Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A Response to Brownie

A host of psychological experiments demonstrates that it doesn’t work like this. Instead of performing a rational cost-benefit analysis, we accept information which confirms our identity and values, and reject information that conflicts with them. We mould our thinking around our social identity, protecting it from serious challenge. Confronting people with inconvenient facts is likely only to harden their resistance to change.


George Monbiot

One marker of a bogus trend story is an abundance of such weasel words as some, few, often, seems, likely, and more, all of which allow a writer to simultaneously state a strong assertion and couch it. Another is an article with no data, just a string of anecdotes to support his thesis of a new or growing trend.


Slate on Bogus Trends

I owe a couple of responses to Brownie on, I think, three threads now, but I'll post them here, because that would save him coming back to check where I've written anything (and I've been very slow lately), besides which I'm suspicious of long threads.

On the first discussion, you really have to make up your own minds. I think "Not in my name" is a perfectly sensible protest against elected representatives, especially when neither "backing George W Bush come what may" and "Invading Iraq to look for non-existent weapons" were part of any political party's manifesto. I'm also suspicious of "communities" precisely because they don't have any formal democratic network. Who decides who is even a member? If there is a "Jewish community" would 'just a tiny-bit Jewish' Christopher Hitchens be a member while his brother Peter wouldn't be? But I'll come back to this.

This post is really about this post. I want to bang on a bit about Steven Weinberg because I greatly respect him, particularly for Dreams of a Final Theory, which is a book I'd recommend to everyone. (It was intended for George H W Bush, or Bush Snr, if that helps at all.)

Some background. Brownie thought that Mike Leigh joins cultural boycott of Israel was worthy of a post. Mike Leigh is, by the way, at least nominally Jewish, whatever that might mean, and may even be a part of the Jewish community mentioned above. The comments, for the most part (not available or not visible to me) were vituperative to Mr Leigh. This, I think, was entirely predictable. If a poster on Harry's Place slags someone off, the tenor of the comments is not "I have considered your points, and, while there is something in what you say, I do have to register some disagreement..." but rather, "Man down, bags the first kick!" And then the rest, almost like dominoes falling, lay in as well.

I don't think that Weinberg is a tosser. Sorry, that was a bit of a trick question. I think his decision was eccentric given that (which The Guardian article misses or didn't understand) he shared the 1979 Physics Nobel Prize with Abdus Salam who he was supposed to be visiting, yet he boycotted this country because of one union's (the NUJ) actions. Actually, I admire his conviction. He has principles, and he made a small, real world sacrifice on their account. I find that courageous. And I admire courage. I'd NEVER think of writing a blog post to slag him off. I can admire him and I can admire Mike Leigh, because both do something other than kow-tow to the latest orthodoxy and lip serve some narrow political correctness.

Writing this has made me angry, and I was going to make some silly joke about all the cross posts on Harry's Place. Can't you just have a cup of tea and watch an old Laurel and Hardy YouTube clip before posting? Advice I should take myself.

But while I'm here and angry the brave person who hides behind the moniker "More Media Nonsense" (more fool me, I thought the appellation was ironic or, at the very least, self-referential) Paul Mason on the picket line post's argument ran thus: BBC journalists are on strike (true at the time); Paul Mason (Newsnight journalist) is an "SWP poster boy" despite not being a member of same; therefore the strike is the work of 'Trots'. For a site which promotes democracy, Harry's Place can be ignorant of how democracy works here. Union strike ballots are secret. The voters are committed (either to going on strike, or not doing so: either way they understand what is at stake, and why). It wouldn't matter is the spokesperson were Alexadndr Orlov from the 'Compare the Meerkat' ads. The strike is still representative of the will of the members. Or community, if you must.

Finally, I greatly enjoyed this cross-post from Standpoint:

As ever, it is spot on. His piece reminds us of the clarity and sense of purpose which pervaded his administration, and which is so desperately lacking today.
Blair pulls no punches, but neither does he pander to the easy canards about …


I'll repeat myself:

This IS a spoof, isn’t it? It’s that Michael Ezra having a laugh with one of his “from the archives” posts but with the names changed. Let me guess, Pravda, reprinting Stalin’s criticism of Dmitri Shostakovich just after Uncle Joe kicked the bucket. Am I right?


Oh, you're a broad church all right.

59 Comments:

Anonymous Brownie said...

I don't consider that you "owe" me a response, but insofar as you might - and specifically on the Mike Leigh discussions - you haven't provided one. You've given your own commentary on the comments that followed my post, but you've actually said very little about the post itself. However:

If a poster on Harry's Place slags someone off

Is that what I did? I think Leigh’s decision - or more accurately the reason he gives for his decision (see discussion) - is incoherent. But I acknowledge in the post that he may still be sincere in his view (I actually went further in the comments). I haven't altered that view, however wrong-headed I regard a cultural boycott of Israel.

And where you say:

I can admire [Weinberg] and I can admire Mike Leigh

you shouldn't assume that I don't admire Leigh myself, although not for this particular decision. But:

because both do something other than kow-tow to the latest orthodoxy and lip serve some narrow political correctness.

is at least arguable. In the circles Leigh moves in, it's less clear that *accepting* an invitation to visit Israel can be considered the current orthodoxy or regarded as politically correct. One comment in the thread spawned by my post argued that the brave move would have been for Leigh to accept the invitation in the face of what would undoubtedly have been at least some hostility from fellow artists who have already begun their own boycotts. On the other hand, by cancelling he has to endure the reproach of commenters on a blog he's never heard of.

Again, I'm happy to accept that Leigh is sincere in his decision, but sincerity alone does not make it admirable.

On Weinberg, I'm not sure why you think you may have tricked me? You asked:

Just for comparison, what do you think of Steven Weinberg? Do you think his one-man boycott of the UK is a principled stand or just a bit tosserish?

I replied:

The cultural boycott of Israel is a fact. It's happening. Weinberg's (re)actions have to be seen in that context. He's hardly an advocate for cultural boycotts per se; it's nothing more than a professorial equivalent of, "Have some of that!"

But I won't move the goalposts; as a general principle, I remain convinced that cultural boycotts of democracies mark you out as a tosser.

The only thing I'd change would be to withdraw the epithet "tosser" and stick with your "tosserish". Weinberg is clearly not a tosser, but cultural boycotts of liberal democracies are not clever.

