There’s a good interview with Douglas Murray in the Sunday Times, pegged to his new book The War on the West: How to Prevail in the Age of Unreason. Among other things, he tells Charlotte Ivers about the British institutions he thinks are betraying their heritage.
“I have a particular jihad against the trustees of the Tate,” he says on a video call from New York, where he lives. The gallery folded in the face of a petition calling for the removal of a 1920s mural by Rex Whistler from its restaurant in Tate Britain because of its depiction of child slavery. It will remain out of public view until the gallery has commissioned a new work to be exhibited alongside it “in dialogue with the mural”.
“We have to accept that almost all of our cultural institutions are ashamed of our culture,” he says. “They’re intimidated because they sense we’re in the midst of a cultural revolution, of a kind, and they don’t know what to do about it.
“I think that very ideologically motivated people with bad intent can go an awfully long way, by bullying people and making them believe that the cost of getting this wrong is total reputational destruction. These cultural and other institutions, they basically decided that if they put one step wrong, by standing up for themselves or their collection, that they will lose the prestige and the esteem which they care about so much.”
Murray is smartly dressed and looks like a PR executive who has stopped by for a glass of wine on his way back from the gym. He is just about part of the millennial generation that is said to be driving the culture wars, rather than the older generation that runs most of the cultural institutions he derides. He peppers his speech with references to the philosophers John Stuart Mill and David Hume, as well as Karl Marx and the American writer James Baldwin.
But there is a religious sense of mission to Murray, although he says that he is now less concerned than he was about converting others to share his beliefs. “As you mature . . . you think, ‘Well, this is my view, I don’t really care if anyone agrees or not.’ I think it’s quite common. To be challenged when you’re younger is harder. When you’re older and a bit more experienced, it’s not so difficult. We all experience that. I suppose I was angry in part in my twenties because I thought there were things going on which I couldn’t believe people weren’t identifying. And now I have a certain peace with that.”
That’s not the impression you get from the new book. In Murray’s world, there is a war on, and he wants you on his side.
Worth reading in full.