Thursday, March 27, 2008

Blessed are the peacemakers

Nick is big with nutters, nutters are big with Nick. We're talking Hassan Butt here, people. Although Aaronovitch Watch has something of a constitutional hostility to Sunday School conversion tales and has therefore tended in the past to be rather sceptical of the celebrity ex-jihadi movement (particularly in the aftermath of the Haymarket and Glasgow attacks last year, when they hopped onto the airwaves to explain that their experience as young British Islamists gave them a unique insight into the psychology of non-British forty-year-olds, and this insight told them that the behaviour of refugees from the Iraq War had nothing to do with the Iraq War), one has to have a certain regard for Ed Husain, since he is capable of putting a sentence together and has clearly thought about the matters he's talking about.

Hassan Butt, on the other hand, is a nutter pure and simple. When I saw him on telly giving it the Allah-and-hellfire routine the day after the 7/7 bombings, my honest reaction at the time was that it was totally irresponsible of the BBC to be giving television exposure to someone who was so clearly mentally ill. It turns out that Butt wasn't schizophrenic as I'd suspected, just very, very stupid and at the time all fired up for jihad. He then apparently made a trip to one of the Pakistani "boot camps" where (quel surprise) they decided that his role in life was not so much "conquering hero of Islam" as "cannon fodder", and then he rather quickly fell out of love with jihadism and then he came home and then it is now.

He is still the same Walter Mitty character that he was when he was a jihadi, and I would no more trust his view on anything important(or his claims to have been incredibly effective in converting British jihadis to the paths of Decency) than I would invest in a company manufacturing postmen's trousers from mince. Once more, the instinct that guided Nick to Ahmed Chalabi (the Mandela of the Tigris) rather than Kanan Makiya (who is a bit of a Decent bullshitter but clearly much less of an embarrassment) has drawn him unerringly to the wrong guy to lionise.

So anyway, is it a bit of a scandal that Shiv Malik's had his notes stolen and that Hasan Butt has been arrested and harassed? Probably yes, but hang on a bit Nicko, wasn't it not so long ago that you were talking out of both sides of your mouth on the subject of torture and rendition? Yes it was And again. Well guess what Nick, if you hand over arbitrary power to the police force, then they have arbitrary power. You don't then get to say how this power should be used.

I mean seriously. Nick is wholly in favour of harassing Hizb-ut-Tahrir through the security system, so he's not in general against police harassment. Shiv Malik and Hassan Butt are clearly involved with the fringes of the jihadi movement - they claim to be working on the side of the angels, but they aren't actually part of the UK's law enforcement or intelligence communities and so it's pretty obvious that they were not going to have their claims taken at face value and they were going to get harassed. Nick seems to have forgotten that the British police force are the same bunch that they were when he was always attacking them - they're not always very competent, and they're often very heavy handed, because that's what state forces are like. They didn't turn into the tribunes of Decency overnight when Nick did.

Of course, this is only an apparent contradiction, comrades, not a real one. The cornerstone of Decent philosophy is that nothing matters except in as much as it is an occasion for the expression of Decency). The police can do what they like, so long as Nick has roundly condemned some of their actions and written a blank cheque of endorsement for others; the word is the act.

Bonus points to Nick for implying that Shiv Malik is a Muslim, by the way (he isn't - he's a secular BBC journalist with a Hindi name. Would have thought Nick might be a bit more careful about this sort of thing since people are always mistakenly referring to him as Jewish).

26 Comments:

Blogger ejh said...

1. How we used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings and 7/7 was Western foreign policy,' Butt recalled in an outburst that stuck in my mind

If anybody can furnish me with examples of anybody, on TV or anywhere else, proclaiming that the "Western foreign policy" was "the sole cause", I'd be obliged.

2. If Butt and Malik are prosecuted, how the jihadis will laugh at the stupidity of a country that can't tell its allies from its enemies. 'Look,' they will say to their recruits, 'look at what happens to Muslims who go over to their side. Are they thanked? Are they honoured? No, they're prosecuted. All Muslims are the same to the British and there's no point in trying to please them.'

Hang on a tick - why would this matter? I thought that this was a totalitarian ideology based on a cult of death and therefore the behaviour of Western state operatives was entirely irrelvant to the recruitment of jihadis. Or am I invited to believe that the harassment of journalists will have a transformative effect that the bombing of civilians does not?

