In a more amusing world, the acid-tongued Taki Theodoracopulos — known simply as Taki — would by now have been the host of a late-night television chat show for at least three decades. Given his penchant for delivering outrageous remarks at machine-gun speed, he would have needed an attorney as a sidekick in order to fend off the lawsuits within minutes of his going on air. On the other hand, he would have kept us titilated, infuriated and possibly in a state of simmering national uproar. The water-cooler conversation would have made way for the water-cooler fight.
In the world we actually live in, Taki, the son of a Greek shipping magnate, works strictly in the medium of print — not that he has to work at all. “High Life,” his column recounting the goings-on in the upper echelons of society on both sides of the Atlantic, has run in the London Spectator since 1977. In 2002 he formed an unlikely partnership with Pat Buchanan and started The American Conservative, a biweekly anti-war “paleo-conservative” riposte to the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party. Though far from liberal on many issues, Taki was against the Iraq war long before it started, and continues to criticize it now, along with a lot of other things.
But be warned. “I’m very political without being political,” he says. “I don’t know how to speak proper political language.” Which is why, of course, you would never see him on TV. What follows is an edited version of two conversations with Taki in his Manhattan townhouse.
L.A. WEEKLY: What pleases you about modern life?
TAKI: Absolutely nothing. Like Gore Vidal says, “When would you like to have lived? 17th century with penicillin.” What pleases me is modern medicine; that keeps you alive. But the modern world, actually nothing. I was brought up in a very formal world, which I liked, because it was nice to be an anarchist among the rich in those days. It was nice to do the bad things, but like P.G. Wodehouse said, the worst thing you could do was knock a policeman’s hat off. This was the kind of trouble you’d get in, and it was fun. Now . . . But a lot of old people get like that.
Were you always so opinionated?
I was very politicized always. I was very conservative politically, because I’d seen what the communists did to my country. If I heard the word “Hitchens” or “Trotsky,” and all those chic Trotskyites in London in the ’70s, I’d get in fights all the time. Which didn’t make you very popular, because in England, for some strange reason, people wanted to settle their arguments over a civilized discussion and tea. [Laughs] I’ve obviously changed now. I’ve become very, very liberal as far as war is concerned. It’s just too terrible. I’ve been to wars and I’ve seen what happens. I know what it is to be hurt, and it’s nothing compared to these guys. To be blind for the rest of your life. To have prosthetic limbs.
You’ve long been notorious for being “outrageous.” What do you think of Ann Coulter?
I like Ann Coulter because for far too long the left has had the podium to say anything they want. Obviously I don’t agree with her pro-war stance, but I like the way she goes after liberals, and I love the fact that she first pointed out that all these years they’ve said it’s a level playing field. Well, it’s not a level playing field. The liberals always had the three networks, and the other things. Now, because it’s getting a bit more level, Teddy Kennedy’s screaming, “Let’s have a Fairness Act.” They’re so spoiled. It’s like the rich man who suddenly has to pay taxes.
What about our current president?
I still can’t get over on what grounds Bush went into Iraq. The idea that we have people in jail as being terrorists — I think it was a pretty terrorist thing we did down there. What kind of an American administration is this, where Charles Taylor is sitting with 100 million dollars in his pocket? After all, Liberia is sort of like America’s child. Why is Charles Taylor above the law? Why does Bush hold the hand of that towelhead Abdullah? What has he done for the oil lately? Come on! If you had a moral line, which I thought Bush might keep, then of course you’re for him 100 percent. “Well, we need the oil.” Fuck the oil! What are they going to do, drink it? Mind you, having said that, there’s nobody I find a nicer person than George Bush. I think he’s a real president, not a sleazebag like that piece of filth, Clinton. He has big ideas, a program, not afraid to change things. But is he a Republican? Of course not. Is he a conservative? Certainly not. I mean, the budget has ballooned, the deficit has ballooned, and we’re going around imposing democracy.
You don’t think the Middle East will ever become democratic. Why not?
Because of Islam. Islam doesn’t accept democracy, and Islam is spreading. I’ve lived in that part of the world, and the imam is much more important than your father, much more important than any politician.
But millions of Iraqis have gone to the polls to vote.
Yes, but it’s not a question of democracy. The Arab is such a hierarchical society. How can you have a democracy when you have arranged marriages of 6-year-olds? They talk about democracy in Pakistan, when a girl is sent to Pakistan and sold away to somebody. What is this bullshit? You’re talking to me, you’re not talking to some buffoon who has to shake his head on television and say, “Yes, Sir.” And most people have not lived in Arab lands — I have. I like living in Arab lands. I like poor Arabs; I like poor Palestinians. What I loathe are rich Arabs. Look how the rich Saudi businessmen act. Look what they do — the way they push people around, the whores, the waiters, the bodyguards. It’s bullshit. You go, you see poor Arabs, they’re very nice; they believe in Islam because it’s the only thing they have. They help each other out, they walk around holding little fingers. The poor Arabs are nice people. But the moment they get money . . . Democracy! They don’t know anything! It’s just too far away. Maybe 500 years from now, but not now, I don’t care what the do-gooders say.
