Thursday, March 26, 2009

Robbing the Grave of Poor Orwell

The story so far ... As I noted in the update to an earlier post, Martin Bright has come out for Nick Cohen. Prior to that, Harry's Place may have had a scoop with Did Gordon Brown Try to get Martin Bright Sacked? (Answer: it's not impossible. I find Chris Mullin's allegations regarding GB's state of mind really quite plausible.)

Nick's own blog promoted his appearance at the Orwell prize debate.

And now (thanks to an anonymous commentator), Chaos on the Animal Farm reports Londoner's Diary in the Evening Standard.

"This evening is a disgrace," Cohen railed, accusing Gordon Brown of getting the New Statesman's former political editor Martin Bright, who was on the longlist, sacked. "To say that Martin Bright, who has been fired by the government, is not worthy of making the shortlist! The PM sacks Martin Bright for doing a programme about Ken Livingstone - exposing his links to a fascist organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood. How dare Peter Hitchens be nominated for the Orwell Prize by all these scummy, useless old people? Don't rob the grave of poor Orwell."


Bright was longlisted for his journalism, which included the Dispatches programme. I feel a twinge of sympathy, but this is all horribly entertaining stuff.

100 Comments:

Blogger rioja kid said...

Interesting that they's taking in so much of each others washing. if they didn;t generate these controversies and leap to each others defence would anyone care much about what they have to say?

3/26/2009 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I've terribly concerned that people might try to get a journalist sacked and I am glad that HP feel strongly on the subject....


....oh, hang on...

3/26/2009 07:36:00 PM  
Blogger StuartA said...

Don't rob the grave of poor Orwell.

I think they already did that last year when they shortlisted What's Left?.

3/26/2009 08:37:00 PM  
Blogger Sangiovese Fellow said...

Ah, so now Nick's an Orwell enthusiast again. Nick's always idealised Orwell of course, except when Johann Hari pointed out that he idealised Orwell, when of course he didn't, until the next time that it suited him to do so, when he did... Repeat after me, Nick: "Oceania is at war with Eurasia, Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia..."

3/26/2009 08:49:00 PM  
OpenID hardindr said...

Patrick Cockburn should win, hands down.

3/27/2009 01:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Pär said...

is there a newspeak-award? im thinking 'left-liberal','fascist', and 'anti-americanism'...

3/27/2009 01:29:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

What are Nick's views on anti-Americanism?

3/27/2009 08:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick is at war with Antiamerica. Nick has always been at war with Antiamerica.

Chris Williams

3/27/2009 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger rioja kid said...

Oh my giddy aunt...

http://www.labourlist.org/tired_and_emotional_orwell_prize_shortlist_debate

3/27/2009 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Or rather

3/27/2009 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Please don't tell me that Alix Mortimer isn't going to win anything with her hysterical, prolix and dishonest student-paper blog. Dear God.

3/27/2009 12:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick's performance is here:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRo8g6g-4sY&feature=channel_page

3/27/2009 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

I like his confusion about a minute and a half in as to whether it should be Combat 18 or 88, neatly setting up an association between this lot and the fascists.

3/27/2009 02:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be fair to the ranting numptie - there was a neofash outfit called Column 88 once upon a time, which he'd have heard of when he was a leftie. Perhaps he was getting confused with them.

Chris Williams

3/27/2009 02:52:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

I am very impressed that Donald MacIntyre has managed to be in the running for both the Orwell Prize and Dancing on Ice in the same year.

3/27/2009 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Oh dear god, that youtube is as embarassing as you can get.

3/27/2009 03:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave Weeden said...

Well, Orwell was an early advocate of popular culture crit. The game of 'Orwell would have liked this but he would have hated that' (which Nick and others play all the time) is pointless. One of the likeable things about GO is that he changed his mind quite a bit. At some time or other, he probably hated just about everything, including warm beer, long shadows on cricket grounds, etc.

That LabourList post is great fun, isn't it? There's the problem with NC: I'm on his side when it comes to the argument with Frank Field.

Cohen continues to criticise the prize for fifteen minutes and is eventually stopped short by a ‘point of order', which is met with applause.

Ouch.

He [NC] says that he has come to like Alistair Darling.

I thought this was true of the media generally. I get the impression that AD has waged a very successful charm offensive. Brown hoped to use him as a scapegoat, but all the stuff I've read about Darling carries a note of "he's a decent guy, and he doesn't deserve all this shit ... Brown OTOH...".

Missing this sort of debate is a very good reason for not living in London. Can't these people just throw shoes at one another or something? Even if Nick was, as Peter Hitchens alleged, in no fit state to address the House of Commons (hat tip: Clare Short), he's still less of a tosser than Douglas Murray. (Can he really have said, "some people are fat, therefore everyone is fat, and we're doomed"?)

3/27/2009 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave Weeden said...

The first para above was a reference to 'Dancing on Ice' rather than the video.

That video... wow.

3/27/2009 03:36:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

It's a 'drunk post deleted', isn't it? I feel a bit sorry for Nick there, someone should have just suggested he go home. I hope it doesn't go viral, so to speak.

3/27/2009 03:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave Weeden said...

I feel sorry for him too. Peter Hitchens does suggest that he [NC] goes home, doesn't he? He needs some mates to tell him not to get on a stage with a bottle of wine like that.

