Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Imbued with reactionary ideas

Thanks to an anonymous commenter, I've just read - and been confused by - Nick's latest 'Standpoint' blog. The Liberal Defence of Pedophilia. He opens:

Ophelia Benson has the worst job in the blogosphere. She reads the papers of cultural studies and post-colonial academics - and given their obscurantism she often must be their only reader - and explains how intellectuals who affect a liberal style, are imbued with reactionary ideas.


Some kind reader like Justin or Captain Cabernet will remember the correct Marxist term for this - but isn't being "imbued with reactionary ideas" something of a given until after the revolution?

Here she is on a disgraceful effort by the Cambridge Review of International Affairs to turn a defence of the men who abuse women into a left-wing cause, by denigrating the efforts of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, a feminist group which tries to give Afghan girls education, healthcare and the right not to be forced into "marriage" before they are 16 (as half Afghan girls are).


I have some time for Ophelia Benson. I've certainly got nothing against her, but, if we're going to do the careful reading thing (which seems to be Nick's idea of what Ms Benson[1] does) the paper in question (full details) is -- well here's a clue from the top of the page:

Graduate Theses and Dissertations > Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs) 2008+ > View Item

It is NOT a peer reviewed journal article; it is an MA thesis. As such it is the work of one student (Melanie Butler) and not an "effort by the Cambridge Review of International Affairs".

Update 31/3/2010 6:15 am BST Thanks to Ophelia Benson in the comments, it was a published article. This was not obvious from the link, but the mistake was mine alone. I don't believe this injures my argument concerning the content of the thesis/article, though clearly it makes me look like a fool.

I'm not combing through MA theses, I'm happy to say. I was alerted to the article by Lauryn Oates, Projects Director of CW4WAfghan.

Cambridge Review of International Affairs published Butler's thesis. Volume 22 Issue 2 June 2009, pp 217-234.


Somehow Nick's keenness for cutting and pasting not only misses the above, but he manages to ignore what may be the crucial sentences in the abstract which he quotes:

Drawing on post-colonial feminist theory, this paper highlights the implications of CW4WAfghan’s Orientalist discourse on women’s rights, and tackles the difficult question of how feminists can show solidarity with Afghan women without adhering to the oppressive narratives that permeate today’s political climate. It is only by employing alternative models that contextualize the situation of Afghan women in relation, rather than in opposition, to our own, that feminists can begin to subvert the mutually reinforcing narratives that sustain imperialist violence and women’s subordination.


I can't see what there is to object to in "show solidarity with Afghan women" and how this equates to defending forced marriages of girls under 16 (which is where 'pedophilia' [sic] comes in). And for added fun, "adhering to the oppressive narratives that permeate today’s political climate" sounds like a higher-falutin' version of "imbued with reactionary ideas".

I am a person of my time.
You adhere to the oppressive narratives that permeate today’s political climate.
She is imbued with reactionary ideas.

It does sound like a difference of political stance more than anything. And why is Ophelia Benson combing through Masters' theses anyway? Contra Nick - that's not a job at all.

I've downloaded the paper, but not read it yet.
In other 'Standpoint' news, Alex Massie has a few trenchant observations on their "fact gathering."

[1] My apologies if she has a doctorate and should be referred to as "Dr"; I can't find anything on Butterflies and Wheels to suggest that she has.

61 Comments:

Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I think it's fair to say that the common English word "reads" doesn't always have its usual meaning when the context is Butterflies & Wheels writing about humanities academia. cf Steven Poole on Zizek & Derrida

3/30/2010 10:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Ophelia Benson said...

I'm not combing through MA theses, I'm happy to say. I was alerted to the article by Lauryn Oates, Projects Director of CW4WAfghan.

Cambridge Review of International Affairs published Butler's thesis. Volume 22 Issue 2 June 2009, pp 217-234.

No, of course I don't have a doctorate, or an MA either. I'm not sure I would demand to be called 'Dr' if I did have a doctorate, but of course I don't, so it's not an issue.

3/30/2010 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

As far as I can see, btw, Ophelie Benson gets it right - it was published in the CRIA - and Nick gets it wrong - it wasn't "an effort by the CRIA" (I am quite surprised he doesn't seem to understand how academic journals work). But it's basically an article about "how can you support Afghan women without bombing them", isn't it? Since for Nick it's all about the bombing and for Ophelia it's all about the bashing nasty people who use funny long words, the question doesn't arise for them, but it might for other people.

