Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Subtle innuendoes follow; must be something inside

Obviously an apology to both our long-suffering readers and RK and CCK for posting the third comment on Dave's col today, but I really have to get this off my chest or I'll explode. I almost felt as if I needed a shower after reading this week's; I thought it was one of the most disgraceful and slimy pieces he's ever written. Broadly speaking, I think it's fair to say I didn't like it. The way I see it, Dave has a go at four targets this week (fair do's to the guy, it's an economic use of words) and unfairly maligns all four of them.

1. The Archbishop of Canterbury. As Aaro says, "Presumably good manners dictated that his critique of the Sudanese neogenocide in Darfur will have to wait until he visits, say, America" Ahahahaha, Dave you crack me up. Well it's a little bit more fucking serious than that actually. As it happens, the situation in Darfur is balanced on a knife edge at present. The Janjaweed massacres have currently abated in what can only be described as an "uneasy truce", and the government is negotiating the entry of a UN peacekeeping force. These negotiations are somewhat complicated by the fact that the Darfurian rebel group (which had a nasty tendency to break all previous ceasefires and to fire on the African Union troops who were meant to be protecting them) has just split into two rival factions, each of which is accusing the other of trying to undermine the ceasefire. As Dave has noted in recent weeks, our mates the Muslims are really quite sensitive to criticism from outsiders; it is entirely possible that any fiery speech from the pulpit would have been seen by the Sudanese government as an attempt to reignite the civil war in the South of Sudan and used as a pretext to throw out the UN negotiators and kick off in Darfur again.

In the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that the Archbishop of Canterbury, who would quite certainly have been briefed on the horribly delicate situation in Sudan, chose not to stick his size nines into the matter. To do so would have been much more irresponsible than doing a big number about the Israelis during the Camp David peace talks. The trouble here is that the Archbishop is actually going out into the world, and has to keep in touch with the civil war in Sudan as what it is, a war, where things change from moment to moment. For Dave and Nick, it is frankly just a piece of scenery to be wheeled on stage when a distraction is needed from how bloody awful things are in Iraq. Rowan Williams deserves a hell of a lot of sympathy for the crap he is taking from people who understand the situation in Sudan a hell of a lot worse than he does, and who think that words don't have consequences. There is simply no excuse for not keeping up to date with the latest information about a war if you are going to shoot your mouth off about it.

2. Michael Winterbottom: So, the winning forecast would have been "Dave recycles his Newsnight Review piece. And to be honest, of that piece, I am not a fan. Winterbottom's crime is that he "banishes ambivalence" (I think Dave means ambiguity but it's not clear). For crying out loud. It is not possible to simultaneously show someone in a narrative film arriving before and after a bombing, or to show them simultaneously attending and not attending jihai training classes. It is hardly new news that one of the limitations of the docudrama format is that it necessarily involves taking specific versions of contested facts, and it is utterly unfair to Winterbottom to suggest that the fact he has made a docudrama is in some way evidence of evil intent on Winterbottom's part. It is not hard to guess who Dave has been standing too close to when he makes this point; there is one member of the Newsnight Review crew for whom the practice of taking a feature of a genre and pretending it is a terrible creative flaw in a piece from that genre is practically a trademark, and now a puppet representing him will make a guest appearance on Aaronovitch Watch:

Hullo, everybody, my name's Mark Commode, pronounced Kermode! You may remember me from such shows as "Newsnight Review" and "Southern Area Regional Heats of the Billy Fury Lookalike Competition 1998"! I would just like to say "Oh God this romantic comedy is so trite and superficial!". And "Oh God this animal weepie is so emotionally manipulative!" Wait, I've got another one, "Oh God this Dogme arthouse movie is so self-consciously highbrow!" Thank you, I will be here all week assuming nobody punches my smug fucking face in!

Anyway ...