Mind you, if Standpoint took up video interviews, Nick cross-examining Tracey Emin would deserve to go viral.

Word verification: bratood - a garment worn by Chas Newkey-Burden. (Possibly temporary skin transfers for small kids.)

3/27/2009 05:37:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Two pints good, four pints better.

3/27/2009 06:29:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

oh shit fuck that video ... we can't link to it from a front page post, can we? It is, as Matthew says, the most embarrassing thing there has ever been.

3/27/2009 11:36:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I'm in two minds. One the one hand Nick has not shown any restraint in making unpleasant attacks on people, so let him have it. But on the other...it's so embarassing, I feel really sorry for him. Not even Oliver could rescue him from this one. I mean it was in front of about every journalist in London.

3/27/2009 11:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

Yeah, I'm of the opinion that too much emphasis on Nick's tired and emotionalism here would be playing the ball, not the man. And we've all talked shite when pissed.

Uncle 'the dude' Hitch can definetly hold his booze better, though.

3/27/2009 11:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

... 'playing the man, not the ball'. Pech! It's the drink talking.

Rather nicely,word verification is 'cur kick'!

3/28/2009 12:00:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

It's strange though, I did not think in my lifetime I would see something more embarassing that Michael J Totten's 'When I met Christopher Hitchens'. And then I did.

But yes, I think probably it's best filed under 'but there for the grace of God'.

3/28/2009 12:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

Ah,Totten ... !

One of the highlights of my life.

3/28/2009 12:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely the most shocking aspect of the whole affair is the mediocrity of all the writers on the Orwell shortlist. If Catherine Bennett, 'Bonkers' Hitchens and Iain Dale are considered some of our finest political journalists then God help us.

Is this really the best we can do?

3/28/2009 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Oborne's a bit better than them, regardless of whether I like him or not. Though in saying so I'm going by his D'Olivera book, which might be considered old news by now.

3/28/2009 09:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Simon said...

I disagree with the consensus. Nick isn't just ranting in a pub here, he's speaking on a stage, in public, in front of an audience who have presumably turned out in expectation of an interesting discussion (perhaps optimistically with that panel, but still).

He ought to be conducting himself with a modicum of dignity in that context. Turning up drunk and having an off-topic rant is insulting to everyone present, and completely worthy of greater attention.

3/28/2009 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

Drunk? Perhaps. But it seems to me that spending several years behaving like an absolute arse in press - in particular making appalling bad arguments and damning people by tenous association - and getting away with (and getting paid for it) now finds him replicating that level of thought and, well, decency, in person, in public.

How else would we expect someone with a sense of great personal importance, a belief in their own superior intelligence, but who consistently demonstrates either terrible reasoning or dishonesty (take your pick), to behave in public?

3/28/2009 11:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Dave Weeden said...

It sounds like an appalling evening, the sort that can only be got through with copious alcohol. From LabourList's post: And with that, we draw to a merciful close. While Orwell would certainly have approved of the level of outspoken controversy here, one imagines that he would have seen the actual content as quite another matter. And the first comment: Interesting evening and good to meet you Tom. Interesting for its complete lack of ideas or intelligent debate. Lots of completely irrelevant jibes at Islam and Frank Fields claim about 9/10 new jobs in this country going to immigrants is rubbish surely.

I feel that Nick has a point about the quality of the shortlist. (I agree with Justin about Oborne: he's above the level of 'hack' which the rest of them aren't.) And 'journalist drunk during opening hours' is not a story. If anyone "turned out in expectation of an interesting discussion" they would have been disabused with or without Nick.

The worst of it is, Peter Hitchens conducted himself with admirable civility. Alan Clark said of that speech, "If you are going to befuddle your senses on an evening when you need some of them, then this, at least, was a pretty good way to do it”. I doubt Nick sampled any wines old enough to vote, but then, this wasn't an evening when he needed his senses.

3/28/2009 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

There's more Nick from that debate here.

3/28/2009 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I agree it's pretty disgraceful, Simon. I just think that endlessly linking to it and so on might be a little...Harry's Place or indeed the thing most of Nick's journalistic mates would do. Which makes me pause.

I think we can leave off the 'probably' and euphemisms about his being drunk though.

3/28/2009 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Well, we've all said and done things we regret while pished, but it doesn't really make Nick look good that this episode comes so soon after the Oooh, calm down dear Michael Winner routine he gave the Fabians last week.

I mean, surely this is a little like responding to "mild assertion" with "screaming fury".

3/28/2009 12:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Biz said...

Hilariously funny... Re Nick's point that Hitchens rebels against the left from the cozy confines of the lefty-bashing Mail on Sunday. Nick wrote for the Mail last month, Nick's has a long-running column in the Standard, Nick writes for Standpoint, Nick cameoed in that Littlejohn documentary, etc ad nauseum... The Decent point of view has a significant presence across the entire spectrum of the British press's Comment pages - almost every UK national news publication has it's resident Decent, whereas, for example, only a small minority carry writers from the 'rest' of the left. I'm no Hitchens fan (the man is certifiably insane...) but surely it's trickier to write from his minority viewpoint that Labour/Tories/BBC/CofE are all pinko-communists wanting to force our children to be homosexuals, than from Nick's Decent position which saturates the British press...?

