Sunday, February 19, 2006


Today's offering is characteristic Nick. It is an example of fantasy Islington dinner-party syndrome. At last night's party the guests -- the "average member of the educated bourgeoisie" -- seem to have left their cocaine at home (or perhaps they were shamed by earlier Nick columns into abandoning it until they can guarantee that is organically produced in sustainable forests). Now the topic of conversation is modern art, and the typical guest is a passionate fan of Gilbert and George. Having ascribed such enthusiasms to his fantasy diners, Nick now moves in to berate them for their hypocrisy. How can the Islingtonians both love G&G for their transgressiveness" and refuse to shout "pigfucker" at passing Muslims? What appalling hypocrites Nick's fantasy people are!

There's a point lurking in Nick's fantasy. It is this, that people on the liberal left really are more willing to attack Christianity than they are Islam. Nick's explanation for this, hypocrisy, needs to be set against some other possibilities that Nick doesn't seem to have considered. It is one thing to ridicule the icons of one's own culture (though doing so as art is getting a bit lame and tired) it is another to set out deliberately to offend members of abused and despised ethnic minorities. In a culture where issue after issue of the Spectator, the Times and the Telegraph contain pages of abuse directed at Muslims by the likes of Rod Liddle,
Mark Steyn and Anthony Browne, perhaps liberals and leftists are right to doubt the "transgressive" possibilities of joining in.

The central section is an attack on the Bush administration's use of torture and a defence of Mr Justice Collins for saying so. Good for you, Nick! But the opening section contains the bizarre proposition that no-one should criticize British troops for beating the crap out of Iraqis who has not acquired a licence to offend by being willing to attack Islam. Nick is presumably in the clear himself since, being willing to offend Muslims, he is now entitled to offend the relatives of those who abuse Iraqis. The principle that it is hypocritical to criticize Western governments for maltreating their prisoners unless one is willing to go around offending the sensibilities of all religions is a novel one. Perhaps Nick ought to wonder about whether he really means it.

And then on to another attack on Chris Huhne and his former love of the car. This time, Nick reveals the Huhne once had personalized number plates. Now I agree with Nick that this is pretty damaging. But then so is the fact that Nick has now obsessed about Huhne and his car two weeks running. What did Huhne do? Did he tell some humiliating joke about Nick at the Indie Christmas party years ago? Did he snitch on Nick at school? Did he run off with Nick's lover?


Blogger Matthew said...

The piece on not being allowed to criticise British troops is awesome.

Apart from Chris Huhne he is also obsessed with Rory Bremner. Is it just (as Odone said) to do with Iraq, or is there something there too?

I also wonder why he thinks demonising Ian Huntley is an obsession with the British Right? Were us liberal-lefties standing up for the man?

2/19/2006 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger Simon said...

His first sentence is particularly ludicrous, given that 'avant garde' artists have tended to attack culturally dominant beliefs/religions/groups/whatever, rather than those practiced by a very small minority of the population. The fact Gilbert and George are continuing in this tradition, and that Nick Cohen thinks this is representative of the 'death of the avant garde', signals nothing other than that Nick Cohen is a ludicrous hack.

2/19/2006 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

Also: viz. the second piece, Cohen has form in backing Republican candidates for the presidency, as in 2000:

Blair hopes that Gore will somehow get to the White House, as, I guess, do most Observer readers. I would rather see Bush win. If the Prime Minister bows to the demands of man he must despise, it will have the small advantage of revealing that our servility before American power is nothing other than colonial.

2/19/2006 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger Backword Dave said...

Hah, I thought that too. Sorry; I've posted comments in the last thread as my browser refused to reveal this one to me. I thought "rubbishing" a bit of a stretch where both Abu Hamza and Ian Huntley are concerned. (I have seen "rubbish" as a verb defined as "attack strongly" though I've always understood it as "tear down the reputation of".)

And David Mamet over-rated? I don't think so!:

You stupid fucking cunt. You, Williamson, I'm talking to you, shithead. You just cost me $6,000. Six thousand dollars, and one Cadillac. That's right. What are you going to do about it? What are you going to do about it, asshole? You're fucking shit. Where did you learn your trade, you stupid fucking cunt, you idiot? Who ever told you that you could work with men? Oh, I'm gonna have your job, shithead.

That guy's a fuckin' asshole. Anybody who talks to that asshole is a fuckin' asshole.

Trangressive? Who gives a fuck. Great dialogue. And one for Chris Huhne:

That watch costs more than your car. I made $970,000 last year. How much you make? You see pal, that's who I am, and you're nothing. Nice guy? I don't give a shit. Good father? Fuck you! Go home and play with your kids. You wanna work here - close! You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you cocksucker? You can't take this, how can you take the abuse you get on a sit? You don't like it, leave. ...
You know why, mister? 'Cause you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight, I drove an eighty thousand dollar BMW. *That's* my name.

And just to make it personal:

You got the memory of a fucking fly.

2/19/2006 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschetta Boy said...

In the specific case of Gilbert and George, I think their art might have been very different in its targets if they had been brought up in a Muslim education system.

With respect to Huhne, I think you're missing the cardinal rule of Cohen columns; the lucky seventh caller. It's not Nick who had his pint spilled by Huhne; it's some other bugger who didn't get the corner office and is carrying on his feud through the medium of the Observer.

