Limey Bastards

When the hacks of Hollywood wish to endow a villainous character with a certain gravitas, they always cast a British actor. Similarly, when Wingnuttia’s war-cheerleading skirt-and-pom-poms act grows tiresome and brings diminishing returns, a more subtle tweedy intellectual legitimacy is preferred, and a Briton is sent for. Hence the Hitchenses, Blankleys, Sullivans, Johnsons and Fergusons who pollute our media, demanding in their imperious accents that the United States fulfill its role as heir to the British Empire, to be hegemon and butcher unless someone outside the family (so to speak) steps in.

Yet Hitchens is too weird, with his lapsed leftism, to consistently do the trick (for instance, he still isn’t completely wingnutty on Israel-Pali issues). Blankley is basically American; or, one could say considering his main employer, North Korean. Sullivan is certainly hackish enough, but the gay thing prevents his acceptance among the reddest of red wingnuts. For years, Paul “Spanker” Johnson perfectly filled the role, yet the toll of his many personal scandals combined with a face so wrought with gin blossoms that it looks as if he’s been Dick Cheney’s life-long hunting partner have sort of killed his gig. No longer even passably telegenic, Spanker is now best used for writing long tracts of historical propaganda. Never has a condescending British wingnut been more needed to spread the gospel to his dim-witted American cousins.

Plainly, conditions are perfect for an Oxbridge neo-Thatcherite to take Wingnuttia by storm, if only one were enough on the make to do some slumming over here. But he must be dependable. Will someone answer the call?

Niall Ferguson has. And what a dependable hack he is. “Put on your pith helmets, America!” is his general refrain. That imperialism is America’s first best moral and political destiny is his leitmotif. Excusals of current imperial depravities, and revisions of past ones, are the syncopated bleats that punctuate the awful racket he performs in his capacity as pundit. Niall Ferguson is an atrocity of an historian and a menace as a professional chatterer.

But don’t take my word for it. Take these two recent and thorough annihilations of Ferguson, of which I’ll only quote a small portion (please read the rest; you’ll be glad you did) written by those who know him best: fellow Britons. First is the blogger, Lenin:

Indeed, his account of empire omits so much of the experience of those who were its subjects, and his enthusiasm for it pays no attention to any preference they might have – indeed is openly dismissive of the only two individuals in the debate who come from colonial backgrounds. He is simply incredulous that they might have a different take to he on their experience and those with whom they share a history. Niall Ferguson may once have been an historian, but he is not one now. He is an unabashed, paid apologist for the new American Empire…

Ferguson has progressed. The first step is loving Imperialism, excusing its immorality and trying one’s best to whitewash its crimes. The second is something that Lenin describes Ferguson as doing: sneering at empire’s victims. And it’s only natural that Ferguson goes this route; it’s how you move up in the wingnut-pundit neighborhood. But then such a stance is the equivalent of renting a flat an apartment in the wingnut village. It will do for a while, but the truly ambitious aspire to own. And so Ferguson goes to the next step: pretending that empire’s victims never were in fact victimized because they never existed in the first place:

Ferguson has, to his credit, been admirably honest about the origins of his dedication to empire. “Thanks to the British Empire, my earliest childhood memories are of colonial Africa,� he says mistily about growing up in Kenya. “Scarcely anything had changed since the days of White Mischief… It was a magical time.�

Perhaps for him. Ferguson does not mention that during this “magical� childhood he was surrounded by the very recent survivors of Gulags and torture centres built by his beloved Empire. Less than a decade before, the mass British theft of Kenyan land has prompted a backlash. Thousands of destitute Kenyans began to fight against them. They responded by herding more than 300,000 Kenyans into gulags to be whipped, castrated and raped. Many had their eardrums burst with knives, others were doused in paraffin and burned alive. The soldiers were told they could kill anyone they wanted “so long as he is black� – and they slew more than 50,000. Ah, such mischief.

Johann Hari’s piece has much much more to it than what I’ve quoted here; it’s really a sustained battering of imperialism-apologists in general and Ferguson in particular. And this stuff isn’t just about history. It’s about the unscrupulous use of history for very current ends.


Comments: 25


Right wingers are the ones who have the most accurate reading of Enlightenment philosophers. This stuff works so long as it’s the Right Types applying it to their lives. Difficulties arise when the Wrong Sort aspire to apply the same thinking to their (so often dusky-hued) problems.


