Friday, July 17, 2009

Is Martin Amis On Drugs?

Well, really. (NB to the Guardian website's credit it published a response by Abbas Barzegar at 13:30 today.)

Even for Martin, it's a weird article. Some of his background reading is impressive: he's certainly done more than the average hack, even if his references lean toward the literary - that is the prettily expressed - rather than the historical. Why, for example, bring Ted Hughes into this? He tries, unconvincingly to me, to compare the Iranian revolution with the October 1917 one. He tries, with no more success to the present writer, to find a parallel between Presidents Ahmadinejad and Reagan.

Do we need to be told that someone who has published a book is a 'writer'? See Amis's opening sentence.

Revolutions, almost by definition, are fiercely anti-clerical. As late as 1922, to take the fiercest possible example, Lenin executed 4,500 priests and monks, plus 3,500 nuns.


One revolutionary murdered clerics, therefore all revolutions (should) murder clerics. Oh dear. And 'fiercely' followed by 'fiercest' (when he may mean 'only')! Didn't he use to claim to consult a thesaurus 20 times a day?

But the strangest part is this:

What remains, then, you might wonder, as you deplane at Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport, and enter a city where no cab-driver will stop for a cleric – what remains of the legacy bequeathed by the Father of the Revolution, or alternatively by "that fucking asshole", as he is reflexively called, in English, by the youth of the cities of Iran?


From this, I assume that Amis went to Tehran, presumably on the Guardian's expense account. Everything else could have been (and probably was) written in his study. How many cab drivers do you think he watched? How many youths did he speak to?

This is will be discussed on 'Newsnight'.

58 Comments:

Anonymous belle le triste said...

zizek does a rather better job comparing ahmadinejad with berlusconi in the lrb, i think

seems peculiar to me describing either of the english revolutions (1640; 1688) as "by definition" anticlerical; still less the american

7/17/2009 09:56:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

I'm more interested in why this appeared in G2. Which, if we are fair, is not the avenue I would take if I were Amis. Has he touted it around? Who knows.

It's well researched to a certain extent but if it appeared in, say, another publication it would be torn to shreds.

But he is as disqualified from talking about Iran as I would be. Unlike another famous foray into Iran by a well-known intellectual who tried to analyse it; think about it.

Amis is essentially presenting a potted history of Iran with some reasonable ideas but is still ejaculating over what he sees as the death roes of Islam.

"Such a "linkage" – liberalisation equals benefits – would have fatal consequences for the mullahs. The earth has already stirred beneath them, with the pro-western, anti-Syrian, anti-Iranian election in Lebanon. This, together with certain historical forces, explains the current confusion and hysteria of the armed clerisy."

How was the Lebanon election pro-western?

That is like saying the Labour victory of 2005 was a huge endorsement of UK foreign policy or that the UK people now believe they have backed the right horse in communing with the US foreign policy.

Amis doesn't know anything about Lebanon (voting, psychology, demographics, feminism). So he sticks this pile of crap in G2 and other publications who are always hungry for a literary star to spout shite.

As he did with The Last Days of Muhammad Atta and was amusingly blasted (amongst others) by Chris Morris here

7/17/2009 10:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm more interested in why this appeared in G2."

Good point. After all the sturm und drang he does seem to have actually damaged his brand by staggering on to the lawn of his wife's American mansion and sharing the thoughts he entertained about making some of my neighbours suffer beacause of the religion they happened to be born into. Now he's telling us his thoughts on Iran in the bit of the paper aimed at people who need to wipe the mayonnaise off the desk after lunch. Yay us.

