Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"But he is simply unwilling to let his favourite rant risk contamination by anything resembling a fact"

Sunder Katwala, general secretary of the Fabian Society, points out at some length that Nick has been talking out of his arse.

51 Comments:

Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I said on the thread a couple down from this one that Nick's piece was pretty clearly a policy exchange puff-piece and he makes that even clearer on his blog (while spelling the author of this 'brilliant' report's name wrong).

I'm also far from convinced that Ayaan Hirsi Ali should be embraced as someone who can do no wrong. One can express sympathy with her persecution while at the same time disagreeing with many of her outright objectionable opinions - she is pretty obviously right-wing in her politics and the neocons are actually her natural allies, no matter what Nick might think about 'the left letting her down'. In fact the Decent idea that she is incapable of being wrong seems borne of their 'if you're gay you must be left-wing and have right-on opinions' approach to everything. The first post on her blog is a link to 'Obsession', a deeply dubious piece of islamophobic scaremongering.

I'm surprised it's taken so long for one of the organisations Cohen routinely smears to post such a rebuttal but it's still very good.

3/17/2009 08:07:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

Well, she actually works for AEI, so quite literally on the payroll.

3/18/2009 12:27:00 AM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

I remember when Ian McKellen took his knighthood, a lot of gay activists were bemused and even angry. But the thing was, no matter how strong he was on gay rights, McKellen had never claimed to be any sort of Bolshevik and there was no reason to think that, because he was gay, you could deduce anything about his opinions on other issues. I think this is the sort of problem Nick encounters with Hirsi Ali, who may be a woman of great courage but isn't exactly a liberal.

Anyway, surely Nick is on thin ice with this "Who speaks for liberal Muslims?" stuff, since only a little while he was frenetically bigging up Hassan Butt. Poor old Hassan, darling of Decency, now disappeared down the memory hole.

3/18/2009 08:44:00 AM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

Oh, and BTW: Nick's listing Mike Burleigh under his "comrades" rubric? Lordy.

3/18/2009 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Would that be this chap?

I rather liked

on much of the Continent they don't allow civil liberty lawyers to turn terrorism into a risk-free activity.

When the Socialist Interior Minister of Spain organised a campaign of assassinating Eta terrorists across the border in France during the 1990s, he was following in the footsteps of French governments that had routinely killed FLN and OAS arms traders in the 1960s


regarding which passage I'll allow somebody else to discuss the French end, but you'll note that he forgets to mention that the policy was discarded, discredited and a number of the people involved sent to prison.

The Times publishes some dreadful stuff, doesn't it?

3/18/2009 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I find it pretty funny how Decents (and their right-wing 'comrades') seem to think that soundbites are what's important in politics and TGISOOT. another howler from that times piece, for example:

The former German Interior Minister, Otto Schily, once a lawyer for Baader-Meinhof defendants, cryptically remarked of the jihadis: “Those who love death can have it.”

Not in Germany though, as it does not have the death penalty. And this bloke used to be a historian?

Similarly, Nick in his Sunday column says that Hazel Blears has proved how anti-fascist she is; but this proof is exclusively located in one recent speech which nobody paid any attention to other than HP Sauce - in fact the speech seems to have been specifically designed to generate Decent column inches. considering that she's still a New Labour minister and so must bear some responsibility for the 'pro-fascist' policies of Brown and Straw it's hard to see what being anti-fascist actually means for Nick.

given his newfound love of Blears and his own actions, it must mean ranting in an ill-focused and irrational manner about Muslims, while doing precisely fuck all, either in terms of thinking rationally or in terms of, you know, getting off your arse.

3/18/2009 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Nick has responded to Sunder's challenge "to show me when we have platformed anybody who could sensibly be regarded as an anti-democrat" by finding an occasion when a different group gave a platform to a Fabian, who is then misidentified as the chief executive of the Society (he is the chair of the executive committee, which doesn't seem to me to be the same thing at all).

(Still: this wasn't quite what I expected -- I thought he would go off on a rant about Tariq Ramadan.)

3/18/2009 11:58:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

It's the 'I rest my case' that's so damning.

3/18/2009 12:23:00 PM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

It really is through the looking glass, isn't it? Everything must be viewed through the prism of TGISOOT. So Blears, just about the most illiberal minister in the present government, is a defender of liberalism since she's tough on brown people with funny religions. Burleigh is on record as castigating the entire Enlightenment project, but I suppose Nick reckons him a defender of Enlightenment values because he's sound on the Mooslims.

