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February 22, 2007

Harry Phibbs finds How to be Right great fun - but is amazed that a large, mainstream, commercial publisher should touch it: How to be Right: The Essential Guide to Making Lefty Liberals History - James Delingpole

Posted by Harry Phibbs

How to be Right: The Essential Guide to Making Lefty Liberals History
by James Delingpole
London: Headline Review, 2007
Paperback, 12.99

This is just the book for any Conservative to keep in the downstairs lavatory. But it should not be dismissed as a joke book. It fulfils that purpose as a humorous dictionary with entries made up of subjects including left wing thinkers, humbug phrases and spheres of activity.

But one can tell that beneath the humour is genuine righteous indignation and the research is valid.

Naturally it is a personal account. Not every Conservative would share Delingpole's enthusiasm for swearing, drugs and pop music. But Delingpole manages to fuse various libertarian and Conservative core beliefs and lay on some welcome debunking of Leftists distortion to produce something of a line in the sand.

He marks territory he does not want to see surrendered - not least in terms of the English language. He has a proper concern with the way the Left has sought to distort the meaning of words. Take Diversity. Delingpole writes:

Celebrating Diversity - as our local Councils so often claim to be doing on our behalf - may sound jolly but in fact it's just a grindingly politically correct euphemism for "state enforced multiculturalism". Like multiculturalism, diversity has nothing to do with getting us to mix it up in one big happy melting pot. Quite the opposite. For "diversity" read "division".
I find it particularly tiresome how the word "investment" has been hijacked by the BBC to have its meaning sucked out of it. As Delingpole says the word is now a:
Weaselly New Labour euphemism designed to make wasteful state expenditure on pointless projects sound like a desirable and profitable thing.
Of course Delingpole is concerned to produce a lively, entertaining read. Also he is a polemicist unconstrained by the scrutiny that an elected Conservative politician would face. So parts of this volume are about abuse rather than reason. While not racist some passages are provocative and insensitive.

There is an attitude of - because his views are going to be distorted anyway - what is the point in including all the usual caveats about how he has nothings against gays, women, ethnic minorities, the disabled, etc. What is the point in first making clear that we are all against pollution or third world poverty but disagree with the policy proposals from the Left? Others expressing a libertarian view against extra spending or regulation would have to put in a long caveat explaining that their motivation was not one of prejudice. Delingpole doesn't see the need to bother but just wades into the argument.

JFK said of going to the Moon:

We do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard.
The same might be said for some of the topics Delingpole takes on. He defends smokers and notes of passive smoking the massive research project between 1959 and 1989 surveying no fewer that 118,094 Californians which concluded it does not exist. The research, conducted by two anti-smokers keen to establish evidence, James Enstrom and Geoffrey Kabat, was initiated by the American Cancer Society.

More uncomfortable truths come in the entry on Exxon Valdez. Life returned to the polluted beaches after 18 months - those expensively cleaned took three or four years because of the various unintended consequences of the cleaning process. For instance pressure washing killed off marine life.

Another provocative entry comes under Live Aid as a:

Fund-raising event which helps needy African dictators enlarge their fleets of Mercedes, while simultaneously enabling white, middle class people to demonstrate conspicuous compassion.
More raw courage on page 58 with a hostile entry for geography teachers lamenting the past when:
they wanted to map the world not change it.
These days:
Your kids come back from school insisting you use eco-friendly washing up liquid instead of the stuff that actually works and suggesting maybe it's about time the whole family went vegetarian in solidarity with impoverished Bangladeshis.

But can they tell you the capital of Outer Mongolia or point to Paris on the map? Can they Hell.

No politicians could write this book. He is taking on not just "political correctness gone mad" in the tabloid sense but political correctness, which might indeed be mad, but is generally approved of as sane. He is taking on PC positions some of which probably carry majority support in opinion polls. His conclusions may sometimes be flippant, or wrong, but those who read the entries will be inspired to think about the subjects raised rather than just go along with the fashionable view.

Delingpole says in the introduction:

Thanks to the cracking team at Headline most of whom are almost certainly a bunch of ghastly lefties because pretty much everyone in publishing is.
One is indeed surprised to find this book published not by the Social Affairs Unit but by a large, mainstream, commercial publishers. It is a sign of hope.

Harry Phibbs is a journalist.

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