Lastly, on the focus of my main issue with Leigh’s rationalisation, he talked about his prospective visit making him:

ever-increasingly uncomfortable about what would unquestionably appear as my implicit support for Israel…

Look, Leigh is no shrinking violet when it comes to criticism of the Israeli government. Given he would have had every opportunity to express his opposition in the strongest terms during his visit (see Schorr's response), it simply cannot follow that a visit would even questionably - let alone "unquestionably" - imply support for the Israeli government. As I wrote in our discussion:

I get a sense of someone doing something they suspect may not be correct, but rather than reflect on this he goes the other way, creating a narrative to justify his decision which excludes any possibility that a different decision could be similarly justified

Lastly, I'd be interested to know what you thought of Schoor's response? He pretty much nails it, doesn't he?

11/11/2010 01:12:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Mike Leigh is, by the way, at least nominally Jewish, whatever that might mean, and may even be a part of the Jewish community mentioned above.
The mother of a Jewish friend and colleague of mine once went out with him, if that helps shore up this particular point.

11/11/2010 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Weinberg is clearly not a tosser, but cultural boycotts of liberal democracies are not clever.

I'd have agreed with this a few months ago and I still think that this kind of boycott could serve to make things worse. That said, I'm not really sure how much worse things could actually get. Probably a fair bit yet, I suppose.

I mean, the Israelis have already elected about the most despicable government they possibly could, without going Godwin. The present lot are a hideous mix of extremely belligerent, right-wing nationalists and ethnic supremacist racists; the government's key policies appear to be rejectionism, draconianism and authoritarianism.

Surveys are now polling that a plurality of the citizenry believe that everyone from human rights orgs to the international press are actively working to harm Israel. Worse, a majority also believe that the correct response should be onerous free speech and free movement clampdowns on these organisations.

None of this spawned in a vaccuum - the public's perception has come from official government and media propaganda drives to convince the nation that the entire planet hates and wishes to destroy them.*

Now, here you have a supposedly liberal democracy that's been acting like a lunatic banana republic for decades and shows every sign of getting worse and worse with time. If people want to register their objections in a manner that has some effect, I'm at a loss for anything more effective than withholding their professional services, and there surely comes a point when waving the "We Iz Democratic Innit" flag ceases to be a fig leaf.

My point here is that democracy is only the best process for securing a just outcome for the maximum number of people. It's certainly the best system we've found, but it's only a framework for securing rights and representation, not an end in itself.

If a democratic system fails in this regard - if, indeed, it fails so badly that it habitually commits grievous human rights violations with total impunity and credibly asserts its right to continue doing so indefinitely...

...Then how long should the fact that a country holds regular elections - at which it elects an ever-more insane gaggle of war-happy lunatics almost every time - offer the kind of slack that you seem to think everyone should cut it?

Years? Decades? Forever?

(*Some volunteers have even set up websites dedicated to pushing this message, people who live as far away as Britain).

11/11/2010 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

the "We Iz Democratic Innit" flag ceases to be a fig leaf.

(Facepalm) Also, I believe that the fascist octopus is about to sing its swan-song.

11/11/2010 10:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

In a rush, but quickly:

Surveys are now polling that a plurality of the citizenry believe that everyone from human rights orgs to the international press are actively working to harm Israel.

I wonder where Israelis, alone in the Middle East in suffering a cultural boycott by artists in the aghast west, get such an idea?

From Schoor's response:

Yet the academic-cultural boycott of Israel, which you have now joined, does not arouse the Israeli public, nor its humanitarian elements, which are already aware of the evils of the occupation. Instead, the boycott actually weakens public concern. And weakens us.

I mean it's so obvious, it's tragic that it even needs to be said.

11/11/2010 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

I mean it's so obvious, it's tragic that it even needs to be said.

Yes, you'll notice I did address that. Also, I have to point out that the Israeli peace camp were hardly thriving before the academic boycott was mooted; that its present prospects could hardly be more bleak and that a good chunk of the people of that country don't appear to need British assistance on the wingnuttery front.

Again, I take your point on the boycotting democracies thing. I'm saying that we've surely long since reached a point where that particular argument is looking a little bit shaky, given the near inevitability of continued militarism and mentalism.

I can get down with calls for moderation and ratcheting down of rhetoric, but I'm cynical about calls to cut one side some slack because of its constitutional make-up, while ignoring its actual behaviour.

(Apologies for the dull Israel stuff, AaroWatchers).

11/11/2010 05:08:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

I don't see any principled difference between boycoting democracies and boycotting dictatorships. Do a state's actions become more acceptable because they are endorsed by its citizens?

I can't say I have any great urge to boycott any countries, although I would hesitate to book a holiday to Burma (but I have been to China so some may see that as hypocritical). I don't really mind if other people feel that they don't want to buy produce from a country or decline to travel there on principled grounds (as long as they are not BACAI) - it's their choice as individuals. So I don't feel inclined to pass judgement on Mike Leigh in this instance. I am more wary of institutional boycotts, although I think there ma be instances where they are appropriate.

11/11/2010 05:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

I don't see any principled difference between boycoting democracies and boycotting dictatorships. Do a state's actions become more acceptable because they are endorsed by its citizens?

Who says "endorsed"? The point is that in any democracy at any given time you will find dissenters from any and all government policies. Their "support" can be neither assumed nor appropriated. Nor could yours or mine.

When I go to Texas next month, will anyone seriously conclude that I support the death penalty?

Leigh is convinced that a visit would be viewed as endorsement of the government's policies. Given Israel is not a police state, he could spend every minute of his visit lambasting the Israeli government and opportunities for the Israeli government to use Leigh's visit for propaganda purpsoes are nil, given Leigh's views.

In democracises, there are clear lines of division between the executive and civic society and the arts. You can make anti-government films, give anti-government speeches, publish anti-government books. No such opportunities exist in, for example, Burma. I'm not saying that cultural boycotts of dictatorships are therefore desirable, just that concern about how a visit to a film school in Naypyidaw might be viewed is infinitely more understandable, not least because of what you couldn't say while you were there (and couldn't possibly have said previously if you were to ever receive an invitation in the first place).

11/11/2010 10:25:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Brownie,

Sure, of course the actions of elected governments are obviously not endorsed by every citizen of those countries, but the idea of democracy is that the government is representing to an extent the collective will of the people.

As you're not a Texan I don't hold you in any way responsible for the policies of the Texan government, not do I assume that your visiting Texas implies any kind of support for its policies. OTOH if there was a collective will in Texas for the abolition of the death penalty then I presume it would be abolished, but clearly there isn't.

I personally wouldn't see Mike Leigh visiting Israel as an endoresement of its government but if he feels that refusing the invitation is an appropriate way for him to protest it's up to him, it's a personal matter.

Of course in a democracy, unlike a dictatorship, people have a freedom to voice their opinions and express opposition to the government, but for people outside that country who want to express opposition to its actions that's not a realistic course of action, so I can see why boycotts may seem attractive.

