Monday, February 14, 2011

There ain't no "Just Journalism", there's just journalism.

Just Journalism, tireless media monitors of bias against Israel:

On the first day of The Guardian’s Palestine papers expose, on Monday 24 January, when Palestinian negotiators were attacked as ‘weak’ and ‘craven’, a quote from then foreign minister Tzipi Livni appeared in a box, titled, ‘What they said…’. It read:

‘The Israel policy is to take more and more land day after day and that at the end of the day we’ll say that it is impossible, we already have the land and cannot create the state.’ Tzipi Livni, then Israeli foreign minister

However, the newspaper on Saturday acknowledged that the full quote shows that Livni was characterising the Palestinian perception of Israeli policies, and not the policies themselves. What she actually said was:

‘I understand the sentiments of the Palestinians when they see the settlements being built. The meaning from the Palestinian perspective is that Israel takes more land, that the Palestinian state will be impossible, the Israel policy is to take more and more land day after day and that at the end of the day we’ll say that it is impossible, we already have the land and cannot create the state.’

By cutting the quote to exclude the first part of Tzipi Livni’s sentence, The Guardian portrayed the Israeli politician as brazenly admitting a policy of making a Palestinian state impossible.


Those Guardian bastards! That's really quite dreadful, sloppy journalism, isn't it readers? Why on earth isn't the Guardian posting a hair-tearing meamaximaculpa, rather than the rather pusillanimous:

A quote by Tzipi Livni, Israel's former foreign minister, within a panel that formed part of the Palestine papers, was cut in a way that may have given a misleading impression.


Hardly makes it, that "may", does it? Does it? Well ... does it?

At a west Jerusalem meeting in November 2007, she told Qureia that she believed Palestinians saw settlement building as meaning “Israel takes more land [so] that the Palestinian state will be impossible”; that “the Israel policy is to take more and more land day after day and that at the end of the day we’ll say that is impossible, we already have the land and we cannot create the state”.


Emphasis added. Is it just me, or is Just Journalism's assessment that "The Guardian portrayed the Israeli politician as brazenly admitting a policy of making a Palestinian state impossible" really quite incomprehensible?

Update Flying Rodent tweets me to say that in the paper version of the newspaper, some unfortunate sub has pulled the half-quote out of the 24 Jan story for a "Things They Said" box-quote. That makes more sense, although frankly JJ still looks rather disingenuous, because this clearly can't be blamed on the journalist. It very much looks to me as if JJ have read the correction but not necessarily gone back to check the actual story.

Update by Chardonnay Chap @ 20:10 As noticed by Captain Cabernet in the comments. Some strange goings on at Harry's Place:
Harry's Place screenshot
How can TimO have earned a hat tip for a comment, when there are no comments? Spooky.

137 Comments:

Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Their 'analysis' has always been spctacularly weak and poorly-done. The 'publication' on the LRB was pissweak. serial quoting out of context, and many of the criticisms bordered on the stupid. They took Edward Said to task for calling the 'separation barrier' 'apartheid', and their complaint was... that he didn't mention suicide bombings. You can tell just how non-serious the 'report is because it resorted, in an article on the LRB (which iirc only publishes pictures of artworks under discussion) to putting pictures of the aftermath of suicide bombings in.

as with almost all 'middle east monitoring organisations', JJ isn't really interested in balanced reporting - it just wants Israel to be depicted in a flattering light, to a mccarthyite extent...

2/14/2011 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Indeed - it's in a small pull-quote box, but the actual story puts it in the correct context.

Now, that could indeed be part of a Commie plot to destroy Israel with Der Sturmer-esque Nazi propaganda distortions.

Or, it could be that some editor fucked up.

As a guide, I'd advise readers to remember that time that the Guardian published a list of Nobel winners that omitted some Israelis - here's a memory-jogger...

http://decentpedia.blogspot.com/2009/10/updated-guardian.html

I'd say that, if that incident struck you as a major propaganda coup for the forces of anti-Israel darkness, you'll be entirely convinced by this latest crushing blow against all that's right and true.

PS - you'll notice that, until Just Journalism flagged the Guardian's correction, more or less nobody on the internet had paid Livni's quote any attention, says Google. No doubt JJ's entirely honest and not-at-all-manufactured hysteria has helped to keep this low-profile.

2/14/2011 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Actually, I think we can conclude with certainty that the Graun's editors did this with malicious intent. After all, who but a guilty man would own up to an editing error in print, on its corrections page, without being forced to do so at Condemn-a-point?