3/30/2010 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Thinking about it a little further, it's a bit rich of Nick, who has spent the last three months pouring buckets of shit over human rights organisations for having very tenuous connections to groups he doesn't like, to suddenly throw a tantrum when someone criticises a human rights organisation for working hand in hand with the US Army.

Looking at the thesis itself, it is mostly concerned with critiquing the CW4WA for being a little bit too keen on themselves and not letting the actual Afghani women speak up (given that there are organisations like RAWA who disagree with CW4WA on key points about the occupation etc, this might be a valid point). Most of it seems to be a critique of the publicity material they produce for having too much Decent propaganda.

It doesn't seem to me to be a great article, but it's the "Israel effect" (alternatively the "Galloway effect") as noted in these pages before - an intrinsically rather unloveable subject that becomes worthy of a qualified and critical defence simply because of the transparent bad faith of the attacks made on it.

3/31/2010 12:01:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

Perhaps the Couscous Kid will correct me on this, but my impression is (having refereed the odd submission for them and having looked through the journal impact lists), that CRIA isn't exactly a front-rank journal and publishes quite a lot of output by grad students. Not that it is a terrible journal either (at least by the standards of international relations theory, which are not that high).

Irony of ironies ... the editor (a grad student) is Oliver Lewis, whose PhD is supervised by Brendan Simms, co-president of the Henry Jackson Society.

Small world!

3/31/2010 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

It is only by employing alternative models that contextualize the situation of Afghan women in relation, rather than in opposition, to our own, that feminists can begin to subvert the mutually reinforcing narratives that sustain imperialist violence and women’s subordination.

Alternatively, "it is not until we employ language that non-academics can understand that people will know whether they agree with us or not."

I don't want to be a boor or a philistine about this, and I appreciate that sometimes and in some circumstances people need to employ abstruse language, but I reckon there's far too much of it within, ah, feminist discourse.

3/31/2010 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

As far as being "imbued with reactionary ideas" is concerned, I'm not quite sure of the exact Marxist concept we're looking for, unless it's the-ruling-ideas-of-any-society-and-the-ideas-of-the-ruling-class, so you may need to bring on a substitute.

However, I think I could find a few reactionary ideas lurking around Mr Nicholas Cohen's writings without trying too hard, and indeed a few actual reactionaries hanging round Mr Nicholas Cohen.

3/31/2010 08:21:00 AM  
OpenID yorksranter said...

Oh God, this really is repellent. Is he even capable of writing anything without McCarthying? Why the hell doesn't anyone sue him already?

3/31/2010 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Is it possible that the journal exists to publish graduate students, and to give graduate students experience of running a journal?

Justin, its easier to write that way which is why people do it. If you're on a deadline, then worrying about whether outsiders are going to understand it is the least of your worries.

3/31/2010 10:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

You can skate over "subverting the narratives", and I think most readers would - it's only a way to say "[good effect]ing the [bad thing]s", really. My worry is more to do with whether that's all there is - whether the author specified any distinguishable [bad thing]s or practices which actually do [good effect] them.

3/31/2010 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Come again?

3/31/2010 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

At the start, Cohen's mocking the papers for being little-read. By the end, their influence has swelled to catastrophic proportions.

By the way...

because that would force them to confront violent men closer to Cambridge than the Taliban

Who on earth's he talking about? Tariq's Toughs? Yvonne's 'Ard 'Uns? Beggy's Boyz?

3/31/2010 12:13:00 PM  
Anonymous magistra said...

My very rough translation of the passage mentioned is: It is only by stressing the similarities rather than the differences between the situation of Afghan and western women that we can attack the claim by right-wingers that they were invading Afghanistan in order to protect Afghan women who are the victims of horrible natives, a claim which right-wingers then use to reinforce a domestic political argument that they need to be in charge of things, not feeble women

(As you can see, my gloss is a lot longer - a lot of jargon is used because it reduces the word count).

Whether this is a sensible statement or not depends on whether you want to focus on the motives of the warmongers (who certainly couldn't care less about the rights of western women, except when it's useful to demonize Muslims) or the current position of women in the West and Afghanistan, which are quite a long way apart.

Personally, I'd be rather more convinced by the 'bombing your way to feminism' approach if there was any evidence that it actually worked in practice.

