Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The reification of things which might not exist

Update: Don't miss Chardonnary Chap's take on this article, posted below this one due to vagaries of New Blogger.

The last but one post rather turned into a contrarian defence of managerialism, more or less by accident - what this blog needs is a rigorous regime of targets for "number of on-topic and minimally coherent posts". What I actually wanted to write it about was Nick's assumption without checking that the UK's public sector had indisputably got worse over the last ten years, proving something or other. When in fact it hadn't.

I was picking up on that one because it formed rather a theme with Aaro's col this week, where he starts off by banging on about fictitious moral panics and then finishes up by propagating one of his own - the apparent "culture" of boys in education who are ignorant and fail to achieve because they hate "swots".

As far as I'm aware, Aaro only has daughters, so I don't really see that he has any special inside track for the subculture of schoolboys. So he's basically on the same epistemological footing as the rest of us - we know that there's a boy/girl distinction in educational outcomes because we can see it in the data, but we don't really have any convincing theory of why that might be the case.

This is always fertile ground for codswallop, and Aaro's theory is of a piece with his mate Michael White who has diagnosed the epidemic of knife crime in the UK (which is actually one of those trends which shows up everywhere except the numbers; the Metropolitan Police are the only people keeping separately identified statistics for knife assaults and the data series is pretty trendless) and traced it to its root in the liberal-left's unaccountable reluctance to call unmarried mothers the dirty sluts they are.

I've mentioned in the past (only about a hundred times, Bruschettaboy) that Aaro's true politics are those of Birtism, and I think that the three examples here show why Birtism is doomed as a political and media project. The problem of understanding isn't that the media has a "bias" against it - it's that social and economic policy work is difficult, and that frankly, it is often difficult enough working out what the hell is going on, let alone explaining it. Which means that the "mission to explain" ends up becoming what's all too obviously visible in Aaro, White, Kettle and all's journalism; a mission to excuse the latest piece of crap legislation coming down the track, in the name of a tendentious theory of a problem that might not even exist.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Simon said...

A bit OT, but any chance of some general commentary on Obama's win and its implications for Decency? Matthew Yglesias usefully points out that had it not been for the war, Clinton would have won the nomination, and that this isn't being talked about as much as it might.

6/04/2008 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Fancy doing a guest post?

(NB: this is not going to expand into a general "Your Say" feature a la Harry's Place, it's just that I rather miss Simon's blog.)

6/04/2008 03:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

Call me Merlot Man.

6/04/2008 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Probably best to write it in the comments here and then I will lift it onto the main site as I have forgotten the password to the AW email, cheers.

6/04/2008 04:23:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

Well, I've just failed all my AS Levels, so I'm a case in point for Aaronovitch. A few nitpicks though: we still smoke and don't play football, and we call them nerds not swots.

6/04/2008 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Do you think MY was right though? And I don't think that's quite what he's saying. The Democrats needed someone who voted against such a disastrous policy to stand (there's not much point in democracy is all parties close ranks following something as stupid as that). Clinton has behaved appallingly throughout the campaign. Lastly, Obama had Doonesbury (there was a strip a few months ago where students had a choice of courses: the poetry of Barrack Obama or the prose of Hillary Clinton - I think he really had something there).

I don't know if it comes down to the war. Clinton voted for, but she was a pretty tepid supporter at best.

BTW Norman Geras appears to be anti-Hillary now. Not sure why; I don't think he ever shared the Chris Hitchens animus against the Clintons.

But I'd like to see you argue your point, Simon.

6/04/2008 05:07:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

even more off topic. Harry's place is now making the claim that counterpunch is 'a neo-nazi website':

http://www.hurryupharry.org/2008/06/05/counterpunch-a-neo-nazi-magazine/#comments

inluding this stunning piece of logic:

It is amazing isn’t it, that somebody could deny that a magazine that publishes the writings of neo Nazis is not a neo Nazi magazine.

I'm guessing that David T is on equally sure legal footing as when he advised Nick Choen to sue the Guardian...

6/05/2008 05:38:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Do you think Oliver Kamm will support Obama? I can't really see how he could given what he's said, but I imagine he'll wait and see on the polls.

6/06/2008 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Matthew, I think he won't. He's come out again against Obama. He's used the same Charles Krauthammer story as before. It looks to me like he's now pro-McCain. (I can't see how anyone can spin McCain as "progressive".) That's why I - in another post - worried if 'Decency' was a reification. There's a contrary spirit in OK. Polls don't matter that much to him. That's good, in a way. He's doesn't blow in the wind, which is a positive. He's also impervious to reality, which isn't.

6/06/2008 08:46:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home