3/28/2009 01:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick wonders why nobody complained when 'Brown sacked Martin Bright from the New Statesman' Maybe the fact that Bright himself didn't complain he had been 'sacked by Brown' so had something to do with this ?

3/28/2009 03:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect some of Nick's anger with Oborne and (Peter) Hitchens was and is their continuous opposition to the Iraq and Afghan wars and their treatment of Muslims as human beings. That is the ultimate Decency heresy.

johnf

3/28/2009 06:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just gave it a look, for a laugh like. It's magnificent.

I don't think 'there but for the grace', either - I am fond of a drink or two but when I stand up in front of a group of people who have paid to be there, or when I stand up in front of conference full of delegates, I make damn sure that I'm sober. It's not much to ask - you can always get plastered afterwards, indeed it's far more fun in that order.

What a prize pillock - I love watching my enemies self-destruct like this.

Chris Williams

3/28/2009 09:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Hugh said...

Didn't Peter Oborne describe himself specifically as the 'opposite of Nick Cohen' - in that after 9/11 he made the opposite journey, not to the Left, but by becoming a sceptical Tory.

Oborne also serves to highlight a specific flaw in Cohen's thesis: that it's not the Islamic radicals that the mainstream Left made common cause with after 2001, but with old style Tories or Realists in their opposition to Iraq and other ventures. Probably the best example of which is the American Conservative and its contributors. Or for that matter M&W and anti-war.com.

3/29/2009 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger Sangiovese Fellow said...

I share a little of Matthew's ambivalence here in that the video is just so very humiliating, yet at the same time Cohen has been a really poisonous snake in the grass to other people and here he really had nobody to blame but himself. Some while ago someone on these boards said that Nick had for some years seemed like a man in a very deep crisis, and that looks embarrassingly obvious here. We can all do stupid things while drunk, but what strikes me as most truly embarrassing about this clip is actually the continuity between the drunken ranter and the ostensibly sober author of "What's Left?": there's the same crazily high quantity of ferocious ad hominem accusation based upon ultra-minimal factual content, the same hysterical tone, the same absurd Decent martyrdom complex, it's just that the drunken Cohen turns the volume up and thus makes his plug-ugly follies that much harder to miss or ignore. What's really damning, in short, is precisely that it doesn't seem out of character any more. A good mate might indeed have saved him from that public humiliation, but people who habitually accuse anyone who dares disagree with them of engaging in fascist collusion tend not to have those kinds of mates.

Poor Nick, that it's his judgment and temperament that's been the mid-life casualty. He and almost everyone else might have been better off if he'd bought a Harley-Davidson and bonked his secretary in the time-honoured manner instead, but maybe it really mattered to him not to resemble a Tory or Robin Cook. In any case, whatever the causes, what a sad, sad figure he cuts.

3/29/2009 02:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Dave Weeden said...

I thought of writing a comment yesterday along the lines of, "if you sympathise with Nick here, you're obliged to extend some understanding to Ken Livingstone too." Though Livingstone was pursued by a journalist to a party, and if Cuddly Ken made 'offensive' remarks, it was while he was drunk off-duty. (I still think the "...you are just doing it because you are paid to, aren't you?" is a perfectly valid reference.) But then, as Sangiovese Fellow says, Nick's crapulous ramblings are pretty much the same as his sober polemics. If you apply the same standard to Livingstone, and you believe that his remarks were anti-Semitic, then I suppose you'd conclude that he's an anti-Semite during office hours too.

I really disagree with Chris Williams. A Fleet Street where hacks primly carried bottled water to every meeting like middle managers in the NHS would be even more unbearable than the one we have. Journalistic circle-jerks such as this are much enlivened by drink. The disgrace to the profession here is Hitchens, who claimed to be sober when he addressed the floor. They all talk rubbish anyway, a little anasthetic is something of a necessity. Some of Alastair Campbell's mates thought he wasn't an alcoholic at the time he had his breakdown, because they all drank just as much. I can' see why a handful of backslapping insiders are entitled to more sobriety than a million Mirror readers.

3/29/2009 09:06:00 AM  
Anonymous IslingtonSet said...

Devil's avocado but I actually sympathise with Mr Cohen's general point here, along the lines of 'WTF is Peter Hitchens being nominated for an Orwell Prize for"? The fact that he is being pilloried is evidence that being an intellectual about town and a boorish drunk is very fine line. So he fell down on the wrong side of the frontier on this occasion, that big a deal?

3/29/2009 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

That one's easy. What's Left was nominated last year. A complaint too late.

3/29/2009 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Didn't Peter Oborne describe himself specifically as the 'opposite of Nick Cohen' - in that after 9/11 he made the opposite journey, not to the Left, but by becoming a sceptical Tory.

I thought he had an epiphany all right, but wasn't it at York station in about 1972?

3/29/2009 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Less flipplantly, if you look back through the journalism category it's hardly a new development. Brian Sewell and Bromwin Maddox are two previous entrants.

3/29/2009 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Cohen's in the entertainment business then being drunk on duty is not a problem. Think about Oliver Reed. But Cohen claims to be a fearless and serious political journalist, fighting TGISOOT. He claims (and boy, does he assert) the status of a serious commentator. Drunken ramblings don't match these claims. First rule of anti-fascism is that you do it better sober.

