“Gandhi and his rabble”

by Ted on May 11, 2005

This really ought to enter the standard brief against PowerLine, along with “Jimmy Carter is a traitor!”, “That Schiavo memo is a forgery!”, “How dare the New York Times reveal the sexual orientation of openly gay activists!” and “When the left begins beating its wife, it will be an outrage!”



Mr. Bill 05.11.05 at 12:55 pm

And you left out the current standard rightist line
“FDR sold out Eastern Europe to his pal Stalin at Yalta.”
I mean, it has to be true, as the President of the US seems to be saying so….


Alan 05.11.05 at 1:05 pm

If you go to Powerline itself, you’ll find that the original source of the quote is Roger Kimball at the New Criterion. (!)


bh 05.11.05 at 1:27 pm

Let’s not forget the denial of evolution on ‘purely scientific grounds.’



Barry 05.11.05 at 1:30 pm

Which the Powerline guy seemed to approve of, so we’ll just call it adoption.


jet 05.11.05 at 1:38 pm

Because “the Left” has been oh so reasonable in previous exceptions to Republican nominees?


Ted 05.11.05 at 1:48 pm

He didn’t just seem to approve, he said “I agree wholeheartedly”. It’s sure not the New Criterion’s finest hour, either.

Jet, give us a break. I think that Bush has been a terrible President, but if I got in high dudgeon about something he hadn’t done and showed no indication of doing, I’d be embarassing myself.


Peter Parker 05.11.05 at 1:50 pm

Because “the Left” has been oh so reasonable in previous exceptions to Republican nominees?

Hmmm. I’m going propose that “‘the Left'” has been more reasonable. My hypothesis would be along the lines of:

If the Democrats, while enjoying a majority in one or both houses, did not threaten to fundamentally change the rules of the Senate and to weaken the checks and balances outlined in the Constitution in order to ram through controversial judicial nominees, then they have been more reasonable than “the Right”.

Hmmm. My hypothesis checks out. I guess you’re right, assuming you werent being sarcastic. You weren’t were you?


jet 05.11.05 at 1:54 pm

Point taken :)


P ONeill 05.11.05 at 1:58 pm

We’re now in an age where the pronouncements that one would have expected from an idiot frat boy now have currency on The Right — that the Allies should have just invaded eastern europe in 1945, that colonialism was great, and generally that up is down and bad is good.

Also, you might soon have enough Powerline classic moments for Powerline bingo.


Colin Danby 05.11.05 at 2:17 pm

Maxspeak alerted us to this:
the other day so it may be a trend.


almostinfamous 05.11.05 at 2:22 pm

what we have here seems to be earth-mover style historical revisionism, in that they are coating reality in large volumes of utter crap.

the name ‘new criterion’ lends itself to too many easy jokes, but wtf is with all this casual racism and approval thereof going on in these blogs?


abb1 05.11.05 at 2:29 pm

It’s great to see someone standing up for colonialism, especially British colonialism.

This does it. I am now officially converted to the view that Evolution is only a theory, and not a very convincing one too.


nick 05.11.05 at 2:59 pm

the name ‘new criterion’ lends itself to too many easy jokes

Well, the old Criterion (prop. T.S. Eliot) had its share of quasi-fascist scribblers as well.


nick 05.11.05 at 3:00 pm

Also, Niall Ferguson has a lot to answer for: he exported the ‘Empire! Good!’ meme to the US, and has shuffled off the scene to write his next book at Harvard, leaving his new AEI chums to spread it like cow manure.


jet 05.11.05 at 3:50 pm

Peter Parker,
Probably not the place for this, but since you brought it up, I’d say it was the Democrats who are changing the system of checks and balances in Congress, since the use of the filibuster was not used in judicial nominees before Bush II tried getting his nominees through. So if the Republicans are trying to do anything, they are trying to return things to the previous level of checks and balances. So you’re wrong, unless you being sarcastic.


apostropher 05.11.05 at 3:55 pm

they are trying to return things to the previous level of checks and balances.

Bullshit. Google Orrin Hatch and blue slip, jet.


apostropher 05.11.05 at 3:56 pm

the use of the filibuster was not used in judicial nominees before Bush II

Because they didn’t have to filibuster; a single senator could deep-six any judge from his home state by blue-slipping him/her. Republicans filibustered Abe Fortas as well. Want to try again?