Personally, when I do my shopping I do make a few choices based on certain ethical grounds relating to the production of some goods, but I don't feel an urge to do so based on country of origin. I'm happy to let me Israeli oranges and Palestinian basil fight it out between them in my shopping basket.

11/11/2010 11:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Sure, of course the actions of elected governments are obviously not endorsed by every citizen of those countries, but the idea of democracy is that the government is representing to an extent the collective will of the people.

"To an extent" is not a mere detail, here. One of the benefits of free speech in Israel is that we're not forced to treat an entire population as if they speak with one voice. Anyone who does so anyway obviously has an agenda for so doing. When the leadership of a film school in Israel who clearly dissent from many of their govnermnet's policies invite a flim-maker for a visit, for the flim-maker to reject this invitation on the basis that, er, he doesn't agree with many of said government's policies is, to my mind at least, a little bizarre.

If the invitation had come from The Likud School of Film...

As you're not a Texan I don't hold you in any way responsible for the policies of the Texan government, not do I assume that your visiting Texas implies any kind of support for its policies.

Mike Leigh is me in my Texas analogy. Mike Leigh is not Israeli and as such no-one can justifiably hold him responsbile for the policies of the Israeli government nor assume his visting Israel implies any kind of support for its policies. Yet Leigh says it is this fear of how his visit will be percevied that brought him to his decision to cancel.

He needn't have worried.

Of course in a democracy, unlike a dictatorship, people have a freedom to voice their opinions and express opposition to the government, but for people outside that country who want to express opposition to its actions that's not a realistic course of action

Which is why we hear nary a word of protest against Israeli government actions in the UK, I presume?

I'm not referring to Leigh specifically because I don't know what else he is doing, but it strikes me that a boycott - which is after all a passive response that requires nothing of the boycotter other than for him/her to NOT do something - is a way of convincing oneself that one is doing *something* while not acutally doing *anything*.

so I can see why boycotts may seem attractive.

oh, me also. See right above.

11/12/2010 01:17:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Is this worth a third attempt? Okay, one more, then I'll leave it.

Your points would usually be fairly uncontroversial Brownie, but I have to repeat - again - the strictures of democratic governance you describe are not working in Israel when it comes to human rights. Democracy is the best mechanism for securing rights and liberties, but if a democracy is explicitly and intentionally violating these rights with popular consent, surely your arguments come to grief.

The reasons for this situation, we could debate forever, but it's surely undeniable that the country is now in a place where

a) It's going to be run by a really, really unpleasant right-wing government and their very racist allies for a long time, and the only alternative candidates are committed to pursuing more or less the same policies re: bombing heavily-populated urban areas; intentionally immiserating hundreds of thousands of people and ripping off yet more land in a calculated effort to frustrate a final peace deal, etc.

There's no prospect I can see that any amount of persuasion or activism is going to convince their government or electorate to call off this kind of behaviour.

So again, you have a democratically-elected government that will not be swayed by argument or actions, vowing to follow an even more hardline version of the same shit it's been doing for decades.

Why, exactly, should Loach giving a finger-waggy talk and then being shouted down as a Jihadoleftist psycho by the Israeli media be preferable to Loach just announcing he's not going?

The outcome of the two is surely the same, yet you seem to think one is right and true and the other is an unjustifiable ego-trip. It seems to me that this ignores some pretty brutal realities.

11/12/2010 01:03:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Brownie,

Which is why we hear nary a word of protest against Israeli government actions in the UK, I presume?

Sorry, my comment wasn't worded very clearly. I meant protest within the country itself, which is possible within a democracy but not in a dictatorship. Obviously people in this country can and do protest against any other country's actions. I take your point that Leigh did have such an opportunity.

11/13/2010 04:33:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Completely off topic, but still. Nick Cohen's article this week was generally good, i thought, except for this:

Hartnett strikes me as another victim of "regulatory capture". Like Gordon Brown and Mervyn King in the bubble, he seems in awe of the movers and shakers of big business and far too pleased to spend time in their exalted company.

it's a weakness Cohen can't shake off - to think of everything in terms of 'seduction' and 'awe', as well as generally keeping his analysis in the realms of 'it strikes me that...'

It's very easy to read this stuff as projection. The approach above is an easy way into thinking about what changed Cohen's mind so decisively about more or less everything, leaving him voting for Labour 'only because of Iraq'. But it doesn't really explain why Brown et al would be willing to indulge the city in a boom-time; which politician in their right mind would have done otherwise? Similarly, surely there's a bigger question to be asked about HMRC aside from 'are senior HMRC figures too in awe of business'? It's not just their own future employment they're looking out for.

I'm also very wary of this:

national cultures change. Fifty years ago, the British still thought the Germans were dangerous extremists. Now, Germans practise the stolid virtues of thrift and moderation we once thought our own, while the British, who once abhorred debt, have become a nation of maniacal spendthrifts.

that's pretty reductive from someone who's praising such a thorough Private Eye piece.

Has ratbiter been in the eye recently? I've stopped getting it.

11/15/2010 07:59:00 AM  
OpenID yorksranter said...

When I go to Texas next month, will anyone seriously conclude that I support the death penalty?

If you don't want people doing that, why did you start a blog dedicated to attacking critics of the US Republican Party?

11/15/2010 11:17:00 AM  
OpenID yorksranter said...

Now, Germans practise the stolid virtues of thrift and moderation we once thought our own, while the British, who once abhorred debt, have become a nation of maniacal spendthrifts.

This is simply toss. Germany actually carried out a huge Keynesian stimulus in 2008-2009 - far more as a percentage of GDP than anyone else except China. I agree that they talk a good game, but then, money talks and bullshit walks.

Similarly, does he mean the debt-abhorring Victorians who lived with a government-debt-to-GDP ratio of well over 200%?

11/15/2010 11:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Weinberg is clearly not a tosser, but cultural boycotts of liberal democracies are not clever.

Why? I actually think there's usually a stronger case for boycotting democracies than dictatorships (so that's the middle east mostly covered then). If boycotts punish the inhabitants, rather than the rulers (and this is usually the case. See Iran for a particularly objectionable and vicious example at the moment), then this seems quite a reasonable response to a democracy. They can vote the buggers out. Take responsibility and all that. Burma is an exception, but a rather unusual one.

Brownie thinks that cultural boycotts of Israel are objectionable because he thinks Israel is largely right. If one doesn't share that viewpoint, then his argument has very little strength.

11/16/2010 10:54:00 PM  
Anonymous saucy jack said...

I think it is worth recalling that when somebody at HP brought up the case of land confiscations in the West Bank in order to build bypass roads for settlers, Brownie's response was that similar things happen in Cambridgeshire. It would be fair to say that the lad doesn't quite get it.

