Friday, March 28, 2008

Another bulletin from Decency's second most prominent theorist!

It almost seems like intruding on private grief to link to this ... this ... item by Alan "Not The Minister" Johnson, which lumps together Noam Chomsky, "postmodernism", Black nationalism, Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all into a new category called "post-left", with the general meaning of "as opposed to the Decent Left, which is the real Left". He gets the most horrific monstering in the comments and pretty deservedly so; the article is quite shockingly incoherent.

I have noticed that Oliver Kamm and Nick Cohen have also developed this tendency to repeatedly say "sections of the Left have become part of the far right", the idea presumably being that the Decents want to drop the "Decent" tag and claim the word "Left" for people who favour laissez-faire economics and bellicose foreign policy and who vote Republican (McCain) and Conservative (Boris), defining everyone outside their rather small clique into this new category of the "post-Left".

I have a suspicion that one of them has bought that dreadful book about "framing". The one that Daniel Finkelstein read when he was at Conservative Central Office and which accounted for the extraordinary success of William Hague's campaign to become a national laughing-stock and political nonentity.

Thanks, if that's the right word, to "Bubby" in the comments.

34 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hatred appears to play a central role in Decent Theory, and the well-trained Decent can detect the hidden hatred at the core of any level-headed critique of Israeli or American policy. Oddly enough though, all that foaming at the mouth at what Saddam did 20 years ago doesn;t count as hatred.

Guano

3/28/2008 09:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

What dreadful book? My doctoral thesis is about 'framing', I'll have you know - it's not all tosh and flummery. ('Framing', that is, although my thesis isn't all tosh and flummery either.)

3/28/2008 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

the Lakoff one, "Don't Think of an Elephant", though I think I might be confusing it with "Story" by Robert McKee, which was actually the one that turned Finkelstein's head.

3/28/2008 10:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Jon said...

You have to thank Alan Johnson for telegraphing his silly column early on:

"The hate-filled opinions of Rev Jeremiah Wright are expression of a new political ideology that is gaining influence in the academy, media and politics: post-leftism"

Reality check: Wright's rants - if you can bother to listen them in their entirety (I bet Johnson hasn't) are not "hate filled". They are angry, fiery, in the tradition of such preachers. Wright talks about rich whites who have run America, and that Clinton has never been called a nigger. Both true; such observations can be called divisive, but not hate filled.

So Johnson's incoherent screed is kicked off Fox News style - using manufactured "controversy" and the usual fake outrage (which ultimately will be proved inconsequential) to smear something you don't like - in their case Obama, in Johnson's case much of the left (or whatever he calls it today).

But the ridiculous Wright "controversy' is about very American racial issues. Fox News at least use it in the correct local context, however dishonest. Johnson is deluded enough to think its an all purpose, international meme.

Anyway, adjust your sets, people: it's the "post-Left" now (the pseudo-left tag has fallen by the wayside).

The Decent Left's aim (as it always is) is to try to show how perfect they are. It always resolves to an examination of their own navels.

In that sense they maintain all the old leftist traditions: you'll find constipated, self-preening and sanctimonious people like Alan Johnson in those awful sects - the SWP, AWL etc - the stuff of dreary student politics, sticking like limpets to the unwary in lecture halls.

These creatures are the the Decent Left too - it's just that the Decent left play a Blairite tune. Avoid them at parties.

Johnson suffers from the delusion that his trite Blairism of today constitutes 'adulthood', when its simply a means escape.

Johnson crawled, battered and weary, out of the AWL, but he's progressed less than he thinks. If he had really progressed he wouldn't spend every article trying to exorcise of his own dreary past.

3/28/2008 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

The odd think about this "post-Left" bit (a post-Trotskyite writes) is that Decency is, to a large degree, a politics of the "ex".

It being Friday afternoon, I might expand on this topic a bit later. Or sooner, if Sehwag gets out.

3/28/2008 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

Yes, part of the Left *has* joined the far-Right.

Just not the part they're thinking of.

3/28/2008 12:06:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

The odd think about this "post-Left" bit (a post-Trotskyite writes) is that Decency is, to a large degree, a politics of the "ex".

