Friday, February 11, 2011

From the desk of the Aaronovitch Watch (incorporating "World of Decency") Readers' Editor

An argument recently blew up in our comments threads, with respect to the Workers' Revolutionary Party, a minor grouplet with a comedically horrible history about which we know little and care less, but which figured prominently in "What's Left?" and is thus generally (if erroneously) believed to be on topic.

Specifically, it was suggested by regular commenter "Coventrian" that Marko Attila Hoare had been a member of the WRP. The thread became tedious and has now been purged by Couscous Kid (thanks CK).

It is not the policy of Aaronovitch Watch (incorporating "World of Decency") to let false or insulting accusations be made on our threads. However, this does not always have to involve the use of the delete button. A comments thread needs to be read as a single entity, with comments that might appear outright libellous on their own, set in context (for example, if that context is an immediate editorial response saying "that's not true"). On this occasion, deletion was the appropriate response (particularly since much of the "collateral damage" was actually more bad-tempered and witless than the actual target). However, I can see how Coventrian might feel hard done by, given that he wasn't a drive-by and did appear at the point of thread closure to be attempting to substantiate the claim. Furthermore, a quick google search reveals that the MAH/WRP accusation (initially, I think, traceable to Neil Clark) is "out there" on the internet, so we could do a useful service by setting out the facts once and for all.

For this reason, and after a small amount of work, I feel it appropriate to post this editorial statement:

To the best of Aaronovitch Watch (incorporating "World of Decency")'s ability to research, there is no evidence anywhere that Marko Attila Hoare was ever a member of the Workers' Revolutionary Party or any of its successor grouplets. In our opinion, he was not one. He was an associate of Cliff Slaughter, and has spoken favourably of the post-WRP grouplet "Workers' Action Aid". He wrote at least one article for the newspaper "Workers' Press", which was published after the WRP split, by a group led by Slaughter which continued to claim the WRP name; however, the bad name attaching to the WRP is largely attributable to Gerry Healy as a person, and Healy had no involvement with Workers' Press at the time when Marko wrote for it

I think that Coventrian's assertion can be seen as most likely an honest mistake - in general, articles for left-wing grouplet newspapers are usually written by party members, and the Workers' Press was published by a party officially named "Workers' Revolutionary Party (Workers' Press). But mistake it was, and as I say, there is no suggestion at all that Marko was involved with Gerry Healy, which is all that anyone really cares about in this context.

Marko did not do himself many favours by not clearing this up himself and leaving it to others to mention the Workers' Press articles, but I have researched this to my own satisfaction, and unless someone can come up with new evidence, I think this one can now be settled.

I'll finally note in this context that I think I am being really rather generous here, to someone who does not actually treat others as he wishes to be treated himself. In the past, Marko has accused me of having "a total absence of integrity" for linking to the Splintered Sunrise blog, whose proprietor he accused of being "an unabahsed sympathizer of the neo-Nazi Serbian Radical Party", all on the basis of an absurdly obvious misreading of this post. If he wishes to take the opportunity to apologise to either me or to Splintered Sunrise, the comments box is open.

Edit: "Workers' Aid" name corrected. Marko seems to think this post is a "personal attack". It wasn't particularly meant as one, which is why I added a separate paragraph on the end detailing the reasons why I don't like him or rate his political judgement. Depending on the circumstances, it might or might not have been a sensible idea to have been involved with the WRP(WP) during the relevant period. However, with the passage of time, it's become slightly embarrassing.

124 Comments:

Anonymous Larry T said...

So, you're saying that Marko once wrote an article for a paper which was published by an organisation which shared a name with a party which had previously been led by a thoroughly nasty fucker.

And you're claiming that this isn't a damning indictment of his political judgement?

2/11/2011 01:00:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

Yes to the first, dunno to the second (specifically I don't know the extent to which the facts about Healy were publically know - presumably the fact that Slaughter had kept the name is at least weak evidence that he thought it was an asset rather than a liability). I would add that my assessment of MAH's political judgement was already at a level where new pieces of information didn't really shift the dial all that much.

2/11/2011 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

*Whistles in a ghostly manner*

Remember Owen Hatherley.

2/11/2011 01:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

To my mind Marko's association with a splinter of the then-recently-exploded WRP does him no discredit at all, since the said splinter had what I (like Marko) considered to be a basically correct position on what I (like Marko) considered to be a hugely important issue at the time.

On the other hand, the big "how very dare you suggest I was involved with the WRP, it's a vile slander (in fact it was a splinter of the then-recently-exploded WRP that I was involved with)" act (italicised section remains untyped), doesn't reflect well on him at all.

2/11/2011 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

To my mind Marko's association with a splinter of the then-recently-exploded WRP does him no discredit at all

To his mind as well; he's often said he's proud of it, which makes it even more incomprehensible that he wouldn't just simply say "no, you're not quite right, it was the anti-Healy faction that I was mates with".

I think the problem is that, since the WRP(WP) had very similar politics to the Healyites, accepting that Slaughter-good/Healy-bad was more or less how it turned out would kind of make it impossible to slag off other people and groups based on their own embarrassing figures.

2/11/2011 04:31:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

And with respect to Phil's second para, yes exactly. I do think it's important for us to try and cut down on false accusations, but Marko was effectively calling Coventrian a liar (which is of course a very serious accusation), and I was, I think sensibly, worried that by deleting the whole exchange it would look like we were endorsing that.

2/11/2011 04:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Marko Attila Hoare said...

'I was, I think sensibly, worried that by deleting the whole exchange it would look like we were endorsing that.'

Not at all; if that were true, you could have just made your point in the thread below. By prominently devoting a whole new post to this, you're making it clear you were just looking for a flimsy pretext to start a fight with me.

You really thrive on these sad little punch-ups, don't you ?

2/11/2011 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger frunobulax said...

You really thrive on these sad little punch-ups, don't you ?

Pot, kettle?

2/11/2011 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

Can I point out that Cliff Slaughter co-founded the WRP with Gerry Healy and was his right-hand man for nearly thirty years.

It is possible that Slaughter was oblivious to Healy's predatory sexual behaviour and use of violence - but since it was common knowledge inside the party, he would have been particularly unobservant.

Slaughter expelled Healy and so the group he led was not a splinter from the WRP - it was the WRP. Healy and the Redgraves formed a 'Continuity' WRP.

Marko or Attila as he liked to be known then had been around the Trotskyist scene for some time and had imbibed the faith from his parents. I can't see him allying with Slaughter and WRP without knowing exactly who he was dealing with.

I have to accept he wasn't a member of the WRP (although he seemed to me to have had more input than the average member of a Trotskyist sect) but to use a horrible phrase he certainly was a 'fellow-traveller'. I don't see how he could be proud of working with the WRP, but see the suggestion that he was a member as defamatory. Strange.

I had to mention Marko's association with the WRP given Michael Ezra's repeated questions and Marko's appearance on the thread. It seemed odd that he failed to mention his own past association with them, so I thought I'd jog his memory.

2/11/2011 06:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

I do find it interesting that this blog has criticised Nick Cohen for discussing some of the more outlandish events in the history of the WRP such as the raid on the Red House, yet there are those who comment here who seem interesting in all the post 1985 splits.

My own interest is in the period 1973-1985. I do not advise anyone to read Healy's ramblings on the 38th Volume of Lenin's Collected Works - the Philosophical Notebook.

2/11/2011 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Cheers, Michael. I'll give that a miss.

2/11/2011 07:36:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I had some thoughts on this. I didn't really have time at work to reread the whole thread and delete the comments that the CCK did, and besides, while I'd have been happy to delete Coventrian's original comment if Marko had complained right away, after he'd replied and quoted it, and replied at length, things began to look more complicated. I was happy to leave it to consider at leisure.

Like Daniel, I think comments after blog posts aren't meaningful on their own, but only as part of the whole thing, and it seemed to me that Marko's reply was in fact a better response than deletion would have been. OTOH, of course, I'm not happy about personal comments at all or with publishing false allegations. I don't think my position has changed since Is David T a Troll? I still think that blog-owners are responsible for defamatory etc comments left on their blogs, though I'm not sure whether that means that said blog-owners are obliged to remove such comments or allow the right of reply. I'd prefer the latter, and I believe Marko made use of his.

2/11/2011 07:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Chardonnay Chap, I have just viewed that blog post, which I cannot recall having previously seen, and read the comments. In that thread you state that you "really don't altogether agree that 'abusive, jokey, off-topic and trollish comments on blogs' should be consequence-free."

