Friday, February 03, 2006

at play in the fields of decency

While it’s been fun chronicling the ins and outs of Nick and Dave and their small part in the general business of opinion formation in this land of ours, it’s occurred to some amongst the management here that there’s a hell of a lot of decency out there that’s going unappreciated.

Think, for instance, of our very own Henry Jackson Society, otherwise known as the Jive Bunny Project For a New American Century. And while it’s always fun giving our Nick a back rub, what grounds are there for ignoring his occult master, Paul Berman? Decency has its stars, like Christopher Hitchens, and its Pooters, like Michael Totten. Yes, so much to enjoy.

So it’s time, perhaps, to be indecent in a wider field, maybe with a new name.

To underline our commitment to the universal values of liberal democratic societies, we thought we’d throw the idea open to readers and commenters. In accordance with how those principles worked out in relation to a recent war, we may then ignore what you have to say, but don’t let that stop you. Should we be indecent on a larger scale? To whom should we direct our indecency? And what should we call ourselves while we’re doing it? Let's have some answers.

I quite like gross indecency, or maybe indecent assault. And I can’t see the phrase “the greatest intellectual struggle of our time” without laughing, but maybe that’s better as a tagline rather than a title.

Anyway, chuck your suggestions for names and possible target acquisitions in the comments box.

rioja kid


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please include that lying tool, Rentoul

2/03/2006 12:58:00 PM  
Anonymous evil bruschettaboy said...

Thanks for putting this up RK, and all contributors (current and potential), do please pitch in. I would certainly like to take the odd pitch at John Lloyd from time to time, though the old "will to live" issue probably precludes my watching his stuff on any regular basis.

2/03/2006 01:50:00 PM  
Anonymous McGazz said...

I like "DecentWatch", but it's maybe too obvious...

2/03/2006 02:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Decent into the Abyss"

2/03/2006 02:25:00 PM  
Anonymous rioja kid said...

Perhaps we could incorporate the phrase cyber chutney arse ducks into the title in some way. Hell, maybe we could just call it that. It's usually exactly the thing that you want to say after you grapple with a bout of decentitis.

John Lloyd...Jesus, yeah.

2/03/2006 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I think this might be a mistake for a few reasons. First, I think British Decent Leftism is a very different creature from American Decent Leftism, and best to stick to what you know.

Even if you stick to UK people, Aaro and Cohen produce so much stuff that it's not obvious you need to add to your workload.

And finally you risk rather overinflating the importance of other members of the Decent Left. The answer of the vast majority of people, even bloggers, to 'Do you read Norm?', would be 'No. Who is Norm?'. John Lloyd's main moment of fame is in the Ft's weekend magazine, which my newsagent often doesn't even bother to include with the paper. Totten is, well, Totten.

However, if you include Paul Berman, then perhaps you could include the guy who started it all, Michael Waltzer Incidentally in his review of this Oliver Kamm coined (for his blog, and others) the term 'Civilised Left'.

2/03/2006 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger fatbongo said...

I was wondering:

- do you need to reach a level of self-awareness of your Decentism to be a Decent?
- Can you be a Decent merely by using Decent arguments, even though you don't necessarily intend to be a Decent.
Do Decents require a Decent ideology?

As you have pointed out,

“The difference between Tweedledumb and Tweedledangerous can now be summed up rather pithily; Aaronovitch is a "hack" in the political sense, while Nick is one in the journalistic sense.”

As has also been said, DA’s role as a political “hack” is to explain why the Government's policies are the best possible course that anyone can realistically hope to follow. (ie both good and necessary.)

Should the political landscape change significantly, I have no doubt that DA would have very little trouble adapting to new realities. He did it before when he switched his loyalties from revolutionary Marxism (DA’s role: explain why the Party line is good and necessary) as its prospects faded to the rising star of Blairism.

Decents like Berman have a developed ideology of sorts, NC considers himself a socialist (or anti-fascist) so he’s been drawn to Decentism because he believes that it reflects this core political identity. However, DA is only a Decent in the sense that Decentism is currently the dominant current in the political waters in which he swims. It's just a "position".

If we are going to include political hacks like DA in the ranks of the Decents we might as well include Andrew Marr too.