Absolutely and two keys points follow from this. Firstly Decents spend almost all their time denouncing their former comrades on the left, in this they are similar to those who have made the transition to the far right (Horowitz and Mad Mel spring to mind) and it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that a part of this is a desperate attempt to distance themselves from or actively deny ther past. The second point is that its probably much easier to make the ideological journey from far-left to Decency then any other because you swap one rigid orthodoxy for another. These kinds of people have a profound need fo ideological certainties - Decents just don't do shades of gray, its all black and white. They also share with elements of the far -left a belief in the transformative power of violence to usher in beneficial social change.

BB also brought up Robert McKee who was played brilliantly by Brian Cox in the truly marvellous Adaptation.

If anyone hasn't seen it here's a link to a great scene in which Mckee rips into Charlie Kaufman (Nic Cage) during a screen writers workshop.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VseQe4TFsg

3/28/2008 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

In that sense they maintain all the old leftist traditions: you'll find constipated, self-preening and sanctimonious people like Alan Johnson in those awful sects - the SWP, AWL etc - the stuff of dreary student politics, sticking like limpets to the unwary in lecture halls.

The second point is that its probably much easier to make the ideological journey from far-left to Decency then any other because you swap one rigid orthodoxy for another. These kinds of people have a profound need fo ideological certainties - Decents just don't do shades of gray, its all black and white.

Indeed, they are condemned to relive their past lives, which they can never shake off.

They also share with elements of the far-left a belief in the transformative power of violence to usher in beneficial social change.

Amen. This also applies to the true neo-cons as well.

3/28/2008 12:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed. There is a shared blind faith that after the revolution, or after the intervention, everything will be much better.

Guano

3/28/2008 01:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not true about the two decents on the headline of this blog, tho'. Neither Aaro nor nasty Nick were ever in a trotskyist party - Nick was friendly-ish to the far left outside the Labour party, but was politically left wing Labour, not more, and Aaro was CP when the CP was more Labour oriented.

Also note that many people who have been around the various parts of the trot left have not turned into neocons or decents or other loons, so it is not an inevitable process

3/28/2008 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Neither Aaro nor nasty Nick were ever in a trotskyist party

Nor indeed was Melanie Phillips.

I should (and shall) say that if one of the characteristics of the Decent Left is to psychopathologise their opponents on the Left, this is not a characteristic unique to themselves. Personally I find this:

you'll find constipated, self-preening and sanctimonious people like Alan Johnson in those awful sects - the SWP, AWL etc - the stuff of dreary student politics, sticking like limpets to the unwary in lecture halls

something of an unpleasant passage, rather more reminisicent of what it seeks to characterise than it ought to be.

3/28/2008 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Incidentally, isn't Sehwag on the same overnight score as Bradman was at Leeds? I'm sure Norman Geras would know.

Some verbiage follows shortly, I'm afraid.

3/28/2008 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

All right, let's try the following. I did not actually spend all day doing this.

1. The "Decent Left" is, essentially, an anti-left movement: criticism of the Left, not only criticism but basically damnation, is its main thrust and purpose. It is a contemporary phenomenon although nothing that it says is basically new, nor is the way in which it says it. It has a great deal in common with the old Atlanticism of the rightwing of the Labour Party, the more aggressive rightwing and anticommunist strands within the Labour movement, and Cold War liberalism.

2. Its proponents, broadly speaking, come from two basic political backgrounds. One is the number of small leftwing groups outside the Labour Party, mostly, in Britain, Trotskyite in nature where they were not the Communist Party: but also the old Right of the Labour Party, especially that part which was most hostile to CND and Bennism and yet did not leave the Labour Party. In either case the Decent Left has attracted a minority of these political trends (which were, of course, hostile to one another).

3. We therefore have those who were always deeply pro-NATO and opposed to the Left and to peace movements, or those who used to be on the opposite side but have renounced those positions. In both cases a certain visceral hatred of the Left is central to their outlook.

4. In the case of the ex-members of the far Left, there is a great deal of score-settling involved, which may in part reflect distress at the amount of time they feel they wasted in a politics they now consider harmful. As is not uncommon with the politics of the "ex", their hostility can be utterly unbalanced and disproportionate and they will tend to be unaware of this. Issac Deutcher's comments are still of relevance here.

5. The ex-far-leftists in particular can be accused of importing a number of bad rhetorical habits from their old politics, including an extremely aggressive polemical style, a fondness for identifying betrayers and apologists, a keenness for denunciation and for requiring their adversaries to disassociate themselves from one another, and a liking for inference in analysing other people's statements, so that they are made to say what they probably do not. They are unaware of the aggressive, bullying character this gives them. They also have the old red-baiter's liking for a witch-hunt.

