Melanie Phillips

21 February 2013

What Spielberg and Kushner tell Republicans and Conservatives

Published in: Melanie's blog

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The movie Lincoln, which I have just seen, is a magnificent piece of cinematic theatre, with a mesmeric performance by Daniel Day Lewis which deserves all the plaudits heaped upon it. Given the current state of American and indeed western politics, however, the movie packs a particular punch that its writer and director, those confirmed Democrats Tony Kushner and Steven Spielberg, surely never intended.

For of course what is so startling in today's world is that it shows the Republicans seeking  and bringing an end to slavery while the Democrats fought to retain it, terrified as they were of what it presaged -- not just votes for 'Negroes' but true human equality, votes for women and the unconscionable spectre of universal suffrage.

Whatever fictions mar this script – and there have been claims that it falsely sanitises and sanctifies Lincoln --  it cannot but provoke thoughts about the current pathetic state of the Republican Party and of Conservatism across the pond. For here was Republicanism, the so-called conservative cause, on the side of morality, decency, justice and progress, while the Democrats stood for bigotry, injustice and the most reactionary instincts. And here was a Republican President of the United States who, with all the odds supposedly against his great reforming measure and apparently facing the most invidious of moral choices, never flinched from his duty to stand and fight for what he believed in.

Today, Republicans and Conservatives don't know what they believe in, nor what cause they should be fighting for or against. Divided among themselves, they are incapable of showing any backbone in fighting today's injustices and extinctions of freedom because they are incapable of recognising them for what they are -- and some of these conservatives even believe they represent the justice and freedom they actually negate -- or because they have been cowed and terrified by the institutionalised bullying which now characterises their liberal opponents; or both.  

What I expect was not in the minds of either Kushner or Spielberg was that, in our modern age, the great cause of liberty has indeed come to threaten civilised values. And it is the Democrats and their liberal comrades in the west who have brought that about by turning the truly progressive values, against which the southern Democrat red-necks fought in the Civil War, on their heads. They have done this by hijacking concepts such as freedom, slavery, justice and equality and twisting them into their very opposites.

The fight for freedom against slavery has characterised the struggle for civilisation since the earliest times. In the 19th century, it was a motif which did not just focus on the emancipation of black people but underpinned just about every progressive movement, from the temperance movement to opposition to vivisection to votes for women and  universal suffrage. That was because, at the root of all these great reforming causes, lay the belief in the equality of all human beings because all were created in the image of God.  The core values we associate with western civilisation, such as freedom under law and innate human dignity, all rested on that core belief. That’s why all these great reforming movements were rooted in a muscular, Bible-believing Christianity.

But in the second half of the 20th century, that core belief took a terrible hit under the onslaught from secularism, and for many it simply died along with religious belief. What then happened was that western liberalism, like the mythological pelican, started to eat itself. With God exiled from the garden of reason, the west slithered into moral and cultural relativism. Telling itself that everyone was his or her own autonomous moral authority, it redefined equality as identicality, justice as group rights and freedom as libertinism with no external constraints on individual appetites.

The result glad been that so called progressives have turned into reactionary bullies. Western society has turned into a Hobbesian war of all against all, in which those with the most muscle win and the weak are trampled down. Belief in innate human dignity has been effaced by a shallow and ultimately lethal utilitarian belief that the only worthwhile lives are those which others deem to contribute to the store of human happiness. Those people -- such as the faithful followers of Biblical morality -- who dare dissent from any aspect of the liberal catechism are vilified as bigots and imbeciles and turned into social pariahs. All of this has not expanded freedom but cast a baleful totalitarian shadow, no less, over western society.

And yet in the face of this progressive extinction of justice and freedom, today's Conservatives and Republicans are paralysed like rabbits in the headlights of an advancing juggernaut. The principal reason why Obama is in his second term in the White House' advancing his agenda of constraining American power to spread freedom abroad while expanding state control of the individual at home (in his or her own interests, of course), is not the rotten American media (culpable as they are) but the silence and feebleness of the Republicans, who have never pursued the Obamabots as they should have done.

And just look at the British Prime Minister David Cameron, a supposed Conservative but who is not just totally star-struck by Obama but actually extolled the 'community activism' of Obama's ideological mentor, the revolutionary communist agitator Saul Alinsky. And because no-one in the British Conservative Party had even heard of Saul Alinsky -- who dedicated his seminal work, Rules for Radicals, to Lucifer -- none of these boobies raised an eyebrow at the subversive banner behind which their leader had lined up the Conservative Party.

Lincoln must surely be turning in his grave.

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

Read full biography


  • The World Turned Upside Down
  • Londonistan
  • The Ascent of Woman
  • America's Social Revolution

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