It's not even fair to Bright: if NC wanted to use this 5-minute platform on Bright's behalf, perhaps he could have come out with some convincing information about the case, rather than merely warbling repetitively that Gordon Brown sacked him. I would imagine that MB, reduced to a walk-on role in his friend's public self-destruction, is probably thinking 'Yeah, cheers mate'. But not in a good way.

Chris Williams

3/29/2009 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed it is hard to imagine Orwell winning the Orwell journalism prize if it ran in the 1930's - it just mostly goes to established, establishment writers - I blame the established, establishment judges. What is pathetic is that Nick doesn't get it that Oborne and Hitchens Jr got on the shortlists for the same reason he did . The idea that it was "brave" for Nick to be saying the left are fascists, yay Iraq war from the pages of the pro-war Observer is just part of his general "I am a victim not a bully " mentality. (indeed there is a case to be made that Oborne is intellectually braver than Nick).

3/29/2009 10:43:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Perhaps it's not worth looking too closely at the drunken ramblings of Nick Cohen but... Peter Oborne is on the shortlist because 'his writing fits your [i guess the Orwell Prize's] view of the world'. But surely Nick's insistence on Martin Bright being fired 'by Gordon Brown because he made a film criticising Ken Livingstone' is mainly based on the fact that... it suits Nick's deeply strange view of the world.

Nick thinks that what makes a good journalist is writing in a left-wing periodical and criticising the left. For a start that ignores the main influence of the internet on journalism - that contrary views = angry comments = hits = money.

Increasingly it seems like Nick believes his raison d'etre is to 'speak truth to power' by being instinctively opposed to anything left-wing, in a left-wing newspaper. Problem is that the majority of his writing is, as a commenter up there said, located in the right-wing press now. Where exactly does that leave him? He (maybe correctly) notes that one of the great things about Orwell was that he took contrary positions out of step with his political contemporaries. But this does not, and never did, equate to always opposing a caricatured 'leftie' view, which is what Cohen's work consists of now.

Nick wonders why nobody complained when 'Brown sacked Martin Bright from the New Statesman' Maybe the fact that Bright himself didn't complain he had been 'sacked by Brown' so had something to do with this ?

Bright's departure was announced in January 2009. That's a full YEAR after the Livingstone film - and the Staggers had just got a new editor who'd been forced to majorly cost-cut - it wasn't just Bright who got the chop. Nick is majorly prejudiced against the Staggers because they tried to force him to take a pay cut - though hilariously he claims it's cos he wrote 'what's left'.

In any case, the number of times Nick Cohen - who berates other journalists for not covering Brown's sacking Bright - mentioned the case in his written output between January and March? That would be - zero.

I'm torn on this Orwell Prize in general. The shortlists have always looked seriously mediocre, and the Booker at least can go to people outside Britain, which raises its quality threshold... I don't quite understand what Nick thinks it's for - in a way the name is a big problem because it's not the exclusive domain of left-wing writers which is what Nick seems to think... I think being nominated for these things often badly affects people. Roots Manuva had a nervous breakdown because he didn't win the Mercury, even though he never really had a chance.

Last year, What's Left lost out to Palestinian Walks. Now that has got to have had an impact on Mr Cohen...

3/29/2009 08:38:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

By the way, that Harry's Place post linked to in the original article is deeply unconcinving. The main evidence is a Private Eye piece which seems to imply the exact opposite of the sentiment of the HP article.

This latest drunken Cohen meltdown is evidence of a wider problem for him - he's started to get increasingly open about his affiliation to Private Eye, to the extent of more or less repeating material from Ratbiter pieces on his blog - and the pieces are looking more and more like they were written by Nick Cohen as opposed to an anonymous Eye writer... There was, in the past, always a separation made between the Ratbiter pieces and Nick's other stuff and I can't imagine the Eye would view the two moving together too favourably - it rather diminishes the power of the pieces if the byline is 'N Cohen', not to mention going against a tradition at the Eye.

Nick has a link up today to a hilariously shit piece by David Toube where he 'calls for an alliance to stop Islamists and the BNP'. Having spent a good 2000 words on the subject (the piece is of course terribly written, but plus ca change, and it clearly does take him a long time to write this stuff), he then says 'i have a job so obviously i don't have the time to organise such an alliance, but other people, who know who they are, could'.

Which is rather defeatist - surely this is appeasement etc etc zzz - and it would be a lot more plausible if David Toube didn't spend all day, every day, on teh internets...

verification code 'priests'!

3/30/2009 09:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liberal Conspiracy has fewer qualms about posting 'that video'...

[redpesto]

3/30/2009 09:27:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

They have also got a very interesting post about Policy Exchange being forced to withdraw their 'islamist extremism available in mosques' report - so beloved of a certain Ratbiter, so clearly unquestionable in its fact-checking - from their website...

3/30/2009 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

not to mention going against a tradition at the Eye.

I don't know how true this remains though - it's no secret who MD is, for instance.

3/30/2009 09:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well David T is just too busy to do the thing he thinks is essential, but I wonder if this "anti BNP Nazis and Anti islamo Nazis" campaign is going to get launched. Obviously it would be run with all the organisational skill of the Euston manifesto and the "march for Free Expression", so would not really exist on the ground, nor really challenge the BNP, but that's not the point. The decents want some left wing gloss to legitimise their endless warnings about the islamonazis, and a few anti BNP statements might be the fairy dust they need to help them lever all that Policy Exchange crap into looking less like swivel eyed neocon nuttery.Plus it must totally stick in Nasty nicks craw and irritate the decents no end that the SWP is embedded in anti-BNP work , so a chance to have a go at that would please them. I suspect an open meeting, a statement etc are on the way.
And who could question the Harrysplace anti racism cred ? After all, one of their South African writers thinks sweets called "nigger balls" aren't at all racist, another thinks that Arabs can't help lying cos their language is all funny and inherently dishonest.

