Thursday, June 21, 2007

Oh what very hell, to zig when you ought to be zagging

Hmmmm well. Julian Baggini is the acceptable face of Decency in many respects, and Nick's article on his life among the plebs and how their simple merry ways were so preferable to the effete metropolitans was not so bad. However, it may not be the raspberry road to the Daily Mail column that we had thought it was. I somehow trust Paul Dacre's instinct for the zeitgeist more than I trust Nick's.

(there ought to be an article here about how in general, the direction of political and cultural life is very much moving away from the Decents, and their self-image as an embattled minority appears to be becoming self-fulfilling, but I am too busy to write it).

55 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where is the article to which you refer?

6/21/2007 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I have put in a link. God this is getting less like blogging and more like work every day.

6/21/2007 09:45:00 AM  
Anonymous matt w said...

You lot were on this back in March.

6/21/2007 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

yes, but I thought that by not citing Captain Cabernet I could create the impression of having had the idea myself. And I would have got away with it if it weren't for you pesky kids.

6/21/2007 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger Ophelia said...

Why do you keep lumping Julian in with the 'Decents'? As far as I know he has nothing to do with them, under any guise or nickname. Do you just assume he does because I work with Jeremy and Jeremy works with Julian? If so, that's a mistaken assumption. Jeremy's not a 'Decent' and Julian's not even close.

I wish you'd leave Julian out of it. As it is, I'm implicated in all this stupid pseudonymous muttering about him. Julian's not a 'Decent'; you can remove him from your Black Book of Bad People.

6/21/2007 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger donpaskini said...

Off topic, though related to the point about political life moving away from the Decents, are you Watching Oliver Kamm?

"So what, given all these qualifications, are the grounds for arguing for interventionism and the spread of global democracy? I would make the case on grounds of simplicity. Because the world order is complex and unpredictable, we can have no greater confidence in a supposedly rational policy of pursuing a stable balance of power among sovereign states."

(He goes on to explain that terror and destruction were Iraq's fate, invasion or no invasion).

The idea that people turn to Decency because they find that rational policy-making isn't simple enough is one with a certain explanatory force. It's a bit of a surprise that it is Oliver making this case, though.

6/21/2007 07:09:00 PM  
Anonymous dsquared said...

Among other reasons, this dotty article, equating "liberal interventionism" with Oxfam. Baggini is not a member of any of the main Decent organisations, but nor is David Aaronovitch.

In any case, what are you wittering on about "Book of Bad People". There certainly is such a book (you're in it, under "Bores, insufferable" cross-referenced to "Rizla, skin thinner than a" and "God, people who think they're making a contribution to human knowledge simply by not believing in") but Julian Baggini isn't in it; we've referred to him favourably in two articles (this one as "the acceptable face of Decency" and in the article about Nick's review of his book) three times neutrally in passing (mainly laughing at Nick's ludicrous encomia to his working class credentials) and unfavourably in one (the Oxfam one). We quite like him.

Don: We (by which I mean me) are certainly Watching Oliver Kamm, but every time I try to write something about him, I am paralysed by the sheer and awe-inspiring force of Decency. The problem is that to write something in criticism of a particular aspect of his view of the world is to implicitly suggest that the other bits aren't worthy of similar excoriation.

6/21/2007 08:32:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Could someobody explain who Ophelia is for the benefit of the spectators?

6/22/2007 06:36:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

One of the proprietors of "Butterflies and Wheels", credited by Nick Cohen as his source of information on all things postmodern and relativisses.

6/22/2007 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Ah, OK. I'm not familiar with the place (though I am familiar with comments about same). Still, if someone thinks they've added to the sum of human knowledge by not believing in God, at least that's better than, say, Cristina Fucking Odone.

On the subject of sanctimonious Catholics, I notice that a prominent political figure who has played a deeply controversial role in the Iraq War has appparently been hiding their true religious affiliation from the public for a number of years. Surely Oliver Kamm or HP should make it their business to unmask this deceiver and reveal their hidden agenda?