3/31/2010 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

because that would force them to confront violent men closer to Cambridge than the Taliban

I think the idea is that everyone who writes for the Cambridge Review of International Affairs must live in Cambridge, possibly commuting in from Huntingdon to their desk in the Cambridge Review of International Affairs newsroom. As I say, I do not get the impression that Nick fully understands the nature of academic publishing.

3/31/2010 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

At the start, Cohen's mocking the papers for being little-read. By the end, their influence has swelled to catastrophic proportions.

This is of interest to people who feel that Decent polemics are either

(a) borrowed from ; or
(b) reminiscent of

intra-far-left polemics, where a very common means of proceeding can be summarised as "my opponent's party is tiny in numbers and irrelevant to the working class, and this explains why I spend so much time denouncing them".

I seem to remember putting much this point to Toube on one occasion.

3/31/2010 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Ophelia Benson said...

It doesn't seem to me to be a great article, but it's the "Israel effect" (alternatively the "Galloway effect") as noted in these pages before - an intrinsically rather unloveable subject that becomes worthy of a qualified and critical defence simply because of the transparent bad faith of the attacks made on it.

What exactly is the transparent bad faith of my attack on it? What is the transparent bad faith of Alaina Podmorow's?

3/31/2010 04:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Chris Baldwin said...

"and explains how intellectuals who affect a liberal style, are imbued with reactionary ideas."

Maybe she should review Nick Cohen, then?

3/31/2010 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Ophelia, B2 can defend himself, but having read your B&W piece twice now, I take issue with just about all of your penultimate paragraph:

She wants to get her Master's degree, so she proceeds with her project of saying invidious things about an NGO working for Afghan women's rights, for another forty pages. She leans heavily on Foucault and Said, she talks much of knowledge-power and Orientalism, and she ploughs her academic furrow. Meanwhile the women who work for CW4WAfghan do that. I know which I admire.

I'm bound to come across as more than a little po-mo myself, fussing about what's implied here, but I think there's quite a lot slipped in. What is the point about the Master's degree? Are they awarded now for attacks on charities, is that what you're saying? Who are you attacking here? Ms Butler or the Masters' degree awarding panel or Canadian academia generally? I consider "She leans heavily on..." to be cheaply snobbish. I count three mentions for Foucault and not many more for Edward Said. One would think from your piece that Ms Butler had read a couple of trendy theorists and drafted a 40 page document by relying on their quotations. This doesn't seem to be the case.

You're not really responsible for your commentators, but what a pack of bigots!

I first encountered this use of Other in the '70s in college discussions of Sartre. According to Wikipedia, it can be traced back to Hegel.'

Well the Sartre connection probably explains it's [sic - DW] inclusion in de Beauvoir's 'The Second Sex'.


Perhaps M de Beauvoir read Hegel herself. Oh, she was only a girl. I forgot. Durr.

3/31/2010 05:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Ophelia Benson said...

C2, oh yes, B2 can "defend himself" - he's very good at that.

The point about the Master's degree is the disproportion between the two projects - personally working, and taking risks, to support women's rights in Afghanistan, versus academic careerism. I have nothing at all against academic careerism as such, nor against any other nerdy projects; but I do think the mismatch between Butler's paper and actual human rights work is glaring.

"One would think from your piece that Ms Butler had read a couple of trendy theorists and drafted a 40 page document by relying on their quotations. This doesn't seem to be the case."

Funny; to me that does exactly seem to be the case. There's an awful lot of conjuring with names compared to an exiguous amount of actual argument. There's invocation instead of argument.

But it's silly to argue with this crowd - you don't stand by your claims.

3/31/2010 05:33:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I have nothing at all against academic careerism as such, nor against any other nerdy projects; but I do think the mismatch between Butler's paper and actual human rights work is glaring.

What would you have had her do instead?

3/31/2010 05:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is how Ophelia Benson often seems to *just know* what people's underlying motives for doing things are. For the writer of the CRIA article, apparently, it's wanting to get a Master's degree, "academic preferment for herself", etc. Nothing more.

On a related note, is it possible that people working for CW4WAfghan might have personal, even selfish reasons for doing so? Not that there would be anything wrong with that, but is it rude to ask? Are they above criticism because they work for an NGO in Afghanistan?

~ Bob

3/31/2010 06:39:00 PM  
Anonymous darkhorse said...

"I was alerted to the article by Lauryn Oates, Projects Director of CW4WAfghan."