The UK government passed a law about glorifying terrorism this week, a law which they presumably intend to enforce using violence. Not a word from Nick. I also think he might have libelled David Mamet

2/19/2006 01:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

worth noting this is the first time Nick has written the words "abu ghraib" in a newspaper column

2/19/2006 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Maybe so, anonymous, but he's written eloquently against torture in a number of columns, for example here, here, here, and here, and in this context I don't think it's especially fair to draw too many adverse inferences from his failure to use the words "Abu Ghraib", if indeed he hasn't used them hitherto.

2/19/2006 04:04:00 PM  
Anonymous little keithy said...

Where would you place Rod Liddle – apart from in the Thames with concrete boots on – in all this.
The mention of him in the article reminded me of a recent article by him.
I was waiting in the barber's and had to read GQ, it was that or The Sun although watching the heavy rain outside might have been more rewarding.
So among the usual crap, Clarkson, AA Gill, Piers Morgan, the greatest ever war film being The Thin Red Line (this is magazines by numbers – you don't even have to get out of bed to think it up) was a piece by Rod Liddle attacking the right.
I can only remember the opening "the trouble with the right is...". But it made me wonder what sort of left he thinks he belongs to?
I have a vague recollection that his "right" were all ex-colonels in the countryside. Maybe Liddle's time in Wiltshire has scarred him.
Just wondering.

2/19/2006 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Looks like Nick's being censored:

HATS OFF TO THE Standard, however, for running Nick Cohen's outspoken attack on the sniffing, tooting, snorting and bugling double standards of the "media elite" ("A Hypocrite's Drug of Choice", 15 February). Readers of The Observer, for whom Cohen also writes, nearly benefited from a similar polemic, but - alas - an attack on the evils of cocaine inhalation was not seen as a good fit for the shiny, new-look Obs

2/19/2006 05:11:00 PM  
Anonymous rioja kid said...

Matthew - where did that appear?

Actually, little keithy reminded me of something interesting. There's a tradition of people who were - historically - socialists and aryanists: I'm thinking particularly of Jack London and Upton Sinclair. Certain peoples simply weren't civilised enough for true, secular, enlightened socialist values. There's also an element of that type of thinking in the Progressive Republican tradition in the US.

Then it was black Americans and southern European immigrants. Now it's Muslims, apparently. The popint is that being on the left doesn;t just justoify racism here - it makes it necessary. Which brings us back to Nick's column.

2/19/2006 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

2/19/2006 05:57:00 PM  
Anonymous redpesto said...

I'm thinking of sending NC an email, having read his column, but I wonder whether he's too far gone to listen to anyone disagreeing with him (see the Haryyettes, passim.)

His piece on G&G is a willy-waving exercise, not a million miles removed from the Italian Minister who wore a 'Mohammed Cartoon' T-shirt in the name of 'free speech'. Nick thinks G&G 'ought' to be attacking Muslims (rather than the BNP?), and that Rory Bremner 'ought' to do impressions of people we've never heard of. Unless NC's secretly envious of the skills of artists (and their capacity to set an agenda), he should create the bloody artworks himself.

[PS. Vinnie - can you allow 'other' commets on the HP watch blog?]

2/20/2006 01:03:00 PM  
Anonymous hellblazer said...

I'm surprised no one else has mentioned the possibility that Cohen is - consciously or subconsciously - going for that "heir of George Orwell" niche - especially given that bit on the Wikipedia entry.

Partly it's the diatribes against the champagen socialists, but I'm thinking specifically of Orwell's polemic against Salvador Dali (Benefit of Clergy) and his article In Defence of Nationalism (or somesuch title). FWIW I like both those pieces, but it's almost as if Nick is trying to create a quirky persona and overdoing it.

2/20/2006 03:22:00 PM  
Anonymous TimP said...

Christ! I was interested in taking a look at the Paul Berman book myself, to see what could possibly be so persuasive in equating Islam with Fascism, but I don't want even to touch it now. It seems to be as dangerous as that forbidden tome in The Name of the Rose. At any rate, it seems to have rotted Nick's brain.

"Rory Bremner will tear into Tony Blair, but not Mohammed Khatami." Ah yes, the smiles of recognition in the studio audience as Rory Bremner launches into an impression of Mohammed Khatami, perfectly capturing all his verbal tics and idiosyncratic gestures! Hear the guffaws break out as he lampoons Khatami's over cautious push to reform Iran!

And yes, he's really got it in for Huhne, hasn't he? My guess is that it's because Huhne is explicitly saying the presence of UK troops is part of the problem, not the solution. This is an argument that cannot even be heard - hence the histrionic insistence that all insurgents are rapists and head choppers motivated by pure evil - because if it's true the whole edifice of pro-war justification comes tumbling down: our mission to bring democracy and Enlightenment values; our vital role in providing security; our moral obligation to reconstruct Iraqi infrastructure before we go - it all becomes irrelevant if our very presence is fuelling the insurgency.

And it does look like we're not very popular in Basra right now, doesn't it?

2/20/2006 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous redpesto said...

Perhaps NC's piece was in anticipation of John Reid's warnings to the media not undermine the morale of Our Brave Boys in Basra

2/20/2006 06:05:00 PM  
Anonymous bruschettaboy said...

Tim P - I swear that the Aaronovitch Watch review of T&L will be up some time this week - it is currently 3000 words and growing though. And there will probably be another one later when I pass the book on to one of the other guys, in case you don't like that one.

2/21/2006 06:20:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home