Barry 05.11.05 at 4:11 pm

No, that’s the current argument, apostroper. Somewhat incomplete, and highly dishonest.


neil 05.11.05 at 4:32 pm

To the best of my knowledge Ghandi was opposed to partition but the arguement that colonialism was not universally bad has some merit.


Daniel 05.11.05 at 4:43 pm

If only the British had displayed a bit more nerve in standing up to Washington and his rabble, I swear we wouldn’t have to put up with this crap.


Anderson 05.11.05 at 4:46 pm

“Gandhi and his rabble.” Wow.

That tells me a lot more about John Hinderaker’s soul than I really cared to know.


norbizness 05.11.05 at 4:53 pm

Big Trunk: [moments before the Amritsar Massacre] Should we issue a warning, sir?
Hindrocket: They’ve had their warning. No meetings. Fire!

Doesn’t everybody remember that they had their accountability moment, and that’s when Time Magazine named them Blog of the Year? As that pasty South African ambassador said in Lethal Weapon II, “Dip-lo-ma-tic I-mmun-i-ty!”


Scott Lemieux 05.11.05 at 6:02 pm

*…since the use of the filibuster was not used in judicial nominees before Bush II*

Abe Fortas says hello!


roger 05.11.05 at 6:07 pm

Actually, the history of the colonialism is good meme owes a lot to Peter Bauer, a conservative development economist in the sixties — although I guess he only recently died. The funny thing is, there are parts of his argument that any Marxist would agree with — for instance, the introduction of certain kinds of infrastructure — railroads, for instance — was ultimately to the benefit of the colonies. But what the pro-colonialists can’t admit is that the colonies were under-developed in those sectors that add value — the financial sector, human resources like education, a manufacturing sector aimed at the domestic market. Etc. Instead, the benefits of that infrastructure corresponded to the benefits the governing class wanted to accrue. Hence, the financing of the railroads in India went through British banks, and were run according to British necessities — so they exported food via those trains during famine years, and they monetized the rural economy without regard to the harm done to the vast majority of villagers, and they enrolled Indian soldiers to fight in British wars.
It doesn’t surprise me that the neo-cons are revising their view of the colonies, since America is doing the same thing in Iraq — putting in infrastructure which profits American companies on all ends (often using, without any accounting provisions, oil money seized from Iraq), trying to seize Iraqi natural resources for American petroleum companies, enrolling Iraqis in an American war. However, I don’t think it will work. In the end, the Americans will have merely shifted their tax dollars to support the lifestyles of rich CEOs of the American war service industry.

However, I guess that isn’t a failure in Bush age terms.


hihuho 05.11.05 at 8:48 pm

I read the original post of the quote of Gandhi in the “New Criterion”. Roger Kimball did not say that quote. He was quoting Andrea Dworkin. An indian feminist wrote Roger Kimball an angry email because Roger had called Andrea Dworkin’s work poppycock. He was trying to show the silliness of the indian feminist rant, and giving an example of how Andrea Dworkin would not even respect her as an indian feminist. The original context is here



Jeremy Osner 05.11.05 at 9:04 pm

hihuho — I am reading that page and there is nothing to indicate the phrase in question is quoted from Dworkin. It is at the end of a paragraph written entirely in Kimball’s voice and there is nothing to mark it off from the rest of the paragraph. What gives you the idea it is a quotation or even a paraphrase of Dworkin?


Kriston Capps 05.11.05 at 9:04 pm

The first thing that struck me about the original New Critters post was Kimball’s cheap shot at Andrea Dworkin. Merits of her arguments notwithstanding (and not standing very well if you ask me), “bwa-ha-ha she’s fat’n’fugly” does not the rebuttal make.


Chris 05.11.05 at 9:08 pm


But he noted that Republicans prevented votes on many of President Clinton’s choices for the federal bench.

“The Republicans’ hands aren’t clean on this either. What we did with Bill Clinton’s nominees — about 62 of them — we just didn’t give them votes in committee or we didn’t bring them up,” Hagel said.


