RIP Tom Wolfe — the writer who exposed the hypocrisy of the Left, by Harry Phibbs.
Tom Wolfe didn’t just provide us with enjoyable books to read, noble accomplishment as that is. He helped us understand the world. Wolfe’s insights made explicable the flaws in our fellow man which were hitherto puzzling. Most particularly he set us wise to the array of vanities and hypocrisies of that tribe loosely described as the Left.
The outstanding example was “Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s”, an essay he wrote in 1970 for New York magazine. It gives an account of a fundraising party held by the composer Leonard Bernstein for the Black Panthers — an organisation which favoured revolutionary violence, “black power” and the overthrow of capitalism.
Taking part at a Manhattan apartment, we learn of this achingly fashionable and exclusive gathering. What a wonderful opportunity for the wealthy elite of the City to parade their social consciences and experience the frisson of Black Panther representatives wandering among the guests. …
In any decade, on any continent, the Left’s mindset can be understood from the account of that party. That deep and particular brand of snobbery that socialists are prone to is universal and perennial. Of course there is Jeremy Corbyn and the Islington dinner party set who are thrilled at any chance to schmooze with terrorists and dictators. …
“Champagne Socialist” is a familiar swipe. “Virtue signalling” is more recent. But “radical chic” is the most powerful — as with the mockery there is also a sense of the harm such indulgences can lead to. After all, a lot of funds were raised at that Manhattan penthouse in 1970.