Controversial conservative philosopher Roger Scruton is back in as the chair of the U.K.’s Building Better Building Beautiful housing commission. He was fired from this position in April for what appeared to be racist and islamophobic comments, which the interviewing outlet now admit were taken out of context.
In an April interview, Scruton called Chinese people “replicas” and “robots” who were all the same and being manipulated by their government. The comments were made in an interview with the UK newspaper the New Statesman (NS), which has since issued a lengthy statement clarifying some of the comments.
Most notably, the paper pointed out that Scruton was not denigrating the Chinese people, but rather specifically criticizing their authoritarian government. They also admitted to editing out part of a comment about Hungary in which Scruton mentions the “Soros empire in Hungary.” This statement was reported by many media outlets as anti-semitic, however, the entire next line “it’s not necessarily an empire of Jews; that’s such nonsense” was edited out of the NS article.
Theresa May, in one of her final acts as Prime Minister, offered Scruton his job back. It is seen as a victory for conservatives, and incoming PM Boris Johnson is an outspoken supporter of Scruton.
Scruton is a vocal critic of modernists such as Mies and Norman Foster, and has expressed disdain for large-scale, utopian schemes to improve the world in general. He will now continue to head the BBBB, which is responsible for issuing guidelines on how the U.K. can promote the use of “high-quality design” in new developments. Scruton’s aesthetic judgments are considered conservative and populist, typically leaning towards heavily-ornamented facades and tightly-knit streetscapes.
Here is the New Statesman apology in full:
“The New Statesman interview with Sir Roger Scruton (“Cameron’s resignation was the death knell of the Conservative Party”, 10 April) generated substantial media comment and will be readily recalled by most readers. We have now met with Sir Roger and we have agreed jointly to publish this statement.
In the interview, Sir Roger said of China: “They’re creating robots of their own people … each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one and that is a very frightening thing.” We would like to clarify that Sir Roger’s criticism was not of the Chinese people but of the restrictive regime of the Chinese Communist Party.
Sir Roger is quoted accurately in the article: “Anybody who doesn’t think there’s a Soros empire in Hungary has not observed the facts.” However, the article did not include the rest of Sir Roger’s statement that “it’s not necessarily an empire of Jews; that’s such nonsense”. We would like to clarify that elsewhere in the interview Sir Roger recognised the existence of anti-Semitism in Hungarian society.”
After its publication online, links to the article were tweeted out together with partial quotations from the interview – including a truncated version of the quotation regarding China above. We acknowledge that the views of Professor Scruton were not accurately represented in the tweets to his disadvantage. We apologise for this and regret any distress that this has caused Sir Roger.
By way of rectification, we provide here a link to a transcript of the interview and the original article so that readers can learn for themselves what Professor Scruton actually said in full.