Roger Scruton has appeared on the Today programme to discuss the interview that got him fired. Here is the full transcript and recording of his conversation with Justin Webb:
RS: I don’t think I spoke intemperately. I speak as I speak and I discuss things as they are presented to me, according to my vision of them. But you know obviously the way in which it was presented in the New Statesman was such as to cause some kind of scandal.
JW: At one stage, George Eaton, well he tweeted these words that he ascribed to you, ‘each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one and that is a very frightening thing’. Let’s listen to the context of that:
There are difficulties around the corner that we are ignoring like the rise of China. There’s something quite frightening about the Chinese sort of mass politics and the regimentation of the ordinary being. We invent robots and they are…in a sense creating robots out of their own people by so constraining what what can be done that each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one. And that’s a very frightening thing. maybe I don’t know enough about it to be confident in making that judgment. But the politics is like that and the foreign policy is like that.
JW: And obviously we hear the voice of George Eaton as well in that clip. Now how do you believe that was misrepresented in the interview as it was presented in the New Statesman?
RS: It was presented as a kind of racist slur on the Chinese people as such. When I was trying to talk about what the communist authorities are trying to do with them. I went on to talk about the concentration camps in which they are trying to eliminate from the Chinese Muslims, the God idea and replace it with the party idea. All this is what we all of us know about China, but for some reason reluctant to say.
JW: But were the words then left out of the interview that would have made plain that context?
RS: Of course, what was left out was the reference to the Communist Party and what the Communist Party is trying to do with the Chinese people. So it made it look as I was talking about the Chinese people as they are in themselves. You know it’s very obvious that surely.
JW: Let’s go on to something else that you said, talking now about the Hungarian leader Viktor Orban:
Power has gone to his head. He has this huge charisma. And he’s made some decisions which are very popular with the Hungarian people because the Hungarians were extremely alarmed by this sudden invasion of huge tribes of Muslims from the Middle East. You have to remember that history is, of their relation with Islam is not a happy one.
JW: Again what from that do you think has been misrepresented?
RS: Well I would say nothing. I’m telling the truth about what Orban is. The situation he’s had to deal with and the way the Hungarian people as it were take this the question of immigration for them is it’s a totally new thing. But there is the historic memory obviously of the Ottoman invasions and the occupation of their country from which they have just about recovered now.
JW: Do you regret the use of the phrase huge tribes of Muslims?
RS: Taken out of context, it’s not a very good phrase. There is an awful lot of my phrases that I regret. I’ll probably regret most of the things I’m saying to you now. I’m hoping you will regret some of them because that’s what life is about. It’s about trying to get across a point and reaching for the words, not necessarily finding the right ones. But it’s only in the whole context that you can actually know what somebody means.
JW: But I suppose it’s also about isn’t it avoiding phrases that you think might dehumanise. You use those phrases that their sense will be among those who hear them and maybe don’t know much about you and your background. Well that is something that is effectively racist and damaging to oppressed people.
RS: I don’t think that’s true, that phrase. And I think you know you are now accusing me of something of which you have no right to accuse me and maybe you will regret using those words at some stage. How can I tell? I have my vision of these things. You know I am very interested in the Islamic world and I’m very pro-Muslim for the most part. But I have to report when describing what Orban goes through exactly what the perception of the ordinary Hungarian is of this event. It is not my perception.
JW: What do you think of the way the government treated you?
RS: I’m not very impressed. I think let me say what I think about the whole thing. I’m a conservative thinker, well-known as such, outspoken but reasonable in my view. And there’s been throughout this country and throughout Europe really an attempt to silence the conservative voice. We get identified, caricatured and then demonised and made to look as though we are some kind of sinister, fascist, racist kind of people. And as soon as the Conservative Party sees one of us being demonised in this way, they rush to dissociate themselves from us. This happened, so I gather on social media, all kinds of MPs saying: ‘Oh he’s not one of us.’ And there I am out in the cold. My only fault having been trying to defend them. And this kind of witch hunting of people on the right is something which is getting worse in our societies. We’ve just seen it with Jordan Peterson in Cambridge. You know all the people who are absolutely first-rate thinkers and should be in there in the dialogue, that we have some of their wisdom. But we are being excluded.
JW: But isn’t that because the Conservative Party and this Government has moved away from you? And if they want to move away from you and modernise themselves, I’m just looking at some of the things that you’ve said in the past. You’ve talked about date rape – as there being no such crime as date rape.
RS: Hang on, this is a slander.
JW: Let me put these things here and then and then absolutely tell me they’re wrong. You’re quoted as saying that homosexuality has been normalised but not normal. And I suppose the point would be these are things that you could absolutely hold views that you could hold as a private citizen. But for a government wanting to be modern you could understand why, if you hold those views, they might be leery about defending you when you get into trouble.
RS: Okay. Now you’ve taken those views which are snips from BuzzFeed taken from elaborate arguments that I’ve made when I say that there’s no such crime as date rape. I’m saying what is true. There isn’t a specific legal category of date rape and I wanted to make that point in order to ensure that people don’t use this to obscure the difference between real sexual violence and you know things that have gone wrong. And you know I feel that it’s partly because we’re getting our language so vague and slippery at the borders of everything that there’s the kind of growing, if you like, distrust between the sexes. There’s a growing distrust between people generally because we don’t know what we can be accused of. We don’t know how to vindicate ourselves when we are accused. That’s why I made these remarks about getting the language straight and getting it right. It’s then misconstrued by the learned editors of BuzzFeed to attribute to me a thoughtcrime and this business of constantly manufacturing thought crimes is part of the way that is being used to silence people who are conservative. Okay. The Conservative Party wants to run away from those people but in doing so it’s running away from its own voters. And this is to me a gesture of suicide.