Thursday, February 5, 2009

Slaughter With A Smile

If Savage Mules is a Germs single recorded in Darby Crash's garage, The Liberal Defense of Murder is The Clash's Sandinista!, bursting with sustained energy and purpose. Richard Seymour, who oversees Lenin's Tomb, has delivered the best indictment of liberal warmongering to date, and just in time, too, as it appears we're about to enter another period of humanitarian barbarism led by a Democratic president.

But his book goes much deeper than simply exposing and smashing today's imperial cheerleaders. Richard plumbs the historical record of liberal violence, going back to the likes of John Stuart Mill and Alexis de Tocqueville, reviewing their elitist disdain for "savages" and the underdeveloped, who had to be colonized and treated as children by superior minds and arms. From there we get an expansive view of this mindset and the mass murder that nourished it. Imperial rhetoric became polished and refined, the role of court intellectuals rising in importance and utility. As Richard amply reminds us, there is no shortage of willing mouthpieces for the imperial state; it essentially comes down to effectiveness, who can best explain and justify the violence planned for those selected for "liberation."

There are many personalities that you'll recognize: Paul Berman, Michael Ignatieff, Samantha Power, Kanan Makiya, Norman Geras, and of course our own Christopher Hitchens as The Raver. But Richard also dissects Bernard Henri-Lévy and André Glucksmann, the former a superstar among Western humanitarian bombardiers, the latter making his bones in the 1980s, when the long-haired Glucksmann became a French media sensation, warning of gulags that apparently were everywhere. It was during the 1980s when American and European reactionaries laid the groundwork for neoconservatives and liberal hawks alike, their arguments for imperial aggression interchangeable and complimentary, if tactically divergent at certain points.

The Liberal Defense of Murder is not a happy read, not if you value intellectual honesty and genuine commitment to human freedom. The packed rogues' gallery of insufferable egos can be overwhelming if you don't pace yourself. But Richard Seymour's book is a necessary read, especially now, as beautiful lies are back in fashion with decided force.

WATCH: Richard discuss his book with George Galloway who, for pure entertainment and guaranteed shock value, should be given a prime time show on MSNBC or CNN.