Francis Fukuyama on Ukraine, liberalism and identity politics

This week, Sam Leith spoke to Francis Fukuyama – the author of ‘The End of History and the Last Man’ and the newly released ‘Liberalism and its Discontents’ on the latest episode of The Book Club. You can watch their conversation below, listen to it here or read this transcript. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.   Sam Leith: Liberal is a word that means something very different in Tennessee than it does in Muswell Hill. What exactly are the parameters of what you call classical liberalism? Francis Fukuyama: It does have a very different meaning in the United States than it does in Europe. My definition of it is closer

The Pope’s merciless war against the Old Rite

I am going to have to boil this down as crudely as I can, because it’s a complex subject with a simple message, but the Pope is attempting to make it as hard as possible to say, and thus attend, the Old Rite Mass. This is the form of Mass most Catholics went to before the 1970s. It was replaced with a New Rite and the Old was driven more-or-less underground. In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI decided that priests who wanted to say the Old should be allowed to. Francis has rescinded that: now you must get the bishop’s permission and things will be weighed heavily in favour of the bishop

Starmer will regret his submission to liberal intolerance

Keir Starmer obviously regrets visiting Jesus House last week because of the furore it has caused in his own party. But he will likely come to regret his reaction even more. The Labour leader posted a full apology for the Pentecostal church visit, saying: ‘I completely disagree with Jesus House’s beliefs on LGBT+ rights, which I was not aware of before my visit. I apologise for the hurt my visit caused and have taken down the video. It was a mistake and I accept that.’ The whole thing is, as Brendan O’Neill points out, rather awkward, given Starmer chose to visit this church during a key Christian festival and given

The left’s illiberal turn

In the House of Lords this week, Baroness Jenny Jones of the Green party said she thought that a way to combat violence against women was to institute a six o’clock curfew on all men. She added, strangely, that ‘discrimination of all kinds would be lessened’ by such a move. Mark Drakeford took that sentiment a step further when he said he’d ‘consider all measures’ when asked if would implement a curfew on men — a sentiment he has now, thankfully, rowed back on. Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking Jones was suggesting something patently ridiculous in order to demonstrate that it always seems to be women who have to

How to be ‘liberal’, according to the ancients

Certain parts of academia seem to wish to turn the study of classics away from a historical, language- and evidence-based discipline whose focus is understanding the ancient world on its own terms, in favour of preaching to students about the evils of ancient imperialism, slavery, racism, sexism, privilege, all keenly advocated by anyone who has ever taught it. There should be added to that list of shame the ancients’ hopelessly misguided views about what it meant to be ‘liberal’. Latin lîber meant ‘free’, and lîberalis meant ‘relating to the free, worthy of the free’; also ‘gentlemanly, ladylike’, by extension ‘magnanimous, obliging’ and so ‘munificent, generous’. Another crucial mark of the

Liberals should stop patronising believers

An editorial in the Guardian on Friday suggests that this year may be a good one for liberal Christians, and gives them a little pat on the back.  Liberalism thinks itself the wiser, cooler sibling of religion The suggestion is based on four things: the churches have shown their social relevance during the pandemic; the incoming American president is a liberal Catholic; in his latest book Pope Francis has called for a ‘new humanism’; the leader of the Orthodox Church, Bartholomew I, has spoken in favour of social justice. It also notes that illiberal Christianity is going strong, citing Poland’s illiberalism on abortion, and Trump’s recent support from evangelicals, but it opts

The rise and fall of Netflix

In 2010, Jeff Bewkes, then CEO of Time Warner, was asked if he thought Netflix had any chance of taking over Hollywood. His sarcastic answer deserves to go down as one of the all-time dumb predictions. Bewkes (like the dude who wrote the internal Western Union memo that said telephones were a waste of time) was not taking Netflix seriously: ‘Is the Albanian army going to take over the world?’ A decade later, Netflix is not Albania. It’s imperial Spain during el Siglo de Oro. Massive, relentlessly mercantile and ruthlessly acquisitive, Netflix has rippled over the world to become one of the largest media businesses ever known. Count the hundreds

Soft-left squatters have taken over the Lib Dems

I was never afraid of Jeremy Corbyn, never afraid of Momentum. I’ve never really feared Britain’s hard left at all. They’re wrong, of course, and they can do some serious localised damage; but their ideology is so obviously daft and has so comprehensively failed wherever in the 20th century it was tried that they occupy in my mind a position similar to that of Satanists. Grisly, yes, but a threat to civilised society? Hardly. The hard left always gets found out in the end, and always will. Their doctrines have no natural appeal to the middle-of-the-road British (which is most of us) and in the unlikely event they were ever

Suzanne Moore’s departure is a sad day for the Guardian

Who runs a newspaper – and especially a great liberal newspaper – in a digital age when liberalism often seems to be in retreat, menaced by its enemies internal and external? In the not-too-recent past, the question would be easily answered: the editor, supported by his (for in the past it was usually ‘his’) senior journalists ran the paper. Things are more complicated now. At least they appear more complicated at the Guardian and at the New York Times. At both papers, each the proud inheritors of certain liberal traditions, one may no longer say with confidence that editorial control of the paper resides with the editorial staff. This evening,

Are liberal conservatives now history?

