Friday, February 27, 2009

More violations of the Prime Directive ...

Just one addendum to the Watching of Aaro's Tuesday stinker - what's up with all this "Formerly Known As the War on Terror" bollocks? The incoming Obama administration decided, almost certainly correctly, that the stupid bellicose rhetoric was totally counterproductive and therefore dropped it forthwith. A very sensible decision, I think we can all agree. So why are Norman Geras and Aaro so keen to resurrect it? Is it:

a) more or less purely and simply, being an arse for the fun of doing so?

b) the Michael Goveite belief that any concessions in the direction of being sensible and not randomly irritating people constitute "weakness" and will be seen by Al Qaeda as such?

c) a form of Ostalgie for the Bush administration?

d) intentional disrespect for Obama, rather like those people who continued to call Muhammad Ali "Cassius Clay"?

e) "because it annoys liberals" as a positive reason for doing anything these days?

Whatever it is, a quick perusal of Normblog reveals that the author believes it to be really quite incredibly clever of him to be the only one to notice that the USA is still against terrorism.

40 Comments:

Anonymous bubby said...

I think its partly e) but also partly an intense hatred of the contention of some on the left (but also a few on the right) that the threat from terrorism has been exaggerated by this Government for political ends. You can see this most clearly in the unhinged reaction to Adam Curtis's 'The Power of Nightmares' which sends a lot of Decents into frothing hysterics.

Underlying this is a desire to defend Nu Labour at all costs but also a deep hatred of Islamism and repulsion for those deemed not sufficiently mindful of the threat it poses.

Unfortunately the inability to untangle the following propositions:

1) There is a real terrorism threat from Islamic extremists.

2) Such threats are sometimes exaggerated for political ends.

plus a unfailing belief in the trustworthiness and of the Government/Security Services makes Aaro and Norm look rather ridiculous.

2/27/2009 12:33:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

It's an attempt to look clever, so I guess a) fits best, but it actually makes Geras look even stupider.

He seems to think that pointing out that the wars are still going on after the name 'war on terror' was dropped proves that it is still a 'war on terror', but the truth is - and this is why it was such a relief to see Miliband and Obama drop it - that the name made as much sense as calling it a war on missiles.

Being opposed to terrorism is quite different from announcing that you're at war with it. I guess decents tend to have this problem, an inability to separate disapproving of something from wanting to drop bombs in it.

This is where the smartarse tendency in decency leaves you; thinking you've made a cutting point through semantics while actually revealing how little you know about semantics.

2/27/2009 01:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

It's (f) - an unrepentant opponent of the Iraq war is in the White House, and Norman "why did the left march to save Saddam?" Geras is keen to spin this as something other than a defeat for the ideology that he has spent the last five years promoting.

Of course he did acknowledge a year or two ago that the Iraq war was a failure, but it was the most weaselly concession imaginable, and he has since shifted tack from "why did the left march to save Saddam?" to "why did the left think that opposing the war was the only moral course of action?" as if there was nobody on his side of the argument making the same moral claims for their own point of view (including Geras himself).

2/27/2009 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

"thinking you've made a cutting point through semantics while actually revealing how little you know about semantics."

This is a bit wounding for Decent Norm because pretty much all of the arguments he has ever made on the internet relate to semantics. He hasn't actually, ever, exhibited anything more than a basic knowledge of foreign affairs, even of the countries like Israel and Zimbabwe who he posts lots about. Most of his substantive posts are either windily 'philosophical' or are nit-picking over phraseology.

2/27/2009 03:38:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Most of his substantive posts are either windily 'philosophical' or are nit-picking over phraseology.

In terms of sheer bloody minded pedantry this one takes the biscuit.

There are different rhetorical strategies you can employ to try and win arguments but Norm has a particualrly well developed version of the 'bore your opponent until they lose the will to live and capitulate' technique.

