Lots and lots and lots, including…
Throughout the brouhaha emerging from his own saying of the unsayable, for instance, Amis has insisted, perhaps unwisely, on a tough, and tough-minded, point about the purpose of real debate, and the role of the artist in provoking response.
In media interviews, and now in the pages of The Second Plane, he refers again and again to the “little impulses” and “urges” that people sometimes feel when threatened. His own utterance regarding the search of his daughter’s knapsack was designed as a kind of mood experiment, an attempt to dramatize one of the “atavisms” that percolate to the surface – especially when, as he likes to remark, terrorists are expressing a sincere wish to kill you, and your loved ones.
Amis isn’t apologizing for these moments. He is attempting to explain why they exist, and what they mean.
For what it is worth, both the intemperate The Second Plane and the furor surrounding its inception represent the debate an open and confident society should be willing to sustain about such fundamental, if difficult, matters.
It’s a small mercy that Martin Amis hasn’t been carrying out his noisy discussion here in Canada. We’d have tried hushing him up with a human rights commission inquiry and then considered the matter nicely, neatly closed.