3/30/2009 09:52:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I think this is where we get back to the 'call for' difficulty, isn't it... This is just another will-you-condemn-a-thon in sheep's clothing, too.

By the way, has there been any Decent comment on this stuff?

3/30/2009 11:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never mind that, surely the Decents will demand that we all buy copies of Georgia's 'We Don't Wanna Put In' (geddit?), in solidarity against this outrage?

PS: Will NC turn pop critic and sit through Eurovision for Standpoint (note, it's being held in Russia this year)?

[redpesto]

3/30/2009 12:07:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

David Toube says today:

I’m [...] sick of ”whattaboutery”

Genius.

3/30/2009 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

...alarm goes off...

3/30/2009 12:55:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

They really are best buddies aren't they - or are they just relaying their conversation down the pub. Nick and Martin Bright blog on the same topic on the same day.

3/30/2009 03:05:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Nick's Standpoint piece (i know we're not meant to mention them but hey) is also on the same general subject. I find Cohen really incoherent on the BBC in general but on this subject in particular. The ranty tone doesn't suit it at all and he doesn't seem to have an alternative any more.

I'd have more time for this kind of doom-mongering, 'editors know nothing and are behind the times' stuff if the people writing them showed any sign of either understanding new media (Cohen especially does not seem to have worked out what blogging is) or of being able to identify any kind of progress. Cohen's idea of print media being doomed sits awkwardly with his drunken whinges about Martin Bright losing his print-based job and being rehired as... a blogger.

Nick's emphasis on a 'solid record of events' would be more believable if his book didn't contain so many untrue howlers he cobbled together from some guy with a website; if he hadn't ranted at length about the BBC spiking deeply suspicious Policy Exchange 'reports'; and if he hadn't previously insisted on the testimony of Hassan Butt being uncontestably truthful.

3/30/2009 03:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

It only really matters who gets nominated for the Orwell prize if you think it genuinely embodies the spirit of Orwell, rather than being just another windily self-important book award invoking the name of a great dead writer to add gravitas.

Besides, Orwell himself was a terrible reactionary in many respects, so in many ways Hitchens is a perfectly worthy successor. It's only wankers like Nick Cohen who think our George is some kind of sacred figure whose name may not be taken in vain.

That said, Palestinian Walks is a beautiful book and it must have wound the Decents up something rotten when it won, so fair play to the judges on that one.

3/30/2009 10:11:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

The comments on that "against the BNP and the Islamisses organisation" post are fantastic. Harry's Place, Nick, etc etc really ought to be asking themselves why it is that all these horrible people are specifically attracted to their site.

3/30/2009 11:42:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I seem to remember asking one or two of them in person on - probably - a CT thread. They said yes, they know their comments boxes are atrocious but they chose early on to have an open policy. Fair enough, but why do you think these atrocious people come to you? Might it be something to do with the tone and manner of your postings?

3/31/2009 06:22:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Although the comments on that particular thread might be the result of it being linked to from somewhere dodgy, that still begs a few questions about the type of stuff they're willing to host.

It's not like they don't delete stuff from the comments, either. I've never understood why they'd delete posts which point out the poverty of their writing and thinking but would keep some of the stuff on that thread. Very odd.

But then, the site is run by very odd people, isn't it?

3/31/2009 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

No, they're just Men With A Mission

3/31/2009 07:45:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Well, anything I post gets moderated and rejected these days after a particularly unfunny comment I made about David T.'s Daily Mail jihad on Clissold Public Baths.

Fair enough - it's their site and I rarely do anything other than take the piss, but it's pretty instructive if you look at the kind of nasty stuff that actually gets through.

3/31/2009 08:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Alex Higgins said...

The issue isn't thst HP should have less of an open comment policy - that's their call.

It's the fact that racists feel so comfortable hanging around there, and are not made to feel anything but.

3/31/2009 05:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Actually HP are simply applying revolutionary discipline with regard to this one. No enemies on the...

oh hang on, we are supposed to have enemies on the Right, aren't we?

3/31/2009 06:52:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Nick is now getting props - again - from Martin Bright. Is it me or does anyone else find it odd why Bright would want to highlight this utter embarrassment?

4/01/2009 08:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

There's a fairly unsparing account of Nick's behaviour - in line with the Londoner's Diary piece - in the new Eye. And a pretty good Ratbiter, which reads to me like Wheen (the piece refers to a company called Opt2Vote Ltd, or rather "the illiterately titled Opt2Vote Ltd").

Poor Nick. His trajectory reminds me of a bit in Francis Mulhern's Red Pepper review of Frances Stonor Saunders' book on the CIA:

Its goal was to establish an America-friendly, anti-Soviet hegemony over Europe’s intelligentsias, and to do so by supporting the cultural projects of ‘non-communist lefts’ (‘NCLs’). Reactionaries were of little interest; professional ex-Stalinists such as Arthur Koestler were a nuisance. T.S. Eliot was all very well, but honest George Orwell was a precious resource. The IRD financed campaigns against the New Statesman, thought to be insufficiently hostile to the USSR, but supported Socialist Commentary, the house organ of Labour’s Atlanticist right, as well as Tribune: one anti-Stalinist was as serviceable as another. There is a difficult moral here, worth pausing over even - or especially - in our post-Wall world.