3.The Tipton Three. Or as they used to be called, "The Tipton Four", before one of them disappeared somewhere between their capture by the American troops and Guantanamo, and is presumably dead, a fact that Aaro rather glosses over (I wouldn't have mentioned this, but it was him that started this business of punctiliousness over the facts when he had a go at Winterbottom). As RK and CCK have already noted, the "I emphatically don't make this accusation that I am actually quite clearly making" locution is a genuinely dishonourable piece of lawyerly slipperiness. Aaro would certainly not have tried to get away with this sort of shit with respect to the Birmingham Six or Guildford Four, against whom it was also possible to build a case full of circumstantial hints and innuendoes.

Aaro's actual rap sheet is really very thin as well; I wonder what the source was? In particular, I cannot be the only one who finds it ironic that the winner of the George Orwell Prize for political journalism, can't understand how a young man at a loose end can suddenly find himself at the front line of a war; in Homage to Catalonia he practically admits that if he'd zigged instead of zagging as he went over the Pyrenees, we'd be quoting his pithy homilies to Stalinism today. Dave appears to place a very great deal of reliance indeed on the Tipton lads having understood that the beginning of the bombing was the prelude to a full ground invasion they could get caught up in (rather than the beginning of a humanitarian crisis they could get involved in) and not very much reliance at all on the fact that the Yanks had two years to have a go at them and ended up with nish, clish, nada. Also, his "those who have claimed that by September 2001 they had already become religiously zealous" seem in my view to be short on an explanation of why zealous religious Muslims attending a jihadi mosque in a country where Western toiletries are difficult to get hold of, would nevertheless have been clean-shaven all the time they were there. I'm not saying they were definitely innocent; just that this is a partial smear job and really very nasty.

4."The liberal left". Of course, we always get it in the neck. Guess what? The theme for this week is the same as that of Jack Nicholson's closing speech in A Few Good Men; that we poor civilians can afford to bleat about "civil liberties" and "due process", because rough armed men stand ready with dogs, electrodes, waterboards and Polaroid cameras to guard us while we sleep, so who are we to criticise them? And guess what? It was crap when Jack Nicholson said it too.

The motto of evil bruschettaboy is "keep it blunt and keep it personal", so I will. Because the IRA was by no means the biggest threat that the UK faced in the 1970s, you know. There was also this thing called Soviet Russia, which was still killing people in their thousands, and which was from time to time threatening to destroy us all in a nuclear holocaust. The Soviet Union was motivated by an ideology called Communism, which had a lot of supporters in the UK, many of whom belonged to something called the Communist Party of Great Britain. Some of those supporters claimed to be "Eurocommunists" and not in league with the Soviets, but there were a lot of troublemakers among them, including a small group who disrupted the popular television programme University Challenge. They might have claimed to be innocent of any plans to destabilise the British state or pass on our secrets to the enemy which threatened us with destruction but hell, who wants to take that risk? On the standard that Aaro appears to be pushing-without-pushing here, it appears to me that the case against the Tipton Three is far weaker than the case for rounding him up and accidentally-on-purpose allowing him to suffer the fate of the Tipton Fourth, some time between leaving the NUS and showing up on Weekend World.

I've written about this in the past; I know enough about the anni di piombo to not want my country to go even a little way in that direction, or to want good journalists to carry water for this project. I am no keener on seeing "Accidental Death of an Islamist" in thirty years time than "Accidental Death of an Aaronovitch".

(this is not a death threat by the way)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Similar Tipton approach from Nick Cohen

The Evening Standard (London)

March 8, 2006 Wednesday

829 words

HEADLINE: How liberal London got in bed with radical Islam



WHEN Radio 4 invited the exeditor of the Erotic Review to analyse The Road to Guantanamo, a vague notion that had been bubbling in my mind for months became a certainty.

Liberal London has gone mad. It has cut its last mooring with rational debate and is floating away on a sea of self-delusion.

"I felt radicalised by it," cried Rowan Pelling, as she announced that Channel 4's film about the three British Muslims from Tipton the Americans arrested in Afghanistan had turned her into a militant. "I really did."

