Rupert Shows the Wrong Face I took Murdoch What Rupert Han Chinese Since his I resigned Murdoch I won’t The reason
was ready to declare a Tibetan "fatwa" on Rupert Murdoch’s head
following his criticism of the Dalai Lama, but then I realized it was an oxymoron.
Tibetans won’t even kill a worm, believing that all life is sacred–even
that of Rupert Murdoch, the Don Giovanni of the deal. Murdoch isn’t such
a bad guy, he just cannot help himself when he sees a large China market opening
up for him. Talk about selling your mother. Rupert actually sold his wife and
would sell all four of his children if the Chinese demanded it.
gold for five years–I was told by the London Sunday Times that I
was the highest paid columnist on his insistence–so I must be fair. He
was extremely polite whenever we’d see each other, and always invited me
to various functions when in London or New York. "Why don’t you stir
things up a bit more?" he’d always say. "Why don’t you tell
your bloody lawyers to lay off my copy," I’d fire back. When Sir James
Goldsmith lay dying in his Chateau de Montjeu in France a couple of summers
ago, Rupert rang from Los Angeles. I answered the telephone. Murdoch apparently
recognized my voice and congratulated me for being on the spot. (I had broken
the story that Goldsmith was dying, at Jimmy’s own request.) Murdoch and
Jimmy were good friends, but the story came first. Such are the joys of journalism.
Murdoch told Vanity Fair, however, is profoundly wrong. The Chinese have
annihilated Tibetan culture, destroying hundreds of monasteries, and have murdered
close to, if not more than, 100,000 Tibetans.
settlers have been moved to Tibet by the Chinese government in order to outnumber
the indigenous population. In plain language it is called genocide, but in Murdochian
terms it’s called market forces. No Kosovar, no Serb, no Bosnian, no Iraqi,
no South Vietnamese, no East Timorese has been treated as abominably as the
Tibetans have, yet Rupy baby insults the holy Dalai Lama to please the butchers.
divorce from Anna, his wife of 32 years, Murdoch’s private life has been
scrutinized in a manner to which his numerous newspapers often subject people
far less famous than himself. Only last April I found myself seated next to
Anna during a dinner at the Metropolitan Club. She had a new hairdo and told
me things had been rough for her, but she was feeling much better. We talked
about men in their 60s falling for younger women. "I’d take you over
her anytime," I told her. It had the reverse effect of what I intended.
She burst into tears and left the table. Such are the joys of gallantry.
as a columnist from the New York Post, just as I did from the Sunday
Times, in order to have more free time and fun. I like Murdoch’s politics
and, of course, those of the Post. But there was something that bothered
me throughout my years of receiving Murdoch gold. Two of his largest tabloids
in England, The Sun and The News of the World, both scandal sheets,
entrapped not only celebrities in sex and drug scandals, but also young people.
My editor at the ST and I enjoyed a very good relationship, so when Princess
Diana came to dinner chez moi, he almost dropped his cookies when I placed him
next to her. The next morning he was on the telephone asking all sorts of questions.
Alas, my relationship with the divine Diana was platonic, but I didn’t
volunteer the info to my editor. "If you don’t write it for us, we’ll
stake you out and write it ourselves," was the way he put it. He was joking,
but not too much.
apparently claims in his interview with VF that his private life is his
own, and that it’s no one’s business. This is a bit rich, a little
like Hitler claiming to be philo-Semitic. Murdoch can take credit for saving
British newspapers after Margaret Thatcher broke the union stranglehold, but
he can also take credit for the downmarketing of British newspapers, once upon
a time among the most respected papers anywhere. There is nothing as vicious
or as malicious as an English tabloid, headed, needless to say, by the Murdoch
tabloids. Auberon Waugh, son of Evelyn and a Murdoch watcher par excellence,
has been thundering against Rupert for years. He claims most of England’s
ills derive from the Murdoch presence. Waugh works for Conrad Black, as I do,
the chief Murdoch competitor in Britain as well as the United States.
go as far as Waugh–an extremely funny journalist, but a man I find as malicious
and ugly as his father was, but without his old man’s talent–because
of Rupert’s charm and courage. It’s people like Murdoch who create
jobs and wealth, not the takeover artists who today dominate Wall Street. Capitalism
to me means starting something from scratch. My father, who was born rich but
left home at 14 because of a dispute with my grandfather, built factories and
employed tens of thousands. He was ruined during the war, came to America and
in no time became one of the leading shipowners. (I was never involved in his
business, but I hear through the grapevine that 10 years after his death, my
brother has managed to drive the business into the ground.) I see in Murdoch
a lot of my father–the bravery, the charm and the constant seeking of challenges–except
that my old man, who also owned newspapers in Greece, would never drive such
a hard bargain as Rupert.
