Friday, February 17, 2006

Competition: Name The Remaining Seals of Dacre!

As well as our Friday Forecast competition, I would like to launch a new competition on Aaronovitch Watch. It probably bears some explanation for new readers.

For a while now, we've had a running joke on AW that Nick Cohen is in the process of gradually turning into Melanie Phillips. We have motivated this joke by claiming that he is breaking, one by one, the Seven Seals of the Vaults of Dacre. The idea is that every time you adopt a bizarre and counterfactual view which is also believed by Melanie Phillips, a seal breaks open, and when all seven are broken, the Vaults open and an army of ghouls rush out and drag you off to write a column in the Daily Mail. At present, we believe that the following four Seals have been broken:

1. The return of grammar schools is both a socially egalitarian policy and vital to the economic future of our nation.
2. House prices are about to crash due to the economic mismanagement of this government.
3. Liberal middle class English people are among the most anti-Semitic bigots in the world.
4. The government systematically falsifies crime statistics in order to cover up a rising tide of violence and lawlessness.

However, we've identified each of these ex post facto after seeing it in a column, which is not really a very satisfactory way to proceed. So the competition we have is to name the remaining three, so we have an objective standard by which to judge Nick's future rightward drift. We're looking for a set of three beliefs which are a) bizarrely counterfactual b) actually held by Melanie Phillips or, at a pinch, any other Mail columnist of the barking rightwing variety and c) likely to be uttered nonironically by Nick in the next twelve months. Submissions in order of preposterousness in the comments please. (Looking at some of Nick's stuff around the Handsworth riots and on faith schools, I think "Brown-skinned immigrants are given systematically favoured treatment by the government compared to native-born whites" is alarmingly close to being a bookie's favourite, for example).

The winning prize will be to have a Seal adopted in your name at the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, unless there is somewhere else on the Internet doing seal adoptions even cheaper.


Anonymous redpesto said...

Not sure which number this should have, but anything along the lines of 'women with children should stay at home and enable men to be the breadwinner and never divorce under any cicumstances' (aka 'feminism has been a disaster') should count.

PS: The winner should get a copy of Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle (or Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber) as a prize.

2/17/2006 03:59:00 PM  
Anonymous rioja kid said...

Going by the latest Standard Column, we've already got one: middle class people who buy fairtrade goods are Briytain's biggest cocaine users."

Obviously, Nick's grinding his axe here at pepopl;e he thinks betrayed him over Iraq, but there's a strong tone of "the liberal middle classes have ruined this copuntry because they weant their selfish excesses permitted by law and/or in public opinion." Tie in something related to "the sixties" too for extra decoration.

I think Nick put this out in prototype form, so it still counts as a new seal if we see it again.

2/17/2006 05:25:00 PM  
Anonymous redpesto said...

Blaming 'The Sixties' is a classic sign of rightwards drift (even DA disagreed with Blair when the latter tried that line re. law 'n' order), so you can lump all the sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll stuff within that category and put a Seal on it.

2/17/2006 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

(1) Senior judges are the naive instruments of global jihad, and human rights legislation is a sign of our impending dhimmitude. (Actually held by Mel P)

(2) Global warming panic is a plot foisted on us by the eco-fascist dhimmi scientist lobby.

2/17/2006 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger Backword Dave said...

RK got to my suggestion first I see. Now that Nick's badmouthed cocaine users, will he have the will power to stop there?

And redpesto's feminism suggestion sounds good too: after all, why would unattractive young women use Ken's bendy buses? Clearly they don't, or Nick doesn't notice them, so they don't matter.

On his last column, can anyone think of examples of his sentence:

The record shows that centre-Left politicians only win elections when they takes a hard line on crime and national security -- and if the Tories oppose them that’s all the better for Labour.

Wilson seems the obvious example, but I don't remember him being hard on either. (I'm talking remember from Ben Pimlott's biography, BTW, rather my actual recollection. But I read it when it came out, which was ages ago.)

