Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Definition!

BBC: The end of the neocons?:


  • a tendency to see the world in binary good/evil terms

  • low tolerance for diplomacy

  • readiness to use military force

  • emphasis on US unilateral action

  • disdain for multilateral organisations

  • focus on the Middle East



Decency? Yep.

Discuss.

57 Comments:

Anonymous andrew adams said...

LOL! God, that's so true, and it's so amusing the way that Decents so object to being called "neocons".
Another common characteristic of the neocons of course is a hatred for all things "left", which again is true of the Decents. The difference being that the latter somehow see themselves, rather oddly, as actually being on the left.

1/14/2009 08:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

One thing missing in that definition is a tendency to overestimate the Official Enemy's capabilities. So back in the day we had Team B shouting the Russians were going to bury us and after the September 11 attacks we had the same people warning about the danger of Islam.

1/14/2009 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

And of course the constant belief that it is 1938 and one is Churchill.

1/14/2009 01:25:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

... or George Orwell.

1/14/2009 01:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

...although Orwell hadn't undergone his patriotic turn in 1938 - there's a rather startling letter to, I think, Herbert Read in the CEJL saying something along the lines of "now that war's inevitable, I suppose we really ought to be thinking about burying some guns and planning a bit of sabotage". I don't know how, or if, Read replied.

1/14/2009 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Another thing missing from the definition is the tendency to fall back on powerful neologisms like...say...for instance "Islamic fascism" and then, when cornered on its definition, complain that people should be running to the hills in fear.

1/14/2009 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

There are two letters to Read in the CEJL, both from 1939: as far as I can see neither proposes the purchase of guns, but both propose the purchase of printing equipment lest this become illegal.

(The second letter uses the purchase of guns as a parallel, i.e. observing that it used to be free and simple, that it has become neither, and that the present state of affairs would have been considered unthinkable while the first obtained. The purpose of the parallel is to suggest that while control of the purchase and use of printing presses may seem unthinkable now, it may, similarly, not be so in the future.)

1/14/2009 03:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Oh. Must have been thinking of something else, or possibly imagining the whole thing. As you were.

1/14/2009 04:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Decency is an attempt to make neo-conservatism acceptable to the Left. The key event is Blair's speech to the Labour Party in late 2001 in which he says that the Labour Party can get all the nice, pretty things it wants in foreign policy if it attaches itself to US military power and that the post 09/11 context means that the US is engaged with the world (as against suffering from isolationism). This appears again in the "Big Conversation" document - the UK and the US going around the world together solving the world's problems.

The key assumptions (unstated) would appear to be that the UK can have any say in what the US military does and that US military power is a useful tool for solving the world's problems. (Alternatively the assumption is being made that the US and the UK share liberal values so whatever the US military is planning to do must be what UK liberals want to do.) The tendency to overestimate the Official Enemeny's military capabilities, and the use of terms like Islamofascism, derive from the tendency to see problems in military terms(so that the answer is to send in the US military).

The last 7 years provide lenty of material for testing those assumptions!

Moussaka Man

1/14/2009 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger BenSix said...

"The key assumptions (unstated) would appear to be that the UK can have any say in what the US military does and that US military power is a useful tool for solving the world's problems."

Is an enthusiasm for American military might a necessary factor? Yeah, if the across-board interventionism was put into place the US would be prominent, but then a firm grasp of practicalities is pretty rare in Decency.

1/14/2009 04:46:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

On the checklist, I'd be inclined to note that while Decency and neoconservatism do indeed have these in common, Decency would tend to involve an attachment to the Labour Party, the trade unions and a generally social democratic economics, whereas neoconservatism would be deeply suspicious of all of these.

1/14/2009 05:07:00 PM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

Although rather few Decents are even members of the Labour Party, despite it not requiring you to be either very active or very leftwing. This might have something to do with many leading Decents' sociological position as either full-time pundits or moonlighting academics.

The attachment to social democratic economics would be right in so far as they are interested in economics at all. (HP [kerching] expending thousands of words on some Hamas spokesman saying the economic crisis is the fault of the Jews doesn't really count imo.)