rioja kid

7/18/2009 12:28:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

it bears all five hallmarks of amis's recent nonfiction. His essay on maradona (also in g2 iirc) was based solely on the opinions of one of his mates in uruguay (speaking to amis in english, of course)-and the young-people-and-cab-drivers-all-hate-the-regime stuff will almost certainly come from a single source. Second hallmark is an ostentatious display of secondary reading, using it as a badge of honour but not really anything more, since it is tangential to the main argument-which again is odd, since any of the authors he cites on iran would have done a better job of this piece. Third, he makes racial generalisations which wouldn't be allowed at gcse and are deeply dodgy anyway. Four, he draws lunkheaded comparisons which don't stand up to any line of scrutiny. But finally-and most importantly-the meat of the argument does not come from second-hand eyewitnesses or secondary reading-it comes from wingnut websites. That's more or less the only place where you can find the stuff about nuclear-war-inspired-imams and if amis was honest he'd admit that his sources for that portion of the essay are located in the oeuvre of someone like daniel pipes.

7/18/2009 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger John B said...

"still ejaculating over what he sees as the death [th]roes of Islam."

I'd be absolutely delighted if Islam, along with Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Judaism (Buddhism seems relatively harmless) were in its death throes. Surely that believe is pretty central to Enlightenment liberalism?

Barzegar's piece is far more unpleasant:

Reason, democracy, independent thinking, and human rights – timeless universals or complex socio-historical constructions

A. Now fuck off back under your rock.

7/18/2009 07:17:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

"Deplane"?

7/18/2009 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Buddhism seems relatively harmless

You say so because....

7/18/2009 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

John, you're absolutely right that "Barzegar's piece is far more unpleasant" in the sense that he appears to be advocating what we may as well call 'clerical fascism'. But at least the Guardian was quick to publish a right of reply (with comments! why couldn't MA get comments?).

I don't get greatly excited by examples of known-believer-in-nonsense-talks-crap in the Guardian. There are objectors to secular liberalism whose arguments amount to "well, er, you wouldn't understand" in all religions. I expect higher standards from my side as it were. Amis sadly disappoints again. I think OC is right about the hallmarks. If the Guardian wants long think pieces about the Islamic world (and it should, really), what's wrong with Juan Cole or Marc Lynch among others?

This brings me to my usual rant about the Guardian and newspapers in general. They can commission this sort of thing from academics who may know about a particular subject in depth but lack name recognition or they can have an Amis, essentially a star, but superficial with it. Fuck it, I want to be informed. Give me meat, not posing slebs.

Amis seems to have been flown to Iran purely so he watch taxis not pick up clerics. (How stupid are clerics? So stupid that after years of being ignored by all the taxis in town they don't stop hailing them? OK, possibly clerics are that stupid.) You know, I do think there's something in the idea that Israel is a lone beacon of democracy surrounded by medieval ignorance. I don't see any reason to assume that change in Iran will bring about the sort of place where I can eat my bruschetta in peace. Amis compared Khomeini with Stalin; that latter is a long time gone, but Russia is hardly a new Eden is it?

"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss" as I say much too often. And a piece which predicts the demise of the old boss should at least take a punt on the new one.

7/18/2009 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger steve said...

Is MArtin Amis on drugs? Is he ever off them more's the question. I have to say, I'm saving the other 3/4 of this mess of an article for a very rainy afternoon.

7/18/2009 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

They can commission this sort of thing from academics who may know about a particular subject in depth but lack name recognition or they can have an Amis, essentially a star, but superficial with it.

I suspect this applies i nall subject areas. It's anything but unusual, for instance, to see some literary celebrity writing about sport and producing what he or she thinks are novel observations but are in fact the very opposite, because their knowledge of sport and commentary thereon is actually very thin. They shouldn't be commissioned, and if they are, they should be experienced enough to know that don't write about what you don't know about is a really good rule.

I do like this clerics-and-taxis thing.

7/18/2009 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

John B

"still ejaculating over what he sees as the death [th]roes of Islam."

"I'd be absolutely delighted if Islam, along with Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Judaism (Buddhism seems relatively harmless) were in its death throes. Surely that believe [belief] is pretty central to Enlightenment liberalism?"

To begin with you missed a deliberate pun on death throes.
"Roes" as in fish/religious symbolism? (And if you believe that you'll believe anything!)

Secondly I made no assumptions in my comment about what my actual beliefs were. My blasting of Amis' article was on the lines of:

1. He hasn't done enough research to be able to comment on this subject.

2. I questioned its appearance in G2. (See the comment from Rioja Kid beneath mine).

3. I drew a comparison with Foucault's work on Iran. As he actually spent a long time there during the 79 revolution and probably came back with the wrong conclusions but at least had the decency to engage with what was happening on a grass roots level. Not swan about in cabs picking up hearsay and then passing it off as ground research. (See OC's comment).

4. His conclusion that the last Lebanese election was an embrace of Western values is ridiculous. He seems to have no idea about the complexities of the situation there.

If you would like to elaborate about how you envisage the end of all religion (apart from those lovely Buddhists of course)being the answer to the fulfillment of some vague notion of Liberal Enlightenment. Go ahead.

As for "Now fuck off back under your rock." If that was directed at Barzegar. Fair dues.

If at was directed at me - and to paraphrase the Life of Brian.

How would you like us to fuck off Messiah?

7/18/2009 10:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Chris Baldwin said...

"Buddhism seems relatively harmless"

There were Buddhist theocracies in Mongolia and Tibet until the twentieth century.

7/18/2009 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger Gregor said...

Hnn, forgive me guys, but I think a lot of you are getting a bit starry eyed about the Guardian, which publishes increasing quantities of Neo-lib bulls**t.

Timothy Garton Ash, Martin Bright, Luke Harding, Max Hastings, thatirishblokewhokeepsslaggingoffchavezbutwhosenameiforgot… actually Simon Jenkins is probably to the left of their current stable (OK, he published a recent opinion piece on renationalising the railways, my pet interest, and he pointed out that Saakashvilli is a douchebag, my other pet interest*).

I also think you are ignoring Amis’s gushing comments about Obama. I think that he’s hoping that his stuff will seem to agree with everyone. But, Obama I think might shock many people by being isolationist in a conservative way.

PS Thanks for the Fr Ted link ‘you’ve got to expect this sort of thing in the priesthood’. So many brilliant lines that I didn’t even notice the first 50 times I saw it.


*No, before any trolls pounce, he didn’t say that Putin (no-one seems to mention Medvedev) was the angelic goodie, but frankly anyone as downright stupid as Saakashvilli does NOT deserve support

7/18/2009 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger Gregor said...

blogger trimmed by neologism, but a search found it was Rory Carroll, who seems happy to quote the Honduras 'interim president' as saying 'I'm sure that 80% to 90% of the Honduran population is happy with what happened today.', without seeing if there is any evidence.

7/18/2009 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger John B said...

@ Mr Kitty, unequivocally directed at Barzegar, sorry if that wasn't clear.

@ ejh, I'm not aware of a Buddhist Inquisition, and as far as I've read there isn't a significant Buddhist element to the war in Sri Lanka (whereas in primarily inter-ethnic conflicts involving the other faiths listed, religion is generally wheeled out to make everything worse and everyone hate each other even more). Open to being proved wrong, if you've got sources I've missed.

7/18/2009 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger Gregor said...

'seems peculiar to me describing either of the english revolutions (1640; 1688) as "by definition" anticlerical; still less the american'

Or Greek, Serbian, Romanian revolutions against the Ottomans... or their counter-revolutions against their communist rulers in the last two cases. And Irish, Polish...

7/18/2009 01:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CC:

Give me meat, not posing slebs.

This, from the TLS and not the usual suspect (LRB), is much better:
http://digbig.com/5babsa

K

7/18/2009 01:57:00 PM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

On Sri Lanka, the Aryan-Buddhist racial mythology that underlies an awful lot of Sinhalese nationalism repays study. And a lot of the most virulent Sinhala supremacists have been found in the Buddhist monasteries. It's an angle that gets missed a lot because the SL government doesn't partake too much of religious rhetoric. (See also the atheism of LTTE cadres as to why the Tamil side hasn't tended to frame things in Hindu terms.)

