Ed Driscoll

The Closing of the British Mind

“Progressivism:” Where time stands still:

By 1932, a frustrated [H.G.] Wells found his superior wisdom bypassed time and again by the superior mass appeal of fascism and Communism. In a talk at Oxford provocatively titled “Liberal Fascism,” he called for liberalism to be “born again.” After his customary denunciation of parliamentary politics as an anachronism, he let out his frustrations, calling for fascist means to serve liberal ends by way of a liberal elite as “conceited” and as power-hungry as its rivals. “I suggest that you study the reinvigoration of Catholicism by Loyola,” Wells said. “I am asking for a Liberal Fascisti.” It was also to Communism that “we shall have to turn—we outsiders, that is, the young people with foresight for enlightened Nazis; I am proposing that you consider the formation for a greater Communist Party; a western response to Russia.”

“The Godfather of American Liberalism,” Fred Siegel’s history of H.G. Wells as “novelist, historian, authoritarian, anticapitalist, eugenicist, and advisor to presidents,” City Journal, Spring 2009. (And yes, Wells’ speech was the inspiration for the title of a best-selling book with the same name in 2008.)

Flash-forward to November of 2014:

I spent Thanksgiving debating at the Oxford Union.

Oxford University is the most prestigious university in the world. And the Oxford Union, hosting debates since 1823, is the world’s most prestigious stage for competing ideas. These facts made what transpired all the more depressing.

The proposition debated was: “Hamas is a greater obstacle to peace than Israel.”

When first apprised of the topic, I was so certain that an error had been made that I called both my debating partner, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, and Oxford to confirm it. Outside of the Muslim world and the far Left, who would even think to argue that Hamas is not the greater obstacle to peace?

Is the Oxford Union unaware that the Hamas charter calls for — indeed the raison d’être of Hamas is — the destruction of Israel and replacing it with an Islamic state? Yet, the proposition lost by a vote of 190 to 130, give or take a few votes. In other words, a majority of Oxford University students voting at the Oxford Union deem Israel a greater threat than Hamas.

“Oxford and the Crisis of the University: A debate on Hamas and Israel illustrates the moral confusion that reigns on campus,” Dennis Prager, National Review Online, today.

Allan Bloom, the author of The Closing of the American Mind, and Paul Johnson, whose best-selling Modern Times begins with a treatise on “The theory of moral relativity” wouldn’t be at all surprised by the Weimar-esque mental stasis at Oxford.

Related: “CNN’s Beating Up On Jindal, But CNN Ran A Report About ‘No-Go Zones’ in London.”