But I think the Labourism has to do with Decency's fairly recent vintage and desire to still be on "the Left", something the neocons left behind about thirty years ago.

1/14/2009 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger BenSix said...

"Another common characteristic of the neocons of course is a hatred for all things "left""

A recent comment from Harry - he of the Place - over Shuggy's blog...

"...critiquing the left is what HP has always been about"

http://www.haloscan.com/comments/shuggy/5979051551441342053/#290600

1/14/2009 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Well, hatred and a critique aren't the same thing, or not usually.

Hmmm. When Harry Met Shuggy. Don't think I'll watch that one*.





[* go on, do the jokes]

1/14/2009 06:36:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

There are certainly a few at HP, amongst the contributors and some of the more impeccably Decent commentors, who are either Labour members or staunch supporters. I think a Decent/New Labour crossover is quite natural as both groups define themselves by opposition to other Leftists - they call them "Old Labour" or "anti-Imperialists" but they really mean just anyone to the left of themselves.

1/14/2009 06:44:00 PM  
Blogger BenSix said...

"Well, hatred and a critique aren't the same thing, or not usually."

*Grumbles sullenly, indicating that you're perfectly right.*

1/14/2009 06:50:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Yes but sometimes one can be dressed up as the other.

1/14/2009 07:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

I think the Decents' enthusiasm for the Labour Party rather drained when Blair left the scene. "Brownie" and David Toube certainly are/were members, as is Norman Geras. I was amused to note at the last election that the latter's hitherto safe Labour constituency was gained by the Liberal Democrats with the biggest swing in the country. Clearly his tactic of knocking on doors and telling voters that they were pro-fascists who wanted to leave Saddam Hussein in power was ineffective*.

*Actually I don't think he's much of an activist but I like the idea of him having done this.

1/14/2009 08:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Dylan said...

Doesn't the hatred of the left thing disqualify Aaronovitch?

1/14/2009 09:33:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

It might, but could you tell us why you think this might be so?

1/15/2009 08:27:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Clearly his tactic of knocking on doors and telling voters that they were pro-fascists who wanted to leave Saddam Hussein in power was ineffective

Conversely, last year David T seemed to be claiming the Livingstone defeat as his own work because he couldn't be bothered to go and do his activist duty... A fair few Decents are Blairites - David Toube certainly is and a lot of his acolytes are the same. Most of the commenters on HP are fairly clearly from the right of the political spectrum though. andrew is right - this alliance really comes about from the shared hatred of anything further to the left of themselves.

That's where the central conceit of Nick's last book came from too, and it's the reason why it was so popular.

1/15/2009 08:32:00 AM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

Hmm, it's true that there is a streak of Labour Atlanticism in there, and I know Justin's pointed that out before. Although I can't imagine Denis Healey signing anything as dopey as the Euston Manifesto. It's also a little sobering to think that as perceptive a Marxist as Norm used to be has ended up as, essentially, a New Labour courtier. Mind you, it's happened to better folk than him.

1/15/2009 12:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew Aaronovitch just before he broke up the student Broad Left by firstly getting the Communist students to vote for a NUS Tory candidate instead of Labour, and then allying with the Liberals. A fellow NOLS member told me, 'There are two things you should know about Aaronovitch; one, he's very right-wing and two, he's very, very stupid.'

1/15/2009 12:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, David Milliband discovers the fatal flaws in the "War on Terror" .......... seven years too late.


Moussaka Man

1/15/2009 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger frunobulax said...

In having a go a Millipede over the 'War on Terror' article, Norm drops this in:

"The same reasoning as David uses here could have been used to discourage anyone talking about fascism (I mean real fascism) between the wars."

"Real fascism"? Dear me, he'll get a ticking-off from Marko and Ollie over that.

1/15/2009 03:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Norm: Apart from this, there is a certain other unity behind much recent terrorism - Islamist politics.

Presumably he doesn't realised he's just conceded Miliband's point. "War on Islamism" would be analogous to "war on Fascism" - there are all these groups, they all have ideology X, they all want to hurt us and we hate 'em all. "War on terror" confers a spurious unity on a disparate and arbitrary selection of groups - not all the armed groups in the world, but not all the Islamist groups either.