Not a very serious prediction, but I'd be amused if Nick cited Michael J Totten's Kurdish post.

The Baath regime’s agoraphobic totalitarian urban planning model will be replaced with a cityscape fit for human beings. Neighborhoods will be built for people, not cars. Tree-lined streets will be pleasant to walk along. Open public green space will beckon people outside their homes and into their community. Restaurants and shops will add the perfect grace notes. Erbil, as a city, is a hard city to love. That may not be true for very much longer.

It's perfect for Nick, isn't it?

2/17/2006 06:26:00 PM  
Anonymous redpesto said...

Wilson seems the obvious example

Not if you think of Roy Jenkins instead?

2/17/2006 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I think he'll denounce Winston Churchill as using the 'weasel words of appeasement'.

2/17/2006 07:43:00 PM  
Anonymous rioja kid said...

I keep forgetting how much comedy champagne Totten provides. That extract's wonderful - pure brochure communism. He could have got a job with China Reconstructs, back in the glory days.

2/17/2006 08:02:00 PM  
Blogger Rob Jubb said...

I reckon that some form of harping on about how the welfare state destroyed a whole set of exemplary working-class self-help institutions the like of which the world has never seen, thus not only making the working-class worse off in simple material terms but undermining their proper British grit and self-reliance, thus inexorably leading to kids hanging about on corners menacing passersby through the wearing of hoodies, has to be in there. Maybe Nick's a way off from that yet though.

2/17/2006 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

I think the 'brown-skinned immigrants' point in the post has to be one of the seven, if only because he's come tantalisingly close to saying something like that already and it wouldn't take much more of a push to break the seal. Or perhaps, in more general terms, a denunciation of immigration, particularly of brown-skinned peoples who don't accept our way of life.

The seventh seal would have to be something unequivocally right-wing, I think, rather than something a particularly loyal Blairite could endorse. (I know there aren't many right-wing ideas New Labour wouldn't try out, but there are a few, mainly in the realm of social policy; restrictions on gay rights, for instance)

2/17/2006 08:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Backword Dave said...

I think that in order to make any serious predictions, we'd have to enumerate Nick's core beliefs. I understand these to be humanism, anti-racism and anti-homophobia (I think he'd be really shocked and insulted if someone suggested otherwise); pro-Welfare State (but this may be negotiable; if it's phrased another way, so that Welfare State because State Bureaucracy/Nanny State, he's already partly against); probably pro high taxation (again negotiable; if his next book becomes a best-seller, say because a printing error leads to "Our Friends on the Left" being preceded by "Harry Potter and", he may start having doubts).

I think, OTOH, he's susceptible to a somewhat Puritanical aversion to sex, drugs, and hedonism generally. He's repelled by crime, largely on the left-wing rationale that it's the poor and the weak who come off worst. And I think he's moving from a leftist sort-of-pacifism into a "you can't be too careful with foreign johnnies" attitude.

So, if he moves to the right, I think it'll be through identifying "Liberal middle class" values (see BB's point 3) and railing against them.

2/18/2006 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

Oh Jesus he's mocking the inhabitants of Hoxton, about four years after everyone else decided it was a bit passé to bother.

Also contains the sentence "Rory Bremner will tear into Tony Blair, but not Mohammed Khatami." I think, without hyperbole, this might be the worst column he's ever written.

2/19/2006 01:39:00 AM  
Blogger Simon said...

Actually hang on, Mohammed Khatami stopped being president last year. Does he mean Ayatollah Khamenei, or Mahmoud Ahmidinajad?

2/19/2006 01:42:00 AM  
Anonymous backword Dave said...

Indeed Simon. I also like the doublethink behind the following sentence, "Newspaper editors will print pictures of servicemen beating up demonstrators in Basra, which may place the lives of British troops in danger ..." because as we all know, British troops' lives are not in danger unless and until the meeja print pictures of them.

But how could Nick miss an easy BBC goal? He forgot the Spooks story. Oh yes, BBC denies axing Spooks episode.

