Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dusting off the "nice one fella" award

Always worth remembering that although Aaro's politics can be a little bit on the dangerous side if you happen to be physically located in one of the countries he takes against, he is unusual among the Decent Left in that he doesn't actually fear or hate the Muslims. And so it is that he writes something rather good about the Reverend Rowan. Including a dig at Melanie Phillips which appears to have drawn a bit of blood; I am pretty sure that if Mel had remembered that Dave isn't Jewish she'd have called him an anti-Semite. (I have left a remark in her comments to the effect that she has misunderstood - Aaro means to say that Melanie P is entirely entitled to have an opinion on the Archbishop of Canterbury and even to publish it, but as with the Vicar of Dibley's views on matters rabbinical, she shouldn't expect anyone else to care).

Toward the end, however, Aaro appears to take on the general question of liberalism versus communitarianism, and gets bogged down in it roughly as quickly as every other bugger, inside and outside political philosophy, who has written about it in the last thirty years. The central question being that if you have "communities" they are always going to end up putting social pressures on people within those communities (usually women and gays) which have the practical effect of denying them their civil rights, but if you don't have "communities", the world's an awfully cold place. I vaguely wish that this concern for the practical ability of people oppressed by minority communities to make use of their formal rights could be extended more often into a general program of assisting all sorts of people to make use of the rights that liberal society in general doesn't give them much practical hope of enjoying, but there you go. The question is a basically intractable one, so one can hardly blame Aaro for getting caught in it and he was much less annoying than Johann Hari's version of the same thing. Personally in re: liberalism versus communitarianism, I endorse the view of Professor John N Gray, which can be summarised as "fuck this for a lark, I'm off to read JG Ballard".

Update: compare and contrast "Clothes for Chaps".

Update Wednesday 13 February 5:15 pm by Chardonnay Chap If we're doing the Rowan Williams thing here, I may as well throw in some fun links I've found. Eugene Volokh on American courts' interpretation of Sharia law pertaining to contracts. Via Frog on Christopher Hitchens' arguments against Rowan Williams (yet again, Hitchens proves a better polemicist than logician) via IOZ who thinks it's all pretty trivial.

16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why did you find the Hari take on it annoying? I thought it was quite good.

2/12/2008 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Briffa said...

If Melanie P isn't entitled to have her opinion heard, then why does Aaro see fit to offer his opinion? Or is his more valid?

2/12/2008 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

She's perfectly entitled to have her opinion heard. I heard it and I thought it was hilarious. As did Aaro. Aaro, who is also so entitled, offered his opinion and I thought it was much more sensible and wrote about that. Then you gave me your opinion and I thought it was pretty ignorant, and that's more or less where we are now. I call it "the marketplace of ideas".

2/12/2008 03:11:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I'm always sceptical about that phrase. Thing is, in a marketplace you'd expect the quality of products to gradually improve. But in the marketplace of ideas no such process ever seems to occur on any particular scale. Maybe it's like commercial television or something.

2/12/2008 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

Okay, I was taking this phrase "she shouldn't expect anyone else to care" seriously.

Well she probably could, given that she's written it on her website, where readers go precisely because they want to care what she thinks. And you care too, having written about it at her site, and here.

Briffa.

2/12/2008 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Talking of Hari (of whom I'm not a particular admirer) his Wikipedia page appears to have become the subject of a vast amending-war, which may or may not have kicked off seriously round about the time he had his spat with HP.

2/12/2008 03:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

If Melanie P isn't entitled to have her opinion heard, then why does Aaro see fit to offer his opinion?

Aaro wasn't referring to Mad Mel offering her opinion - which obviously she's as entitled to do as anyone else - but to her not only recommending Williams' resignation but nominating his successor:

He should stand down and the courageous and sharp Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali ... should take his place.

This from (in D^2's words) a non-member of [the CoE] who has spent the last five years excoriating it. It's hardly going to be seen as friendly advice.

2/12/2008 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

"Courageous and sharp" presumably means "sticks it to the Mozzers".

Mind you, spending time discussing Mad Mel is not really the best use of my ideas-purchasing currency.

2/12/2008 04:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

"Talking of Hari (of whom I'm not a particular admirer) his Wikipedia page appears to have become the subject of a vast amending-war, which may or may not have kicked off seriously round about the time he had his spat with HP."

Looking at the discussion page it appears to be a spat between a Hari fan and a representative of the American wing of Decency. The latter group are rather over-represented on Wikipedia, as I found out a year or two ago when I tried to introduce some balance into the (at that point very pro-Decent) Nick Cohen page.

2/12/2008 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I'm sure it used to be much longer, and gave me the impression of having been written by himself.

2/12/2008 06:31:00 PM  
Anonymous dsquared said...

Well she probably could, given that she's written it on her website, where readers go precisely because they want to care what she thinks.

The phrase "shouldn't expect anyone to care" is ambiguous between "should not expect anyone at all to care" and "should not expect any particular person, David Aaronovitch for example, to care".

And you care too, having written about it at her site, and here.

I care very much about the fact that a raving bigot like Melanie Phillips gets published, and in particular instances when she's writing inflammatory crap about an issue of public concern, I care about that because I wish she wouldn't.

However, there is an ambiguity here; this does not mean that I "care about her views" in the sense of actually wishing to hear them, or regarding them as worthy of serious consideration. Ambiguity can be tricky stuff.

Happily, however, some phrases in the English language are not so cursed. "Fuck off, Peter" is pretty unambiguous. "Your blog sucks", likewise.

2/12/2008 06:41:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Oh well. I should have said in the open/prediction post that Aaro would write something liberal on the Archbish and I meant to throw in Deborah Orr in the Indy as another possible direction for him.

Unlike Mad Mel, I think his summary of Rowan Williams is a great improvement on the original. Phillips says that she has "read it [Williams's speech] many times, and even heard it being delivered, but in her previous blog post she said "[Williams thought] that sharia law was not an ‘alien’ creed and that its adoption by the British state was inevitable." I can't find either of those sentiments (though he doesn't say that sharia law is an alien creed either, so he may be guilty as charged by omission, or objectively pro non-alien creedism or something).

Aaro's analysis of Williams' many faults is, if we're borrowing from religious poets, "ne'er so well express'd".

Oddly, I sort of agree with Phillips on one thing: I think Rowan Williams should not represent anyone, though in my case, this thought leads to the abolition of the House of Lords and the separation of church and state. Williams's presence in the British law-making body does seem to mean that she is entitled to an opinion (as have I - a militant atheist and 'Jedi Knight' according to the last census). I need to think about this one.

2/12/2008 11:02:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

'Knight'? Who gave you that rank? I was just a plain old Jedi - and I am able to lift an X-Wing out of a bog just by thinking. What can you do?

That is 'do', not what can you try.

2/13/2008 09:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, some Decency loons were trying to insert basically vandalism into Hari's page, really vicious stuff sourced to.... Francis Wheen's Private Eye hatchet job, a direct response to Hari daring to criticise Nick.

It was so bad the page has been frozen for nearly three months, which I've never seen anywhere else on wikipedia.

2/13/2008 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just as a note on pages freezing - Harry's Place was down at the end of january. This was ostensibly becuase of 'bandwidth problems', and yet the day before it went down there was a piece on martin amis which had 270-odd responses to it which has disappeared from the reopened site.

2/13/2008 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Andrew, you have me there. I'm just a Jedi commoner then.

2/13/2008 05:12:00 PM  

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