Personally, I'd be rather flattered with my own significance if somebody could get an MA from a lengthy criticism of my support of the continued occupation of Afghanistan.

http://www.cw4wafghan.ca/news/we-shouldnt-abandon-afghanistan-lauryn-oates

It doesn't seem self-evidently obvious that it's a "project of saying invidious things" to criticise, even in a jargon-heavy fashion, opinions like those in the article above.

3/31/2010 06:52:00 PM  
Anonymous darkhorse said...

...Of course. Lauryn Oates may well have done many good works, whilst Melanie Butler may have just sat around reading Edward Said eating pies, but that doesn't mean that the former's opinion is necessary better than the latter's.

3/31/2010 07:02:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

What exactly is the transparent bad faith of my attack on it?

Here's a clue - the substance of your argument (when it's not just pomo-bashing, and I really hope we don't have to rehearse all the dreary reasons why my default assumption is of bad faith when you do that) is that there is something shameful about making insinuations and criticisms of human rights organisations.

Can you think of any facebook groups that you have joined recently, founded by Nick Cohen? There's one in particular that I'm thinking of.

3/31/2010 07:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Ophelia Benson said...

Sure; the one upbraiding AI for its treatment of Gita Sahgal. But I'm not claiming that 'there is something shameful about' all criticism of human rights organizations. I do think there was quite a lot that was shameful about this particular one.

But again, I shouldn't argue with this crowd, because I also think 'there is something shameful about' all this anonymous sneering at non-anonymous people.

3/31/2010 07:51:00 PM  
Anonymous OB said...

Sorry about duplicate; I got Failure message.

3/31/2010 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

How appropriate.

Since your argument is now, pretty much in so many words, "It's OK when I do it", I think we can pretty much lay the question of wherein I think the bad faith resides.

3/31/2010 07:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Ophelia Benson said...

No, that is not my argument. It's not OK when I do it, but I didn't do 'it.' I take the two to be different. You want to define them as identical for the purpose of sneering at me, but they are not identical.

3/31/2010 08:08:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I also think 'there is something shameful about' all this anonymous sneering at non-anonymous people

Which anonymous sneering are you concerned about? You are aware that you're on a comments box on the internet, where full names are (for all sorts of reasons) a rarity? And that despite that, a fair proportion of those disagreeing with you are entirely identifiable?

3/31/2010 08:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You seem happy to engage with the anonymous people who agree with you at Butterflies & Wheels.

~ Bob

3/31/2010 09:02:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I'm not proposing to have an argument with you Ophelia; you asked a question and I've answered it. I think they're exactly identical and that's why I think your post was in titanic bad faith. At your request, I don't read your blog any more; you are still welcome to read mine, but out of concern that it might bore the readers I'm not going to respond to you any more.

3/31/2010 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

The point about the Master's degree is the disproportion between the two projects - personally working, and taking risks, to support women's rights in Afghanistan, versus academic careerism

Given that only a fraction of people doing master's pursue academic careers, this is a ludicrous assumption to make. Given that a number of HR/NGO organisations require master's degrees for many of their roles she may well be aiming for a career where she personally takes risks. Given that a number of people doing master's degrees will have had prior careers/experiences, she may well already have done these things.

In short you don't know, don't care and couldn't be bothered to find out. Impressive stuff for the editor of a site that promotes "critical thinking".

3/31/2010 09:36:00 PM  
Blogger KB Player said...

Drawing on post-colonial feminist theory, this paper highlights the implications of CW4WAfghan’s Orientalist discourse on women’s rights, and tackles the difficult question of how feminists can show solidarity with Afghan women without adhering to the oppressive narratives that permeate today’s political climate. It is only by employing alternative models that contextualize the situation of Afghan women in relation, rather than in opposition, to our own, that feminists can begin to subvert the mutually reinforcing narratives that sustain imperialist violence and women’s subordination.

Life's too short to read the whole article, and of course the author may be perfectly right in her thesis*, but if I was playing a game of academic-feminist-bullshit-bingo this one fills the grid with its "Orientalist discourse", "oppressive narratives" and generally clog-clumpy prose.

*(Bet she isn't though).

3/31/2010 09:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Ophelia Benson said...

I'm not proposing to have an argument with you Daniel; I asked a question and you answered it tendentiously. I think they're decidedly different (saying they're exactly identical is absurd) and that the titanic bad faith is, as usual, yours. I of course have no interest in reading your blog, but when you tell whoppers about me, that's another matter.

