Thursday, August 16, 2007

Rottweiler of Decency

In the latest Private Eye (17 August) the "Hackwatch" column attacks Johann Hari concerning his spat with HP Sauce and Nick Cohen. Since we know (thanks to the barking wing of Decency at the Drink Soaked Trots) that the author of the piece is Francis Wheen (mate of Geras and occasional co-author with Aaro, Kamm et al), perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that the piece reads like a press release by David T's agent. It is, nevertheless, disappointing that Private Eye allows itself to be used as a conduit for score-settling by this peculiar cult.

Update: SplinteredSunrise tells it like it is.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed. Not read it yet, but I assume that's what Wheen has done. I thought David T acted childishly in the whole spat and contributed little. His missive was just watered down Drink Soaked Trots, if that doesn't mix metaphors too much.

It was really an argument between Hari, Kamm, and Cohen, one in which Hari did well. Certainly, he was fairest: linking to his opponents etc., whilst Cohen in particular simply used the net as his tablet of stone, as he tends to do.

8/17/2007 04:09:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Wheen has his moments, but he really does sum up everything a lot of people (myself included) find obnoxious about Private Eye, doesn't he?

I don't buy it very often these days, but have they ever featured Nick Cohen in Hackwatch? He really is the perfect candidate, what with his anti-Americanism and bizarre Iraq war conspiracy theories of 2002.

8/17/2007 07:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should write to the Eye and say so - quote some chapter and verse.

It was incredible that Wheen could quote David Tate's "a reputation for making things up should spell
career death" about Hari with a straight face - after David Tate claimed the treasurer of Christian CND was writing anti semitic rants in the Arab press (a lie) , or after David T claimed the Iranians were going to make jews and other non moslems wear special clothes (a lie).

And for Nick to complain about misrepresentation and people making things up. Edward Said ? "Reading Lolita in Iran" and the Wolfowitz dedication that never existed ? The point is surely that Hari, Cohen and Harry's Place were all once united n two ideas: They all agreed that George Bush's Iraq adventure
was a battle for freedom and democracy, and they all agreed that
everyone who opposed the war was either appeasing or worshipping
"fascism". They were all forced to make up rubbish to support these two ridiculous ideas, matching the greater lies promoted by Bush and Blair. To only pick on Hari now he has renounced those mad ideas is unfair and silly. Again, you should write to Private Eye and say so,because Editor Ian Hislop will not neccessarily be aware of this, and will just be relying on Wheens waning sense of a story.

8/17/2007 09:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very depressing from the Eye, especially as this was in the same week I gave them some gossip about Cohen for Street of Shame that they somehow omitted to publish.

Old boys network innit?

8/17/2007 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Incidentally on reading RLIT it really shows how disgusting Nick's invention (and Christopher Hitchens identical invention) was. She dedicates the book to her dead mother, whom she was barred from seeing in her final few months.

Why both Nick and Christopher Hitchens decided that was Paul Wolfowitz has never really been explained.

8/17/2007 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger StuartA said...

Personally, I think it's rather late to start being disappointed in Private Eye. I have no idea what it was a few decades ago, but certainly now the idea that it's in some way independent from the establishment media is clearly wrong. For a start, most of them (Hislop, Brown, Booker) do or did write regularly for Telegraph group newspapers. Booker, of course, is a raving eurobore. Wheen obviously wrote for the Guardian, but then he's a friend of Hitchens, which would presumably turn anyone mad. Whatever its origins, it's an essentially reactionary centre of tedium, I'd say — exactly what you'd expect of a collection of old men still pretending to be young rebels. Pretty much what they mocked in Punch, in fact.

Why both Nick and Christopher Hitchens decided that was Paul Wolfowitz has never really been explained.

She acknowledged a "Paul" in the back, alongside a load of other people. This Paul might have been Paul Wolfowitz — it's never been confirmed — but even if it was, Nafisi explicitly disavowed any political implications.

8/17/2007 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

"She acknowledged a "Paul" in the back, alongside a load of other people. "

Yes, that is teh case, but there's still a big gap between that and asserting it was dedicated to him.

The pages are separated by the entire book, and the acknowledgements are a long list, of which 'paul' appears in the middle.