6. Although, as said above, there is nothing entirely new about either the politics of the approach, they are like all political trends, formed by political characteristics particular to their times. These would include the invasion of Iraq and the Afghan and Yugoslavian interventions that preceded it, all of which they not only supported enthusiastically, but took as an opportunity to denounce people who did not. (It does not follow that because one supported any or all of those actions, one is on the Decent Left: what matters is the enthusiasm and the denunciation.) It would also be impossible to understand their emergence without reference to the general worldwide decline in socialist belief over the past generation, or the contemporary problem of radical Islam, which they are in favour of tackling with the same aggression that is their most obvious characteristic. Other political trends, including a certain aggressive pro-market liberalism (e.g. the Progressive Democrats in Ireland) tend to resemble them in their attitude to the Left.

7. In some ways their development can be seen as a problem of agency. In either of their backgrounds, they used to be attached to a labour movement which was considerably more powerful, in a number of ways, than it is today, and whose decline is perhaps the most important background factor in influencing contemporary politics. In a way similar to that observed (fairly or otherwise) by Orwell in locating enthusiasm for Stalinism as a transferred patriotism, they have shifted their allegiance to the Western democratic state in general but to its overseas military interventions in particular. They expect it to perform a world-transformative role in a way analogous to that which they previously expected (or hoped) of the proletariat and they retain the belief that the casualties will ultimately be proven to have been worth it.

8. Their enthusiasms extend to Israel, which they support critically in theory but enthusiastically in practice. They take a psychopathologising view of the opponents and critics of Israel. They also tend to be enthusiasts for the politics and personality of Tony Blair.

9. Their domestic enemies, whom they lump together, include the remaining far-Leftists, leftwingers in general and opponents of military action in Iraq. They see themselves as the left because they wish to define themselves as the furthest point Left in acceptable political discourse. In this desire to exclude the Left from the bounds of acceptable politics ā€“ and to see it as essentially violent and pathological in nature ā€“ they are not entirely unusual among those closer to the political mainstream.

10. A certain philistinism can be detected in their output, perhaps reflecting a dislike and distrust of intellectuals, who may be suspected of relativism. This, in turn, perhaps reflects their propensity to see the world in black-and-white terms and to take a position that who is not with them is against them.

3/28/2008 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Good spot! Yes indeed.

3/28/2008 03:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

EJH: Presumably you're taking it as read that the central tenet of Decency is that the West has the right to start wars regardless of whether this would be outside international law (though it is rarely stated in these terms). From this follows a tendency to heap abuse on those who balk at agreeing to acts of aggression, either because they are apologists for bad people or are filled with hatred for the West.

The fact that their doctrine hasn't worked out in Iraq has led some Decents to reconsider and led others to re-double the denunciation of those who said that ignoring international law wasn't necessarily a good idea.

Guano

3/28/2008 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/28/2008 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Presumably you're taking it as read that the central tenet of Decency is that the West has the right to start wars regardless of whether this would be outside international law

I dunno that there is a central tenet as such (except possibly The Antiwar Left Are Evil) but I'm sure it would be a provision that all of them would accept, yes. And more than "accept".

(Sorry about the false start there. Take it as a no-ball.)

3/28/2008 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Meanwhile, back at the original NTM piece:

After 9/11 the post-leftists said the US "had it coming".

This is the Mary Beard thing again, isn't it? Something that one person didn't in fact quite say, becomes what "the post-leftists said". I use quotation marks because I'm quoting NTM. He uses quotation marks....why? He's quoting Mary Beard. Is he quoting anybody else?

This really isn't a coherent or a respectable intellectual approach, is it? It's purely attribution of one person's view (if indeed it is their view) to a whole group. It is a dishonest technique.

The original, by the way, is here. I think Beard wrote unwisely and if she doesn't now regret the way she phrased herself, I'd be surprised. But if you want to play "pick a quote from the page and say it represents everybody", how many others could you pick?

3/28/2008 06:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

It has a great deal in common with the old Atlanticism of the rightwing of the Labour Party, the more aggressive rightwing and anticommunist strands within the Labour movement, and Cold War liberalism.

This is so obvious that I'm rather embarrassed to admit I'd never thought of it before. Good point.

they see themselves as the left because they wish to define themselves as the furthest point Left in acceptable political discourse.