But history shows that Republicans did something similar to the Democrats’ filibusters five years ago.

In 1999 and 2000, before he became majority leader, Frist was one of the Republican senators blocking President Clinton’s nominee to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Richard Paez.

Frist and others repeatedly prevented a vote on the Paez nomination. In 1999, Frist and 52 other Republicans voted against a motion to proceed to a vote on Paez.

Six months later, Frist voted against cutting off extended debate — a filibuster — on the nomination.

Then he voted for a motion to postpone a vote on the nomination.

I guess Republicans have short memories.
Here’s my idea: If Republicans are so serious about having a vote on everything and banning the filibuster, they should offer to have the filibuster banned when they become the minority party in the Senate.


neil 05.11.05 at 9:14 pm

It does appear to be a direct quote from Kimball but the context (arguing against the excesses of some Third Worldists) is worth taking into account.


mr. civility 05.11.05 at 10:58 pm

yes. Pesky Third Worldists – if we hadn’t stuck it to them, they’d never have learnt the rules of crickit!


Samuel 05.11.05 at 11:00 pm

I guess this provides some insight into how good colonialism really was to us Indians.



Seth Finkelstein 05.11.05 at 11:06 pm

Kimball: “What so exercised Ms. Sari-in-a-twist was our Notes and Comments for May, which includes said reference to the despicable Franz Fanon–“When the native hears a speech about Western culture,” quoth this paragon of third-worldism, he “pulls out his knife–or at least makes sure it is within reach””

Perhaps I’m missing something in the layers of supposed outrage, but isn’t that Fanon quote an allusion to the classic “When I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver.”?


Barry Freed 05.11.05 at 11:30 pm

Merits of her arguments notwithstanding (and not standing very well if you ask me), “bwa-ha-ha she’s fat’n’fugly” does not the rebuttal make.

It seems to work brilliantly rebuttals of Michael Moore. So some would believe…


taj 05.12.05 at 2:17 am

What really concerns me about articles like this one is not that there is one nut who actually believes this nonsense, but that there are others out there who have been drinking from this same fountain of revisionist wisdom. I’ve seen educated journalists and historians step up on BBC World TV and bluntly make similar assertions, openly mocking Indians who don’t find colonial history quite so benign.

The same BBC World ran a few programs recently about how this whitewashing is going on in British schools, which concentrate on the positive aspects of colonial history while leaving out the bits where they happened to kill millions of people and destroy entire communities and industries. I guess it was only a matter of time before the kids who went through that education system grew up and started spouting this nonsense as truth. As a result, today most people seem to have heard about the Black hole of Calcutta, but draw a blank on Jallianwalla Bagh.

I know this is a bit tangential to the powerline post, but for folks like me sitting in India with parents and grandparents who have seen the Raj first hand, it’s far too surreal and laughable to even begin to address directly.


MFB 05.12.05 at 4:32 am

There’s a very strong colonialism-was-good meme among disgruntled right-wing white South Africans as well.

Mind you, what with some of the British planning to round up Gypsies and stick them in camps, it’s almost as if every really bad idea for the last two hundred years is being given a thin coat of paint and trotted out as the solution to all ills.


RS 05.12.05 at 8:34 am

“The same BBC World ran a few programs recently about how this whitewashing is going on in British schools, which concentrate on the positive aspects of colonial history while leaving out the bits where they happened to kill millions of people and destroy entire communities and industries. I guess it was only a matter of time before the kids who went through that education system grew up and started spouting this nonsense as truth.”

Really? I’m surprised, because these right-wing historians are always bemoaning how negative teaching of the British Empire is in schools.

It certainly must be a recent thing, when I went through school in the 80s and early 90s, although we did study the British Empire, we also did stuff about the marginalisation of women in history, the Irish potato famine, slavery and colonialism, British social history (including things like the Corn Laws, Diggers, poor laws, the welfare state). I never came across the idea that colonialism was a good thing in any way, maybe the pendulum has swung back, but I’d be surprised, the era most of the younger teachers were taught in didn’t exactly embrace that idea.