Perhaps it’s the start of what will happen in the future.
I think there’ll be less democracy in the future. What are you going to have, some fat Belgian from Brussels telling you what to do? What great colonials theywere! The nastiest of all. Unbelievable stuff. I don’t see democracy getting better. I see democracy diminishing. More rules, more legislation. Eventually governments will see everything. George Orwell was off by 25 years. How can there be democracy?
But didn’t the elections in Iraq move you at all? Make you feel that perhaps there was something worthwhile in doing this?
I thought it was very courageous of the people who voted. But has it done anything? It’s become worse. What I’d like to do is go to Baghdad. I was going to go, but I got ill. Boris Johnson [the British M.P.] wrote the smartest thing. He goes there, just as the war finishes, and he goes jogging along the Euphrates. Then he goes back after two years, stays at the British Embassy, and says to the ambassador, “Do you mind, I’m going out for a little run?” “Sure, but you’ll need four Humvees, 15 bodyguards . . . ” So this was for me the best, the truest article to come out. You can jog after the war, but you can’t jog two years after having won the war. Come on!
What have you made of the left’s opposition to the war, and the way they’ve expressed it?
Can I tell you something? It just boggles the hell out of me to be on the side of those guys. Because I don’t respect the Left, I think the left is phony and all that, but here I am on the side of Justin Raimondo [of Antiwar.com]. I’m certainly not on the side of Michael Moore. To see that slob getting a Palme d’Or in Cannes was just vomitive. I’m not partners with them, I don’t mix with them, but I’m afraid I’m very adamant against the war. Now [there’s] talk about Iran. . . . They cannot get a bloody nose, the Americans, because they can always pull out, but I think you’re just making trouble. Why do all that? For what? Obviously, for Israel. It’s as simple as that. Would we have been better off if we’d never attacked Iraq? Yes. Would our troops be better off? Yes. If Rumsfeld was named Ford and a great-grandson of Henry Ford and owned 100 percent of the company and ran it this way, he wouldn’t get a job selling hubcaps.
What did you think about the media reaction to Hurricane Katrina?
I think the press lied like hell on that one. Do you really expect the president of the United States to do something about nature? Clinton had eight years and did fuck-all. Maybe Bush could have been there, changed his schedule, but it was all bullshit. Instead of screaming about the disaster of the war, they screamed about Katrina. In any case, it’s a corrupt state, a corrupt city — what could Bush have done? Given a car to everybody? I think the press lost credibility. You can dislike Bush for your own reasons, but it’s childish almost.
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You were in London last summer during the terrorist attacks. What was that like?
If those bombs had gone off in New York there would have been much more of a brouhaha about it. I’ve always been down on the Brits since they became multiculti, but I must say the spirit was wonderful. Of course there was no traffic; the city was like a cemetery. I went to dinner that night, at Zac Goldsmith’s, the editor of The Ecologist, and in fact the whole conversation was about his mother-in-law having had a stroke. It was only at the end that we discussed the bombs. Life went on completely uninterrupted; all the restaurants were full. That’s what struck me there — in a good sense. Because otherwise you’re giving in to the bombers. I think here in New York it would have been a little different. There would have been much more hysteria.
You don’t think Muslims can become democratic in their own countries. What about in France or Britain?
Look what happened in England [during the last election]. Politicians will always kiss the ass of the Islamists now, because the Islamists showed Blair one thing — we vote in one bloc. So of course the politicians will give them more and more privileges. In other words, I’m not allowed to call them towelheads, but they’re allowed to get up in the morning and say, “Kill the infidels!” What kind of bullshit is that? It’s Eurabia. What we’re doing is terrible. We’re cutting our own throats, we wish our own disintegration — it’s going to happen. Maybe I’m pushing the panic button too early, but if you don’t push it now, when are you going to push it? Once they have you by the throat? Walk around Paris, Saint Denis. Nobody speaks French — and the Algerians used to speak French perfectly. They all speak Arabic. Try to go to the no-go areas. It looks bad. I’ve never seen such hate for America in Europe, and anywhere else you go. Forget the Arabs. Everybody hates the winner. The culture doesn’t help, all that Coca-Cola culture. I’m sort of resigned to seeing European civilization going down slowly, but obviously you hope you’re wrong.