3/18/2009 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Williams said...

There's a lovely little Surbiton Segue by NC in his second paragraph. He's defending himself against the charge that he has libelled the Fabian Society. So naturally he needs to write in response to the actions of:

"the Fabians or others on the left"

This allows him to import some froth by Amis, thus getting a bit of sand-in-the-face before the piece de resistance is wheeled out, there to die on its arse.

Nick, love, this kind of thing works for Mad Mel, and it works at the Place, but some of us (Katwala included) can read. Have you considered accountancy?

3/18/2009 12:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Chris Baldwin said...

Ouch, that's gotta hurt!

3/18/2009 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I can't quite get my head round the utter lameness of Cohen's response.

3/18/2009 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

One is reminded of the last time David Toube helped out a prominent Decent journalist, and Aaro was left apologising for libelling someone as an anti-semited, because they happened to share the same name as one.

3/18/2009 03:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Splinty - I'm sincerely flattered!

What strikes me about Nick's response is that he's conflated "not doing anything" with "not doing every specific thing I can think of, however unlikely" (e.g. attending a conference as invited speaker and denouncing half the other speakers). Which is a good move for the purposes of picking fights and issuing anathemata, but sod-all use for actually discussing anything with anyone. And - unless he's extraordinarily dishonest - he's made that move unconsciously, without even knowing he's doing it: he really seems to think he's made a telling reply. It's quite sad, really - Decency as Brain Eater.

3/18/2009 03:33:00 PM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

Well, a good quip is a quip worth nicking...

Sometimes I think we should start a campaign to bring back the real Nick Cohen - perhaps Justin Lee Collins could help out. I wouldn't mind nearly so much if he was putting across views I disagree with in an intelligent way, but this latest is really the rhetorical equivalent of "Did you spill my pint?"

Verification code "bulls" - so nearly...

3/18/2009 03:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick's complaint about betrayal seems a little double edged to me. He claims that "Last year in London there was the modern equivalent of a Mosleyite rally, the Global Peace & Unity conference.", Now I don't remember Nick organising a demo outside , or even mention the event in his many columns. So either Nick just let an =Mosely Rally to take place in his city, without lifting a finger, or he doesn't really believe this was the equivalent of Mosely at Olympia. You can see David T [heart] Nick, and vice versa, in the current awful Ratbiter peice in the Eye

3/18/2009 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Williams said...

Perhaps we could hijack the Decent Tardis, take it back to 2000, kidnap the NC with a brain, and take him to the future? Let him know that after Sept 11 much of the world, including some otherwise sensible people (ie him) went a bit mad, but many of them are over it now. With luck, the NC of OTL will simply vanish in a paradox-fuelled puff of smoke.

PS Is Toube a charismatic guy in person? Perhaps Nick is simply a sucker for the people he goes drinking with.

3/18/2009 04:26:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

This 'Mosleyite' thing is just bollocks isn't it? Some of the speakers have said dodgy stuff elsewhere, that's about it really. Nick didn't mention it at all in his journalism at the time which rather puts the 'I am an heroic anti-fascist' stuff to bed.

and look - what's this?

Message from Mayor Boris Johnson

Statement of support for the Global Peace and Unity Event

I am delighted to send a message of support to the organizers and attendees at the Global Peace and Unity event. This hugely significant event in London does much to promote global cohesion across all communities; it increases understanding and encourages dialogue throughout the Muslim community and beyond.

I am intensely proud of being the Mayor of a city which has such a rich diversity with communities from across the globe choosing to settle here, and one which encourages all in society to participate economically, democratically and culturally at all levels. Our diversity is our biggest asset.

The Muslim community is hugely varied. In many ways it represents everything that is special about London: vibrant, engaged, tolerant and dynamic. The community has played a hugely significant part in the social, cultural and economic affairs of this city and I hope that under my Mayoralty this continues.

I hope many of you were able to enjoy the Eid celebrations in Trafalgar Square, when Londoners celebrated after the holy month of fasting, Ramadan.

My best wishes once again and I hope this event is a huge success.