11/17/2010 08:06:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Oh god, this was a whole week ago and I still haven't got back. For which, apologies.

I've thought of replies, and they've all been tediously prolix. They work fine in my head, but I get bored before half way through typing them out. (This happened on this post too; there was originally much, much more.) However, because Flying Rodent has reminded me, the word I really wanted in this post is condemnathon. Was Brownie slagging off Mike Leigh? Well, he was certainly inviting condemnation of Leigh's actions.

How do I think I tricked Brownie? He responded as I hoped and expected: that is with a certain consistency and honour. And that was the trap. It seems to me that Brownie's first reaction is to sneer or slag off or condemn or whatever. I, well, I hope I try to see people in a more generous light. I think Brownie would disagree, but I think Flying Rodent and I both tried to see Gita Sahgal's Amnesty spat as positively as possible. (As FR tweeted last night, that's becoming a position that's harder to sustain.)

I have problems with the condemnathon thing. I think I know enough of hate that there's no need to stir up any more, of course. Nor do I really believe in character: here's William Shatner being sweet and lovely and funny and here he is being being rather a dick. (The comments go off on a wild tangent about Jewish theology, rather proving the Viz Top Tips joke about starting a racial or religious argument on YouTube by posting any video.) Most of us can be both dickish and sweet.

As others have said, boycotting democracies makes sense: they listen. And boycotting Israel also makes sense, because it looks increasingly ugly to me. Far more religious zealotry, far more intolerance, far more belligerence.

As Brownie says, that reply is very good. I'd like to see Leigh's reply, though. I assume that Leigh thinks that he is supporting the "Hundreds of protestors [who] take to the streets each week". If so, his position seems entirely reasonable to me.

11/18/2010 10:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's the same tired smear by association, unpleasant, Harry's Place bullshit. Been doing this for years, and HP reached the point of self satire and unintentional comedy at least two years ago. They have virtually nothing to say about the real world around them, particularly in Britain. Back in the mists of time "Harry", and Johann Hari (yep, he wrote for them), had something interesting and relevant to say (Harry even supported the FBU strike in 2002). Now HP is run by an extremely well off corporate lawyer plagued by his various political neuroses and obsessions - and it shows.

11/20/2010 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

in a more generous light and as positively as possible
Shurely: in an accurate light?

Obviously it's preferable not to be a cunt about it, just so long as you don't let generosity, being positive etc. get in the way of the facts...I mean far be it from me to suggest you're being a bit of a soppy ha'p'orth, but...

Same applies more obviously to spite, of course - which is perhaps your point, i.e. unlike Brownie your opinions are not twisted by unreasoning hostility, being as how you are not an angry-semitic loon joylessly doglocked into a grotesque posture of willing credulity vis-a-vis teh war on trrr, greatest intellectual struggle of our time, etc.

(Ooops, a bit of BACAI there. But still Brownie is the king of BACAI. He's BACAI once again with the renegade master. He's the Wacky BACAI. He's two BACAIs and a cauliflower ear, he's the BACAI laureate, etc)

11/21/2010 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

er, anyway - OC - re: Ratbiter. Spot the gratuitous Islamism reference (and he was doing so well - well, reasonably well.)

In the Courts

EVEN staid legal commentators were astonished when American health conglomerate NMT announced it was hitting Shropshire cardiologist Peter Wilmshurst with yet another writ.

As regular Eye readers know, Wilmshurst is already facing one libel action for doing what scientists are meant to do: questioning the efficacy of an NMT device to deal with holes in the heart. The ease has generated thousands of pages of legal documents about the meaning of every word Wilmshurst uttered during a meeting of American doctors.

His comments appeared for just three days on an American website and there is no evidence that anyone in Britain actually read them. But NMT sued him in Britain, of course, perhaps because American judges would have laughed in its face.
On 27 November 2009 Wilmshurst went on the Today programme to talk about his anger at the law being used "to suppress information [it] may be in the public interest" to reveal.

The BBC took the precaution of pre-recording the interview so its libel lawyers could double- check before broadcasting. No good did their care do them. ln a letter to the Beeb last week, Robert Barry, NMT's solicitor, said that because Wilmshurst repeated his allegation that data on the trial of its device had been suppressed it was suing him again - just before the one-year time limit on bringing a libel action expired, funnily enough.

When the BBC broke the news, an innate sense of decorum prevented it mentioning the most sinister aspect of the affair. Decorum has never troubled the Eye, so we can say that NMT is not suing the BBC. Even though the Today programme broadcast the allegedly defamatory remarks to millions of people, the worst its journalists face is a bog-standard complaint to the BBC Trust about an alleged lack of balance in the report.

Instead, NMT is sending a message to scientists by suing Wilmshurst personally, just as it is suing him personally for his remarks in America. If he loses, he faces financial ruin. The use of multiple writs is becoming a common tactic in what solicitors call "lawfare", in which the aim of the game is to deploy the threat of gigantic costs in order to spread fear. It's a policy favoured by radical lslamists in Britain and, as Peter Wilmshurst is discovering, of health conglomerates too.

Meanwhile, the question for MPs discussing libel-law reform remains: would you he happy for you or your family to receive a medical treatment libel lawyers had protected from criticism?

'Ratbiter'

11/21/2010 04:04:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

If proof were needed that Cohen is ratbiter... i chucked the first few lines of that into google and Nick's latest (incredibly dull) column came up.

Here's the blurb for Nicks forthcoming (June 2011) book:

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of Communism, and the advent of the Web which allowed for even the smallest voice to be heard, everywhere you turned you were told that we were living in an age of unparalleled freedom.
You Can't Read This Book argues that this view is dangerously naive. From the revolution in Iran that wasn't, to the Great Firewall of China and the imposition of super-injunctions from the filthy rich protecting their privacy, the traditional opponents of freedom of speech - religious fanaticism, plutocratic power and dictatorial states - are thriving, and in many respects finding the world a more comfortable place in the early 21st century than they did in the late 20th.

This is not an account of interesting but trivial disputes about freedom of speech: the rights and wrongs of shouting 'fire' in a crowded theatre, of playing heavy metal at 3 am in a built-up area or articulating extremist ideas in a school or university. Rather, this is a story that starts with the cataclysmic reaction of the Left and Right to the publication and denunciation of the Satanic Verses in 1988 that saw them jump into bed with radical extremists. It ends at the juncture where even in the transgressive, liberated West, where so much blood had been spilt for Freedom, where rebellion is the conformist style and playing the dissenter the smart career move in the arts and media, you can write a book and end up destroyed or dead.


loving that capital 'F' for Freedom... the book sounds really shite from that blurb too.

11/21/2010 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Tim's example of a Ratbiter column is clearly Nick.

