Monday, January 26, 2009

Big Laffs at Harry's Place

There are reasons that "bloggers" are often confined to inverted commas by pretty much everyone who can read who isn't a blogger. One of them is that many bloggers' idea of the re-invention of lively, Age-of-Enlightenment, debate-igniting scurrility is others' idea of puerile vituperation.

There's a long rant in my head over the reactions to David Miliband's Guardian piece. I read the Spectator's blogs via RSS (for reasons I don't understand, they share a feed) and three of their bloggers[1] had reacted before I even saw the thing.

Meanwhile, over on the left[2], we have dear old Harry's Place's David T.

Sons are, mercifully, not necessarily like their parents.
David Miliband’s mother is a member of Deborah Fink’s JFJFJFJFJFJFJFJP organisation.
David Miliband’s father was a “Marxist intellectual” who railed against the ousting of Pol Pot and Idi Amin.


Well, I'm sure that no other "intellectuals" have ever backed the wrong horses or made regrettable statements in the past. I don't know much about David T, but I'm just certain that if his parents were at all leftists, they were the sort of leftists who only supported causes that came out smelling of roses in the early 21st century.

I'm not particularly fond of Miliband, but that's pretty low, isn't it? It's a good candidate for the all time "Lay, Lady, Lay" having-cake-and-eating award, though.

* Because I may come back to this:

Mad Mel really hates David Miliband at the moment. I'm warming to him as a result.

[2] Irony. Good, innit?

Update, by bruschettaboy Oh jeepers pleepers. What Milliband did and didn't say about Idi Amin and Pol Pot. The Decent Recycling Machine really is tiresome sometimes.

44 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a fundamental trope of Decentism that the sins of the father (or mother, or grandfather) are visited on the offspring that we don't like (Ramadan, Milliband) but not the offspring that we do (Livni).

Chris Williams

1/26/2009 08:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

There's also the minor point that, as public intellectuals of our times go, Kamm isn't fit to clean Ralph Miliband's shoes. "Intellectual respect leavened with genuine contempt", by gum. I think Ralph would be more worried about the respect.

1/26/2009 10:15:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

True, although as Kamm is to Milliband, T is to Kamm. To misinterpret someone's writings and make a cheap political crack is bad; to mindlessly repeat someone else's cheap political shot (turning it into a definite slur on the dead in the process) to make a cheaper political shot at his son ... is roughly what one would expect of the man who hopes to go down in history as the Rosa Parks of Hackney Swimming Baths.

1/26/2009 11:11:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I really don't think I want to click on that Crooked Timber link - if it's the one I think it is, I seem to remember we were already on about three hundred comments when I packed it in.

1/27/2009 09:18:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

That Pollard piece that is linked to is pissweak.

I couldn’t get a dickie bird out of the FCO when I was trying to find out if it was indeed true. But the moment I put up the story here as a rumour doing the rounds (I heard it from a number of entirely unconnected but very senior and respected people) they were swift to deny it. Maybe they should be a bit swifter to deal with such enquiries in future.

This is very poor journalism, isn't it?

the idea that Jews owe allegiance to a foreign power is one of the worst of the many traditional antisemitic canards.

maybe so, but if this is the case then it sits rather oddly with an awful lot of comments on harry's place over the years which seem to imply exactly that.

looking over Harry's Place, it's not even worth bothering with, is it? it increasingly looks like a bunch of nutcases who all agree with each other disappearing further and further up their own arses. as for this:

railed against the ousting of Pol Pot and Idi Amin

it's another example of twisted Decent logic. Things that make absolutely no sense to anyone rational, and are manifestly untrue, but thanks to a succession of leaps of dubious logic Decents seem to think they're uncontestable fact. Witness Nick's continued guff about tyranny-support...

1/27/2009 11:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

Classic decent tactic that, continually repeating outright lies as fact long after they had been revealed as lies.

It remind me of nothing so much as the mommy's basement libertarians you used to come across in the science fiction Usenet groups in the mid-nineties.

1/27/2009 12:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Reminds me of Jordan too, but I'm not sure I'd call him a libertarian. My semi-serious theory was that he was a closet Stalinist - I mean, a proper old-style "can't make an omelette without killing several million people" Stalinist - who hadn't quite come out to himself.