8/17/2007 11:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the other anonymous should give their Nick Cohen gossip to, if Wheen's World /Private I Love Nick won't use it

8/17/2007 11:31:00 AM  
Anonymous splinteredsunrise said...

Dear God, I've just noticed the post here, having written about the old boys' network myself this morning.

As a long-time Eye subscriber, I don't think I've ever seen any of the Decents get a drubbing in Hackwatch, except Johann who is no longer Decent. Tho' as Matthew says, Nick (I would add Ollie) would be ideal. But then, somebody else would have to write the bloody thing.

I don't object to Wheen holding his opinions or even using the Eye as a vehicle, but I am quite annoyed that being a Friend of Francis seems to confer Eye immunity.

8/17/2007 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger StuartA said...

Yes, that is teh case, but there's still a big gap between that and asserting it was dedicated to him.

The pages are separated by the entire book, and the acknowledgements are a long list, of which 'paul' appears in the middle.

I agree. It's hard to believe Cohen had even looked at the book. I'm was just pointing out that Hitchens/Cohen presumably didn't confuse Paul Wolfowitz with Nafisi's mother; they apparently confused an acknowledgement with a dedication.

8/17/2007 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Private Eye used to be more radical. Certainly most of its writers have been right-wing (of sorts: Richard Ingrams strikes me as a nasty old reactionary anti-Semite, but he writes for the Observer, so perhaps he thinks he left-wing) apart from Paul Foot (hated by that Labour loyalist Oliver Kamm, who explains his contempt with his trademark pith). But most shares were owned by Peter Cook (largely apolitical, as I remember, except for baiting anyone he could, and that mostly meant the Tories in the 60s). The Wikipedia entry on Ian Hislop helpfully details the politics of Hislop's appointment as editor: ...Cook pressed on [with Ingrams' successor], and his new editor [Hislop] sacked both [Peter] McKay and [Nigel] Dempster from the magazine without hesitation. So at least the magazine lost two right-wing crazies.

I've read all Wheen's books (I think): the Tom Driberg one is good; the Marx biography is entertaining, though I'm sure there are better jobs both by research spadework and explaining the man's philosophical progress. "How Mumbo-Jumbo ..." is entertaining too, though intellectually it compares to Jeffrey Archer's more retarded writings. As he gets older, he seems to get lazier, and more willing to slip Private Eye 'research' (in other words making stuff up) into his books. At least the section on Po-Mo seems to be steered entirely on hearsay and prejudice rather than reading Foucault or Feyerabend. And most of the rest is like 'Grumpy Old Men' without Rick Wakeman, Tony Hawks, and Arthur Smith. Pretty dull and stupid.

Private Eye is like blogging avant-la-meme: it was good at catching out others for hypocrisy and inaccuracy, much less good on original investigation (with the exception of the late Paul Foot).

8/18/2007 02:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just noticed some Decentist groupies are trying t insert an absurdly biased accoujnt of the Hari-Cohen row into Hari's wikipedia entry. I have corrected it for now but is there any way you guys couold post a link to the wiki entry and appeal for readers to fight back against this? I have been fighting against loons on this page for ages and it's getting a bit wearing, I could do with some back up...

8/19/2007 12:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Mark B said...

While there are certainly many dislikable aspects of Private Eye, such as its sneering snobbery, it still comes out with some decent journalism, such as its recent pieces on the NHS IT scandal (though not nearly as much as in the days of Paul Foot) and is usually an amusing read, but the influence of Wheen is obvious and frankly I wish he'd leave. I knew immediately upon reading the Hari Hackwatch piece that Wheen would be the author. To be fair though, Wheen did not attack Hari's actual critique of Cohen's book at all and the piece focuses entirely on Hari's libel threats. And while it is true that Hackwatch never attack any of the Decents (obviously, it's usually written by Wheen), that is not strictly true of the rest of the magazine - several satrical pieces have appeared in recent issues attacking Christopher Hitchens for instance. And I'm fairly sure that the first attack on Hari in Hackwatch actually occured when he was still a decent himself (though this was admittedly shortly after Hari had made a somewhat bizarre attack on Ian Hislop).

8/21/2007 12:37:00 AM  

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