Very good point. I wonder if this 'post-left' nonsense will take - it's a bit too blatant, shirley.

3/28/2008 07:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

One thing I would add to ejh's analysis is the significance of New Labour to Decentism. There is a sizeable young turk contingent within the Decents who reached political maturity in the Blair era and for whom 'old Labour' categories aren't particularly relevant. Decency certainly has a tradition in the Atlanticist wing of Old Labour, but as practised it is quintessentially New Labour. In fact, with a few small modifications ejh's post could itself be a description of New Labour politics, domestic as well as foreign.

3/28/2008 07:25:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Justin,

I agree. I've (on this very site) said I agree with the criticism of that Mary Beard phrase - I don't like the attribution to other people, if you agree with it, say it - but of course singling it out means that I can say:

After September 11th, the Decent Left said "It is Right to be Anti-American"

which actually is more accurate a representation of Cohen that the above was of Beard.

Simon's point also is valid - I can't be arsed to find it now but Ross McKibbin pointed out a few years ago that New Labour didn't only spring from the right of the Labour Party, in fact many didn't, and I don't believe Denis Healey, for all his faults, would have signed the Euston Declaration.

3/28/2008 10:39:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

New Labour didn't only spring from the right of the Labour Party, in fact many didn't, and I don't believe Denis Healey, for all his faults, would have signed the Euston Declaration.

I don't think that there's any doubt that the Decents are to the the right of the right of Old Labour. Hattersley is another example of a former "rightist", now to the left of NuLab, who wouldn't be bothered to spit on them.

There are some interesting later posts to ANTMJ's CiF article discussing the idea that, while the Decents say they are of the Left, they aren't, because they don't actually understand what being of the Left actually means. They confuse liberalism with leftism.

3/28/2008 10:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

New Labour didn't only spring from the right of the Labour Party, in fact many didn't, and I don't believe Denis Healey, for all his faults, would have signed the Euston Declaration

All this is true, but I think ejh has hit on something more fundamental. It's the Cold War liberal mentality that the Decents seem to echo - that weird kind of gritted-teeth evangelism that combined self-flagellation with megalomania. First let's face it, there are enemies to the Left, you've just got to be brave enough to admit it - then actually we on the democratic Left have a particularly important part to play.... TGISOOT has an awful lot in common with Cold War anti-Communism.

Healey was an anti-Communist from way back, but even he was never this kind of liberal Cold Warrior; perhaps he was far enough over on the cynical Right of the Labour Party to be immune. Government's probably the wrong place to look anyway - Geras, Aaro and Johnson are many things, but they're not politicians.

3/29/2008 12:26:00 AM  
Blogger - A said...

My favorite part of the whole asinine column - other than calling Chomsky "post-left" which is quite possibly the stupidest thing I have ever heard - was the suggestion that his moronic colleagues at Democra-whatever coined the term "post-left."

Nobody tell Bob Black (http://akpress.org/1997/items/anarchyafterleftism), or for that matter Todd May, Saul Newman, or the entire editorial collectives of both Green Anarchy and Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed.

I realize that ten years ago, in Alan's earlier left-patois, anarchists and the other figures that makes Alan want to cry were known as "infantile leftists", but some self-consciousness would be welcome before realizing the appropriation of an entire tradition of anti-statist/libertarian tradition.

Sheesh, the decents are more Stalinoid than the actual Stalinists!

3/29/2008 02:12:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

New Labour didn't only spring from the right of the Labour Party, in fact many didn't

Oh, for sure: many of the most enthusiastic New Labour people right from the start were people who came from a left or soft-left position. A lot of them would have been Kinnockites when that term was current. I can remember this very clearly from my days in CPSA where a number of people suddenly started popping up in extremely well-fitting suits towards the end of the Eighties and the start of the Nineties. Some of them would have had far-left backgrounds, some not: but again, the key was a real, fundamental opposition to the hard Left above and beyond everything else.

Well, at first the hard Left: and then anything that was connected with strikes, or nationalisation, or the importance of union and party conferences, or the suspicion of wealth, and so on and so on and so on until they were left with nothing much except the "anti" bit.

It's true to say that somebody like Denis Healey probably wouldn't have fitted in well with these people (he was* an Atlancticist all right, but he didn't trust the Americans) and Roy Hattersley certainly didn't. But I stress the Labour-Right background of some of these people and some of this thinking, because if people think it's just ex-far-Left people who've flipped over their politics without changing their habits, they're going to miss something important.