In 2003, almost 1,000 people complained about an episode of the drama which centred on a suicide bomb school in a Birmingham mosque.

Complained, note. No death threats. Bastards.

2/19/2006 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I think Mad Mel herself might have been a bit ashamed to put this one out.

2/19/2006 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger Backword Dave said...

Oh, I think Mad Mel is beyond shame. Shame is for a) self-hating liberals and b)mad mullahs, left-wing politicians, judges, Simon Jenkins, Noam Chomsky etc who all "ought to feel ashamed" blah blah blah. Decent people can feel shame, and know that they can feel shame, and therefore never do.

I was going to say that Marcus approves, but I see Matthew has found out already.

I actually don't mind Gilbert and George. I find the Chapmans' art hugely irritating, though they seem quite personable in interviews. But I don't believe that Rory Bremner has ever affected to be "transgressive" or taboo-breaking.

2/19/2006 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Impressive to do a whole column about G & G (who somewhat predate Britart) without even once talking about what their pictures look like - what colours, lines, shapes and sizes are used, to what effect ? I don't think he will get his invitation to the Late Review this way.

Incidentally, hans't Rory Bremner dressed up as Osama Bin Laden at some point ?

2/19/2006 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous little keithy said...

I also go with the idea that the next seal will be along the lines of the "brown skinned immigrants" argument. It may manifest itself as the "Muslims are destroying our western values, I have nothing against Hindus" argument a la Rod Liddle but that's just cover and a very slippery road.
For a long shot I read something recently about Mad Mel's refusal to believe in global warming arguing that its propogated by scientists who do not understand the scientific method (Mel as Marie Curie) in the pay of the environmental lobby.
Then again I suppose Nick's attacks on Huhne's car means this one's ruled out.
BTW Bremner did do several skits dressing up with Osama in bed with Saddam.

2/19/2006 04:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Voidoid said...

Another thing with Cohen is the oft-displayed chip on his shoulder towards left-liberal academics, deceased French philosophers, feminist scholars etc. A sort of latterday 'la trahison des clercs' thesis you find in other Orwellian English leftists like Francis Wheen (whatever happened to him?) as well as Mel P.
I remember from H's P last year N.C. bombarding a UK professor with an abusive email about Jacques Derrida's death that seemed so out of all proportion as to suggest some other issues were at stake (was he once turned down for a post-grad place or something?)It adds to that Jeremiah-like sense of righteous isolation that UK pundits find so necessary.

2/20/2006 04:51:00 AM  
Anonymous redpesto said...

I think, OTOH, he's susceptible to a somewhat Puritanical aversion to sex, drugs, and hedonism generally.

'Pornography is Bad' - always an easy column to write (as long as you don't let on what turns you on) - and the Liberals Are to Blame (as long as they're not writing sex advice columns in the Observer Magazine)

PS: A hostility to 'Theory' (especially anything French) might not be a Seal of Dacre, but it is indicative of a typical English anti-intellectualism (sorry, pragmatism). Nick's hostility to 'postmodernism' (ie the academic conference inside his head) has been a feature of past columns.

2/20/2006 12:13:00 PM  
Anonymous tom p said...

The 3 remaining seals will be:
(i) MMR is a bad thing and the so-called scietnists claiming otherwise are dupes or liars - only a newspaper columnist can see the through behind all these facts and figures
(ii) working mothers should stay at home for their children
(iii) we should be free to drive as big a car as we like, when we like

2/23/2006 01:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Neil said...

Has he gone over the Rachel Carson DDT Worse Than Stalin/Hitler thing yet? That's always good for securing right writing gigs.

8/19/2008 11:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Barney said...

House prices are about to crash due to the economic mismanagement of this government

With a couple of years' hindsight, this isn't looking so 'counterfactual' after all. Maybe it'd be better to keep the prophesies out of the seal count?

8/19/2008 12:53:00 PM  

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