Murdoch papers play such hardball is Rupert’s insistence on the bottom
line. The reason Murdoch ridicules the Dalai Lama is also the bottom line. And
this makes me sad. It is called the unacceptable face of capitalism.
Rupert Shows the Wrong Face
I took Murdoch
Supermen of Slaughter
George Szamuely predicted in NYPress last week, the streets of Dili are now,
horribly, the scene of a bloodbath, some areas festooned with severed heads.
Several parts of the world–East Timor, Sierra Leone, Kosovo–indicate
a surrender to the spirit of fictional antiheroes of dismemberment created by
celebrated highbrow crime novelists like Thomas Harris, Bret Easton Ellis and
most recently Boris Starling. Perhaps it’s not New York, but Dili, that’s
book country. In these books, tales of slaughter undertaken by intellectually
superior characters like Hannibal Lecter have been fascinating large and discerning
publics in the U.S., UK and even in France, where the hottest new novel is a
castration extravaganza called Meat. Of course in the real world the machete-wielders
are scarcely the übermenschen depicted in these books.
ironic is that the slaughter in the streets of Freetown and Dili, the free-fire
zone on Serbs that Kosovo has become, has been, as we say, "enabled"
by the thinking of highly intelligent, morally superior types in the governments
of the U.S. and the UK and in the UN. There are nice, intelligent people who
find these pretentious crime novels interesting and significant. Tina Brown
put her seal on this fashion by forcing Martin Amis to dissect in excruciating
detail the faults of Thomas Harris’ sequel to Silence of the Lambs
(to do so was a worthy task, but resulted in a piece so long that not all the
gold of The Spectator–a sort of London version of "Taki’s
Top Drawer"–could tempt Toby Young actually to read it, in preparation
for his magisterial celebration of Amis’ 50th birthday).
Amis’ skewering, there is a distinct public for this work; a real taste
to be fascinated by villains like Lecter who elevate themselves, through crimes
and what motivates them, above the rest of us. We and our counterparts in Europe’s
more stable bourgeois democracies are suckers for criminals who are superior–show
real class. To admire these characters, to find them impressive and authentic,
is in one sense only a piece of harmless innocence on our part. One of Nabokov’s
tragic European characters in Pale Fire, surrounded by naive Americans
insulated from history, had to remind himself that Darwin was wrong when it
comes to murder: "The one who kills is always his victim’s
inability to believe in the truth of this wisdom leads to great trouble. The
best and brightest of our political minds tend to display the naivete of the
reading public rather than the tragic wisdom the situation requires. In each
case I’ve mentioned, the slaughter–in Dili, in Kosovo and in Sierra
Leone–has been made worse, not better, by Western intervention.
encouraged elections in East Timor without a large armed force in place to protect
the population; to pull out the private army provided by Sandline International.
from Sierra Leone for reasons of morality, as the British did in the last year;
to intervene without qualification on the side of a guerrilla organization in
Kosovo–all these decisions have been the result of good intentions translated
into policy. But they also display the deep innocence that marks the characters
of the liberals who lead current Western governments.
of the outcome could have been predicted had the actors not been so blinded
by self-regard. Our current leaders, schooled in left-wing student politics
and liberal high-mindedness, tend to think that violence is an abnormality,
generated in otherwise peaceful types by great injustice, great passion, deep
feeling. They have a sneaking admiration for hooded men who kill in the name
of ideas–whether they are members of the KLA, the IRA or Shining Path.
Our nice leaders’ hands are always itching to sign pardons for them, to
sacrifice civilian populations to them and to hamper the forces that struggle
against them–sometimes, admittedly, with "excessive violence"–in
the streets. (This is what the British government is about to do to the RUC.)