For those of us who see the former purveyor of genteel pornography around Soho, it was a terrifying declaration.

Will the bombshell turn into a human bomb and take out the decadent sex shops which once sold her magazine with an exploding Donna Karan bag?

As disconcerting was the reaction of the supposedly more serious critics with her on the weekend arts programme. Anyone who reads the papers knows that although the "Tipton Three" are innocent, the Americans had reasonable grounds for picking them up.

They listened to Islamist imams in Britain, studied in a jihadi school in Pakistan and went into Afghanistan when the war began. Yet no one punctured Mrs Pelling's new-found radicalism by raising uncomfortable facts. Nor did Michael Winterbottom consider them in his film.

There is a strange mood among the metropolitan intelligentsia at the moment.

It has become a kind of class betrayal to do anything other than blame Blair and Bush for the woes of the world. On Sunday we had a spectacle more obscene than anything Rowan Pelling has published. The Archbishop of Canterbury stood in the Sudan, a country filled with the mass graves the Islamists have dug, and failed to register a squeak of protest.

While crimes against humanity stared him in the face he chose to burble to David Frost about Guantanamo, inevitably, and - may his god forgive him - gay vicars.

The week before, the allegedly Leftwing feminist Clare Short hosted a Commons meeting to defend Hizb ut Tahrir, a far-Right party that wants to establish an Islamic empire, persecute homosexuals and force women into second-class citizenship. She couldn't see that she was making a nonsense of her professed principles.

The failure of the well meaning to oppose movements that are against everything they believe in is not simply because of the disasters of the Bush presidency - although they have helped.

Since 7/7, Londoners have known that suicide bombers will kill us at random.

One way of coping is to pretend that they are our fault. We feel safer if we turn our eyes from psychotic ideologies, and maintain that Islamism is merely a reasonable reaction to the "root cause" of wicked Western policy.

What we say is not true, but it is a comfort. Maybe if the erotic reviewers, filmmakers, archbishops and MPs confess our crimes, the cult of death will disband and leave us in peace.

Ordinary people call such reasoning wishful thinking.

Psychiatrists call it denial.

Mourinho and his master AS A RULE, old football writers have no time for Jose Mourinho. It's not that he's foreign (Arsene Wenger is foreign). It's not that he's got a short temper (Sir Alex Ferguson has a short temper). It's that he's foreign, got a short temper and doesn't give a damn what they or anyone else think. The youngsters have more sympathy. They say only rampant egomaniacs have the strength of character to survive working for dodgy Russian billionaires. True, but although your average dodgy Russian billionaire may tolerate eccentricity, he may not be able to stomach defeat.

What's it all about, Alfie?

I'VE SEEN them dive for the last artichokes in Waitrose and last orders at the National Theatre bar, but never have I seen polite Londoners jostle as they jostled into the Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution to see Shirley Hughes.

If you don't know her, you clearly have never cared for children. Present the little brutes with Alfie and the Birthday Surprise or Alfie Gives a Hand and her simple stories and drawings tranquillise them. She told me she based Alfie on her son, Ed Vulliamy, the Guardian war correspondent who exposed the Serb concentration camps in Bosnia. I can see why she stopped using him as a model. Children may be getting older younger, but I doubt if they're ready for Alfie and the War Criminals yet.

Rebus revels in the blues THE success of Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus is a glorious refutation of the belief that the public wants to feel good. I opened one of the Edinburgh novels at random and read: "Dawn had brought milky sunshine to the capital, but Rebus had known it wouldn't last. The sky had been too hazy, blurred like a drunk's good intentions."

In a sentence you have why John Hannah never worked as ITV's Rebus. An actor from Four Weddings and a Funeral was always going to look too perky. Ken Stott is another matter. There's a face that has been angry drunk, melancholy drunk and dead drunk. When Stott sees the sun shining, he expects rain.

I'm sure he'll be a huge hit.

LOAD-DATE: March 8, 2006

3/09/2006 09:50:00 AM  

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