Boris Johnson
Mayor of London


these bloody mosleyites are everywhere aren't they? Or just maybe Nick Cohen has stopped reading anything other than HP Sauce... the post on his blog is pretty much a direct copy and paste from there. nutjob apocalyptic tone and all...

3/18/2009 04:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Mister T is almost as charismatic as Oliver Kamm.

3/18/2009 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

And Sunder Katwala replies to Nick's reply...

(Verification: lardlamp)

3/18/2009 08:14:00 PM  
Blogger Sangiovese Fellow said...

Nice couple of pieces by Sunder Katwala, and I agree with OC that it's high time an organisation blew the whistle on this drivel. As for Nick, oh dearie me... Utterly atrocious! He has become the Jacques Cousteau of Decency: every time you think that he can't possibly find a lower or more implausible depth to plumb, he somehow finds a way to do so. Though of course Cousteau was an environmentalist and had a brother with fascist sympathies, so I expect Nick would maintain that nobody should ever watch the French diver's films or use his underwater inventions.

Tom Lehrer was fond of saying that he gave up satire the day after Henry Kissinger received the Nobel Peace Prize for bombing Cambodia. I wonder if anyone - maybe Malky Muscular? - can think of a criterion or set of criteria that could be used to mark the point at which Decents finally move beyond parody?

3/18/2009 09:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Der Bruno Stroszek said...

I don't know - about the most ridiculous thing I can think of any Decent doing is allowing their contempt for brown people to send them into the arms of David Horowitz or Jonah Goldberg, which has, er, happened. I don't think they can get sillier or more irrelevant, although I'd love to see them try.

Couple of interesting things in this week's Private Eye, other than Ratbiter's latest (David T-namechecking!) incoherent rant: there's a hatchet piece in Books & Bookmen against Sense About Science, which I understand is made up largely of former Living Marxism folk, the Decents' old enemies. It really is incredible how much of British commentary is now ruled by feuds between former members of obscure nutball Marxist factions from the mid-90s; I'm tempted to ask for another McCarthy to thin out their ranks a little.

There's also a cartoon on page 31 which, unless I've misread it, relies on its humour on the understanding that Labour and its current policies cannot be considered left-wing in any way at all. I'm tempted to cut it out and mail it to Nick, in the vain hope that he might understand this point before embarking on his next 'book'.

3/19/2009 07:37:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Kamm has weighed in, in a quite frankly baffling manner. An incoherent diatribe against 'terrorism appeasement' that only appears in Kamm's head, and then a bunch of personal reminnscence guff.

http://timesonline.typepad.com/oliver_kamm/2009/03/where-fabians-s.html

Do Cohen and Kamm really not notice that they're ducking every single point made by Katwala - and in the process proving most of what he's said about Cohen's approach to 'journalism'?

The Ratbiter piece is not even journalism, it's jsut a copy and paste of a typical HP rant against muslims. In fact the entire issue of the Eye is the pits this week - the book review says 'artists are arseholes' as if that's a deeply perceptive point... and as for the crap about Comic Relief...

3/19/2009 08:52:00 AM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

The letter insinuated, without quite having the gumption to state openly, that in forming foreign policy and making alliances, our country gets what's coming to it.

Isn't this a summary of so much that is wrong about Decency? Reading what wasn't said. Linking this "reading" to badness.

Isn't the attack on the Fabians just another example of neo-con strategy? By "discrediting" the marginally-left, they attempt to move the debating ground to the right (and claim that this ground is the "real left").

3/19/2009 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Sunny Hundal weighs in.

3/19/2009 09:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if anyone - maybe Malky Muscular? - can think of a criterion or set of criteria that could be used to mark the point at which Decents finally move beyond parody?

This site does have 'The Seals of Dacre' (use a phrase search for details)

[redpesto]

3/19/2009 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

There can't be enough hatchet jobs on "Sense about Science". They are a pretty dangerous, and under the radar, organisation. For example, they organise workshops for PhD students at universities; yet they were founded by LM types who deny global warming, smoking is harmful, etc, etc.

If the Decents were half way as capable as the LM crowd then they'd be dangerous. As it is...

3/19/2009 10:31:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Nick has another response up and it's equally amusing - he's now trying to claim that, actually, he wasn't talking about the Fabians at all, and as such Sunder shouldn't even have complained. But if you but Nick's old and new books you can see thw liberal-left (which presumably doesn't include the Fabians any more) appeases terrorists blah blah blah blah...