This is relevant (honest), inasmuch as really large bodycounts never seem to be that far away from the Decent imagination. Perhaps it's something to do with what they're committed to supporting - "yes, the US/NATO/Israel has killed thousands of people, but the people you support would kill millions!" Which is why what Chomsky wrote about Cambodia keeps coming out again.

1/27/2009 12:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bassoir? Fuck, I'd forgotten about him. You bastard, Edwards!

CW

1/27/2009 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Harry's Place keeps on giving. It is to their credit that posters can disagree with other posters. But Brett responded with a very long post published at 3:43 pm to a post published at 2:30 pm (or 73 minutes earlier). The latter was updated with an editor's note: "his piece is tongue in cheek."

1/28/2009 07:42:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

Ack! Why do I read Harry's Place links...

I used to argue there, and see why it made me so depressed - they are so slippery it is impossible. We have the argument that the ANC and Hamas a so different the Apartheid analogies are invalid. Then someone points out that leading ANC people have condemned Israel as an apartheid state, so the HPers retort that the ANC is packed with anti-semites (and communists to boot). Which ought to get the HPers opposing historical anti-apartheid activism, especially given their penchant, displayed in those threads, for *demanding* that people set out their positions regarding historical events, else the HPers feel they have a licence to assume the most wicked of positions.

They simply will not engage in argument, in the sense of claim, refutation, couterclaim, etc. They settle for twisting, turning, smearing, and, with their numbers, shouting down. Argument only in its most vulgar sense.

If the HPers know what they are doing, then they might be clever people. If they think they are winning arguments of the first sort, they are an extremely dim bunch.

1/29/2009 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Ralph Miliband was best known for his book Parliamentary Socialism, which argued that the latter couldn't be achieved by the former route. I've not got a copy, but I do have his The State in Capitalist Society which I've probably not read for nearly twenty years but I remember liking very much.

Anyway, the things about Miliband, and a very large number of socialists - including myself - is that we didn't believe in Parliament, not because we hankered for dictatorships and gulags, but because we didn't think that a radical socialist government would be allowed to function, not by capital and not by the representatives and institutions of capital.

There was plenty of evidence to back this up, evidence with names like Franco and Pinochet: and it still seems to me to be a statement of the bleedin' obvious, that capital wouldn't just stand by and let itself be dispossessed, but would respond with all the means at its disposal.

This used to be considered a central question for the left: and the point is, it was a question, it was a political problem, people thought these things not for psychological reasons but for political ones. Quite a lot of contemporary political commentary attempts to deny this - or not even to deny it, to ignore it and move straight to denunciations of the radical left as if the question "what would we do about a British Pinochet?" had never existed.

Now, if that question is less urgent now, it's because the possiblity of a radical left government achieving office isn't really taken seriously by many people, because nobody's expecting it to happen - and a major reason for that is that that part of the population which might previously have been attracted to socialism is, on the whole, no longer interested in it (and, for that matter, not very interested in the basic impulse of working-class solidarity on which socialist politics rested). That's difficult to get around, it changes pretty much everything, but what it doesn't change is the past, or the actual reasons people had, a generation or two ago, for holding the opinions that they did.

As it goes, this relates to the previous couple of threads (and comments following) for a couple of reasons. One is that if you've been around the left for a long time, you realise that things have changed a lot - not necessarily for better or for worse, but they've changed. The debates, preoccupations, parties and political forms on the left are very different now to what they were when I came into politics (early Eighties) or the decade before that or in 1968 or before 1968.

But if you read (or try to read) Nick Cohen you don't get any sense of this process, of what changes have really taken place, what debates have really happened, what major differences used to exist and what major differences exist now. You get this idealised left from long ago and you get this all-jumbled-together left that supposedly exists now. And I think that one reason Cohen thinks this is that he's not familiar with the real history of the left, he doesn't have any real idea of who's been important and who has not (I mean, Gerry Healy?) and that his acquaintance with it has come from some very recent reading of some very poor and very skewed sources, all read through the prism of "they didn't support the war to overthrow Saddam".

Meanwhile, regarding Ollie Kamm's assault on Owen Hatherley - I should mention that Ralph Miliband was an advocate of a new party to the left of Labour. (My assumption is that Ollie knows this: by the way, my guess is that Nick would, until recently, never have heard of him.) Now when Ollie writes in criticism of Hatherley's friends that they are not "a normal democratic party even of the radical Left", did anybody else wonder, as I did, who would have constituted "a normal democratic party .. of the radical Left" that would have been acceptable to Ollie? Because I think that any such party would have involved people much like Ralph Miliband. Who Ollie dislikes and traduces. And I therefore think that that phrase was a piece of humbug.