1/15/2009 04:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

Absent from Geras's critique is the notion that the popular understanding - and thus the definition - of a particular term might be shaped by the way in which it has been applied. It's not much help to say that 'war on terror' doesn't necessarily imply a solely military struggle, when those who have prosecuted the 'war' have done so using predominantly if not exclusively military means - which can't be said for the war on drugs, war on crime etc (and because of which those terms are not commonly understood in the military sense).

Also interesting is his claim that the war on terror is being fought "on behalf" of the rule of law, human rights and civil liberties. Again, this is not an argument which relates much to how the war on terror has been applied in practice. It might be present in the rhetoric of 'war on terror' practitioners, but Geras must be among the last people on the planet to actually believe in the rhetoric of the Bush administration.

1/15/2009 04:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

(Whenever someone points me to Geras's blog I'm always confused that it doesn't permit comments. Of course, there are many blogs which have the same policy, but most of those publish lengthy original articles which are able to stand alone without discussion. Most of what Geras posts seems to be excerpts of other blog posts, with a cursory response intended as a prompt to discussion, and yet he doesn't allow discussion. Curious.)

1/15/2009 04:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

The good professor has had his ass handed to him too many time to allow that to happen on his own blog.

1/15/2009 10:49:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Miliband gets a good shafting from Simon Jenkins today.

1/16/2009 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger frunobulax said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1/16/2009 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger frunobulax said...

Problem solved:

"A possible model for the imposition of a fair compromise on Israel and the Palestinians might be the 1999 Rambouillet negotiations to resolve the Kosovo dispute. Less important than the actual compromise offered was the method of compulsion, involving a threat against both sides. As Tim Judah recounts: ‘While the Serbs were being told that if they failed to sign up to the draft proposals they would be bombed, the Albanians were, in effect, being told that if failure was their fault, they would be left to the tender mercies of the Serbian security forces and paramilitaries.’ This follows the dictum of Conor Cruise O’Brien, that ‘Conflicts don’t have solutions. They have outcomes.’ In the case of Israel and the Palestinians, the international community should impose a just settlement by threatening to come down like a ton of bricks on whichever side rejects the settlement. But this should not, let us be categorical, involve a threat of direct military action against either side."

Next Nobel Peace Prize bound for Greater Surbition?

1/16/2009 02:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous's NOLS contact may or may not be right about Aaronovitch being "very stupid" but s/he is surely wrong about Aaronovitch and Liberal students. My recollection is that the Broad Left contained some Liberal people right from the beginning.

1/17/2009 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Utterley fucked up bit of tabloid decency from Julie Burchill today just for your amusement.

1/17/2009 02:33:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Burchill and nekey-burden are really trying hard to sell that awful book of their, aren't they? Did she always use so many exclamation marks?

Nice to see that burchill couldn't be accused of hypocrisy in simultaneously mocking 'intellectuals' for being shallow while intentionally misreading toni morrison.

I'm also not at all sure why Burchill has such a hard-on for Condi either. Didn't the events of the last week essentially prove her uselessness, if it was ever in doubt?

oh and:

A crazed warmonger who, quite rightly, did not fight in America’s vile war against Vietnam.

um...

1/17/2009 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

She has a hard-on for Condi because this is a long-tried recipe for columnar success. Stylish Hypocrisy. I'm really a socialist, and therefore I'm agreeing with Enoch Powell! I'm really a feminist, which is why I'm openly drooling at Condoleeza Rice's legs!

Is Decency actually just a weaponised variant of Stylish Hypocrisy?

1/18/2009 01:13:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

I suspect that it's just an accident of the fact that so many prominent decentists have jobs in the media industry. The academic wing don't really go in for it so much, or do they?

1/18/2009 02:07:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

btw, Newkey-Burden is almost always the first or second commenter on any new Harry's Place thread, always prominently linking to his blog. Bless.

1/18/2009 02:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'My recollection is that the Broad Left contained some Liberal people right from the beginning.'

Your recollection is wrong.