3/31/2010 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger KB Player said...

I first encountered this use of Other in the '70s in college discussions of Sartre. According to Wikipedia, it can be traced back to Hegel.'

Well the Sartre connection probably explains it's [sic - DW] inclusion in de Beauvoir's 'The Second Sex'.

Perhaps M de Beauvoir read Hegel herself. Oh, she was only a girl. I forgot. Durr.


I first came across this use of Other in de Beauvoir's great work, The Second Sex. I don't know if she got it via Sartre but it's perfectly possible - she said of herself that she wasn't a philosopher.

"Other" has become as stupid and overused a term as "Islamophobic" meaning "anyone who is critical of this lot is a bigot" but de Beauvoir uses it in a way which is illuminating.

BTW who is this M de Beauvoir? As she was a French girl, she'd be Mme or Mlle de Beauvoir.

3/31/2010 10:22:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

It frankly doesn't look like a particularly good article - it's a repurposed MA thesis in a second rank journal, whatcha expect? But it doesn't deserve monstering by a pack of massive hypocrites who were trying to pretend that Amnesty International has betrayed all civilised values, only a few weeks ago.

Ophelia, do you really want to start a trail through your adventures with the truth? Shall we start with the exquisitely embarrassing episode of you and your co-author changing your minds about who wrote the bits about Derrida in your book? Or shall we start with the time you accused Steven Poole of lying and fell on your backside? If you're going to accuse me of lying, I'm going to be inclined to reminisce.

3/31/2010 11:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Ophelia Benson said...

Why looky here, Daniel, another bit of 'titanic bad faith' already - you said you weren't going to respond to me any more.

You are, of course, mischaracterizing your putative reminiscences. As you always do. Then when somebody shows you the right version - you just slink away.

4/01/2010 12:01:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Well, Ophelia, I asked you above what you would have had the author of the thesis do, other than what she did. Did that question merit a reply?

I was also, come to think of it, intrigued by the suggestion that "academic careerism" was "nerdy". Why so, do you think?

4/01/2010 06:40:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Nerdy projects such as Butterfly and Wheels I guess. Ophelia still hasn't explained how she knows so much about this woman's motives, or background. Maybe she's psychic.

Ophelia, are you psychic?

4/01/2010 08:20:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Ophelia, did you really think that "I'm not going to respond to you any more" meant that I was giving you carte blanche to throw accusations and insults without a comeback?

I've also never "slinked away", although you did on Steven Poole's blog when he produced the quotations from your book which showed that he was right and you were wrong, and you also did on this blog when I dug up the reference to you and your co-author contradicting each other about who wrote the Derrida section of your book. I stopped commenting on your blog because you specifically asked me to. Again, I didn't intend in doing so to give you free rein to say what you like behind my back.

4/01/2010 08:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

IS Melanie Butler a pie eating Derrida reading do-nothing academic careerist ? Well one way of trying to find out would be to read the "notes on contributors" in the very issue of the Cambridge Journal of International Affairs in which her article appears. They read " Melanie Butler (MA, University of British Columbia) was a representative to the Canadian Peace Alliance and has helped found several student groups and educational initiatives dedicated to peace advocacy and gender equality. She currently lives in California, where she works for the strategic media institute ReThink Media, Berkeley, and is a regular volunteer at the Homeless Garden Project in Santa Cruz". So while she has not been working in Afghanistan, she seems to be someone who likes to work hard for the causes she believes in. She doesn't have a career in academia, she works in a mental health charity, and she does volunteer work for the homeless in her spare time. And she was a student campaigner against the war in Afghanistan, where she may have raised the "endlessly regurgitated issue of Afghan detainees" which irritates Lauryn Oates so much

4/01/2010 08:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

Is it just me, or is this a perfect example of nutpicking? Take an obscure article in an obscure journal and inflate it out of all proportions, not without a little distortion along the way, natch.

Would anybody have paid attention to this article if, according to Ophelia, one of the bigwigs of CW4WAfghan hadn't raised the alarm about it? And now Cohen has put his oar in and you can count on it to spread through the decent network for a while (until the next shiny object of course) and seeing what that did to other relatively obscure people caught in the glare, you have to worry about what will happen to Butler.