Also HP Sauce has a quite brilliant piece on Seumas Milne today in which Seumas Milne is accused of loving al Qaeda on the evidence of - er - an HP poster managing to mistake someone Iraqi named Abu Yahya for someone Libyan, parts of whose name sound similar but seems to in fact be a completely different person...

3/19/2009 11:26:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Nick's response:

This brief mention provoked thunderbolts of rage from the normally placid Fabians. In both What’s Left? and in the essays in Waiting for the Etonians I emphasise that the betrayals of our time do not come solely from the brutes on the far left but the liberal mainstream too. As I know from confrontations with screaming BBC producers, such assertions provoke fury - a fury the Fabians now share.

Let us hope that their wild anger is also a sign of a guilty conscience and of a resolve to behave better in future.


Is it me or is this playground stuff from Cohen and Kamm getting quite embarrassing?

3/19/2009 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

And let's just stick in a link to Nick's latest contribution, for the sake of completeness.

3/19/2009 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not sure that "In fact the entire issue of the Eye is the pits this week" is fair. Does this include almost a full page about some lefty trade unionist being got at by a werid mix of labour loyalists and bnp types ? Or their stuff on Dacre avoiding tax (part of their long running thing on tax avoidance, which has now gone pretty mainstream) Or the thing on the man behind the post office privatisation making a mess of an earlier privatisation type thing ? Or any of the other articles (including MD being quite sympathetic to complementary medicine, presumably to Ratbiters annoyance ). Maybe you should write in to point out that David Toube is not just someone who "investigates islamist extremism" but is also someone who runs a website that thinks the head of Christian CND is an anti semite, that Arabs lie because it is inherent in their language, that assassinating Arafat would have been a jolly good idea etc. I usually get a reply to my letters, so I think they have an effect.

3/19/2009 11:57:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

yeah maybe not the whole issue!

3/19/2009 12:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Odd that Nick makes a big thing out of Sunder Katwala's rage and fury, when (a) the most Katwala displayed was a certain exasperation and (b) Nick's just quoted Ed Hussain (approvingly) as 'furious', 'thundering', etc. And I'm actually a bit surprised to see Nick endorsing Kamm's bizarre reading of that letter - I think he really has gone.

3/19/2009 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Nick has now joined in the thread at Liberal Conspiracy. "And you all run around screaming with demented rage", he writes. "Sit down and have a nice cup of tea, dear."

3/19/2009 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

(In fact, Nick liked his comment so much he posted it twice, once at Next Left, and once at Liberal Conspiracy.)

3/19/2009 12:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick seems to be going plural when he should be singular as well. He claims.

"I go through a list of feminists, Bengali socialists and British liberals who are disillusioned by the failure of the Labour government to stand by them rather than their enemies"
but by my count he only mustered one Bengali Socialist - Ansar Ullah, who is perfectly genuine but a pretty minor figure - he isn't even a Labour councillor - one 'feminist' - Hirsi Ali, who can't be that disappointed in the Labour government, surely. He did get two "liberals", but they are Shiraz Maher and Ed Husain, who only became liberal fairly recently, and don't seem to really have the hang of being liberal.

3/19/2009 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Ding, ding! Round three begins, with a new post from Sunder, which mentions Aaronovitch Watch, which is nice of him.

Sunder - if you're there: we used to be "Aaronovitch Watch (incorporating Nick Cohen Watch)", but we couldn't face the day-to-day grind of Watching Nick when it became quite so clear that there wasn't much worth watching, so we changed the subtitle to the broader "(incorporating World of Decency)" a while ago, while still reserving the right to Watch Nick on a strictly part-time basis. Especially on occasions like this, when it is quite so funny.

3/19/2009 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

(Sunder is, however, beginning a classic Will-You-Condemn-A-Thon with his most recent post, which isn't necessarily what the world needs right now.)

3/19/2009 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger Sunder Katwala said...

The call to condemn Boris, the Spectator and the Henley regatta was intended as satire.

however, if that isn't understood, I appreciate that a thundering Cohen Standard piece against the regatta could prove problematic for the integration we need.

3/19/2009 03:01:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

It's pretty clear it's satire - don't worry... You could also add that Cohen has a chequered record on 'engaging eith former extremists' since he unreservedly parised Hassan Butt not that long ago...

