Wednesday, March 04, 2009

"Too many of these pieces are ill-considered, illogical and repetitive rants that will convince only those already converted"

A review of Nick's new book, in, of all places, Democratiya.

53 Comments:

Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Oh feck, is there a new one out? Shit, it's a double issue too, and the theme is "Clear out your bottom drawer and we'll publish it, quality control has gone to the wind".

For Alan NTM Johnson is launching ... ANOTHER BLOG PROJECT!!! HE'S BACK BABY!

3/04/2009 10:07:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

The book is really getting a savaging, isn't it?

I can sort of understand the point made in the Indie review which was linked to in a previous post. In a way it's linked to the last, damning point made in this Decentiya review.

Nick's writing in recent years has become increasingly influenced by his reading only a few blogs. A while back on this blog, someone asked for a glossary, and I can kind of see the point, since it's not clear what TGISOOT is if you're a newcomer to the world of decency, the acronym NTM might be unclear, etc etc. In the world of blogging this kind of thing is acceptable because a blogger assumes a coterie audience understands the jumps in logic and the understanding is backed up in the comments. But the problem comes when you try to present this kind of blog-logic in a place that's not only read by a coterie. So Nick's case against a Muslim member of the SNP, reproduced more or less verbatim from Harry's Place, fell on its arse in Private Eye because it made so many suppositions about the Muslim Brotherhood being the SNP which is actually the Nazi party etc etc. HP is especially bad for this. so many leaps in logic but if you follow the blog and accept stuff in it unquesitoningly then it mkes sense. Nick has bought into this HP logic hook, line and sinker and doesn't appear to have noticed that to make this kind of link seem coherent you need a lot more than half a page of a Berliner.

The problem with the argument that nick's ideas would make more sense if he had more space is that even the book-length What's Left was ill-conceived, poorly-thought-through, and hysterical. and it's a shame to see Nick sticking to the idea that what the world needs is more polemicists.

The definition of a good polemicist looks pretty funny too:

[Polemic] produces a respect for argument that those who dismiss all polemic as mere ranting fail to see. If you can feel a need to make an unpopular case, and there is no point in being a political writer if you cannot, you must use your talent to win over a sceptical audience. You must acknowledge doubts and counter-arguments, and above all, you must write clearly.

Physician, heal thyself!

3/04/2009 10:52:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

A really mean-spirited and very interesting piece by Nick here:

http://nickcohen.net/2009/03/04/the-curious-obsessions-of-gordon-brown-the-case-of-martin-bright/

Apparently he was 'forced out of the Staggers for writing What's Left'! And apparently, Ken Livingstone (Labour candidate for mayor of london last year) is barely a member of the party at all, and Gordon Brown should have welcomed Martin Bright's hatchet job documentary on him just before the election...

3/04/2009 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

The book is really getting a savaging, isn't it?

An "appreciation and a critique", according to NTM's editor's page.

3/04/2009 11:15:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

So far Nick has only posted one review on his blog - a really poor quality half-paragraph from the Standard...

oh yeah - any chance of a link to NTM's new project?

3/04/2009 11:17:00 AM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

So we've got a huge amount on the Middle East, of course. Cut and pastes from Hazel Blears (!) and Joschka Fischer. Gary Kent still trying to make Ulster unionism relevant to British Labour.

And a spectacularly inaccurate and vitriolic hatchet job on Malcolm Caldwell, a man who's been dead for thirty years. (Decentiya, first with the news.) Actually, although Malcolm was extremely wrong on Democratic Kampuchea, his writings on Asia are very interesting in the round, a lot more insightful than Fred Halliday's stuff. And during his visit to DK, in the course of which he was killed, he was doing some serious rethinking. But for Decentiya, none of that matters.

BTW, why bother to attack a long forgotten figure like Caldwell anyway? Are we working up to another "Chomsky and the Khmer Rouge" campaign?

