Monday, February 04, 2008

Cohen on Amis on Eagleton on Amis - a minor factual point

And with my entry for the "Most Boring World of Decency Post Title 2008" sewn up, I note that Martin Amis is, in Nick's interview, trying to claim that "The Age Of Horrorism" does not contain any suggestions toward a policy of racial harassment.

There was no fuss, no controversy, no outraged denunciations in the liberal press, nothing until October 2007 when Terry Eagleton, a quasi-Marxist professor, announced that, ‘In an essay entitled The Age of Horrorism published last month, the novelist Martin Amis advocated a deliberate programme of harassing the Muslim community in Britain.’
‘That was three mistakes in the first sentence,’ Amis drawled. ‘It wasn’t an essay, it didn’t appear the month before and I didn’t advocate the deliberate harassing of Muslims. ‘


Welllll (I am drawling right now), actually that's only one sentence. "Horrorism" appeared in September 2006, but it was an essay (what the hell else was it? why does Amis think he's fooling anyone?), and it did contain the following passage:

Now I know some six-year-old girls can look pretty suspicious; but my youngest daughter isn't like that. She is a slight little blonde with big brown eyes and a quavery voice. Nevertheless, I stood for half an hour at the counter while the official methodically and solemnly searched her carry-on rucksack - staring shrewdly at each story-tape and crayon, palpating the length of all four limbs of her fluffy duck.

There ought to be a better word than boredom for the trance of inanition that weaved its way through me. I wanted to say something like, 'Even Islamists have not yet started to blow up their own families on aeroplanes. So please desist until they do. Oh yeah: and stick to people who look like they're from the Middle East.'


Note as well that there is no element of the "thought experiment" or "adumbrating" here - Mart "wanted to say" this. I know we have rather done the Amis thing to death over the last few posts but it is, I think, rather important to be clear about the kind of thing that people are defending here.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Darius Jedburgh said...

Do you mean only one mistake? Good point though.

2/04/2008 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

Gabrielle Kruger! Gabrielle Gabrielle Gabrielle Kruger!

...look how many fucking times do I have to make this fucking point? If you decide to search brown people, you're guaranteeing that you will only ever catch terrorists who happen to be brown. And, knowing the calibre of people employed to do this, they will inevitably work on the principle that dBrown=dTerrorist, and harass lots of harmless Hindus, Sikhs, Tamils (well...mostly harmless) etc.

2/04/2008 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

He means the comments about his urges weren't an essay, weren't a month ago and weren't a policy of harrassing muslims. On 2/3 he's right.

2/04/2008 12:40:00 PM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

re: a "better word than boredom for the trance of inanition" that wove its way etc etc

would that be "entitlement"?

2/04/2008 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous harry said...

If you decide to search brown people, you're guaranteeing that you will only ever catch terrorists who happen to be brown

What is more, there are radical islamists who happen to be white and could just as well dress as western businessmen to avoid security targeted at those who have brown skin or are in muslim dress.

2/04/2008 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I can't leave this alone either. What I meant in an earlier post about 'tv appearances' (or whatever I said) was mostly the 9/11 attacks. He doesn't seem to think that the age of horrorism started with the 1998 United States embassy bombings. "The message of September 11 ran as follows: America, it is time you learned how implacably you are hated." Some Americans, those who followed the news rather than just the pretty pictures might have learned that already. Of course, most of the victims were black Africans, so it's entirely understandable why Amis's sympathies weren't engaged. America was pretty much hated by Timothy McVeigh too, but why should anyone look twice if a white guy wanted to get on a plane?

If I may go back to the 'great talents' of the Guardian editorial, I can't recommend Jonathan Coe enough. Though "The Rotters' Club" deals with the Birmingham Pub Bombings, Coe never descends to suggest that all the Irish are culpable and should get their house in order, etc. Perhaps, for Amis, being blown up by brown people is just much more traumatic than being blown up by white people.

2/04/2008 04:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Typical liberal-left distortion. Amis specifically says that they shouldn't harass anyone. It's just that if the situation were to arise in which it was appropriate to harass anyone, then it should be Muslims that get harassed. It's a statement in the subjunctive, or possibly the adumbrative.