1/29/2009 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Ack! Why do I read Harry's Place links...

Why indeed?

1/29/2009 09:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

he doesn't have any real idea of who's been important and who has not (I mean, Gerry Healy?)

Yes, that is an extraordinary example of lacking perspective.

1. "I used to be in the SWP."
"Oh, right. Why did you leave?"

2. "I used to be in the Mils."
"Uh-huh. What was that actually like?"

3. "I used to be in the WRP."
"Oh, God - poor you."

Having said that, I used to share a group with several ex-members of the WRP - one of whom I think had actually 'entered' the WRP as a Spartacist - and you couldn't really tell them apart from the ex-members of the IMG and IS. If anything, the worst table-thumpers were the IS people.

1/29/2009 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

The thing is, since some time in the early Seventies I'm pretty sure that the Healey group would have been substantially the smallest and least influential of the three, no?

1/29/2009 11:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Oh, absolutely - that was part of my point, or it was meant to be.

1/29/2009 12:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree very much with EJH: I don't understand why you waste any time on Harry's Place. It's part of the "talking points" culture, the endless repetition of talking points with very little understanding of the context or any depth of understanding. Someone mentions Milliband fils, someone then mentions Milliband pere, someone then say that he supported Pol Pot and off we go with the denunciations. The talking points normally feed into a particular narrative (Old Leftie supporting a dictator) but there's little point in trying to feed in points that support an alternative narrative because they cannot actually cope with that.

Moussaka Man

1/29/2009 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

And I think that one reason Cohen thinks this is that he's not familiar with the real history of the left...

If I may, I suspect that the Decent concept of "the left" can be boiled down to three groups...

a) Yer hardcore ultra-leftists, and all their baleful works
b) Allegorical middle class liberal-minded types who watch The Sopranos, disdain the fare at Nando's and often read pretentious novels about the human condition, and
c) Themselves.

Note that b) here is pretty much the American definition of "the Left", and that Nick, Hitch, Aaro and HP's denizens share the Republicans' endearing habit of bluntly eliding them with a)whenever it's expedient to do so.

On HP, BTW, I notice that we've seen some nasty attacks on the SNP (lovers of fascism) and the Greens and Trots (actually fascist) recently - they seem to have calmed down on the Lib Dem and Brown-bashing.

Wouldn't it be nice if they could provide us with a list of political parties that are not openly fascist? I suspect that such a list would be easy to compile and would look something like this -

1. The Conservative Party

1/29/2009 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Dare i say that this:

Someone mentions Milliband fils, someone then mentions Milliband pere, someone then say that he supported Pol Pot and off we go with the denunciations.

might have something to do with too much unthking reading of Private Eye? You often get the same stuff in there - X says something - but X works for Y - Z also works there and once did something which goes against what X said - et voila.

In the Eye's defence, it is at least fairly open in its targetting and the people targetted usually deserve it - there is also enough good stuff to mitigate this lazy writing.

Not so over on planet HP, where conducting a witch-hunt against a 16 year old girl is best practice and this kind of writing seems to be considered the pinnacle of journalism.

1/29/2009 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Dogs bark
Cats miaow
HP conducts witch-hunts against sixteen-year-old girls

1/29/2009 01:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Freshly Squeezed Cynic said...

...I had the good fortune not to hear about this witch-hunt until now. Any background, please?

1/29/2009 02:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There is also enough good stuff to mitigate this lazy writing"

As it happens I have just torn up the subscription renewal demand from Private Eye because the amount of good stuff has got so low that it really isn't worth reading. I have rarely read Private Eye in the last few months and thought "that's interesting", while I am increasingly irritated by the lazy stuff.

Moussaka Man

1/29/2009 02:19:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

sorry, it was 17:

http://www.hurryupharry.org/2008/10/07/swp-activist-appointed-government-advisor/

also ejh - you have summed so much up, so eloquently, up there. However I want to expand on this:

I think that one reason Cohen thinks this is that he's not familiar with the real history of the left, he doesn't have any real idea of who's been important and who has not (I mean, Gerry Healy?) and that his acquaintance with it has come from some very recent reading of some very poor and very skewed sources

From my memory of a skim through What's Left, it starts off being all about his parents. I think this is something that a lot of Decents have in common - that they've confused a parent figure whose influence they are (very naturally) desirous of overcoming with something more significant - ie for Nick, a caricatured version of his Mum which only exists in his head but aspects of which he can see everywhere, is 'the left'. These caricatures are normally activists, because Nick et al seem to have a real problem with activism and marches in general - stemming primarily from the 'grumpy old man' side of the Decent psyche (they are all of a certain age, after all).