3/04/2009 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Also see previous thread (Hobsbawm supported the Soviet Union!) and Cohen on Brecht (he was a Communist!) not to mention Sebag Montefiore (Stalin was a bad man!) and so on, hopefully not ad infinitum but I suspect otherwise.

(Word verification comie - nearly, nearly...)

3/04/2009 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

any chance of a link to NTM's new project?

It's not coming until September, it's going to be based round Decentiya, it will have forums, and it's so big that he's set aside the whole summer for it. What with this one and Watchmen, 2009 might be the single biggest year of disappointment in human history.

Of course the Caldwell article is a proxy fight against Chomsky - the author is actually trying to defend NC in Harry's Place comments, but if he didn't mean it that way he's a mug because that's certainly the reason it was commissioned.

3/04/2009 01:21:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

I am still at a loss to understand what is the point of dredging up what Raymond Williams and Eric Hobsbawn, two individuals I have a fair amount of time for, did when they were barely out of their teens.

If the purpose is to draw parallels with 'lefties who failed to spot the totalitarian threat' its not terribly convincing is it?

And the material about Chomsky? Surely only a crank like OK would find such distortions persuasive.

3/04/2009 01:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This must be the same Gary Kent who is simultaneously a paid agent of the Islamic Dawa Party

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldsecret/090225/memi03.htm

and runs Labour Friends of Iraq, which is supposed to stick up for unions in Iraq, unions which are being harrased by the anti union government dominated by ...the Islamic Dawa Party. No wonder Labour Friends of Iraq is so weak - on the verge of phony - the bulk of Brit support for Iraqi unions flows through TUC unions, not Gary's group.

3/04/2009 03:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OT. There is an interesting new essay on the Open Democracy website about why exporting democracy is problematic. I wonder if anyone will draw the attention of our heroes to it?

Moussaka Man

3/04/2009 04:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not coming until September, it's going to be based round Decentiya, it will have forums, and it's so big that he's set aside the whole summer for it. What with this one and Watchmen, 2009 might be the single biggest year of disappointment in human history.

Only if NTM and Nick don't dress up in spandex to 'export democracy'.

[redpesto]

3/04/2009 05:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Der Bruno Stroszek said...

So which Watchmen do you think the main Decents would be? Hitchens has been doing the world-weary I'm-so-much-better-than-you act for so long that he could slip nicely into the role of Dr. Manhattan, Aaronovich's incompetence and, well, doughiness make him a dead ringer for Nite Owl, Amis probably fancies himself as The Comedian and I hear on the grapevine that Nick Cohen's next Observer column will be titled "Compromise? Not Even In The Face Of Armageddon, Hurm".

3/04/2009 06:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish I hadn't made that last post - I'm now having hallucinations of Mad Mel as the Silk Spectre... NC has got to be Rorschach, only without the jokes

Meanwhile, I liked this bit of the Decentiya review:

Cohen's leftist monster has become an all-purpose bogeyman responsible for pretty much every available thought and other crimes. His methods too often consist of guilt by association; 'random dips' into the pages of offending magazines; using the words and deeds of particular individuals to condemn whole organisations; or un-attributed accusations such as the 'fawning reviews from critics who are nominally of the left' of Damien Hirst's Skull (p. 330).

Yep, he's pretty much turned out exactly as I predicted

Think of the reviews as the obits for NC's career as a left-of-centre columnist

[redpesto]

3/04/2009 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Naah, Aaro's entire style is based on world-weary pronouncements and regretful conclusions that thousands of people must die for the greater good - he's Ozymandias. Paul Berman is Mothman - just sadly too sensitive to cope with his own importance. Toube is Dollar Bill, with his cape sadly getting caught in the revolving door every time. Nite Owl is Harry of the Place.

Alan NTM is Captain Metropolis - always producing a fantastic new display and project. And Shalom Lappin is Hooded Justice - he seems terribly important to the whole project but it's very hard to see why.

3/04/2009 06:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Dr Paul said...

Wasn't the reviewer of Cohen's book, Paul Johnson, the big cheese in the strange Big Flame group, many years back?