[* past tense possibly inappropriate here]

3/29/2008 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Yeah when I started reading it, I assumed he as going to start attacking the primitivists. Which is fine, they depress the fuck out of me, but a bit weird. I'm sure other people will appropriate the term post-leftist (to describe the Decents, for example), though whether they will credit Democratiya for the term...

3/29/2008 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Incidentally, for younger readers, CPSA was a predecessor of the civil service trade union, PCS.

A "trade union" is an organisation of employees seeking to advance their interests collectively through "negotiations", "agreements" and sometimes "strikes".

3/29/2008 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Darius Jedburgh said...

To revive an old argument...

EJH: But if you want to play "pick a quote from the page and say it represents everybody", how many others could you pick?

Well, one wouldn't want to say any of this "represents everybody," but there was more of this sort of thing about than some people around here feel comfortable about acknowledging. The excruciatingly condescending Frederic Jameson piece from the same LRB discussion as Beard's remarks, for a start. Chicago sociologist Saskia Sassen writing in the Guardian the day after the attacks that they were "a message from the global South" protesting injustice, couched in the only language they could any longer reasonably expect us to understand. There was Peter "Idiot" Wilby's notorious "yes and no" answer in a NS editorial to the question of the innocence of the WTC victims. Chris Bertram had an exchange in the journal imprints with a philosopher at Sussex called Chitty, who wrote that the anti-imperialist impulse pulls "towards a positive defence of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, as the current representatives of Middle Eastern resistance to imperialist power, in their war against the USA and its proxies." OK so he's only an academic philosopher, but this sort of thing wasn't coming out of nowhere. (Bertram himself remarked that "by and large, the left discredited itself by its reaction," citing in his explanation a reflexive anti-Americanism.) There was enough of this stuff going around to constitute a serious embarrassment; attempts to deny it seek to emulate the enviable time-travelling capacities of many of those to whom AW is constitutionally ideologically opposed.

It's pretty ludicrous to whitewash this, as it would anyway be surprising if a fair bit of this kind of thing wasn't said, given the distribution of fools across the spectra of political self-description. Obviously there are going to be quite a few people who think of themselves as leftists and are confused enough to think of it as appropriate -- and as a manifestation of their leftism -- to respond to the attacks with an inward smirk of Schadenfreude.

Jameson: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v23/n19/mult01_.html

Sassen: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2001/sep/12/september11.uksecurity

Wilby NS editorial not on line.

Bertram/Chitty:http://eis.bris.ac.uk/~plcdib/imprints/bertram.html

(sorry about crap linking skillz)

3/29/2008 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

There was enough of this stuff going around to constitute a serious embarrassment

Well, I dunno. There was some of it going round but I don't think, for instance, that the LRB contributors could in general be characterised as holding that view, or indeed holding any other view other than opposition to the 9/11 attacks. (They said other things as well, of course, but I think they were entitled to: otherwise you're in the Cohen/Geras position of saying it's apologism if you say there are any reasons why things happen other that atavistic hatred of the West.)

I think what you say about fools is very apposite: and one thing I think, in general, is that you have to accept that the Left - or any other sector of the political spectrum - comprises a very large num,er of views and individuals and there are going to be some people saying foolish things, at any time, on any topic. I don't think it helps to either pretend this isn't true, or to start expecting disassociations and disengagements all over the place. In fact, I think it's possibly because people start off doing the former that they end up doing the latter: and perhaps it's another key to some aspects of Decency that people who, when young, expect the Left to be heroic and brilliant and principled and brave at all times, then overreact when they're finally forced to admit to themselves that we're pretty much as imperfect and foolish as everybody else. (Incidentally, in relation to the Denis Healey discussion above, I should note, before anybody else points it out, that Healey was of course a Communist when young.)

I really don't remember much "Al-Qaeda, fuck yeah!" coming from the Left on or after 9/11, though to know for sure how we'd probably have to do more work than I suspect you or I would be willing to do, in examining publications and bulletin boards from the time. And at any rate, I think we said and did a great deal less to be ashamed of, and kept our heads when it mattered, than our adversaries and critics did. Do you know Orwell's review of The Spanish Cockpit, where he says that Borkenau has done something veruy unusual in that he's written a book about the war without losing his temper? I remember thinking of that at the time, along with WH Auden and Watchmen.