Can I ask you what you think about the comment that went up on that thread at 3/20/2010 09:17:00 AM which I will not copy? Do you think that such comments should be "consequence-free"?

2/11/2011 08:30:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Michael, I do believe you're right there. I should not have let that stand.

2/11/2011 08:58:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

On second thoughts, while the 'anti-muslim bigot' bit crossed the line, the video was on topic, which is why I probably let it stand. I think the real life troll part was a fair description of that video.

I'll concede that that was rather brave of David T, but I've not idea what he was trying to achieve, if it wasn't just winding people up, and I'm pretty certain that he didn't achieve it.

Of course, I was trying to defend him by calling him a troll in my original post on that thread.

2/11/2011 09:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Chardonnay Chap,

You have identified the key part which I thought went too far and I appreciate the fact that this is acknowledged.

Regarding the term "troll," it does seem that you specialise in using that term of denunciation on this blog. I find it quite amusing and as I have previously commented, I am not entirely sure what the word means in this context. I can only guess that it refers to people who write in the comments section of blogs disagreeing with either the blog owner or the owner's echo chambers among regular commentators or contributors.

I assume that you would not mind if I referred to yourself and your regular commentators as "weird, creepy stalkers" for the way you follow those such as David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen?

2/11/2011 10:30:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

Michael my point was if you want to talk about the WRP, discuss it with your Comrade Marko who had a lot more to do with them than anyone here. None of the socialists I knew had anything to do with them, nor them with us. They were the exclusive brethren. Violent and paranoid.

Similarly any queries about the Communist Party of the same period could be directed to the eponymous David of this parish, who I can guarantee was a paid up member.

Meanwhile back in the real world I am watching Nick Cohen's mentor and drinking partner Paul Wolfowitz on Newsnight falsifying very recent history. Strange how they didn't ask him about his authorising torture experiments on prisoners at Guantanamo.

2/11/2011 10:53:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

By the way, I'm certain that this clip is the reason why David T. doesn't post under his own name any more - he's explicitly named by the law firm he works for. I don't think that's fair at all.

2/12/2011 12:06:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Michael, I think you've missed that I was not denouncing David T in that post. I was defending him. My argument, if I have to go over it again is that Socialist Unity have a comments policy, and David T's comments seemed to me to be in violation of that. SU have also deleted comments before and blocked people. To that extent, they have control over their comment threads and must surely be partly responsible (and finally responsible) for what appears there. I was pointing out that, had they been consistent, the offending comment would have been removed long before the solicitor's letter was sent, and hence there should never have been any problem. You may read into that whatever you like about how cynical I thought SU were being.

Blog comments and trolling go together like a horse and carriage to borrow from a once popular song. When I refer to trolls, I mean the actual actions of someone in comments. I try to use the broadest possible definition of 'ad argumentum' here. Just as if someone says, "You're being an idiot" they don't literally mean that you can't tie your own shoelaces, or whatever the technical definition of idiocy is, they mean, "you said something (I consider) foolish." Calling someone a troll means something like making off-topic, baiting comments and so on.

I don't mind if you call be a 'weird creepy stalker'. Nick Cohen has. ("Stalker" anyway.) I accept that you're going to disagree, but I think our comment threads are a hell of a lot politer than those on Harry's Place, and that includes the D2-Marko feud.

I suppose my approach to this is sort of Queensbury rules. People are going to try to hit each other, but we have rules, and they're supposed to wear gloves, and it's not to the death. Also, I think all participants are in much the same weight category. Don't you?

2/12/2011 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

As for following David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen, well "weird and creepy" is fine, but it's not really stalking. I see this blog as part of a wider trend which includes Anton Vowl, Tabloid Watch, The Sun Lies. I think a lot of journalism and commentary is VERY poor and ideologically rather than empirically informed if I can put it like that.

I/we don't intrude on Aaro or Nick's private lives at all; nor do we intend to. Commenting on what they write for publication seems perfectly fair.

Both Daniel and I follow Aaro on Twitter and both of us have had exchanges with him there too. He gets a fair amount of needle on Twitter, and he's quite capable of spiky and condescending replies. If he's at all intimidated or even annoyed by us pair, he doesn't show it. I just tried looking for some of his testier put downs, but he's been on holiday lately, and in a good mood for weeks. He's positively friendly to friend-of-this-blog Sarah Ditum. I get incensed by some of his pieces, but I bear him no ill will whatever. I don't think I 'denounce' at all, but if I do, it's the words, not the man.

I 'stalk' Nick Cohen because when he writes about the left not being what it was, or totalitarian-loving, or Islamofascist-hugging, or not true feminists or whatever, he's talking about me. I'm also annoyed by Richard Littlejohn, Melanie Phillips, and many more, but I think they're complete idiots and they keep their idiocy out of publications I may be tempted to read. I'm not as well-disposed to Nick as I am to Aaro. You don't see it so much now, but people used to say, "full disclosure" a lot on the internet and were open about non-objectivity. As far as I know, Nick Cohen, Joan Smith, and Julie Bindel are all North London dwelling journalists. Nick plugs both (as "the last ... feminist"), I think it would honest if he admitted this was motivated by friendship, and is not the cool rational judgement he makes it appear.

There are things in Nick's published and public behaviour I just don't understand. After his and Norman Geras's interview turned altercation with David Horowitz (which I think Geras handled in a civilised way), Nick went back to Frontpage to review a Horowitz book. I think Horowitz is a horrible human being, motivated by incredible vanity (FrontPage looks like a personal site as much as anything -- there are links to the David Horowitz Freedom Centre, about David Horowitz, Jebus!) and who would write a review on the author under discussion's own publication, to which the author gets the right of reply? Where else is this done?

I want better journalism and better newspapers. I want more reporting and less reliance on secondary and tertiary sources. Maybe if enough of us keep doing this sort of thing, we'll get heard.

2/12/2011 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Chardonnay Chap,

I do not think I did misunderstand your post. I saw that David T was being defended, or at least that it was odd that he was being sued for a comment on the Socialist Unity blog, one he has no control over, than for anything on Harry's Place.

For what it is worth, and it is not really on topic, I think the libel law we currently have is atrocious. Cases such as the David Irving trial or the Simon Singh case must show this to be the case. I trust that it will soon change.

My comment about "troll" was actually not meant to be directed at you personally even though it does seem like it. I meant "you" in the second person plural form: this blog and commentators associated with it. It does seem that the term is liked on this blog. It has been directed at me here and I really do not like it. Of course it is true that I come here to speak to people that I disagree with, but I think a blog owner should welcome such people.

I actually concede that, from what I have seen, the comments box here is generally politer than that at Harry's Place, the blog for which I write. I am sure there are many instances when this is not the case, but I only comment on what I have read: a small sample of this blogs total output.

I would like to think that my own threads on Harry's Place are becoming much more politer places to comment. I have taken to deleting comments that use vulgar language irrespective of whether or not I concur with the sentiments expressed in the comment. Of course I have been accused of being childish for this, but that is something I can live with. I am hardly bothered by the opinion of those who cannot string a sentence together without using at least two expletives.

As well as this, I do pay attention to how people are treated in the comments box of my posts. I have made it well known and I do not hide the fact that I am an anti-Communist. Many of my posts are directed at ridiculing communists or communist parties of all stripes past and present. That does not mean to say that it is necessary that I am rude to communists who appear in the comments boxes. In fact, the opposite is this case, I try and be polite in my disagreement and defend communists from excessive personal abuse. As can currently be seen in a comment I made at 12:35pm Harry's Place time (11:35 GMT) today, I said to the poster by the name of Skidmarx, who I assume is a communist:

"You are welcome to comment on any thread I create. It is certainly true that I disagree with you, but I do wish others would be a bit politer in the way that they attack your comments."

I quite like your idea of the Queensbury Rules, it appeals. I think I disagree that all commentators should be viewed as of in the same weight category. Some commentators are obviously experienced and hardened whereas others may be "newbies" or it can be guessed as less confident in what they say. Even though I am a fan of what he writes and you aren't, it seems to me reasonable to throw some heavier weight punches to David Aaronovitch than to "A level kid", to pick an imaginary descriptive pseudonym.

2/12/2011 01:34:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

My mistake, Michael. I did think you were accusing me of using the word 'troll' to 'denounce' David T, when I wasn't.

