By Julie Burchill

About three times a year, you get these pieces in women's magazines, the gist of which is Why do women love sadistic serial killers? Proportionately, the number of women who do is probably not much bigger than the number of women who sexually love corpses or dogs, but for some reason that's not considered "sexy" and they've got to keep shtoom about the loves that dare not speak the names Corpsy and Fido.

Whereas if you're engaged to a nutjob who has tortured, raped and murdered a whole bunch of your fellow women, that's somehow "borderline".

There's always a raft of psychological explanations for such antics but, as with most things, it's actually a lot easier than the shrinks think. Women who love psychopaths can generally be divided into two groups: the silly and the sinister. And, as Christopher Hitchens pointed out, this also pretty much describes the anti-war marchers - except he said the silly led by the sinister. Myself, I'm using "silly" in its "holy fool" meaning - ie more too-good-for-this-world than stupid, though I can't vouch for Hitch. So before you all get your Friends Forever gift sets out and go wild with the Quink, do yourselves a favour and learn how to take a compliment; most of you anti-war types, you're far better people than me.

The 90% of my friends who are anti-war are absolute smashers. But when people are very good, they often can't comprehend how very wicked a few people are capable of being. They think the papers are making up stuff, like Saddam having his enemies put feet-first through a meat-grinder, because they wouldn't do it! They honestly think he's a human being just like us and that we should and could all sit down over a plate of Hobnobs and talk it out - meet in the middle, maybe. (Perhaps put your enemies only halfway through the meat-grinder, then get them out and offer them a pampering pedicure?)

But a very small proportion of people on those marches, they're not nice at all. They know what Big Boss Man's done and it doesn't seem to worry them. They seriously believe a few hanging chads and dodgy votes are a worse crime against humanity than having children raped in front of their parents and vice versa if those parents should disagree with one. They think George Bush and Tony Blair are a worse threat to world peace than Saddam Hussein. And, on the qt, they quite like Saddam.

They wouldn't admit as much, of course. But there are certain individuals, particularly those who think society has got too artificial and affluent and "soft", who secretly believe that a bit of savagery (so long as the practitioner isn't English or American) makes us better, "nobler", more real people. It's these weirdos who excuse female circumcision in Arabia and Africa as "culture" and who thinks it's sissy to be against bullfighting. It's Norman Mailer praising the fine art of two men beating each other to a pulp, and Jean Baudrillard fantasising about taking a woman into the desert and killing her.

Such men worship masculinity, but to such an extent that they come across as gay, in a bad way, ie closeted and in wild denial. They're usually smarter and more "sensitive" than the average bear, writers and arties and stuff, but when faced with a psychopathic savage, they turn to blushing jelly. All they can think about is what Esmarelda the taxi driver kept demanding of the Bruce Willis character in Pulp Fiction, the boxer Butch who has inadvertently sent his opponent to the great ring in the sky: "What was eet like to keeel a man?" They think that if you haven't, you're only half a man. And they envy and admire Saddam, because he has. Lots.

Just a very few pervs in the anti-war movement are like this. But we've always had such men, especially when it comes to the Anglo/Arab thing; think of Lawrence of Arabia, taking it and liking it.

Then there's Prince Charles, the ultimate dumb Islam-groupie, dressing up in Arabic robes to welcome visitors to Highgrove and carrying the Koran in a mad bid to be Defender Of All Faiths. Englishmen may be the worst for freaking over the Sheik of Araby/Fry's Turkish Delight clichŠ, but such useful fools come in all types.

There's John Malkovich with his "Taliban trousers" and those numb media bitches who, just a few months after 9/11, were simperingly declaring that they found Osama bin Laden sexy. And on the other side from Saddam's supposed butchness, of course, we have wussy old Bush and Blair, "Little George", who only got the job because of his dad, and his poodle. Not like that hunky Hussein!

But, above all, it is the disproportionate amount of teenage boys involved in the recent protests that should make us think twice about taking them too seriously. These are the people who lap up the hate-filled rhymes of rap and kill "civilians" in murderously realistic video games; last year, a survey revealed that half of them believed it was acceptable to hit a woman under certain circumstances. Anyone who thinks kids in general exist in some "pure", spiritual, non-racist, non-sexist state, and can therefore teach we rotten old grown-ups loads, needs to ride on a school bus or read Lord Of The Flies.

And the day we turn to teenage boys for our moral guidance is the day we will truly be a decadent, finished society. Not as decadent and finished as Iraq perhaps, but pretty bad nevertheless.

This article originally appeared in "The Guardian " of Saturday, April 5, 2003

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