Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lazy, sloppy desk research, Aaro!

Aaro remains very, very disappointed in us. We've let him down, we've let ourselves down, we've let the whole school down, by our irresponsibility. We must try to work harder and take more of an interest in politics. No not that kind of politics, Bloggs Major, the proper kind that gets covered by the Times. How dare we vote for independents etc.

But in the process, a really shoddy piece of Google churnalism:

The independent MP for Blaenau Gwent also offered a “political revolution” on his election in 2006. He set up People's Voice as a party, with much the same prospectus as the Wyre Forest independents - all love, listening and localism. “This political tidal wave cannot stop here,” says the People's Voice website, now largely not updated for two years. More cobwebsite really.

Firstly, Welsh politics FAIL, as this is a really poor summary of what happened in BG. Aaro implies that "People's Voice" was the creation of Dai Davies; in fact and of course it was the creation of Peter Law - the current independent MP for Blaenau Gwent was the former election agent of the previous independent MP for Blaenau Gwent and took his seat after winning the byelection caused by Law's death. Blaenau Gwent People's Voice had existed before as the ticket on which Peter Law campaigned - Davies took the additional step of registering it as a party so he could campaign on a joint ticket with some other independents for the Welsh Assembly.

More cobwebsite really

Because, as everyone knows, if it isn't indexed by Google, it didn't happen. In actual fact, as pointed out in Times letters the next day, PV is still very much alive and a significant presence on Blaenau Gwent council. (They were also still sufficiently committed to the "People's Voice" name to lodge a complaint against a North Welsh group wanting to call itself "Llais y Bobl" in last year's local elections).

Really sloppy stuff - Nick Davies complains about the effect of deadline pressure on newsdesk journalists, but Aaro is a columnist who had all week to pick up the phone or have a look at local papers in Gwent.

66 Comments:

Anonymous Phil said...

Also, note the bait-and-switch on Martin Bell and Richard Taylor - Martin Bell didn't attend votes in the Commons - and as for Richard Taylor, his party hasn't got as many councillors as it used to". This is the only reference to local councils in the column. (TheyWorkForYou says that Taylor's voting record is pretty damn good, in quantity and quality.)

5/21/2009 08:32:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Of course, some journalists are above such poor quality internet research and have railed against it:

the democratic quality of the net has permitted the release of a mass of undifferentiated information, some of it authoritative, some speculative, some absurd.
With the questionable quality of much internet information so accurately summed up in the above, it's a good job that the author of this recent quotation (a certain D. Aaronovitch) is above reproach where it comes to using a cursory internet search as his lone material for a column...

5/21/2009 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

RE OC comments above.

Exactly.

No one could accuse him of doing that!

The tone of DA and NC when they get on the subject of information and the net is always defensive. At least that's my reading. And the subtext is always at-the-end-of-the-day I'm a journalist/historian-and-I-know what-I'm-talking-about.

5/21/2009 11:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Billy P said...

No wonder Aaro's too busy to research properly, here he is taking one of the HP "Your View" (!!) writers to task;

Melvyn, I have no particular views on your Irishmen in Bolivia, but I do think that you could do just a little work if you are going to have a pop at me over JFK and the Reichstag fire. What specifically do you object to in my account of either? Why is the mother of Hans Lutten’s views of more account than those of Marinus van der Lubbe, Sefton Delmer and the Berlin criminal police (as opposed to the Gestapo), and of more weight than the case put together by Fritz Tobias?
Do I sense that you are just a little reluctant to let go of your own younger assumptions, no matter what the evidence?
(my emph)

Do you think he argues with drunks at bus stops as well?

http://www.hurryupharry.org/2009/05/20/spies-lies-and-journalists-007-and-a-failed-coup-in-bolivia/

5/21/2009 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I have a lot of sympathy for the argument that the internet contains a lot more rubbish than quality, and as a result we should view it sceptically as a potential research tool.

