Michael Brendan Dougherty, a senior writer at the National Review Online, has written an incredibly intelligent and perspicacious piece about London Calling – by which I mean, of course, that he’s quite nice about it (and the Daily Sceptic). Here’s an extract:
I’ve followed London Calling on and off for years, because British politics since Brexit have been a fascinating roller-coaster ride: The shock of the result. The brinksmanship of Remainers. The hapless Theresa May. The triumph of Boris Johnson’s majority. Lockdown. Johnson’s feud with former adviser Dominic Cummings. The Liz Truss dalliance.
Young gives the impression of a trouble-making Fleet Streeter who married too well and thus had to become more energetic, and more entrepreneurial and health-conscious, than every one of his peers. He was a lad-mag-era journalistic legend. He did a disastrous stint at Vanity Fair, which he chronicled in the memoir How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, later turned into a feature film starring Simon Pegg. He’s taken plenty of knocks in his career. And yet he keeps getting up off the canvas and doing one enterprising thing after another. He founded the Free Speech Union to defend people from cancellation. He became a successful education activist in England. And his commitment to contrarianism led him to found the anti-lockdown site the Daily Sceptic, which is now a clearinghouse for anti-Establishment muckraking.
Unlike Young, Delingpole gives the impression of someone who may have come from some money. But like Young, he’s a born skeptic; he made his name, in part, by flaying climate doomers. In recent years, he’s been slowed down. He contracted Lyme disease — a mysterious illness that is barely known at all outside of the wooded areas of the northeast United States — and suffered from the exact same battery of symptoms that also plagued my friend Ross Douthat. He still writes a column about new television series for the Spectator, but since the Covid era really got under way, his view of politics has changed. And this change makes the Young–Delingpole repartee perhaps the most relevant ongoing conversation on planet Earth.
Whereas once he and Young were both basically libertarian-oriented Tories, now Delingpole has stopped caring about conventional politics. He sometimes has trouble working up any interest at all in the latest too-ing and fro-ing at Westminster. And this change has strained the relationship at the heart of the podcast, occasionally making me wonder if I was listening to the final episode.
For Delingpole, the sinister aims of our ruling class keep advancing whatever party is in power. Trump meant nothing. Brexit meant nothing. BoJo was, if anything, just another tool of the establishment. The implementation of the World Economic Forum agenda — you’ll own nothing and love it — continues apace. Depopulation is the long-term goal. Soon we’ll have a full-blown social-credit system backed by central-bank digital currencies. In his remaining time before the onset of inescapable tyranny, Delingpole is experimenting with religion and psychedelics, and forswearing “the death jab” — Covid vaccination. This is the worldview of #TeamJames on the podcast.
On the other side of the ledger is #TeamToby, whose view is that our politics are for the most part genuine rather than fake, our leaders deluded and bumbling rather than as supremely capable as they would have to be to keep conspiracies of the sort Delingpole believes in going.
What makes London Calling riveting is that I know so many friendships, marriages, and enterprises in which something like the same division has arisen over the past three years. I know so many people who go through life with worldviews equivalent to those of #TeamToby and #TeamJames as the respective angel and devil on their shoulders. And there is something inherently fascinating about watching people struggle through it.
Every establishment organ talks about the “crisis of democracy”, by which they mean the rise of populist parties that are challenging the rather narrow confines of post–Cold War political orthodoxy. But I think Delingpole’s worldview change is closer to the real crisis: the spreading belief that self-government is a sham exercise, that political action is pointless, and that our civilisation is doomed because our institutions can’t be reformed.
There are moments when Young has had to almost shrug at the surprising plausibility of Delingpole’s worldview; after all, it did kind of look like the Bank of England and a handful of bond-market players decapitated the Truss government. There are also times when Delingpole seems to come close to admitting that his worldview has cracks in it; shouldn’t “the death jab” have killed more of its recipients if it’s as deadly as Delingpole claims? Truss’s budget was no threat to the remora-like ruling class, so why did it get her thrown out of office? Beneath the surface, one wonders if the #TeamJames mindset is born of a certain despair — if its adherents are still mourning what was lost between 2020 and 2022.
The fact that London Calling hasn’t broken up over its hosts’ sharply diverging views is — dare I say it — inspiring. In a way, both men’s liberality is what sustains it: They always find a way to talk through or around their disagreements, and their friendship allows each of them to practice viewing the world through the other’s warped lens.
Worth reading in full!