[Slightly OT, but one of the things I meant to include in the post above was a critique of what I think is wrong with Harry's Place and what I think may the rules for writing credible blog posts and what might be the rules for running a serious blog. One of the latter was, I think, invented by Andrew Sullivan, who called it a 'sanity break' IIRC, frequent off-topic links to music or pictures or talking about pleasant stuff, things like that. I *think* Kevin Drum invented weekly cat-blogging when he was still CalPundit with much the same intent. Balloon Juice now has frequent reader's pet posts. Normblog has cricket and country music. Nick has the same few obsessions on all his outlets. They're not entirely wrong obsessions - I'm starting to think that some of his legal stuff and how it bends the law to the wishes of the rich is broadly correct - but he does, IMO, need to stand back a bit sometimes, and chill.]

Back to that blurb. It's too much to hope that Nick would back up any of it.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of Communism, and the advent of the Web which allowed for even the smallest voice to be heard, everywhere you turned you were told that we were living in an age of unparalleled freedom.

It doesn't work very well rhetorically for me. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communist states are so causally linked as to be the same event - the one being the emblem and the flashbulb memory of the other. Living in the UK, I never felt particularly stifled by Communism and I doubt anybody else did either. Before the web, "even the smallest voice" could be heard through writing to a newspaper, writing to an MP, joining a trade union, going on a march. I accept that there are people who are effectively disenfranchised even to that extent (those in casual labour or none who can't join a union or write coherently) - but they're not the ones with blogs now. Finally, who said this? Quite a lot of BS was talked when the web took off: do you remember day-trading? how everyone was going to get rich by playing the stock market? Pretty much wiped from the collective memory, but even the Guardian had a journalist trying.

I think we are freer in certain ways, and less free in others. But if the rich are, as a class, stronger again, the root cause (dread phrase) of that has to be the legislative land grabbing of the Thatcher-Reagan era which rolled back the post-WWII democratic reforms. THAT is a book worthing writing.

11/21/2010 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Sorry, Sullivan called it 'Mental Health Break' not 'Sanity Break'. Should have checked.

11/21/2010 06:50:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

oh he undoubtedly has a point with a lot of the libel stuff. it's just that his solutions are to import the american libel laws which i have serious problems with - i don't think the press is more coherent or truthful over there as a result of the more liberal laws. i also think that any liberalization of those laws would lead to Nick being even more cavalier with the truth than he is at the moment.

overall i think that even in the blurb we have a straw man - the 'great age of freedom' seems to have been invented largely for the purpose of Nick being able to argue against it.

even in the transgressive, liberated West, [blah blah cohen's obsessions yada yada], you can write a book and end up destroyed or dead.

who's he thinking of here?

11/21/2010 07:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

actually the following is true:
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of Communism, and the advent of the Web which allowed for even the smallest voice to be heard, everywhere you turned you were told that we were living in an age of unparalleled freedom.

Its just the the people saying it were right-wingers, particularly of the type that he now seems to be shacked up with.

He's completely rewritten history with his version of the Rushdie affair.

11/21/2010 08:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

THAT is a book worthing writing.

Yep, David Harvey' Neoliberalism has much to recommend it :) Cohen doesn't have the wit, or the intelligence, to write a book like that. More and more I think of Cohen as a man promoted beyond his abilities. He's a poor writer, and a lightweight thinker writing on heavyweight themes. So it goes.

11/21/2010 08:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Can I just add. I think cultural boycotts of democratic states are absolutely fine. If you can't hold the polity of democratic state responsible for the actions of its government then we really need to redefine what we mean by democracy. And if they are responsible, then boycotts seem perfectly reasonable. In contrast a boycott of a dictatorship is rather like locking up the inhabitants of a slum for the activities of the local crime boss.

11/21/2010 08:54:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Is the latest Normblog Profile Insanity Continuity?

Five day matches that end because the light's not good enough have some overlap with diseases of the head, at least in some opinions.

11/22/2010 11:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

I think it is worth recalling that when somebody at HP brought up the case of land confiscations in the West Bank in order to build bypass roads for settlers, Brownie's response was that similar things happen in Cambridgeshire

I'm not going to deny something I can't remember, but I rather suspect the above observation from me will benefit from a fuller reading of the accompanying thread. At least that's my story.

Same applies more obviously to spite, of course - which is perhaps your point, i.e. unlike Brownie your opinions are not twisted by unreasoning hostility

Yeah, read my post on Leigh again and then highlight for me the "unreasoning hostility" if you could.

Brownie thinks that cultural boycotts of Israel are objectionable because he thinks Israel is largely right.

No, I really am pretty consistent on the whole cultural boycotting thing. But you're correct that I do regard Israel as largely right. Its mistakes in recent years have tended to the egregious end of the scale, but certainly compared with the other major players in the ME I'd say Israel is very much in credit. However, this not the reason I think Leigh is wrong to refuse an invtiation to talk cinema at a film school in Jerusalem.

As others have said, boycotting democracies makes sense: they listen.

What's the evidence for this? Generally speaking, I think a cricling of wagons and entrenchment of views are far more likely.

11/22/2010 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

Generally speaking, I think a cricling of wagons and entrenchment of views are far more likely.

I don't understand why this is only applied to democracies. Are dictatorships much more responsive?

11/22/2010 12:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

If you can't hold the polity of democratic state responsible for the actions of its government then we really need to redefine what we mean by democracy.

Democracy does not mean that every last policy enacted by the government enjoys majority support from the electorate. Not many democracies run their countries by plebiscite. But insofar as the population can be held responsible, the issue then is whether refusing invitations to engage culturally is appropriate; it doesn't follow that it just is.

If Leigh had been invited to Jerusalem to contribute to a film that was highly critical of West Bank settlment building, it would be interesting to know what he would have said. Does the commitment to a cultural boycott make sense in such circumstances? I'd venture to suggest it doesn't and that this has implications for those advocating such boycotts for reasons of the bleedin' obvious kind.

11/22/2010 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Are dictatorships much more responsive?

I'm not sure there's that much data. Have there been instances of cultural boycotts of dictatorships that were not accompanied by economic and political sanctions? Insofar as sanctions generally can be said to have worked in certain places, it's difficult to know how much effect was had by cultural boycott as opposed to economic, for example.

11/22/2010 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Cia said...

No, I really am pretty consistent on the whole cultural boycotting thing. But you're correct that I do regard Israel as largely right. Its mistakes in recent years have tended to the egregious end of the scale, but certainly compared with the other major players in the ME I'd say Israel is very much in credit.