The problem with this argument of 'leave it to the experts', when it is employed by Aaronovitch, Cohen and (especially) Kamm is that none of them are really experts on very much, and they certainly tackle material in their columns and on their 'blogs' which is very definitely out of their area of expertise - and when they do so, they usually rely on one website they like for all their information.

I don't have a problem with reading stuff about the innate unreliability of Wikipedia, or the danger blogs pose to mainstream news, but when the lectures are being delivered by people who have written entire books based purely on internet research and elsewhere decide, arbitrarily, that being an internet obsessive makes you an expert (like Nick 'David toube is an authoritative souce on Islamism' Cohen); or people who tackle stuff they know nothing about purely to make some cash (Kamm on Stockhausen); or people who actually cite lone, unverified internet reports as their sole evidence (Aaro on CND and here) then I'm not going to take it very seriously.

If they hated the internet so much they wouldn't use it; the problem is that they're just as guilty as anyone else of cobbling stuff together from unreliable websites aand passing it off as the work of 'experts'.

5/21/2009 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

What exactly does DA mean by "a mass of undifferentiated information"? Should there be a great censoring/ratings office for the intertrons? Any good bookshop will probably stock utter rubbish (various UFO books, Dan Brown etc); how is the internet different? What would differentiated information be like? I assume that Oxford University counts as a proper source of information: but what about the religious sections of its libraries? Lots of different and conflicting accounts of the creation of the universe, nature of life, meaning of same, etc, and I doubt the librarians are prepared to say "well if I were you, I'd pass on Shamanism..."

I think this is the sort of thing that's always been this way: there are lots of stories (narratives if you will) and no key. One has to learn how to treat stories. And what would count as authoritative information? Google's algorithm used to favour .edu and .ac.uk over commercial sites (that's academics over journalists, so I doubt our boy likes that), but while peer-reviewed research is about as good as it gets, there's still a lot of nonsense in PhD theses: stuff that turns out to be wrong, stuff like 'research' into smoking which turned out to be funded by commercial interests and was, frankly, fatuous. In fact, you'd be worse off if you believed that everything coming from a certain source was reliable, because no university or newspaper is 100% reliable. I just don't see his point.

5/21/2009 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I am pretty sure that the phrase "a mass of undifferentiated information" is oxymoronic. If you have a mass of items of information which are not differentiated from each other, then that's just one piece of information.

5/21/2009 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

It’s hugely ironic.

All the tools of spreading information that, historically, humanity has used (and it’s by the by that the “truth index” of the information is worthy/unworthy) have traditionally been the subject of a controlling censor. Whether that be a dominating force like christianity is/was etc, who, for whatever reason, wish to circumscribe the exchange of information. That could be pamphleteering in the 17C /internet/ etc, it doesn’t really matter.

The point is, Aaro, in the "a mass of undifferentiated information" mode of his argument, is essentially guilty of the worst crime that anyone who purports to-be-of-the-left can do; to reject thought/ideas/versions of events/history, however mad it may appear, in order to qualify a statement or, appear to fight like a cornered tiger when "taken to task" via a new medium.

5/21/2009 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I see the Aaro/HP fight is still ongoing.

Would anyone mind telling me in less than a paragraph what it's all about?

5/22/2009 09:31:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

It's a pretty esoteric disagreement about the sources Aaro trusts for his account of the reichstag fire. Could those who have seen the book expand a bit, if there's time?

Aaro's reasoning in the comments seems based, again, on the 'if it looks unlikely to Aaro it's clearly untrue' angle. Which is fair enough, though if he is such a history buff he'd know that an awful lot of historical events have fairly unlikely aspects to them.

i'm really unconvinced by his general stance in all of this. In interviews he's claimed that his position requires lots of stamina, as in order to 'defeat' those you see as conspiracy theorists in battle, you have to keep talking til the bitter end. Which is, I guess, understandable, except that the debate with Atzmon shows that he actually has a pretty short fuse, and the tone of sneering disgust in these HP exchanges again shows that, while in print it might all look ok, when he takes these people on in person he ends up looking just as untrustworthy, angry, and ultimately foolish, as the 'nuts'.