No, they had a separate organisation. The Broad Left consisted of Labour, CP and so-called 'non-aligned socialists' (e.g. Trevor Phillips, Alistair Stewart etc.).

The CP and the 'non-aligned socialists' split from the Broad Left to form the Left Alliance with the Liberals.

1/18/2009 11:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Moving Nick-wards, I see Nasty Nick has a little preview of the overarching theme of his book in his current column :"Labour abandoned the working class cos they love the efnicks"

1/18/2009 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

It's pretty much standard Nick. He's squirming to get out of his "current" position by riding on the financial crisis to proclaim his "Left" status then hammer home his Euston Manifesto position. The third from last paragraph might as well as have been written by Jeremy Clarkson.

1/18/2009 02:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

Once again we see a repetition of the notion that 'identity politics' is something that was invented by the left for political gain, rather than something which developed in response to systematic discrimination and prejudice.

The soi-disant 'white working class' (not to be confused with the actual working class, white or otherwise) has had its 'very real concerns' ventilated at every turn since Powell and perhaps before, and on many occasions written into government policy, beginning with the egregiously racist Commonwealth Immigration Act of 1968. The same impulse lies behind Jacqui Smith's 'British jobs for British workers' plan announced only today.

At the very worst, 'identity politics' manifests itself as a type of clientelism in inner city areas. It has a far less malignant effect on the body politic than on the government's relentless courting of an imagined demographic of Daily Mail readers.

1/18/2009 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Bit OT but, re Jacqui Smith.
It seems something approaching psychosis is contracted by any home secretary.
I lived in the East End when the then home sec, John Reid, paid an infamous visit to Leytonstone to tell - words to the effect- "muslim parents to get their house in order and stop breeding terrorists". I poke to amny muslims and the depth of ill-feeling was acute. Based, mainly, on the fact that Reid had the audacity to endorse a war(Iraq); politically and professionally, in which innocent people had died and then march into a predominantly muslim area of London and then tell the buggers off!!!

1/18/2009 04:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Notice how Nasty Nick has failed to utter a single word about Gaza since the conflict began. Neither has his mate at the New Statesman, Martin 'Dim' Bright.

Any other instances of the 'Silence of the neo-Lambs?'

1/18/2009 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Total conjecture on Nick and Gaza:

He daren't stick his neck out until the hostilities have ended, and he can then reposition himself. Hamas calling a ceasefire gives them and the IDF breathing space, militarily and diplomatically, so... Nick's second-guessing that, after a week or so, Hamas will strike again (because the blockade is still intact)and then he he can drum up some crap about Palestinian militants bla bla.
To be honest, I don't care anymore, as he's no longer the kid in school causing the most trouble with contentious anger, he's the dunce in the corner.

1/18/2009 07:37:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Nick is not only truly tedious on the economy, he's also contradicted himself so often on the current recession that it's hard to take him seriously. having followed his writings fairly closely over the last couple of years, it's hard to work out how anyone could shape a coherent book out of them that isn't essentially a rewrite of 'what's left' - he changes his opinions on anything other than TGISOOT on a whim, usually inspired by a tory think tank, and doesn't seem to understand anything about economics. for most of the last 2 years he's been repeating stuff he'd already said in 'what's left'.

chas newkey-burden is very sweet. 'unofficial biographer' of paris hilton and amy winehouse and author of that masterwork, the arsenal annual 2009. seriousness in excelsis.

he's very partisan on middle east issues (just look at his blog) which must be why he's drawn to HP.

1/18/2009 08:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, other anonymous, your recollection is wrong. NOLS split off from the Left Alliance because it wanted to run its own candidate for NUS President against Aaronovitch. She lost. Next year NOLS won it and have pretty much kept it ever since. Can't think why that slipped your mind.......

1/18/2009 10:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Nick the Isreal-Palestine conflict has never been a big deal for Nasty Nick, and that is why he is not stickinghis neck out on it.

The letters page in yesterdays Observer was very entertaining, (doesn't seem to appear online )- a whole swathe of letters handing him his arse on a plate for his ridiculous tory inspired "we must cut pension nd welfare costs for the old" column last week. And not one if favour - and beleive me, ifthey had just one coherent supportive letter, they would have printed it.

