Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sunday Morning Nick Cohen factwatch

Nick writes:

With the shameful, but I suppose inevitable, support of an English academic postmodernist, one Steve Fuller of Warwick University, they argued that truth was relative.

Steve Fuller is American, was born in New York, and taught in the US until 1999.

26 Comments:

Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

What I've not got about the Decents is that their obsession with free speech is only really animated when the controversy involves religion. When people are censored and knowledge denied because such speech exposes or embarrasses the 'secular' powerful they seem to remain, if not silented, unexcited. Yet I'm far more interested in knowing the truth of US plans to bomb journalists, or of British complicity in torture, or of corruption at the heart of our military-industrial state, then I am about reading a novel offensive to religious group X. If the deal was 'ban the latter and expose the former', I'd sign up like a shot.

And as for Turkey, with its ban on richarddawkins.net that animates Richard Dawkins, what about free speech for the Kurds, or the truth, and subsequent rolling back, of military involvement in government, in the denial of education rights to head scarfed women... If I was a Turk, my right to read richarddawkins.net would come way down the list of the infringements on my speech and knowledge.

11/02/2008 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

'silented' = silent

'animates Richard Dawkins' = animates Nick Cohen.

Any other corrections are up to you.

11/02/2008 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

I tend to think of commentators as being like moons or satellites orbiting a planet, with their distance from the aforementioned body representing their proximity to reason, logic and intelligence. They may have a regular orbit where they are generally solid on most important issues. Alternatively they may display an irregular orbit, perhaps being close to terra firma on some issues and distant on others. Nick used to have a pretty low orbit. He was visible from earth with the naked eye and was unlikely to really shock you with his opinions. Recently though Nick’s orbit has grown increasingly erratic. He still writes the odd intelligent, semi-lucid piece but these are getting rarer and rarer. I fear that Nick’s orbit is becoming wider and wider, heading out towards a distant group of satellites far from planet earth known as the Wingnuttia Belt. Here amongst celestial objects which never come to planet earth, you can find a strange selection of exotic bodies. Some like the moons Madmelania and Horowitzonia used to have quite low orbits. Others like the Krauthammeronius and Limbaughicus have always been reliably ‘out there’. I fear that Nick’s recent statements on affirmative action and political correctness mean that he is inexorably heading in that direction.

11/02/2008 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Westerners say that Yahya reminds them of American creationists. The link is more solid than they know.

But I knew about the link, so Nick's assertions above amount to having your straw man and burning him. But really, which Westerners say this? Nick really likes the formula 'Silly group is silly' and it doesn't convince anyone. Doesn't the Observer bother editing him at all?

11/02/2008 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Alex Higgins said...

"Foreigners, who bought Michael Moore's cartoon version of America as a land dominated by quasi-fascist bigots..."

Moore may not be the world's most serious social critic, but I don't actually remember where he made that kind of assertion in Bowling for Columbine or Farhenheit 9/11 or Roger & Me - all of which tend to portray working class and professional Americans sympathetically. Or 'Dude where's my country?' which has a chapter about why the US is actually a liberal country.

It really grates how Nick feels he can just casually lie about anyone he disagrees with. He is a disgrace.

11/02/2008 12:57:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

It's just the world perceived through the Decent black/white lens. It haunts all the references to "anti-Americanism". Any sane person knows that the world is inhabited by people that share most of their views on life. Most Americans that I've met are perfectly wonderful. That doesn't stop me from opposing the policies of the US government and the stereotypical American crazies (although idiots like Justin Webb seem to think it should). Michael Moore, though he can be a bit of a self-publicist, rightly takes certain people to task because of their policies, not because they are American.

11/02/2008 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Justin Webb. Jesus. Justin Webb.

11/02/2008 03:22:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

Alex's quote of Nick could easily be a quote of Justin Webb from his recent book or TV series or whatever it was. Says it all really.

11/02/2008 03:32:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Nick was up to old tricks in this month's Standpoint as well.

The infantile leftist frenzy which overcame the BBC after the second Iraq war has burned itself out. Its better journalists began fighting back after their colleagues presented the 7/7 attacks on London as an acceptable punishment for voting for Tony Blair.

He just makes it up as he goes along doesn't he?

And what's all this about:

In Britain, academics talk of expelling mainly Muslim science students. They do not make a fuss about it in case post-modern relativists in the mould of Steve Fuller accuse them of religious discrimination, but say, very quietly, that if religion stops their students accepting evolution, there is no point in them staying at university.

It all sounds a bit unlikely to me. Do you think he has any proof for this or is it more fevered speculation?

11/02/2008 04:24:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I don't think he "just makes it up as he goes along" as such - everything's based on something real, it just that he:

(a) misinterprets and blows out of proportion;

(b) extrapolates so that something done by an individual is attributable to a much larger group.

11/02/2008 04:30:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Sorry Justin I have to disagree.

This:

their colleagues presented the 7/7 attacks on London as an acceptable punishment for voting for Tony Blair.

is not an exaggeration or an embellishment it is a bare faced lie. I will bet my bottom dollar that no journalist in the mainstream media said that 7/7 was an acceptable punishment for electing Blair. These are the words of a fantasist.

11/02/2008 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger BenSix said...

"After eight years of Bush, abortion is still legal and the gay marriage movement is marching on."

Yeah, just before the Proposition 8 vote. Nice touch, Nick.

11/02/2008 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I will bet my bottom dollar that no journalist in the mainstream media said that 7/7 was an acceptable punishment for electing Blair.

Oh for sure, but I will bet you that somebody will have said something which can be made to look as if they did.