3/04/2009 09:13:00 PM  
Anonymous darkhorse said...

My parents bought a house off Malcolm Caldwell in the late seventies.

For some reason, I remembered the name, so was somewhat surprised to see news of his assassination when I was twelve.

My mother is fairly convinced that MI5 broke in and had a snoop around in case our family were the Eltham branch of a Maoist sect.

3/04/2009 10:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

That's Paul Thompson (and Big Flame made perfect sense to me). Long strange trip to have taken him all the way to Democratiya - reminds me slightly of Paul Anderson, who was in Solidarity & took from them a hostility to both Trots and Communists which served him well when he joined the Labour Party. Although Thompson, unlike Anderson, seems to have held on to enough of his libertarian-left beliefs to position him as one of NTM's pet leftists (like Martin Shaw).

3/05/2009 12:32:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

My god, OC, Nick's really lost it, hasn't he? How could he have been "forced out of the New Statesman" - it's a job, FFS. "Sacked" is the word he's looking for I believe (and I doubt that "What's Left" was the reason).

Rather than concentrating on the visit to Washington and the future of the economy, the PM’s most senior advisers are berating a journalist for his blog posts.

Alastair Campbell did rather a lot of this too of course. And Nick rather assumes that Martin Bright's blog post "which did not even appear in the print edition" is less likely to be read because of that. Surely the reason so many print publications employ bloggers is because the opposite is true. I don't buy the Spectator but I read the blogs (ditto the Times); I don't believe I'm alone in this. At least Brown's advisers know who to worry about.

3/05/2009 06:31:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Nick and the New Statesman, as it was reported at the time.

3/05/2009 07:53:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Well yeah - Cohen obviously left the Staggers because of that court action. And he's clearly still bitter about it. Not bitter enough to provide proof that he was forced out or writing what's left, of course - the link which should lead to a story about WL's role in his sacking leads to... the amazon page for WL.

The Martin Bright blog post, as I think I said on here at the time, was reported on 5 live on a regular basis.

Nick's still trying to claim that he was with the IMF in 2006 when it warned about deregulation, but there's nothing in his archive to suggest that he read the IMF report until, oh, about September 2009 when he was forced to rewrite the introduction to his book.

Nick doesn't understand blogging either:

the Spectator hired him to write a blog, the Bright Stuff. In one tiny item, which did not even appear in the print edition

er, that's the point of a blog, Nick.

Also Nick has demonstrated a central problem with the journo who comes to blogging late - his blog prose is often not even formed of proper sentences. I understand that learning to incorporate links can be a bit tricky at first but still:

They are free decide who writes for a paper.

Oh dear. He's not even edited it, and the piece has 6 comments. Also, this isn't true either:

The last prime minister to become so obsessed with poor press coverage was John Major.

He led his party to a landslide defeat.


the first part is certainly not true, Blair was just as obsessed as either of these two with negative press. And Major led his party to a victory first... Blair never lost an election... etc etc.

I think that Nick has missed the point of blogging completely, to tell the truth. But I also think that with this blog he's pitching for a slot at the coffee house... a shame that he's a worse blogger than most amateurs, then, isn't it?

3/05/2009 08:20:00 AM  
Anonymous saucy jack said...

There were, confusingly, two people called Paul Thompson back in the day, one in Big Flame and one in the, quite right wing even then, Chartist Majority Tendency. I suspect the writer of this review may be the latter. Or perhaps even a third Thompson.

3/05/2009 08:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

one in Big Flame and one in the, quite right wing even then, Chartist Majority Tendency

That would explain a lot. I've seen references to Paul Thompson moving from Big Flame to the LCC (which would be quite a move), but nothing about how.

On the other hand, there is only one Paul Anderson.

3/05/2009 09:33:00 AM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Anderson

Only one... I know what you mean though, and Paul (Not That One, And Not That Other One Either) Anderson would be just too clumsy.

Verification code "crancold"!

3/05/2009 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Griffin said...

