Sunday, February 12, 2006

Warmed up HP Sauce

Here we go again with a straightforward Harry's Place warmover from Nick who covers the striking Iranian bus workers. I've no doubt that their cause is a very worthy one, but one suspects that it isn't the intrinsic merits of the case that secure the Decents' attention. If a strike with similar features was taking place in Manchester, Manaus or Mobile, Al. it wouldn't get covered with HP Sauce and then appear in the Observer on Sunday. In this respect there's a parallel with Darfur. Don't get me wrong, terrible things are happening there which ought to command our attention. But the adoption of Darfur as a "cause" by the Decents is at least partly down to its function as not-Israel, as in "You people go on about human rights abuses in Israel, but why don't you talk about Darfur where Muslims are doing far worse things? Eh? Eh?" If it was the objective badness that was driving things we'd expect the Decents to talk about DR Congo, but since that does nothing to illustrate the general tenets of Decency, they aren't interested. As with Darfur, so it is with the Iranian bus workers too. (Oh, and it enables Nick to mention those cartoons too.) Among those that Nick cites as being in support of Iranian trade unions is "George W Bush's State Department". Nick may want to check on this but I'm pretty sure that Bush hasn't been a consistent supporter of workers' rights to unionize.

I'm curious about Nick's little dig at Chris Huhne. First of all, I'm not sure I understand why someone who wanted a big car in the late 1980s is a hypocrite for having acquired doubts about them by 2006. It isn't as if Nick hasn't changed his mind about things over the same period, and even over much much shorter ones. There's also the strange mention of Ian Jack as a figure of exemplary moral judgement. That I can't understand either. Clearly there's some personal history involving the three, but unless you know the back story it is impossible to work out what Nick is going on about or why.


Anonymous John said...

Agreed, all you can hear is the sound of a large axe grinding.

2/12/2006 10:18:00 AM  
Anonymous rioja kid said...

Oh, lordy..

"It cannot be said often enough that this is not a clash of civilisations but a civil war within the Islamic world between theocratic reaction and the beleaguered forces of liberty and modernity."

So the actual civil war going on a few huindred miles west on good old fashioned "kill the heretics" and "put my gang in power" grounds is just the aftermath of a successful election. Remember whern the liberal left were supposed to have "nothing to say" about that?

2/12/2006 03:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Larry Lamb said...

I like the Huhne car thing: given NC's squealing hand-brake turn on Iraq, it's the best example of meta-hypocrisy I can think of.

2/12/2006 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

I presume it's because Cohen thinks Huhne is going to become the next Liberal Democrat leader (and thus be granted the title Enemy Of Decentism) and Cohen wants to be the first of the Decents to get a pop in at him.

2/12/2006 04:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

Not least because Huhne is also calling for a deadline to be set for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, an opinion guaranteed to inflame Decent sentiment above any other.

Btw, as part of your broader remit, this long piece by Andrew Anthony might be worth a look.

2/12/2006 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger Rob Jubb said...

It might be because of some otherwise long buried SDP-related thing, I suppose. Previous for treachery to the cause.

2/12/2006 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

I don't think that stands up, though, because Cohen told Observer readers in 2001 of his intention to vote Liberal Democrat or Socialist Alliance. I suppose his new-found devotion to the 'generally sensible' Mr Blair might be accompanied by a disgust at the people who failed to follow his screeching u-turn between 2001 and 2005, but it's a big ask, even for him.

2/12/2006 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Simon - I believe the traditional Decent response to points like yours is to state that 9/11 changed everything, and thus what might seem like a big ask to you or me is a routine piece of doublethink for a Decent.

2/12/2006 07:36:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Except Cohen kept ranting about the liberal-left from the far-left well into 2002. His moment was (as the post below says) Terror & Liberalism.

It must be troops out related.

2/12/2006 07:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

It will be even more interesting to see what Oliver Kamm makes of a Chris Huhne leadership, given that he was one of a very select few Liberal Democrats whose election to parliament he wished for last year:

I mentioned two in the previous post, and it's a measure of the importance of this election that I can so far think of no others (though there are individual Conservatives, and even the odd Liberal Democrat - Chris Huhne, and the existing Treasury team - whose return I would like to see)

2/12/2006 08:27:00 PM  
Blogger Backword Dave said...