"I don't think anybody, after this, is going to be able to say of Tony Blair that he's somebody who is driven by the drift of public opinion or focus groups or opinion polls. He took all of those on. He said that they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right. And it would be entirely ungracious, even for his critics, not to acknowledge that tonight he stands as a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result."

Or is he too stupid to count?

PS: I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than have to read the pompous shite that Oliver Kamm pumps out. Every time i see that picture on his blog i want to punch it.

2/03/2006 02:56:00 PM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

I'm rather with Matthew here. Keeping up with Nick and Dave is quite enough work as it is.

Expanding in a Mel P/Anthony Browne/Pollard direction would take us into full-on loony territory and I rather think that Oliver Kamm is actually of that ilk, despite his pretensions to decency.

HP Sauce and Norm are probably too insignificant to be worth bothering with.

Berman might be worth the odd look, but frankly, I can't be arsed to read his crap.

Disagree with Matthew on Walzer-classification though. I reckon you need to have actually supported the Iraq war to qualify as a decent.

2/03/2006 03:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

I think you should keep the focus on Nick and Dave while feeling free to refer to notable contributions from elsewhere in the World of Decency from time to time. I also don't think you should waste time on anyone too trivial, so exclude all bloggers who aren't also moderately well-known journalists, unless they've said something particularly ridiculous. So what I'm saying is, just copy and paste everything posted by Marcus at Harry's Place.

2/03/2006 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschetta Boy said...

unfortunately cyber chutney arse ducks is the name of a real Resonance FM show and they might cut up rough. It is a real shame though.

2/03/2006 04:20:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschetta Boy said...

how about a compromise along the lines of:

1. Adopt the convention that anything and everything Decent is from this day forth on topic if a contributor thinks it's worth commenting on.

2. Not taking on any more regular Watching commitments, as some of the suggested candidates don't half churn it out.

3. Changing the name of the site to "Aaronovitch Watch (incorporating "World of Decency")" - I think we get a fair bit of traffic from the link of Aaro's site.

4. Something else. Probably publicise the blog a bit more so that it gets a bit of prominence in the conversation of Decentism.

I take CC and Matthew's points but I actually rather like this blog and think that it has potential beyond the current niche. Also watching Decency rather than specific journalists would lift the burden of having to find something interesting to say about a lot of the stuff Nick C comes out with which isn't really Watchable.

2/03/2006 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Sounds reasonable, but I would hate to see the Nick Cohen 'funny Observer bit, and his sub-Richard Littlejohn London rants in the Evening Standard get no coverage. I suspect not only are they very amusing to see written about, but they are probably more important in the transition to Melanie Phillips than you think.

2/03/2006 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Captain Cabernet raises the important question of whether one can be a Decentist, having opposed the war in Iraq.

Now while I think I agree that Michael Walzer isn't a Decentist, or at least not straightforwardly so, I think it must be for other reasons, as I think that there's one Decentist who did the war: Alan Johnson.

He's involved in so many Decentist projects -- unite-against-terror, Demokratiya, guestposter at Harry's Place, maybe even Labour Friends of Iraq, not sure -- and he's also one of the very few people to use the decent left label about his own politics that I think it'd be perverse to exclude him from the Decent crowd.

But on the wider matter at hand, I agree with the substance of BB's recent comment, at 4.36pm above.

2/03/2006 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger Backword Dave said...

I'll second the idea that we mostly stick to Aaro and Nick. But I've nothing against adding John Lloyd, maybe Alan Johnson, and perhaps even Francis Wheen, who seems to be in the same set as DA and NC.

I think we should stick to paid-for pieces (I'll include DA's blog here, as it looks like it's part of his contract with the Times) and not bloggers per se -- H'sP, Michael Totten, and so forth. If Michael Totten gets a dead tree piece (in what he no doubt still refers to as the MSM), that might be fair game.

CCK, are you sure that Alan "Democratiya" Johnson opposed the war, and you haven't mixed him up with his MP namesake?

2/03/2006 09:39:00 PM  
Anonymous simon said...

No, the MP Alan Johnson definitely supported the war, and the Decent Alan Johnson opposed it. The thing to note with the Decent position is that it isn't the same as the pro-war position, though it certainly evolved from it; it's more about 'supporting democracy' and 'uniting against terror' than it is about specific opinions held in March 2003. Actually, a history of decentism, or at least a longer explanation of the term, might be a good way to christen the renamed blog...

2/03/2006 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger Backword Dave said...