4/01/2010 08:48:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

well exactly - as I say, I don't really think it's all that good an article. But she's quite clear in the article that what she's criticising CW4WA for is for overstepping the line into direct support for the occupation (in direct contradiction of RAWA), and she's getting a load of usual suspects stepping up to try and claim she's in favour of throwing acid into children's faces. So I'm not interested in getting into a discussion of the demerits of humanities-academic jargon, when there is so much bullshit being thrown by the other side.

4/01/2010 09:21:00 AM  
OpenID yorksranter said...

Meanwhile, a CIA paper is leaked suggesting that talking up Taliban misogyny might be a good way of drumming up support for the war.

4/01/2010 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

That's "talking up" in the sense of "directing attention to", presumably.

4/01/2010 11:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, a CIA paper is leaked suggesting that talking up Taliban misogyny might be a good way of drumming up support for the war.

...yeah, as in how women's groups were talking about just this topic for years beforehand, but they had to wait until 2001 before the US came up with the feminist strategy bombing the country and propping up that noted supporter of women's rights Karzai.

[redpesto]

4/01/2010 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

You are, of course, mischaracterizing your putative reminiscences. As you always do. Then when somebody shows you the right version - you just slink away.
Which we're all sure you meant to do before you slunk away.

4/01/2010 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Surely we can all agree that exposing the pretentions of academics is vitally important. Here is a splendid example of a plain talking person deconstructing the waffle of some ivory tower prof. A bigger target than Melanie Butler, and rather more zest in the attack than the typical Butterflies and Wheels post, but with the important message that all B&W commenters unite on: common sense is best. Take that, boffins of the world.

4/01/2010 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Yes, KB, you're quite right, re my French. I was going out and wrote my comment in a hurry. Also, the dog ate my homework. Happy now?

4/01/2010 02:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Ophelia Benson said...

Daniel, yes you have "slinked away" - for instance the time you said Jeremy Stangroom was "fibbing" when he told you he wasn't responsible for the content on B&W. It was perfectly understandable to get that wrong at the outset, of course, because the "About" page at B&W said he was an associate editor, but it wasn't entirely understandable to say he was "fibbing" instead of simply asking about the discrepancy - which I explained. You never bothered to say "Oh I see, sorry for the 'fibbing'."
It's all here:

http://aaronovitch.blogspot.com/2008/04/alan-not-minister-responds.html

I don't know what the bit about Steven Poole refers to. He did at one point say I disagreed with him about something because I was "not sufficiently delighted" with his review of a book I co-wrote (I can quote that because I managed to find it, after all these years). I said he was wrong, in fact I was quite pleased with his review, which was certainly less than a rave, but it wasn't a pan and it was in the Guardian. He could have at least acknowledged that (what I said about my internal state), but he didn't. I thought that was rude. It's a pity, because I like his stuff, but there you go.

4/01/2010 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Ophelia, the fact that I never apologised for saying that someone listed on your page as an editor of your website, who was at the time and still is the registrant of your domain name, was "responsible for" your site, doesn't constitute slinking away. It constitutes me being right and you being wrong.

4/01/2010 04:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Ophelia Benson said...

Daniel, I didn't say you should have apologised for saying that someone listed on my page as an editor of my website, who was at the time and still is the registrant of my domain name, was "responsible for" my site. In fact I specifically said that it was understandable that you got it wrong at the outset. I said you could/should have apologized for saying he was "fibbing" instead of simply pointing out or asking about the apparent discrepancy.

How not doing so constitutes you being right and me being wrong is less than obvious.

4/01/2010 06:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been not looking forward to this post for some days, but I think I've got to make it.

I like Ophelia, and I like B&W - in fact, I've even written something for it. I also wrote a pretty good review of 'Fashionable Nonsense' for the Morning Star, because, although I didn't agree with every word (this doesn't even happen with stuff that I write myself), there is a tendency for purveyors of weightless and often opaque cultural studies to mistake what they are doing for something important, and it's nice to skewer them once in a while.

I've always seen B&W as the left wing of decency, perhaps turnable into the WCPI camp, rather than in the same irredeemable fruitcake box as HP Sauce. So I've tended to look at the OB vs DD spat through my fingers. I would imagine that reconciliation is no longer an option.

It does seem to me, though, that Ophelia's opinion that CW4WAA are better than Butler, because they are in the Stan and she isn't, is flawed. In analogous terms to Bertrand Russell's views on the superior virtue of the oppressed, the superior virtue of those with dirty hands is a fallacy.