5/22/2009 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Could those who have seen the book expand a bit, if there's time? There's actually more about Aaro's sources in that thread than there is in the book - the Reichstag Fire is a throwaway dealt with in a couple of pages.

5/22/2009 11:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tip number one for oppositional politics is "if your pressure group has a name, register is as a political party name, just in case." Seems that Aaro doesn't understand the workings of 2000 c.41 s.22.

As a reactionary in some matters, I'd rather that it was called 48 Eliz II c.41 s.22, but there you go.

Chris Williams

5/22/2009 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

A bit off-topic, but over at The Guardian Joan Smith (who is Francis Wheen's ex and, I think, Denis MacShane's girlfriend), is explaining that the expenses scandal is, according to the British press, "as if 9/11 has happened every single day for the last two and a half weeks".

5/26/2009 06:51:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Whoops:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/25/mps-expenses-democracy

5/26/2009 06:53:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

No Aaro in the Times today, and Cohen has been missing from the Standard or 3 weeks now, looks like he's been dropped from there. His article on sunday about the BNP was a peach - truly all over the place.

5/26/2009 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I think Nick's been too busy opening a British Gastropub in New York with Snow Patrol.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/22/AR2009052201105.html

5/26/2009 11:43:00 AM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

A bit off-topic, but over at The Guardian Joan Smith (who is Francis Wheen's ex and, I think, Denis MacShane's girlfriend), is explaining that the expenses scandal is, according to the British press, "as if 9/11 has happened every single day for the last two and a half weeks".Sounds more like over-the-top hysteria from partners and friends of MPs than anything else. It's the kind of article from the agonised "liberal" middle classes that you find in the Times.

I've no doubt that there are many "honourable" MPs but, you know, they have the power to set up the right kind of system, so if they fail to do it and get found out, then who else to blame.

5/26/2009 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick has been dumped by the Standard officially.

Anyone seen his hilarious piece in Standpoint, in which he accuses Gordon Brown of constantly smearing his critics... Sound familiar?

5/26/2009 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

A cynic writes: actually if I had a Times column to myself for a day I'd write one observing that the UK is an expense-fiddling society at all levels so it's not so surprising if it has representatives reflecting the society that elects them.

Still, I have enjoyed being in your country very much over the past three weeks - but why are you all making such a fuss about this "Susan Boyle"?

5/27/2009 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Incidentally, this corrupt Parliamentary Labour Party, this is the same Parliamentary Labour Party that for two decades has been shaped and controlled by - and for - allies and friends of David Aaronovitch, in order to exclude people and philosophies of which those friends and allies disapproved, and to promote people who those friends and allies found wholesome? Isn't it?

5/27/2009 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Justin! I was beginning to get worried! How are you?

Exciting news by the way; in your absence, Harry's Place have written a number of stupid and unpleasant things!

5/27/2009 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I'm fine, thank you, although I seem to have put on half a stone during the course of two weeks' honeymoon in Scotland.

I find it highly suspicious, by the way, that leftists are always condemning the so-called Massacre of Glencoe (though according to Some Guy With A Website there is no independent or eyewitness verification of this event) and yet are silent on the genocidal anti-Protestant politics of the Jacobites....

5/27/2009 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Honeymoon? Congratulations!

5/27/2009 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

The latest one is...why is it that people denounce Guantanamo Bay but are silent on the subject of Gilad Shalit? They are guilty of disgraceful double standards!

5/27/2009 11:59:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Oh, and this is fantastic?

5/27/2009 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

That gag would have been better as "some knave with a pamphlet", I suppose....

5/27/2009 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

congratulations!

5/27/2009 05:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Justin.

Chris Williams

5/27/2009 08:40:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Congratulations on your deep-fried Mars bar eating holiday. Or were you just putting away lots of pints of heavy? Don't let this marriage lark keep you away from the comment-boxes now. (And congratulations on that too, of course.)

