I have a thing for criticism and you are free to hate me for it

By Allan Jacob

Finally, my writer’s block has crumbled and it’s exhilarating to take that leap of faith to offend the liberals. I love the creative process, you see; I love the savage critical process even more. It may sound puerile to say I love watching pseudo-liberals flagellate themselves into a frenzy and then cower in agony when their hypocrisy is exposed. Now, if you allow me, I will confess that I tried loving those fake liberals earlier, but in vain, when even criticism of the world’s favourite whipping boy (Trump, who else?) failed to get me started.

I’ve read that criticism can be creative if it has focus, but I happened to lose my peg at the start of the year — my favourite term when it comes to news. No, I’m not making that up even as people on the Left, Right (and Russia) are all over the news, their bots making up lies that are fast becoming the centre of information itself. Throw social media into the mix and it can travel in the blink of an eye. Even the Pope has likened it to a serpent, that which can deceive and take the gullible down with it.

Honestly, I was lost for an idea as I tried to unravel this fraudulent love of openness that we believe is engulfing us. I felt utterly unwelcome in its midst, which is annoying for half a writer like me.

The truth is this: I find it hard to maintain a belief system that can stand its ground when it’s okay to brand some (conservative) women sluts, (while the liberal majority remain silent) pretending to be part of the #metoo and #timesup circus. Michael Wolff’s misogyny and half-baked claims in Fire and Fury were wolfed down by celebrities at the Grammys, the same celebs who shed copious tears for the campaign begun by actress Rose McGowan. I watched a foul-mouthed rant by Rose recently and she did herself no favours with that performance. She sounded like a disturbed woman who’s drowning in some drug cocktail (I love where this critical strain is taking me).

Consider Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations. Fire and Fury author Wolff slurred Haley in the book by suggesting she was having an affair with President Trump. The #metoo campaigners, in their hurry to bring down a man they loved to hate, threw muck on a woman they had little reason to despise, by reading out portions of the book that is sprinkled with allegation and insinuation.

This convinced me that liberalism hurts me, hence I’m resorting to moral, critical conservatism, which I love. The people that police those hallowed portals of the liberal order have little space for me in its fold, despite the fact I have voted Left all my life, and have a deep socialist upbringing where one simply lived by the rules of the day and let the others do what they were destined to do. Growing up, room for dissent was limited because you were simply led while you let others answer discomfiting questions — you did not speak what was on your mind. I used to call it the neutral position those days, often derisively, and I remember the look on the faces of my peers and even my teachers. You just went your own way because the only ideology was not to have one. It was a comfortable place and I was happy to make a fool of myself.

I strive to stay balanced when I voice my critical opinion these days — which I must admit is a tough spot to be in. I love it anyway. Journalism, I was taught, was about objectivity, about being fair and unbiased, about giving both sides space to vent their feelings and frustrations. Leave the rest to ideologues, was the dictum when I strayed into the ‘fourth estate’ and got lost in the maze.

In the US, you are liberal if you are Democratic, that last bastion of liberalism with its courting of immigrants and easy money, while in the world’s largest democracy India, the Congress has taken that mantle upon itself.

In the liberal order, where everyone is portrayed as being progressive (and pompous) on social media, you are expected to be partial to immigration, tolerant to the despicable and loving to those who hate you — even those who lurk as terrorists in open societies.

It’s okay to bash strongmen in different corners of the world who tilt to the Right. The trick is to get away with it and hope the tentacles of these despots don’t upend your situation in life. The liberal view about despots is this: save your breath for those on the fake Left doing their own thing in countries with gory pasts like China and Russia.

Which brings me to a conversation I had with a friend and former colleague from Chennai who wanted a ‘‘smashing’’ letter of recommendation for a course he wanted to do in the United States.

Please be nice, he said as I’ve got to flash my liberal sleeve these days,” he said. “I’ve got to convince them I’m an unbiased journalist who loves diversity and covers it in the best interest of society,” he said. “But you already are, dude,” I interjected, “unless you have given up on diverse experiences and people”.

He was concerned about polarisation and was looking for “fresh air” and said that it’s better to be going back to school, unlearn and pretend. Play along and be on the right side of liberalism and mute your criticism has become his mantra. “You can’t take a critical point of view and get away with it — even if you are in the right,” he confided.

That’s his point of view in this age of political correctness where every slight and error is dissected and damned. But I can tell you this. I am yet to reach critical mass. It’s a new year, and I’m embracing my new-found love of creative criticism. So what if I sound more like a comic than a serious critic.

Allan is a news junkie. He loves a good debate

allan@khaleejtimes.com

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