Nor does Mick Hume. They both, O’Neill in his weblog and Hume in a Times article complain about how “the left” has responded to the new revelations about the September 11 attacks. The last week or so evidence has come out that the Bush administration may have known about the upcoming attacks, or at least had enough information to know some sort of attack was imminent -why else would Ashcroft have started traveling on chartered jets?
Was September 11 preventable? The answer, of course, is yes. All the Bush administration had to do to
prevent those terrorist attacks was to close down the entire civil airline industry and evacuate all skyscrapers and government buildings (or, better still, empty the cities of New York and Washington). Then it could have rounded up and interned all Muslims and everybody of ‘Middle Eastern appearance’ (including several million US citizens) and launched nuclear missile strikes against Afghanistan, Sudan and anywhere else that might be accused of harbouring Osama bin Laden and his agents. Job done.
Does anybody see the flaw in this? That’s right, it excludes the middle! It’s a common tactic. Juxtapose your own, entirely sensible position with something ridiculous and over the top (for bonus points imply this is what your critics think), make sure everybody knows how ridiculous it is, then declare victory. In this case Mick Hume, ignoring practical measures that could’ve been taken to prevent the attacks, instead pretends that the only choice was between doing nothing or unleashing World War III to stop the terrorists.
However, the prevention of the Millennium bombplot, because one of the bombers was stopped during a routine US border patrol suggests otherwise.
Then Brendan O’Neill jumped on hume’s bandwagon, in an article called the shame of the left:
The shame of the left. At first it was just annoying — all the endless anti-Bush carping about what Bush knew, didn’t know, should have known, and failed to do. Some left- wing websites turned their entire content over to mocking Bush and revelling in the revelations that the administration knew something prior to 11 September. It was annoying because it suggested that the left has become
incapable of developing a decent political alternative, instead jumping on the politics of chance,
rumour and conspiracy.
Then it became more than annoying. By getting bogged down in the ‘Bush knew’ fever sweeping America, the left actually granted Bush a significant moral victory and made it far harder for themselves, or anybody else, to protest against the Bush administration in the future.
With their demands that Bush do more, more, more, the anti-Bush left have effectively given him carte blanche to clamp down on civil liberties, issue panicky warnings that will heighten people’s sense of fear, and even to intervene abroad in the name of stopping attacks on the USA. The left have argued that ‘precautionary action’ should be the centre of American politics — and Bush might just be happy to take up their offer.
Here O’Neill takes Hume’s portrayal of “the left’s criticism” as fact, using it to castigate them. Again, the middle ground between doing nothing and turning the US into a police state and the rest of the world into a bomb crater is ignored:
How will the left respond when Bush and Blair and their friends in the West decide to bomb Iraq, on the dubious grounds that Saddam Hussein is building weapons of mass destruction with which to threaten the West? The ‘evidence’ for Saddam’s weapons programme may be thin bordering on non-existent, but so were the pre-11 September warnings of a hijacking in America. When Bush says he is bombing Iraq as a precautionary measure to protect America, the left won’t have a leg to stand on.
This is specious arguing at its worst. Hume and O’Neill have taken sensible criticism of the Bush administration, twisted it beyond all recognition and then used this strawman to beat up “the left” with.
I cannot help but think they have an agenda in this. O’Neill and Hume aren’t strangers to each other. Mick Hume is the editor of Spiked Online while Brendan O’Neill is its assistant editor. Spiked Online itself is the reincarnation of the old LM Magazine, previously known as Living Marxism, which disappeared after it lost a libel trial. And both magazines were involved with/part of/published by (the distincitions are unclear) the old Revolutionary Communist Party, which disappeared into its own asshole to re-emerge as the quasi libertarian-socialist Institute of Ideas .
Spiked touts itself as a champion of “unorthodox, enlightened thinking” but I’ve always had the nagging feeling they were just another group of establishment pundits. They often seemed to be more interested in slagging of “the left” then in doing much to shake up the established order. In this context, this latest attack on the antiwar left makes sense. It establishes once again their independence, their “freethinking” spirit, without running much risks. It impresses the punters and I bet those two articles will be quoted all over the blogosphere in the next few weeks or so.
 This Guardian article has some more detail about the Institute of Ideas. More about Living Marxism can be found in this Weekly Worker article.