Thursday, June 19, 2008

decent antecedents

Aaro Watch and its valued commentariat indecencus have spent time occasionally chewing over the history and pre-history of various strands of Decency. Now we’ve got the lot in one neat, comprehensive package, courtesy of Tom Griffin.


So what do we think? Anything to add, detract, etc?

18 Comments:

Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

Well the piece is right about the Dissent connection but that's about it. Obviously Geras and co were heavily influenced by Michael Walzer but the idea that the whole Decency thing is a US import is not very credible, especially when there are perfectly good and more prosaic explanations on offer.

6/20/2008 06:52:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Well, it's the history and antecedents of the Euston Manifesto rather than of Decency as such, no?

6/20/2008 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

But ditto my earlier comment for the EM.

6/20/2008 08:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

I disagree with the good captain.

The whole Eustonite movement has always been obsessed with American foreign policy and its concerns, is looking at things from an American perspective and barely interested in domestic UK politics, other than a sort of generalised panic about evil Muslim terrorists. You only have to read the manifesto or follow their blogs to see where their interests lie.

6/20/2008 11:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

The Democratiya/SDUSA connection was new and interesting, I thought - and suggestive, given the chronology. There's no smoking memo (which presumably would be addressed to NTM rather than Geras), but if there were you wouldn't need the rest of the story. It's parapolitics - you don't (often) get proof.

6/20/2008 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Malky Muscular said...

I'd always advise looking for stupidity rather than conspiracy.

The ability to carry off a good conspiracy is relatively rare, wheras good old stupidity is horribly ubiquitous.

6/21/2008 01:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Simon said...

I don't think it makes sense to talk about the history of the EM without reference to weblogs, or at least to the internet. A lot of the people involved in the drawing up of the EM were not 'intellectuals', but people with weblogs whom Geras and the HP crowd approved of. Indeed, part of the reason for its failure was that it never developed a status beyond that of an ephemeral internet meme, despite Not The Minister et al's occasional desperate references to 'Eustonians' which didn't really catch on.

6/21/2008 02:50:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Griffin said...

Simon,

A good point which reminds me of a passage I recently came across by Abram Shulsky of the Office of Special Plans, in his chapter of Roy Godson's 2002 book Strategic Denial and Deception: The Twenty-First Century Challenge:

"Soviet front groups might have been more effective, but Stalinist paranoia made impossible the operational autonomy needed to succeed. To the extent that future practitioners of this type of propaganda have learned lessons from the Soviet experience, we may expect that the nonstate groups will be controlled in a more sophisticated manner and their ties to a given state will be less obvious."

"New methods of spreading propaganda (such as via Internet web sites of Non-governmental organizations [NGOs], or specialized email lists) allow a deceiver to reach target audiences via multiple channels. Many of these channels may remain relatively invisible to the public at large"

On the National Endowment for Democracy, the Social Democrats USA and British politics, there's an interesting article called 'Terrorism, Anti-Semitism and Dissent' by Tom Easton in the Summer 2004 edition of Lobster magazine.
http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/online/issue47/lob47-03.htm

6/21/2008 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Admit it, you bastards, you only called this blog "Aaronovitch Watch" so you could be first in the phone book. If you'd been given the chance, it'd all have been about a bloke called "Aaaaronovitch".

I'm onto you, you pack of dodgers. Don't think I'm not looking.

6/21/2008 11:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Gingsters Pork Pie said...

"The ability to carry off a good conspiracy is relatively rare, whereas good old stupidity is horribly ubiquitous."

That might be true, and I'm not saying it isn't; but I can't see how you could ever be sure. A good conspiracy, carried off successfully, will not be recognized as such, by definition.

It is, however, a fact that money and effort are pumped into the production of propaganda. And I am not sure how you can be so confident in your ability to tell what is innocent, and what is organized.

6/22/2008 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

And I am not sure how you can be so confident in your ability to tell what is innocent, and what is organized.

The idea that someone in Washington hatched a plot that ended in Geras and co launching the Euston Manifesto is absurd. Geras manifestly says what he says because he sincerely believes it. And the various initiatives launched by ANTMJ are obviously devoid of serious financial backing.

6/22/2008 08:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

The idea that someone in Washington hatched a plot that ended in Geras and co launching the Euston Manifesto is absurd.

It's not about plotting - or about people saying things they don't personally believe. It's about networking - who knows who, who funds who and when.

6/22/2008 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

who funds who and when.

Well exactly. Who could look at the EM website or Decentiya for that matter and think that anyone was directing serious funds in their direction?

6/22/2008 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Griffin said...

Roy Godson has something to say in his book Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards that may be relevant here:

"There is no need to control foreign assets - whether politicians or journalists, ethnic leaders or activists - as bureaucracies rooted in the Anglo-American tradition, favouring precision and efficiency, are tempted to do. May foreigners willing to collaborate on specific missions do not want to be viewed as paid, controlled agents. The best covert action campaigns help people to do what they want to do more effectively than could do without such assistance. This means providing advice, guidance, moral, material and technical support, and possible safe haven. It does not require manipulating an asset's every move."

6/22/2008 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Griffin said...

Sorry that should be 'many foreigners'

From page 127 of the 2001 edition. Well worth a read as is the Strategic Deception book.

6/22/2008 03:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

CC - I think you're reading more into Tom's piece than is actually there. Has Democratiya roped in former Cold War liberals? Yes - a whole slew of them, particularly people associated with SDUSA. Did Democratiya help make the EM possible? Yes. Do some Cold War liberals have a dodgy history as regards the whole state funding thing? Yes. Is an initiative like the EM the kind of thing the dodgier Cold War liberals would get up to? Very much so. I think all of those propositions are reasonable.

None of it's proof of manipulation or dishonesty, but that's not what it sets out to be. It's just shining a light on the way some networks function.

On the funding question, incidentally, I don't think low production values are conclusive. What kind of answer do you think Joshua Muravchik or Paul Berman would give you or me if we phoned up asking for some copy?

6/22/2008 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

Well that's the trouble with the Griffin piece, isn't it? It is written so as to give the impression of something sinister made in Washington and financed from there. But all it actually says is that when people find out they think similarly to other people, then seek one another out, exchange emails, go to conferences and write in the same journals.

6/23/2008 06:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Yes to the third sentence, no to the second - I think you're imagining the sinister overtones, quite honestly.

6/23/2008 07:20:00 AM  

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