I'm late! I'm late! For an Aaronovitch watching date!
The words "whistling" and "dark" come inexorably to mind throughout the first half of the column. Whether or not it's appropriate to be scared of bombs, it's a very personal thing and unlikely to be helped by statistics. Nobody was ever argued out of their fear and running up reams of statistics just raises the "precisely who are you trying to convince here?" question. But this is the introductory toccata familiar to all Aaro cols.
The meat of the col starts again with "The Grievance", dealt with admirably by RK last week. The Derridean absence of Iraq is absolutely palpable here; in a week when MI5, Chatham House, the Muslims, the police, the Americans and Tony Blair are all saying "have you heard? the Muslims are angry about Iraq!", Decent Dave feels obliged to pretend that they're aggrieved about, well, "stuff".
Also in the "dogs that don't bark" category is this sentence:
"And why do sensible journalists fail to distinguish between men like the interesting and intelligent Tariq Ramadan on the one hand, and clerical fascists such as Omar Bakri Mohammad and Abu Qatada on the other? "
Abu Who? I had to look him up. I would bet dirhams to doughnuts that when this sentence was drafted, it contained a reference to Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is not exactly "interesting and intelligent" on the one hand, not exactly innocent of being a "clerical fascist" on the other, but who withal is not an apologist for terror or an expansionist jihadi like OBM and Qatada. I think that Decent was originally prepared to draw a distinction between pro- and anti-terror Muslim extremists but realised that it might put him on the wrong side with a few of the other Decents and stir up animosity in the Decent camp, so we are left without the benefit of Aaro's thoughts on the most controversial recent invitee to these shores. Party line, Dave, party line.
(for those of our critics who don't understand why we bother with "Aaronovitch Watch", this sort of thing is exactly why. If you're watching Melanie Philips, say, then you can be pretty sure that everything she has to say is right there on the page, and that all of it is crap. It's precisely because Aaro is a bit better than that, that he's worth "watching". In between the more reasonable and sensible bits are little asides and lacunae which pass by the ordinary paying punter, but which a trained Aaronovologist can recognise as the shimmies and shakes of an emerging party line.)
There is also a clear subtext to the assertion that, to coin a snappy phrase of one of the heroes of the Decent Left "There Is No Such Thing As (Muslim) Community". Again with the combination of part sound common sense (self-appointed "community leaders" are almost always wankers, whether they're endorsing murders in Israel or inviting you to sign a petition about planning regs) and part sneaky little pawn moves aimed at advancing an agenda. The implication here is that all those people you see on television saying "Muslims are angry about Iraq" have no real idea, so it's quite probably not true that Muslims are angry about Iraq.
But one wouldn't want to be too hard on this col. It's really not bad (god that "new era of mutual respect" I was blithering about while shellshocked is beginning! Bring on Cohen and the Three Minute Hate!). Dave's ostensible central theme is that we all, including newspaper pundits, know much less than we think and should pass a self-denying ordinance against drawing conclusions from no facts about situations about which we know fuck-all. Yeah, preach it bro. And Dave's real central theme, which I would argue is underlying almost all the Times columns, and quite possibly those Guardian cols written after the doctor's visit which prompted the fat camp article, is summed up well in the fourth paragraph from the end.
"The vulnerability, the fallibility".
Currently listening to:
"The future's uncertain, the end is always near" - Roadhouse Blues, The Doors
"Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey; I ache in the places where I used to play" - Tower of Song, Leonard Cohen.
Gonna start making a "Sound of Aaronovitch" compilation album.
Depending on the exchange rate; possibly I mean doughnuts to dirhams.