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He got sick

Julius seizure

Anthony Julius, the celebrated divorce lawyer and analyst of T.S. Eliot, has a new book out arguing that liberals are “fellow travellers” of anti-Semites, whatever that means (and I don’t intend to read the book to find out). But he does take the trouble to attack a few named individuals in a Guardian interview, and this in particular sticks out:

Tony Judt [who has complained of the power of the Israel lobby over American foreign policy] is a remarkable historian but I think he got sick about Israel.

He got sick about Israel? Well, in the spirit of interpretive charity so alien to Anthony Julius, I am going to firmly assume that Julius just doesn’t know that Tony Judt is, in fact, seriously ill. That Julius would knowingly exploit Judt’s actual ill-health in this way, by implying that Judt’s views on Israel are the cause of his disease, is simply unthinkable. It would place Julius entirely outwith the realm of civilized discourse.

That impossibility noted, it is even so hardly a respectable mode of debate to accuse one’s opponents of having got sick about one subject or another. In Julius’s formulation, to have the wrong kind of opinion about Israel is not mere scholarly disagreement but a species of (presumably mental) illness, and such a characterization deliberately degrades not only one’s specific opponent but everyone with actual mental illness. ((Cp Charles Krauthammer: “It looks as if Al Gore has gone off his lithium again.”)) For Julius to engage in such low nastiness, while flogging a book that decries another kind of prejudice, is rather unfortunate to say the least.

  1. 1  sw  February 9, 2010, 6:46 pm 

    In this interview, does he call Martin Amis a “a marginal literary novelist whose name would probably not be recognised by 98% of people”?

    Got sick is a very strange way of putting it, isn’t it? There are so many ways of imputing physical or mental malady to someone with whom you disagree, many of which are, if still fundamentally bigoted in the manner you point out, colourful. Got sick is so stodgy and brutal (excuse the bigotry against animals imported in “brutality”).

  2. 2  Steven  February 9, 2010, 6:50 pm 

    He very much does!

    I agree: at least “went batshit insane” would have a certain demotic poetry to it.

  3. 3  sw  February 9, 2010, 7:31 pm 

    Yes – Got sick sounds like Julius thinks Judt ate some bad Israel, whereas “batshit insane” does have a demonic poetry to it! As well as bringing in bigotry against both the mentally ill and the animal!

    BTW, I love how you couldn’t resist your own (brilliant) pun – Julius Seizure – implying, perhaps, that Julius has had a sort of ethical epileptic fit and lost control of his moral reasoning and language skills? Which is hardly fair on people with seizure disorders? (The odd thing is, one is now forced to apply the same moral reasoning to your ironic and elegant pun to Julius’s ugly insult).

  4. 4  Steven  February 9, 2010, 8:03 pm 

    It’s like rain on your wedding day?

  5. 5  sw  February 9, 2010, 8:32 pm 

    Should I not assume that there is some irony in “Julius Seizure”?

  6. 6  Steven  February 9, 2010, 8:42 pm 

    It was knowingly an example of the thing I was about to criticize, so in that sense, yes, it was indeed like a free ride when you’ve already paid?

  7. 7  sw  February 9, 2010, 9:01 pm 

    More like wanting a fork when all you’ve got is a spoon.

  8. 8  Steven  February 9, 2010, 9:26 pm 

    No no no, it’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife.

  9. 9  The Witch from Next Door  February 9, 2010, 11:52 pm 

    Putting Julius aside for a moment: I was convinced for ages that there was a line in the song Steven is alluding to that went “It’s a new religion when all you need is a pen”. But I discovered recently that it’s not in the song at all – indeed it doesn’t show up anywhere on google. Where on earth did I get that from? Surely not my decidedly prosaic subconscious??

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