Sunday, March 06, 2011


The usual Palinbots seem to be delighted by this excerpt from a Wall Street Journal interview with the right-wing British historian Paul Johnson:

Pessimists, he points out, have been predicting America's decline "since the 18th century." But whenever things are looking bad, America "suddenly produces these wonderful things -- like the tea party movement. That's cheered me up no end. Because it's done more for women in politics than anything else -- all the feminists? Nuts! It's brought a lot of very clever and quite young women into mainstream politics and got them elected. A very good little movement, that. I like it." Then he deepens his voice for effect and adds: "And I like that lady -- —Sarah Palin. She's great. I like the cut of her jib."

So Paul Johnson likes Sarah Palin's jib? Funny how I can't help thinking of this 1998 column about Johnson by a still-left-leaning Christopher Hitchens:

There is almost no English surname, however ancient and dignified, that cannot be instantly improved by the prefix "Spanker." So deeply is the habit and culture of corporal punishment imbricated with the national psyche that whole shelves of specialist literature, to say nothing of entire racks of newspapers and magazines, are regularly devoted to the subject. A decade or so ago, I outed the barking Tory pamphleteer Paul Johnson as an enthusiast or votary of this cult. For evidence, I had no more to go upon than certain suggestive and repetitive elements in his "work."

So it was decidedly invigorating to learn, in the dog days of mid-May, that he had been exposed by his mistress of 11 years, the writer Gloria Stewart, as a spankee:

"Paul loved to be spanked and it was a big part of our relationship. I had to tell him he was a very naughty boy." ...

Tee hee. Is this what the octogenarian Johnson is thinking about when he turns on the telly and watches Palin and the "very clever and quite young women" of the tea party?

Amusingly, the Journal interview is titled "Why America Will Stay on Top."


If you're unfamiliar with Johnson, here's a quick and devastating summary from that 1998 Hitchens piece:

Johnson is not just a cult figure wherever two or three spankers are gathered together. He is an adored object of the American Right. Norman Podhoretz loved "Intellectuals." Nixon used to send out Johnson volumes for Christmas. Oliver North was once overcome with admiration at seeing William Casey read a whole Johnson on a plane flight. Dan Quayle kept a copy of Johnson's awful "Modern Times" by him, and employed it as a prop against those who accused him of being no great reader. (When pressed for an exegesis of its content, he announced contentedly that it was "a very good historical book about history.") To be fair to Quayle, "Modern Times" is almost technically unreadable. And so is Johnson's most recent extrusion, "A History of the American People." Of this pseudo-scholarly atrocity -- slavery a mere blip, the New Deal a monstrous tyranny, Watergate a liberal conspiracy, Reagan the summa of statesmanship -- Newt Gingrich has stepped forward in the Weekly Standard to announce it as "perhaps (sic) the most important history of the American people in our generation." And Steve Forbes, in the Wall Street Journal, terms it "a magnificent achievement." And neither of them, I feel confident, agrees with Johnson's grand, risk-taking, entrepreneurial claim that Thomas Edison invented the telephone.

Oh, Hiych, how could you have thrown in your lot with these people you skewered so mercilessly?

No comments: