Sunday, June 29, 2008

Three is a trend

As commenter Matt pointed out, Nick hasn't been in the Observer since June 8. As Matt also pointed out, he's still writing for the Standard.

As has happened before with Nick, I don't disagree with him here. He has two points - Mugabe is a horrible dictator and Nelson Mandela has pretty much universal respect and Mugabe might just listen to him. At least Mugabe's opponents would feel much-needed support. Beyond that, Nick doesn't tell us anything. Mandela is very old (90 is more than most of us can expect even in the affluent countries; having spent much of his life in prison it's remarkable); he hasn't made any speeches in a while (he has, after all, retired). Since it doesn't look like he's going to do anything, and I doubt he reads the London Evening Standard in any case, writing an open letter to him looks pretty pointless.

Nick could be on holiday; the Standpoint and the Evening Standard pieces were probably less taxing to write than they were to read.

It would be rather interesting if he has left, because the Bring Back Blair FaceBook Group gives nick.cohen@observer.co.uk as its email contact. If you look at the members, he appears on the last page (after AaroWatch favourites Stephen Pollard and Harry Hatchet). This is the Observer journalist who wrote Cruel Britannia ["...Cohen has been almost alone as a critic of the Blair regime."] and Pretty Straight Guys ["A recurrent theme is Blair's love of people with money."]. Now "He's tanned, he's rested, he's ready." Blair was always tanned, wasn't he? The Campbell diaries start with a holiday in France. You turn if you want to, indeed! And Harry's Place seem to be serious about this. What happened to 'Forward not back'?

I should stop now. I can feel an abyss gazing into me.

In other news (back to the Yanks again): I can see Christopher Hitchens backing Obama after an old friend says 'kiss my ass'. Also: We are all Hussein now (via Gary Hussein Farber). H'sP will love this.

21 Comments:

Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

There's an unpleasant bitchiness in that Mandela piece that mirrors that Standpoint 'unmanly' discourse.

On Friday evening, a warm glow of self-satisfaction will spread through Hyde Park

He didn't have the guts to name Mugabe

A fairly harsh assessment given the 'guts' he demonstrated in his life otherwise. But the 'self-satisfaction' comment evidently appeals to those people who seem to think that actually Mandela wasn't, and isn't, a very good person anyway - the kind of people who read the Standard, and indeed Standpoint.

6/29/2008 01:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

He didn't have the guts to name Mugabe

Oh dear oh dear. One would at least have thought the sub editors might look twice at this kind of thing.

Nick is still officially described as 'away' in the Observer, with Rafael Behr in his place.

One thing we haven't talked much about on here is how Nick has been shunted around in the print edition. Initially he was in the middle of the paper after the Berliner revamp, with a whole page to himself including some sidebar vignettes. Then he was cut down to a single article and moved to the left hand side of the page, a traditional backwater for Serious Commentators. Then he got an odd promotion to the back of the op-ed section, still on the left of the page; but once or twice recently he has been promoted back to front and centre of the op-eds, where Henry Porter usually gets to go, which suggested he might have won favour with the new editorial regime. But now this lengthy absence.

6/29/2008 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

I figured that he'd be fired soon after the editorial change. I figured it was simple inertia that had kept him there.

6/29/2008 10:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear from an inside source at the Obs that Cohen can't agree subjects with the ed. Apparently he keeps pitching to do essentially the same piece - another the-left-doesn't-get-Islam rant - and they keep saying, if you have a better idea, by all means pitch it, but we can't run that one identical piece again. My source is fairly senior at the Obs and in a position to know.

6/30/2008 12:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So "Nick Cohen is Away" means "Nick Cohen is away with the fairies". I guess the Ratbiter columns in Private Eye are actually Observer rejects (altho' to be honest, they seem slightly better than his Observer pieces) . Surely the Telegraph beckons

6/30/2008 08:03:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

It's fairly heartening to hear that about the Obs since about 3 months ago they seemed to be happy for both Nick and almost every other columnist to be running the same 'left doesn't get Islam, Ed Husain is ace' piece ad nauseam. Now if they'd just make the Review worth reading again I'd go back to buying the paper.

Surely part of the problem is the influence of the blogosphere, in which (see Harry's Place) people seem happy to read the same stories on a loop. Too much time spent at that one site (and Cohen and Aaro are guilty of that) will inevitably skew a writer's sense of relevance. The fact that his other major writing gigs are for right-wing publications can't help, either.

I'm not sure the ratbiter pieces are better; they're shorter and seem less obviously inflected by his various prejudices (only generally inflected by the one), but all the same, the last one in particular was deeply lazy, full of holes and questionable assertions.

6/30/2008 08:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Observer Debate.

Liberty in Peril? Thursday 3rd July, 7 pm . Church House Conference Centre, Westminster.

Speakers: David Aaronovitch, Denis MacShane, Henry Porter, David Davis.

Moussaka Man

6/30/2008 08:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick is still officially described as 'away' in the Observer, with Rafael Behr in his place.

Gardening leave?