2/27/2009 04:09:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

(f) - an unrepentant opponent of the Iraq war is in the White House, and Norman "why did the left march to save Saddam?" Geras is keen to spin this as something other than a defeat for the ideology that he has spent the last five years promoting.

sums it up pretty well really. and now Obama has set a date for leaving Iraq. whither TWOT inded...

2/27/2009 06:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why continue to promote TWOT? Probably because it's a Republican Party talking point. See something on CiF by a guy called Mackinlay.

2/27/2009 08:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Lobby Ludd said...

"So why are Norman Geras and Aaro so keen to resurrect it (the war on terror)?"

Is it possible that Norm and Aaro cannot admit to being wrong, and especially to being disastrously wrong?

2/27/2009 09:44:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

More Aaronovitch on Dateline London on the BBC News channel.
To be fair and balanced he did manage to point out to that idiot Gavin Esler that as the reactor they've just started up is under Russian control, it doesn't enter the nuclear weapons equation. He did claim that Obama has tacitly admitted that the surge has worked, and suggested that if the Iranians were willing to trade off nuclear weapons status against British nukes they would be serious, but if they insisted on trading off against Israeli nukes they aren't.

2/28/2009 04:05:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

More Aaronovitch on Dateline London on the BBC News channel.
To be fair and balanced he did manage to point out to that idiot Gavin Esler that as the reactor they've just started up is under Russian control, it doesn't enter the nuclear weapons equation. He did claim that Obama has tacitly admitted that the surge has worked, and suggested that if the Iranians were willing to trade off nuclear weapons status against British nukes they would be serious, but if they insisted on trading off against Israeli nukes they aren't.

2/28/2009 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

All the options are really the same - it's pure ressentiment.

Meanwhile, regarding "the surge", the fact that you are now swimming towards the bank does not mean that jumping into the river was a good idea, especially when you spent the intervening period throwing lifebelts back at people on the shore and denying there was any water, and the riverbank is piled high with dead fish.

2/28/2009 09:34:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Also worth noting that the post-"surge" death rate is equal to the death rate in 2004, which at the time was regarded as horrific and unacceptable by those of us who weren't actually denying the facts.

2/28/2009 10:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

And Nick's doing art again. When is he going to realise that the entire point of Hirst's skull was to be (a) sold for £50 million and (b) written about as an object that was sold for £50 million? If Nick really wanted to get up Damien Hirt's nose he'd say it was a well-crafted piece of work, and quite pretty with it.

3/01/2009 11:04:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

As a writer on the Observer, I oppose racism of all kinds. Of course I do. Yet even the most tolerant journalist would be hard-pressed to deny that Bourriaud is the type of French intellectual who makes the English wish the Channel was a thousand miles wide.

another seal of Dacre, or has it gone beyond that now...?

It was only by reading about Almond that I discovered that he had travelled the world to take his pictures from places of “economic, historical and ecological significance”. There was no economic, historical or ecological significance evident in his pictures.

I'm fairly sure his source Julian Stallabrass could put him right on this fundamentla, knuckleheaded misunderstanding of art...

The sight of a watercolour would be far more transgressive.

oh dear. and I'm guessing that nick's offspring could have produced a hirst. etc etc. middle england philistinism in excelsis.

A visit to the near empty galleries at the Tate

again Cohen returns to his ridiculous idea that popular = good...

his decision that there is a difference between public sector and private sector art is just woeful, too.

3/01/2009 12:24:00 PM  
Anonymous dsquared said...

A visit to the near empty galleries at the Tate

I would love to know when Nick Cohen manages to get to Tate Modern when it's empty. Every single time I've been there it's been packed, usually oppressively so.

As with the rest of the public sector, the day of reckoning for public sector art will soon be upon us. Last week, Steve Bundred, chief executive of the Audit Commission, explained that public sector borrowing was heading to Italian levels.

blah blah Italian arts subsidies ... it's not so much the seals of Dacre I'm worried about now as the "Tim Worstall Event Horizon"; the crucial level of middlebrown saloon-boredom after which it is impossible for him to ever get it right, even by accident.

