But there was something going on in Great Britain that was squishier than Northern Ireland home-rule concessions. The September 17 issue of The New Statesman ran an amazing editorial leader.
Look at the picture on pages 6-7, showing Americans running in terror from the New York explosions and then ask yourself how often in the past (particularly in Vietnam and more recently in Iraq) you have seen people running in terror from American firepower. American bond traders, you may say, are as innocent and as undeserving of terror as Vietnamese or Iraqi peasants. Well, yes and no.
To quote more might set off a wave of retribution in America against people wearing derby hats.
I had dinner with the critic and television commentator Clive James and his assistant. The assistant was an able and well-educated young woman who could not be convinced by Clive that in the matter of moral values there was such a thing as a superior culture. "They cover their women in the ballroom drapes!" Clive said. "Your dad can have you stoned to death for not marrying some old goat!"
"I wouldn't call it an inferior culture," his assistant said.
"What about Somalia?! What about clitorectomies?!"
"Of course I'm a feminist," his assistant said. "But I resist the idea of an inferior culture."
It's usually Clive and I who have the arguments. He's a liberal democrat. But he's my age; he remembers when the whole point of being on the left was the effort (alas, misplaced) to forge a superior culture.
I was a guest on a BBC phone-in talk show. If the world is mad at America for anything, it should be for the invention of the phone-in talk show. The idea of a news broadcast once was to find someone with information and broadcast it. The idea now is to find someone with ignorance and spread it around. (Being ignorant myself, I'm not mad personally.)
A woman named Rhona called and said we didn't have enough empathy for the poor people in the world. We're so rich and they're so poor, no wonder they're angry.
I told her that was a slur on poor people. And anyway, Osama bin Laden is a rich twit.
Rhona said that we are so wealthy and materialistic and they are so deprived. "Here I am," she said, "just an ordinary suburban housewife in a semi-detached, and I'm surrounded by all these things I don't need." Privately I was thinking that my moron cousins from Ulster could fix that with breaking and entering. I said, "You're arguing completely beside the point." She was employing a fallacy of relevance, specifically argumentum ad misericordiam. (Although I had to look that up later; what I said on the radio was "So what?")
Rhona accused me of that most grievous of modern sins, especially when committed against a woman by a middle-aged man. "Don't patronize me," she said.
Calls and e-mails were nine to one in Rhona's favor, but one stalwart sent this message: "I suspect why ninety percent of callers are not in favor of PJ's opinions is because they are out of work socialists who have nothing better to do but phone radio stations."