But as i said before it's pointless looking at Nick on 'the left' since he simultaneously claims to hate all lefties and blames them for the ills of the world - all the while claiming to be of, um, the left. Like i said, pointless - as soon as i stumbled across that weird 'this is the premise of my book' statement at the beginning of WL i knew it was a bankrupt enterprise.

1/29/2009 02:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Parent figures - Martin Kettle. When Martin talks about "the Left that didn't learn the lessons of 1956" he's talking about Mr and Mrs Arnold Kettle and their dog Pollitt.

1/29/2009 02:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't usually do "me 2!!!" but Justin has nailed it beautifully at 9.58 above. Nice one.

Chris Williams

1/29/2009 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Wouldn't it be nice if they could provide us with a list of political parties that are not openly fascist? I suspect that such a list would be easy to compile and would look something like this -

1. The Conservative Party


2. Vlaams Belang. (cf the Decentiya/Bostom interview).

1/29/2009 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Oh, come on. Harry's Place may have had a go at a 17 year old girl, but they stand up for a much-maligned group here. Admit it, lefties, you all hate that particular subset of humankind, don't you?

1. The Conservative Party

And only this afternoon I saw this. I was sure John Gray had been discussed on Crooked Timber but the first post I could find where he didn't just appear in the comments was on Nick Cohen where Gray serves as an exemplar of NC's form of denouncing views he held until recently. Coincidence?

1/29/2009 05:47:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

If they must be examined, perhaps this should not be in the sense of engaged with, which is impossible and would be futile even if it were not - nor in the sense of expressing indignation that people devoted to the pursuit of stupidty persistently write stupid things.

No. They are interesting only in so far as people are interested in them: they are a subject not so much of political or ethical interest, as anthropological. We study belief in the Rapture, not because we think it has any connection to reality, but because numbers of other people think it does. We observe The X-factor not because it, in itself, is worth observing, but other people observe it - and that may tell us something about the people we are and the societies we live in. And of course we would like to understand, a little better, what that is.

So, perhaps we may study the deluded followers of David T much as Thompson studied the deluded followers of Joanna Southcott. It may, however, prove impossible to do without deploying, as Thompson did not, enormous condescension.

1/29/2009 06:03:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

Nick's in Standpoint again. The guy could fit Islamism, the "pseudo-left" and the libel laws into a facking restaurant review...

http://tinyurl.com/bbjuwt

1/29/2009 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Since it seems to be okay to raise the Place on this thread, I notice they have adopted a new and intriguing tactic. They now seem to be posting eggregious bullshit in such gigantic quantities that nobody can keep up with the sheer lunacy.

By my reckoning, posters and commenters together may well have accused every single newspaper, television channel and wire service in the Western hemisphere of disseminating anti-semitic propaganda, barring FOX and the Jerusalem Post.

I don't know what's up with David T. either, but I think it's safe to say that he's finally pissed away the final faint traces of his former reputation as The relatively sane one at HP.

1/29/2009 09:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Chris Baldwin said...

The shocking thing about Harry's Place is that they just don't care what they say about people, as the Ralph Miliband case shows.

1/30/2009 12:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

They're posting so much bullshit because they've largely become irrelevant even in blogland. There was a time they were engaged with fairly regularly, even on leftwing blogs, but why should you now when there are proper, honest tories to argue with?

1/30/2009 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Spot on, Martin. The thing that ties my posts here together (when they're not about Aaro) is my belief that neo-conservatism (and hence Decency) is now irrelevant. Obama was sworn in 10 days ago, nine if you're a winger, and no one listens now. They get really upset by David Miliband because he knows that.

1/30/2009 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Miliband always knows who's in charge. He has a partcularly good sense for that.

1/30/2009 12:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So who should we despise most? Is it the weather-vane politician D. Milliband? Or is the inhabitants of Harry's Place who haven't noticed that the wind has changed?