Thank you, Simon. I thought the MP Alan Johnson had supported the war, but I thought the "Unite Against Terror" one must have too. (If he opposed the war, is that sufficient for him to be a Stopper? And guest-posting on H'sP, too, now there's a thing.)

I'm against terror (though with or without the "ism" -- I'm also against ariel bombing and other military attacks on civilians, and use of force generally) and I'm pro-democracy (I think it's a great idea, and I can't wait to try it). But I'm not a Decent. Hmmmm. Perhaps I just explained why.

2/03/2006 11:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

It's about advocating particular means of 'supporting democracy' and 'uniting against terror', of course (ie, military action, mostly). I would have expanded on that but I was writing the post on a mobile phone. Anyway, the point is that the Decent project has clearly expanded well beyond the Iraq hawks, though they probably still make up most of the membership.

2/04/2006 01:00:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

BTW, since expansion beyond the core of DA and NC is the subject of this thread as well as the correct definition of decency, it seems ok to point to this latest post on Normblog by the lamentable Jeff Weintraub. It displays one of the central tropes of decency which is:

"OK, so we may be in the position we're in because of serial fuck-ups by 'our' side, but now we are where we are there's no decent choice but to back 'our' side to the hilt."

The examples in Weintraub are Hamas's election victory and FIS's election victory in Algeria.

2/04/2006 09:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Backword Dave said...

Ah, now I get it. Decents only support elections and democracy when they produce the right result. Hence the famous Totten/Dupe argument. "I didn't invade Iraq so they could elect who they damn well liked or whatever."

2/04/2006 10:12:00 AM  
Anonymous rioja kid said...

So the consensus seems to be stick to Nick and Dave, with an additional roving commission towards decents and decentisms that shed more light on the syndrome.

Absolutely concur about avoiding bloggers, btw. Should have put that in the original.

Decentism in general is a bit of a work in progress. Right now it weems to be a matter of style more than anything else. It reminds me a bit of late sixties hippy activism - as though by stating the same principles over and over again, you actually can levitate the Pentagon.

Aaro comes at it from a slightly different angle, in that his mission is to generally show that authority and conventional wisdom is right and that dangers lie in opposing it: ex post decent, rather than ex ante, like Nick.

2/04/2006 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Maybe you should include John Rentoul, but as every one of his columns can be shortened to 'Gosh, isn't Tony Blair wonderful?' it'd get repetitive after a while.

How about Indecent Proposals?

2/05/2006 11:30:00 AM  
Anonymous bruschettaboy said...

I also think that the Henry "Scoop" Jackson society have to be on-topic, whether they are bloggers, journalists or something else.

2/05/2006 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

I'm not sure we'll be able properly to take the measure of Decency if we forbid ourselves from considering any websites that Alan Johnson may launch in the future, either.

2/05/2006 09:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Tim said...

picking up from fatbongo’s point, perhaps the Vicar of Bray is in fact the intellectual father of Decentism, rather than Paul Berman or Michael Waltzer?

2/05/2006 11:05:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I think the European working hours directive would preclude the posters here from discussing all the websites Alan 'Not the Minister' Johnson launches, though I suppose it doesn't stop you covering some.

2/06/2006 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger Sonic said...

I think another competition would be to find a better word that Decentism...

2/06/2006 07:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Backword Dave said...

Oh no, Sonic, I like "Decentism."

In Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment there's a cod Biblical story about one of the gods who sends an angel to find a good man in a certain area, and the angel can't find anyone who'll say that he's a good man, so the god blasts everyone. It occurs to him later than good men don't go around telling everyone how good they are -- that's an essential part of goodness. ...

2/06/2006 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger Sonic said...

Fair enough, on the wider issue if anyone would like to contribute to my Hitchenswatch site ( feel free. It could do with a new angle.

2/06/2006 08:56:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Holland said...

Quite frankly I don't understand a word you chaps are saying half the time. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy it mind you.

Aside from your core function, I don't see why you have to make a commitment to turn your attention onto a target full time. Why can't you take ad-hoc potshots if they poke their heads over the parapet and you get the urge?

2/07/2006 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

if this game is still turned on i wd like to propose something within the ambit of the hitchist lexicon: which is the "SOI-DECENTS"

i thought of it on the bus just now

2/07/2006 10:51:00 PM  

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