Alex - wha?

2/04/2008 05:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though "The Rotters' Club" deals with the Birmingham Pub Bombings, Coe never descends to suggest that all the Irish are culpable and should get their house in order, etc.

There is a specfic part of that (excellent) book in which the inherited, unquestioning prejudices of the English middle-class (ie IRA = scum, Republican position on N Ireland = wrong) are eloquently exposed, too, isn't there?

can i also add that you've missed out a minor point of Cohen's mistakes:

There was no fuss, no controversy, no outraged denunciations in the liberal press, nothing until October 2007

Well the whole point of Eagleton's diatribe was that it was a (belated) response to the eloquent denunciation of amis in the LRB, which Cohen and Aaro both havenn't read but assume that because it's in the LRB, which once published soemthing exactly like 'America wake up you are hated' but by Mary Beard, not Mart, it was thus a terrible piece of prejudiced writing, purely because of its location, no matter how absolutely spot-on (not to mention brutal) it was.

No-one has come back and managed to deal with any of Soar's demolition. And Martin is still evidently seething about it.

2/04/2008 05:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Harry said...

Amis specifically says that they shouldn't harass anyone

Where did Amis say that *specifically*, Phil? I have read the interview which contain his offending remarks and I could not see any such specific renunciation of harrassment. Amis's distancing form of words has allowed him to say that he was 'abumbrating' a feeling but that fall far short of condemning the feeling outright.

Would Aaronovitch or Cohen find excuses for anyone 'adumbrated' a desire to beat up Jews? I think not. So why do they do it with Amis?

2/04/2008 06:00:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

OMG! OMG! How could I have forgotten this? And I did not make Mustafa Setmariam Nasar up (though I may have gone for a less popular transliteration of his name). From Wikipedia: "Nasar has ginger hair, green eyes, and a light complexion." In other words, despite being Syrian, he does not look typically Middle Eastern. On the other hand, if Amis is suggesting that Mark Steyn be harassed, I'm right behind him.

For those who haven't followed every comment here. Amis is impressed with Mark Steyn and said as much to Johann Hari.

2/04/2008 06:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there are radical islamists who happen to be white

two of the people arrested over the aeroplane plot which Amis said 'affected him so deeply' were converts to Islam. Surely someone so in tune with current affairs as Amis would have known that?

Would Aaronovitch or Cohen find excuses for anyone 'adumbrated' a desire to beat up Jews? I think not. So why do they do it with Amis?

Their complete tolerance of Amis's most obviously bonkers opinions on this is what i find so hard to understand. Even Harry's Place have distanced themselves from his position on Islam and demographics - to my horror, posting on there about this David T cited my opinions approvingly. Despite them thinking that they are in the majority, it does genuinely only seem to be Cohen, Hitch and Aaro who unquesitoningly approve of anything Amis says about anything - note Nick's bizarre decision to let him off the hook for supporting Thacher... because she is obviously exactly the kind of person the 'real left' should be praising...

2/04/2008 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

Phil: Gabrielle Kruger hijacked a jet to Entebbe in 1976 for the PFLP. She was blonde and German.

It's just a good name to remember as a quick comeback.

2/04/2008 07:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Alex - The female German hijacker on the Entebbe flight was Brigitte Kuhlmann. You may be thinking of Gabriele Kröcher-Tiedemann, although she wasn't at Entebbe. Or I may have missed something.

Harry - I was referring to the piece quoted here, where Amis says "...so please desist until they do", i.e. "for now, don't harass anyone". In case it's not obvious, I don't think this is a persuasive line of argument - just that it's the kind of literalist ah-but... defence that Amis's friends are fond of advancing.

2/04/2008 10:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get that man an 'I corrected Alex' t-shirt.

Actually, Amis _didn't_ call for the harrassment of Muslims. In the quote above he called for the harrassment of Arabs. He was therefore correct in his denial, but only at the cost of saying in effect: "How dare you call me a bigot. I'm not a bigot, I'm a racist."

Chris Williams

2/05/2008 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

And conceivably Iranians as well, of course. Oh, and Jewish people and all. And....

2/05/2008 09:42:00 AM  

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