That's your argument. For real? Israel is better than a bunch of vicious and unpopular dictatorships. Well congratulations Israel, you truly are a shining light to all nations. Iraq was greatly in credit compared to N. Korea, or Burma, also. I guess we should have let Saddam off the hook as well. Seriously bad argument. Even if its true, which is debatable. I think the only country in the region where conditions are worse than the occupied territories are Iraq, and really, whose fault is that. So there's something that the Jewish state has managed - its created an area even more vicious than the worst countries in the ME.

I would also argue that Turkey is a lot better these days than Israel (and also a democracy, if one under constant threat from the US backed army). And I'm reliably informed that being a Palestinian in Lebannon, while not exactly great, is far better than being one in the Occupied territories.

Incidentally do you support economic blockades? Such as that being imposed on Iran? Because if you do, worrying about a lack of access to Opera seems a bit prissy. Nobody ever died from that. Sure it hurts to learn that much of the cultural world thinks that your country is a pariah. Poor things.

11/22/2010 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger AndyB said...

Incidentally do you support economic, and cultural, and sporting blockades? Such as that being imposed on Iran, sorry, Palestine?

11/22/2010 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

OC: 'you can write a book and end up destroyed or dead.' who's he thinking of here?

He's presumably not thinking of Denis Lehane, author of political murder in Northern Ireland - this not quite on-topic but I was recently sent the link - haven't read it yet but it looks extremely interesting from a 'parapolitics' pov, if deeply grim.

And If proof were needed that Cohen is ratbiter - well, it kind of still is. I couldn't reproduce your Google result, but the commonality between the RB and NC columns is persuasive in all the circumstances, but runs only to subject matter rather than any clear reproduction of content. Could do with some of that text analysis software, if it works.

Also: incredibly dull - I suppose so, but he is (we all agree) basically right, if pedestrian, in describing the problem at least. He should get some encouragement for, if nothing else, apparently startng to wean himself off the Islam stuff if he is indeed doing so.

He did try to enliven the column, mark you - he was able to give it tits (tits = the new legs?) by complaining about the phenomenon of other people giving their stories tits, which conjures up Blackadder-like images in my mind. I've revealed too much.

Cian, re: NC's inepititude - yep. About the best he can do is this kind of stuff - which doesn't have any meaty analysis, doesn't involve any investigation or substantial exposé and isn't witty or satirical. This (press compliant with police bulshit in Colin Stagg case) is an example of something that could have been good but in fact manages to be feeble, self-congratulatory and far too late, all at once.

It seems almost (but is definitely not actually) too cruel to remind people of this bit of buffoonery ('If you say that it's illegal to overthrow a genocidal tyrant [sic - he means Saddam] you have to say that genocide is legal'.')

Yep, Nick's a twat alright.

11/22/2010 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

That's your argument. For real? Israel is better than a bunch of vicious and unpopular dictatorships.

No, really it isn't. You said:

Brownie thinks that cultural boycotts of Israel are objectionable because he thinks Israel is largely right.

You are linking my objection to cultural boycott to my belief the country targeted in this case is one I think is "largely right". This is not nearly the basis of my objection, but I'm happy to clarify that I do believe Israel is "largely right".

If one doesn't share that viewpoint, then his argument has very little strength.

The necessary corollary (or at least implication) is that my arugment is strengthened if you do share this view. Given you clearly do share this view (i.e. that Israel is better "than a bunch of vicious and unpopular dictatorships"), I'd like to welcome you to my side of the debate.

11/22/2010 01:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

ncidentally do you support economic, and cultural, and sporting blockades? Such as that being imposed on Iran, sorry, Palestine?

Well if we just cut to the chase, my opposition to the blockade of Gaza (at least in the form it takes currently) is a matter of record.*

*This makes me sound more important than I am. What I mean is that I have voiced my objections previously.

11/22/2010 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Brownie: Israel is better "than a bunch of vicious and unpopular dictatorships" is not the same as "Israel is OK". As has already been pointed out, e.g. with reference to Saddam.

In point of logic, it doesn't even mean it is not a vicious and unpopular dictatorship.

But why is Israel being compared with ME countries? Why not entrants in the Eurovision Song Contest, say?

Re: finding unreasoning hostility in the Leigh post (which I don't actually have bookmarked) - I don't accept that as a sensible test for whether my suggested rephrasing of CC's remarks is a good one. I will happily explicitly endorse the accusation of unreasoning hostility, though. For evidence, see AWatch, passim.

Actually, come to think of it, you keep saying Leigh 'may be' sincere about only being opposed to some specific Israeli policies. (Even though that would apparently be absurdly inconsistent.)

The alternative, of course, lies somewhere on the concertina-like 'denying Israel's right to exist [psst! as a consititutionally racial/religious/ethnic/whatever state]...Hoping the Zionist regime occupying Jerusalem is superseded by historical events...wanting to wipe Israel off the face of the earth...nuking all teh Jews' scale.

11/22/2010 01:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

The necessary corollary (or at least implication) is that my argument is strengthened if you do share this view. Given you clearly do share this view (i.e. that Israel is better "than a bunch of vicious and unpopular
dictatorships"), I'd like to welcome you to my side of the debate.


So if I've got this straight. The fact that Israel is "better" than Saudi Arabia, or Egypt, or Syria[1], means that I agree with you "that Israel is largely right". I've heard better arguments from my three year olds.

And she is worse than Turkey, Iran and Lebanon; which is hardly something to be proud of.

"Israel, probably marginally better than some of the world's worst human rights abusers, if you squint in the right way".

[1] Pretty debatable. Torture is prevalent in all countries, but probably "nicer" in Israel. On the other hand only Israel prevents access to necessities, or practices random killing of civilians on an ongoing process. Tricky. And of course Israel as a state is far more belligerent than any other state in the region.

11/22/2010 03:56:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Oliver Kamm gives the impression of still wanting to be thought of as of the Left.

Other stories about Israel surprisingly not to be found at HP:here and here, while this shows something of the one-sided mentality of pro-Israel propagandists.

11/22/2010 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger AndyB said...

"Well if we just cut to the chase, my opposition to the blockade of Gaza (at least in the form it takes currently) is a matter of record."

But the freedom to travel to take part in sport, culture, education and trade is severely restricted for all Palestinians, not just those in Gaza. Palestinians winning scholarships to study abroad are prevented from taking them up. Hell, the Palestine football team cannot complete their competitive fixtures - their World Cup qualifying campaigns for example - because the state of Israel has total control over the movement of non-Israeli peoples into and out of their Bantustans.

11/22/2010 08:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

So if I've got this straight. The fact that Israel is "better" than Saudi Arabia, or Egypt, or Syria[1], means that I agree with you "that Israel is largely right". I've heard better arguments from my three year olds.