What they don’t understand is that terrorism works because it’s an
efficient way of delivering strength against the weakest and unprotected, not
because of what "motivates" it. And because it’s cheap and easy
for violent men to find others who will stand up–preferably far away from
where the trigger is pulled–and explain the bitter injustices that motivate
of things fits into our preconceptions. Consider the reaction to the recent
Los Angeles neo-Nazi shootings. Common wisdom agrees that the shooting must
be the result of a deeply rooted conspiracy against minorities, an upsurge of
anti-Semitism. And there’s more: This conspiracy could not have thrived
without the unwitting complicity of those opposed to the proper kind of gun-control
laws. But the fact is that the man who killed the mailman and shot the children
was someone well known to be psychotic, who 50 years ago would have been kept,
harmless but against his will, in an insane asylum.
example: the Times’ moving account of the reconstruction among the
peasant villages of Peru in the wake of the Shining Path war. There’s an
air of discovery about the piece, as if the Times has for the first time
understood that the peasants–in whose name the intellectuals and gangsters
of Shining Path fought–are those who suffered the casualties.
is so full of evil for those interested in such things, and it is our duty as
the world’s policeman to understand. To turn away from the evil all about
us and seek it in badly written fantasies about glamorous serial murderers is
a bad sign. Our inability to confront the real nature of evil means that the
"lambs" will continue unnecessarily to suffer.
London’s Cocaine Epidemic
Gov. George W. Bush were running for office in Britain, he wouldn’t have
to worry about the cocaine issue. Any association with the drug would boost
his popularity. I’ve just returned from London, where cocaine use has reached
epidemic proportions. It’s like New York in the 80s. At all my favorite
watering holes, it took twice as long to get into the bathroom as it did to
get a drink. At dinner parties, lines of coke are passed around like after-dinner
mints. It’s not an exaggeration to say that, for Britain’s professional
classes, cocaine has become the marijuana of the 90s.
article in The Daily Mail by Adam Edwards, a hard-living Fleet Street
journalist, revealed the extent of the epidemic. In the past year, he confessed,
he’d taken coke with a Conservative MP, the editor of a broadsheet newspaper
and the head of an investment bank. He described a dinner party in East Anglia
for a senior British politician at which the hostess handed each of the guests
a gram of cocaine as they arrived. She wanted everyone to have their own personal
stash so they wouldn’t embarrass the politician by disappearing to the
bathroom two at a time.
has even begun to have an impact on the national game. At a recent soccer match,
the Liverpool footballer Robbie Fowler got down on all fours, placed a finger
over his left nostril and crawled along the white line of the penalty box pretending
to snort it. In London, the latest term for cocaine is "Gian Luca."
This is a reference to the Chelsea footballer Gian Luca Vialli, cockney rhyming
slang for charlie.
At a party
I went to in Mayfair, the host took me to one side and told me that if I saw
anyone I didn’t know I was to report them to him immediately. He explained
that they would either be a dealer, which was fine, an undercover policeman,
which wasn’t, or a tabloid journalist, which was an absolute disaster.
Over the past year, the tabloids have embarked on a crusade to expose cocaine
use among the rich and famous, particularly the aristocracy. So far, the most
prominent casualty of this witchhunt is Tom Parker Bowles, the son of Prince
latest victim is Lord Frederick Windsor, the 20-year-old son of Prince and Princess
Michael of Kent. Last week, he was photographed at Heathrow looking very shamefaced
after returning from a three-month stint in New York. "I have now rejected
this side of life and I’m going to commit myself to my studies," he
told the hordes of reptiles lying in wait for him. I spent an evening with him
in New York last month and, as far as I could tell, he wasn’t on cocaine.
At any rate, he didn’t offer me any.
of the British police to this revelation was surprisingly laid-back. Scotland
Yard issued a brief statement announcing it wouldn’t be investigating the
matter. Cocaine use is now so prevalent in Britain, the police rarely bother
to prosecute anyone found in possession of a small amount. In London’s
smartest restaurants, people’s attempts to conceal their cocaine use is
so halfhearted as to be almost pointless. The queues to get into the lavatories
are so long, most sniffers do it in the corridors or the stairwells. Of course,
this makes the job of the tabloid vigilantes much easier but it also means it
won’t be long before they lose interest in these sorts of stories. You
can’t exactly "expose" something if it’s taking place in
friends of mine who’ve given it up are much more worried about being exposed
as nonusers. To be suspected of being part of the recovery movement is social
death. Unlike in New York, where it’s so chic to be a member of Narcotics
Anonymous people scream it from the rooftops, in London reformed cocaine addicts
are fantastically discreet about it. They wish to remain anonymous, not because
any stigma is attached to having once done coke, but because people who don’t
take it are regarded as insufferable bores who shouldn’t be allowed out
in polite society.