Steady Eddie 05.12.05 at 8:46 am

Getting back to the point of the original discussion about British colonialism in India, which was the wingnuts’ claim that the British could have prevented partition had they stayed a little longer: the core reality is that, far from the British being capable of avoiding partition, the seeds of partition had been sown by the “divide and rule” policies that the British had followed to secure their power in India since the 18th century.

Few people in the US — and certainly not the wingnuts who purport to opine with any “knowledge” about the “virtues” of British colonialism — are aware that Muslim rulers governed most of the subcontinent encompassed by colonial India as the Mogul Empire for most of the period between the 12th and 18th centuries, that there were (in the context of the times) reasonably amiable relations between Hindus and Muslims under most Mogul rulers, that a few (such as Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal) even sought to develop a fusion between the two religions, and that Mogul leaders who resisted British domination — such as Tipu Sultan in Mysore — are seen as heroes today in many overwhelmingly Hindu parts of India.

The British were nothing if not shrewd manipulators, and knew that they could never unify their empire, much less hold it, if the regions of India united against them. That’s why they heightened divisions of religion, region, and even caste, to ensure that Indians would have more to fight about amongst themselves than against their British exploiters. They succeeded so well that ironically, even today English is the lingua franca among the roughly 20 major languages in India, and the Civil Service they built to rule above the squabbling nawabs at least gives India a greater potential for governance than most other developing nations, though it remains rife with the self-serving corruption it was designed to respond to under the British.

British rule in India was certainly less bad and much more mixed in its legacy than, say, the fairly genocidal rule of the Dutch in Indonesia or (via the Boers) South Africa, or the virtual slavery, destruction of education, and substance addiction of the French in Indochina or (to a lesser extent) the British and (somewhat) the US in parts of China.

But it was still, beyond dispute, the source of divisions that led ineluctably to the partition of India.


taj 05.12.05 at 9:55 am


I admit my details about the state and evolution of history schoolteaching in the UK is effectively non-existent and based around what I saw on the BBC. The most relevant thing I could find on Google was this recent article:


and this one from The Age (Australia), about a museum:


My gut feel is that what young teachers think is largely irrelevant to what ends up in the curriculum. Certainly here in India, textbooks seem to change in parallel with parties coming and going out of political power. Just as an example, all imperial references to the events of 1857 call it the Sepoy Mutiny, but in our textbooks it’s referred to as the first Freedom Revolt. The truth is somewhere in between, but each side has its own axe to grind (I went to school while the Congress was in power in the 80s).


Glenn Bridgman 05.12.05 at 11:50 am

re: The “colonialism is good” meme, I think two seperate things are being conflated. The first is the idea that colonialism, while reprehensible, was on the whole advantagous to the colonialized. This isn’t a moral judgement, but rather a socioeconomic one. The other thing involved here is this “White Man’s Burden”, “Colonialism is good”, “The bad stuff was exaggerated” revisionism. The former is a tenable position; the latter is pure schlock.


RS 05.12.05 at 12:19 pm

taj, that first link is quite telling. The complaint doesn’t seem to be that the school curriculum is whitewashing British colonial history, but rather that it isn’t emphasising the crimes of British colonial history over other aspects of history.

People are always squabbling over what gets taught in school history, and particularly GCSE and A Level history.

For instance, I did GCSE British social history (1699-1948 or something similar, mostly about the industrial revolution as I recall), other people do an odd hybrid paper about the Tudors + the Second World War. These objections seem to be perennial, everyone wants their favourite bit of history studied, on the right it is the exploits and achievements of the Empire, the Kings and Queens, dates etc., on the left it is the problems of slavery, Ireland, colonialism, the lives of women and ordinary people, sources, world history etc.

“The Curriculum Online website is funded by the Department for Education and Skills and recommends teaching resources for all subjects taught at schools. But only one source in the module “world study after 1900” for 11- to 14-year-olds is suggested for the study of the partition of Ireland. This compares to 26 for Adolf Hitler and 17 for the Western Front. Similarly in the “Britain 1750-1900″ module, 16 sources are suggested for the extension of the franchise in Britain, with only one for the Opium War against China.”