I'm glad Harry's Place is becoming more civil. I've argued before that the comments can lead the posters astray. I think it's natural to be competitive, and one of the ways if you run a group blog is to try to get the most comments on your posts. Some Harry's Place posts certainly seem to me to have been written because they would get the comments going.

I quite agree about A-level kid BTW. Been there too. ;-)

2/12/2011 01:59:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

FR - Yes, I agree. On the other hand, they don't seem sure if he's a lawyer or if he makes coffee...

2/12/2011 10:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Chardonnay Chap,

You say, "As far as I know, Nick Cohen, Joan Smith, and Julie Bindel are all North London dwelling journalists."

Out of interest, why did you include that sentence and what problem do you have with those who dwell in North London?

Please do not forget that Engels lived in North London and Marx is buried there.

2/13/2011 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

That's trolling right there Michael. You do it a lot: asking faux-innocent questions in what comes across as a deliberately baiting tone, feigning reasonable enquiry when you seem to be pretending you don't know where and who the "Islington dinnerparty" meme comes from, and why it's being used here.

If you don't like being called a troll, then try asking this kind of question in a grown-up way.

2/13/2011 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

I see Marko is taking this calmly and in proportion, and has decided that the best way to make the whole thing blow over is to put a massive front page post, comlete with photo of me (gosh, I was handsome in those days). The strange thing is, I really don't think of him from one month to the next, unless he shows up in our blog's comments insulting people. When he does, I do tend to remember that I bear a grudge over that "no integrity" thing, but well - celavie.

2/13/2011 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Michael, ha! I've nothing against North London. Used to live there myself, and regularly visit my gf in Watford. Daniel lives there.

I didn't mean to slate North London per se, rather it's that I agree with Organic Cheeseboard on a previous thread:

Cohen's definition of a 'true feminist' is 'a female journalist who I happen to agree with'. Usually this agreement is because they're slating other female journalists for appeasing fascism or some such.

I am adding 'and a mate of his' to 'journalist'. I'm not really sure what 'feminist' means other than something like 'woman with opinions'. I think the days are gone when a man could describe himself as a feminist as George Bernard Shaw did. (I think DH Lawrence did as well, but I'm less certain of that.) However, it seems that Nick's understanding of the term adds 'in my social circle' which is pretty narrow and insular.

I've probably expressed my dislike of those sentences about Joan Smith and Julie Bindel in the wrong way. First, almost every woman I know regards herself as feminist, and I think it's a bit much for Nick to pronounce himself an authority on 'real' feminists. Were I a woman, I'd be bloody offended at the implication that my feminism was somehow inauthentic or second-rate, and I'm certainly vicariously offended (although I really don't like that idea).

NB Most of this was written before Belle's comment: I was called away by the phone.

2/13/2011 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

Daniel, can I say how proud I am to be your pet troll. (At school I was the teacher's pet - she kept me in a cage at the back of the classroom. Boom, boom!)

Much as I'd like to correct Marko's falsifications of what I said, he keeps his comments closed - not that it prevents him infesting the comments boxes of other blogs.

I'm not going to do it here, but invite anyone who can be bothered to examine what I said and compare it with Marko's claims. You can then make your own judgment on his standards of honesty.

Meanwhile I look forward to reading his reminiscences of working with Gerry Healy's right-hand man (for thirty years) Cliff Slaughter and the WRP which he lead after expelling Healy and the Redgraves.

2/13/2011 12:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Here we go: I am now being called a troll by belle le triste for asking a perfectly reasonable question! One wonders if belle le triste is organic cheeseboard in disguise. However, as I have said, I could be wrong, I suspect that the word "troll" is one of the more popular words used on this site.

I did find it amusing this morning when I read a comment on a post I had put up at Harry's Place that asked of me, "are you just trolling your own website?" Given you seem to be the experts on the subjects of trolling, can you please explain what the poster means? Is he suggesting that I am deliberately trying to provoke myself? It is all very strange.

In any event, in answer to my question, it seems that Chardonnay Chap just mentioned that the people lived in North London for the fun of it.

2/13/2011 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

BTW, I meant that Daniel lives in North London, not, as it seems to me on rereading, that Daniel lives in Watford.

Belle is quite right: I was alluding to the Islington dinner party circuit. As you may know, our noms-de-blog all refer to our being limp-wristed organic shiraz sippers because of some offhand remark David Aaronovitch made which I hope Daniel will be able to recall. Nick has knocked the Islington dinner party stereotype too, so it's a bit ironic that that is exactly what I'm criticising him of belonging to.

I've said that I get annoyed by the media, and lazy journalism really gets up my nose. Not just that I'm expected to pay for it, but that I can waste time reading the stuff.

Sorry to bang on about this but Nick encomium of Mses Smith and Bindel suggests that he has spent time immersed in contemporary feminist thought and these are pearls of the discipline whom everyone should acquaint themselves with. What he actually means is that he's doing a favour for a mate.

I live in Cardiff, and I'm from Scotland. I find much of the media -- the Guardian is no exception -- to be very insular and blinkered. So no, I did not mention North London for the fun of it.

2/13/2011 12:26:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

I think that the WRP is now pretty much played out as a subject for discussion.

Michael, I find myself agreeing with belle here. When you ask a question like this:

Out of interest, why did you include that sentence and what problem do you have with those who dwell in North London?

you could save yourself so much trouble by just adding "and the reason I ask is because ..."

Without that context, it appears quite brusque (imagine how it would sound if you just came out and asked a question like that in normal conversation), and it also makes people suspect that you're trying to catch them out in some way.

FWIW, I do indeed live in North London, about two stops on the tube from Dave and about two stops on a different tube line from Nick. I do think it's curious that both of them regularly do the line about "fashionable North London dinner parties" (the Aaro line was "bruschetta orthodoxies").

During the New Labour years, there were some politicians (David Blunkett comes to mind particularly) seemed to have a real thing about Hampstead in particular, to the point where I really did begin to wonder if they were using it as a code word for something. But really, the joke is that nearly everyone who fulminates about "North London", "middle class", "Guardianista" etc, lives in North London, is middle class, and reads the Guardian. Which is great! It's a nice place to live! The Guardian's a good newspaper! Being an opinion journalist is a good job!

2/13/2011 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

dd,

Try as I might, I am really not getting what this accusation of being a troll or trolling means. All I know is that it is an insult, people like using it on this blog, and, it seems, especially like using it against me.

I also live in North London, and probably even worse for those who direct their vitriol against this area of the country, in NW3. I am not a football fan and hence do not have those loyalties but I am a supporter of North London. I was once asked to provide my opinion on the main difference between those who live in North London and those who live elsewhere. I provided an academically snobby response: "Those that live in North London have read the books on their shelves." Of course I can be charged with "regionalism" for that comment, but as a generality as opposed to covering every specific case, I do not think that it is that far off the mark.

2/13/2011 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

While I am it, I can add another pro North London quip. If I recall correctly it was Gerald Isaaman who said in his 1994 retirement speech from being an editor for some 25 years at the Ham & High, the Hampstead local weekly newspaper, that his newspaper was the only paper in the country where the average intelligence of the readers was greater than that of the journalists.

2/13/2011 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

But that's not true. With the possible exception of the Daily Star, that's true of all papers.

2/13/2011 01:30:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

"troll", as an insult on weblogs, is basically an accusation of not arguing in good faith - ie, trying to start an argument for the fun of doing so, or asking leading or loaded questions to try and tempt someone into saying something that can be used against them later. That's why (and I am not specifically accusing you of this), it's often a bad idea to ask open ended questions without saying what you're getting at - people like me who have a long history of these things tend to be very wary of such questions because they're traps.

Time for another readers' editor statement I think: since it is clearly irritating Michael, can we agree to abstain from the "troll" accusation please? In future, if you think a statement has been made provocatively or a question asked similarly, then either ignore it, or find some way to say so without using the t-word. It's not really that much inconvenience and we'll see if it improves the level of discussion around here.

As quid pro quo, Michael, could you also sign up to the temporary moratorium on discussing past tense Communist grouplets please?

2/13/2011 01:35:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

Those that live in North London have read the books on their shelves

Sadly, I am letting the side down on that one - the backlog has grown supercritical over the last two years, and now I have a Kindle it is not even held in check by the physical space of my house, so I can only expect it to get worse.

