Given the wasteland that liberals have made of modern Britain it’s surprising that most lefties are not nasty or particularly obnoxious. Insufferably smug and sanctimonious yes, but not evil. Many are not only very personable but also productive giving people. But it is a truth tested to destruction in today’s West that a nice person can gestate and propagate an idea of boundless evil.

Such a person is Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones. A couple of days ago Jonathan reluctantly averted his gaze from the transcendent significance of Tracy Emin’s unmade bed and shared his thoughts on the poppy memorial growing apace around the Tower of London.
The memorial consists of 888,246 red ceramic poppies filling and overflowing from the moat around the Tower of London. It’s an affecting piece of art on several levels.

First it is entirely constructed with poppies, which have an enormous significance to the British symbolizing as they have for almost a hundred years the sacrifice of British soldiers. Powerful art often employs such iconic symbols for effect, but there’s always the danger that the resulting work appears clichéd or lazy. But the poppy memorial artist Paul Cummins has triumphantly avoided that.

Second it is vast. How better to portray the sheer enormity of World War One carnage than a monument whose scale cannot be taken in from one viewpoint. Then there is the realisation that the huge extent of the work  is made up of hundreds of thousands of individually formed parts like the citizen army that fought that terrible war.  

Third it is very haphazard and in seeming to flow over and around one of the most ancient landmarks of the capital it vividly expresses the humanity and identity of the real people that are its subject. Men who walked the same streets of London as us. And the transient existence of the work (it’s to be dismantled after Remembrance Sunday) also powerfully conveys the truncated lives of those soldiers.

Fourth it’s simple, simple and profound, the Holy Grail of art. Simple and profound as the sacrifice of those ordinary men.

And last it is original in its treatment of a much hackneyed subject. Original in a way that stands out from the dreary background of modern art as the Taj Hahal would if magically transported to the centre of Birmingham.

In short Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red is the most affecting and effective  piece of art for years and will be remembered long after shallow and self-obsessed Tracy Emin’s soiled bed has been mercifully forgotten.

So what’s not to like?

Well here’s the title of a blog post from the art critic of Britain’s most cultured broadsheet?

The Tower of London poppies are fake, trite and inward-looking – a Ukip-style memorial

Jonathan Jones’s gripes about Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red can be summed up in three words. It’s popular, beautiful and patriotic.


Popular art has the same effect on this Guardian columnist as daylight on a vampire. At the start of his post Jonathan pretends like Salieri in Amadeus that he’s only viewed the most significant artwork of the year by chance. As he puts it “I accidentally got swept into a tide of humanity at the weekend … What was going on?” and ended up joining “the vast tumult at the Tower of London”.

Then the full horror of the spectacle becomes apparent to our leftie everyman:

“Having spent the autumn reviewing art exhibitions of various kinds, it was humbling to suddenly realise what people in Britain are actually looking at. It’s not Anselm Kiefer. It’s poppies.”

Humble though is clearly the last thing he feels as his evident contempt for their taste makes plain. “Humbling” is merely code for “the ignorance of the masses never fails to shock me”.
Then he gets nasty. The multitude of people gathered “had more in common with a crowd gathered for a royal wedding than an art event”. For Guardianistas nothing provokes more sniggers of disdain for ordinary British people than their attachment to the monarchy. After all how could somebody be so dumb as to admire the Queen over such men of the people as Castro, Lenin or Mao?


The greatest artistic sin of is Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red to the cognoscenti is its beauty. If modern art has one message above anything else it is that “Life is shit and then you die”. And if you insist on looking on the bright side the best that can be said for you is that you are delusional.

So as Jonathan sees it:

“In spite of the mention of blood in its title, this is a deeply aestheticised, prettified and toothless war memorial. It is all dignity and grace. There is a fake nobility to it, and this seems to be what the crowds have come for – to be raised up into a shared reverence for those heroes turned frozen flowers.”

In his offensive sanctimony Jonathan seems sincerely to believe that the ordinary people admiring the poppy memorial are unaware of the terrible reality of trench warfare. But those ordinary British know as much of the horror of war as any cosseted left-wing art critic. The difference is that their knowledge of that terrible reality only amplifies their reverence they feel for those otherwise ordinary men who suffered so much to win our peace.

The noble sentiment: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” is beautiful. That is why it is entirely appropriate for a World War One memorial to be beautiful.


I suspect it is the patriotic aspect of poppy memorial that most inspired Jonathan’s supercilious wrath.

“It is deeply disturbing that a hundred years on from 1914, we can only mark this terrible war as a national tragedy. Nationalism – the 19th-century invention of nations as an ideal, as romantic unions of blood and patriotism – caused the great war. What does it say about Britain in 2014 that we still narrowly remember our own dead and do not mourn the German or French or Russian victims?”

The ignorance of this assertion is so stupid and obvious it beggars belief. Yes, nation states fought the First World War but, no, war didn’t start with the appearance of the nation state and it won’t end after its demise. A very cursory knowledge of world history would make that plain. As would remembering the existence of civil, ethnic, religious, economic and terrorist wars. Whatever the origin of war it seems to be something rather more fundamental to human nature than our recent innovation of the nation state.

On the other hand, it is deeply disturbing that liberals don’t seem to have any idea that most the things they profess to believe in depend for their very existence on the nation state. Do they really think that it is mere coincidence that our modern lives lived in unprecedented peace, freedom and plenty are also lived in nation states?

The nation state is analogous to the family and patriotism is the love of home and family projected onto a larger entity. Everything good that has been hard won within the incubator of the nation state has been won by people’s love of their country and consequent wish to make it a better place to live in. In short, without patriotism you will live somewhere like the Islamic State. 

The idea of boundless evil that Jonathan and his fellow lefties spread is that patriotism is wrong.

Far from being a vice, patriotism is the essential virtue. Patriotism is the precondition of freedom. The nation state is far from perfect as the family is far from perfect, but outside of both is a lonely savage place.

One of the reasons that the UN and EU are such swamps of corruption and incipient tyranny is that no one loves them enough to sacrifice their lives to fix them.

Those millions who’ve visited Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red know that instinctively and their patriotism is our only hope for a decent future. Sadly, the 13,000 shares of Jonathan Jones post suggest that his is not the ravings of a lone wacky arty fart but received opinion on the progressive left.

Patriotism evil? It’s so ridiculous you’d have to be a leftie intellectual to believe it.

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