As for those
who’ve never tried it, that’s tantamount to being a virgin. In a recent
article in Tatler, the journalist Vassi Chamberlain related how one poor
young man was dumbfounded when passed a mirror with 10 lines of coke on it at
a dinner party. He’d never taken it before so he asked the girl on his
left what to do. "Just snort it," she said. So he did–all 10
lines. Five minutes later he took off all his clothes and danced naked on the
dining room table.
I know who’s always abstained because his sister died of a drug overdose
had a terrible experience at a dinner party the other day. He excused himself
to go to the bathroom and, when he got there, discovered that two men whom he
hardly knew had followed him in. They didn’t believe he wanted to use the
lavatory for purely conventional purposes, and refused to leave until he’d
emptied the contents of his wallet on the cistern. Apparently, for the rest
of the evening, every time someone went to the lavatory these same two men followed
story I heard, which illustrates just how far cocaine has penetrated the British
Establishment, concerned the senior editorial staff of The Daily Telegraph.
Apparently, after reading all these stories in the tabloids about cocaine use
among the glitterati, they decided they wanted to find out what all the fuss
was about. Consequently, they set aside an afternoon during which they would
assemble in the editor’s office and consume copious quantities. Unfortunately,
when the day in question arrived, they couldn’t go through with it. It
turned out that none of them knew where to get any.
THE TIRED HEDONIST
Friday and Saturday, Sotheby’s will be holding a grand wine auction in
New York. To mark the occasion, Serena Sutcliffe, the great English mistress
of wine and the director of Sotheby’s international wine department, will
be in town, doing her bit to raise oenological standards among us Yanks.
I am devoted
to Miss Sutcliffe. By my bedside I keep a little chapbook containing her tasting
notes of 70 vintages of Romanee-Conti, the red Burgundy that is arguably the
world’s most precious wine. I am especially transported by her remarks
on the 1953 vintage: "Very golden brown, like the glints in a Cognac-coloured
topaz. Extravagant, meaty nose. Cigar box–an old one that has had the best
Havanas in it. Smoked meat. A siren of a wine with a cedary nose. Soft, charming
tobacco on the palate. Melts in the mouth. Lacy."
evocative are Miss Sutcliffe’s observations on the 1929 vintage: "A
racehorse. Heady–a bit of vanilla, a touch of Guerlain, spice box, cedary
sweet, traces of coffee. Palate: lacy–glorious breed. Ultra-classy. Totally
‘frank.’ What grace. What delicacy. A marvel!"
are unable to afford Romanee-Conti, which is many thousands of dollars the bottle
these days, may be forgiven for reading these descriptions as a kind of exquisite
pornography. That is what I do.
time I recall being aroused by words about wine was upon reading the American
wine expert Robert Parker’s prose poem to the 1982 vintage of Chateau Petrus:
"…the bouquet explodes upward from the glass within penetrating aromas
of ripe mulberry, blackcurrant fruit, and spicy vanillin oak. The wealth of
fruit overwhelms the palate with a luxuriance and richness that I have never
encountered before. Even the considerable tannic clout of this monumental wine
seems to be buried by what is simply a tidal wave of voluptuous, decadently
concentrated fruit…" Jackie Collins could not have done better.
As it happens,
six magnums of the equally impressive ’61 vintage of Petrus will be on
the block this weekend at Sotheby’s. (A magnum is twice the size of an
ordinary bottle.) They are expected to be knocked down for a little under $10,000
each, but I would not be surprised if the bidding were to go much, much higher.
what makes New York wine auctions so much fun as a spectator sport–the
spectacle of rich Americans behaving like idiots in pursuit of noble wines.
Wine auctions are a fairly new thing in this city. They have only been legal
since 1993, which is when the state legislature finally got around to changing
laws left over from Prohibition. In London, which is to wine commerce what Paris
is to fashion, the bidders tend to be in the wine trade themselves, and they
know what they are doing. At the New York wine auctions you see mainly private
bidders, who have a much foggier notion of what wines are worth. The overbidding
can be hilarious; it’s like watching people take large bills out of their
pockets and burn them. In some cases you could not only get the wine cheaper
at retail, you could get it cheaper in a restaurant.
With a little
preparation, though, it is possible to pick up a very nice case of a lesser
Bordeaux from a good vintage for under a thousand dollars at one of these auctions.
It can be embarrassing, when you call the auction house to supply bank references.