What’s so bizarre is that, behind America’s back, the British are the most vicious in their criticism of America. I know. I live in Canada. We love our British people, and they tell us things that would curl an American’s hair.


OT, Retardo, but check it out: Noam Chomsky speaking to West Point cadets.

Oh! I mean, um, harrumph harrumph, Faurisson, Khmer Rouge, Sudan/Sept. 11, and kittens in a basket. Don’t wanna seem less than sensible.


Niall Ferguson is a wingnut?

I guess I missed that because he’s not as blatantly batshit as Max Boot or Jonah Goldberg. I have to endure all three of them in the Los Angeles Times.

The only reason I prefer Mallard Fillmore and Prickly City is they don’t take as long to read.


I saw that Chomsky at West Point thing on CSPAN. It was quite amazing. Seeing West Point students and Noam Chomsky having a respectful, civilized, intelligent conversation was good for the soul. Chomsky was making great arguments against “preemptive/preventive war,” and the cadets seemed very open to it all.


Not sure is you ever read the eXile, but you might like the book reviews of John Dolan regarding Tory historical revisionists:
Frightening how much history is being rewritten (and in an explicitly racist way) to accomodate imperialism;


Ah, the mighty British Empire. It took them only 76 years to completely wipe out the native population of Tasmania. Disease was not a factor, either. A distinct culture that had existed in isolation for 10,000 years gone forever because they were in the way of British settlers. Defenders of this, and there are still many, are despicable.


Hey DocAmazing. Good call on the eXile. Mark Ames is a genius and a national treasure, and you don’t have to agree with Gary the War Nerd to have to think hard about his points.

Retardo! I’m a little surprised you didn’t title this piece (S)Limey Bastards!!

Just Sayin



Why am I reminded of “Gunga Din?”


Where are the pictures of Niall Ferguson and Max Boot in sunbonnets and superhero costumes fending off hordes of Zulu warriors through the use of earthquake rayguns?

Your audience is loyal but demanding, Retardo. We must be placated! Pictures! With hats! And spandex tights! I need those pics in time for the lesson on imperialism that I am (ironically enough) teaching to my summer school class this week.


You could probably have a lot of fun growing up in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia. That doesn’t mean they were good things.

p.s. They’re are Native Tasmanians left, it’s just that they aren’t “full blooded”.


Completely off topic.’re missing out on a yuck fest in your own petite patrie…

“Given the nature of the threat in the context of disasters, both natural and human-created, I am proportionalely concerned.” (Canadian version of London’s ‘I am not Afraid!!!1!’ campaign)

“My Canada Includes Stephen Harper’s Head.” (in response to the terrorists threatening to decapitate the PM)

From I. Am. Unafraidian.


Uh, Blankley’s employer is South Korean, no?


I believe Retardo might be making a quip about the Reverend’s cult of personality.

Ferguson, feh. Could be worse. Could be Keith Windschuttle.


Jillian–report to the Long Threadâ„¢ at your earliest convenience. We’re making the final push to #1000. This goes out to all Long Threadersâ„¢ as well. You all know who you are.


The United States’ loss is our gain. Can you please take that lying shitbag, Tony Blair, off our hands as well, please, pretty please.

ps It looks like the shitbag is preping a spider hole in the United States anyway.

Baker said: ‘This shows that what matters in Tony Blair’s Britain is those with power, money and a US accent. These awards are supposed to be for good works and those that have helped Britain. Instead it seems they are being handed out to those who have supported Blair’s misguided policies at home and overseas.’

It is ironic that the shitbag is handing out gongs from one failed ex-empire to the builders of a failing never-really-an empire.


Oddly, I find little to recommend Ferguson’s COCK. His juicy, eloquent, well-fed mouth, on the other hand, would sheath mine q


quite nicely, were I inclined to cut off his erudite musings…

obviously anonymous

I shall have to share my Ferguson story. One summer, nearly a decade ago, Dr F was christening his second child in the college chapel, while his eldest ran around in a rather charming little kilt. The young whippersnapper became fixated on a ‘PLEASE KEEP OFF THE GRASS’ sign in the middle of the quadrangle, and began kicking the bejesus out of it, to the amusement of the students sitting around and enjoying some post-exam time outside of the library. Whereupon one student, recalling Fergie’s ‘family values and moral decency’ slant in his Torygraph columns, said at a volume loud enough for the gathered family and friends to hear: ‘WELL, I BLAME THE PARENTS.’ Red faces all round.

