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Roger Scruton for Architecture Czar!

Dismal news over the wire from Blighty: Sir Roger Scruton, the greatest living conservative philosopher, has been dismissed [1] as chair of the British government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission after making a few anodyne remarks to the New Statesman about the Communist Party of China. “They’re creating robots out of their own people,” quoth Sir Roger, “each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one and that is a very frightening thing.”

Predictably, the Wets and Labourites are offended on behalf of totalitarians over this nonexistent racial slight. Meanwhile, normal people are offended by the CPC’s latest experiment [2] in social engineering, the Social Credit system, which is indeed meant to turn the populace into well-managed and safely predictable automata. To call the Communists’ machinations “frightening” is positively charitable.

Sir Roger also noted that “anybody who doesn’t think that there’s a Soros empire in Hungary has not observed the facts.” This was, apparently, anti-Semitic. Yet you’ll remember that the Financial Times named Mr. Soros [3] its Person of the Year for 2018, calling him “a standard bearer for liberal democracy, an idea under siege from populists.” To the best of my knowledge, nobody at the FT was sacked for anti-Semitism.

There’s no question that Mr. Soros is throwing his fortune around trying to undermine Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party, just as there’s no doubt he’s throwing his fortune around trying to undermine President Trump [4] and the Republican Party. He certainly isn’t a progressive hero for making billions off his hedge funds. Sir Roger simply holds the improper view of Mr. Soros’s activities, and now faces the wrath of Mr. Soros’s other clients and beneficiaries.

You’ll also remember that Sir Roger’s position was honorary and unpaid. He wasn’t getting fat off the taxpayer’s dime. Nor was he a determining force in the UK’s foreign policy. Sir Roger is the most renowned living aestheticist, and his formidable talents were being put to good use: he was voluntarily assisting the government in making British cityscapes more beautiful.

This, in retrospect, may have been the most offensive aspect of Sir Roger’s appointment. Postmodernist architecture is widely unpopular with the people who actually have to live among it. Victorian and (especially) Georgian buildings are greatly preferred [5]. On the main, it doesn’t cost a great deal more to build attractive buildings than it does these hideous, “utilitarian” people-kennels.

Yet all the world’s major cities, from New York and London to Abu Dhabi and Hong Kong, are now dominated by mortar-and-glass monstrosities. This is the most obvious triumph of Cultural Marxist thinking. For nearly a century, Brutalists exercised unquestioned control over the modern and “modernizing” world. For reasons nobody could quite explain, our metropolises were in a race to see which could most resemble a Soviet ghetto.

The Tories’ decision to buck this trend was the only really “conservative” thing a Conservative government has done since the death of Lord Salisbury (poisoned by his own ulcerated leg, alas) in 1903. That must have frightened the Left awfully, which is why they put such an extraordinary effort into destroying this great scholar’s life. Every insane accusation conceivable was hurled against him, from Islamophobia to Judeophobia. Even Hitler had the decency to choose just one.

I was an ardent Anglophile growing up, and I suppose I still am. But I wouldn’t move to Blighty now for all the tea in Buckingham, and I’m a man who likes his tea. Still, I have the deepest reverence for true Englishmen like Sir Roger who keep up the fight to save their country even when their countrymen repay them with nothing but venom and bile.

All the same, if he’s now a free agent, I say we petition the Trump administration to create its own Building Beautiful Commission and recruit Sir Roger to serve as its chairman. Even those of our cities that have long resisted the tide of “modernization”—Baltimore, Philadelphia, and my own beloved Boston—are beginning to succumb. By fighting back, Mr. Trump would earn the acclaim of ordinary Americans for generations. He and Sir Roger would go down in history as the men who saved this country’s rich architectural heritage. Let’s just make sure we pay Sir Roger for his efforts, hm?

Michael Warren Davis is associate editor of the Catholic Herald. Find him at www.michaelwarrendavis.com.

9 Comments (Open | Close)

9 Comments To "Roger Scruton for Architecture Czar!"

#1 Comment By polistra On April 12, 2019 @ 2:57 pm

You could start a GoFundMe to support a weekly column by Scruton. I’d chip in.


It’s odd that Scruton is bashed as a “far-right” Hitler for his views on architecture, while Prince Charlie is honored as a progressive for the exact same views.

#2 Comment By MrsCole On April 12, 2019 @ 4:12 pm

I must point out that the ad accompanying this article, on my screen, is for “modular office buildings” and features possibly the most dismal-looking structure imaginable: it looks like a two-storey cardboard box with tiny windows punched in, and a yellow metal utility staircase up the outside.

#3 Comment By Gary Huber On April 12, 2019 @ 5:17 pm

“each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one”. I like Roger Scruton as much as the next person and I’m not pleased to see what’s happening in China, but if I were Chinese, I might be just a bit offended by that comment.

#4 Comment By Martin Ranger On April 12, 2019 @ 5:30 pm

Roger Scruton did not just make a few “anodyne” remarks. He made comments that are anti-semitic, homophobic, Islamophobic, and Xenophobic. Those comments were deemed unacceptable by both Labour and Conservative MPs. None of this has much to do with George Soros. Also, allegations like Scruton facing “the wrath of Mr. Soros’s other clients and beneficiaries” should ideally be supported by facts.

But kudos for getting Cultural Marxism, Brutalism, Post-Modernism and Soros all in one article. Brutalism is not post-modern by the way.

#5 Comment By Mark Freeman On April 13, 2019 @ 1:08 am

Fair enough about Roger and the Chinese but the Soros thing is like a bad joke your nutty uncle brings up every Christmas. It keeps getting bumped based on others unfounded assertions just like all those sex slave trafficking stories. Put up or shut up.

#6 Comment By Clifford On April 13, 2019 @ 9:55 am

As an architect (and proudly not AIA), I second Sir Roger’s coronation.

What a dismal mess we have made of our built environment, on both sides of the pond.

#7 Comment By ed parolini On April 13, 2019 @ 1:01 pm

I guess the author has never seen Trump buildings.

#8 Comment By aspnaz On April 13, 2019 @ 7:47 pm

The British conservatives support the lies of the BBC and the result is an unquestioning populace who are now well trained at following the herd. You created the problem and now you bemoan the results: a dumbed down population who see anti-semitism everywhere, see sexism everywhere etc and are generally unable to use their mental faculties to work out the world for themselves. Long live marketing and propaganda.

#9 Comment By Benton Minor On April 15, 2019 @ 1:36 pm

@Martin Ranger — “He made comments that are anti-semitic, homophobic, Islamophobic, and Xenophobic.”

Oh golly! I guess he hit the jackpot, didn’t he?

Don’t you people have anything better to do than this stale perpetual outrage act? If not, kindly bugger off.