(This is why I've mentioned before that certain Decent techniques remind me of the second interrogation in Darkness At Noon.)

11/02/2008 06:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Alex Higgins said...

"their colleagues presented the 7/7 attacks on London as an acceptable punishment for voting for Tony Blair"

Actually, I'll bet that no one at the BBC said anything which can even be twisted into that. Let alone more than one. Let alone so many it necessitated a fight back by those who thought otherwise.

He's made this claim before and applied to the entire British media. He cannot seriously believe it to be true - Nick is an inflammatory liar unable to come to terms with himself.

This is a step into Melanie Phillips/Michael Savage territory.

11/02/2008 06:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Alex Higgins said...

Actually, the difference between Nick and Melanie is that while she is self-assured enough to libel individuals by name, Nick rarely is.

He prefers instead to make revolting claims about unnamed groups of liberals, leftists, BBC journalists, academics, postmodernists etc.

His comments about Walt and Mearsheimer were a rare foray into the libel of named individuals.

No wonder he writes rather a lot about libel law.

I agree with him about the libel laws, but it's a bit like Kissinger complaining about international prosecutions for war crimes.

11/02/2008 07:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in re: "Thei colleagues presented..." etc.

This is the tag attached to those who thought the Iraq war put the UK in more danger of terrorism: ie pretty much everybody along the spectrum between the SWP and MI6.

"His comments about Walt and Mearsheimer were a rare foray into the libel of named individuals."

Actually, his commenst about W & M are distortions but they don't specifically take the form of "W & M are antisemites" - which is actionable, I think - but "W & M say that Jews control America" which can be argued, tenuously, as interpretation in good faith.

Nick's actually becoming quite an accomplished smear artist, as he should be, because it's all he has to offer.

rioja kid

11/02/2008 07:15:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

It has to be said that, although I agree with Bubby that there's absolutely no ground for believing that anyone in the UK media said anything like "the 7/7 bombings were a reasonable punishment for voting for Tony Blair", the two articles Nick Cohen wrote in the immediate aftermath (here, here and here could be much more fairly summarised as having the opinion that the 7/7 bombings were a fair punishment on liberal Londoners for voting against him.

11/02/2008 07:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

They do not make a fuss about it in case post-modern relativists in the mould of Steve Fuller accuse them of religious discrimination, but say, very quietly, that if religion stops their students accepting evolution, there is no point in them staying at university.

This is odd. I knew someone at Cambridge who converted to a version of Christianity which included Young Earth creationism midway through a degree in geology. She said she just carried on learning the stuff, and answered the exam questions as if their premises were valid. I suppose Nick could argue that the creationists of today, being all scary and Muslim and postmodern, will take a more aggressive line (but Sir evolution's just a theory isn't it Sir?). But anyone who did that wouldn't need to be expelled - they'd do it themselves by failing their end-of-year exams (which in my time, and probably Nick's, we did not have).

11/02/2008 07:49:00 PM  
Anonymous pesto pete said...

Steve Fuller may not be British (though it's an easy mistake to make since he teaches at Warwick) but he is a ghastly piece of work. He doesn't (I think, but who can tell?) believe in Intelligent Design himself, but it suits him to provide a veneer of intellectual cover for it, an activity he appears to enjoy because it winds up scientists and atheists. At least, that's what I deduce his motivation to be, given his masterful trolling in the comments this post on Michael Bérubé's blog.

11/02/2008 09:25:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Slightly off-topic, does anyone know if the print edition of the Observer ran that Obama aunt story as its lead (its the lead on the website version). If so, what were they thinking?

11/02/2008 09:48:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

Yes they did, and no, I have no fucking idea.

11/02/2008 11:20:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Doesn't Michael Berubé believe that he is God?

11/03/2008 08:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Berube's withholding his belief in God until the deity abandons this 'omniscience' nonsense, and recognises MB's pre-eminence in matters intellectual.

11/03/2008 09:24:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

The Obs yesterday was weird in general - they wrote an insipid leader endorsing Obama and then reprinted a fairly old New Yorker leader which did the same, only much better.

Also Barbara Ellen might be worse than Jasper Gerard. In this week's column she claimed that Mock the Week (a transparent have i got news for you clone, but with more 'controversy') is an 'innovative' programme...

11/03/2008 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Not to mention that 'HIGNFY' was a clone of 'The News Quiz' with more picture questions, tubs of lard, and slebs.

I'm kicking myself for not reading the whole Steve Fuller thing on Michael Berube at the time. No one seems to have picked up on this:

This counter-tradition’s standard bearer is not Paley, of watch-on-the-beach fame, but Isaac Newton who believed he had gotten inside of God’s mind. One cannot underestimate the heuristic value of this belief in the history of science, not only in physics but also in computer science and of course genetics (sometimes with disastrous consequences).

My emphasis. And I agree with him there. The only 'evidence' for his Newton claim comes from the rather dubious provenance of Bryan Appleyard, and I haven't come across it elsewhere. (It's very hard to know what Newton thought about anything.) I'm reasonably au fait with the histories of computer science and genetics and I don't recall anyone making global religious-type claims in either.

(You can sort if see what Fuller is trying to say if you consider maths, computing, and genetics as studies of 'languages' - but speaking the same language as someone is not the same as knowing their mind.)

11/03/2008 11:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dunno, CC, surely it is bad form to make such a fuss over a typo?

But anyway, I assumed that Fuller's point was that belief in a deity, a prime observer, was fundamentally embedded in Newtonian physics. Compare and contrast with relativity.

11/04/2008 12:55:00 PM  

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