We shan’t talk about Fergie’s apparent abandonment of primary historical research, and his prolific use of underpaid grad students to do whatever research he deigns to perform, or of his ability to get his undergraduates into rather nice little journalism careers after college. Nor of the scurrilous allegation that his now-wife got herself pregnant while he was having an affair so that he’d have to marry her. Others will be able to supply scuttlebutt on his oh-so-quick move from NYU to Haaahvaaahd.

Lenin is completely right: after doing some primary research for his lucrative (but not lucrative) two-part history of the Rothschilds, he realised that secondary populist work on Jolly Old Empire was where the money lay, especially on the rubber-chicken circuit in the US. Cue handsome (as in six-figure) advances from Harper Collins. Not bad for someone whose specialisation was in German economic history.


What bothers me is that it seems like a historian would have to work to be this stupid.

Why would you put effort into being a douchebag? It’s like selling your soul.


I read Hari’s takedown, and the situation in India seems to have largely mirrored situations here in America.

Even when European conquerors have more advanced technology and a higher standard of living then the people they conquer, this rarely filters down to the conquered people.

Look at Mexico; When the Spanish conquered the Aztec empire, they destroyed the Aztec system of human sacrifices, something we can all agree was a good thing.

What WASN’T a good thing was that they replaced it with their own form of human sacrifice: The Holy Inquisition.
If you’re an Aztec, the threat of having your heart torn out is replaced with the threat of being burned alive. If anything, it’s probably a slight step down.

More then that, the Spanish system of encomiendas essentially created a racial caste system, a LARGE step down from the egalitarianism and social mobility that characterised Aztec society.

The benefits of shipbuilding, metal working, architecture and all that jazz never really made a helpful difference to the life of the average Aztec.

Incidentally, we have living reminders of the problems with imperialism right here in the country; They’re called “reservations”.

Basically, conditions on reservations tend to range from “Slightly worse off then the surrounding area” to “third world country” (Look up the Pine Ridge reservation).


Mal – My father’s a Briton. I know exactly what you’re talking about.

Mr. Mordant – I shall refer you to Andrew Northrup and Bradford DeLong so that you can either renounce your Chomskyism or be read out of the “Left”. Your re-education is imminent, pal.

Doc – Thanks for the link; I hadnt read the eXile in a long time.

Mikey – When I read your comment, I slumped noticably. I am truly teh 5uxx0r for not thinking of that.

Jillian – another episode of Wingnuts in Party Hats will come soon.

Blowback – i refered that link to Hitchenswatch, as Hitchens publically denounced Norman Schwartzkopf for taking honours back in the day, but has been and will be silent about this latest bunch of shit bribery. I looks like the worst case of shameful honours-sales since Lloyd-George’s and at least something useful came out of *his* quid-pro-quoing.

obviously anonymous — thank you so much for the chortle that story provided. good stuff. I hope Niall finds it thorugh google one day.

Christopher — my next post will probably address imperialism much more broadly. after posting this i got caught in following one of those goddamn wormhole discussions strungout through several blogs on the subject, each chockful of wingnut morons denying the fact of empire along the lines of “well, we dont have an emperor and we havent annexed iraq, so you’re lying..” the stupidity and mendacity of which makes me want to launch my fist through the screen. so, uh, it wont be funny but *I MUST DO IT NOW REGARDLESS*


Cue the great scene in The Life of Brian where the Centurion sees Brian doing some graffiti and ends up lecturing him on all the good that the Romans have done in Judea.

Freshly Squeezed Cynic

Eh, Henry, that’s two different scenes.

The Centurion rebukes Brian on his Latin grammar.

The People’s Front of Judea (not the Judean People’s Front, splitters) start talking about “what the Romans have ever done for us”. Apart from the roads, law and order, central heating, wine, etc, etc, etc.

As a native of Glasgow myself, I apologise for Ferguson personally. It’s a pity someone slipped through the cracks to wingnuttery when we’re a city full of lefties.


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