3/01/2009 01:40:00 PM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

haha i know stallabras -- or rather used to long ago, i was at college with him -- and actually it doesn't entirely surprise me that someone would (mis)take the thrust of his critical writing in this fashion: he's one of those folks who opines knowingly on currents in popular culture without actually owning a television...

(that said, he is also smart and interesting and ferociously learned)

3/01/2009 01:50:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I would love to know when Nick Cohen manages to get to Tate Modern when it's empty. Every single time I've been there it's been packed, usually oppressively so.

The exhibition is at Tate Britain which is generally less busy, especially on weekday mornings, and modern art exhibitions in what is generally considered to be the 'old art' museum are notoriously under-attended. I still think that criticising an exhibition for not being very well-attended on the one day you go is pisspoor journalism, but as i said it fits in with nick;s general approach to the arts which is: if something he disapproves of is unpopular then it means it must be crap.

No one is going to pay £50m for a diamond-encrusted skull now. Marxist critic Julian Stallabrass told me he could see the recession destroying the old career structure, in which artists hit on a successful style, usually decorative, and then repeated it ad nauseam to please the paying public.

since the raw materials ofr the skull are still worth around 50mil then why wouldn't people pay that much for it? Of course, that was hirst's point, and Nick still hasn't got it. In any case, Stallabtass's argument works against Nick, because Hirst does not have one single successful style at all, and the skull stands apart from almost everything else he's done.

Just to return to this:

The sight of a watercolour would be far more transgressive.

or, i dunno, a small oil painting? like those of turner-winner tomma Abts? or a nice pot, like those of Grayson Perry? etc etc. the joke's on nick here.

By the way, if you can stomach it, on his blog Nick is actually quoting, er, himself (as Ratbiter) as an authority on libel laws!

3/01/2009 02:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

Nick says: "the pseudo-leftist line of political philosophers Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri that anyone in the postmodern - sorry, Altermodern world who is against America or the West is somehow a radical worthy of support. This thinking dignifies the misogynist, the homophobe, the antisemite, the book burner, the theocrat and the psychopath."

Well, that's just lies! Does Nick feel no compunction at all? And elsewhere in the piece he complains about others' apparent indifference to evidence.

3/01/2009 02:19:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I do like the way that Nick calls other people 'pseudo-leftist' in an act of wilful misunderstanding, on the basis that their thinking 'dignifies the misogynist', and in the same article he is openly racist towards French people.

these lies about Hegri etc are a direct result of nick'a late fatherhood in the digital age. read a review of a book, even a review written by a crank whose hostility is open, and think this counts as having read the book itself... I guess that's slightly better than his approach to Reading Lolita in Tehran...

3/01/2009 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I don't know why you all pick on Nick like this. As he says, a watercolour (or a landscape) would be a real surprise in the Tate. Just imagine if the artist attacked 'political correctness' too and defended his right to smoke! (Pretty transgressive these days.) Still, we all know that you have to go to Eton to get into the Tate, no Northern working-class lads.

Anyway, I don't know what Julian Stallabras told NC, but Hirst's work isn't decorative and Hirst's partron wasn't an 'oligarch' but Charles Saatchi.

3/02/2009 06:36:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

The exhibition is at Tate Britain which is generally less busy

Ahhhh I see. But this is just totally daffy; surely to fuck he can't have gone through the whole of Tate Britain without seeing one watercolour?

3/02/2009 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Actually, creeping Worstallism has indeed set in - I mistakenly took it on faith from Nick that "Altermodern" did in fact get bad reviews. Actually:

"Even as I left the show at the Saatchi Gallery, I knew I wouldn’t feel the need to go back. My experience of the Triennial wasn’t nearly as satisfying, but I’ll return again and again. How’s that for a back-handed compliment? " - Telegraph.