[redpesto]

6/30/2008 11:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Apparently he keeps pitching to do essentially the same piece - another the-left-doesn't-get-Islam rant - and they keep saying, if you have a better idea, by all means pitch it, but we can't run that one identical piece again."

the Greatest Intellectual Struggle of our time claims a victim. And you can tell that when he writes stuff on other things he's basically just phining it in.

rioja kid

6/30/2008 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Didn't NC tell some Euston event (or similar) that he was repeating himself again and again and again and deliberately becoming extremely tedious because he'd decided that that was the appropriate way to wage TGISOUT? Or did I imagine that?

6/30/2008 06:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

Good news about the Observer rejecting Nick, although this has to be balanced by the fact they published not one but two bits of Decency from Andrew Anthony in yesterday's edition - a favourable review of a Kenan Malik book in which AA argued that racists and anti-racists were at roughly the same moral level, and a puff piece for Iain Duncan Smith's 'Centre for Social Justice', a 'non-partisan' body staffed entirely by Tories which argues for socially just measures like cutting unemployment benefits.

6/30/2008 07:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Von Pseud said...

Couscous - If Cohen did say that then he may have picked up the attitude from Hitchens who once remarked, apropos the Ricky Ray Rector business, that you should never be afraid to repeat yourself.

The difference, of course, is that Hitchens was drawing attention to a truly nasty bit of Clintonian opportunism whereas NC is drawing attention to the inner psychodramas of the Harry's Place set.

6/30/2008 07:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

the Greatest Intellectual Struggle of our time claims a victim.

When I hung out on soc.history.what-if we used to call this phenomenon the Brain Eater. There's a (post-?)situationist line about ideology - "theory is when you have ideas; ideology is when ideas have you". The Brain Eater is the third, degenerative stage - when ideas have you and it shows.

6/30/2008 10:19:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Another distinguishing characteristic of Deceny, it occurs to me, is that it overprivileges ideology, which subject I may bore on about a little after I've done some work (or read some blogs).

7/01/2008 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Today's enemy is Islamofascism ... Today's enemy within is the left ...

7/01/2008 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Right, the Decents and the over-importance to them of ideology.

What I didn't mean is that they overprivilege ideology compared to practice, which may or may not be true but isn't the argument I'm seeking to make. What I want to argue is that it is given such an great importance as to blot out context.

Symptoms of this might include:

(a) refusal to accept that there might be something motivating Islamists other than their ideology - and generally, an absence of any obvious interest in the concept that ideas are formed by the conditions of our lives as well as by our intellectual comparison of ideolgies ;

(b) complete absence of historical context for understanding leftwing movements (and support for them) that stand or stood outside the norms of Western democracy. You would not think that Pinochet, Franco and so on had persuaded generations of leftists (rightly or wrongly) that it was futile to seek power through parliamentary democracy - it's simply enough to characterise their analyses as a hankering for totalitarianism and be done with it.

(c) insistence on seeing the Israeli-Arab conflict as one between democracy and its enemies rather than as one set of people with their foot on the heads of another ;

(d) tendency to view the contemporary decline in the socialist movement as a symptom of How Terrible The Left Is rather than, for instance, people simply feeling they were better off that way, or demographic changes, or what you will ;

(e) a general failure to observe any sense of proportion, because in a Great Intellectual Struggle there is no such thing as an insignificant person or an unimportant event.

Or so it seems to me. (It also seems to me that for a Great Intellectual Struggle, there's a damned sight too much stupidity about...)

7/01/2008 04:08:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Ah, but intellectual != intelligent. Otherwise, I pretty much agree with all of that. The interesting thing about d is that most of them view themselves as 'leftists' while maintaining that most of the left is awful or pseudo-. The pseudo-left thing being particularly interesting given that any history of the left by any decent sympathiser always emphasises how awful it was. In my opinion, the worst of the left was always the interest in forming factions - which seems to be the one thing which motivates everyone we identify as a Decent. Because they don't seem to have any policies at all.

7/01/2008 06:36:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Taking us off the point onto which I had dragged us, the "how awful it was" thing does lead one to ask Cohen (or whoever) the question - if it was really like that, how come you took so long to notice? I mean either it was not, in which case what they're saying isn't true, or it was, in which case their powers of judgement and observation are, by their own account, not of the highest quality, are they?

7/02/2008 08:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Groupthink" is the name for that essential Decent handwave. In practice, it appears to explain a number of social facts - from being polite to your workmates, through to not being able to see the lizards in 'V'.

_I_ play a key role in an exciting intellectual movement
_You_ are part of an honourable tradition
_He_ suffers [_I_ suffered] from groupthink

Chris Williams

7/02/2008 11:07:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Ha Ha the stuff about ideology is funny. Its that sense they are very similar to the Critical Theorists who they despise so much.

Surprised you haven't posted on the Hitchens waterboarding piece in today's G2.

7/02/2008 05:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

Still no sign of Nick in tomorrow's Observer, at least not the online version.

7/05/2008 11:46:00 PM  

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