“Mr Lang believes there is no deliberate bias against teaching the ugly past of the British Empire. Unlike many other European countries, the Government does not have control over the content of school lessons.”


jet 05.12.05 at 1:10 pm

Mr. Bill,
You can argue that FDR had no choice at yalta concering Eastern Europe. But in classic FDR style, he sold 10’s of thousands of political refugees and prisoners (using tear gas, beatings, and narcotics to get Russian POW’s held in the US) back to Stalin, knowing their fate, just to get Stalin more agreeable to the UN. FDR certainly didn’t handle the situation expertly, and should have handled it much better. Out of the three brokers at Yalta, Stalin was the one who walked away smiling with all the poker chips.


nofundy 05.12.05 at 1:11 pm

Where Assrocket misses the boat entirely (and in fairness, so do many others)is that the neocon’s wet dream isn’t a return to colonialism at all but a new feudalism, under the auspices of corporate fascism. The great benevolent Lordship will rule us all under the divine guidance of the Great Invisible Hand.


jet 05.12.05 at 1:47 pm

So you’re saying that the neocons want the world broken up into a bunch of small corporations that each hold absolute power over their employees/customers?


abb1 05.12.05 at 1:50 pm

…Stalin was the one who walked away smiling with all the poker chips…

Actually, from what I’ve read, Stalin was extremely upset. Just like the Bushies today he was planning to rule the world and meager post-WWII expansion was a huge disappointment. He hardly ever was seen smiling again, his heart was broken. Roosevelt and Churchill were smiling. Especially Roosevelt – he was getting ready to meet his maker.


Donald Johnson 05.12.05 at 1:53 pm

Writers for COMMENTARY were romanticizing British imperialism decades ago. I remember their review of the movie Gandhi when it came out–it was essentially a defense of the British. I don’t think it made any mention of famines under British rule. Try to imagine a summary of Stalin’s rule that didn’t mention famine.

And it’s almost a cliche even in supposedly liberal American newspaters like the NYT to claim that conditions in postcolonial societies are much worse than they were under colonialism. In some cases that’s probably true–I suspect, for instance, that Idi Amin was not an improvement over British rule in Uganda. But the claim is made so often I think people forget or never learn about the atrocities committed by the British and others during their reign. (There are a couple of recent books out about the British atrocities in Kenya during the 50’s, something I’d never heard of before.) So you often see Hitler, Stalin, and Mao listed as the great mass murderers of the 20th century, with Leopold II conspicuous by his absence. You see, only the totalitarian ideologies of communism and fascism ever lead to millions of deaths. Colonialism was only about profit, and gee, no one ever kills people just for money.


Nabakov 05.12.05 at 2:38 pm

“So you’re saying that the neocons want the world broken up into a bunch of small corporations that each hold absolute power over their employees/customers?”

I think he meant “large corporations”.

And I was just about to mention Leo Congo Rex m’self. One of most squalid and nasty episodes in modern history. But to be fair, you couldn’t really call it colonialism – Leo personally owned the plantation and ran it along antebellum lines but without that Southern TLC.

Anyway, tacking back to topic, the best thing you can say about the British Empire is that any other geopolitical player around would then have fucked it up even worse. Counterfactuals are usually pointless, occassionally instructive and always fun. So imagine the subcontinent held uneasily by the Romanov Bear or the Hohnenzollern Eagle during the age of Imperial expansion. I reckon that’d screw India up even worse than the Moghuls or the Brits ever did.


roger 05.12.05 at 2:53 pm

Mr. Johnson, excellent point. Actually, in many of the post-colonial states, the worst rulers — such as Idi Amin — got started in British colonial organizations — the army in Amin’s case — and were cultivated in the post-colonial world by their former masters. There’s a nice bio of Amin here: http://www.moreorless.au.com/killers/amin.htm. It tracks the typical subaltern personality, employed by the Brits against the Mau Mau in Kenya, early problem with torturing prisoners covered up, then, with Uganda set up as an independent state, sent to Israel for military training. With the details a little different, this could be the bio of a dozen post-colonial despots. The colonial system depended on a class of overseers, and that class was as much a legacy to the post-colonial states as the railroads. It was a very poisonous legacy.


Oskar Shapley 05.15.05 at 12:13 pm

Ghandi once said:

“The ten most terrifying words in the Indian language are: ‘I’m from the
British Empire and I’m here to help.'”

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