"The show has its longueurs, but it is also the richest and most generous Tate Triennial to date." - Guardian

"It's just as well that this triennial is supposed to be about travelling because I didn't linger long with anything much. The most optimistic message is that artists, fed up with the idea of the brand, the one-liner, the shock factor, appear to be searching for a fresh way forward. The most pessimistic is that they haven'tfound it yet. " - Times (although also described as "all over the place" and two stars out of five, so not a positive review)

"The Tate Triennial, normally a dry-as-a-doughnut survey show of serious British artists or, latterly, artists resident in Britain, has been brilliantly reinvented by the acclaimed French super-curator Bourriaud, who has been working on this exhibition since June 2007" Evening Standard.(Four stars out of five)

"This is all massively engaging, and some of the work in this show is extraordinarily good: Subodh Gupta's giant mushroom cloud of pots and pans, Line of Control, is worth the trip alone. But Altermodern is also hugely selective in the art it showcases, in the history it writes. For a theory that spurns boundaries, Bourriaud's seems strangely boundaried. But it is also, heterochronies apart, a lot of fun." - Independent.


Added to that, the quotes he drags out have never appeared "in the pages of Frieze magazine" - they appeared on the editors' blog, in an article that's completely traduced.

3/02/2009 08:32:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Heterochrony

3/02/2009 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Sonic said...

I know this is OT, but it is perhaps the most insane piece ever written

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1158337/MELANIE-PHILLIPS-Yes-Big-Brother-Britain-menace-The-irony-civil-liberties-lobby-blame.html

3/02/2009 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger frunobulax said...

For those that missed it, HQ (4GB) DVD version here:

http://www.archive.org/details/ThePowerOfNightmaresDVD

3/02/2009 01:29:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

I know this is OT, but it is perhaps the most insane piece ever written

Ha, you think THAT is insanity on the subject of civil liberties? I've been arguing about civil liberties at HP (whywhywhywhywhy do I do that?)

3/02/2009 04:44:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Mind you, fair dues - that is batshit insane.

3/02/2009 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

It is a struggle to read, but is Mel arguing that by giving brown people rights we have, by some strange logic, diminished the rights enjoyed by the rest?

3/02/2009 04:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

It's more that there are good people and bad people, and the law (in Mel's world) unfailingly acts to constrain the good people and empower the bad people. So there are rights (which are good things, and are therefore granted by a good government to its good subjects) and then there are {rights} (which are granted by judges, and are therefore granted to bad people). So we (the good people who read the Mail) had more rights when nobody had any {rights}.

It's a bit weird. I think it started out as a faint, distorted echo of David Davis's argument for ancestral common law liberties and against the state-backed 'human rights' approach, but she can't use that argument because (a) she's got Davis down as one of the 'human rights' baddies and (b) she's actually all in favour of the state, rather than the courts, granting and withholding rights. (And possibly (c) because she hasn't understood it.)

3/02/2009 05:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Al said...

Along with Aaros piece in the Times on Saturday, there have also been a spate of pro-ID Card posts on HP recently...

There is probably an article to be written by a better man than me on the Decents' rather flimsy attachment to civil liberties.

"liedwo" was the verification code :)

3/03/2009 01:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What was Aaro's piece in The Times on Saturday? Is it the one referred to on Liberal Conspiracy (the "Why was Philip Pullman's articel pulled?" thread)? Can it be seen anywhere on the web?

Moussaka Man

3/03/2009 09:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Al said...

The article was in one of the supplements. It was about the Liberty convention that Henry Porter et al have been promoting in the Guardian. He re-used his argument that ID Cards and a full national DNA database was a good idea, since we would all be equal in the eyes of the state, or some such shit. I still have the paper -I will look in more detail when I get home. It doesn't appear to be online.