6/22/2007 09:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Baggini's article equating "liberal intervention" with donating to Oxfam (they both involve giving something to the developing world - bombs, money, all pretty similar - as in "I would like to donate a massive bomb onto your school") puts him in the decent camp, surely. Isn't it also odd that the author "Bad Moves ...a series by philosopher Julian Baggini detailing the various ways in which arguments or points are made badly, but often persuasively" should make such a bad argument - and unpersuasively.

While going off on one on Butterflies and Wheels, their piece by Edmund Standing is one of the worst peices of Decent writing I have ever read .

6/22/2007 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I suspect that there is at least a chance that the gunboats/Oxfam article was an attempt at smartaleckery[1] that didn't come off rather than Decency per se. There is a strain of internationalist thought which is shared by a lot of non-Decents (including IIRC one of the AW staff) that national boundaries have no intrinsic moral significance and that therefore there can be rights and duties to do things in other countries. That's why some of us were in favour of the Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan wars, although we don't bang on about it quite so much. It is possible that JB was making this point, although to do so in the context of Blair's ludicrous piece of self-exculpation was a bit of a tin ear if not motivated by Decency.

[1]Davies is now accusing other people of "attempts at smartaleckery that didn't come off"! Has he no shame?!

6/22/2007 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

Could someobody explain who Ophelia is for the benefit of the spectators?

Surely you're familiar with the song?

Boards on the window
Mail by the door
Why would anybody leave so quickly for
Ophelia?
Where have you gone?

The old neighborhood
Just ain't the same
Nobody knows just
What became of
Ophelia?
Tell me what went wrong

Was it somethin' that somebody said?
Mama, I know we broke the rule
Was somebody up against the law?
Honey, you know
I'd die for you

Ashes of laughter
The coast is clear
Why do the best things always disappear?
Like Ophelia
Please drop through my door

Was it somethin' that somebody said?
Honey, you know we broke the rule
Was somebody up against the law?
Honey you know
I'd die for you

They got your number
Scared and runnin'
But I'm just waitin'
For the second comin'
Of Ophelia
Come back home

6/22/2007 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

The only reference I know in song to Ophelia is from Desolation Row.

6/22/2007 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

“There is a strain of internationalist thought which is shared by a lot of non-Decents (including IIRC one of the AW staff) that national boundaries have no intrinsic moral significance and that therefore there can be rights and duties to do things in other countries.”

What does “intrinsic moral significance,” and the lack thereof, mean, in this context?

6/23/2007 05:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Ophelia wrote:

Do you just assume he does because I work with Jeremy and Jeremy works with Julian?

...and for some reason I assumed this was a piss-take, and rather a broad one at that. I now realise that Ophelia is not only a real person but a real person who works with Jeremy, who does in fact work with Julian. Sorry about that.

6/23/2007 09:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So is Ophelia a "Decent"? And what about Jeremy? Shouldn't we be told? A bit like Phil, I had assumed that this was part of a school-kids' guide to the plot of some little-known Shakespeare play.

And is the direction of political and cultural life moving away from the Decents? It ought to be: most of their basic assumptions lie in ruins in the chaos of the failed state of Iraq that they helped to create. Hoever some of these assumptions rea deeply ingrained in British life, so questioning them could be a quite traumatic process.

6/25/2007 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I think we need to set up a separate "Am I Decent Or Not?" website.

The Butterflies & Wheels crew are commonly cited by Decents for their forthright anti-relativism. They are the original sources for nearly all references to the dreaded postmodernisses whenever someone like Nick feels the need to refer to them by name. (Jeremy Stangroom has objected in the past to my characterisation of this widespread practice of using references from "Why Truth Matters" rather than a primary source as "poncing off Butterflies & Wheels" - I note his objection but frankly don't agree with it).

So that's the connection. I don't know and can't be bothered to look up whether they are signatories of any of the founding documents of Decency, and I don't recall B&W being particularly in favour of WAR! or particularly keen to suck up to the Yanks, so I would probably say that they are not intrinsically Decent, because defining "really mindless anti-relativism" as per se Decent is casting the net too wide. But they swap a lot of citations with Norman Geras, usually on the subject of "have you seen what those bloody Muslims are up to today! Can you believe that the relativists and The Left ignore this sort of thing!"

