Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Help, they're silencing me!

Since we're now incorporating "World of Decency" as well as the narrower Aaro-Cohen axis, I thought I'd just draw attention to the latest outpouring from Norman Geras, Shalom Lappin and Eve Garrard. They are scathing about "Independent Jewish Voices" and specifically about the claim by Brian Klug that there's an oppressive consensus that makes it difficult for Jews critical of Israel to speak out:

What a hoot! What a kingsize, mouth and trousers, peaches and yoghurt, tractor and bright scarlet pyjamas belly laugh. Harold Pinter, one of the 'independent voice' signatories, cowed by... the Jewish Board of Deputies. Eric Hobsbawm and many another well-known name on the same list stifled. Most of these signatories would be able, practically any day of the week, to find column space in the would-be progressive press, there to be applauded for their courage in 'speaking out' (see the comments threads attached to the posts I've linked to above). But no, they're all anxious, uncertain and oppressed because of an 'unwritten law on what you can and cannot discuss'. The law is unwritten because there isn't one. What there is, rather, is vanity and self-regard.

I rather agree with Geras et al that Klug's claim is a silly one. But I have to admit that it rather reminded me of the whine from the Euston Manifeso crowd that their own view is excluded by a left-liberal consensus:

We talked of how the prevailing consensus had ample representation in the liberal press, on the BBC and Channel 4, whereas the viewpoint of our own segment of the left was significantly under- represented in the mainstream media. We had, however, found a place on the internet and in the blogosphere, which had helped to connect people who might otherwise have felt isolated and had given expression to the voices and debates of a left other than the one heard loudly everywhere: from TV screens and newspapers, in universities and other workplaces, in theatres, at dinner tables and at every kind of social gathering. Its ideas were so much perceived as conventional wisdom that many found it difficult to allow that there could be an alternative left-liberal view.

In the face of people pointing out that a crowd including Francis Wheen, Nick Cohen, John Lloyd et al could hardly claim to be excluded by the "maistream media", what did Norm have to say?

Then there has been the theme that, since the Eustonians and supporting signatories include well-known journalists like Nick Cohen, John Lloyd and Francis Wheen, the claim that our broad viewpoint has been under-represented in the liberal media is silly. Speaking loosely, it requires only a single half-asleep brain cell to deal with this point.

The great Marx scholar will no doubt recognize the phrase: de te fabula narratur.


Anonymous Simon said...

Geras, Lappin and Garrard's characterisation of Klug's argument seems misleading to me. I thought he was saying not that the IJV feel 'silenced' by the Board of Deputies et al, but that the latter erroneously proclaim to be 'representing' British Jewry when making political statements about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, thus seeking to give an impression of a 'consensus' among Jews which in fact doesn't exist.

TBH, though, like many Geras posts, my more visceral response was "maybe you're right, maybe not, but do you have to be quite such a dick about it?"

2/06/2007 06:44:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

De te fabula narratur. Horace, isn't it? Quoted in one of the introductions to Capital.

2/06/2007 07:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Chris Baldwin said...

Did Wheen support the Iraq War? He wasn't writing a regular column by then and How Mumbo Jumbo... doesn't make his position clear, although he seems to suggest, I recall, that the Bush administration's mistakes were much more important than those of the anti-war movement, which is a good sign of sanity.

2/06/2007 07:39:00 PM  
Anonymous ichomobothogogus said...

"What a hoot! What a kingsize, mouth and trousers, peaches and yoghurt, tractor and bright scarlet pyjamas belly laugh."

er...what? are geras et al feeling ok?
Pinter and Hobsbawm have been well known and in the public eye for decades. it'd be pretty difficult to suppress their views on anything (getting them to shut up might be even more difficult). they certainly didn't get into the papers via Israel-bashing. How many anti-zionist Jews who aren't celebrities in some other field get a hearing in the media? I do find it quite ironic that people who devote a large portion of their time to organizing nutty smear campaigns against Jewish critics of Israel suddenly turn round and sneer about how paranoid their targets are.

2/06/2007 07:58:00 PM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

Geras rumbles on pompously like only he can. He's developed, in his retirement, quite a fan club on the internet, which has a very slanted and particular demographic. He likes his cosy echo chamber.

But he's discovered through initiatives like the Euston Manifesto that the big bad world out there is a lot a less enamoured with his drone.

2/06/2007 11:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Fallhammer said...

The main thing in this for me is finding out for the first time that Pinter and an awful lot of the others are Jewish. I have a rotten Jewdar (and usually little interest in the point).

I might add that there's no inherent contradiction in being a zionist and criticising the behaviour of Israel's government, which endangers the long-term future of Israel. But that's even further off-topic.

2/07/2007 03:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Wheen still at Private Eye? It's remarkable how little PE has had to say about Iraq.

2/07/2007 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

Chris: Wheen was a "kind of, sort of" supporter of the war according to an interview with spiked! magazine and a "fervent" supporter according to reviews of his book on Amazon. I always want to believe the best of him as he is at least capable of the odd good joke, but in fact he was a co-author of the dreadful "it's OK to slander Chomsky" letter - I sincerely hope that this was because Emma Brockes was a mate.

PS: this is not because I'm a Chomsky fan or anything but I mean really.

2/07/2007 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

What was particularly remarkable about that Geras 'platform' was that readers who don't click the link might assume he goes on to say why it's not a valid cricitism. But instead he simply says people making the claim they are not unrepresented in the media need facts.

The Eustonites original claim didn't need facts though, for some reason, and Geras can rant about the opposite (the anti-war crowd being overrepresented) without any evidence at all.


2/07/2007 02:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shouldn't the people who we are watching be described as "soi-Decents"?

2/08/2007 12:41:00 PM  
Anonymous evil bb said...


I did this one!

2/08/2007 02:35:00 PM  
Anonymous matt w said...

De te fabula narratur is Latin for "I'm rubber, you're glue," correct? And here's a fixed link for your last post, evil bb.

Geras et al. may be right about the situation in the UK but in the US what Klug says seems pretty accurate -- Matthew Yglesias (who is Jewish) has been discussing this lately.

2/10/2007 01:43:00 PM  

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