I see he is writing about CCTV cameras today. I wonder if there is some big push in the offing to get these measures through before the election. Why else would Aaro and HP be bringing them up at this particular point?

3/03/2009 09:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Al said...

And yes, it is the one referred to on Liberal Conspiracy. If no-one else is able to find it online, I will type it up on here - it isn't a massive piece.

3/03/2009 09:38:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

But this is just totally daffy; surely to fuck he can't have gone through the whole of Tate Britain without seeing one watercolour?

indeed, and one of the main reasons for holding modern art exhibitions in the Tate Britain is that it gives people the opportunity to almost immediately compare contemporary art with something like a turner or a Pre-Raphaelite painting.

What is most frustrating about Nick's writings on the arts in general is that, with the exception of a couple of middle-class TV favourites (Time team and Little Dorrit), he doesn't actually seem to like any art at all.

The suggestion that 'a watercolour would be truly radical' would have more legs if he actually mentioned a contemporary painter of watercolours. Putting any old watercolour in would be exactly the kind of curatorial, postmodern gimmick Nick is meant to deplore. Similarly his idea as voiced a few months ago in St*ndpoint that no contemporary novelists write about money is utterly laughable. It'd be easier to take him seriously if he showed any sign of thinking about the arts with an open mind, instead of letting his pre-prepared prejudices guide him.

His problem on the arts is really evident in the recent piece - he takes a soundbite, or fragments of a half-remembered conversation with an expert, and then thinks that this counts as evidence. If you read Stallabrass's books you can see that he's in no way as dismissive of contemporary art as Nick is alleging, and in any case the discussion of the decorative arts Nick alludes to is obviously not to do with Damien Hirst, who is not a decorative artist and has no one recognisable signature style...

3/03/2009 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

I notice Aaro's piece today is an investigation into whether the old "Average person is snapped by 300 CCTV cameras a day" nugget is literally true, or whether it's just a myth people pull out of their backsides to suit their arguments.

Good work, that lad. I like to see him in full crusader-for-truth mode.

Hopefully next week he'll turn his investigative eye to well-worn old saws like "The Left marched in support of fascism" or "The surge worked" with similar critical insight.

3/03/2009 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

He re-used his argument that ID Cards and a full national DNA database was a good idea, since we would all be equal in the eyes of the state, or some such shit

This reminds me of the deluded US diplomat in Neil Sheehan's A Bright Shining Lie saying that the Vietnamese peasantry think being made to carry ID cards "is the best thing since canned beer because it shows the government has an interest in them".

In fact, come to think of it, pretty much my entire blog career is founded on that book. Rather like Sheehan and Halberstam's reputations were founded on the unattributable briefings John Vann fed them. Just it never offered to lend me its mistress, or its helicopter. We live in fallen times.

If I hadn't read it, who knows? Perhaps I'd be on the other side.

3/03/2009 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

The number of times that the Obama administration have been referred to as "the best and the brightest", and it still makes me smile every time.

3/03/2009 05:51:00 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

Bruschettaboy:


"The incoming Obama administration decided, almost certainly correctly, that the stupid bellicose rhetoric was totally counterproductive and therefore dropped it forthwith. A very sensible decision, I think we can all agree."

I'm not sure what you're referring to here, that is I don't know what the Obama administration "dropped forthwith," nor when nor how nor for what reasons they dropped it. I assume this has something to do with the "War on Terror(ism)." What did you base your what you wrote (above) on? Did the Obama admin make a statement? Do you have a link to an article about whatever it is happened?

I'm in the US and have a keen interest in this subject matter, but I must have missed this development entirely. I'd be very much obliged for any tips (from you or anyone) that would put me on the track (the path of enlightenment, if you will) of whatever you're taking about.

Thank you in advance for your assistance in this matter.

All the best,

Tom Doyle

3/04/2009 01:22:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Tom:

Here you go although do please be aware that I'm not going to let this turn into an open-ended promise to read your newspapers for you.