2/13/2011 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Michael, Daniel is from North Wales, and I'm from Scotland. Nick Cohen is from Cheshire, IIRC. People from outside North London do read books you know. (It's true about coal in the bath, though.)

This gives me a chance to quote a paragraph of Adam Roberts on Jacobson I omitted yesterday.

SF types sometimes denigrate (and caricature) ‘the mainstream novel’ as being about nothing more than middle class people committing adultery in Hampstead. It’s not a very accurate caricature, actually; for although mainstream novels may or may not be pitifully limited creatures, when compared to the infinite possibilities of time and space available to genre, few writers today would write anything so old-fashioned as that. Except that—no, The Finkler Question is literally about middle class people committing adultery in Hampstead. It is one of the most creakingly old-fashioned novel-length pieces of work I have read since ... since the time when old-fashioned was actually new.

That's part of the reason that TFQ doesn't appeal. I've nothing against North London, but that's not what I read books for.

As regards trolling, I second Daniel's appeal not to use the term, but, as I said before, I think addressing how someone makes a comment falls under 'ad argumentum' as much as what that comment is. James Delingpole had an exchange with Simon Singh the other week on Twitter and he proposed that they have a public debate, the motion being, 'Of course global warming is a hoax, you stupid morons' (or very similar words). Invitation to a debate, fair. Put like that, trolling.

2/13/2011 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

dd,

Of course I write on this blog for the fun of having an argument. That is what I suspected. If you actually consider what you have said, it basically means that anyone who writes comments on a blog where they disagree with what has been said by the blog owner can be defined as a troll. Like I guess virtually all the people in the comments boxes of blogs, I am not paid to write comments, I do it for fun, ergo, under your definition, if I post on any blog where I disagree with the line I am a troll. I am pleased that you wish to stop using the accusation.

As to temporarily ceasing to discuss deceased Communist groups such as the WRP on this thread. I suppose that I can agree to that, but it is a shame as I am still keen to find out whatever happened to Trotsky's death mask that the WRP used proudly display at their rallies after they purchased it. I guess I cannot ask if anyone knows.

2/13/2011 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Chardonnay Chap,

Of course I know people outside North London read books: those John Grisham novels I see stacked up at the airport bookshops have to be sold to someone.

2/13/2011 02:01:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

We don't read books outside North London. We're too busy writing them.

2/13/2011 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I'm from North London.

2/13/2011 07:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Those that live in North London have read the books on their shelves

The flip side of that stereotype is that the content of those shelves will rarely be a surprise to anybody familiar with the literary sections of the broadsheets.

I'm sure N. London is lovely, no really I am. Please stay there.

Of course I write on this blog for the fun of having an argument. That is what I suspected.

Its not about having an argument, its about arguing in good faith.

2/13/2011 07:51:00 PM  
Anonymous hellblazer said...

"Those that live in North London have read the books on their shelves."

I appreciate that this was (in its original context) meant as an evidently absurd joke, but it really is on a par with saying everyone north-east of Redcar keeps whippets and says "pet" every other word.

2/13/2011 08:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Asteri said...

"We don't read books outside North London. We're too busy writing them."

depends what part of north London doesn't it? Islington, Highgate, Muswell Hill and Camden - then yes but, once you get to the Cockfosters end of Haringay I'm not sure.

2/13/2011 09:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Asteri said...

that should be the Cockfosters end of Enfield, (sigh) only lived there for 12 years now.

2/13/2011 09:12:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

I lived near Cockfosters and, no, can't remember it being an intellectual haven. My landlord tried to endear the place to me by saying, "Rod Stewart lived round here..."

2/13/2011 09:28:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

(Though my presence can't have helped. I remember giggling at the word "Cockfosters".)

2/13/2011 09:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Asteri said...

"(Though my presence can't have helped. I remember giggling at the word "Cockfosters".)"

I actually wrote it as Cockfest by mistake, but noticed my slip before I published it.

Though not an intellectual haven it does have that nice Trent park, perhaps soon to be sold of, if the con-dems get their way.

2/13/2011 10:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

By the way, do come along to the
Hampstead and Highgate literary festival in September 2011. I went to a number of events in 2010 including Martin Amis, Giles Coren, Stephen Berkoff etc. It was all good fun. I suspect it will equally as good, if not better, in 2011.

For something a bit closer in time, but remaining on a similar theme, the Jewish Book Week is coming up, and I will be attending a number of events there too. (They are all in a central London hotel). Those on this blog, I am sure, will be particularly keen to part with £10 for the opportunity to see Nick Cohen interview Peter Mandelson on the afternoon of Sunday March 6. You know you will not be able to resist! See you there chaps!

2/13/2011 10:47:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

North-east of Redcar is the sea.

2/14/2011 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

Since dd asked nicely I won't call Michael Ezra a troll, but he sure looks like something that lives under a bridge and accosts under age goats.

It's the combination of calling people names, asking leading questions and the tedious faux naivity when called upon this habit, having to have explained to him as if a child in the utmost detail, followed by an equally tedious attempt to lawyer his way out of it.

2/14/2011 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Martin Wisse,

Can you please substantiate your claim on where I have gone in for name calling.

@All

I have just learned something new: according to Martin Wisse, asking a leading question is a crime worthy of denunciation of being a troll. I would be interested to know what is next: is the fact that I like chocolate digestive biscuits conclusive evidence that I am a troll? I would also like to know if the troll accusation can become more descriptive, something worthy of Andrei Vyshinsky, the Chief Prosecutor in Stalin's show trials. How about "Rabid troll with fleas" or "Running troll of imperialism"?

2/14/2011 01:00:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

asking a leading question is a crime worthy of denunciation of being a troll

I wouldn't say "a crime", but I would invite you to ask yourself; do friends use leading questions very much when discussing politics in good faith between themselves? Do you talk to your own friends in this manner? We try to maintain the atmosphere of a friendly saloon bar here.

2/14/2011 01:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Don't flatter yourself Michael. They save the show trials for those who matter. You they'd just shoot in a dingy cellar.

2/14/2011 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

dd,

Of course I use leading questions when discussing politics with friends. Why wouldn't I? And they use them on me. Why shouldn't they? A series of well constructed leading questions can expose a flaw in an argument. Perhaps those on this blog do not like having their theories tested in such a manner (This might be because their theories are possibly full of holes!) and as such they prefer to simply denounce people as a troll. It is much easier to do that than answer an awkward question isn't it? (There you go, another leading question.)

2/14/2011 01:49:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

Though not an intellectual haven it does have that nice Trent park, perhaps soon to be sold of, if the con-dems get their way.

Ah, that's a shame: it was a peaceful place to walk. (As long as one stayed on the lookout for mishit golf balls, at least.)

A series of well constructed leading questions can expose a flaw in an argument.

Exposing flaws in arguments is a fine as far as I know, Michael. I think the point D2 is trying to make, however, is that he wants these threads to be "arguments" only in the sense that one might kick about ideas in a pub with friends, not a virtual homage to the Oxford Union.

...friendly saloon bar here...

*Replaces Smith & Wessons and rides outta this one horse town.*

2/14/2011 02:08:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeesboard said...

am happy to desist from calling Michael a troll, but his consistency in arguing in bad faith and intentionally ignoring the arguments (and indeed questions) of others leaves one with few other terms to describe him.

Witness this WRP brouhaha. It was specifically brought up in order to demonstrate the poverty of Nick Cohen's core 'argument' in What's Left (ie he uses a lengthy section on a sect that nobody had heard of when they were running in the 80s to justify his claim that in recent years, 'the left' lost its way - even an admirer of Cohen's can spot the flaw there), and it was made abundantly clear what people on this blog think of the WRP - that it's not important, not tied in any sense to the 'liberal left' or indeed to any of us. Mr Ezra appears on the thread and through his sheer persistence of asking leading questions, derails an interesting discussion into name-calling and tedium. All the while Ezra completely ignores the reason for the WRP even being brought up, and ignores the topic of the thread too.

on name calling - i guess that saying 'perhaps you are an X or Y' is not technically name calling, but it's not really anything else either.

by the way, to link to our discussion of Howard Jacobson:

Those that live in North London have read the books on their shelves

this just isn't funny.

2/14/2011 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger Suvorov said...

Why even discuss someone who doesn't allow comments on his blog? He thus characterizes his own work the best. Not that Trotsky believed in open discussion.

2/14/2011 05:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

@Cian

You are right, they probably would.