One might also look at Burma or Cambodia.

7/18/2009 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

For that matter, a quick glance at the hill tribes of Southeast Asia should disabuse anyone of this strange belief that Buddhists are nice cuddly folk. They just had the sense to carry out their genocides against nonliterate cultures and to do them really hard.

7/18/2009 06:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Hugh said...

Marc Lynch isn't in Juan Cole's league. Lynch's analysis of the Islamic world isn't much more complex than Amis's. All Lynch does is switch the Muslim Brotherhood and Co. from being the bad guys to being the good guys. The rest of it's just as dumb.

7/18/2009 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger John B said...

Buddhist exemption rescinded. On their genocides, is this akin to why white Australians are more popular than white South Africans?

OT: even though I'm a free speech absolutist when it comes to libel and hate speech laws, and criticising English libel law is like machine-gunning a fishmongers' counter, Cohen has still managed to write a piece criticising English libel law that veers between factually incorrect and just fucking insane. Nobody criticises the banks because they're scared of libel suits? Liberals hate free speech, because we've won all our victories through the courts? David Cameron will make everything OK again?

7/19/2009 09:46:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Not entirely OT, John. I just read that piece (via Mike Power's splendid paperround). I knew from the title that it would be our Nick.

I've never heard of someone being sued for writing a research paper. After all, if a paper passes the review process, it ought to back up any assertions with stuff like evidence. This ought to make libel suits impossible. Also, mathematicians who work for banks earn a lot of money; those who work in universities (by comparison) don't. Why sue someone with no money over something almost no one will read?

I'll admit that real tyrants - Stalin, Ayatollah Khomenini - would suppress science if it was insufficiently PC. Bankers may the villains de jour, but they're really not in the same league.

Good Nick piece: reports an actual event and goes from there. This sort of crap: has no evidence.

The naive, who suppose that the law would protect mathematicians who told the truth, do not understand the wretched condition of freedom of speech in England. The exorbitant costs of libel actions are far beyond the means of all academics and, increasingly, most newspapers; Simon Singh can only fight the chiropractors because he is the author of four international bestsellers.

No evidence re mathematicians, note, merely suppositions. Also, universities do have the sort of money to fund libel defences and they do (not always) stand behind their staff.

7/19/2009 10:22:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Yeah that piece is just an absolute mess isn't it? As you say, it follows the bad-cohen-piece model of 'throw everything at the wall and see if anything sticks, oh and left-liberalzis are inherently bad' God knows what it must've looked like before the subs got hold of it because whole paragraphs make no sense and sentences in them seem totally unconnected.

I'm really not convinced by this:

bad maths allowed bankers to pretend to themselves that they were not being insanely reckless

And I strongly doubt that Cohen understands why the maths was 'bad'. Clearly what he's done is, with his defend-Sing-group hat on, is hack around trying desperately to find another libel case to talk about, but the only one he's found is in his head, pretty much, and even this imaginary case doesn't seem to work as an example.

And what is this all about?

As important, the law is biased against defendants and judges put the worst possible interpretation on a writer's words.

If he's talking about the Singh case, I'm really not convinced. the worst possible interpretation in that instance seems to be the idea that calling a practice 'bogus' implies that practitioners know that it doesn't work. Hardly worst-possible-intrepretation. And Nick is not exactly unguilty of boneheaded misreadings either.

people who know what went wrong and why it went wrong are too frightened to go public

So why doesn't bave Nick step in? isn't that what investigative journalists are meant to do?

What we have here is Cohen's response to his worry, as stated in the guardian politics podcast a week or so ago, that the phonetapping stuff will hinder this all-new GISOOT - put simply - he's clutching at straws.

and what's this...?

I accept that you should not put your trust in promises from Tories, particularly when they are trying to woo journalists in the run-up to an election. But

...? oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. He is genuinely going to support the Tories - the feared and derided Etonians of the last book - in the election, isn't he?

7/19/2009 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I very much doubt that Simon Singh has more financial resources available to him than "most newspapers", though he does have the advantage of being both the person who wrote the piece and the person in charge of the money.

7/19/2009 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I hear that secretly, Nicholas Taleb actually believes that value-at-risk is a fraudulent methodology promoted by charlatans and idiots, but he never says so out of fear of getting sued.

7/19/2009 11:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Dr Paul said...

I'm a bit tardy here as I've been away from a computer for a few days, but when I saw Amis' piece in the Guardian I asked myself: 'Why?' Who on earth takes this silly man seriously these days?

Still, I guess the BBC does, as he was on Newsnight the other week, carefully draped over an arm-chair, pontificating on Iran. And presumably the Serious Liberal Press doesn't want to be upstaged.

I've not been able to take him seriously as a political commentator since he tried his hand at political biography, that truly laughable book on Stalin, see my review here.

7/19/2009 01:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Anyway, to the extent that the problem is

"They assumed they could place reassuringly neat numbers on the risks of default in bundles of mortgages or bonds"

surely the issue is that reality wasn't random enough - the variations in mortgage defaults didn't cancel one another out in the way they were assuming. Certainly it's not "bad maths" in the slightest.

7/19/2009 03:48:00 PM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

It's a case of Decent Scientism, isn't it? That is, taking Wheen's Mumbo-Jumbo as a template, is an aggressive defence of scientific rationalism without needing to actually know anything about science. It's the sort of thing that has me half-expecting that Nick's next gig will be on Spiked.

You know, the more Nick bangs on about this Singh case, the less I'm convinced by his argument. In any case, it's not an argument I want to hear from people who hang out at HP Sauce, which is more or less a standing invitation to stricter libel laws.

7/19/2009 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Totally right about Scientism - and what Nick's also overlooking is that mathematicians in banks are not stupid, this isn't the equivalent of something in bad science - most of the mathmos working at banks could walk into academic jobs. This is not 'Bad Maths' by any stretch of the imagination, and Nick doesn't even bother to try to explain why they might be right. also, banks have been criticised all over the shop in the last year, why would this be any different? He never really explains, which is why the article falls on its face (well that and the auto-cohen comments, not linked to the piece at all, towards the end).

the more Nick bangs on about this Singh case, the less I'm convinced by his argument.

He really does a bad job of it, doesn't he? instead of getting into technicalities and unpicking hypocrisy, he gives us that odd line on 'libel judges take the worse possible interpretation of what someone could mean', and seems to think that everyone reading his column will not only know what he's on about but also agree fully.

I'm not sure what's so wrong about erring on the side of caution, and taking something close to a worst-case scenario - surely it's an invitation to make sure writers are using Orwelian Plain Style, and that they're not making mistakes? I understand why someone so fundamentally lazy, and so fond of Decent websites, would oppose this, but still. Singh is unlucky, and has been caught out by a lazy choice of words, but probably will win his appeal in the end. The more Cohen bleats on about it as some sort of GISOOT, the less sympathy I have.

and if this mathematicians thing the best example other example Cohen has up his sleeve then I say leave the libel laws alone, they're obviously not too bad. The tourism thing seems odd but, again, Cohen's only example of this is a book that's now ages out of date and available on wikileaks anyway.

In any case, it's not an argument I want to hear from people who hang out at HP Sauce, which is more or less a standing invitation to stricter libel laws.

exactly.

By the way guess who is bigging this piece up? why Martin Bright of course. and so the back-and-forth of ex-left-wing journos continues.

Since we were talking about Brett lock the other day, there is a post by him about Morrissey on 'Harry's Place Arts' (the first post in about a fortnight) which is absolutely, and unintentionally, hilarious. And i'd quite like one of the people he refers to as 'fascists' - those evil, er, stewards at a London gig venue, not their bosses, but the stewards themselves - to sue.