He's becoming less "honest George Orwell" and more "professional ex-Stalinist" by the day.

4/01/2009 08:27:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

So much for Matthew's wish that the video doesn't go viral: even Martin Bright links to a copy (that's what I assume he links to; I don't want to watch it again, ever).

I don't think I can support Phil suggestion that Nick resembles Arthur Koestler. I have a lot of time for Koestler; he had a much more wide ranging intellect than NC has. OTOH, he was also a monster and a far nastier person than Nick is too. And the thing about 'honest George Orwell' is that I've never thought of him as an Atlanticist. Renaming "England, Your England" in his best known novel as 'Airstrip One' is not an endorsement of the special relationship.

I've sort of written in my head a piece on what Orwell might have supported if he'd lived (it's more a discussion on literature because that's what I know him best on). But here's a sample sentence, "Orwell wasn't interested in America: he'd only have noticed Kennedy when somebody shot him."

4/01/2009 08:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I've sort of written in my head a piece on what Orwell might have supported if he'd lived "

I don't think that you're alone there. Perhaps you're in a minority in that your story doesn't summarise to (or consist of) "Me."

Chris Williams

4/01/2009 09:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

the thing about 'honest George Orwell' is that I've never thought of him as an Atlanticist

I think he was heading for a kind of realist Atlanticism. He was quite geopolitically-minded: he saw quite early on that the British Empire was finished (and knew, in any case, that it wasn't worth defending), and didn't hold out much hope for a European third way.

Which left America and Russia. Raymond Williams, in his "Modern Masters" book on Orwell, juxtaposes two statements a few years apart, both setting out the choice between the two blocs in the usual all-sensible-people-must-surely-admit style. Only the conclusion changed: the earlier Orwell opted for the (European, socialist despite everything) USSR, the later Orwell for the (English-speaking, democratic despite everything) USA.

4/01/2009 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I think he might very well have turned out a pop-eyed far-rightist of the Podhoretz stamp. But he hadn't yet done that when he died.

4/01/2009 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Good point, Phil. When I wonder what GO would have supported, I hope he wouldn't be such a committed anti-Communist as to see that Vietnam was always going to be a fiasco. (What would winning have looked like?) After all, the Labour Party under Wilson refused to have anything to do with it. However, I'm not sure (like Justin) whether he'd have been on the same side as the Labour Party by then.

There's a thing about GO: the "usual all-sensible-people-must-surely-admit style" is awfully flattering if you already agree with where he's going. But Orwell's writing has a good deal of charm; Hitchens gets this better than most self-appointed successors.

4/01/2009 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

However, I'm not sure (like Justin) whether he'd have been on the same side as the Labour Party by then.

I'm fairly sure he'd have been in the Labour Party. But as the subjects of this blog tend to show, you can be on that side of the political fence and still hold some opinions about foreign affairs and domestic leftists that belong a long way on the other.

He might well have turned out a proto-Decent. But as I say, this isn't what actually happened. And some of his writings apply just as much to those who use them as to those against whom they are used.

4/01/2009 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

hitch wrote a fairly sharp piece -- i guess all of 20 years ago now -- about how the n-pods of the world were exactly NOT inheritors of the orwell mantle and why; i think (from memory) that some of the points in the earlier piece made it through to his post-decent-turn orwell book (alongside a hefty big chunk of raymond-williams-bashing, to be sure)


verification: nosholda

4/01/2009 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

And a pretty good Ratbiter, which reads to me like Wheen...

Cohen often rings Mike Smithson for comment, though, and he pops up at the end of the piece.

Verification: croatho

4/01/2009 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous saucy jack said...

"the Labour Party under Wilson refused to have anything to do with it".
??? they refused to send troops to Vietnam, but otherwise gave fulsome support to the US.
[incidentally, the word verification thing has started to become rather tedious]

4/01/2009 12:21:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Crikey that video is astonishing. Martin Bright is an terrible journalist and Jean Seaton is a dreadful academic whose only real achievement was co-authoring with James Curran a really good history of the British media. I will concede Nick his point regarding Hitchens though.

How on earth could an individual who argues that we should adopt Russia's tactics in the 'War on Terror' get on the Orwell shortlist?

Its interesting that Phil brings up Frances Stonor Saunders book since its very interesting in relation to the evolution of Decency. It has some good material on the Atlanticist right in the Labour party and its relationship to the CIA. Its notable that some of the key CIA funded writers and intellectuals such as Koestler and Sidney Hook and are often lauded in Democrtiya and by Oliver Kamm.

It also has some sections on the CIA funded ex-leftists and those they made common cause with, which are pure Decency.

[James} Burnham, who in his his trajectory from socialism to the right had simply leapfrogged over the moderate centre, had no time for the spineless man of the left...As Burnham stood there and inveighed against the NLC, some delegates asked themselves whether the black and white version of the world offered by the right (captured by Koestler's biblical invocation 'Let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay!') was just as threatening to liberal democracy as that offered by the far left.

