By Olivia Pierson
[First published on Incite Politics 23/8/18]
After going to hear these two men discuss ideas about Western culture, my overall feeling was that they didn’t really “have at it.” They didn’t come across as all that polarised from one another, as one might’ve thought they would be, given that they are usually on the opposite side of every issue. West, the loud-speaking, black American liberal, Murray, the politely brilliant, conservative Englishman.
The two men were interviewed by Mihingarangi Forbes (aka Joanna Forbes), who was beautifully dressed and groomed, but poorly spoken, both in elocution and volume, plus obviously had an agenda to ask insipidly peecee questions. She also began and ended with speaking to her guests in Maori, not just a greeting, but long rambles in a native tongue, which was incredibly rude considering she knew that they could not understand her, and they were highly aware that she knew that. I wager only two other people in the audience could understand those long rants in an obscure, indigenous, South Pacific tongue.
Forbes only ever referred to New Zealand as Aotearoa, so it was completely forgivable that Murray at one point referred to “what is going on here in Australia” – forgetting he was at that moment in New Zealand. Who would know when an unknowable tongue keeps babbling about being in a place called Aotearoa – and all in the language of tangata whenua? Sheesh!
Forbes’ first question was, “Who are your mentors?” West waxed lyrical about Aretha Franklin and her great soul-music, because she had just died and he was clearly feeling the loss. Murray said that Christopher Hitchens had been influential on his thinking. So when some effeminate, medallion-festooned upstart during question time told Murray, “Could he see why so many people have observed that he is the epitome of an arrogant white male – because he said he has no mentors?” It was frankly weird and hostile in a shabby little show-pony way. Murray didn’t say he has no mentors, he preferred to use the term “influences” before mentioning Hitchens.
Given that Douglas Murray is now famous for his best selling and utterly chilling book, titled The Strange Death of Europe, there was no discussion of Islam, for neither he nor West were questioned by Forbes about this monumental issue of our time. Such was her lack of calibre.
Forbes directed a vague question about matters pertaining to foreign policy at the two men. West ran with it and took on the mantle of preacher-man with his antics and phrasing parroting the usual zeitgeisty quibbles about the eeeevuls of ‘American Empire’. On this point, Murray pushed back quite strongly, pointing out that America does not have an empire, evidenced by the fact that rather than taking any more territory than the continent which already bears its name, the only things it leaves behind in other countries are graves with its soldiers buried in them. Murray later added to that thought, perhaps knowing of New Zealand’s close ties to Chinese markets, that when it comes to critiquing empires which do not exist, beware of the one that does: China. A regime which actually does push aggressively to acquire new territories and when asked about this little foible we all hold dear called “human rights,” a regime which smiles politely and mumbles words to the effect of, “oh that’s nice,” but wouldn’t give a fig for them.
Forbes asked West another vague doozy about the state of “equality” in his country. He gave his usual response, “Now that is a powerful question!” Then sallied forth with his general habit of hyperbolic sermonising instead of giving a considered answer to the albeit vague question posed. We were told that, “The world will have equality when white folks care as much about a black baby as they do about a white baby! We will have equality in the world when Israelis care as much about the death of a Palestinian child as they do about the death of an Israeli child!”
Of course, in sympathy with Cornel’s reply, there was some clapping from the audience. I couldn’t help but think if only Palestinians cared as much for their own children as they expect Israel and the rest of the world to care about them. Really, it was a very cheap racist piece of nonsense that West proffered. When he spoke these ill-considered words, I couldn’t get past the irony that I was at that event with a friend who is European and whose only child is a Tongan daughter whom she adopted and loves with all her heart.
West tried to get some Trump Derangement Syndrome whipped up by referring to the “travesty” of the election of 2016 and Trump, but it didn’t work. Instead, there was mostly silence before some crazy woman, I think it may have been me, burst into a whoop and clapped rather than tut-tutted in sympathy with him. I certainly hope he didn’t take it as a sympathetic whoop!
Murray made an interesting observation which he said he still believes – and that is that Russia is responsible for hacking the Democratic National Convention and passed the information to Julian Assange to publish via Wikileaks. Assange has always vehemently denied his source was Russia, but Murray said he’s absolutely sure this is what took place during 2016.
All in all, though there were moments of interesting discussion to be heard over the evening, I felt the opportunity to have two firebrands on opposite sides of portentous issues was a bit wasted by having a very vanilla host being responsible for drawing them out for the edification of a large audience. Forbes really poured cold water over what should’ve been an evening of fun fireworks.
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