Comment, Comics and the Contrary.
At least, that is the most generous interpretation of the passage in his recent essay [parts ONE
] that reads:“I will never forget the look on the gatekeeper’s face, at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, when I suggested, perhaps rather airily, that he skip some calendric prohibition and let me in anyway. His expression, previously cordial and cold, became a mask; and the mask was saying that killing me, my wife, and my children was something for which he now had warrant.”
Would Amis have read mass-murderous intent in the facial expression of, say, a porter of an Oxbridge college, if he had received a similarly frosty response – a response in that most ambiguous language, body-language – after having suggested that rules of visiting hours ought not apply in his case? If Amis would have done so, then he must live his life in fear of all the people who have assumed possession of personally granted death warrants for the family Amis.
Because the expression on the gatekeeper’s face most likely betrayed his understanding of what kind of man Amis had demonstrated that he was. He had been an arrogant prick, riding the privileges of wealth, passport and class, who had come to the conclusion that local rules and customs were an irrelevance. Unless he is only a prick when demanding entry to Muslim holy sites Amis will have seen this expression before. So what is special about this occasion? Nothing but the results of the imagined telepathy of Martin Amis, a paranormal talent that reveals nothing of the mind of the gatekeeper but does expose the inner life of Amis.
Given the benefit of this volunteered mind-mirror we now know what ‘mask’ to adopt on being unfortunate enough to see, hear or read Martin Amis. Not simply a ‘mask’ that communicates, ‘you arrogant prick’, but one that, with the benefit of evidence* spells out, ‘you arrogant, racist prick’.
*Evidence is something that the Amis essay lacks in other places. Whether it is his claims to telepathy, his absurd generalisation of ‘the Palestinian mother’ or his abandonment of materialist historical understanding
, the essay is peppered with holes where evidence ought to go. And I thought the argument ran that is was people falling on my side of many of the fences in the War on Terror fences who are guilty of betraying the Enlightenment.