Hugh Trevor Roper was appalled by the provocative set by Koestler and taken up by the other speakers. 'There was very little in the way of serious discussion,' he remembered. 'It wasn't really intellectual at all in my opinion. I realised that it was a reply in the same style to [the Soviet peace conferences] - it spoke the same language. I had expected and hoped to hear the western point of view put forward and defended, on the grounds that it was a better and more long lasting alternative. But instead we had denunciations. It left such a negative impression as if we had nothing to say except, Sock them! There was a speech by Franz Borkenau which was very violent and almost hysterical...There was a moment during the Congress that I felt that we were being invited to summon up Beelzebub in order to defeat Satan.

4/01/2009 12:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought the Eye piece on the Orwell Prize was a desparate peice of spin - and a pointless one seing as how we can all watch the thing on Youtube. The Eye report just doesn't match the film of the event. (presumably Wheen) writes “as the panel squirmed the audience prayed for more” , suggesting Nick was an entertaining if drunk ranter. Not so. In fact audience seem embarrassed and unhappy with Cohen’s incomprehensible rant. Finally one member of the audience stand up and asks the panel to raise a “point of order “saying he came for a debate and would they “Please move on” from “all the personal stuff” Nick has been churning out - and the audience protestor gets a round of applause (while Cohen never does). The Eye/Wheen piece also describes Peter Hitchens comment "“I did think that I’d come here for the Orwell prize rather than the Jeremy Kyle Show” as "Hitchen's pompous protest" - when actually Hitchens seems both more together and wittier than the pompous drunken bore Cohen. The Wheen/Eye piece suggestion that "
“Cohen alleged that Gordon Brown had helped to engineer Bright’s sacking because of his attacks on Ken Livingstone during the London mayoral campaingn last year” makes Nick sound a lot more rational than he is. Overall the piece tries to make Nick sound naughty and witty and outre when he was really just a drunken bore and hypocrite

4/01/2009 12:41:00 PM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

there is something genuinely strange i think about (c) hitchens's actual trajectory -- so very exactly along a line he'd mapped out and brutally critiqued himself, as others made it before him

i first heard about burnham from him -- not to mention orwell's discussion/attack on same -- in particular the charge that burnham was (at root) a power-worshipper, and that his trip from trotsky-follower to ultra-capitalist reflected this

but overbearing relish for ruthlessness is precisely what has become so dislikeable in his own recent writing

4/01/2009 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

OK, Saucy Jack, but we didn't support the war materially, which is the only way that really counts. (The US sort of supported us from 1939 - 41, but it wasn't much help, was it?)

Belle: but overbearing relish for ruthlessness is precisely what has become so dislikeable in his own recent writing Jamie at Blood and Treasure found an old Hitchens piece on Saddam - where Hitchens didn't trouble to conceal his admiration for Saddam's toughness.

At least Orwell survived Eton, which is a tough school; he never showed any admiration for ruthlessness. Which brings me to a point I should have brought up earlier. NC et al cast about claims of 'bravery'. Perhaps Martin Bright has courage, but GO was shot fighting fascism. Comparing MB to GO is very flattering to the former.

4/01/2009 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

yes fair point, cc, i'd forgotten about that -- i don't think it features much in his collected writing, which is where i first became familiar with him: though come to think of it the cover to "prepared for the worst" is incredibly bloodthirsty

4/01/2009 01:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"(The US sort of supported us from 1939 - 41, but it wasn't much help, was it?)"

A historian writes: after June 1940, and especially after September 1940, it was shed loads of help. By the summer of 1941 the US was engaged in a shooting war with Germany in the Atlantic.

We now return you to your normal service.

Chris Williams

4/01/2009 02:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Der Bruno Stroszek said...

The whole "courage" aspect is one of the things I find most irritating about Decency and neoconservativism alike, the way they always co-opt the language used to describe genuine fighters, Resistance heroes and soldiers to describe the act of sitting and watching your arse metastasize while making cowardly calls for others to lose their lives in wars you believe are important, but not so important that you'd go and risk your own neck for them. Nick's never done anything courageous in his life, and he's on a doomed track trying to accuse other people of lacking guts.

Still, the Eye just printed one of Nick Cohen's fruitcake conspiracy theories with the word "allegedly" in front of it, which is a big step forward for them. Let's hope they're learning.

4/01/2009 03:08:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Yes, apologies for my reticence. I had no idea Nick's friends would be proud of his performance.

4/01/2009 04:06:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Even in the Private Eye version it doesn't look great for Cohen really, but i agree with the commenter up there who says that the piece is at odds with the atmosphere. The audience had come for a debate, not to hear Cohen blathering incoherently about soemthing totally off topic. In fact I can barely make out what Cohen says about Ian Jack et al because he's slurring really badly by then.

Strange, too, that they omit to mention the place where Cohen might have got his information on Brown's reaction to the Ken documentary - Private Eye (though they actually claimed that Bright's job was more secure because of it).

Bright now says on his blog that 'Nick is one of my best friends' which dilutes the love-in still further. Surely there's mileage from this for Private Eye, especially given the reason why Cohen left the NS (ie they cut his wages, and Bright as political editor must have stood on NC's side)? If it were, I dunno, Johann Hari and John Pilger, for example, this one would run and run...

Nick's never done anything courageous in his life, and he's on a doomed track trying to accuse other people of lacking guts.