5/27/2009 09:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

Obviously marriage is a bourgeois institution, but many congrats nonetheless.

5/27/2009 10:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, David Hirsch has really surpassed himself in applying bait-and-switch techniques in denunciation today:
http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/05/28/michael-cushman-and-the-jew-free-ucu-congress/
Note the way that 'Zionist' is taken by Hirsch to mean 'Jew' _with no evidence whatsoever_. Man, that's class. I keep myself on the Engage mailing list precisely for moments like this.

Luckily for us all, DH's foolishness has nothing to do with the soundness or otherwise of the boycott tactic. And IMO it is not sound.

Chris Williams

5/28/2009 02:57:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Wow, that's brilliant - and it's a classic example of the HP-derived 'if i say this thing long enough in print, and if i read it often enough in the same sorts of place, then it is true and requires no qualification or supporting evidence' line of argument. Bonus points for the 'what he actually meant was that he is a Nazi' bit...

Though in the world of Decency i've never seen anyone go quite as far as thinking that because antizionist = antisemitic (which isn't true anyway, but that's by the by) then zionist = Jew... Following on from that really weird interpretation of something a UCU member said the other day about Lehman Bros (also mentioned on that page), these cries are getting increasingly desperate.

By the way, what exactly is the Decent hard-on for the UCU all about? i'm no fan of an academic boycott, but they're hardly unique as a union in proposing that sort of thing (NUJ did something very similar recently IIRC), and the people who run the union don't seem especially powerful anyway (hence the climbdown over the proposed strike earlier this month).

UCU like all unions seems to have its fair share of hard left types, but the claims of antisemitism have always looked pretty strained to me - if the best they can do for evidence that it's the equivalent of the third reich is this, then they're not likely to really convince anyone who doesn't already believe.

5/28/2009 03:15:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

From the times:

David Aaronovitch was at the Hay Festival to be interrogated by Jon Snow on conspiracy theories, which are the subject of his new book, Voodoo Histories. A crowd assembled, but where was Snow? “In the end I had to interrogate myself,” said the Times man. “He came with ten minutes to go, blaming the organisers.” Aaronovitch is unconvinced. “There is something mysterious about all this,” he said. i smell a conspiracy theory...

5/28/2009 03:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

My comment is awaiting moderation (I wonder how long it will await), so I'll indulge myself here:

If Cushman is correct in his analysis, then they have ethnically cleansed the UCU of any oposition to their racist, xenophobic, antisemitic policies.One or the other. It's either "no Jews" or "no opponents" - and I'd say it's pretty staringly obvious from the piece that it's the latter. "Zionist" does not equal "Jew", no matter how often you say it does.

Except for Jews like him, the Jews who speak “as a Jew” but who are quite unable to recognize antisemitism. Oh, right. There are Good Jews and Bad Jews, and Bad Jews actually hate all Jews - and we know this because they say they don't like the Good Jews. All clear now.
[endquote]

Yeah, I know, sarcasm isn't big or clever. I'll go away and shout at the News.

5/28/2009 03:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

organic, at a wild guess, I'd say that Aaro got to the joke before you.
Phil D'Bap

5/28/2009 04:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've broken my cover on the engage thread. That'll teach me to go to see a performance of 'Antigone' by the local yoof, head to the pub, then post to the web. Such is life.

Chris Williams

5/28/2009 09:22:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Has anyone mentioned Nick's standpoint latest? It takes Aaro's [1] book, a very similar one from Wheen apparently about to spoil our Autumn, and basically stretches Aaro's apparent conclusion to breaking point.

[1] They're having a bit of a love-in at the moment, aren't they? I don't think they used to get on after Nick in print declared Aaro to be "a man who could be relied on to write as No 10 required"

5/29/2009 06:19:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Btw, i note that Nick himself once believed one of the things he now says is a mad conspiracy:

America sustains fundamentalist monarchs because it wants their oil. ...Support for Israel, which has no oil and is the enemy of oil producing Arabs, confuses this simple reasoning. But it can be explained away as an aberration created by the enormous influence of the Jewish lobby in Washington.

