This was something I wrote some 15 years ago, but seems just as relevant today. It was occasioned by David Aaronovitch's credulity re the "official" reasons for the Iraq war:
In cases like Aaronovitch, there is a certain earnest investment in the game that seems at times to go beyond that of the actual players. They, the 'public intellectuals', have neither the cynical reckoning of the politician nor the cynical disbelief of the disenfranchised. What they appear not to countenance is that there is the selling of policy on the one hand, and the actual conception and planning of that policy on the other, and that these two may differ radically. Such suggestions are typically dismissed as ‘crude’ or vulgar (as if their own earnest literalism was a badge of maturity.
the case of those who are ex-radicals, such ‘crude’ analyses remind them, no
doubt, of the kind of arguments they used to advance in their elapsed youth,
and must, on that account, be disowned all the more forcefully. There is a
routine assumption, it’s grains of truth hardened into doctrine, that the
opinions you form when practically caught up in the world - Home, Job, Family
etc - are automatically more mature and nuanced than when, less socially and
financially secure, you looked at the world askance.
It seems to me that the ‘cynical’ view of politics, far from being the badge of a phantasy middle-class, is a popular one, the view of those who are at ten removes from the spectacle, the disenfranchised. The journos and scribblers, the academics hauled before the Newsnight cameras, on the other hand, feel close enough to the spectacle, the game, to believe that they might just be players. They are in sight of the crumbs from the table rather than being excluded from the feast.
But back to the phantasy and real ‘middle class’, one last time. It’s clear that much pro-war opinion came from the middle class intelligentsia, journalists and scribes of one sort or another - not that they choose to see themselves that way, or to see their own opinion as a mere expression of their class or as the mental sublimate of their fancy diet. Indeed, as others have pointed out, if the dinner-party chatterati label names anyone, it names Blairite Islingtonians. (Similarly, the pro-war bloggers were academics, journalists, disgruntled sub-editors and so on). Anti-war positions, on the other hand, could be heard –among countless other places - in many a local working class pub, and it would be as meaningful referring to these as ‘pub orthodoxies’ as ‘bruschetta orthodoxies’ (i.e. equally meaningless), except this would backfire rhetorically and appear snooty.
So it is no accident, that in the face of genuinely popular opposition to the war, extending through all classes of the population, and despite commonly expressed cynicism regarding the official justifications, those same journos and scribblers chose to invent instead an infantile pantomime of stock characters, and to throw stones at the phantoms of their own brains.