The story of Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan is an interesting one, I think, for what it tells us about the right, the left and human nature. These two youngish people — both 29, one of them a vegan, the other a vegetarian — jacked in their wonkish jobs in Washington DC in order to experience the world in all its glory. Their itinerary included dangerous areas — or at least areas deemed dangerous by western governments with an axe to grind. As Jay put it: ‘People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil. I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own... By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind.’
But in a sense it was only after the couple had been stabbed to death by Isis maniacs near the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border that the story really began. It was immediately taken up by the conservative right as the quintessence of millennials’ credulousness and stupidity, their fatal misapprehensions about the world, their epic delusions. Everyone I have told their story to has guffawed — and then, having wiped the tears from their eyes, looked slightly ashamed and said something like: ‘Ah, yes, ummm… not really that funny, is it?’
This is presumably a societal norm kicking in, something we have all been taught. It’s not quite decent to laugh at the horribly murdered. Fair enough, I suppose — but I think the laughter was the genuine reaction and that fact, by itself, rather abruptly disproves Jay’s thesis. Incidentally, I was alerted to the story by my friend and Sunday Times colleague Camilla Long, who commented only: ‘A vegan and a vegetarian… never mind Isis, imagine the tension!’ I laughed long and loud at this until a semblance of civility kicked in and I stopped. Then I told lots of other people, pretending that it was a desperately sad story rather than something to make you laugh mordantly.
The lefties took a very different approach, but one which will have surely become familiar to you. They denied the substance of the story outright. That, they said, is not what happened at all. It is fake news, a fabrication.
Everything the left doesn’t like is fake news — and they will always attempt to demonstrate this point with recourse to that most meretricious of modern inventions, the so-called ‘fact check’. You should never believe everything you read in the newspapers or hear on a radio broadcast, but be especially sceptical when it comes under the heading Fact Check. It will be cherry-picked stats handed down by some tenth-rate academic determined to prove his or her point of view, but presented as if it’s the word of either God or pristine science: the two being, for the secular left, coterminous.
The provisional wing of the Deluded Liberal Army, the BBC, has a regular fact-check thing and is able to prove every week that Brexit is a disaster and there is no genocide against white farmers in South Africa. In this case, the newspaper fact-checkers insisted that these two ill-fated millennials hadn’t ventured to Tajikistan to prove that the world was not a wicked place and that everyone was caring. Trawling through other stuff said by Jay Austin, they claimed the jaunt had been made purely from a sense of adventure. Well, maybe. But the couple’s blitheness in wandering through Tajikistan in the manner of Dora the Explorer was occasioned precisely by the belief that everyone is lovely really and nobody will hurt them. That is what killed them.
Truth is, though, I don’t think Jay and Lauren did entirely believe there was no wickedness in the world. Perhaps Jay meant that there is no wickedness except among the western imperialist establishment — Trump, the US, capitalism, colonialism and so on. It is us who have imposed wickedness upon cultures too militarily weak to allow their inherent goodness to shine through, bullied as they are by the West. This is an even graver delusion than the one the couple were accused of harbouring, but it has been terribly au courant for the past 20 years on university campuses, and among NGOs, the BBC and the left in general.
All evil in the world, the delusion runs, devolves directly from the West’s corrupt hegemony, its history and its traditions. Left free of western malefaction, the rest of the world would indeed be a beautiful and peaceable place. You can catch a whiff of this patent idiocy in the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust’s decision to fund a charity — Conflict Resolution Services Ireland — which has deep connections to IRA terrorism; or in the charities that cause chaos by trying to ship more ‘refugees’ to Europe every day, thus ensuring that more and more die while trying to come here.
And it is there in almost every pronouncement made by Jeremy Corbyn — his support for the brutal dynastic dictatorship of Cuba and the catastrophic and now vicious regime in Venezuela; his hand held out in supplication to Iran; his support for IRA terrorists and the genocidal maniacs of Hamas and Hezbollah; his refusal to criticise either Putin’s Russia or Brezhnev’s Soviet Union. We are the source of the madness in the world. Everywhere else is perfectly OK. It’s a belief system based largely upon a weird form of self-loathing, a denial of all the available evidence, a kind of psychosis.
I very much wish that Jay and Lauren had not been murdered by Islamist savages and were able to continue walking this earth in a state of happy oblivion to reality, munching their nuts and berries. But the world is not as they thought it was. It is a different place, a fatally different place.