7/19/2009 05:25:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

Should we invent a new game, called Nick Cohen Roulette? For who he ascribes the term "left liberal" to each week? This week - Labour ministers ... spin the wheel and next week - who knows?

7/19/2009 09:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick's stuff about libel law gives no clue as to what actually should be done about libel law. Some of the evidence to the Parliamentary Committee (eg by Nick Davies) explains the issues much better.

Guano

7/19/2009 09:07:00 PM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

Rusbridger's evidence wasn't bad, and I thought Hislop's was excellent.

As for the law being biased against defendants and judges setting impossibly high standards, I do hope Nick isn't going to revise his position on ITN vs Living Marxism, where he was still celebrating the verdict in What's Left?. If he changes his mind on that one, a lot of his mates will never forgive him.

(Before anyone extrapolates my own position on the above case, I'll state that I thought it flagged up some deficiencies in the libel law; politically, I'd no objection to a Furedite get-rich-quick scheme going awry, but you can't have a separate legal standard for people you disagree with. A lot of Decents seem to find this a difficult concept to grasp.)

7/19/2009 09:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Der Bruno Stroszek said...

but you can't have a separate legal standard for people you disagree with. A lot of Decents seem to find this a difficult concept to grasp.

Indeed, it seems to be central to a lot of their thinking. When Hassan Butt was investigated by the police, I seem to remember Nick - this being the time when Nick was still talking about Hassan Butt, of course - being outraged that someone was being investigated by the fuzz for claiming involvement with a terrorist attack. Those crazy police, what do they think they're doing?

7/20/2009 05:29:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

By the way, a clue to why Nick is so keen on the issue might be found in Martin Bright's most recent blog post, where he mentions Nadhmi Auchi, who Eady found in favour of (I think) in a case against Bright when he was at the Staggers. Intrestingly, this came shortly before Bright left.

This is all part of that Tony Rezko mess that even Private Eye seemed incapable of explaining properly.

But I don't think it's any surprise that Cohen should simulanteously start banging the drum about libel laws (using cases unrelated to Bright's, since Cohen is actually implicated in it) while also starting the 'Gordon Brown fired Martin Bright' meme after december 2008.

It's all about backing up your mates, isn't it, hence all the Bright-Cohen back and forth praise... oh and TGISOOT of course.

7/20/2009 07:36:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

and if this mathematicians thing is the best other example Cohen has up his sleeve

just to be clear, this example is crap - there are loads and loads of mathematicians who have been banging on about bank models for years - Paul Wilmott basically publishes a special magazine for them to do it in.

the 'Gordon Brown fired Martin Bright' meme

which is, of course, libellous - and NC has no defence of justification since even Brighty doesn't back him up on this one.

7/20/2009 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Ha! score one Cassandra point for me - I suggested that the guy Nick quoted might not have been wholly happy with the use made, and so it appears!

I feel a bit stitched up by Nick Cohen. In my opinion he has mixed quotes I made in order to create a story. ...

7/20/2009 08:50:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Oh dear, that doesn't look good for Cohen at all.

7/20/2009 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger John B said...

The Trump thing today was a a good example of why UK libel law is daft and US libel law sensible: Trump lost, even though the reporter's accusation was shown to be false, because the reporter had a reasonable belief that it was true.

Unrelatedly, on the fringes of Decency, Rod Liddle seems to have decided the Best Thing To Do is to rewrite three-month old Johann Hari columns with slightly more borderline-racist invective...

7/20/2009 10:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also on the fringes of decency, Hitchens repeats the Bright Statesperson line

"Martin Bright, political editor of my old lefty magazine the New Statesman, was effectively hounded out of his job because he was rash enough to object to the Labour machine that was then running the mayoralty of London. "


http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2009/08/hitchens200908incidentally, I think Nasty Nich is the "stalwart comrade" who is Hitchens main source

7/20/2009 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Anon, I know that much of my critiquing comes down to issues of style (see my post here for instance). But that sentence illustrates my belief that adjectives almost always weaken and are best left out. (I think they're often put in for rhythm, sententiousness, or verbosity.) What does 'effectively' mean here other than 'not'?