"Are you known to Christie’s?" the woman there once asked me
rather archly. I confessed that I was not, but that I would not be bidding more
than $500 or so. "Oh, that won’t be a problem," she responded
with an humiliating chuckle.
you are not going to attend the wine auction, it is fun to acquire the catalog.
(The one for the upcoming Sotheby’s auction may be had for $34 by calling
800-444-3709.) Just leafing through the thing can render one drunk with pleasure.
The references to the consignors of the different lots of precious wine are
in a kind of code. "From the Cellar of a Wealthy Collector" suggests
that the owner is a nouveau riche. "The Property of a Gentleman Who Has
Gone Abroad" usually means that the guy has gone bankrupt or is on the
lam–or in prison, which is probably what happened to a lot of the people
who were paying those astronomical prices for wine in the 80s.
tasting can also be an interesting affair. It used to be free for those who
bought the catalog, but I see that Sotheby’s is now charging $80. (The
Sotheby’s tasting is Wednesday, Sept. 15, at 6:00 p.m.) Still, this does
entitle you to sample a few dozen wines that are otherwise affordable only to
partners at Goldman, Sachs. The protocol at such a tasting is quite simple.
You go up to one of the guys standing behind the long tables on which the open
bottles are arrayed, he dumps an ounce or two of the wine you indicate into
your glass, you gravely do a bit of swirling and sniffing, then rinse the stuff
around in your mouth, making a slight gurgling sound if you wish. At this point
you have the option of spitting the wine into one of the vile spittoons available
for the purpose, or simply swallowing it. I swallow, for a better time.
though, I think I’ll simply stay home, take to bed with an inexpensive
bottle of Chilean cabernet (I love the hint of sweet tomcat on the tongue) and
go through my ample trove of oenological pornography. I am especially looking
forward to revisiting some of the kinkier wine descriptions I have collected.
A decade or so ago I was reading Auberon Waugh’s wine column in The
Spectator, and I was astonished to come across a sentence in which he praised
a wine for its "anal" bouquet. Surely, I thought, this must be a typo.
A few years later I ran into Waugh at a club in London and asked him what he
had meant. He assured me that it was no typo. The wine’s bouquet was
anal, he said, and that was precisely the quality he thought worth hymning.
I am glad that I clipped that column. "Anal" goes rather well with
"lacy," doesn’t it?
THE LONDON DESK
son Edward and I took the leisurely route home to London by car from Tuscany.
We stopped for a night in Santa Margherita Ligure and a few days near Gstaad
with a strange and hospitable chap named Taki. Our most pleasurable of holidays
ended abruptly when the train deposited us on the English side of the channel
in Kent, once the garden of England, now the electricity pylon of the universe.
Worse was the tiresome drive through the architectural bombsite that is South
London, obviously the model for the Turkish construction engineers whose collapsed
buildings featured prominently in this summer’s earthquake.
What a summer
it’s been, between the devastation of Kosovo and the annihilation of East
Timor. Britain’s newspapers informed us on arrival that the populace of
East Timor, illegally occupied by one of the world’s more brutal and well-supplied
armies since 1975, voted overwhelmingly for independence on Aug. 30. Atrocities,
mild in comparison with those of the first four years of Indonesia’s occupation,
marred the plebiscite. The perpetrators were anti-independence militias, some
of whom UN monitors saw training at Indonesian army bases last May. The monitors
warned the "international community" about them. The U.S. ignored
them and let its allies do the same. When the 78.5 percent vote for independence
was announced, Xanana Gusmao, the incarcerated leader of the independence movement
Fretilin, predicted, "We foresee total destruction in a desperate and last
attempt by the Indonesian generals, and politicians, to deny the people of East
Timor their freedom." He pleaded for international protection. UN monitors,
having witnessed Indonesia’s occupying forces’ treatment of the natives,
rang the same alarms.
By the time
Edward and I were back in London, the Indonesian puppet militias had murdered
hundreds of East Timorese, including UN employees. Some were hacked to death
while UN officials and foreign Catholic clergymen watched. Now the militias
are killing the priests and nuns. Surely, my son and I reasoned, here was a
case for the New Humanitarians in the White House and Downing Street. In Kosovo,
Battlin’ Bill Clinton and Tornado Tony Blair unleashed their air forces
on Yugoslavia when 2000 Albanians were dispossessed. In East Timor, the figure
of those driven from their homes–many deported to Indonesia itself–is
about 100 times that. Isn’t this, post-Kosovo, the Era of the "New"
New World Order? Don’t all foreign ethnic cleansers know that America with
its British subalterns means business? How many Marines will Bill be sending?