The fact that the Guardian openly admitted this error and issued a correction is evidence of guilt. Clearly, an attempt to deflect suspicion.

2/14/2011 03:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As anyone who's ever been written about the press knows, all journalists always get it at least slightly wrong.

However, there is a larger point here: that Tzipi Livni was just blurting out the truth of the matter, and wrapping it in quotation marks, and adding "this is what the Palestinians think". But this is also what an observer can see. You don't even need to Avi Shlaim's "The iron wall" to know that Israel's policy from the beginning has been to create "facts on the ground".

K

2/14/2011 04:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry, that comment needs some words adding, but I think the meaning of it is clear enough / K

2/14/2011 04:40:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Fuck me, that article is depressing:

Her predecessor, Rice, had been even more dismissive. In July 2008 during talks with Palestinian leaders over compensation for refugees who fled or were forced from their homes when Israel was established in 1948, she said: "Bad things happen to people all around the world all the time."

If the Palestinians kept insisting that Israel could not keep the large settlements of Ma'ale Adumim (near Jerusalem) and Ariel (in the heart of the West Bank), Rice told them: "You won't have a state". No Israeli leader could accept a deal "without including them in an Israeli state".

2/14/2011 04:56:00 PM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

Have HP Sauce deleted all the comments on this one? I must confess that I did read the original quote in the manner that they took it: ie as TL saying that this was Israeli policy.

2/14/2011 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Looks like comments are down right across the site, which is unfortunate. It was just getting interesting, and funny.

The more I look at that JJ piece, the fishier it seems. "Guardian acknowledges" and, in the JC, "Guardian has admitted" make it sound like they've been forced into confessing some sin, although I'll be damned if there's any evidence that's the case. It looks like they've volunteered this themselves. If they're responding to a complaint, I can't see any indication of it.

And I notice that JJ, HP and the JC aren't telling their readers that the quote appears in full and in context in the main article, which was adjecent in the hard copy.

Now, I don't think it's appropriate to automatically accuse JJ et al. of dishonesty and bad faith reporting here, without at least allowing for the possibilty of error.

Mind you, since that's exactly what JJ are doing to the Graun, I think I will just go ahead and directly accuse them of dishonesty and bad faith reporting, as a tit-for-tat.

2/14/2011 08:35:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

that Tzipi Livni was just blurting out the truth of the matter, and wrapping it in quotation marks, and adding "this is what the Palestinians think".

actually it was slightly subtler than that - she basically goes on to say that this was the policy under most previous Israeli governments, but that things had changed under her Kadima administration.

I still maintain that if Ariel Sharon were to miraculously recover from his coma, and still retained broadly the political views he had on losing consciousness, he would quite likely be considered an actual anti-Semite by the standards of modern debate.

2/14/2011 08:39:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

On a general question raised by the update (as opposed to the specific example, about which I do not give a rat's arse) it's fairly purposeless to observe that a newspaper has run a column complaining about something of whicch the newspaper itself is guilty, given that it's the expression of a personal view and not, unless indicated otherwise, that of the newspaper itself.

(Private Eye does this all the time, wondering why a columnist hasn't criticised their own paper when they know damned well that you can't really do that. It' silly and detracts from the point they're making.)

2/14/2011 09:59:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

I share the same gripe about the Eye, Justin (if I may call you Justin, and if I may add that without sounding weirdly avuncular - oh, I can't) - but tend to assimilate it to the wider phenomenon of group-ad-hominem, whereby a bunch of people (in this case contributors to a publication) are treated as though speaking with one voice, then inconsistencies between them are triumphantly brandished. You get that with 'conspiracy theorists' at the hanmds of Aaro, for example.

2/14/2011 10:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Tim - interesting analogy. It's a classic red-baiting technique, too. Perhaps that's really what the Decents brought to the party - a division between The Left That Thinks Red-Baiting Was (Or Sounds Like It Must Have Been) Rather Good Fun, and the Left that thinks oh Christ not that again...

2/14/2011 11:42:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Yes it's pretty widespread - and ironically you might say rather 'paranoid' in the colloquial sense that's used of 'conspiracy theorists' - everyone who disagrees with you being in cahoots and open to gotchas for not having compared notes wuite thoroughly enough.

Narcissistic, anyway. Politicians do a variant of it when they complain that they can't win, are damned if they do and if they don't, etc - because someone will complain whichever way they go.

As if we are supposed to sympathise with the predicament they have got into by combining 1. the craven attempt to avoid all controversy with 2. the trappings of a career in politics.

