have become more authoritarian since 9/11. What surprises me is the ease with which they have been able to claim that their project was in some way enlightened. The idea that the Enlightenment can be re-staged now as a showdown between (Western) reason and (Islamic) faith has gained a measure of respectability that is in a way rather amazing.


MT: The current political climate seems to suggest that every single Muslim in the world is potentially bad and evil and that our brave politicians will wage a war without end against them. How has this nonsense managed to gain any foothold?


DH: The honest answer is that I don't know. History shows that people can be made to be frightened of pretty much anyone. Effective propaganda works with what it has, it generalises from the particular in ways that suit its purposes. Aggressive campaigns to promote prejudice often pose as self-defence. Isolated incidents and a tiny minority of extremists can be made to define whole communities, if the conditions are right. Certainly many people who should know better have gone along with this, even contributed to it. There is an alternative, we can change the subject; it is up to us to step outside the story we have been given, a story that we are tempted to tell ourselves, that evil is external and simple and our leaders are only trying to keep us safe.


MT: Is the War on Terror a racist war, an imperialist war or something else? Are terms like imperialist even very useful to describe the dreadful mistake that was the invasion of Iraq?


DH: Well, last week BBC radio referred to 'the so-called War on Terror'. That was a bit of a breakthrough, though it happened before the recent run of scares. There is a very lively debate about American global policy going on and you can find a wide range of answers to your questions.


We do know that the prime movers in the Iraq invasion were a coalition of imperialists and militarists who were in a hurry to exploit America's 'unipolar' moment. They were backed by a network of institutional interests who could see the benefits of a move to a war footing. Forty percent of America's tax income is spent on defence; that kind of money can change your life, or end it if you are in the wrong place. Readers who are interested in this might want to look at Ismael Hossein-Zadeh's The Political Economy of US Militarism for a detailed recent treatment of this subject.


I am not sure we can expect an entirely adequate explanation of what is going on in a useful timeframe. We can get a reasonable sketch. It is at least as important to try to figure out how to stop it.

Readers Comments

  1. Your CiF piece wasn't very clear. Readers of HitchensWatch and AaroWatch will understand what and who you are referring to, but the majority of CiF readers won't, And then there are the spin-merchants who deliberately set out to sabotage CiF threads with red herrings and insults. Anyway, I agree with you that it is absurd that our leaders claim to be defending the Enlightenment by lying to us and using absurd arguments.

  2. hi, Guano, thanks for that. I agree, the piece wasn't as clear as it might have been. Inexperience, partly, not knowing what one can sensibly say in 600 words. I hope some people who aren't already Hitchens/Aaronovitch watchers will follow the argument, though. We'll see.

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