How many Royal Marine Commandos will Tony the Terror land on the palm-lined
beaches of Timor?
figure is, I had to confess to my bemused son, none. It took no less august
a personage than Defense Secretary William Cohen to explain, "We have to
be selective where we commit our forces and, under the circumstances, this is
not an area that we are prepared to commit forces." Oh, not an area where
we are prepared to commit forces. It is not even a place where Clinton will
let the UN, which has an obligation to act, commit forces. The only thing committed
in East Timor is genocide.
At the last
moment, Clinton criticized Indonesia’s army and said it could no longer
enjoy U.S. Army favors–something previous presidents said but never actually
did. Indonesian commanding Gen. Wiranto doesn’t seem cowed. The U.S. is
doing little more now than it did the day in December 1975 when President Gerald
Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger flew to Jakarta to give the military
dictator, Gen. Suharto, permission for his invasion. Ford admitted his complicity
to columnist Jack Anderson years ago. The diplomat Phil Habib, who had accompanied
Ford and Kissinger at the time, told me in London that there was "no way"
the U.S. would have stopped that invasion. Illegal, yes. Forbidden, no. End
of summer, back to the familiar hypocrisy.
liberal commentators who told us we were in a new age of military intervention
for humanitarian purposes are returning from Martha’s Vineyard, the Hamptons
and Tuscany to the same old world of realpolitik and real lies in Washington
and London, and real dying by dark-skinned people far away. Read Noam Chomsky’s
excellent new book, The New Military Humanism, to understand America’s
intervention in Kosovo and its inaction in East Timor. Chomsky has been called
a bore (what’s a genocide among allies?) for raising East Timor repeatedly
since 1975, but anyone who read this book last month would have known what would
happen now. He wrote back in 1980, and nothing has changed, that "the fate
of the Timorese is simply a matter of no concern." This is not a new era.
It is a continuation of the old, with the same old faces.
Holbrooke, America’s new ambassador to the UN and personally a nice guy
who is married to a friend of mine, has long experience in East Timor policy.
In December 1979, while an under-secretary of state in the Carter administration,
he told the Congressional Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs that "the
welfare of the East Timorese people is the major objective of our policy towards
East Timor." By that time, Indonesian troops had helped to kill about one
in every three people there–using U.S. and a few British weapons with barely
a murmur from the humanitarian arms-supply states. When I visited the East Timorese
capital Dili in 1992, the Indonesian army was still terrifying the Timorese
and herding them into concentration camps and a prison island where Amnesty
International reported some of the world’s worst torture took place. Still,
the Free World delivered weapons and aid money on time and trained Indonesia’s
who held Holbrooke’s UN post during the consolidation of Indonesian power
over the Timorese, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, wrote in his memoirs (A Dangerous
Place, 1978), "The United States wished things to turn out as they
did, and worked to bring this about. The Department of State desired that the
United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook.
This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success."
Well done. Not surprising, with 200,000 or more East Timorese dead and the number
rising, that Moynihan’s success in preventing UN action took him into that
millionaires’ club known as the U.S. Senate. Equally unsurprising is that
his likely successor there will be Mrs. William Jefferson Clinton. East Timor
has never been legally part of Indonesia. Its people speak a different language,
were colonized by Portuguese rather than Dutch and are Catholic rather than
Indonesian army is sending a message with the destruction of East Timor in the
few months before it says it will grant independence: try to secede and we will
destroy you too. With more than 200 million people, many fighting for independence,
stretching over much of the Pacific, Indonesia could be much bloodier than Yugoslavia
thing about my return to Blighty has been the season of Samuel Beckett plays
from Ireland’s Abbey Theatre in London’s dreadful Barbican complex.
Listening the other evening to Waiting for Godot, I thought of the East
Timorese waiting endlessly for deliverance, something that ought to have come
with their vote to end the Indonesian occupation. Then I heard Lucky say, "They
are all born mad. Some of them remain so." You know which ones remain so.
¡Puerto Rico Libre!