On the subject of cultural and political agenda, I was just going to make the point that the whole Decent movement appears to have top-ticked Blair's political stock, defining themselves apart from The Left just when it seems to be coming back into fashion and hitching their wagons to Atlanticism just when it seems to be going out.

6/25/2007 04:54:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

defining themselves apart from The Left just when it seems to be coming back into fashion

Does it?

I mean I'd like it to be true but I'd like a lot of things to be true.

6/25/2007 06:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with EJH. The direction of political and cultural life ought to be moving away from the Decents, but it's too early to say that it is. Look how hard it is for our political class to admit that invading Iraq has created a failed state. Look how many politicians attack Harman just because she hinted that she got it wrong. Myths like "Britain punching above its weight" are very ingrained in the UK's political life.

6/25/2007 07:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Jeremy Stangroom said...

Daniel, Daniel, Daniel

You are simultaneously tiresome and a wannabe bully (you're kind of at GCSE level - so maybe a place at Bristol University for you?).

You say:

"Jeremy Stangroom has objected in the past to my characterisation of this widespread practice of using references from "Why Truth Matters" rather than a primary source as 'poncing off Butterflies & Wheels'"

This is not right. This is the email I sent to you.

*********************
On Steven Poole’s blog, you wrote:

“(FWIW, my current understanding is that Jeremy Stangroom has read Foucault and possibly Derrida too and the rest are for the most part poncing off him).”

Normally, I don’t bother with this kind of thing, but I know you’re keen on accuracy. So for the record:

[EDITED - CONFIRMING I HAD INDEED READ FOUCAULT, DERRIDA, AND OTHER PEOPLE TOO!]

Nobody has ponced anything off me. Of the people you list (Francis Wheen, Nick Cohen, Ophelia Benson and Johann Hari), I have met Nick once, and exchanged possibly two emails with him, I have never said a word to either Francis or Johann, and Ophelia, well, you know about – but she is certainly quite capable of drawing her own conclusions about the people she writes about.
**********************

I know you struggle with argument, but here's a tip for you... You'll do much better - people beyond your stockbroker friends (and the mediocrities who clog up Crooked Timber) might even take you seriously - IF YOU GET THINGS RIGHT.

Also, if you guys think Julian is a "decent" - whatever one of those might be - then you're... well I think the word is WRONG.

Anyway, I'll let you get back to your masturbatory games now...

6/26/2007 04:14:00 PM  
Anonymous daniel daniel daniel said...

Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy. If I am such a terrible bully, perhaps you should bring your A-game when trying to pick a fight with me (even more so if you are going to slag off Crooked Timber as "mediocrities", suggest that stockbrokers make poor friends and make the bizarre suggestion that Bristol University takes students with poor GCSEs).

Of the people you list (Francis Wheen, Nick Cohen, Ophelia Benson and Johann Hari), I have met Nick once, and exchanged possibly two emails with him

You might not have realised this Jeremy, but you also wrote a book, called "Why Truth Matters". I think Nick read it. I think this because he cited it in his most recent book, regularly mentions it in his journalism and reproduced a number of quotes from it verbatim. As you can see, I am all about accuracy.

He didn't, on the other hand, produce any material quotes at all in the relevant chapter that might have come from primary research. Since there is strong circumstantial evidence that he was in the habit of taking quotes wholesale from the "Butterflies and Wheels" blog without checking them against the original source (documented by CK here), an since Nick doesn't cite any other books on the subject anything like as regularly, (not even Sokal & Bricmont) I think I am well placed in my suspicion that Nick did in fact get quite a lot of his research secondhand from "Why Truth Matters".

Now if he got it from "Why Truth Matters", then he either got it from you, or from Ophelia Benson, because there were only two authors of that book. I happen to know that Ophelia Benson hasn't read particularly widely in the works of Derrida, Foucault etc, because she's told me so. I happen to know that you have, because you told me so. Therefore, it's you.