3/27/2008 09:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"How we used to laugh in celebration ....."

Some of the phrasing of Nick's article was so like a Decentpedia piece that I wondered whether it was meant to be taken seriously.

Guano

3/27/2008 09:38:00 AM  
Anonymous shake said...

If Butt and Malik are prosecuted, how the jihadis will laugh at the stupidity of a country that can't tell its allies from its enemies.

As someone in the comments section on nick's piece said, if they have broken British laws them they deserve to be prosectuted, surely?

Nick on the protection of 'researchers' here is fairly odd. Seems that as usual, if a researcher is 'researching' something likely to produce results that will reinforce Decent ideology, then they should not be subject to any kind of scrutiny at all, be it from journalists or police, no matter the journalistic integrity or legality of what they're doing.

If anybody can furnish me with examples of anybody, on TV or anywhere else, proclaiming that the "Western foreign policy" was "the sole cause", I'd be obliged.

exactly. And note that the deployment of this comment means that Nick - and indeed Hassan Butt - can pretend the word 'sole' was never used. Foreign policy did have a part to play, and still does, in conversions to Islamism. To deny this is to overlook almost every single one of the 'conversion narratives' so beloved of the Decents. Iraq is mentioned at length in the 7/7 bomber video ffs.

I also loved this:

a group you are going to be hearing a lot more from

er, where exactly? they're already given ample space in the media including lengthy, badly-written comment pieces in the observer. What are they going to do? start a TV channel?

Bonus points to the Observer this week for Andrew Anthony's piece in which he claimed that the 9/11 truth movement - you know, the one which claims to have exposed the 'real, objective truth' about the WTC attacks - is in fact inspired by postmodern philosophy - you know, the same philosophical movement which calls the idea of objective truth into doubt.

3/27/2008 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Isn't the problem that Butt should clearly be prosecuted if what he says he did he did, and hence shouldn't be 'honoured' whatever Nick Cohen thinks, but in fact no-one believes he did what he said he did, which is why he should instead be ignored.

3/27/2008 11:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the Independent, Steve Richards dissects the Decent talking points
about Blair being bold when he supported the invasion of Iraq and about the 1999 Chicago speech.

Guano

3/27/2008 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger Dan Hind said...

Cohen's book was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize last night. Given the Prize's fondness for Decency - previous winners include Melanie P, Francis W and David A - surely a chance to clean up at the Bookies?

3/27/2008 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

A punter writes: not if those previous decisions cause the bookies to give unfavourable odds, no.

3/27/2008 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger mcgazz said...

"the 9/11 truth movement - you know, the one which claims to have exposed the 'real, objective truth' about the WTC attacks - is in fact inspired by postmodern philosophy"

I'm trying to imagine Ron Paul supporters sitting on their tree stumps reading Foucault and Derrida while they whittle sticks.

3/27/2008 01:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

It might be the case that Hassan Butt's "laugh in celebration" outburst stuck in Nick's mind, but it's more likely that he copied the reference from a Not The Minister speech reproduced on Harry's Place. Still, good to know he's getting value for money from his Decentiya 100 Club membership.

Once again though Nick fails to acknowledge the existence of any Muslims who are not (i) evil jihadis or (ii) noble ex-jihadis (or (iii) journalists with Asian names whom he implies to be Muslim without bothering to check). I'm sure those British Muslims who were not stupid enough to become jihadis in the first place will be delighted to receive a lesson from Hassan Butt on the imperatives of 'steering away from violence'.

3/27/2008 01:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

I'm sure those British Muslims who were not stupid enough to become jihadis in the first place will be delighted to receive a lesson from Hassan Butt on the imperatives of 'steering away from violence'.

Well, yes. I've said this before, but this is where the Decent approach has the potential to do real harm. Ask British Muslims if they support the 7/7 bombings and you'll just offend people. Ask those same people if they condemn people who supported the 7/7 bombers, if they believe the 7/7 bombers could be seen as justified, if they condemn people who argue that the bombers could be seen as justified... and sooner or later you'll start getting the right wrong answer. What this achieves, other than encouraging prejudice and dividing British Muslims among themselves, I'm really not sure.