1/19/2009 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Janosch said...

I've just been over to HP and Adam LeBor (whom I'd previously thought one of the less awful HPers) has used the apparent deaths of more than five hundred refugees allegedly at the hands of the Thai military to score points against protesters at Israel's Gaza campaign. His outrage is firmly directed at the lack of action from protesters preoccupied with Gaza rather than that the "Thai military 'set refugees adrift to die'".

1/19/2009 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

That's a regular Decent trope - the lump of dead kids fallacy.

You can't be outraged by our lot firing a tank main gun into a school packed with refugees - your ration of dead kids is exhausted because of the Thai military! See also the "Rio cops are worse" argument about Ian Blair.

Meanwhile, I notice that Nick has launched a radical attack on Sir Fred Goodwin's reputation. He seems unaware that this no longer exists. It's very typical of him to wait until opinion X becomes conventional wisdom, profess it, and then slap himself on the back for his courage-style product.

Has it struck anyone else that "Nukey-Burden" sounds like a geopolitical concept the Decents dreamed up on a bad day?

1/19/2009 04:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has it struck anyone else that "Nukey-Burden" sounds like a geopolitical concept the Decents dreamed up on a bad day?

No - I just keep thinking of the booze that Geordies drink.

[redpesto]

1/19/2009 06:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sunny Hundal at LibCon found this gem in Sidney Blumenthal's new book, which might be of interest.

[redpesto]

1/19/2009 06:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'No, other anonymous, your recollection is wrong. NOLS split off from the Left Alliance because it wanted to run its own candidate for NUS President against Aaronovitch. She lost. Next year NOLS won it and have pretty much kept it ever since. Can't think why that slipped your mind.......'

NOLS was never part of the Left Alliance. I was at the NUS conference where:

1. The CP stabbed Labour Students in the back when they secretly voted for Anna Soubry a ranting Thatcherite Tory instead of the Labour Party candidate.

2. The CP and the Liberals handed out leaflets at the end of the conference launching the Left Alliance.

3. Subsequently several NUS CPers joined the SDP.

1/19/2009 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

"No - I just keep thinking of the booze that Geordies drink."

Anon, please, I'm one of them. We long since ditched the broon for the stella and whatever hedonistic sinker we can find on a friday night.

1/19/2009 08:08:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Adam LeBor (whom I'd previously thought one of the less awful HPers)

He is one of the less awful ones, but he's still pretty awful really. Typically he'll pay lip service to a moderate view (unlike a lot of them) but he's really just as partisan and myopic as the rest of them.

It's very typical of him to wait until opinion X becomes conventional wisdom, profess it, and then slap himself on the back for his courage-style product.

He also usually claims to have been 'saying it for years' but it's rarely true. in the blurb for his book he claimes to have been 'predicting a recession' for the past few years - which means, in practice, saying occasionally that people who spend a lot of money on organic food might not do so if they're unemployed.

Which is not really the same thing as predicting a recession at all, no matter how much he'd pretend it was.

1/20/2009 08:20:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

the Isreal-Palestine conflict has never been a big deal for Nasty Nick, and that is why he is not stickinghis neck out on it.

well he was very unhappy about the 'we are all hezbollah now' stuff in 2006, and if IIRC there is a fair bit in what's left about people who oppose Israel's actions being anti-seimtes through that weird 'fellow traveller' logic; but you need to know a fair amount about the ins and outs of the conflict to write anything on it and Nick's never looked like he actually cares enough to do any research aside from reading the occasional witch-hunt in harry's place.

however it would be typical nick cohen to write a piece about a month afterwards, 'inspired' by some wingnut or other, accusing anyone who opposed the IDF carnage of hating jews...

1/21/2009 09:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But Nick is

'an advisory board member of Just Journalism, an independent organisation that argues the British media is too critical of Israel, and needs to be - as they see it - more balanced.'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Cohen#Other

http://www.justjournalism.com/

Which as you can see is a pro-Israel Hasbara outfit.

1/21/2009 05:46:00 PM  

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