At the end of this deductive trail, we have the conclusion that Nick Cohen put a number of references in his book, to the work of critical theorists which he didn't come up with via original research, but instead took wholesale from your book (specifically, the bits of your book written by you). This is the state of affairs that I summarised in my pithy line "Nick basically ponced those references off Jeremy Stangroom".

Johann Hari, Ophelia Benson and Francis Wheen are also in the habit of reshuffling a small set of quotations, most of which have appeared in print several times, when writing about critical theory. This also caused me to suspect that they had not done much primary research, and to surmise that the original source was you. I have no idea why you regard this as a personal attack; clearly anyone can see that I was suggesting that:

a) you had done original research
b) your book and articles were influential in a circle which included Francis Wheen, Johann Hari and Nick Cohen. (I suppose that Ophelia Benson might have done a load of her own research on the subject in the months since she told me that you had written the relevant bits of the book because you were familiar with the material and she wasn't, but it would be a very odd use of her time compared to simply citing her co-author).

You seem to be very keen on arguing that some of your most influential and prestigious readers don't actually read your books and articles. I don't understand why. I think it is not impossible that you have firmly grasped the wrong end of the stick, in which case you might be well advised to can it with the personal insults.

Also, if you guys think Julian is a "decent" - whatever one of those might be - then you're... well I think the word is WRONG.

If you don't know what "one of those might be", then how can you be so sure who is and isn't one? Julian Baggini used to write a good column on exactly this sort of logical fallacy; I am beginning to understand why it is that you think it's totally normal for people not to cite their co-authors or to use them as sources of information.

This all seems very unfair on Julian Baggini, who (I reiterate) has in general been referred to favourably on this blog, but who is now getting his name dragged into a fight that Ophelia and you have decided to start on his behalf. Even Iraqi democracy has more competent and less hamfisted would-be champions.

6/26/2007 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

(for the benefit of our American readers, a "ponce" is a pimp, and "to ponce off" someone is roughly to live off their goodwill without contributing much of your own. viz "ever since Gary stopped smoking, he just ponces fags off me". Which is not as rude in British English as you might think. So in accusing Nick and all comers of "poncing off Jeremy" in this context, I'm suggesting that they tend to appropriate his research and pass it off as their own, rather in the manner that Norman Finkelstein accused Alan Dershowitz of doing. The point is that while it is a bit disreputable to ponce, it is not particularly so to be ponced off, and I don't quite understand why Jeremy thinks it is. Glad that's cleared up).

6/26/2007 06:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Jeremy Stangroom said...

Daniel

I don't need anything like my A game to take you on.

But, FWIW:

"I think this because he cited it in his most recent book"

Did he? I'm not sure he did cite it...

But I haven't read his book closely.

"Since there is strong circumstantial evidence that he was in the habit of taking quotes wholesale from the "Butterflies and Wheels" blog without checking them against the original source (documented by CK here), an since Nick doesn't cite any other books on the subject anything like as regularly, (not even Sokal & Bricmont) I think I am well placed in my suspicion that Nick did in fact get quite a lot of his research secondhand from "Why Truth Matters"."

So your logic is:

a) Nick takes quotes from Butterflies and Wheels;

b) Therefore, he quote-mined "Why Truth Matters".

Brilliant. On the other hand, it is possible that Butterflies and Wheels was his primary source...

I'm not sure he even read Why Truth Matters before he wrote his chapter on postmodernism. Seriously. I think it might have been afterwards (but could be wrong).

"I happen to know that Ophelia Benson hasn't read particularly widely in the works of Derrida, Foucault etc, because she's told me so. I happen to know that you have, because you told me so. Therefore, it's you."

Here you're wrong in various ways.

1. I didn't write a single-word about Derrida in Why Truth Matters (except where I quote a comment Lehman made about deconstruction).

2. Foucault was mentioned just once in the book (page 40). It was an incidental comment.

3. Ophelia absolutely has read the material of the people she talks about in the book (which doesn't include anything substantive about Derrida's work - only remarks about the reaction to his death). This includes Harding, Ross, the SSK people, etc. The idea that she hasn't is ridiculous.