Moussaka Man

1/30/2009 02:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Milliband [although he made sense in India]. HP can say serious bad things, but it (usually) takes a state to do serious bad things. It's the same reason why Galloway is better than Rumsfeld. Not noticing this reason is one of the main reasons why decents remain idiots. I despise them.

Chris Williams

1/30/2009 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

I despise them.

Well, each to their own. I prefer to mock and ridicule, but it'd get boring if we thought alike.

1/30/2009 10:55:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

What I love about NC is the way his pieces seem to degenerate into a kind of frustrated three-act structure. (And very reminiscent of Mussolini btw.)

The first two acts always "bring me in; so you're left and here we go" and the third (which is always what he wants to say) is always a get it off my chest rant:

"I emphasise that terrorism is not the most worrying aspect of the Islam Channel's popularity. Its undoubted success shows that a significant part of British Islam has been caught up in a theocratic version of the faith that is anti-feminist, anti-homosexual, anti-democratic and has difficulties with Jews, to put the case for the prosecution mildly. Needless to add, the first and foremost victims of the lure of conspiracy theory and the dismissal of Enlightenment values are British Muslims seeking assimilation and a better life, particularly Muslim women.

As a supposedly free citizen of a supposedly free country, I long for the day when I will be able to denounce such reaction"

Does he really think that we will be trapped by that argument!?!?

1/30/2009 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Does he really think that we will be trapped by that argument!?!?

Well, I don't think it's deniable that there is a part of British Islam that has been caught up in a theocratic version of the faith that is anti-feminist, anti-homosexual, anti-democratic and that has difficulties with Jews. I mean, the 7/7 bombings and the asshole Hunt Down The Townies And Gas Them Like Badgers protestors were a pretty strong inidicator that we really do have a problem with a small number of local, loony Jihadists. Whether the Islam channel shows any such thing is pretty subjective.

Anyone with eyes could see that such people exist - surely the point is that it's nowhere near as widespread as Nick might have you believe, and that the horrible politics of people like Nick can only make the problem worse. At least, that how I see it.

1/31/2009 12:06:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

My point was two-fold.

"Trapped by that argument" meant he's goading anyone who thinks that, as you correctly say "Anyone with eyes could see that such people exist - surely the point is that it's nowhere near as widespread as Nick might have you believe, and that the horrible politics of people like Nick can only make the problem worse." into a general defence of Islam. So he can then draw them into what he really wants to do and spout Islamofascism rhetoric.

And when he says "a significant part of British Islam has been caught up in a theocratic version of the faith that is anti-feminist, anti-homosexual, anti-democratic and has difficulties with Jews" which I think is the aim of the article, I just don't think that the word "significant" is correct.

1/31/2009 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Aha, that's fair enough. Aplogies, I have an unfortunate habit of getting all overwrought and trying to tick people off on the internet, for some reason.

1/31/2009 09:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

I started writing a comment in reply to these last few comments, but it ended up as a post.

1/31/2009 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

@ Phil. Flipping good post it was too!

1/31/2009 02:02:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

This libel tourism stuff is so bloody tedious. He's really got to give it up soon.

I place more trust in the verdicts of the court of public opinion than of Mr Justice Eady

the court of opinion's verdict is in - and nobody actually gives a fuck. the book's ages out of date, you can read everything it alleges on the web too.

a significant part of British Islam has been caught up in a theocratic version of the faith that is anti-feminist, anti-homosexual, anti-democratic and has difficulties with Jews

What's his proof for this? oh yes, one programme on the islam channel. which was broadcast about two years ago, and which I'm pretty sure Nick has never seen. Incidentally, the stuff in it about Jerusalem is roughly as accurate as stuff you can find in the harry's place comments archives which claism that jerusalem is unimportant in islam.

in any case, the entire article is lifted from a times piece published in mid-december, he's barely even changed the wording. from the times:

Ofcom stated: “The Islam Channel failed to ensure that this major matter of political controversy was treated with due impartiality.” It decided it was not a sufficiently serious breach to warrant a statutory sanction. However, at the same time , Ofcom did fine the channel £30,000 over a separate complaint of breaking election impartiality rules by letting candidates for the Respect party present programmes.

i think the last point might explain quite a lot. but nick doesn't mention it.

This is really, really poor quality journalism.

2/01/2009 06:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

"Your requested host "standpointmag.com" could not be resolved by DNS."

Signs of things to come?

2/02/2009 07:47:00 AM  

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