“Bland Fanatics: Liberals, Race and Empire” by Pankaj Mishra

David Berlinski in Inference Review:

Mishra was moved to republish these essays in their hardcover coffin, he remarks in his introduction, as a response to Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of these essays were written before Brexit, the election of Trump, or the advent of COVID-19. They lack the degree of prophetic force that Mishra might think appropriate. The title itself reprises a phrase due to Reinhold Niebuhr: “[A]mong the lesser culprits of history,” Niebuhr wrote in 1959, “are the bland fanatics of western civilization who regard the highly contingent achievements of our culture as the final form and norm of human existence.”5 Mishra’s bland fanatics, treating things alphabetically, run from Martin Amis, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Francis Fukuyama to Steven Pinker, Bari Weiss, and Leon Wieseltier, all of them bland, none of them fanatical. Robert Blackwill, Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, and Robert Zoellick are unaccountably beyond the beam of Mishra’s indignation. I would have thought that Cheney, at least, had the beady eyes characteristic of the born bland fanatic.

Two of the sixteen essays in this collection are devoted to single combat: Mishra vs. Niall Ferguson and Jordan Peterson. Fluffy and forgettable, they did succeed in provoking their subjects to a display of petulance. Ferguson threatened to sue Mishra for libel, and Peterson proposed to slap him silly should they happen to meet.

What a pity they did not.

More here.