3/27/2008 02:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Decent conversion narratives puts me in mind of the regular Christian meetings they used to put on at Queen's University Belfast. An ex-Loyalist psycho and a former INLA (never IRA, that I remember) nut-job would regale the audience with tales of their killing days, before telling us how they found god while serving out a twenty-stretch in Long Kesh. I never quite understood why the Born Again lot thought that such obvious dysfunctionals were the ideal advertisement for god's saving grace. One emotional crutch replacing another.

Marc Mulholland

3/27/2008 02:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andy Anty has a particular cheek trying to have a pop at all those postmodernists and their slippery attitude to truth. His own “misery memoir” “the Fall Out” commits the worst “post-pomo” sin of putting his subjective feeling above objective truth – the book is full of what seem to be weird distortions and not-quite-how-it happeneds to make his life story fit into the mould of decency (to make it a kind of “Decents progress” ). He wants to have a go at left wing trade unionists, so he sort of pretends they were present at the few union meetings he ever went to at Harrod, even though they weren’t . He wants to cliam a phalanx of mad Marxist teachers let this poor working class boy down, and clearly twists the facts (based on a previous completely alternative version he gave of the same) to fit the not quite right story.

3/27/2008 02:30:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Ed Hussein may be able to string a coherent sentence together but that's hardly a good reason to take anything he says seriously. Personally I regard him as an opportunist who saw good coin be made as a 'jihadist who saw the light' on the media sofa circuit.

Those who take the pronouncements from ex-jihadists that radicalisation has nothing to do with foreign policy seriously remind me very much of climate change sceptics.

Both have to ignore a mountain of well established and credible evidence from sources which points in the opposite direction. In this case unequivocal reports from the US, UK, and other EU intelligence services, Chatam House as well as established authorities on Islamic militancy such as Jason Burke. These must all be ignored and you must then latch onto the pronouncements of ex-jihadists of extremely dubious providence, which then become the fulcrum of your arguments.

Nobody with an ounce of intellectual respectability constructs arguments like this, because it shows you are unwilling or unable to sift and evaluate evidence from a variety of sources with widely varying levels of credibility.

To be perfectly honest I find what has happened to Cohen, and particularly Hitchens very sad. To see people, you once respected, making total fools of themselves is a rather unedifying spectacle.

3/27/2008 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Those who take the pronouncements from ex-jihadists that radicalisation has nothing to do with foreign policy seriously remind me very much of climate change sceptics.

Husain is a bit more nuanced than this in some of the things I've seen him write - although he is not always all that careful when giving soundbites after major terrorist incidents.

3/27/2008 02:53:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

Oh God that Andrew Anthony piece is hilarious. Letter to the editor time?

3/27/2008 03:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm astonished at Andrew Anthony's courage. To blame Hitler for the Holocaust is truly to speak truth to power and spit defiance in the face of conventional wisdom. What a hero he is.

Marc Mulholland.

3/27/2008 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

To see people, you once respected, making total fools of themselves is a rather unedifying spectacle.

It's like the Seniors golf circuit or something. Possibly we should applaud Hitchens for actually reaching to the end of a piece, much like they used to applaud Arnold Palmer just for getting through all eighteen holes at Augusta.

3/27/2008 03:24:00 PM  
Anonymous shake said...

To see people, you once respected, making total fools of themselves is a rather unedifying spectacle.

I saw a copy of Cohen's 'Pretty Straight Guys' on remainder yesterday and thought the same thing. The man who used to accurately demolish media platitudes like 'Boris Johnson is a bit of a buffoon' now laps them up.

putting his subjective feeling above objective truth

This is, of course, squarely in the Romantic as opposed to Englightenment tradition of writing - basing your thesis on subjective emotions rather than objective facts. But AA is one of those few brave souls, like hirsi Ali, still committed to englightenment values etc etc zzz

3/27/2008 04:13:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Move over Andrew Anthony!

If you want to see a really appalling Decent article, check out the latest Alan Johnson article at CIF.

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/alan_johnson/2008/03/wright_and_the_postleft.html

Be warned it has the same shock inducing qualities as the first time you witnessed Eric Cantona's kung fu kick. You will literally be shaking your head in wonder and asking if your eyes are really deceiving you, it really is that bad

Apparently Noam Chomsky, post-modernists, 9/11 troofers, a former president of the American Sociological Association and a pastor who believes HIV was invented as a race weapon against black people are all part of a sinister ideological movement called the post-left.

