Magazine article The American Conservative

The Knighting of a Spoiled Brat

Magazine article The American Conservative

The Knighting of a Spoiled Brat

Article excerpt

Americans are bad about European titles, especially British ones. And by bad, I mean good. After all, they fought a Revolutionary War in order not to have to call, say, Bill Gates "Lord Gates," or my old buddy Harvey Weinstein, "Sir Harvey."

A sir is a knight, the lowest rank as far as titles are concerned, but baronets-the oldest title of all going back 800 years or so - are also addressed as "sir." A sir could also be a lawyer who got a politician out of trouble, an athlete who has done Britain proud and has not raped or beaten up anyone, or a sleazy bilhonaire who has given lotsa moolah to Tony Blair. In fact, Blair has created more titles than anyone on record, sending most of them to the House of Lords after he did away with the hereditary titles that once upon a time ruled the upper House.

A couple of weeks ago, in merry old (wet and miserable) England, all hell broke loose. It was time for the queen to hand out titles to deserving civil servants and rich folk. When the list appeared, it was double-take time. Not that Salman Rushdie? Surely some mistake. . . But, shock horror, it was indeed that Rushdie, the bald fellow who has a beautiful Indian wife and always looks down on people. The British tabloids went ape.

Some of you may remember the last time Rushdie was in the news. It was 1989 and Khomeini had declared afatwa against him. Rushdie had written another unreadable book - I challenge anyone to finish one - in which he had called the Prophet Mohammed a dirty dog and Mrs. Thatcher "Mrs. Torture." So what happened? Mrs. Torture spent $20 million protecting Sal baby from the zealots who wanted to collect the million-dollar reward for his head. Pat Buchanan wrote at the time that Rushdie should go to Nicaragua and have his friends the Sandinistas protect him. I wrote that I hoped they kneecapped him but nothing more serious. Both Pat and I were abused by trendy leftists like Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis rushing to cash in on Rushdie's predicament

As luck would have it, Rushdie escaped. He became a celebrity, got rid of his third wife, and collected milhons for future books from crazed publishers desperate to capitalize on his notoriety. During the 1992 election in London, Rushdie was playing poker and looking depressed because Labour was losing when great cheers could be heard from above. …

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