This must be the same Gary Kent who is simultaneously a paid agent of the Islamic Dawa Party

Kent worked closely at one time with Sean O'Callaghan, who described him as a "a supposedly left-winger who is more right-wing." (Trimble, by Henry McDonald, p289.

I thought the inclusion of Rashid Ali's piece on Islamization and the far-right was interesting. Perhaps they realised they over-reached themselves with the Andrew Bostom/Bat Ye'or stuff last time.

3/05/2009 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

Paul Anderson? Don't forget the 19-stone Bradford and Great Britain prop forward, who was once "The Man With Two Arses".

3/05/2009 03:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

There are of course many Paul Andersons (I know the feeling, there are plenty of Phil Edwardses). What there isn't, however, is one Paul Anderson who interviewed Cornelius Castoriadis for Sanity on a bet*, and another Paul Anderson who genuinely believes Charles Clarke would have made a good Labour leader. Unlike the Paul Thompsons, Paul A. really has travelled a long way.

*With the late Ben Webb - "I bet you won't put Cornelius Castoriadis on the cover".

3/05/2009 04:22:00 PM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

Yeah, within the context it's entirely transparent. It's not like we have to go around referring to Richard (Not The American Football Player) Seymour, although that might be fun.

Quite a journey he's had, although the hatred of Trots and other Communists is a constant as you say.

3/05/2009 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Actually my name tends to give you an American Football player if put into Google and all.

What's that bloke doing in the list on the grounds of playing one game for Yorkshire? Is he famous for it?

3/05/2009 04:51:00 PM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

He'd be known to the sort of people who have complete sets of Wisden. There's a particular type of cricket buff who could probably have told you who he was off the top of their heads.

All right, maybe just obsessive Yorkshire fans...

And I do hope somebody here does a capsule Decentiya. I've been putting off doing something on the Basque elections, but even that would be more fun.

3/05/2009 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

All these Paul Andersons. And while I was reading these comments I thought you were all thinking of that proto-Mad Mel, Paul Johnson. D'oh.

That's Paul 'was editor of the New Statesman before transforming into a raving right-winger, father of both the editor of Standpoint and the head of Channel 4' Johnson.

Andrew 'not the Aussie politician, or the drunk tug boat pilot' Bartlett

3/06/2009 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Nite Owl is Harry of the Place.

Nope, that's Professor Geras. Harry is the mad, obsessive editor of the New Frontiersman, seeing conspiracies everywhere. Aaro might be the Comedian - advocate of intervention, laughs at do-gooders, known to the rich and famous, still keeps himself in condition in late middle-age. Oliver Kamm is not the barkeep who says "please don't kill anybody".

3/06/2009 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Oliver is surely the Big Figure?

3/06/2009 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Tony Blair might be the smiley face with the blood dripping down it.

3/06/2009 01:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tony Blair makes more sense as Ozymandias, if onyl becuase of coming up with a mad scheme to 'help' humanity, such as makiing a giant alien squid appear in Iraq.

[redpesto]

3/06/2009 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Andrew Anthony as Janey Slater?

3/07/2009 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Oh god. Am I the only person in the world who hasn't read teh Watchmen? I think I understand Medium Large's Watchmen week.

3/07/2009 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

No, I haven't either. Despite being surrounded on the Internet by SF editors, I've not read any of their stuff.

3/08/2009 12:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Simon said...

Not a bad Nick piece on housing today. I was expecting for the inevitable paragraph on the very real concerns of the white working class that the housing their grandfathers fought for is being stolen by Bangladeshis, but remarkably it never came.

3/08/2009 01:48:00 AM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

Hmm, it seems a bit confused to me - he conflates the issues of public and private housing too readily. I don't think anybody would deny that there is a shortage of public housing. But is Nick seriously arguing that having to save for a deposit before you get a mortgage is a bad thing?

And Kate Barker's analysis that we should build our way out of the house price explosion was always just too simplistic. I mean there's a pent-up demand for Bentleys but I don't think it should be government policy to ensure that enough are built to bring their price down so that everybody can afford them.