So Daniel, even if it were the case that Nick was using WTM as a source, how exactly does that equate to poncing off me?

Moreover, your comments were not just about Nick. Where is your evidence that the other people have "ponced" off me? (Has Francis Wheen even heard of Why Truth Matters?)

"(specifically, the bits of your book written by you)."

Which bits did I write? Are we talking here about the chapter on evolutionary biology? Maybe the material on Brigham Young University. Daniel, you have no clue what you're talking about.

" I have no idea why you regard this as a personal attack; clearly anyone can see that I was suggesting that:"

I don't regard it as a personal attack, you loon. I think you're being unfair to them! I am pretty certain that Francis Wheen, for example, would not have the faintest clue that I exist. And, as far as Nick is concerned, Ophelia is the talent behind B&W (and Why Truth Matters) - I'm not part of the story here. That's the point!

"then how can you be so sure who is and isn't one? "

Oh please. It is perfectly possible to be clear that something isn't something, without being able to define precisely what the something it isn't is. I'm not quite sure what defines someone as a Marxist, but I know that Margaret Thatcher wasn't one.
And I know that you're not a Decent, but I'm not sure whether I'm one...

"This all seems very unfair on Julian Baggini"

Poor Julian. He'll survive, though. But I'll pass on your concern.

6/26/2007 06:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it safe for the rest of us to come out yet?

6/26/2007 07:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Jeremy Stangroom said...

"Is it safe for the rest of us to come out yet?"

I doubt it very much. I have absolutely every intention of nailing Daniel over this, so that he stops repeating this ridiculous "poncing" stuff.

I don't care whether it bores or irritates other people.

So Daniel, would you like me to tell you exactly which bits of Why Truth Matters I wrote? You might be surprised.

I wonder then whether you'll do the honourable thing, and retract your untruths?

6/26/2007 07:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Jeremy Stangroom said...

Okay, Daniel, these are the parts of WTM that I wrote:

Chapter 2 (most of it). It comprises a kind of matrix-type exposition of the real challenge of scepticism; then runs (sympathetically) through Hamann; Wittgenstein, Winch and Kuhn.

Chapter 3 - I wrote the Latour section (pretty much the only time I took on somebody who might be considered a postmodernist);

Chapter 5 - I wrote most of it. It's about evolutionary biology. Not a mention of a postmodernist. I'm not sure there's even any relativism in it. Probably not.

Chatper 6 - I wrote some of it. But mainly the stuff on Marxism (nothing on postmodernism or relativism from me);

Chapter 7 - I wrote most of it. I talk about Project Whitecoat; the rows in the Academy at Brigham Young (and elsewhere); and a tour through some recent lit crit history. Nothing substantive about postmodernism, relativism, etc.

That's it.

Now would you like to explain to everybody again how it is that Nick et al are poncing off me?

I'm all ears.

6/26/2007 07:54:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I assume the Bristol University reference is to do with that institution's disgraceful habit of accepting a certain number of talented students from comprehensives rather than crammers from public schools? Does that constitute relativism?

Incidentally I'd like to see Jeremy on Crooked Timber. From my brief acquaintance here he'd be in a position to challenge Michael Berubé for the position of most conceited contributor.

6/26/2007 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger Ophelia said...

Hello.

"Johann Hari, Ophelia Benson and Francis Wheen are also in the habit of reshuffling a small set of quotations, most of which have appeared in print several times, when writing about critical theory. This also caused me to suspect that they had not done much primary research, and to surmise that the original source was you."

That's a lie, Daniel, and I'm tired of seeing you tell lies about me on public sites.

You need to stop "surmising" things and then announcing them. You don't know what people have and haven't read, and you can't tell by surmising. I did tell you I'd read little Foucault and almost no Derrida (apart from the odd article), but that doesn't equate to telling you I've read nothing. The fact that I haven't read much Derrida or Foucault does not lead to the conclusion that all of Nick Cohen's references to "critical theorists" were to the parts of Why Truth Matters that Jeremy wrote - Derrida and Foucault don't exhaust the category "critical theorists."

