A new encounter with an old standpoint

The website of Standpoint, the new magazine published by the Social Affairs Unit, is now live. In his inaugural column, editor Daniel Johnson highlights the magazine's neoconservative credentials:

“When you have a good idea, start a magazine.” This, according to
our board member Gertrude Himmelfarb, is the motto of her husband
Irving Kristol. In a long and fruitful life, he has started three.
(Their son Bill has started one, too.) The first was Encounter, which
Kristol co-founded with the late Stephen Spender in 1953. It was a
transatlantic monthly in which the intellectuals of the free world
could debate with one another and their communist counterparts. To
write for Encounter was a privilege.

Johnson doesn't mention it explicitly, but it is, of course, well-known that Encounter was founded and financed by the CIA as part of its psychological warfare strategy during the early cold war. According to historian Hugh Wilford, the magazine's "greatest achievement was in creating 'a certain kind of intellectual-cultural milieu' in which American and European interests came to appear as if they were identical."

It’s noteworthy that Johnson is happy to embrace the martial aspects of the parallel:

Ever since it folded at
the end of the Cold War, many people in Europe and America have
lamented the old Encounter. But it was only when a new kind of assault
came from a very different quarter on 11 September 2001 that a new
Encounter again became an urgent necessity. The aftermath revealed such
moral cowardice and intellectual confusion on both sides of the
Atlantic that the battle of ideas has sometimes seemed in danger of
being lost by default. To defend and celebrate Western civilisation is
not merely desirable; it is imperative.

The content is pretty much what you would expect. We get this from Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali:

Happily Marxism, in its various forms, has been shown to be the
philosophical, historical and economic nonsense that it always was. But
we are now confronted by another equally serious ideo­logy, that of
radical Islamism, which also claims to be comprehensive in scope. What
resources do we have to face yet another ideological battle?

Nazir-Ali is an advisor to the Social Affairs Unit’s Centre for Social Cohesion, whose director Douglas Murray also has a piece in the magazine. In the past, Murray has argued that Europe “has unsustainable demographic issues which – if un-addressed – will eradicate the continent as we know it within three or four generations” and that “Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board.”

(For a good antidote to this kind of fear-mongering see this article from Alex Harrowell at A Fistful of Euros).

The Independent reports that the Social Affairs Unit is heavily funded by Alan Bekhor, an associate of the Reuben brothers, who had a big stake in Russian aluminium in the 1990s, before selling out to Roman Abramovich and Boris Berezovsky.

I don’t claim to understand the details, but it would be interesting to know where these events fit in to the wider story of the dynamic between Berezovsky and Vladimir Putin.

It’s pretty clear, though, where Standpoint stands on “Putin’s New Evil Empire.”






3 responses to “A new encounter with an old standpoint”

  1. Charlie Marks avatar

    I can’t believe how open about their Encounterishness.
    It is interesting to note that although Nazir-Ali is smugly satisfied that Marxism is bunk, he had to exhort the rich to be more charitable in his Easter message.
    Whereas during the Cold War, several countries could be clearly linked, the ideologues of Cold War 2 lack a clear enemy they can outline in highbrow terms. So I guess they’re stuck with tabloidish attacks on Muslims.

  2. Charlie Marks avatar

    Oh, I also found it noteworthy that British and Britain are used in the “about us” in Standpoint, yet on the SAU site:
    “[T]here is a long tradition of English disdain for entrepreneurship and affluence: that is now being challenged from all sides. The SAU is interested to investigate why the English have these mental habits, and what – if anything – we ought to do about them.”
    Hmm, English tradition of disdain for the rich… Does this mean we can expect Standpoint to carry articles fulminating against Gerrard Winstanley?

  3. ziz avatar

    Old enough to have been a subscriber to Encounter – therin lies the rub, they had the name / addres etc of subscibers, a useful army.
    Ditto International Times started by CIA man Jim Haynes, Edinburgh Traverse Theatre etc., whom I also remember well when a post grad student in the early 60’s.
    Jim never seemed to run out of money, which was a miracle to us layabouts on a £350 per annum grant.
    Slightly older and just a bit wiser now.

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