3/08/2009 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I can see a slight difference between a Bentley and a house, however. I think it's clearly the case that planning laws in this country keep the price of land artificially high in many areas.

3/08/2009 06:48:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

Bentleys were probably a bad analogy, but were meant to illustrate that just because people want something, that doesn't mean that they should get it.

I rather thought that house prices were high because they had become an investment instead of somewhere you live. There was a view that they were a source of free money. This generally leads to what we got - a bubble. And rubbish houses.

3/08/2009 07:12:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

On the other side of the equation, you also had the situation where, with the refusal of government to allow any substantial public housing, we had a "market" with one supplier - a small coterie of private house builders. They did what any sensible capitalist does in that situation - reduced supply and increased their margins.

Builders always complain about there not being enough land, but their land banks were always very healthy - and lucrative.

3/08/2009 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

In Europe to date, only Britain has had to cope with a banking crisis and a property bubble

Do you think Nick just forgot about Ireland, or perhaps thinks it's still part of Britain?

3/08/2009 07:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

It's true that excess demand wasn't the main explanation for the housing boom, but it's also true that nowhere near enough new homes have been being built in the last 20 or so years. Where they have been built, because of the distortions in the market they often haven't been the right type of property - for example the proliferation of city centre 'urban living' flats for which there was never very much demand for people to actually live in, but lots of demand to snap up from buy to let investors.

There might be a positive offshoot from this in that many of these properties end up being acquired by housing associations and converted into relatively high quality social housing.

3/08/2009 07:39:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

and in further news:

Ministers say that they don’t want “a return to mortgage rationing” when they reject demands for a British Glass-Steagall Act, which would stop the banks bankrupting themselves and the tax-payers by speculating in securities.

Neither Northern Rock nor Bradford & Bingley speculated in securities - the only nontraditional thing they did was to fail to ask for a 25% deposit.

3/08/2009 07:39:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Do you think Nick just forgot about Ireland

Not sure what's happening with the banks in Spain, but we had the property bubble all right. There's unfinished blocks of flats all over the shop.

3/09/2009 07:18:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Watchman is very overrated. It was the Superhero comic which didn't suck. Which is nice and all, but in a world where Chris Ware can get mainstream reviews and David B is available in all good bookstores...

Austria and Switzerland look like having some interesting banking crises just around the corner. And I really can't see how Spain can avoid one, no matter how well regulated their banks were.

3/09/2009 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Actually my bank is supposed to be secretly controlled by Opus Dei, but then again most things round here are supposed to be secretly controlled by Opus Dei.

3/09/2009 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

There's unfinished blocks of flats all over the shop. That's just Spain though isn't it? When I was in Barcelona in the 80s there was this big church that Orwell saw being built during the Civil War, and it still wasn't finished.

3/09/2009 06:58:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

Isn't there some strange Spanish law about paying council tax on extensions to houses. i.e. you don't have to until the extension is completed? So extensions never get completed.

3/09/2009 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

That's just Spain though isn't it?

Its a little bit worse this time...

3/09/2009 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

That's just Spain though isn't it?

To some extent. In Asterix in Spain there's a gag where there's a traffic jam all the way to the coast and everybody's saying how good the roads will be when they're finished. But the sheer degree of unfinished obras is extraordinary, it's like they used to talk about the maps in Shanghai being useless because by the time you bought it a new district had sprung up. Except now they've stopped - or at least slowed down to a degree where the distinction is unclear - halfway. All sorts of people have shelled out for flats that aren't completed of course.

Didn't they use to say something similar about Italy years ago, that you'd get these half-completed projects all over the place because the money had run out, i.e. been diverted into certain people's pockets?

I didn't know that about extensions, although extraordinary things do go on. For instance, it's normal practice to agree a far lower price for your house, when selling, than the actual price, to avoid taxes - and then when the deal is about to be signed you actually go into the
next room
with the buyer who hands you over the remainder in cash.

Or so I'm told.

3/10/2009 07:38:00 AM  

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