7/20/2009 11:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cohen "stitching up" his contacts, and watching his stories fall apart in his hands- again - make him a natural candidate for Private Eye's hackwatch- or would, if he wasn't already contributing similar inaccurate stories to PRivate Eye. It's a bit like the old Mission Impossible tv show - "Mission Implausible, starring Nick Cohen. Warning, this sotry will self destruct after ten seconds"

7/20/2009 01:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Someone pointed out to me, more years ago than I care to remember, that "almost" logically means "not". It's worth keeping in mind - it's more effective than the "almost"/"but not quite"/"yeah but almost" back-and-forths you can get into.

I think "effectively" is similar, but with more dishonesty - it logically means "it wasn't like this, but if it had been it would have looked the same, so maybe it was (although I'm not saying it was)". Or more succinctly, "I can't say this happened, but I can do a damn good job of implying it".

7/20/2009 01:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, "effectively" (actually an adverb) is a slithery word here. Its primary meaning, I would say, is "with great effect -- elegantly done; not much sweat involved, but a clear consequence: Brown's henchman got rid of Bright effectively with a quick text message to the paper's owner". Hitchens maybe meant to say "in effect: to all intents and purposes". But a master of English prose (he really is, even if he lets us know it too) goes wrong here.
K

7/20/2009 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I think "effectively" is all right. The question is whether or not it's true - and Martin Bright's saying it isn't.

Now it may be that he doesn't believe that and is encouraging his mates to say what he doesn't want to, but I think they really need to deal with the fact that he's denying it, if only because once anybody who reads this stuff discovers this, they're going to say "hang on a minute". Or at least they are if they're any good.

7/20/2009 02:32:00 PM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

my rule of thumb in ref this kind of qualification of a verb is: imagine what the alternative would be -- here i think "effectively" (if read as "in effect", which seems right to me) appears to function as one half of the de facto/de jure dichotomy, so "in effect" opposes something like "by planned or formal intention"

another (not dissimilar) way of reading it is as a version of the old stalinist standby "objectively" -- so that it means something like "you say and perhaps believe that the reasoning behind this act was such-and-so, but of course OBJECTIVELY it is an attack on the revolutionary proletariat" (or whosoever hitchens's side now be)

7/20/2009 03:18:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Isn't tht 'objectively' also a favourite of Cohen's, i.e. people marching against the Iraq war were objectively supporting Saddam Hussain.

7/20/2009 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Indeed. It's hence something that can back up either the view of Decency that it involves ex-far-leftists having changed their positions but not their habits, or the one (mine) which says that the habits are not peculiar to a certain sort of far-leftist but can occur in any situation where somebody sees themselves as a crusader for the future of humanity whose main task is to hunt down and expose the appeasers and apologists.

7/20/2009 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger Gregor said...

The Hitchens article was interesting. Not for rehashing cliches about Brown, but for what it says about Hitchens. His patronising attitude towards old labour is very telling; he does not seem to have thought much about state ownership or have any ideas as to whether privatisation is always beneficial, but knows that nationalisation is unpopular so he can patronise those who haven’t jumped ship.