2/15/2011 12:33:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

btw - ejh, even though I know your name (and that it is not secret or anything) from other people calling you it all the time, addressing you by it myself is definitely weird - more so than I would have thought. A slightly interesting experiment in net manners.

So ejh it is.

2/15/2011 12:42:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

When I discovered that the HP comments were down, I did wonder if it had anything to do with my observation yesterday that Emma Brockes' wikipedia page had been edited to remove mention of the Chomsky interview affair, but I guess that's probably me falling for the voodoo of conspiracising.

2/15/2011 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

They haven't lost the comments have they?

That would be like the burning of the library at Alexandria.

2/15/2011 09:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

That would be like the burning of the library at Alexandria.

Not even we are blaming Muslims this time.

2/15/2011 10:30:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeesboard said...

it's fairly purposeless to observe that a newspaper has run a column complaining about something of whicch the newspaper itself is guilty, given that it's the expression of a personal view and not, unless indicated otherwise, that of the newspaper itself.

It's also the main complaint of 'Just Journalism' about the LRB and other periodicals - that there's only one point of view provided...

One of the reasons i stopped getting the Eye was that 'street of shame' had just become a series of these examples, with the same journalists picked on, each week.

2/15/2011 10:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Larry T said...

That would be like the burning of the library at Alexandria.

Or the flushing of the toilet.

But I thought HP had taken to deleting everything every few weeks anyway? (I'd assumed as a prophylactic against being sued.)

2/15/2011 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Jonathan said...

Off-topic, but another scurilous piece that terrible rag the Guardian lowers itself to carrying:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/15/defector-admits-wmd-lies-iraq-war

2/15/2011 01:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Interesting Jonathan. Let's take 'Curveball's' words at face-value. It's exhibit A in the US/UK defence that intelligence was wrong rather than invented, is it not? To the point that 'Curveball's' evidence could and should have been discredited prior to Powell's infamous UN address, it seems the BND were the guys in the know here, so unless we're imagining the German secret service were operating with the interests of the US rather than their own government at heart, this just looks like an example of poor analysis by another western intelligence service.

In terms of the 'WMD Lies' ledger, this is unquestionably one for the debit column. True, you need to read between the lines of the Guardian narrative to figure this out, but it is possible.

2/15/2011 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

...it seems the BND were the guys in the know here...


Perhaps, yes...

German officials said that they had warned American colleagues well before the Iraq war that Curveball's information was not credible - but the warning was ignored.

2/15/2011 01:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Ben, this:

German officials said that they had warned American colleagues well before the Iraq war that Curveball's information was not credible - but the warning was ignored.

...is Guardian narrative. The only quote from anonymous German agents in the Die Zeit piece cited by the Guardian author is:

"We gave a clear credibility assessment. On our side at least, there were no tricks before Colin Powell's presentation,"

and a solitary mention of "problems" with some of Curveball's account. There may be more but one has to presume, given the chosen Guardian narrative, that the above represents the most damning evidence on offer and it falls way short of "BND told CIA to disbelieve everything Curveball was saying". If this had been the case, I would have expected something of a shit-storm erupting the second Powell re-took his seat following his 2003 UN address given he'd just, we are told, completely and deliberately misrepresented German intelligence before the entire world. I remember much post-address discussion, but I don't recall German agents going into print later that same week to claim this was all bollocks.

Moreoever, today's acocunt by Curveball gives every indication the BND were still treating him and his evidence seriously, to the point of actually threatening him with family separation if he didn't cooperate. Hardly the actions of an agency convinced that it was being fed a pack of lies by its reluctant informer.

So all in all, I'm still of a notion that what we have here is some piss-weak intelligence gathering and analysis by the Germans happily - admittedly - seized upon by the US to support the case for war.

An alternative view is that Curveball has never stopped lying, including in today's Guardian.

2/15/2011 02:21:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

Fair play, that was too snarky, and it's true the BND - or much of it, at least - seems to have thought that Alwan's claims were plausible. This article suggests that your position is basically correct but Alwan's claims were known to be so dubious and uncorroborated that it was absurd to brandish them so proudly.

2/15/2011 02:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Ben,

I wouldn't spend too many keystrokes arguing against a suggestion that the US/UK were only to happy to jump on any positive intelligence they could find, however flimsy.

2/15/2011 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

"You see now" said O'Brien, "that it is at any rate possible".

2/15/2011 03:11:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

The ship may have sailed and the horse may have bolted, but true believers can't resist a bit of that old time religion.

