Monday, March 26, 2007

Can There Be A Decent Decent Left?

We had a bit of a dustup in comments a while ago about American academic Michael Bérubé, whether he was Decent or not and whether Crooked Timber was going right down the tubes now that he's joined it. Well, here, he enters the lists, defending himself against charges of out-and-out Decency, while staking out a position clearly critical of the majority of the Indecent Left. Can there be a pro-intervention Left which isn't Decent? See what you think.


Blogger ejh said...

Still none too picky about throwing mud though, is he?

3/26/2007 08:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Chris Baldwin said...

Bérubé knows that while there are some idiots on the left, most of us are reasonable people who aren't succumbing to some moral cancer. Ergo, he's not a Decent.

3/26/2007 10:55:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

He's not a Decent, but (this being my first encounter with him) he didn't strike me as being wholly intellectually scrupulous either. He also appeared to suffer from what I consider to be a major affliction among American (and other) liberals* which is believing that voices to the left of them should shut up. I don't much care for this.

If, however, Alexander Cockburn has misrepresented him, then of course he should say so and be entitled to an answer.

[* = for want of a better word: I'm not trying to use it as a leftist term of abuse]

3/27/2007 08:38:00 AM  
Anonymous matt w said...

"Pro-intervention" strikes me as unfair, since it suggests "pro-Iraq intervention," and Berube specifically says that he (and Ken Roth, Samantha Power, etc.) were against the Iraq war from the get-go. Maybe "pro-some interventions" would be better, since Berube (and Roth Power etc.) favored intervening in Kosovo but not Iraq.

3/27/2007 01:24:00 PM  
Anonymous matt w said...

I suppose might respond with some fairness that "pro-intervention" is not much less unfair than "sovereignty left."

3/27/2007 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

AFAIK, Berube was aginst the Iraq war because of who was prosecuting it. However, like Todd Gitlin, a certain economics professor and others - he spends an awful lot of time attacking people like Chomsky et al. Some of these attacks may be justified, however others aren't really in good faith. On the other hand, Cockburn isn't exactly known for fighting fair...

3/27/2007 05:47:00 PM  
Anonymous matt w said...

AFAIK, Berube was aginst the Iraq war because of who was prosecuting it.

Some Indecents could say the same thing.

BTW I'm not sure of the terminology here, but in the US it's not clear that Berube is really criticizing the majority of the non-Decent Left. I'd say that his position, pro-Afghanistan anti-Iraq and maybe even pro-Kosovo interventions is a pretty mainstream position if not the majority Democratic position . That might be me projecting my views though.

3/27/2007 11:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Ex Ponto said...

Has anyone worked up the courage to tune in to "Christopher Hitchens and Nick Cohen discussing slavery, revolution and the future of the Left" over at The Times? Danny Finkelstein really does have a hard-on for the Decents. I suppose they're probably preferable to the batshit insane rantings of Gerard Baker.

3/28/2007 06:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Louis Project has a few words on Berube:

3/28/2007 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

But Proyect doesn't actually deal with the question of whether Cockburn has (wilfully or otherwise) misrepresented Berubés position, which given that this was the whole point of Berubé's piece, might at least be worthy of some comment, no?

I have to say that Berubé comes across to me as somebody absolutely full of himself.

3/28/2007 08:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

On Cohen / Hitchens talk at Oxford Literary Festival (it was billed as a debate, but obviously it wasn't):

Nick presented choice excerpts from his book. There wasn't much by way of his 'analysis' (e.g. the corrupting influence of post-modernism in the universities) though he rather sotto voce waved at the decline of socialism as an ideal. He wanted to press the idea that it's not just the ultra-left who love Islamicist theocrats. He mentioned Question Time (Piers Morgan laughing at the demise of democracy in Iraq, some lady in the audience remarking that by right - given US arming of the mujahideen - the USAF should have bombed the US after 9.11), and that Livingston conference on the Clash of Cultures. Approving remarks re Labour ministers, Martin Amis, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Overall, rather low-key.

Hitchens - some ingratiatingly roué jokes about his return to Oxford, also his customary olde-worlde delivery (everybody is 'Mr.' - Mr Jefferson, Mr Lincoln etc). His talk about Jefferson highlights the US Revolution as the only revolution 'left standing'. Its particular contribution is the separation of Church and State. The US suppression of the Barbary Pirates was, in fact, war on Koranic fundamentalism. Anti-Islamism a foundation-stone of the modern world. The US remains the only revolutionary hope and the only model (he hesitated, but still included the free market in this model). He ended with invective against the Royals, and a rousing condemnation of religion, as ever.

Predictably enough, Hitchens' delivery was much more sparkly than Nick's, though Nick's was lucid enough in a Donnish kind of way.

'The Dude' didn't mention Iraq at all. Nick mentioned it only in passing. I'm not sure that it would have been worth 8 quid 9the entry fee) of anyone's money.

3/28/2007 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

"Approving remarks re Labour ministers, Martin Amis"

Did they have a good group chuckle over Amis's

"There’s a definite urge—don’t you have it?—to say, “The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.” What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation—further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan. . . . Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children" ?

3/28/2007 09:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

"I have to say that Berubé comes across to me as somebody absolutely full of himself."

He certainly did on Max Sawicky's site. Incidentally, he seems to carry out a similar policing function on academics who sees as to outre.

3/29/2007 02:30:00 PM  
Anonymous FGFM said...

(everybody [to Hitch] is 'Mr.' - Mr Jefferson, Mr Lincoln etc)

That was a particular afflication of Mr. William F. Buckley early in his career.

3/29/2007 07:14:00 PM  
Anonymous engels said...

Michael Berube is a sorry example of the warping effect an extended exposure to David Horowitz can have on a moderately promising liberal mind. In the Crooked Timber post and subsequent comments he didn't seem interested in seriously trying to defend his position, he just wanted to hurl muck at people, with the result that he wound up coming across, to me at least, as something of a lightweight.

3/30/2007 08:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who needs the "aopologies" of these poxy armchair warriors anyway?
They seem to actually think that they're to be taken seriously.

Ultimately, it's that they can't abide being wrong and proved wrong about the Iraq fiasco. Perhaps, deep down they are Bush loving muslim hating capitalist supporting to*sers, but maybe they genuinely were taken in by all the propaganda. If they were, then their status as epistemological seers and metaphysical guides to us commoners looks more like the man at the end of the Wizard of Oz. So the "apology" debate is just a sideshow. Why listen to another word they say? All that Geras stuff about "not being able to predict the future" truth "isn't one big thing" is just a smokescreen of fuzzout academic whingeing. But I suppose if we didn't listen to another word they say, there wouldn't be any need for a site like this hmmmm. I suppose you have to say that the fact they carry on actually writing, theur breathtaking cheek, I suppose, is itself a profound political symbol of the rotting corpse of political democracy in which we are living in.

4/29/2007 09:07:00 AM  

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