3/19/2009 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Alright. You're right. Apologies.

CCK [Fabian since 1993, I think, and probably the first direct debit I ever signed]

3/19/2009 03:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Der Bruno Stroszek said...

I think the problem with having Nick churn out so much at the Eye is that it makes them hypocrites; Street of Shame chuckles at bad journalism, the toothlessness of the PCC and hidden backslapping/nepotism without mentioning that the writer of this feature is friends with another writer who is allowed to commandeer occasional columns to pursue his own personal hobby-horses, then, when they inevitably turn out to be total balls (as with Hassan Butt, MMR, Policy Exchange vs the BBC etc) they simply vanish from the magazine's pages and are never spoken of again. Like Sander said, they're memory-holed... It makes all that scoffing about tiny apologies on page 94 for inaccurate front-page stories look like a mote-beam situation.

3/20/2009 08:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dunno bout you lot, but I've stopped buying the Eye (after missing maybe ten issues in about 15 years) recently, largely because I resent putting money into Nick's pocket. This is a tad inconsistent, I grant you, since I never got annoyed at giving money to that really fucking stupid iteration of Muckspreader that they had on during the foot'n'mouth. But such is life.

3/20/2009 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I think there is a need for a Decentpedia on the Kamm Patriot Missile, which is launched by Nick Cohen from time to time (quite frequently recently) in an attempt to shoot down his enemies rocket attacks, often failing and causing even more damage.

3/20/2009 02:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

extract from Khan: "The debacle of Iraq and now the failure to do more to secure an immediate end to the attacks on civilians in the Middle East not only increases the risk to ordinary people in that region, it is also ammunition to extremists who threaten us all.

Edited out by Kamm: Attacking civilians is never justified. This message is a global one. We urge the Prime Minister to redouble his efforts to tackle terror and extremism and change our foreign policy to show the world that we value the lives of civilians wherever they live and whatever their religion."

Kamm: The letter insinuated, without quite having the gumption to state openly, that in forming foreign policy and making alliances, our country gets what's coming to it."

That would be a blatant lie then.

3/20/2009 05:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Der Bruno Stroszek said...

Yes, that's staggeringly dishonest. It's a miracle that Kamm and Cohen haven't been called out by any of the people they blithely slander before this, but now they have it's intensely gratifying.

Also, Cohen's quite happy to excuse terrorists when it suits one of his causes. In his column about Hassan Butt being arrested in connection with 7/7 Nick basically said that the persecution of this brave free speech martyr would surely increase divisions between the West and the Muslim world and foster extremism.

Reading between the lines (ie. making stuff up out of whole cloth but pretending I still hold the moral high ground), this means that if there was a terrorist attack during the time period when Hassan was being questioned, Nick would consider that entirely justified, and would in fact put himself forward as a potential suicide bomber for the next one, due to his deep-rooted hatred for Western civilisation and Enlightenment values.

Oh wait, I forgot, this sort of nasty crap is only allowed for Decents.

3/20/2009 07:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's quite amazing how cohen just refuses to engage with anything Katwala says -- and then claims that he never really accused the Fabians of anything in the first place.

3/21/2009 12:19:00 AM  
Blogger StuartA said...

Entirely irrelevant, but I did find it amusing that HP was carrying one of their typically high quality "Your View" pieces complaining that some unheard of evangelical publication "has allowed various antisemitic and anti-Zionist motifs to be openly eschewed in its pages."

3/21/2009 01:32:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

The first two comments on that post add to the fun. (Or spoil it, according to taste.)

3/21/2009 07:38:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

As I know from confrontations with screaming BBC producers, such assertions provoke fury

If Nick really wants a discussion of the subject of "mild assertion" provoking "screaming fury" in the modern UK media industry, I can supply a number of anecdotes of some truly extraordinary and unacceptable behaviour. But does he really want to go there? Nick is absolutely famous for his spittle-flecked screamy fits. This is mote-and-beam territory at its most pathological.

In any case, I have a real problem with this "oooh, calm down dear" shit. He accused Sunder's organisation of being dishonest hypocrites in league with fascism. What did he fucking expect, a thank you letter?

3/21/2009 04:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Chris Baldwin said...

Check this out:

http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/3823

3/22/2009 03:23:00 PM  

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