2/15/2011 04:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

My embarrassment at having to Google that is only partly assuaged by my satisfaction at knowing how to spell "embarrassment".

You've got to take these victories where you find them. I blame too many years spent arguing with Unionists on the Republican Bulletin Board. I saw O'Brien and I immediately thought of The Cruiser.

2/15/2011 04:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

The ship may have sailed and the horse may have bolted, but true believers can't resist a bit of that old time religion.

Is everyone who comments here an Eric Cantona wannabe?

2/15/2011 04:47:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

How's that dead horse Brownie?

If you keep digging you might yet bury him.

2/15/2011 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

You can't make a watched horse burn its boats.

2/15/2011 05:36:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin Donoghue said...

I saw O'Brien and I immediately thought of The Cruiser.

There's a plausible argument that Orwell had The Cruiser in mind when he named the character.

2/15/2011 05:59:00 PM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

That's a gorgeous idea Kevin -- not least bcz of Hitch's conflicted feelings abt CCO'B -- but where/when would Orwell have come across him?

2/15/2011 07:33:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin Donoghue said...

Owen Dudley Edwards floated the idea in his contribution to Ideas Matter: Essays in Honour of Conor Cruise O'Brien. AFAICR the evidence was pretty circumstantial. CCO’B published a review of Orwell’s earlier work, using a pen-name since he was a civil servant. It’s plausible enough that Orwell would be suspicious of a civil servant with a strong interest in the political leanings of writers and he wouldn’t have had much trouble getting hold of the reviewer’s real name.

2/15/2011 10:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Maybe this association with The Cruiser was linked to the renaming of O'Brien in the 1956 film adaptation to...O'Connor!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048918/

Spooky.

2/15/2011 11:27:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Somebody posted the following comment:

For reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on, which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason (for invasion).

but titled themselves "Paul Wolfowitz". While I doubt anyone was fooled, it's best to nip impersonation in the bud - it is never permitted on AW. It's not a big deal, but if folks could remember that it would save me the trouble of deleting them.

2/16/2011 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger AndyB said...

Will Harry's Place and the like be campaigning for free speech in this case?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/feedarticle/9504552

2/16/2011 08:13:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

I just got round to reading Clothes for Chaps' review of The Promise in last Sunday's Observer.
I didn't see The Promise myself so I can't say if it was a fair review overall, but it starts

In Britz, his last television film, the writer and director Peter Kosminsky sought to explain jihadist suicide bombing in Britain. We learned that it was all down to the repression of Muslims in this country and the "butchering" of Muslims abroad (although not, of course, that done by Islamic extremists).

The film's message – that ordinary Muslims had little choice but to blow themselves and others up – was underlined in the final scene, a martyrdom video in which the drama's suicidal heroine declared that British citizens deserved to be killed because they were guilty of electing the Labour government. It was a radically misleading portrait of contemporary Britain as a "police state". And naturally it won a Bafta.

The question therefore hanging over The Promise, his epic four-part dramatisation of the Jewish-Arab conflict, was: if Kosminsky could be so empathetic towards terrorists in Britain, what would he make of the situation in Israel? After all, many observers who find suicide bombing a tad excessive as far as political protest goes in the British context are inclined to view it as a legitimate and even admirable form of "resistance" when it comes to Israel.


Hmmm..

2/17/2011 11:00:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

i think the rodent was watching The Promise.

CFC's TV reviews are really weird, even weirder than Nick's. He only ever seems to watch stuff by people he considers terrorism-lovers.

The film's message – that ordinary Muslims had little choice but to blow themselves and others up – was underlined in the final scene, a martyrdom video in which the drama's suicidal heroine declared that British citizens deserved to be killed because they were guilty of electing the Labour government.

classic Decent TV analysis. an interpretation that is obviously misleading (see 'the film's message' bit) and based on serious myopia? check. the mistaken belief that if a character makes a speech, the writer clearly sides unhesitatingly with them? check. getting annoyed with a piece that fairly accurately mirrors something in real life, on the basis of its not being realist? check.

weirdly CFC is fairly keen on The Promise but he still seems unable to watch or read anything without his war-on-terror specs on. He also gets bonus points for simultaneously decrying the entire idea of 'orientalism' while borrowing it wholesale for his analysis. kudos.

2/18/2011 08:44:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

The film's message – that ordinary Muslims had little choice but to blow themselves and others up – was underlined in the final scene, a martyrdom video in which the drama's suicidal heroine declared that British citizens deserved to be killed because they were guilty of electing the Labour government.