@Ben Six,

I am really not sure what the problem is. Reading your latest contribution to this thread it seems that you are saying "You can question us a bit, and only in a polite way but please do not ask any question that we might not like to answer because that is not how friends behave." It is a bit silly isn't it? (There you go, another leading question.)

@all

I notice that organic cheeseboard has still not bothered to apologise to me. He also exposes his own ignorance by claiming "nobody had heard of [the WRP] when they were running in the 80s." He is probably unaware that the party had a nationally televised party political broadcast at the time of the 1979 general election. He also has probably not spoken to any actor or actress that were even in a fleeting way involved in their trade union Equity in that period. He probably has not read many of Bernard Levin's columns in The Times that discussed the antics of the party. He was probably not an active watcher of "The Money Programme" that was broadcast on BBC which devoted a whole episode to the WRP. I could go on (and on) about this party including information that the F Branch of MI5 were particularly interested in the group, but I will not do it as dd asked me not to. All I have done here is respond to an ignorant claim that "nobody had heard" of the party. And before someone questions as to whether I know what I am talking about, Marko Attila Hoare, who the OP discusses, mentions in his latest blog post that I am "an authority on the history of Healy’s WRP." I still doubt organic cheeseboard is man enough to apologise for his past accusations about me.

2/14/2011 06:40:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

He probably has not read many of Bernard Levin's columns in The Times that discussed the antics of the party.

If anybody didn't laugh out loud at this point, they have a poor, poor sense of humour.

Vyshinsky, by the way, liked nothing more than denouncing and exposing Trotskyites.

2/14/2011 06:48:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

No, Michael, it's much more simple. I meant that I think he feels we should treat interlocutors as if they're smart and small "d" decent people (until we've a good reason to believe otherwise). Don't, in other words, speculate that they might "cheer on those who wish to wipe Israel off the face of the earth" or accuse someone of "promoting a book by a serial rapist". (The latter's a candidate for D Squared's latest post.

2/14/2011 07:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

ejh,

Whatever you think of the journalism of the late Bernard Levin, I think that it is quite clear that I have mentioned him because he wrote for The Times, a well read newspaper and it was here that he commented about the WRP. I simply referred to his name as a counter to the argument that "nobody had heard" of the WRP. Regular readers of his column would have done. In fact, I believe it was Levin who coined the phrase "Vanessa's loonies" to refer to the party members given the high profile that the actress Vanessa Redgrave had in the party.

2/14/2011 07:12:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

Oh noes!

2/14/2011 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I don't suppose "Michael Ezra" is actually a prank? I have a theory as to who might be responsible....

2/14/2011 07:54:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

"You can question us a bit, and only in a polite way but please do not ask any question that we might not like to answer because that is not how friends behave." It is a bit silly isn't it?

It's not silly at all. It's probably the only way to get a sensible answer to your question. You do want an answer, don't you? In which case I have to ask you Michael - given the astounding lack of success that you have had so far in getting your questions answered, don't you think it's time for a change of approach? You might usefully copy Sarah AB, who has no trouble at all getting her questions answered.

2/15/2011 07:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Bruschetta boy,

I am actually more concerned about personal insults such as being called a "troll" than whether a question is asked in the correct format for this blog. Perhaps you should consider consider writing a post discussing how to frame questions for being answered on this blog. I see you are not adverse to using leading questions yourself: "You do want an answer, don't you?" I do not complain about it but perhaps you will tell me whether all commentators are equal or whether some are more equal than others? Can regular commentators including those who have their names up on the top right panel of this blog and other favoured use leading questions and those less favoured such as myself not use them? It is perfectly OK if those are the rules and despite how perverse those rules might seem to normal people, it is your blog and you can create whatever rules you wish. It would just be helpful to have a full set of rules laid out.

2/15/2011 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Michael, I've tried to explain that, IMO, calling someone a troll is NOT a personal insult. I clearly haven't convinced you. If we're having an argument (as you seem to think we are; I prefer discussion) then talking about how someone makes their case falls under ad argumentum in my book. It's really not the same as making accusations concerning alleged former membership of the WRP. Being a troll is not a life long condition. Remember the anecdote about Winston Churchill and a landlady, "I may be drunk, but you are ugly, and I will be sober in the morning" and put trolling in the place of drunk.

What, may I ask, is the point of your leading questions. On an earlier thread, I brought up Nick's assertion that the British response to totalitarianism since WWII had been 'frivolous' (on topic, IMO) and I mentioned 'Darkness at Noon' a work first published here and widely discussed here, perhaps especially on the left, as an example of Stalinism being taken seriously here. You replied:

Darkness at Noon? You are surely not promoting a book by a serial rapist are you? Perhaps my eyes deceive me.

This seems to me to an attempt to wrench the discussion off topic (from totalitarianism and its responses in the UK) to the mores of an individual author, possibly with the added bonus of making me look self-contradictory. This IS trolling.

Your leading questions do not seem like attempts to reveal the holes in out reasoning (whether individually or collectively) but to derail discussions and provoke.

2/15/2011 09:38:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Your leading questions do not seem like attempts to reveal the holes in out reasoning (whether individually or collectively) but to derail discussions and provoke.

indeed. Michael, on this thread, has failed to even begin to address the consistent accusation (backed up with evience) that he consistently argues in bad faith on here. He's arguing in bad faith on this thread ffs.

As I've said, I'm happy to stop calling him a troll since he seems remarkably offended by it, even though it's standard internet slang; another version would be WUM, or wind-up-merchant. But I don't feel i have anything whatsoever to apologize for. I fail to see how calling someone out as an internet troll (imho correctly) is more insulting than the following:

Perhaps you forget about the famous "Three Nos" where the Arab states said "no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it." Or perhaps you think otherwise and you cheer on those who wish to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

M. Ezra, last month, on here... or:

For him/her, I assume Jerusalem is the centre of the world. Well, he/she has that in common with some religious loons.

M. Ezra, on the same thread.

also:

If anybody didn't laugh out loud at this point, they have a poor, poor sense of humour.

indeed. i'm beginning to think 'Michael Ezra' is an elaborate prank.

like the rodent and bensix, I'm substantially younger than you seem to be, Michael; I was born in 1980. nobody in my generation cares about the WRP, nor indeed has anyone heard of them. they're a long-forgotten sect that belongs to the dustbin of history.

your only interest in them seems to be 'lol @ tehlefties', too; in fact, from everything i've read, I your entire 'interest' in far-left politics is founded on bad faith.

2/15/2011 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

It's the "perhaps" I like. Hint-hint stuff. Yummy.

Remember the anecdote about Winston Churchill and a landlady, "I may be drunk, but you are ugly, and I will be sober in the morning" and put trolling in the place of drunk.

I thought it was Bessie Braddock he said it to. Boorish old bloke, Churchill, albeit an extraordinary man in a number of ways.

2/15/2011 10:34:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I also like the 'either/or' dynamic; 'perhaps you agree with me; otherwise you're some sort of genocide-lover'. yet more evidence of bad-faith argument.

and of course, none of them are DIRECT insults (oh yes)...

2/15/2011 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

BTW, I/we stalk Nick Cohen, but we're really not alone in being obsessed with the poor quality of commentary in the media. This is an excellent example. I've said before (and can furnish links but don't have the time at the moment) that both Aaro and Johann Hari have Richard Littlejohn's number. Nick yet again seems to be more naive.

2/15/2011 11:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

@Chardonnay Chap,

Suggesting that the term "troll" is not being used as an insult is beyond credibility. I have admitted that I do not know exactly what a troll is in this context, but Martin Wisse mentioned earlier in this thread,making a pun on the fact that he was asked not to use the word was that I "sure looks like something that lives under a bridge and accosts under age goats." The term is clearly being used as an insult. In fact your comparison with your quotation from Winston Churchill is not correct. In that context Churchill uses the term "drunk" as a verb and not as a noun. It is the same difference between accusing someone of trolling as to accusing them of being a troll. In any event, I do not believe I should be called a troll or accused of trolling and that is why I am not going to respond to organic cheeseboard who refuses to apologise for that insult. Quite frankly, I believe him to be damn right rude.

