All That Is Concrete Melts Into The Abstract
Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse.
George Orwell, Politics and the English Language.
Look, when I said "Hitchens is the sort of writer who plagiarizes himself", I meant it in a good way. I assume that he'd turned some bons mots on "tumbrel remarks" and found that they didn't fit into his current commission and had consigned them to a notebook. Therefore, he had a half-written but good article to hand when he wrote for Slate the other week.
Nick Cohen plagiarizes himself too. Not only does his new Standard effort repeat his data point concerning muslim terrorists: "radical Islam is a fascistic movement" but he revisits his tv gig on Standpoint. But first, Nick's problems with a certain four-letter word. 'They'. As here:
They never think that the overthrow of Saddam was opposed by millions who would no more attack the London Underground than congratulate Tony Blair for supporting George W Bush.
Who are 'they'? - the "dumber parts of the Left". Hold on, aren't those also the ones who opposed the "overthrow of Saddam"? Dumb to the point of not even being self-aware then. OK, that may be me projecting a little into Nick's writing. There could be these "dumber parts of the Left" and they're totally unconnected to "Stoppers". It's hard to tell, because he tells us so little about them. I guess he's thinking of Madelaine Bunting, however.
This refusal to name confuses Nick the way a foolish pride in not jotting down the steps in long division contributes to a guaranteed wrong answer.
Even though an acclaimed playwright produced five versions of a script for a drama-documentary, the BBC cancelled the project.
Happily for AW(i'Wod') readers, Nick has committed the name of this playwright to print and pixels in Standpoint.
A team of journalists, at least one of whom was a British Muslim, reported to Terry Cafolla, a fine writer who won many awards for his dramatisation of the religious hatred which engulfed the Holy Cross school in Belfast.
Now, Nick isn't the most careful writer, but that was "dramatisation" singular, wasn't it? Not that the TV critic ever seemed bothered by the question of why journalists were reporting to a dramatist rather than filing stories.
So psychologically convincing is the portrayal of macho loyalty and lure of barbarism that viewers can understand how these men turn into mass murderers.
Except that they can't and won't understand, because the BBC will not give them the opportunity to understand. This is a review of a drama that was never made.
The reporters convinced the families of three of the four bombers to cooperate. By the end, they agreed that the BBC's account of their sons and brothers' lives and deaths was accurate. Cafolla submitted five versions of the script. He was working up to a final draft when the BBC abandoned the project.
It was only when re-reading that article just to find the playwright's name, Terry Cafolla, that I noticed that it's the "BBC's account" which "was accurate". The 'they' in the last paragraph must refer to the families, but it sounds rather grudging, as if the families co-operated until they agreed and said what the journalists wanted to hear. Nick likes this samizdat drama because it's "psychologically convincing" not because of verifiable facts. I don't want to be blown up any more than Nick does, but this stuff demands investigation, not plausible stories.
Back in the Standard, Nick applies the t-word to the right:
Even though they have seen al Qaeda do its worst to Iraq for years, it doesn't occur to them that radical Islam is a fascistic movement whose first aim is to kill Muslims who believe in democracy, free-thinking, gay rights, women's rights or any rival version of islam that conflicts with their psychopathic theology.
Going by this, Nick doesn't know much al Qaeda either. I don't pretend to understand what is going on in Iraq; who is doing what to whom is just too hard to follow, and factions aren't keen on claiming responsibility. However, he seems to be confusing al Qaeda with the Taleban and with the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in Algeria. The problem with this theory is that even bin Laden may have distanced himself and al-Qaeda from the GIA and instead supported the more popular GSPC because the GSPC has gained popular support by pledging to avoid civilian attacks inside Algeria - a promise they have not entirely kept.
Britain isn’t America, and journalists can’t ask jurors what went through their minds in the jury room. This restriction is a pity, because the cries of despair coming from the Met and MI5 suggest that they would really like to know.
The BBC is much more informative.
Frank Gardner, the BBC's security correspondent, said counter-terrorism officials had thought it was an open-and-shut case, with the strongest evidence yet in a British terror trial.
Police and prosecutors expected the jury to accept the alleged links between the accused, al-Qaeda and a fleet of transatlantic airliners, he said.
But as these links did not stand up, the recriminations were beginning, he added.
An official close to the investigation when the men were arrested has told the BBC the US government was partly to blame.
The official said it had pressed Pakistan into making arrests before all the legal evidence had been gathered.
Never mind what Orwell said, this really is the stuff of cliche: fools rushed in.