The ballot box is under pressure in many parts of the world, as two new books attest. After the electoral shocks of 2016, stand by for a new intellectual assaultby Tom Clark / January 17, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in February 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
A few days after 9/11, one of my more excitable friends said: “very soon, we’ll be discussing whether we can justify torture.” I put it down to one war film too many. But before long, it turned out he was right. The CIA asked George W Bush about “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and he replied “damn right.” Before long we had all heard about waterboarding, or tormento del agua—as the Spanish Inquisition had called it. A handful of suicidal fanatics on four aeroplanes had proved capable not only of felling two towers from the New York skyline, but also of uprooting one of the most basic ground rules of our civilisation.
The right shock can turn the unthinkable into the actual with frightening speed. In the wake of the stunning Brexit vote, and especially since Donald Trump’s unintelligible victory, respectable opinion is beginning to call into question the most fundamental of our political principles: democracy. Since the end of the Second World War, a shared deference to the collective will, as expressed in occasional elections, defined the political mainstream in the west—question it, and you consigned yourself to the crankish fringes. But I was on a plane recently with copies of two books on my knee—David Van Reybr…