I wouldn't have said anything though, but all this nagging away at Julian is just too ridiculous. Especially since you've admitted you don't even have any reason to think he is a 'Decent' (whatever that is) and that you can't be bothered to read things to confirm.

You really shouldn't attack people in this scattergun way if you can't be bothered to confirm that they are what you say they are. Malice is all very well, but you can have too much even of a good thing.

6/26/2007 08:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Jeremy Stangroom said...

"From my brief acquaintance here he'd be in a position to challenge Michael Berubé for the position of most conceited contributor."

So there's Daniel telling me off because I'm refusing to be credited as the great inspiration for the Decents.

And there's you calling me conceited.

Fantastic!

6/26/2007 08:13:00 PM  
Anonymous ddd said...

Jeremy, I am afraid that I am going to trust my lying eyes on this one.

The trouble with trying to bullshit me, JeremyJeremyJeremy, is that I have one hell of a memory. How's your memory? Specifically, do you recall typing the following words:

dsquared - I'll type this slowly so you can follow. WTM has *two* authors. I've read Derrida, Foucault, Irigaray, Latour, Deleuze, etc, etc; I've also lectured on postmodernism, deconstruction, and on its antecedents, etc, etc.

Have a careful think about what it means to have a jointly authored book, then try to work out (one of the places) where your argument fails.
| Jerry S | 2006-05-21 - 23:33:39 |


They're on the comments here

Bang. To. Rights.

6/26/2007 08:24:00 PM  
Blogger Ophelia said...

Bang to what rights? Where's the bit where Jeremy said "and my co-author has read nothing"? He's read some people I haven't read, and I've read some people he hasn't read. We wrote different parts of the book. How does it then follow that Nick (say) is poncing off him?

6/26/2007 08:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Jeremy Stangroom said...

That was just a logical point, Daniel. I was yanking your chain.

But there isn't anything substantive in WTM about: Foucault, Derrida, Irigaray, Deleuze (in fact, I think two of those are literally not mentioned).

And I did write the section on Latour.

So, I ask again, unless you are saying there are invisible sections in WTM, which I wrote, how exactly are Nick et al poncing off me?

Come on, Daniel. I'm waiting.

If you're just saying that I'm lying about what I wrote, then... well, there is nothing further to say.

6/26/2007 08:33:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

Res ipsa loquitur. A year ago I said "Ophelia, you write a hell of a lot about postmodernism and you haven't read much", and Jeremy replied "aha, but I have read a lot of it".

This year, I write "Jeremy is the one who has read a lot of it" amd Ophelia replies "aha, but I wrote about it".

6/26/2007 08:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Jeremy Stangroom said...

"This year, I write "Jeremy is the one who has read a lot of it" amd Ophelia replies "aha, but I wrote about it"."

Give it up, Daniel. There isn't anything in WTM about those people. Have a look at the book. Actually, just look at the index. Derrida - 1 section on the reaction to his death (pp. 168-170); Foucault - one mention (p. 40); Deleuze - one mention (p. 55); Irigaray - not mentioned.

I have read these people. We didn't write about them. Ophelia wrote about the other more minor postmodernist figures. I did not.

Check out the style of the writing. You should be able to tell which chapters are Ophelia. I don't have her literary talent. It's obvious from the writing.

Do you actually think we're just lying here?

It would be a rather bizarre thing for me to want to do. Why would I deny writing what I actually wrote?

6/26/2007 08:51:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

(and clearing up loose ends, because I am scrupulous about accuracy. Jeremy and Ophelia are, as far as I can tell, claiming that Nick Cohen and Johann Hari's quotes may have been lifted from "Butterflies and Wheels" rather than "Why Truth Matters", and that Ophelia Benson wrote the sections about academic relativism in "Why Truth Matters". I don't have any information that would allow me to gainsay this.

However, it is quite obvious that there will be no apology coming - quite the reverse - because it is crystal clear that the reason I believed the opposite to be the case was that Jeremy and Ophelia had created that impression, on the comments thread linked above, back when it was more convenient for them to do so. It is pretty obvious from Jeremy's quoted words above that it was entirely reasonable of me to believe what I "surmised" on the basis of what he'd said himself to me.