The first part of this quote is a dreadful misrepresentation of what the director was trying to say. I would also add that this line of reasoning - British citizens had it coming to them because they elected a Labour administration is clearly how some Islamic radicals see it. Osama Bin Laden certainly does.

"The American people should remember that they pay taxes to their government, they elect their president, their government manufactures arms and gives them to Israel and Israel uses them to massacre Palestinians ... The entire America [sic] is responsible for the atrocities against Muslims."

Is Kominsky supposed to misrepresent his characters' motives? Would a play about the Troubles be equally valid if it portrayed an Irish Catholic joining the IRA because a doctrinal dispute over transubstantiation as opposed to the desire for a united Ireland?

2/18/2011 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Yeah, I watched the first two episodes. As a potted history of the region in drama form, it's pretty good; seen from any other angle, not so much.

The sections set in mandate Palestine are far more interesting than the modern scenes, which are exposition-heavy on the wall, the settlers, the status of Israeli Arabs etc. The characters aren't overly complex and the entire thing is a lot more po-faced humourless than it has any need to be, which creates problems in viewers identifying with the leading lady in particular.

Anthony's review is pretty reasonable - the show does bend over backwards to be balanced, although that's not doing it any favours with the nutters on either side, I notice. His complaint that the Arabs are cyphers only applies to the first part, and is likely intentional - the Palestinians feature more prominently in the second episode and will probably do so more as it goes on.

Do love this line, though...

In the uneven distribution of comforts, the correlation with apartheid was unstated but hard to miss.

Note how certain, uh, possibilities are ignored in favour of the implication that "correlations with apartheid" represent some frightful bias on the part of the filmmaker. No other explanation is possible.

Entertainingly, I had a look to see what the Twitter section of the public had to say about the show - basically, that the lead actor was well hot, and that there were occasional boobies. You have to love the British for enjoying a searing political drama on the basis of the onscreen totty - I actually think it's quite endearing.

2/18/2011 09:44:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Is Kominsky supposed to misrepresent his characters' motives?

in the eyes of CFC, and of Decents generally, the answer is yes. In Decent-land, you have to pretend that the 7/7 martyrdom videos made no reference to Iraq.

The central Decent point about this is based on something reasonable - that the ideology these people adhere to isn't just based on one or two particular conflicts. Al-Qaeda aren't purely motivated by Israel/Palestine, for instance.

But the problem is that the CFC/Decent view can't stop there, but has (for some reason*) to go further and effectively deny that jihadists are influenced by real-world events at all. Thus CFC thinks that a work of fiction is being dishonest if the jihadists in it mention British foreign policy in their videos, even if that's exactly what they did in real life; thus Nick Cohen throws the 'terrorism-lover' tag at anyone who has ever mentioned that Britain's actions in Iraq might have a radicalizing effect on young Muslims, even though the bombers themselves explicitly said this in their martyrdom videos. at root it's that old classic; idealism vs realism. and in the arts, to even present terrorists as human beings is to 'understand' them and thus, implicitly, support them.

CFC's article demosntrates the central problem with this - it's enormously hard to make the case for that in an essay of 15000 words, let alone a couple of paragraphs.

* which probably isn't worth going into, but which i think is based on something like: if you accept that jihadists were motivated by Iraq/whatever, then that means, by logical expansion, that you are siding with them if you allow your support of that war/whatever to be affected by terrorism. Or something.

2/18/2011 09:47:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Just noticed that CFC appears in the comments section there, with not much success... When challenged on:

many observers who find suicide bombing a tad excessive as far as political protest goes in the British context are inclined to view it as a legitimate and even admirable form of "resistance" when it comes to Israel

He comes up with... Jenny Tonge, who he realizes straight away doesn't fit his description. So then he uses... er... Al-Qaradawi, claims that he can't mention another one, then finally comes up with an obscuree Palestinian called Azzam Tamimi, and Yvonne Ridley.

And that's his evidence that BAFTA gave 'Brits' a gong cos it supported suicide bombing.

He sort of illustrates my above point here:

there is a sense in which she provided a moral legitimacy in the case of the Palestinians that, by suggesting that in similar circumstance she might have done the same, that she would not have done with, for example, the 7/7 bombers

Though I don't side with Tonge here, surely CFC is completely ignoring the idea that someone might understand something in one instance and not another? isn't it an incredibly straightforward idea? Or am i missing something?