The Timothy Spall lookalike’s comments on Mr McBride’s weight problem are also very telling. Though the really archetypal Hitchens line must be: ‘One’s natural sympathy is canceled by the realization that he is leading from behind’. He laments that police ‘mash puddles of blood’ (is he competing with Amis to see who can be the worst writer and still be praised as a stylist?) out of protestors and onlookers. I am second to none in my loathing of police violence, but Hitchens has not as a matter of principle written about police violence in Britain, and doubt if he has written about tasers, but he just uses an over-wrought mixed metaphor to attack Brown. I presume he is talking of the shameful attack during the G8 summit, when a policeman savagely knocked a man on the legs, who then fell and later suffered a heart attack. An appalling thing, and yet I do not think Hitchens cares in the least: he writes a melodramatic account just to show how big-hearted he is and how awful the unpopular guy is. Self-righteousness is as close as he can get to ‘natural sympathy’. Just see his attitudes towards Iraqis who were tortured and killed by Saddam and those that were tortured and killed by the coalition.

Of course the most interesting thing about it, as with all of Hitchens’ stuff, is who on earth pays for this crap? However, it also seems to speak a lot about the religious nature of the new atheists.

7/20/2009 03:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And, re: "appeasers". I will always remember that the chief Decent theorist used this word about Jonathan Steele in an email to me. I had written to him to say that Steele is rather different from the other "Guardianistas" -- he is a British liberal, and a journalist who actually goes to these hell-holes to see for himself. The moral philosopher answered: "He's another appeaser."
K

7/20/2009 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Are Sense about Science still a Furedite operation? The ironies if so are compelling.

7/20/2009 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

According to this they are, though they're headed by, would you believe, Dick Taverne, who I didn't realise was still alive. Incidentally if you click on his name other interesting names like Derek Draper and Roger Liddle turn up.

7/20/2009 05:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hitchen's s piece on Brown is mostly relevant because he reflects UK decency, relying on a "stalwart comrade" (our own Nasty Nick) for his "facts" - like the "effective" sacking of Bright. Otherwise, I think Hitchens is not very relevant, as he has gone so potty he embarrasses even his best mates : As in his attempt to claim the discontent in Iran was caused by Iranians looking jealously and longingly at how well things are going in post invasion Iraq -

http://www.slate.com/id/2222254/

White Hitchens word used to be trumpeted around the decentweb, this piece of madness was politely passed by without comment

7/20/2009 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

No, Kamm's picked it up.

7/21/2009 08:37:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

Note that other people, whatever their motivations, objectively do terrible things through their actions. However, whatever unintended consequences may have resulted due to the Americans' regrettable tactical mistakes, Decent people acted in good faith.

It really is classical doublethink. For us, it's results that count; for them, it's purity of motives. That's the work that "objectively" is doing.

Meanwhile:

Bush was heaven-sent for the Iranian right; he blindly enhanced its regional power (with the adventurist, indeed experimental, war with Iraq), while remaining adequately "arrogant" (the most detested of all attributes in the Shia-Iranian sensorium)..........And Iran, we respectfully suggest, is not yet ready for the force that drives the sun.

This is self-satirising, no?

7/21/2009 09:46:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I know this sounds like an overstatement, but I find amis's pronouncements on the 'Iranian-Shia' termperament and belief system genuinely worrying. He appears to honestly believe you can characterise entire nations in this manner - witness his idea that it was the eastern side of the Russian psyche that kiled Litvinenko, etc.

again, he seems to have taken one or at most two Iranians, non-resident in Iran in all likelihood, at their word on not only what things are like in Tehran (taxis etc) but also what the 'national psyche' is and has written a colossal article which half-rests on that uneasy characterisation, while the other half rests on wingnut 'nuclear imam' rubbish.

7/21/2009 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Possibly of interest but maybe OT, in a sense. It's naturally begun a typical "radio-five-like" polarization at the comments board.

I think he does make interesting points about Iran/Egypt/media coverage etc.

7/21/2009 03:18:00 PM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

I also note the Dude has come out in support of Rafsanjani, on the basis that the current crisis in Iran boils down to Rafsanjani versus the mullahs. It seems not to have occurred to him that Rafsanjani is a mullah and Ahmadinejad is not.

7/21/2009 07:41:00 PM  
Anonymous kensington and chelsea said...

Clerics is that bank clerics.

8/06/2009 02:05:00 PM  

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