Regarding Darkness at Noon. It is true that I changed the conversation from discussing what the book was about to that of the author. But that is what happens in conversations isn't it? They flow from one thing to the next. Consider the following. Why did you mention the book in the first place? Nobody had previously mentioned it. You utilised a latch that someone else had mentioned to mention that novel. The thread was certainly not originally about Darkness at Noon. I see no difference between your excuse of latching on to something to mention that novel and my excuse of using that novel to mention what the author of that novel was accused of by the wife of the late former Labour Party Leader, Michael Foot.It is also wrong to say that the purpose I mentioned the rape accusation was done "to derail discussions and provoke." I was quite happy to discuss the rape allegation and the difference of importance attached to it by Cesarani and Scammell, two different biographers of Koestler. In fact, I mentioned that in the thread in question.

The fact that you seem to be proud to admit being a stalker is somewhat jaw dropping.

2/15/2011 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Michael, if you really find 'troll' such an unendurable slur, you need a thicker skin.

And yes, I realise that I am calling you thin-skinned and I do not mean this as a compliment. Deal with it.

2/15/2011 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

BTW, I really do mean that 'troll' is being used in the sense of 'you are trolling' which I believe to be the case (as explained) and not a characterisation of your offline character. As such, I really don't see it as an insult.

2/15/2011 12:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

@Chardonnay Chap,

The way I understand it is as follows: it is not acceptable to get upset about about being called a troll, but it is perfectly reasonable to create a huge fuss and denounce someone as a troll for asking a leading question. Is that correct?

2/15/2011 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

No, it is not correct. I don't regard 'denouncing someone as a troll' to be creating 'a huge fuss'. I wouldn't let it bother me. It's just not a big deal.

However, I'll add to dd's statement about calling you a troll. From now on, we have a "Do not feed the trolls" policy. If you think someone is trolling, do not tell them so -- if they are a troll, it only encourages them, and it upsets Michael. Just ignore anyone you think is trolling. Comments which violate this rule WILL be deleted. Comments prior to this announcement of course stand.

I can enforce this. I may walk softly, but I carry a big stick.

2/15/2011 01:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2/15/2011 02:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...


I thought it was Bessie Braddock he said it to. Boorish old bloke, Churchill, albeit an extraordinary man in a number of ways.


I think he stole it from somebody else. Johnson maybe.

2/15/2011 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I've removed Martin's comment for use of the t-word. Below is an edited version. I think Martin makes a good point about Sarah. I should have made it myself, and it also applies to Brownie's discussion with Ben in the 'Just Journalism' thread. It's not that we're defensive and can't take criticism. People who don't deliberately provoke (or aren't seen as provoking) are treated quite amicably.

Martin Wisse said...
The problem with Michael Ezra isn't so much that he derails threads with his incessent need to ask the same pointless questions over and over again, but that the rest of y'all keep treating him as if he could be as honest and interesting commenter as Sarah AB -- somebody I don't necessarily agree with, but who argues in good faith and is an overall asset to this place. Ban him already or at least stop playing his stupid games. On preview: what CC says.

2/15/2011 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I think many people would agree that there is a difference in how a biographer would treat their subject, and how a literary critic (or indeed the lay reader) would approach that subject's literary output.

Something similar applies to certain AW Watchees and consumption of alcohol: what would certainly and reasonably be pertinent from a biographer's perspective is not necessarily of equal pertinence to those whose interest is in what they produce rather than what they consume.

2/15/2011 03:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Chardonnay Chap,

I give you credit for keeping to your word about what posts would be deleted. But what I find strange is that a new accusation against me keeps me rearing its head, and it is just as bad, if not worse, that the one for which you have agreed to delete posts. This newer accusation which has been made repeatedly on this thread is that I am arguing in bad faith. In my opinion such an allegation implies dishonesty on my part. I wholly reject such a libel.

2/15/2011 04:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

And obviously none of this is your fault. As you were then.

Bernard Levin. I can't remember the first thing about him. Such is fame.

2/15/2011 04:51:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeesboard said...

Quite frankly, I believe him to be damn right rude.

that should be 'downright' surely?

and i refer you to your comments, linked to by bensix and quoted by me, above. There's a difference between calling someone out for what I (still) perceive to be trolling, and what you do up there, insinuating that someone is either a supporter of genocide or a religious loon.

I was quite happy to discuss the rape allegation

you need to seriously work on phrasing then. your actual commnt was:

You are surely not promoting a book by a serial rapist are you? Perhaps my eyes deceive me.

if your aim was to discuss the rape allegation (though why that was in any way on topic - unlike the novel, which obviously is), you should surely have phrased things in a less confrontational way.

And to add, in my job I promote the work of Ezra Pound a fair amount. Do your eyes deceive you here as well?

2/15/2011 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

He got punched on live television in the Sixties when he used to work on TW3. It's on YouTube somewhere.

2/15/2011 05:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Michael, we can (not) call it trolling, we can (not) call it arguing in bad faith, we can (not) call it whatever you like. The point is, you're being called to order on the way you engage with commenters here. Stop throwing up your hands and complaining that we're calling you horrid names, stop pointing at other people and saying oh-so-I-suppose-it's all-right-coming-from-him, and take a look at what you're actually doing.

If you're not able or willing to do that, I'm ignoring you from now on and would advise everyone else to do likewise.

2/15/2011 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

"He got punched on live television in the Sixties when he used to work on TW3. It's on YouTube somewhere."

So it is.

I always thought it was Alan Parker the film director who punched him. If Google didn't exist, I'd come over as a dribbling idiot. (That is, more of one.) Justin is probably right about Bessie Braddock as well.

2/15/2011 06:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

@Cian,

Bernard Levin's columns were a delight to read. If you have access to The Times archive, I do suggest reading a selection.

@Phil

You are free to call me what you want to call me and you are free to ignore me if you desire. My only comment is that if you expect me to engage with you, I expect a certain level of politeness which would not include being called what Martin Wisse referred to as someone who "lives under a bridge and accosts under age goats."

2/15/2011 11:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

O for a killfile.

2/16/2011 08:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

I vaguely remember the Churchill thing appearing in Evelyn Waugh's diaries. Not sure if it was Braddock though (or whether it was true).

2/16/2011 08:11:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Possibly the thing one remembers most about Levin - and the most pertinent here - is that although he was certainly a cultured and often an interesting man, he was also possibly the single biggest pompous twit at large in Britain in the Seventies.

2/16/2011 08:45:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Spot the difference:

if you expect me to engage with you, I expect a certain level of politeness

[...]

You are surely not promoting a book by a serial rapist are you? Perhaps my eyes deceive me.

[...]

For him/her, I assume Jerusalem is the centre of the world. Well, he/she has that in common with some religious loons.

[...]

Perhaps you forget about the famous "Three Nos" where the Arab states said "no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it." Or perhaps you think otherwise and you cheer on those who wish to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

2/16/2011 08:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

If the Mozilla foundation ever manage to release a version of firefox that works properly on Linux then I'll write a killfile plugin.

2/16/2011 09:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Waterloo Sunset said...

@ Michael

Try as I might, I am really not getting what this accusation of being a troll or trolling means. All I know is that it is an insult, people like using it on this blog, and, it seems, especially like using it against me.

Emphasis mine.

You might want to consider why this seems to be an issue that arises when people are interacting with you, specifically.

To be clear, I don't actually think you're a troll, not in the classical sense of the term. That suggests provocation is your main aim, which I don't believe is the case.

However, "leading questions" are an extremely trollish rhetorical tactic, certainly in this context. (And yes, I use them all the time. And ad hominems. And the reductio ad ridiculum. But I don't claim that I don't have a foot in the troll camp in certain moods). If you dislike people seeing you as a troll, it might be worth avoiding standard troll techniques, even if your motivation is in no way the same. Just to avoid possible confusion, if nothing else. It's the same as the fact that, if I start tl;dr at people, they're going to assume I'm trolling, even if I think I'm making a serious point about over verbosity.

Honestly though, the main problem I have with how you debate is that, while your intentions are generally good in my view, you have a tendency to derail threads unintentionally. Generally by trying to change the focus of the thread to what you want to talk about, as opposed to the subject actually in the OP.

2/16/2011 01:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But is this really unitentional? I think that the non sequitur response to an argument is one of the defining characteristics of deceny.

Brownie perhaps doesn't do this, but that's because his response to being called is usually to put the least offensive interpretation on what's been said, and to dissociate himself (sometimes plausibly) from the headbangers.

ME displays a more classically Decent response in that he seems remarkably keep to yell "Look there - Terrorists!" when the argument's running against him.

Chris Williams

2/16/2011 05:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For 'keep' above read 'keen', of course.