Clinton was right to offer the 16 imprisoned members of the FALN clemency. In
fact, he should have gone further. He should have announced his intention of
granting independence to Puerto Rico as soon as possible.
possession of Puerto Rico is a throwback to a colonial era that should have
been abandoned long ago. Puerto Rico’s bizarre "commonwealth"
status is one that robs Puerto Ricans of their dignity and Americans of their
dollars. Moreover, the acquisition of Puerto Rico followed one of the most shameful
acts of American history–one that has particular significance today.
the United States picked a fight with Spain for no reason whatsoever. As a result
of that war Spain lost its few remaining imperial possessions and with it its
sense of national honor. And America abandoned its proud anticolonial tradition
and became a colonial power. In 1895 Cuba mounted one of its periodic rebellions
against Spanish rule. As the Spanish sought to restore order Americans got caught
up in self-righteous frenzy.
William McKinley understandably had little enthusiasm for going to war with
Spain. Spain posed no threat to the United States. It ran its empire pretty
well. And if it were to be dispossessed of its colonies what was to be done
seriously believed that Cubans could govern themselves. But the shrieking Bill
Kristols and David Rieffs of that time did not trouble themselves with such
details. Day after day they would proclaim that American intervention was essential
to prevent a great humanitarian calamity. Newspapers were filled with lurid
tales of unimaginable horrors that the Spanish were perpetrating. "Massacre,"
"Slaughter of Innocent Noncombatants Continues in Cuba," "Bodies
Thrown into Trenches and Left Unburied" were a few of the contemporary
headlines. William Randolph Hearst’s gutter journalism was almost as bad
as Rupert Murdoch’s.
was a "humanitarian" imperative. One senator declared: "We intervene
not for conquest, not for aggrandizement… We intervene for humanity’s
sake…to aid a people who have suffered every form of tyranny and who have
made a desperate struggle to be free." Sound familiar? Here is what Henry
Cabot Lodge had to say about Spain: it was "three hundred years behind
all the rest of the world… What seems to us brutal treachery seems to them
all right." "I would like to see Spain…swept from the face of
the earth," said suffragist leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton–the Stacy
Sullivan of her day. Hating the Spanish was even more fun than hating the Serbs.
Catholic and obviously in decline, they were ideal material on which Americans
could etch their lurid fantasies.
fought poorly, they were fortunate that the Spanish performed even worse. The
war was to have devastating consequences. Spain went from revolution to dictatorship
to civil war. The Franco era brought a measure of stability but it also cut
Spain off from the rest of Europe. Today the Spanish are once more in a downward
part, America acquired colonies that it had no idea what to do with. Neither
statehood nor independence was thinkable to the U.S. So it came up with a compromise
solution. These territories would be reduced to dependencies of one sort or
another of the United States. Such a solution was to have wretched consequences
for everyone else. Cuba, for instance, never really recovered from being cut
off from Spain. Ask any Cuban today and he will tell you that the Spanish era
was Cuba’s most glorious time. Cut off from Spain and Spanish culture,
Cuba never managed to develop any stable self-government. The United States
arrogated to itself the right to intervene in Cuba any time it felt that American
interests were endangered. It was a right that the United States was to exercise
with some frequency in coming years.
of the Philippines is just as dismal. Fighting broke out immediately between
U.S. forces on the island and Filipino rebels. Soon Americans were committing
the very atrocities for which they had so self-righteously denounced the Spanish.
By 1901, 200,000 Filipino civilians had been killed in the fighting. Having
won this war, the United States proceeded relentlessly with the Americanization
of the Filipinos. The result was a disaster. Unlike other places in Asia, no
sense of nationhood ever developed in the Philippines.
States acquired Puerto Rico without ever really intending to. Puerto Rico, impoverished
and wretched, became an American possession as compensation for expenses that
the United States incurred fighting its war with Spain. A ferocious campaign
of Americanization pretty much destroyed a 400-year-old Spanish culture, but
did not succeed in turning Puerto Ricans into English speakers. The United States
then decided that Puerto Rico would be denied statehood, independence or even
any representation in the federal government.
of the supposedly oppressive Spanish empire, Puerto Rico had voting representation
in both chambers of parliament in Madrid, whereas it was never to have any representation
under U.S. democracy. U.S. federal laws apply to Puerto Rico and they are enforced
by federal agencies. Yet Puerto Ricans have no say in the making of these laws.
Puerto Rico has become a parasite. Exempt from federal taxes, it lives off federal
handouts. It survives by being able to export its population to the mainland.
Puerto Rico has an unemployment rate of 13 percent (three times the size of
that on the mainland); 20 percent of its workforce is employed by the government;
30 percent of its economy derives from federal transfers. When the food stamp
program was introduced in the 1960s, something like 75 percent of the island’s
population was eligible. Puerto Rico received no less than 10 percent of all
federal food stamp payments. The program brought billions to Puerto Rico. It
fueled corruption, crime, drugs, gang warfare as well as a culture of dependency.