3/04/2009 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Thomas said...

Here you go although do please be aware that I'm not going to let this turn into an open-ended promise to read your newspapers for you.

BB, thanks for responding to my inquiry. Your concerns about "an open-ended promise to read [my] newspapers for [me]" are noted. I assure you that in my view, our exchange did not contitute such a promise, or otherwise impose such an obligation on you, nor would it have had you not explictly disclaimed it.

You wrote:
"The incoming Obama administration decided, almost certainly correctly, that the stupid bellicose rhetoric was totally counterproductive and therefore dropped it forthwith. A very sensible decision, I think we can all agree."

I asked:
"I'm not sure what you're referring to...I don't know what the Obama administration "dropped forthwith," nor when nor how nor for what reasons they dropped it. ...What did you base your what you wrote (above) on? Did the Obama admin make a statement? Do you have a link to an article about whatever it is happened? I'm in the US ... but I must have missed this development entirely."

Your reply identified an Associated Press article "Under Obama, 'War on Terror' Phrase Fading." (Feb. 1, 2009). It begins: ""The "War on Terror" is losing the war of words. The catchphrase burned into the American lexicon hours after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is fading away, slowly if not deliberately being replaced by a new administration bent on repairing the U.S. image among Muslim nations."

Regarding my uncertainty about "what you're referring to:" The AP piece discussion of the "War on Terror" addresses only its rhetorical dimension, that is, its utterance in speech, and I understand your statement to refer to that, which dispells my incertainty.

Having carefully read the article you provided, on my opinion it does not support, but rather contradicts your statement. The text includes three related factual assertions: 1.)That the Obama admin. made a decision; 2.) that it decided "the stupid bellicose rhetoric was totally counterproductive." 3.) based on the decision, it "dropped it forthwith."

The article reported that Obama had uttered the infamous "War on Terror" phrase only once (as of Feb. 1, 2009) since his Innaguration.

"Speaking at the State Department on Jan. 22, Obama told his diplomatic corps, "We are confronted by extraordinary, complex and interconnected global challenges: war on terror, sectarian division and the spread of deadly technology. We did not ask for the burden that history has asked us to bear, but Americans will bear it. We must bear it." "

There is also this:

"White House officials say there has been no deliberate ban on the war-on-terror phrase. And it hasn't completely disappeared. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has used the wording in briefings, and it's still in vogue among some in the Pentagon and State Department. Asked about Obama's avoidance of the phrase, Gibbs said the president's language is "consistent with what he said in his inaugural address on the 20th. I'm not aware of any larger charges than that." "

The paragraph above includes the article's only statements by Obama administration officials about administration policy, and policy formation, judgements, and implementation on the subject of rhetorical utterances of the "war on terror" phrase. "No deliberate ban" on the phrase" according to unamed White House officials. The Admintration press secretary is "not aware of any larger charges than that."

BB, the administration never announced any decision such as you attributed to it, and officials deny anything like that has happened. The press secretary uses the wot term, as do State Department and Pentagon officials. And as did Obama two days into his adminstration in his first address to the diplomatic corps.

I would prefer it if something like you described had happened. Moreover, the rhetoric promoted legal and policy moves which are currently in effect. I think Obama should repudiate the concept in all its iterations, publicly, explicitly and unambiguously. That would put him in a better position to demolish the reality, as Bush's wot rhetoric put him in a position to construct the reality he did.

I'm not criticising Obama for not doing this. I'm inclined to criticize him for a number of things, but that isn't the point of this comment. He's doing many positive things, but that's also beyond the scope of my comment.

I was more active campaigning for Obama than in any other presidential election. I worked in several states in addition to my own, for the first time, and attended the innauguration. Though Obama's actions frequently diverge from my preferences, I don't regret any of my efforts in the campaign.

All the best,
Tom Doyle

3/06/2009 03:33:00 PM  

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