It was a luminous late August sunset, and we were in France, dining outdoors with some friends who have a magical, charming place in the countryside there. We were discussing audiobooks of the kind you could listen to on a long car journey and I mentioned how Julian, my partner, and I had enjoyed my Times colleague David Aaronovitch’s memoir of childhood and youth, Party Animals: My Family and Other Communists. If you haven’t read it, do. David’s family were hardline members of the British Communist party. He was brought up to believe that ‘God Save the Queen’ was an anthem of imperialist oppression, and the revolution, hopefully peaceful, was

In defence of liberalism: resisting a new era of intolerance

It has become fashionable in recent years to talk of the death of liberalism. But as crowds high on the octane of generational self-righteousness rampage through major cities, the evidence mounts. The growing intolerance of freedom of thought, the inability to talk across divides, the way that most of the British establishment, police included, feels the need to pledge fealty to the cause — as though all terrified of ending up on the wrong side — points to a crisis of more than confidence. It is evidence of an underlying morbidity. Each day the cultural revolution is picking up a pace, with the iconoclasts who attacked the Cenotaph and the

Will coronavirus revive liberalism – or deliver it a fatal blow?

Politicians, said the historian A.J.P. Taylor, do not create the current of events. They can only float along with them and try to steer. But he was talking about the long contours of European history, not the sudden and shocking arrival of a global pandemic. How to float along and steer through something that looks like an overwhelming tsunami is, largely, unknown. The outbreak of coronavirus has already put much of the world in lockdown. It has pushed the global economy into freefall, killed more than 13,000 people and could yet kill hundreds of thousands more, perhaps millions. It will also have big political effects. Leaders, governments, even ideologies will

The lunatics have landed

I remember the moon landing very well. I was nine years old. I can remember too my sense of outrage and disillusion. ‘This is a blatant violation of the moon’s dignity and sovereignty,’ I told my parents, as the astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong attempted to secure the US flag to the lunar surface. ‘An act of imperialistic, Zionist barbarism and a statement of intent from the American government that it intends to export its white supremacy throughout the known galaxy. You will note that no people of colour were chosen as astronauts, nor women, nor people with fibromyalgia.’ A day or two later, when I had been let

On Twitter, you reap what you sow

The nastiest person on Twitter has quit Twitter. Because I’m so generous I shan’t mention his name. All I’ll say is he that he co-wrote one of the 1990s’ warmest, funniest, daffiest sitcoms — which is possibly what made his attack-dog vitriol so especially hurtful. It was like being stabbed with a fork by Gyles Brandreth, kneed in the groin by your vicar, given the middle finger by the Queen. What, you kept wondering, could possess someone you were predisposed to admire to make them behave like such a dreadful heel? Because social media makes monsters of us, unfortunately. Some people, at any rate. We discussed this at the weekend

Europe’s politicians rightly feel extinction breathing down their necks

Allahu Akbar! Greetings from Samsun, where Turkish protestors — their eyeballs spinning in orgasmic Islamic rage — tried to set fire to the Dutch flag while chanting the usual ‘Allah’s dead good’ stuff. They used cigarette lighters and some lighter fuel and up it went — and was then jubilantly trampled on by the inflamed, howling masses. Except that it wasn’t the Dutch flag — they had got hold of the French flag by mistake. I wonder if any of the similarly inflamed Turkish protestors in the Netherlands would have noticed? My guess is most of those demonstrating in Rotterdam had spent their entire lives in the Netherlands, but possibly

Holmes spun

One of the few intelligent responses from the liberal-left to our radically altered political landscape was an essay published last year in the impeccably right-on Vox. It began: ‘There is a smug style in American liberalism …It is a way of conducting politics, predicated on the belief that American life is not divided by moral difference or policy divergence — not really — but by the failure of half the country to know what’s good for them.’ You could apply very much the same argument to Britain and, as evidence, you could cite the first episode in the new series of Sherlock. (Shitlock as I prefer to call it, in

The new normal

-What was your favourite response from the liberals to Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election? Actress Emma Watson handing out copies of a Maya Angelou book to bewildered commuters in New York? Cher announcing that she wasn’t simply leaving the USA, ‘but Planet Earth too’ — a move some of us assumed she had made at least 40 years ago? The hysterical protestors who set fire to their own shoes because they thought the said shoes were pro-Trump? The hyperbolic hatred spewed out towards those who voted for the Donald, or Matthew Parris suggesting that maybe this democracy caper has gone too far, or the teachers telling tearful

A game of chicken with the electorate

I have worked in advertising for 28 years. In that time I have seen many briefs for communication campaigns, but none contained the line ‘It is important to insult the target audience, or at least treat them with barely disguised disdain.’ So I wonder whether the referendum result might have gone the other way had Remain supporters refrained from using social media in the days before the vote. Impossible to enforce, of course. The problem with the self-righteous is that they are so eager to virtue-signal to each other that they will go on doing it even when it is completely counterproductive. One American expert has written a blog post

What do all these evil maniacs have in common?

More bad publicity for the Islamic State’s ‘Kafir Tiny Tots and Babycare Service’. A burka-clad madwoman wandering through the streets of Moscow swinging a decapitated toddler’s head while shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ is just the kind of image the company wished to dispel. You begin to doubt its vetting procedures for potential nannies, and also whether or not it has a valid Investors In People certificate. The less than conscientious nanny was from Samarkand in Uzbekistan (which last had a half-decent government in about 1990). ‘I want your death,’ she screamed at the Muscovites, waving the poor child’s head about. The madwoman is now in prison and already, I daresay, the

If you’re stupid enough to let all these people in, at least treat them decently

We were on our way to a party in south-east London when my friend, Rob, saw the graffiti. Sprayed with painful neatness on a wall: ‘Support Jeremy’. It suited the area so well — a small quadrant of our capital city that the inhabitants I dare say still think is ‘edgy’, even now after they’ve got rid of all the blacks and the white working class by pricing them out of the market. Artisan bread shops and ‘community’ pubs and vegetarian cafés. Whereas once the occupants of this enclave were engaged in actual work — plumbers, electricians, drug dealers etc. — now I would wager almost all of them get their