Puerto Ricans found that living on welfare was quite lucrative. No one felt
much like working after that. Boasting poverty and hardship became a means of
squeezing more money out of the U.S. Treasury.
Ricans have become quite satisfied with their current absurd "commonwealth"
status. As a U.S. state, they would no longer be exempt from federal taxes.
As an independent country, they would no longer be eligible for federal handouts.
This is why the time has come to do to the Puerto Ricans what grownups are eventually
forced to do to their idle offspring: kick them out of the house. If it makes
him feel any better, let Clinton apologize for 100 years of colonialism while
he is doing it.
a wedding reception last summer–outdoors in one of those seaside towns
frequented by the "Top Drawer" staff–dinner conversation turned
to the setting. Not just the property, the house, the sublime gardens and trees,
but the effort that had gone into making the evening memorable for 200 guests.
The tent to shield the diners from a summer shower was the most remarkable.
While it would take Martha Stewart’s vocabulary to do it justice, if you
looked out from your table you saw not the sides of a tent, but something like
the pleated and pillowing curtains hanging in a Park Avenue living room. Freshly
cut flowers hung from the border of the sides and top, so one had the impression
of dining in a soft bubble, surrounded by chiffon and living colors.
dessert was served, the husband of one of my tablemates, like her a veteran
ideological warrior, bounded over and confided to his wife (as I strained to
listen) what he had learned of the cost of the affair–an impressive sum
I won’t pass on. But I surprised myself by blurting out the first leftish
remark I had uttered since sometime in the 1970s. "Never in American history
has more talent been directed toward meeting the needs of the very rich."
In the 1960s
a lawn party under a tent was simply under a tent. The rich drank more and behaved
more recklessly. According to strict "meritocratic" standards, they
may have deserved their stature less. Certainly their SAT scores were more modest.
In the United States at least, the economy and culture did not seem geared so
singlemindedly toward celebrating them, touting their exploits and making their
lives more pleasant.
Day weekend, the papers reported statistical confirmation of my sentiments.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a study showing how much
the earnings ratio between the rich and poor has tilted in the last 20 years.
The richest one percent of Americans now have as much after-tax income as the
lowest 38 percent–more than double the ratio that existed in 1977. The
data also show that four out of five American households have a smaller slice
of the national economic pie than they did 20 years ago. The share of the top
one fifth grew, 90 percent of the growth going to the richest one percent. The
social consequences of the rise in the shares of the rich are softened by a
general expansion of the economic pie, but the poor have not even benefited
from that. Their real after-tax income has fallen 12 percent since 1977.
Cold War serious people used to analyze the conditions that made a country ripe
for communist insurrection. Extreme inequality, on the Latin American or Southeast
Asian model, topped the list. Now the United States is moving toward a social
profile resembling the Third World countries one used to think of as unstable.
The causes fall at least in part under the rubric of globalization: Increasingly
American businessmen look abroad for their markets and employees, while congratulating
themselves for being broad-minded citizens of the world. The late Christopher
Lasch, in The Revolt of the Elites, described the American ruling class
as having seceded from the United States. When the profits are to be made in
Mexico or Thailand, why should it give a hoot about the lives of folks in Youngstown,
while inequality has increased, the left has made great advances in the cultural
realm. You cannot turn on the television now without seeing prime-time programs,
geared at teens and preteens, drenched in sexual innuendo. The ruling establishment
of neither party dares to challenge bilingual education or racial quotas. Denigration
of the dead white male figures of American history is standard classroom fare.
developments are linked, the result of an informal ruling class arrangement:
The left-wing multicultural elites won’t challenge the hegemony of the
rich; business leaders embrace "diversity" with all its negative implications
for traditional American mores. Both parties receive their funding from different
wings of the same establishment.
as the United States remains a democracy, this outcome is ripe for challenge,
particularly one that is culturally conservative and economically egalitarian.
But it won’t come from Democrats or Republicans. That is why the Reform
Party has such potential, and why both wings of the ruling establishment are
petrified that an articulate figure able to focus national attention on real
ideas–Pat Buchanan comes obviously to mind–might secure the Reform
nod and change the face of American politics. Look for establishment assaults
on Buchanan, which have recently appeared in the conservative Wall Street
Journal and liberal Salon, to intensify in the weeks to come.