So, whoever was the author of whichever of those uniformly dreadful attacks on straw relativism (which indeed failed to mention anyone by name, though I don't see why anyone's proud of this), Jeremy and Ophelia are the authors of their own misfortune. And the only lesson learned, I think is "don't assume I don't remember".

6/26/2007 08:55:00 PM  
Blogger Ophelia said...

Daniel,

"A year ago I said "Ophelia, you write a hell of a lot about postmodernism and you haven't read much", and Jeremy replied "aha, but I have read a lot of it".

This year, I write "Jeremy is the one who has read a lot of it" amd Ophelia replies "aha, but I wrote about it".

No. You're just confused.

I do write a fair bit about postmodernism, but I write about minor figures, journalists and academics, second tier postmodernists if you like; people who are in fact much more likely to call themselves postmodernists than their heroes are. I'm allowed to do this even without having read Derrida. I'm allowed to do it because the people in question do come right out and say they are postmodernists and that what they are arguing is postmodernist. So I'm not committing some sort of fraud, I'm not pretending to read that which I have not read. I write about self-proclaimed postmodernists - such as the author of an article in the Washington Post which I discuss in Why Truth Matters; such as a pair of critics of 'evidence-based medicine' who wrote an article that I discussed at B&W and in an article in Axess. Minor figures matter too, and I think they are worth talking about, because they purvey some bad ideas.

That's pretty much all there is to that. You seem to have this fixed idea that when I said (in a discussion at B&W) that I haven't read Derrida, I was thereby announcing my lack of qualification to discuss any piece of postmodernist work at all. I don't see it that way. I think if an author rests a claim on postmodernism (as both examples mentioned did) then I can identify the claim as a postmodernist claim, and dispute it as such. It's a broad church, as is well known, and in fact the more famous people who get stuck with the lable mostly disavow it, I believe; it's the followers who are more keen on the identity badge.

Is it clearer now? Jeremy has read Derrida, I haven't; on the other hand, I have read a lot of ephemeral postmodernist writing, and I have written about some of it.

I don't 'ponce off' Jeremy. I've written nearly 2000 comments at B&W (as well as everything else on the site except for the articles), and none of it has 'ponced off' Jeremy.

6/26/2007 09:04:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

I include by citation occasional AW reader Steven Poole's forensic examination of this claim with respect to "Why Truth Matters", and the several links provided in the comments thread mentioned above.

6/26/2007 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger Ophelia said...

"Jeremy and Ophelia had created that impression, on the comments thread linked above, back when it was more convenient for them to do so."

It wasn't more convenient for me. And Jeremy didn't intend to create that impression; he was making a logical point; he didn't realize you would conclude that he meant I had read nothing. I suspected you would, but let it go, because I get tired of dealing with your weird hostility to me.

But if you didn't have that weird hostility to me, it probably would have occurred to you that Jeremy didn't actually mean that he had read everything and I had read nothing.

"Jeremy and Ophelia are the authors of their own misfortune."

Their own what? Aren't you pompous! You telling lies about us on a blog read by fifteen people doesn't quite reach the level of a misfortune.

I wouldn't have said a word if you hadn't dragged Julian into it yet again. As I said - you admitted that you don't even know he's a 'Decent' and can't be bothered to read up on the subject, yet you go on calling him one at intervals.

Now that's a misfortune.

6/26/2007 09:24:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

And Jeremy didn't intend to create that impression; he was making a logical point; he didn't realize you would conclude that he meant I had read nothing. I suspected you would, but let it go, because I get tired of dealing with your weird hostility to me.

Currently calling "bullshit" on ...

6/26/2007 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger Ophelia said...

On what? What's the bullshit? Which bit of it is a lie?

6/26/2007 09:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Jeremy Stangroom said...

Ah well, Daniel, so long as you accept that there's no reason to suppose that we're now lying about this stuff, I'm happy.