Sorry, old news.

5/29/2009 06:31:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Actually, reading the article in full he didn't believe the oil bit, it's not clear about the jewish lobby. His view was that the US was invading Iraq to warn its allies not to get too big for their boots.

5/29/2009 06:44:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Again, Nick is misrepresenting Mearsheimer and Walt.

I'd have a lot more time for that very generalised piece if Nick didn't spend most of the time attacking straw-man conspiracy theories. I also think this is typically 'funny but actually not very good' stuff from Wheen:

Irrationality is both cumulative and contagious. You start by reading your horoscope in the newspaper; then you dabble in chakra balancing or feng shui, saying that it is important to keep an open mind; after a while your mind is so open that your brains fall out, and you read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion without noticing anything amiss..

For a start, I wonder how Wheen sees Private Eye's stance on MMR fitting into that? What characterises almost all this stuff (Aaro seems a case apart, to an extent) is that it's entirely speculative and fundamentally irrational - it's based on hypothesis and stereotype rather than empirical research.

The Julius book sounds like it's going to be like his eliot one - very good up to a point but will end with a bunch of pretty dubious stuff. And isn't it a bit poor form that Cohen is putting stuff he's clearly proofreading out in the public eye so early? It doesn't look like much more than a popular history of the 70s with a negative stance, really.

All the conspiracy theorists about Iraq block from their minds any thought for the tens of thousands blown to pieces by al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia..
Cohen claims that the 'Iraq conspiracy theory' is that Blair et al knew in advance that Iraq had no WMDs. The jump in reasing here doesn't work at all, does it?

In the 1990s, the Right followed suit and decided that the liberal BBC stopped voters realising that the Conservative Party best represented their interests..
Hmm, believing that the BBC is innately biased by a 'leftist frenzy' and incapable of being objective. Now who would believe a conspiracy theory like that?

The rise of radical Islam with its medieval manias about Jewish conspiracies.
Protocols as medieval?

5/29/2009 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I think that the "Iraq conspiracy theory" Nick is referring to is the conspiracy theory promoted by the Bush/Cheney administration of Iraqi involvement with 9/11 - the "Prague Connection" with Mohammed Atta; ie, it's very unclear and badly written, but he's actually trying to defend this conspiracy theory against ...errr ... the conspiracy theory that there was a consipracy to falsely claim there was a conspiracy.

christ, it's shit.

5/29/2009 08:33:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

It is truly awful. also, another widespread conspiracy theory about Iraq is that the USA were happy for al-Qaeda to rise there so as to spread the battle thinly across Iraq and Afghanistan, and to lessen the likelihood of an attack on US soil. I'm guessing that the 'Iraq conspiracy theorists' who talk about this probably do think rather a lot about the people killed by al-Qaeda - in fact, isn't one of the most frequent claims of the anti-war movement (who Cohen seems to think are all conspiracy theorists) that those killed by al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia would probably still be alive were it not for the war...? Dear god.

Is this really what he spends all his time doing now he's been thrown off the Standard and reduced to 1/4 of a page in the Obs? Because it doesn't evince very much work, it's truly aimless. I'm not sure what point he's trying to make - for all his bluster about taking this stuff seriously, he falls into the same trap as almost everyone else - picking the nuts for a cheap laugh and conclusing with the kind of amateur psychobabble he's meant to oppose.

just one more thing:

The current 1970s nostalgia.
What does he mean by this? life on mars? that finished about two years ago. If he's talking about Red Riding, that was hardly nostalgic, and that was 'i love 1974' compared to the books... isn't he meant to be a TV critic?