CW

2/16/2011 05:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Waterloo Sunset said...

Hanlon's Razor...

2/16/2011 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger frunobulax said...

...he was also possibly the single biggest pompous twit at large in Britain in the Seventies.

Sadly, can't find any trace online of that delightful Spitting Image sketch: "Bernard Levin and Jonathan Miller Talk Bollocks".

2/16/2011 05:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

@Waterloo Sunset

The problem as I see it is that I am being denounced for using leading questions, yet when others ask leading questions to me, (See Bruschetta Boy above "You do want an answer, don't you?") they are not similarly denounced. This seems to me grossly unfair. It seems that this comments box is not really a level playing field in that respect. To use a very English phrase, it is just not cricket.

@ejh,

I am sure that Bernard Levin would have thought highly of you. Not.

@Chris Williams,

Can you provide one example where I have said something like "Look there - Terrorists!" when an argument is running against me. I hardly think so, especially as I rarely get involved in threads about terrorism. Having said that, it is a very typical indecent response to whitewash or ignore terrorist acts in favour of criticising Britain, America and Israel. That is why we see apologists for Hamas among indecents and those who argue as Ward Churchill did, that those working in the Twin Towers and lost their lives on 9/11 were "little Eichmanns."

2/16/2011 08:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Waterloo Sunset said...

Can you provide one example where I have said something like "Look there - Terrorists!" when an argument is running against me.

Having said that, it is a very typical indecent response to whitewash or ignore terrorist acts in favour of criticising Britain, America and Israel.


I loled.

2/16/2011 08:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

QED.

CW

2/16/2011 09:07:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Denounce: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

The problem as I see it is that I am being denounced for using leading questions, yet when others ask leading questions to me, (See Bruschetta Boy above "You do want an answer, don't you?") they are not similarly denounced.

See Parody.

Having said that, it is a very typical indecent response to whitewash or ignore terrorist acts in favour of criticising Britain, America and Israel.

Er...? As others have already noted, this fits "Look there - Terrorists!" I don't believe any of us have "whitewashed" terrorist acts, but hey ho. (That does seem like a denunciation to me: I think you just called us collectively apologists for murder.) Do we criticise Britain, America, and Israel you betcha!

I'm sorry [1] to drag us back to the thread where I brought up Arthur Koestler which seems to be almost as great a source of woe as man's first disobedience, but Nick Cohen was criticising the UK (he called our response to totalitarianism 'frivolous') and I was defending it. I still think this country has responded to totalitarianism etc elsewhere pretty well. We learned from WWII. We took in refugees from Uganda in the 70s (and Phil Woolas complained about our being too soft -- Aaro did a good job on this not so long ago). I think the British Left has generally been pretty good about Hungary in 1956, Tiananmen Square and so on. It's not been a single entity, and some people have picked the wrong sides, but over all we did OK. Nick's argument seems to that, because we were not invaded during WWII, we don't take Fascism seriously, but the US does, because er ... - I can't explain this part. I think Britain has done better against domestic fascist movements than other countries in the EU (which were occupied by the Nazis) often have. Nick Griffin was never as successful as Jean-Marie Le Pen. Our skinheads are tame compared to those in Russia. And the US produced Timothy McVeigh.

I do criticise the governments of those states. Those governments are, or recently have been, horrendously right wing from my perspective. Besides, we pay for our government, and we have a right to criticise it.

[1] I'm not really.

2/16/2011 09:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Waterloo Sunset said...

I think Britain has done better against domestic fascist movements than other countries in the EU (which were occupied by the Nazis) often have. Nick Griffin was never as successful as Jean-Marie Le Pen.

That's an interesting point. Because it's true, but there is the fact that we're actually talking about a situation that didn't spring out of the 'British character' or anything like that.

We're talking about the largescale abandonment of the "boots and fists" approach by the fascists that had so much success elsewhere. The BNP publically stated that they were dropping the tactic of "meetings, marches, punch-ups". And even the overtly Nazi groups like Blood & Honour don't actually try and do public activities. The EDL are the first serious street-based far right movement we've seen since the 90's.

And, funnily Nick and other decents, despite their supposed prioritising of "anti-fascism" never mention this, let alone analyse why that might be.

Because, in actuality, the reason is that there was a covert, and at times extremely violent, street war between fascists and antifascists throughout the 80's and the larger part of the 90's. Which the fascists lost.

But Nick can't admit that. Not only because of the tactics used. But because it was carried out by the remarkably indecent Anti Fascist Action and Red Action.

So, amusingly, the decents all like to pretend it never happened.

2/16/2011 10:04:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I am sure that Bernard Levin would have thought highly of you. Not.

I very much doubt that Bernard would have employed a one-word sentence. or indeed that the* Times would have allowed him to, had he wished to do so.

[* I have a long-running preference, contradicting a number of style guides, for not using "The" in this context. Interestingly, my copy of Nineteen-Eighty Four chooses to italicise "Times", a style deplored by Lynne Truss.]

2/16/2011 10:12:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

It seems that this comments box is not really a level playing field in that respect.

Ahhh I see the root of the confusion. This is not the "All England Debating Championships", and there is no equivalent of FIA setting objective standards. It's the equivalent of a pub where tetchy old men and bored office workers talk about the day's news.

As a result, the kind of behaviour that's tolerated from people who are friends, and who have the presumptive trust of the locals, is a lot different from someone who:

a) we don't know very well

b) has really quite different politics from us

and most importantly

c) is an editor of "Harry's Place", a website whose behaviour (in both the main posts and comments) has been precisely the opposite of earning our presumptive trust.

When I make an occasional appearance in the HP comments, I certainly don't expect a "level playing field". I expect a lot of personal insults and adjust my behaviour accordingly. When I occasionally comment on more sensible Decent of rightwing websites where I'm actually interested in a discussion, I try to adjust my behaviour so as not to be perceived as baiting the locals.

In all cases, I do not whinge. This is because I realise that I am not really wanted, and that I can't expect anyone to make any major accomodations to me.

I think that's what you have to accept Michael. Apparently our asking people to stop using the "troll" word wasn't enough for you, but I don't think we're going to bend over backwards any further than our current yoga position. You can, to be blunt, take it or leave it. Perhaps this might mean that we become an "echo-chamber", bereft of "dissenting voices", but I look back over your contributions (ranging as they do from accusing us of being apologists for murder, to accusing us of being apologists for Communism, to accusing us of being apologists for serial rape) and I confess to not really seeing the big value-add that I am meant to be missing.

2/17/2011 08:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

I am sure that Bernard Levin would have thought highly of you. Not.

Up to now I thought of you as a pompous non-entity in your late 40s, possibly early 50s. But now, with that Gen-X 'not', you have me all confused.

Tell me Michael, are you William Hague's love child? A tragically precious 20 something, with the mind of an aging fogey?

If so, yes its true, we have been too hard on you. We should have treated you with kindness, referred you to specialists who could help with your tragic condition.

On behalf of all of us here Michael I can only apologise. We have behaved selfishly. You sought our help and we failed you.

2/17/2011 10:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Ezra said...

Chris Williams' "QED" comment, and Waterloo Sunset's "loled" is probably to suggest that because I referred to terrorists after he did, I am diverting the subject to talk about terrorists. Chardonnay Chap has joined in concurring that this is what I have done.

But, and this should be obvious to any impartial reader, this is completely wrong.Chris Williams mentioned terrorists first. If he had not done so, or someone else had not commented on terrorists, there would have been no reason for me to bring it up.

It reminds me of a previous thread where two people mentioned the WRP or something to do with the WRP and then when I did subsequent to them, I was accused of bringing up an irrelevancy.

Commenting on this blog is comparable to playing Whac-A-Mole.

On the subject of what is obvious, it seems to me that this blog likes criticising Nick Cohen for his thesis about the left that he outlined in What's Left?, but has nothing to say about Ward Churchill's "little Eichmann's" jibe which would be the sort of thing that would concern Nick Cohen. Nor does this blog have anything to say about the Ward Churchill Solidarity Network (WCSN) that seems to have sprung up: http://wardchurchill.net/ This group is what is sick about the left and this is why Nick Cohen is correct with his thesis.

Cardonnay Chap says that he has a right to criticise his government. I concur. The UK is a wonderful country and it both a privilege and an honour to be entitled to a UK passport. Compare the UK to Syria where earlier this week a teenage girl was sentenced to five years in prison for running a blog.

