Sunday, February 06, 2011

The liberal defence of mass murder

Would the liberal commentariat be happy to sacrifice Egyptians for the sake of capitalism?

One of the guests, Professor David Cesarani, floated the idea of there being a Tiananmen Square-style massacre in Egypt as a way of quelling potential post-Mubarak anarchy. And there has been no outrage. No Twitterstorm, no blog-based apoplexy, no heated radio phone-ins. Perhaps talking about the massacre of Egyptians is normal these days.

Professor Cesarani was asked by Michael Portillo about the “moral dilemma” of how to deal with what comes after Mubarak. What if it’s worse than Mubarak? Should it be crushed? Professor Cesarani said that if one takes the “wholly pragmatic view”, then “the outcome of a Tiananmen Square-style crackdown is desirable and is predictable”. Because, he said, “if you allow this popular democratic movement to run on unchecked, you cannot predict what’s going to happen. But you can predict probably that after a short, sharp, massive clampdown at huge human cost, there will be a sullen stability.”

Portillo was startled. “Quite a lot of people would be quite shocked to hear what you said – that a Tiananmen-style outcome would be desirable.” Cesarani responded that “the West is no longer weeping that much over Tiananmen Square because we’re doing a lot of business with China. So, many business interests would say, quietly, that, perhaps, well the way in which the Chinese managed their transition was preferable.” Another panellist, Matthew Taylor, former adviser to Tony Blair and now chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, later described Cesarani’s comments on Tiananmen Square as “incredibly brave” and said: “In a way, I can see his argument.”

Granted, this is Brendan O'Neill's version of events, so you may wish to take this with a pinch of salt.