5/29/2009 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

As far as Wheen's slippery slope commentary is concerned - it's an attractive idea, but does it really work like that? Or is it actually the case that many or most people are interested in some irrational ideas, but at other times, perhaps most other times, are rigorous and empirical in their thinking?

Moreover, aren't some of the loudest would-be rationalists highly vulnerable to sloppy and downright fantastical thinking themselves? Isn't it notorious, for instance, that certain people start thinking "hmmm, some elements of the left aren't as hard on dictators and terrorists as they ought to be" and the next moment they're seeing fascists, totalitarians and racists all over the shop?

5/29/2009 09:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

is it actually the case that many or most people are interested in some irrational ideas, but at other times, perhaps most other times, are rigorous and empirical in their thinking?I certainly hope so - I read my horoscope. In the Metro.

I can certainly see people going from organic veg and yoga to homeopathy and MMR scepticism (oops, bad example), but that's more a case of buying the package than drifting into ever wider expanses of irrationality. I have got a friend (more of an ex-friend in the circs) who went from general-purpose alternative/right-on-ery to 9/11 Truth, but there are always some - 25 years ago it would have been the Bhagwan.

I think Wheen's got it backwards; the Truther problem is lack of exposure to conspiracy theory - if you get it good and hard when you're young and impressionable, you've got plenty of time to put your mental universe back together. Gemstone, that's what these kids need. (See also Nostradamus, von Daniken etc.)

5/29/2009 10:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sladek's _The New Apocrypha_ is essentially a tale of his failure to find truth that he sought in woo.

In other news - slight outbreak of sanity on the Engage thread, largely due to Phil and Jon P (fair brought tears to my eyes, he did) rather than me. Unfortunately it found me in the BL having already _that minute_ ordered a giant stack of Pappe, Shlaim, etc. All tooled up and no-one to flame...

Chris Williams

5/29/2009 10:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Nick's recent gripes are: - he doesn't like nasty political smears, accusing people of things that aren't true , he doesn't like crazy paranoid conspiracy theories (well, when they are conspiracy he doesn't like left wingers cuddling up to the hard right. Has he looked i the mirror lately ?

5/29/2009 10:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops , please ignore the stray line "(well, when they are conspiracy"

5/29/2009 10:57:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I can certainly see people going from organic veg and yoga to homeopathy and MMR scepticism (oops, bad example), but that's more a case of buying the package than drifting into ever wider expanses of irrationality.Indeed. The Wheen line-diagram doesn't make sense at all - the Protocols don't fit into that general trend towards being new-age; you can read horoscopes and still be generally rational in your approach to life (and where do, I dunno, betting forecasts fit into that?)... as usual, Cohen and Wheen go for their standard fall-guys, of course an entirely irrational approach but since when did we expect any better?

Again, I don't really understand what either Cohen, Aaro, or (from the summaries) Wheen and Julius are suggesting one should do in all of this. Act rationally all the time? but all of them are guilty of holding irrational beliefs. Make sure history is written by professionals? ok but that invalidates Aaro, Wheen, Cohen and Julius.

What is it they actually want? Cohen says that Aaro wants TV companies to fact-check more rigorously but the main example of sloppy standards in his book shows that TV has always accepted dodgy stuff (eg holy grail, holy blood). Cohen's idea seems to be the rather vague 'we ought to worry', which is really un-rigorous, and at the end of his piece he seems to think that he's writing a piece on the dangers of radical islam, not conspiracy theories, when he says this:

justifications about the crimes of radical Islam.

Well, we can quibble about these 'justifications', but all the same, they're clearly not all conspiracy theories, are they?

to go back to Aaro's problem with Iraq, Cohen's conclusion can surely be turned back on himself:

The real damage Western conspiracists do is not to Western societies — or perhaps I should say is not only to Western societies — but to the victims of real conspirators with the power to kill.

For all Cohen's holier-than-thou concern for the world's impoverished Muslims, the acronym 'WMDs' springs to mind.

Also - isn't this 'fasism-enabling', according to Cohen:

the mild argument that "America had it coming"?