Chardonnay Chap also comments that, from his perspective, the UK government is, or has recently been "horrendously right wing." I guess everything is relative isn't it? Some really cannot see the difference between Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher - they are all, as some would say, "enemies of the working class." How sad. How terribly sad.

Bernard Levin famously began his latter columns with "And another thing." And that is appropriate to say about ejh who has gone off at a complete tangent to discuss the rules of grammar and whether the name of a newspaper should be italicised of not. But given ejh has mentioned one word sentences, one of the best examples of that form of sentence that I have read in the last couple of years can be seen on page 177 of David Aaronovitch's Voodoo Histories. I suggest you look it up.

dd admits that it is not a level playing field which is very good and would explain why Bruschetta Boy is not named a troll for using leading questions whereas I am; it would also explain why ejh is not named a troll for going off topic with comments about the use of italics; it would explain why others can mention the WRP and not be called a troll but when I mention the party subsquent to them, I am called a troll; and it would also explain many other things.

Cian thinks I came to this blog to seek help and have been failed. He is, of course, wrong. I came here for an argument.

2/17/2011 02:15:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Michael, have you ever considered a career in the performing arts? Perhaps as a monologuist?

2/17/2011 03:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

Cian thinks I came to this blog to seek help and have been failed. He is, of course, wrong. I came here for an argument.

You'll want the next door than. This is abuse.

2/17/2011 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Bernard Levin famously began his latter columns with "And another thing."

Did he? Oh damn!

In other news, this is still funny. Via LG&M's Tweet. As you were.

2/17/2011 04:24:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Michael - you clearly aren't reading the blog, you're just skimming it for things you can nitpick about. There's a reason why Sarah AB and Brownie are treated (generally) with courtesy on here, and there's a reason why people consistently accuse you of arguing in bad faith.

Until you read the posts that deal with that, and take in what they say, as opposed to whining about the word 'troll' ad infinitum, you'll forever be in the dark as to why you're 'being treated this way'. It's because you appear, still, to be arguing in bad faith, and it's because you appear, still, to be trolling.

this blog likes criticising Nick Cohen for his thesis

then you're not actually reading the blog.

we criticise Cohen for using dodgy research, sleight of hand, and for not actually having a workable thesis.

2/17/2011 04:41:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

seems to me that this blog likes criticising Nick Cohen for his thesis about the left that he outlined in What's Left?, but has nothing to say about [something that happened in America, four months before the blog was launched]

Do you know, I find myself in an almost perfect state of not wanting to comment about this? I say "almost perfect", because I did want to make that one comment, saying that I was in an almost perfect state of indifference. Now it's perfect.

2/17/2011 05:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Chocolatedippedpickles said...

I see Marko is now doing a re-run of his 2007 hit Michael Moore is a racist, because of something he said in Stupid White Men.

2/17/2011 09:22:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Thanks to Chocolate in the comment above, I checked Marko's blog. Oh dear.

Update 2: And just when you though the gutter couldn’t be scraped any further by Davies and his disgusting pack of trolls, here are some of the comments aimed against a visitor who was much more polite and reasonable than I would have been:

’he sure looks like something that lives under a bridge and accosts under age goats.’

‘are you William Hague’s love child? A tragically precious 20 something, with the mind of an aging fogey? If so, yes its true, we have been too hard on you. We should have treated you with kindness, referred you to specialists who could help with your tragic condition.’

God, the Internet is a dirty place…


Just for comparison, I also looked at Harry's Place last night. Here are a couple of comments from a thread by Gene (aka 'The Reasonable One'):

"Wardytron" (I'm sure this is a magnificently witty appellation, I just don't happen to get) 17 Feb 10:45pm

That said, he’s a smug tosser with a vastly over inflated sense of his own wisdom, wit and intelligence. AND HE’S NOT FUNNY.

Alec Macph (one comment later, same time)

Rodent, you’re a creep. John, you’re filth.

See also.

2/18/2011 06:32:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

My friend Michael Ezra of Harry’s Place is an authority on the history of Healy’s WRP

heh. Bonus points for attacking DSquared for his job in a piece which praises someone who runs a hedge fund.

i do still find it weird that one of the people who runs Harry's Place is getting upset at being called a troll. one wonders what drew Mr Ezra to that site in the first place. presumably it wasn't the tone of the comments box.

2/18/2011 08:34:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

"Hat Tip: Neil Clark"

Oh Marko.

2/18/2011 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger frunobulax said...

I see Marko is now doing a re-run of his 2007 hit Michael Moore is a racist, because of something he said in Stupid White Men.

It was a stupid comment. Nonetheless, MAH's article is a hoot, e.g:

"Residing in California, she [Sanela Diana Jenkins] mixes with the highest rank of the global elite, including celebrity friends such as George Clooney, Cindy Crawford and Elton John."

He continues: "It [anti-Balkan prejudice] is a prejudice for which journalists bear their share of the blame for repeating and publicising cliches".

Indeed, where could journalists such as Wheen, Aaronovitch, Kamm, etc. have picked up these "cliches"?

2/18/2011 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I think Marko does himself an injustice: he normally behaves very reasonably here. On his own turf, of course, different story, but we can all make the rules in our own houses.

It may be hard for him to accept that sonebody who is his friend, and has a shared interest in tiny far-left groups of the distant past, may be something of a droning, humourless bore to people who don't share that particular obsession. The Matthew 7:3-5 problem is, of course, glaring, but that's not so unusual on the internet, which is indeed a dirty place, and often perceived as such especially by those who sling the most.

(Also see Socialist Unity on any given day.)

2/18/2011 11:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Chocolatedippedpickles said...

It takes quite an enormous level of delusion on his part to think that he came out of that 2007 argument as the winner.

"This makes his obsessive hostility toward the Decent Left somewhat easier to understand: it is not the hostility of an ideological opposite, but of someone whose own politics are highly similar yet not quite identical. A type of hostility, in other words, in the tradition of the hostility of the People’s Front of Judea to the Judean People’s Front"

Physician heal thyself.

2/18/2011 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

I have to wonder about Marko if he thought those were particularly disgusting insults.

Marko's article on Jenkins is quite wonderful. I particularly like the idea that the woman is "self-made" because she married a wealthy investment banker. I wonder if Marko has read Vanity Fair?

2/18/2011 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger frunobulax said...

I wonder if Marko has read Vanity Fair?

With that article he's shown that he could write for it.

MAH was doing the lady a disservice by failing to mention her other achievements: in 2009, Jenkins created and launched the Neuro line of functional beverages. These drinks, sorry 'functional beverages', appear to have a very specific purpose, e.g. 'NeuroSonic increases high level mental functioning: better memory, alertness and concentration', whereas 'NeuroBliss eliminates stress and promotes happiness without affecting your energy levels'. And so forth. NeuroGasm is fairly self explanatory.

I wonder if she has a secret stash of NeuroIndefatigableBlog for special customers.

2/18/2011 07:18:00 PM  
Anonymous chocolatedippedpickles said...

Jenkins also paid the bail of Ejup Ganic, when he was arrested in London last year. It should be a bit uncomfortable for him to be the second friend of Margaret Thatcher to be arrested in our capital only to get away in slightly suspicious circumstances.

2/18/2011 08:01:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

I don't think that having an extradition request turned down as politically motivated can be called "suspicious circumstances"

2/22/2011 09:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Chocolatedippedpickles said...

Well, a Bosnian born friend of mine told me at the time it was probably a well organised stunt by the Bosnian and British governments, but who can say.

2/22/2011 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger frunobulax said...

Ejup Ganic was pretty much yesterday's man in Bosnia before this happened. FWIW, Western powers seem pretty much content with Serbia's handling of Serb war criminals. So it was highly unlikely that a (high-profile) Ganic trail would be any different. Of course, that didn't stop Vulliamy and others touting scare stories. Anyway, Ganic returned to Bosnia with his personal stock much higher than before he left - so, who knows?

Back to MAHs rush to defend millionaire damsel in distress. It really is worth a read, and I'm particularly impressed with his background research (e.g. quotes from the Daily Mail). When MAH wrote that the "snobs who drove Jenkins out of London" were "primitive, ethnically homogenous" was he ever tempted to declare that she was 'enthically cleansed'? Yes, MAH's article probably was more about Jenkin's support for Ganic than anything else.

2/22/2011 03:42:00 PM  

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