Well that rather depends on how you define "largely". It's certainly arguable that the biggest single issue concerns Israel's right to exist and on this I'm persuaded by Tel Aviv's views more so than those of Israel's enemies. I also think that, with one or two reservations, it functions well domestically as a liberal democracy with citizens enjoying the (vast majority of) rights and freedoms we enjoy in the UK. I'd happily defend a position that disagreements about the policy in Gaza (from which Israel unilaterally withdrew, of course, only to witness daily rocket attacks on its southern border towns) and even the war in Lebanon do not render Israel "largely wrong".

Or put another way, where you say above, "So if I've got this straight," the point is rather that you don't "have it straight".

But since you mention it, comparisons with other players in the ME are more apposite than a comparison with, say, Belgium. As Belgium doesn't depend on military supremacy for its survival, doesn't endure violations of its sovereignty on a daily basis, isn't living next door to a fascistic regime sworn to its destruction, etc., I think it's to be expected that we find Israel doing *stuff* that we don't see happening in Belgium, or Denmark, or Portugal, for example.

The point is that, given the opportunity, I've no doubt Israel could be just like Belgium. With better food, obviously.

11/23/2010 12:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

And she is worse than Turkey, Iran and Lebanon;

I'd dispute all three but, Iran? Israel is worse than Iran? I'd like to know more about the better/worse index being applied here.

Actually, scratch that. I'm not sure I would.

11/23/2010 12:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Re: finding unreasoning hostility in the Leigh post (which I don't actually have bookmarked) - I don't accept that as a sensible test for whether my suggested rephrasing of CC's remarks is a good one. I will happily explicitly endorse the accusation of unreasoning hostility, though. For evidence, see AWatch, passim.

Or put another way, you've looked at the Leigh post again, can't find the "unreasoning hostility" you were certain existed, but can't bring yourself to admit as much.

11/23/2010 12:54:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Jesus, what do I have to do to get an answer here, go topless?

OT, but here's the least-surprising career development AaroWatchers will ever clap eyes on...

http://tinyurl.com/25hajom

Congratulations to Nick for managing to accuse the Lib Dems of being on the wrong side of TGISOOT in his second sentence.

The man's a machine, and I look forward to seeing how, exactly, he decides to entertain his new readership of fake-victimised, race-obsessed lunatics and outraged idiots. No doubt Nick, for one, welcomes his new Tory overlords, and I imagine he'll be able to cut loose and really stick it to those libruls in a way he hasn't done since he was writing positive reviews for Frontpage.

11/23/2010 07:22:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeesboard said...

it'll be interesting to see how our nick fares when someone's editing his blog posts prior to their publication.

Cohen and Bright seems an oddly homogenous pairing; but then again, so does Liddle and Phillips. His job there seems to be having a go at the lib dems, and that's fish in a barrel stuff. but he still manages to make it seem both boring and weird (all his richard curtis stuff).

Given how he generally writes when he has a few gigs at once (ie even more poorly in stylistic terms than usual, and with a total absence of quality control), it's odd to see him still listed as a Standpoint blogger too...

11/23/2010 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

Oh my God, the Spectator has moved further to the right!

11/23/2010 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Bill said...

Referring to Israel as a "liberal democracy" is ill-informed, given Israel's lack of civil marriage as an option for the majority of its citizens. And if you don't believe me, ask the Cypriot Tourist Bureau. Nor do Arab citizens of Israel enjoy the vast majority of rights enjoyed by UK or US citizens--look at Israeli land laws and practices.

11/23/2010 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

I'd dispute all three but, Iran? Israel is worse than Iran? I'd like to know more about the better/worse index being applied here.

Hmm. I actually have a close personal connection to an Iranian dissident which I'm not going to go into more detail into for what should be fairly obvious reasons. So if you want to go all "moral" on my ass, save your breath. Its an issue I almost certainly care more about than you.

Its a fairly simple one. I'm comparing conditions for dissidents in Iran with those of Palestinians in the West Bank/Gaza. Or indeed inhabitants of both. The Iranian state hasn't yet reached the point where it starves children as state policy. So you know, there's that.

And Iran mostly isn't assassinating dissidents, even if it is beating the odd one to death in its prisons (but hey, Israel does that too). So there's that.

11/23/2010 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Well that rather depends on how you define "largely". It's certainly arguable that the biggest single issue concerns Israel's right to exist and on this I'm persuaded by Tel Aviv's views more so than those of Israel's enemies.

Any position is arguable, the question is is it a good argument. As for the predicate of "Israel's Right to Exist", this largely depends upon what one means by its "Right to Existence", or what that "Right" entails.

If we mean as an ethnic Jewish state, I don't see why it has any moral right to this. It was based upon illigitimate ethnic cleansing, which it still denies and its claim is against those it originally disposessed. Perhaps "facts on the ground" change this, but then "facts on the ground" are also that Israel is a racist state given that it treats Palestnians as second class state, despite the fact that they are the original inhabitants of the territory. I'm not sure why this is something right minded people are supposed to defend.

And if Israel's "right" requires the brutal subjegation and dispossesion of the West Bank and Gaza, which seems to be the case, then again I'm really not seeing this.

If on the other hand we were talking about the right of native Jews in Israel to live in a non-Jewish democratic state, where Palestinians were treated equally and the situation in both the refugee camps/Occupied Territories was handled fairly (i.e. in a way the Palestinians could agree too), well fair enough. But we're not, are we.

11/23/2010 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

I also think that, with one or two reservations, it functions well domestically as a liberal democracy with citizens enjoying the (vast majority of) rights and freedoms we enjoy in the UK.

Unless you're Arab. Or you live in the Occupied Territories, which Israel treats are part of its state. So you know, there's that.

I'd happily defend a position that disagreements about the policy in Gaza (from which Israel unilaterally withdrew, of course, only to witness daily rocket attacks on its southern border towns)

Israel didn't unilaterally withdraw. A unilateral withdrawal would have meant an ending to the blockade, and respecting Gaza airspace.

But since you mention it, comparisons with other players in the ME are more apposite than a comparison with, say, Belgium. As Belgium doesn't depend on military supremacy for its survival, doesn't endure violations of its sovereignty on a daily basis, isn't living next door to a fascistic regime sworn to its destruction, etc.

Neither does Israel, so the comparison seems a curious one. Israel has on its borders two fairly friendly and US dependant regimes (Egypt and Jordan), a militarily weak dictatorship which is more concerned with internal matters (Syria - which has long since set out its pretty reasonable demands for a settlement with Israel) and a fractious semi-democracy (Lebannon). Israel has also invaded Egypt (1967), Syria (ditto), Lebanon (multiple times) and bombed Syria multiple times. Fairer observers than yourself might argue that Israel is more of a threat to its neighbours, than they are to it.