I thought that even publishing someone reporting these views - let alone calling them 'mild' - meant that all copies of the LRB should be pulped, or something. What's changed?

sort of on-topic, it turns out (from the comments section of Cohen's article on the Standpoint website) that bloke Melvyn who got into that HP bunfight with aaro about the reichstag fire is a fully-paid-up 9/11 truther. Who Harry's Place donated a 'your view' to recently. you could not make it up.

5/29/2009 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

He also seriously misunderstands Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent" if he thinks it is a conspiracy theory.

5/29/2009 01:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Whoa. That's not good.

I assume that readers do not believe that the CIA, the Mafia, the military-industrial complex or some other manifestation of the System ordered the murder of JFK.Great opening sentence, Nick. I mean, I don't, but only because I'm fairly convinced that it was a Mob hit set up by LBJ.

And then to cite "Blair lied" and the "Jewish lobby" as swivel-eyed conspiracy theories to rank alongside "Prince Philip killed Lady Di"... Yeesh.

anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that ascribe supernatural power to Jewish influence are so prevalent no one has found a way to measure them. What does that last clause mean? "So big there's no evidence"?

Then we go from Nick reviewing Aaro to Nici reviewing Wheen's book about the 70s - which sounds as if it's mostly been recycled from Lobster ironically enough - and chipping in "which is itself a conspiracy theory!" every so often to try and make it hang together.

the Baader-Meinhof gang and other left-wing terrorist groups took up arms because they claimed that the democratic Federal Republic was really a Nazi state. They then subscribed to the Nazis' paranoid conspiracy theory and used those arms to target Jews and firebomb synagogues.Five minutes' googling tells me that the Tupamaros-West Berlin, one of the precursors of the RAF, firebombed a synagogue (singular) in 1969, on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, and did so in protest against Israel. Three errors in one sentence.

Predictably, the far-right British National Party has broken out of its cage. It can now announce that its version of neo-fascism is not as extreme as ideas tolerated without objection in polite society.Can it? Does it? Can we name anyone who's been caught out by pointed questions from the BNP?

Dreadful stuff.

5/29/2009 03:27:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

Nick Cohen in Standpoint, June 2009...

"Predictably, the far-right British National Party has broken out of its cage. It can now announce that its version of neo-fascism is not as extreme as ideas tolerated without objection in polite society..."Nick Cohen in the Observer, May 2009...

"Griffin has fooled the occasional journalist, but the regular convictions of BNP members for racial assaults, drug dealing and sex crimes leave most people in no doubt that the new BNP is no different from the old BNP..."How many Nick Cohens are there?

5/29/2009 05:12:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

And then to cite "Blair lied" and the "Jewish lobby" as swivel-eyed conspiracy theories to rank alongside "Prince Philip killed Lady Di"... Yeesh.Yeah, that's pretty shitty, even by Nick's recent standards. The whole thing is just so bad though, I mean surely no one could possibly read it and think it a serious and thought provoking piece.

Oh, hang on...

5/29/2009 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

In fact if there's one idea which the BNP frequently express which has been very much validated by people who consider themselves on the left, is it not opposition to multiculturalism?

5/29/2009 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

(Off-topic, but can anybody see an Oliver Kamm obituary coming up?)

5/29/2009 06:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

I'd love to see that. There are people who aren't fit to wipe Luxemburg's shoes whose shoes Ollie isn't fit to wipe. Er, in my humble unregenerate romantic maximalist opinion.

Over on Engage, incidentally, the descent into sanity has passed, and I've been unmasked as a racist. C'est la vie.

5/30/2009 08:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that ascribe supernatural power to Jewish influence are so prevalent no one has found a way to measure them. What does that last clause mean? "So big there's no evidence"?"

I think it's more along the lines of 'I can't be arsed to do the work required to process this evidence. I mean it's just obvious isn't it. BBC bias, the Fabians, the anti-semitic Mearsheimer and Waltzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.'

