Douglas Murray is formidable.

It is brought home to you how international and friendly the Internet is when a reader from overseas is kind enough to write to you with links to speeches that she thinks would be worth examining in your blog. She recommended two speakers: both are countrymen of mine, both are men whose writing I have read and whom I have seen being interviewed; but I had previously heard neither speak. With sincere thanks to Chun Chan from the USA, today we shall be looking at a contribution made by Douglas Murray to a Cambridge Union debate on the subject of Israel and a nuclear Iran. I selected this having watched speeches from three links that Chun sent me, so already I know that Murray is no less assertive on his feet than he is on the page. He doesn’t take prisoners.

Murray is speaking against the desirability of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, and begins with irony, upholding his opponents as distinguished men in their field who demonstrate why Britain is a second-, currently slipping to a third-, rate power. The only one he names is Sir Richard Dalton who, having been British Ambassador to Iran, is packing some serious ethos. Murray shows himself to be unimpressed.

He cleverly uses references to Sir Richard’s speech to introduce an examination of Iran’s supposed intentions, dividing his focus two ways – what they say and what they do. This neat little bipartite section is very clearly signposted and delivered.

One of the items on his list of “what they do” concerns the rape of students. It emerges that one of the earlier speakers had referred to “mass-rape”, and Sir Richard had objected to the term. Murray indulges himself by witheringly speculating on the Diplomatic Service’s level of toleration of rape, and what sort of numbers constitute “mass” in its lexicon.

He is also pretty dismissive of the premise on which the debate is being conducted. He points out that whatever view is expressed by this house – or even by Britain itself – will make no difference. [This debate was back in 2011 and, as we know, there has recently been an international agreement made with Iran. The agreement is variously heralded as a diplomatic triumph or condemned as a spineless and catastrophic climb-down. Time alone will decide the correct description.]

Murray turns to Israel. His tone doesn’t change: neither his volume nor his pitch rise. But you sense a growing intensity. The audience likewise senses it, and goes very quiet.

While trying (largely unsuccessfully) to find some background to this debate I learned that though this speech had previously passed me by it had been described in some circles as ‘having gone viral’. If this is the case, you may have seen it before. Just in case you haven’t, I shall not spoil any more but leave you to watch it. He is formidable.

Nevertheless I have one thing to add. I personally have been told, by some who are definitely in a position to know, that the people of Iran are the nicest, kindest, most generous and welcoming people imaginable. It is their wretched theocratic dictatorship that is the problem. Listen to Murray to the very end and I am pleased to tell you that you will hear this point fleetingly yet firmly made.

One thought on “Douglas Murray is formidable.

  1. Brian, thank you for the fantastic review. It prompted me to watch this speech again and one thing that struck me is how slowly and deliberately Douglas spoke. It takes conviction and confidence not to hurry one’s speech. As you observed, without changing volume or pitch, he managed to convey increasing intensity. I’ve watched all of Douglas’s debates on youtube. He’s very persuasive and usually sways people to his side. However, I couldn’t find the outcome of this debate on the Cambridge Union site. Of all the Douglas clips on youtube, this speech has the highest viewership. And little wonder: It’s his most impassioned speech.

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