(PS Apologies if you reply and I don't: I'll be away for the rest of today and possibly tomorrow.)

3/29/2008 01:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've probably said it before on this site, and I'll say it again anyway: there si a great thesis/book to be written on the 'journey' of a lot of ex-lefites to New Labour: think of all the ex 'municipal' left New Labour types who came through local govt. (Boateng, Hodge, Blunkett...I suspect there are plenty of others), as well as through the NUS (DA, Clarke, Straw) or the far left in general (Blears, Milburn). Incidentally, Mad Mel's an ex-feminist, if that's any help.

[redpesto]

3/30/2008 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger Hawkforce said...

(They said other things as well, of course, but I think they were entitled to: otherwise you're in the Cohen/Geras position of saying it's apologism if you say there are any reasons why things happen other that atavistic hatred of the West.)

I don't understand why you feel the need to misrepresent Nick Cohen and Norman Geras' "position". Especially when you've just requested a more sympathetic and objective reading of Mary Beard's "position".

I really don't remember much "Al-Qaeda, fuck yeah!" coming from the Left on or after 9/11,

And nobody's suggested "Al-Qaeda, fuck yeah!" was the message.

Again - why the need to utterly misrepresent the nature of the issue?

The point was, as Mary Beard states:

This wasnā€™t just the feeling that, however tactfully you dress it up, the United States had it coming. That is, of course, what many people openly or privately think.

This has nothing to do with supporting Al-Qaeda. In fact it's all about ignoring Al-qaeda because the message (getting back at the Bully) was more important than the nature of the messenger.

It's interesting that you feel the need to misrepresent the nature of the debate in this way.

Funnily enough, Mary Beard goes on to make a good point - one shared by many "Decents" - that the US did "have it coming" in the sense that "our bastard" foreign policy could no longer insulate them.

This is, of course, different to thinking "they had it coming" because they created all the problems in the first place...

though to know for sure how we'd probably have to do more work than I suspect you or I would be willing to do, in examining publications and bulletin boards from the time.

Come on... Unless you're insisting that it's about "Al Qaeda, fuck yeah!" then you know very well that "the US had it coming" was, and remains, a widespread received opinion amongst the centre left and right. Last episode of Cracker, anyone?

Come on... Be serious...

And at any rate, I think we said and did a great deal less to be ashamed of, and kept our heads when it mattered, than our adversaries and critics did.

Who, exactly is the "we" in this paragraph and who are the "adversaries and critics"?

You make some very good points. But I do wonder why you need to misrepresent posiitons...

3/30/2008 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I don't understand why you feel the need to misrepresent Nick Cohen and Norman Geras' "position".

I don't think I do, do I? Take, for instance, Norman's notorious piece after the London bombings.

you know very well that "the US had it coming" was, and remains, a widespread received opinion amongst the centre left and right

You know, I really don't believe I do.

3/30/2008 06:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been reading a recent edition of "Lire" (a French literary magazine), which has an extract from a recent book by Avraham Burg and an interview with him. Burg is reflecting on the fact that Israelis don't see the warning signs around them, and suggests that Israelis have gone very far in convincing themselves that everyone is against them: so anyone pointing out the writing in the wall is interpreted as being motivated by hatred of Israel, and the warning signs are missed. It then becomes a useful dodge for avoiding any discussion about important issues because anyone raising these issues must be motivated by hatred and not concern.

We've seen quite a lot of that in the last 6 years. I seem to remember Martin Kettle writing that people who questioned the invasion of Iraq were motivated by a hatred of Bush and Blair. Johnson seems to think that people who point out the links between US policies on Afghanistan and 11th September 2001 are motivated by hatred of America. Johnson's argument only works if you take this as an a priori assumption. I don't like the expression "they had it coming" (though it does seem to occur a lot in a certain genre of US films) and I don't think that it was a widespread opinion in late 2001. A lot more people expressed the opinion that there was a linkage between the events of 11th September and what had happened in Afghanistan, and that the US response to 11th September was likely to be counterproductive: it is Johnson who is interpreting this as hatred of the US presumably to block out the message.

Guano

3/31/2008 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Griffin said...

I have written a new piece that might shed some light on the left origins of decency at Spinwatch:
http://www.spinwatch.org/content/view/4809/8/
One link I should have included but didn't is this piece on Jay Lovestone by Paul Berman:
http://preview.tinyurl.com/3nsovj

4/09/2008 11:40:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home