Von Pseud

5/30/2009 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger Gregor said...

I’ve had an absolute downer on Wheen ever since I dipped into 'How Mumbo Jumbo Conquers the World'. With little apparent relevance, Wheen implies that John Gray should take his place beside spoon benders, crystal healers and others because he said that the west may find salvation in eastern spirituality.

I wonder if Wheen knows anything about sceptical forms of Eastern spirituality, or just the saccharine form of it that is marketed to the West? To read these two pages you would not know that Gray is a fascinating anti-humanist philosopher, but you’d imagine someone who sits in the Lotus position whilst having schizophrenic monologues about the advantages and disadvantages of Hayekian economics. The strange thing in all this is that many of these sceptics are:

1) Very bigoted, they assume that all religion is the same and condemn (their favourite word) without investigating. (Steven Poole recently pointed out that Johann Hari’s attack on all religions did not provide any examples of ‘Buddhofascism’).

2) Not ‘sceptical’ at all, but highly credulous concerning their own beliefs in what is real and what is not real. To say that something that could exist does not exist is to me just as open minded as saying that something that could exist does exist.

5/30/2009 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger Gregor said...

Incidentally, apropos of the BNP, The Grauniad decided to spend money wisely to commission a Conservative called Mr Phibbs to tell the readers that the BNP are far left (which you might not know) and that the Conservative Party is best suited to 'expose' the BNP as Neo-Nazis. Because everyone thinks the BNP is all about multicultural egalitarianism.

I'm tempted to link to it... but I suspect that every hit will be taken positively.

5/30/2009 01:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

That whole Engage post and threat is a bit "It's 1944 and I'm Anne Frank", isn't it?

5/30/2009 02:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That whole Engage post and threat is a bit "It's 1944 and I'm Anne Frank", isn't it?"

It may be my sense of humour, it may be that I'm a Bad Jew, but that made me laugh a great deal.

Von Pseud

5/30/2009 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

a Conservative called Mr PhibbsAh...what was his first name, or is that the point?

5/30/2009 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Gregor said...

'a Conservative called Mr PhibbsAh...what was his first name, or is that the point?'

I'm afraid that I forgot his first name, and do not want to add more hits, or put his surname into a search engine. I'd guess the market research people would be thinking 'Oh, there's obviously a great demand for Guardian journalists who tell lefties that they are ideological twins of Nazis; let's up his pay', rather than 'Obviously some people cannot believe just how awful our new journalist is, and have to see for themselves'. I can remember Andrew Sullivan repeatedly crowing about how many hits his blog got, when many of them must have been sent by Eric Alterman et al.

Still, there is a link to the Phibbs piece on my blog. I do make an awful joke about his name but not the one you may think ;-)

5/30/2009 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I'm afraid that I forgot his first nameI, by contrast, had remembered, and I won't be the only one here...

5/30/2009 05:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

That whole Engage post and threat is a bit "It's 1944 and I'm Anne Frank", isn't it?I know what you mean, but there's something else as well - I don't think Anne Frank clubbed Nazis to the ground and then gave them a good kicking, which is what some of those commenters seem to think they're doing. The guy who pounced on you - and later on me - sounds quite genuinely aroused.

5/30/2009 08:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Alex Higgins said...

The actual Anne Frank in 1944 indulged in the outrageous moral frivolity of moral equivalence. Her comments underline her lack of seriousness. We should expect a harsh, critical obituary of her from a Decent at some point.

5/31/2009 09:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Simon said...

"Also, note the bait-and-switch on Martin Bell and Richard Taylor"

And also note the insinuation that Bell found the work of an MP difficult and unrewarding, or that he was perceived as unsuccessful in the role. Neither are true: the general consensus was that if he had stood again in Tatton he would have walked it, and he enjoyed politics so much that he stood unsuccessfully in another seat 2001 (Brentwood and Ongar) and then in the 2004 Euros for the Eastern region.

5/31/2009 10:26:00 PM  

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