Otherwise we'd have to pay more attention to 'Mother' Teresa's work than to those who quite rightly criticised her. The point must surely be: who is right? That point is independent of whether or not either party's getting shot at (or getting promoted), just as it's independent of whether or not they can write for toffee. We need to make a judgement on the evidence.

I've not read the article, largely because if the quoted conclusion is representative of it, I have better things to do with half an hour. But as for the quote itself, I'm in agreement with Magistra's view of it, and her caveat about the relationship between bombing and feminism.

PS This is in fact personal: I need to declare that I'm involved in a project to analyse various 'police training and assistance missions' in the last few years. I intend to do this from Milton Keynes, rather than Kabul. Thus there's a chance that I'm going to end up criticising people whose odds of dying violently next year are about a thousand times my own. Will this invalidate my conclusions? All other things being equal, I don't think it will.

Chris Williams

4/01/2010 06:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Ophelia Benson said...

Well that's not so bad, Chris; I'm not sure you needed to dread it.

You're right of course - and I didn't intend to claim that the dirty hands are central or decisive, more that they are part of this particular picture.

I don't consider myself part of 'decency' at all, actually, though that could be partly because I don't understand what it is. Maybe it stems from taking too seriously the bit of the Euston Manifesto that says signing it doesn't imply total agreement with all its contents. The sequel taught me never again to sign any manifesto unless I do agree totally with all its contents. I said that on Russell Blackford's blog just the other day, in reference to Paul Kurtz's vastly long and detailed 'NeoHumanist Manifesto.' Not going to sign that baby; no way; there's plenty I don't agree with even in the small bit I managed to read.

4/01/2010 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Ophelia - what would you have had the author of the thesis do, other than what she did?

4/01/2010 08:30:00 PM  
Anonymous KB Player said...

Yes, KB, you're quite right, re my French. I was going out and wrote my comment in a hurry. Also, the dog ate my homework. Happy now?

Yeah, I love provoking sulky sarcasm. It makes the sulky sarcastic one look about 14 years old.

4/01/2010 09:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Maybe it stems from taking too seriously the bit of the Euston Manifesto that says signing it doesn't imply total agreement with all its contents. The sequel taught me never again to sign any manifesto unless I do agree totally with all its contents.

That sounds sensible. To be fair, signing a manifesto does generally imply adherence to a single coherent body of ideas, whatever the explicit labelling says. "We the undersigned endorse one or more parts of the above with varying degrees of intensity" would be an odd and counter-intuitive way to go about it - many people who wouldn't dream of signing could say as much. If that was the way the Euston Manifesto was presented to potential signatories, those doing the presenting were either deceiving or self-deceived (or possibly both).

4/01/2010 11:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I love provoking sulky sarcasm. It makes the sulky sarcastic one look about 14 years old.

...or the provoker a tedious pedant.

4/02/2010 02:12:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

KB, it was neither sulky nor sarcastic; nor did I feel provoked. It was a joke.

Also, totally agree with Phil (and Ophelia) about signing things, esp Euston Manifesto. Still not sure what the Useless Manifesto was supposed to achieve beyond creating a list of right thinking people able to declare that they'd renounced the devil and all his works before the Norman Geras/NTM inquisition.

4/02/2010 05:26:00 AM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

Hey, for all its faults, the Inquisition actually had due process and rules of evidence. It isn't very fair to the late Cardinal Jimenez to bracket him with Norman Geras and ANTMJ.

4/02/2010 11:27:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

a very late note on this:

Ophelia Benson has the worst job in the blogosphere

it's not really a job, is it. I mean B&W doesn't pay. It's a hobby.

so OB has the worst hobby in the blogosphere. sounds sort of different, doesn't it...

the above also makes it very clear that there's absolutely nothing 'objective' about OB's reading of this article. it's as imbued with prejudice as the article itself - probably more, given the strangely un-objective approach to analysis, which is about smears as opposed to objective criticism, witness:

There's an awful lot of conjuring with names compared to an exiguous amount of actual argument.

plus:

the disproportion between the two projects - personally working, and taking risks, to support women's rights in Afghanistan, versus academic careerism.

i refer you to your 'comrade' Nick Cohen's criticisms of NGOs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in particular his debates with conor foley. With friends like these...

4/13/2010 09:31:00 AM  

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