Stephen Pollard is also not a Huhne fan (makes me warm to him, Huhne that is), and links to Vicky Pryce's profile in the Observer. Nick Cohen:

Overseas students are a lucrative source of revenue and the manner in which universities guaranteed cash flow by giving dim foreigners degrees has been an open scandal for years.

Observer profile:

Born in Greece, she came to London to study at the LSE and went on to a glittering career as chief economist for, among others, KPMG, Exxon Europe and the Royal Bank of Scotland, before her current post, as the first woman chief economist at the Department of Trade and Industry.

It's like all his pet hates in one "attractive, articulate, funny, ambitious and almost frighteningly bright" package.

I guess Nick has not been one of their dinner guests.

Nick again:

According to the Plagiarism Advisory Service - and, yes, such an outlandishly named body exists - one quarter of students admit to cutting and pasting from the net. Universities have computer programmes to detect lifted work, but have to confront students who can't see what's wrong with plagiarism. ...
I asked Susan Bassnett, pro-vice-chancellor of Warwick University, if it was possible to go from nursery to university in this country without learning anything. She replied: 'You can certainly get a 2:1 without demonstrating the capacity for independent thought and without acquiring basic skills.'

I thought this was an exaggeration until I read the Andrew Sullivan piece discussed on Crooked Timber. Fnarr-fnarr.

2/12/2006 08:42:00 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Simon, I suspect it will involve a very long post which will conclude with Kamm declaring that he has objectively concluded that Chris Huhne smells of wee.

It's the not-quite age old question - if a Liberal Democrat does something and a Decent doesn't write about it, is it still wrong?

2/13/2006 12:12:00 AM  
Anonymous redpesto said...

Overseas students are a lucrative source of revenue and the manner in which universities guaranteed cash flow by giving dim foreigners degrees has been an open scandal for years.

Why do I hear an ominous echo of Michael 'foreigners buy their A Levels' Portillo at this point?

Also: wasn't there an increase in visa charges for overseas students which might also account for the fact that foreign students are heading elsewhere?

As for the striking bus drivers: (a) a search of the Guardian archive didn't reveal anything by NC on Gate Gourmet (heroic Muslims on a British picket line don't count?); (b) whilst the pursuit of democratic rights in Iran is admirable, NC clearly wants to use it to demonstrate what a brave journalist he is, or as this week's stick with which to beat those who disagree with him on The Great Intellectual Struggle Of Our Time. He could easily do a Gay Muslims or 'feminism and Islam' article for the same reason: the group doesn't matter as long as they're against the regime and NC can imply that 'the left is silent' on the matter. The politics of news values is an interesting topic, but not if it's always used to score cheap points.

2/13/2006 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

What's Cohen's argument about universities, anyway?

He seems to be saying that foreigners used to want to come to UK universities because it was easy to get a degree here (see remark about "guaranteed cash flow"), but now they don't want to come to UK universities because it's, er, easy to get a degree here (see remark about "serious universities with worthwhile degrees").

Has something changed that he isn't telling us about, or am I missing the point somewhere along the line?

2/13/2006 12:18:00 PM  
Anonymous redpesto said...

NC's point might be: too many stupid, lazy people are going to university, where they plagiarise and cheat their work, while the university staff are passing substandard work by foreign students who can't rite Inglish proper [sic] because they need the money. And it's all New Labour's fault.

Perhaps this is an NC variation on his support for grammar schools?

2/13/2006 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger Ray said...

I bet Nick Cohen's dirty little secret is that the filler pieces in his Sunday articles are based on the conversations he has at Islington dinner parties. Last week he was sat next to that woman from Oxford, the week before it was the guy from the probation service. The Friday Forecast should be changed to "Who passed Nick the bruschetta?"

2/13/2006 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

That can't be quite right, as we know Nick still talks to the guy from the probation service, and we also know that Nick tends to slag off in print anyone he goes to a dinner party with (if not by name).

I think it's more likely he has coffee mornings.

2/13/2006 03:15:00 PM  
Anonymous evil bruschettaboy said...

I think he has coffee mornings, but in the evening, and with beer instead of coffee (not to endorse the Private Eye rumour, but it is not exactly libellous to say that a man occasionally has a drink in a pub). It's not so much the dinner table as the saloon bar you can hear here. Lots of these articles clearly started life at a pub table and should have stayed there.

2/13/2006 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

Simon, I suspect it will involve a very long post which will conclude with Kamm declaring that he has objectively concluded that Chris Huhne smells of wee.

Remarkably prescient, Nick.

2/18/2006 10:04:00 PM  

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