2/18/2011 10:00:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

No you are not missing anything - he really is that silly. You can't help feeling that at the heart of all this is a desire to wrench everything you don't like out of its social context in order to present it as incomprehensible undiluted evil. It allows the writer to skate over all the moral complexities and ambiguities of any situation. It appears to run through a great deal of Decent writing from Al Qaeda violence to the actions of Palestinian armed groups all the way through to the dreadfully misjudged criticism of Keynes's explanation for the rise of Nazism. But should we really expect any more intellectual rigour? This kind of dross is for the true believers who will believe any old nonsense that supports their preconceptions.

2/18/2011 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

off topic - but can anyone explain why so many Decents, including our Nick, are so set against Alternative Vote?

2/18/2011 11:31:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

Tribal hatred of the LibDems to a large extent I think. Aaro is in favour of it FWTW.

2/18/2011 11:43:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

but can anyone explain why so many Decents, including our Nick, are so set against Alternative Vote?

Well No to AV is certainly big on the far right of Labour - Reid, Blunkett, Beckett, Hoey are all campaigning against.

2/18/2011 11:51:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Tribal hatred is about the only explanation that makes any sense from what i can see. What exactly is so right with FPTP, and wrong with AV?? good on Aaro. Always a bit of a man apart.

Certainly Cohen has given up trying to justify his opposition (based as it is on 'in one hypothetical situation, AV might have ended up with slightly weird results') and is just lolling at celebrities...

2/18/2011 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Following on from something I was saying the other day, this stuff about Britz flows from the belief that Islamists and Jihadists are essentially just Trots with even sillier beards.

I mean, both Nick and C4C have authored books about their realisation of how awful the Commies were, and how they've now "allied with" the crazy Muslims... Because they're natural allies, innit? The basic position is that more or less all of the geriatric lefty groups were 100% wrong; driven more by self-loathing and unreasoning, ideologically-driven hate for, like, the west and democracy and shit. There can be no other explanation.

If my point was right and tWoT is basically a bullshit version of Cold War II, then acknowledging that a number of UK Jihadists have said that they're motivated by foreign policy fuck-up (x) is tantamount to apologising for some Islamic Stalin, I think.

When you've based your entire case against your awful foes on denouncing such apologists, then the various idiotic, macho You bombed us, so now I have decided bomb you quail in terror mortals videos are going to be problematic.

Far better to pretend that they must have meant something else, and that taking their words at face-value is identical to saying that civilians deserve to be murdered. After all, caveats and angry polemics don't mix well, do they?

2/18/2011 01:01:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Since the Lib Dems are the obvious beneficiaries of voting "reform", might it be suggested that it didn't take tribal hatred to inform a view before the last election that making a party with 20% of the vote a permanent part of government wasn't necessarily more demcratic than handing an overall majority to a party with 40%, or that this last election has shown that having hung parliaments tends to result in dodgy backroom deals?

2/18/2011 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

Kettle is pro-AV in today's Graun, so that pretty much guarantees its failure.

2/18/2011 02:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

I'm pro-PR but anti-AV, because it doesn't look *that* much better than FPTP; it doesn't seem particularly likely to bring PR any closer; and it *does* look likely to benefit the Lib Dems enormously. Two small and speculative positive points and one big definite negative.

2/18/2011 03:08:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

I'm inclined to think that anything is better than FPTP because it will stop all major parties obsessing about the supposed 200,000 swing voters that nationally decide the election. In recent years it's narrowed election issues enormously.

2/18/2011 03:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

But under AV both the Tories and Labour will be shmoozing Lib Dem voters for second preferences, which isn't exactly likely to broaden the agenda.

2/18/2011 04:10:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

I'm with George on this one. Anything but FTPP. I would also add that getting a few more Lib Dems and Greens into Parliament will force the BBC to widen the range of debate on the news.

it doesn't seem particularly likely to bring PR any closer

Maybe. Maybe not. But sometimes you have to take a chance. This opportunity to take a small step towards PR may not come around for another generation. There is also the argument that moving to AV will increase the number of Lib Dems, make it more difficult for a single party to score an outright majority and hence create a gravitational pull towards a properly proportional system. Or maybe I'm being unduly optimistic.

2/18/2011 04:28:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

But under AV both the Tories and Labour will be shmoozing Lib Dem voters for second preferences, which isn't exactly likely to broaden the agenda.

I'm pretty sure it will. Recent elections have concentrated more and more on Mr "Little Man" (viz. Reich) - the "I-stand-on-my-own-two-feet-so-why-shouldn't-everybody" type living in their suburban hutch [I may be revealing a few prejudices here ...].