Ignore of course that NC hates Po-mos and regularly criticised their philosophical underpinnings.

It then gets stranger still:

The optimistic movements of the early 1960s extended the pursuit of happiness to the excluded and challenged America to honour the promissory note issued by the founders. The nihilist movements of the late 1960s denounced "Amerika" and the "great white west".

Errr was there nothing to denounce in American policy at the end of the sixties or was to protest at the millions of dead bodies pilling up in SE Asia a sure sign of 'nihilism'.

Answers on a postcard...

3/27/2008 10:38:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I am increasingly beginning to believe that my previous working hypothesis (that Johnson NTM, Oliver Kamm, and all other Decent Leftists are merely ignoring the existence of the Vietnam War because it doesn't fit into their Whig narrative of American history) is becoming untenable, and that the alternative hypothesis (that they are actually visitors from an alternate reality in which the Vietnam War really didn't happen and The Left took against America out of meaningless blind hate in 1968) is more likely to be the truth.

3/27/2008 10:47:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

To see people, you once respected, making total fools of themselves is a rather unedifying spectacle.

I agree its sad what happened to Cohen. Hitchens...I never respected him even when I agreed with him. He's always been a contrarian, played fast and loose with facts and relied upon his rhetorical skills to win arguments. Always thought it was a matter of time - surprised it took so long quite honestly.

3/27/2008 11:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Mixed feelings about that Andrew Anthony column - he can't formulate a coherent thought to save his life, but he's stumbled into a couple of valid points.

For starters, I'm familiar with the style of thinking he's talking about - I once reviewed an anthology called You are being lied to, much of which seemed to be dedicated to the proposition that if you could find a hole in the 'official' story this proved that the true story (which you could more or less write yourself) was being covered up. But I don't think it's got much to do with pomo or the sin of 'problematising'(?) - more a rather naive version of Popperian falsificationism (the "white crow" model). And what on earth is wrong with referring to 'the powers that be'?

Left Holocaust denial is also a real (albeit minute) phenomenon, and it does seem to rest on something like the logic Anthony identifies (although it long predates Gulf War II) - WWII was an imperialist war, therefore it couldn't have been justified, therefore...

But I think someone should have pointed out that novels are works of fiction.

3/27/2008 11:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

If you want to see a really appalling Decent article, check out the latest Alan Johnson article at CIF.


Oh. My. God.

Worth reading the comments, at least as far down as the comment from AllyF (presumably Ally Fogg). Brief excerpt:

And then Johnson blithely interchanges the terms 'post-left' and 'postmodern.' Have you any idea what you are talking about man? Do you even know what postmodernism is?

3/28/2008 12:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Simon said...

Obama understands that the 1960s had two souls. The optimistic movements of the early 1960s extended the pursuit of happiness to the excluded and challenged America to honour the promissory note issued by the founders. The nihilist movements of the late 1960s denounced "Amerika" and the "great white west".

Good grief. I hope Obama doesn't 'understand' this at all, because that would mean that Obama knows literally not the first thing about the political movements of the 1960s.

3/28/2008 02:24:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

much of which seemed to be dedicated to the proposition that if you could find a hole in the 'official' story this proved that the true story (which you could more or less write yourself) was being covered up

yes, the tendency to argue from "the official narrative cannot be true" to "therefore I will believe more or less anything off the internet". Robin Ramsay refers to it as the distinction between "conspiracy theory" and "conspiracy research".

I think the root of it is the paranoid style of American politics rather than anything intellectual. Also, Andrew Anthony seems to be arguing that there is something wrong with believing the factual proposition "The US Government, in general, lies", which is pretty much in that category of empirical verification that even David Hume had problems being sceptical about.

3/28/2008 07:26:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Be warned it has the same shock inducing qualities as the first time you witnessed Eric Cantona's kung fu kick.

My boss at the time, a Palace fan, was so taken by this that he downloaded the photo as his screensaver. Whether NTM's article will achieve similar iconic status remains to be seen.

3/28/2008 07:45:00 AM  

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