On my interview with Roger Scruton

I stand by the accuracy of my interview but apologise for my social media conduct.

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On 27 March I interviewed Roger Scruton: the piece was published as an “Encounter” in the Observations section of the New Statesman magazine but also on the website on 10 April. As a result of his remarks in the interview Scruton was sacked as chair of the government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful commission. The allegation has since been levelled by the Spectator’s associate editor Douglas Murray and others that I “lied” or “invented” quotes by Scruton, and even that I have retracted sections of the interview. This is an untrue and baseless claim.

Scruton on Islamophobia

When I asked Scruton whether he still believed that Islamophobia was a “propaganda word”, he was unambiguous: “Absolutely. It was invented by the Muslim Brotherhood in order to stop discussion of a major issue.”

In the course of our conversation, he also spoke of the “invasion of huge tribes of Muslims from the Middle East” entering Hungary, a remark which neither Scruton, nor Murray, has defended.

Scruton on the Chinese

When I asked Scruton whether he was optimistic or pessimistic about the world’s future, he raised the subject of China. “They’re creating robots out of their own people by so constraining what can be done,” he said. “Each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one and that is a very frightening thing.”

In the published version of the interview, I wrote:

Perhaps most remarkably, he commented on the rise of China: “They’re creating robots out of their own people ... Each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one and that is a very frightening thing.”

The omitted words “by so constraining what can be done” do not change the meaning of the sentence. Murray contends in a piece published on the Spectator website that Scruton's use of “they” refers to the Chinese Communist Party. That may be open to interpretation (Scruton did not refer directly to the Party in our conversation), but the quotation itself is accurate, and Scruton's choice of words at best ill-advised.

On Twitter and Instagram

When I tweeted the interview from my personal account, I truncated some of Scruton’s remarks. Though I posted a link to the full interview in each tweet, I recognise that I should have provided greater context and apologise for this.

When Scruton’s resignation was announced by the government, I subsequently posted a photograph of myself on my personal Instagram account drinking champagne in celebration. This, as well as the way I promoted the interview on my personal Twitter account, was a serious error of judgement which I profoundly regret, and I apologise for it. I also apologise for the embarrassment it caused the New Statesman, which in recent years has championed plural and sceptical journalism.

The argument over whether the government was right to sack Scruton will continue. For my part, I never intended to entrap Scruton, our conversation was wide-ranging and I stand by the interview. It was not my words that caused Scruton’s sacking but his own intemperate comments.

George Eaton is deputy editor of the New Statesman.