Didn't he accuse Nelson Mandela of being gutless last year? yes he did, for the 'cowardly' reason of... Nick not having seen him criticising Mugabe much, and not booking any Zimbabwean acts for his birthday gig... In any case I fully agree. The fetishization of courage sits very oddly with what Decents actually do all day, which consists of not campaigning on anything but whingeing ad nauseam about those who do, usually while swearing and pretending to be a tough guy on teh interwebs. Cohen's approach to Mandela there is exemplary of this, since Nick has hardly been banging on about Zimbabwe in his own columns - again standard for Decents, who are largely silent on stuff they accuse others of being cowardly for not being suffiently gung-ho on.

He adopted tax havens for a little while but clearly got shouted down by Oliver Kamm, since he's given that up (in any case it was being done in much more coherent details by the left-wing-and-therefore-horrendous Guardian).

This obsession with courage and manliness feeds into the amateur psychologist's view of decency as a male midlife crisis, doesn't it? Remember when Cohen accused Jon Snow of being 'unmanly' - as an insult - last year?

Cohen seems to think that his genius resides in criticising the left in a left-wing periodical, which makes him manly, but that's rather diluted when the exact same pieces run in the Mail, and when his only good reviews come in right-wing periodicals. But as I've said before if you read his recent piecs it looks suspiciously as though he's actually been converted to right-wing libertarianism. It's hard to beleive anyone who's not from that line of political thought taking 'Liberal Fascism' seriously, for instance.

4/01/2009 04:40:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I think the manlines thing was him trying to channel Orwell and I think I said so at the time...

4/01/2009 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

OT, and maybe everyone's noticed this before apart from me, but the AM-H who has a guestpost up at H's P (kerching!) right now must be Christopher Hitchens' offspring - so we have a Decent dynasty in the making.

He seems to be pretty hardcore, too, from the first few references from Google, and an employee of Douglas Murray's disgraceful outfit.

4/01/2009 06:45:00 PM  
Blogger Graham Day said...

That's George Orwell, the snitch for the security state?

I guess it all depends on who you're informing on...

4/01/2009 08:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

organic cheeseboard: This obsession with courage and manliness feeds into the amateur psychologist's view of decency as a male midlife crisis, doesn't it? Remember when Cohen accused Jon Snow of being 'unmanly' - as an insult - last year?

This behaviour is also a hallmark of the US neocon right (see Salon's Glenn Greenwald for details, for example). It goes with accusing your opponents of being unmanly 'girlie-men' (if they're male) or uber-masculine (if they're Hillary Clinton).

[redpesto]

4/01/2009 09:48:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

So the young Mart and Hitch decided to rebel by being lefties while their fathers were right-wing. And now both Louis Amis and Alex Hitchens have emerged on the scene, only to reveal that they actually share their ageing fathers' right-wing views. Is this how rebellion is manifested in the children of 'rebels'?

Previously he worked for the political and cultural monthly magazine Standpoint, edited by Daniel Johnson. He has also worked at the Stanford University based think tank, the Hoover Institution for War, Revolution and Peace, and the Washington DC based think tank, Foundation for Defence of Democracies (FDD).

Ugh. And at least Amis fils seems to be able to string a couple of sentences together. This Hitch progeny has no talent for writing at all. Jobs for the boys.

He also seems to add the first part of his surname when he wants to look more 'serious' - he had a 'nutcase shouting at TV' post on HP a while back where he'd abandoned his mother's name for some reason. Though he's currently being called out on the schoolkid level of his understanding of Iraq on HP... apparently dealing in an official capacity with Islamist parties in Iraq for over 6 years is a 'short-term measure', and Blears was right to insist on elected officials being sacked from an organisation the Govt does not really fund.

I think what we have here is yer bona fide neocon who HP are giving space because he whinges about the same bogeymen...

4/02/2009 07:24:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

kerching, but real nutcasery alert...

I am not a Christian, but I have enough of a sense of who Jesus was, to be able to say with some confidence that the Quakers have desecrated the spirit of Christ.

4/02/2009 08:01:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

But isn't jesus voting BNP?

4/02/2009 11:59:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

David T has always had a thing about the Quakers but his comments in that thread range from the bonkers to the downright disgraceful. He has his arse comprehensively handed to him on a plate by some of the other commenters though.

4/02/2009 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Mordaunt said...

Quakers are pacifists and pacifists are stoppers and stoppers are fascists. Or something.

Personally, I think he's bearing a grudge about John Bright resigning from the cabinet over the bombardment of Alexandria.

4/02/2009 12:24:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Just read the folowing comment in that thread

...the Quakers have an elevated level of self-esteem which depends on projective identification of negative qualities with other groups in order to maintain itself...This sort of prejudice is highly resistant to being questioned because it is tied up with the self esteem of the individual, which in the case of quakers is clearly considerably invested in the idea of moral superiority.

Can anyone think of another word which could plausibly replace "quakers" in that sentence?

4/02/2009 12:36:00 PM  
Anonymous saucy jack said...

Of oourse Richard Nixon was a Quaker, although he would doubtless have met with HP's approval. I am not sure if David T has a particular thing about Quakers, it is of a piece with his general strange self-delusion that he is some kind of expert on religious belief (as strange as his fantasies of being some kind of expert on the far left)

4/02/2009 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

100!

4/02/2009 10:28:00 PM  

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