Traditionally Lib Dems are more liberal than this and in recent elections they've picked up a lot of old Labour voters appalled by Blairism. OK, they have some soft right voters as well, but they're the more traditional conservatives, and more likely to be educated as well. Clegg and the Orange Bookers have been trying to move them into the so-called "middle ground" that is represented by Mr Little Man, but I don't feel that their core vote thinks like this.

At the very least, AV will force the major parties into a re-think of their strategies, and we could see some very odd results.

For example I can imagine the UKIP vote increasing a lot, on the basis that voters may think it safe to vote UKIP and the Tories get the second vote. The same for Greens/Labour if the latter don't buck their ideas up - they can't just rely on a lot of votes tat were lost to the Lib Dems returning home.

2/18/2011 05:06:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Soccer mums, Mondeo man, Worcester woman.

Really though who doesn't feel a sense of deep despair over how FPTP narrows the policy debate to what will appeal to a handful of idiots in about 60-100 marginals?

It's more depressing than the prospect of spending three days stuck in an elevator with Ruth Lea.

2/18/2011 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger AndyB said...

I'm for AV for much the same reason as Gastro George. I prefer AV to PR as it retains a strong link between constituency and representative, while ensuring that the representative has the consent of the majority.

It allows people to vote for their first choice, no matter how distant from winning the seat that candidate might be, without any of this, 'if you don't vote for your Labour warmonger and privateer, you'll get an even worse Tory' shit.

I fail to see in what way it is democratic that 60% of the vote split between a divided left should produce a representative of the united right. It is only democratic if you think it is about teams, not ideas.

2/18/2011 10:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

On voting reform, pretty much what Phil said.

On sociopathic death cultists and their motivation, everyone seems to be missing the point...or misrepresenting the 'Decent' position, or both.

It's not that we ignore what these people say; it's that we treat what they claim as motivating factors as the cloaks of convenience they so obviously are. If it's not Iraq, it's Afghanistan. If it's not Afghanistan, it's Chechnya. If it's not Chechnya, it's Kashmir. Or "dancing sluts", I seem to recall. Or whatever was the claim for Bali. And Mumbai. And the first attack on the WTC.

And if we wind the clock right back to what bin Laden considered the original sin, it was the presence of infidel troops in Saudi. The kafir too close to Mecca and Medina. So removing the non-believer from Saudi Arabia would do the trick, right?

Peter Sutcliffe cited Godly instruction. It was the deity's voice in his head that compelled him to hammer prostitutes to death. Brenda Ann Spencer put it down to not liking Mondays. These excuses/reasons are instructive insofar as the remove any doubt we're dealing with irredeemable fruitcakes. But there's no genuine causation. Peter Sutcliffe was going to murder 13 women regardless. Brenda Ann Spencer was going to shoot up a school. If it hadn't been voices from God and Mondays, it would have been the subliminal message in the Blue Peter theme tune and the third Thursday in every month.

Shehzad Tanweer and Mohammed Sidique Khan claimed to be motivated by Iraq and the death of fellow Muslims and considered UK civilians legitimate targets given they voted for Blair’s government, yet on July 7th 2005 they murdered people who never voted Labour and fellow members of the Ummah Atique Sharifi and Ihab Slimane. There is no logical or rational connection between the claimed motivation and the act itself. Tanweer and Khan must have known that mass, random suicide-murder on London’s transport network would kill Lib Dems and Muslims, but what role does logic play in the mind of a brainwashed sociopath? For Iraq read voices from God; for Muslim suffering read Mondays.

Have a good weekend, all.

2/19/2011 12:26:00 AM  
Anonymous darkhorse steak with bernaise sauce said...

Well done for illustrating the points made in earlier posts, Brownie.

2/19/2011 08:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Tanweer and Khan must have known that mass, random suicide-murder on London’s transport network would kill Lib Dems and Muslims'

And yet, in the countless wars that decents have cheered on - from Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza - they must have known that the bombs dropped by the air forces of the aggressor nations would kill innocent civilians who could not be considered responsible for the actions of the governments - that they would kill Iraqis who were not Baathists, Afghan who were not Taleban. Indeed, in each war the number of civilians killed has been far higher than the innocent victims of terrorism. Should we conclude from this that the Decent's claim to support democracy and human right are merely a cover for their psychopathic tendencies?

2/19/2011 09:18:00 AM  
Anonymous darkhorse steak with bernaise sauce said...

Brownie, You seem surprised that a political ideological movement might have a position on more than one subject?