I accept that the thing on B&W was misleading. I didn't intend it as a claim about the specifics of WTM, just as a logical comment about joint-authorship. (Also, there was, I think, the thought at the time that the B&W/WTM project gained general legitimacy given that one of us involved had actually read the major figures quite carefully - even though we don't discuss them.)

But Ophelia did point out a little while ago that it could be read as the claim that I had done all the reading (which obviously she wasn't best pleased about, given that it wasn't true!)

But yes, the first part of your account is possibly not unreasonable (except I don't know how Wheen fits into all this).

6/26/2007 09:36:00 PM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

instead of all this pained flannel why not just produce a devastating counter-example: ie a pomo quote in cohen or wheen or hari that isn't in B&W or WTM, or a summary of pomo and/or relativism which is distinctively non-B&W-ish, or a counter-argument to P or R the wheelies didn't or wouldn't or couldn't have made

if none can be found, then dd's cheeky surmise is good crit -- that the journalists are adding nothing of their own to the mix, however often they return to it

6/26/2007 10:07:00 PM  
Anonymous gdr said...

I must admit that I got a strong impression from Johann Hari's review in the Independent that Why Truth Matters contains a devastating critique of the work of Jacques Derrida: "In ‘Why Truth Matters’, Benson and Stangroom answer the clotted, barely-readable sentences of the postmodernists with sentences so clear you could swim in them. There should be a law demanding every purchase of a Jacques Derrida ‘book’ be accompanied with a free copy of this shimmering, glimmering rebuttal."

But now I learn that the book contains almost nothing about Derrida at all, except for a couple of swipes in passing. This is hardly a "glimmering rebuttal".

(I doubt Hari set out to be deliberately misleading; I imagine that his animus against Derrida lead him to make a stronger rhetorical flourish than could be justified by the work under review.)

6/26/2007 10:48:00 PM  
Anonymous steven said...

A propos of Hari on Derrida, I am still wondering exactly which Don DeLillo novel could be justly described as "trapped self-referential Derridean word games and irrelevance". But this is a bit off-topic.

I do understand the phenomenon illustrated here of writers sort of forgetting what's in their own books. I do it all the time myself. Luckily, I keep electronic copies of my books' text and so can do a quick search if I'm not completely sure that what I wish to say about my own book is actually true. I warmly commend this approach to my fellow authors.

6/26/2007 10:56:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

So there's Daniel telling me off because I'm refusing to be credited as the great inspiration for the Decents.

And there's you calling me conceited.


Well it is possible Jeremy that the conceit lay in parts of your contributions other than that. Have a look at your first couple of postings and see if you can spot the sections that attracted my attention (I can help if you require).

I'm still keen to have the Bristol University reference explained, if anyone would be good enough to do so.

6/27/2007 07:16:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

One of my co-authors on Crooked Timber is a prof at Bristol University. I'm guessing it had something to do with that - although given that the general topic was "how dare you drag my friend and co-author into your petty fight with me" I don't understand why.

6/27/2007 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

That explanation did occur to me although it looked no less tenuous than mine...

6/27/2007 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

Look, people, is there anyone in the world who gives a homeopathic catfart?

6/27/2007 04:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think people are too quick to dismiss the 'Amazing coincidence' explanation of why Nick's examples all seem to come from WTM or B&W. This, after all, is presumably why he read Azar Nafisi's 'Reading Lolita in Tehran' and made exactly the same mistake as Christopher Hitchens, i.e., imagining a dedication to Paul Wolfowitz.

6/27/2007 06:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leave it, all three of you. You all have better things to do

Chris Williams

6/28/2007 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

There's more than three in this discussion. Which of them (aside from myself, obviously) do not have better things to do?

6/28/2007 01:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Leave it, all four of you.

And Chris.

6/28/2007 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I am sorry, the rumours are false, AW is not offering a book token prize for the person who says "leave it" the longest amount of time after the last post in that flamewar. I am sorry if anyone was misled.

6/28/2007 03:49:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Flame war? That wasn't a flame war. Flame conkers, more like.

6/29/2007 06:30:00 AM  

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