And no Hezbollah is not fascist. That's not an apologia for Hezbollah, any more than stating that Stalin was not a fascist would not be an apologia for him. Its just a stupid statement to make. Grow up. On the other hand the old rulers of S. Lebannon were actual fascists, so obviously Israel doesn't feel that threatened by fascists given they were its favoured proxy governors. And Hezbollah is hardly an existential threat to Israel. Israel on the other hand is an existential threat to Hezbollah. So again, there's that.

doesn't endure violations of its sovereignty on a daily basis,

I'm guessing this means Hezbollah. Well perhaps, but Israel is as guilty of this as Hezbollah (hey jets don't just fly themselves in Lebanese airspace you know). And Hezbollah did kind of have to drive Israel out of South Lebannon, where they ran an absolutely appaling client state. I mean whatever one might think of Hezbollah, definitely nicer people than Israel's preferred clients.

Anyway, what was it about not having it straight?

11/23/2010 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11/23/2010 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

But since you mention it, comparisons with other players in the ME are more apposite than a comparison with, say, Belgium. As Belgium doesn't depend on military supremacy for its survival, doesn't endure violations of its sovereignty on a daily basis, isn't living next door to a fascistic regime sworn to its destruction, etc.

Neither does Israel, so the comparison seems a curious one. Israel has on its borders two fairly friendly and US dependant regimes (Egypt and Jordan), a militarily weak dictatorship which is more concerned with internal matters (Syria - which has long since set out its pretty reasonable demands for a settlement with Israel) and a fractious semi-democracy (Lebannon). Israel has also invaded Egypt (1967), Syria (ditto), Lebanon (multiple times) and bombed Syria multiple times. Fairer observers than yourself might argue that Israel is more of a threat to its neighbours, than they are to it.

And no Hezbollah is not fascist. That's not an apologia for Hezbollah, any more than stating that Stalin was not a fascist would not be an apologia for him. Its just a stupid statement to make. Grow up. On the other hand the old rulers of S. Lebannon were actual fascists, so obviously Israel doesn't feel that threatened by fascists given they were its favoured proxy governors. And Hezbollah is hardly an existential threat to Israel. Israel on the other hand is an existential threat to Hezbollah. So again, there's that.

doesn't endure violations of its sovereignty on a daily basis,

I'm guessing this means Hezbollah. Well perhaps, but Israel is as guilty of this as Hezbollah (hey jets don't just fly themselves in Lebanese airspace you know). And Hezbollah did kind of have to drive Israel out of South Lebannon, where they ran an absolutely appaling client state. I mean whatever one might think of Hezbollah, definitely nicer people than Israel's preferred clients.

Anyway, what was it about not having it straight?

11/23/2010 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Blogger went a bit mental there. Sorry for the multiple posts...

11/23/2010 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Re: finding unreasoning hostility in the Leigh post (which I don't actually have bookmarked) - I don't accept that as a sensible test for whether my suggested rephrasing of CC's remarks is a good one. I will happily explicitly endorse the accusation of unreasoning hostility, though. For evidence, see AWatch, passim.

Actually, come to think of it, you keep saying Leigh 'may be' sincere about only being opposed to some specific Israeli policies. (Even though that would apparently be absurdly inconsistent.)

The alternative, of course, lies somewhere on the concertina-like 'denying Israel's right to exist [psst! as a consititutionally racial/religious/ethnic/whatever state]...Hoping the Zionist regime occupying Jerusalem is superseded by historical events...wanting to wipe Israel off the face of the earth...nuking all teh Jews' scale.

Boring

11/23/2010 12:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Any position is arguable, the question is is it a good argument. As for the predicate of "Israel's Right to Exist", this largely depends upon what one means by its "Right to Existence", or what that "Right" entails.

This is it in a nutshell. If the subject is Israel's right to exist - as opposed to Austria's, or Iran's, or Uruguay's - then what was a fairly simple and straightforward logical premise is rendered much more complicated all of a sudden, to wit, we must define what is meant by "right", and "exist", and no doubt "to".

It's a conversation I'm not prepared to have until my interlocutor agrees to return Austria to the descendants of the kingdom of Noricum.

Israel is a racist state given that it treats Palestnians as second class state, despite the fact that they are the original inhabitants of the territory.

How is it possible to be so interested in a particular subject and yet be so ignorant of some of the most basic facts? Dearie me.

I've had a bellyful of pointless discussion with fanatical one-staters of both dispositions, so I'll just leave you to it Cian.

But before I take my leave, here's some readily available images of Hezbollah looking decidedly non-fascist.

11/23/2010 02:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

It's a conversation I'm not prepared to have until my interlocutor agrees to return Austria to the descendants of the kingdom of Noricum.

Cute. As a way of dodging an argument that obviously makes you uncomfortable its quite clever in its way I suppose. Unless there is a Noricum Liberation movement I was previously uaware of.

I'll try and make it simple. By Israel's "right to exist" do you mean its right to exist as an ethnically "Jewish" state, or do you mean the inhabitants right to live in a democratic state where everyone's rights are respected? I don't think Israelis should be driven out of their present homes, but neither do I think that gives them the right to live in an ethnically "pure" state that denies equal rights to some of its inhabitants. Particularly given the genesis of this particular state.

And if Israel apparently can't leave the West Bank, and it looks increasingly that way, then I really don't see any fair solution that does not involve a one state solution.

Because not respecting the former does not make anyone a believer in genocide, or whatever the hell it is that you're insinuating. I didn't respect the Afrikaaner state's right to exist, but that didn't mean I wanted to kill whitey.

How is it possible to be so interested in a particular subject and yet be so ignorant of some of the most basic facts? Dearie me.

So is it the treatment of Israeli Arabs that I've got wrong, or are you on some kind of Joan Peters denialist trip. I mean even most Israeli historians now accept that the Palestinians were driven out of Israel, but hey, whatever.

I've had a bellyful of pointless discussion with fanatical one-staters of both dispositions, so I'll just leave you to it Cian.

And examples of this fanaticism would be what exactly? There are more dignified ways to end a discussion Brownie, but so be it. Throw your toys out of your pram if you must.

But before I take my leave, here's some readily available images of Hezbollah looking decidedly non-fascist.

Oh brilliant. A definition of fascism even more stupid than Jonah Goldberg's.

Are you really this shallow Brownie, that you think a political ideology is defined purely by uniforms and funny salutes? Because that's pretty pathetic.

No wearing black uniforms and adopting particular salutes does not make you a fascist. Are you really this shallow Brownie? I mean for real?

11/23/2010 04:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Nick's finally gone and joined the Spectator. What took him so long? They've had the cream of bile soup warming for ages.

[redpesto]

11/24/2010 01:08:00 PM  

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