Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Martin Amis's Internal Drumbeat

I'm rather taken with this sentence by British novelist Martin Amis (about Christopher Hitchens incidentally). It's about free speech and the internal psychological mechanisms which impede its flow, trip it up, or even silence it completely.

"Most of us shakily preside over a chaos of vestigial prejudices and pieties, of semi-subliminal inhibitions, taboos and herd instincts, some of them ancient, some of them spryly contemporary (like moral relativism and the ardent xenophilia which, in Europe at least, always excludes Israelis. To speak or write without fear or favour (and to hear no internal drumbeat): such voices are invaluable." ('One of the most terrifying rhetoricians the world has seen', Martin Amis, guardian.co.uk, 24/4/11)

It's these internal mechanisms, the internal drumbeat as Amis calls it neatly, that largely decide what we read and hear in the corporate media.

There's only one fly in the ointment of Amis's analysis, however: ...the ardent xenophilia which... always excludes Israelis.

This reference to Israelis indicates, of course, that Amis himself is listening to an internal drumbeat of a certain kind, one shared by many of his ilk. This one keeps tapping out a very contemporary, very Western tune: We, non-Jews, are collectively responsible for, and must atone for, the Holocaust.

Its presence is evidence of an unspoken bargain between the likes of Amis and the perpetrators of the Zionist project: We'll turn a blind eye to your crimes in Palestine, or maybe even defend them. In return, you go easy on us for our past anti-Semitic crimes, especially the Holocaust.

How do I know this? Here's Amis again:

"I know it's a great tradition on the British left to support Palestine, but when you come up against this question, you can feel the intelligence and balance leaving the hall with a shriek, and people getting into this endocrinal state about Israel. The Jews have a much, much worse history than the Palestinians, and in living memory. But there's just no impulse of sympathy for that... I know we're supposed to be grown up about it and not fling around accusations of anti-Semitism, but I don't see any other explanation. It's a secularised anti-Semitism." (The two faces of Amis, Johann Hari, independent.co.uk, 29/1/08)

There's Amis's pre-eminent prejudice, piety, semi-subliminal inhibition, taboo, herd instinct and internal drumbeat all rolled into one.

At which point I rush out of the hall with a shriek.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You rush out to throw up.