Western interest in the middle east can also be put down to more than one factor: security of energy supplies, promotion of democracy (well, at least the rhetoric says that), security of allies such as Israel, markets for manufactured products. The US is interested in central America, south America, Europe too.

Does its broad range of interests prove that these interests are bogus?

I don’t speak for Islamism, and my knowledge of it is poor. However, if Islamists aim to establish unification of the Muslim world under a society living within the bounds of God-given Sharia law, then of course they have an interest in dispelling the US from Saudi, but also overthrowing ‘false Muslim’ semi-secular rules rulers.

And the ‘dancing sluts’. It’s hardly surprising that a puritan conservative Muslim might comment on moralistic activities. Does commenting on morals prove that all stated political motivation is bogus? Nope. If so, no politician has any real political motivation, as they all comment on morals!


Your comparison with the apparently random motivations of insane murderers is an illustration of what was described earlier as the denial that real-world activities have any effect on the motivations of Islamist terrorism.

The analogy is poor. If Islamic justifications are on a par with the random motivations of non-ideological mass murderers, you are then left with the problem of accounting for why there is a significant amount of Islamic terrorism, compared to, Buddhist terrorism, or CofE terrorism.

If the motivations are random, then surely ideologically inspired violence should be randomly distributed across all possible political/religious/ideological justifications.

But, the comparisons between the two types of murderer are bogus. The paragraph you wrote is just an expansion of the questionable equality Peter Sutcliffe = Mohammed Atta, which only holds up if you refuse to address the significantly different social contexts and motivational factors between the two instances of mass murder as inconvenient facts to be ignored.

Your final point is that the 7/7 bombings killed some people who would have been against the Iraq war, and some Muslims, therefore their stated motivations were not true.

I don’t think that is a forcibly logical case. I agree, it makes more sense that if you want to ‘avenge’ the occupation of Muslim lands, it may be logical to make a more overtly political assassination (e.g, Blair, Bush, whoever).

Suicide bombing the public does not discriminate in target, and is obviously not targeted at the supposed political culprits. But does that make all stated motivations for suicide bombing simple pretext for somebody who just feels like killing a whole bunch of people? I don't think so.

Killing the 'wrong person' happens wherever suicide bombing occurs – Tamils killed other Tamils in suicide bombings in Sri Lanki. Does this means that they weren’t fighting for a Tamil homeland?

On the non-suicidal front, South African violence of the black population claimed the lives of liberal anti-apartheid whites – does this mean that the black South Africans weren’t struggling against the apartheid regime?

2/19/2011 09:40:00 AM  
Anonymous darkhorse steak with bernaise sauce said...

And finally, US and UK intelligence agencies and think tanks, such as Chatham House and the Rand Corporation have all either predicted or measured the increase in Islamic terrorism since the invasion of Iraq.

If it were merely some 'death cult', there should be no correlation. If the Islamists wanted to kill us anyway, there should be no measured increase, or at least, any measured increase should be a random fluctuation.

Correlation does not, of course prove causation. That the invasion of Iraq was followed by an increase the incidence of Islamist terrorism, suggests a causal mechanism between the two, but does not prove it.

However, there is a logical causal mechanism that can be proposed, and, together with the stated motivations of those who inspire and enact such terrorism, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the invasion of Iraq led to an increase in motivation and recruitment to the ranks of Islamic terrorism.

This then led to an increase in the incidence of Islamic terrorism, along with the empirical observation that the claims of the perpetrators and ideologues mentioned the invasions of Iraq (and Afghanistan) as contributing factors to their motivation.

Personally, I find this a far more compelling causal chain than your flimsy "Lib Dem voters were killed on 7/7 therefore the attackers were not motivated by Iraq".

2/19/2011 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger AndyB said...

"The analogy is poor. If Islamic justifications are on a par with the random motivations of non-ideological mass murderers..."

...there is absolutely nothing that can be done. No wars killing hundreds of thousands will stop terrorism, as the causal elements are beyond the reach of ordinary human action.

Further with the South African comparison - I have seen it argued that Islamic terrorists cannot be motivated by the suffering of poor and oppressed muslims, as the terrorists themselves come from a wealthy, powerful background. Which means that all those whites who worked with Umkhonto we Sizwe were not motivated by the oppression of black people, but were some kind of quantum, non-causal mentals!

2/19/2011 09:57:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Peter Sutcliffe cited Godly instruction. It was the deity's voice in his head that compelled him to hammer prostitutes to death. Brenda Ann Spencer put it down to not liking Mondays. These excuses/reasons are instructive insofar as the remove any doubt we're dealing with irredeemable fruitcakes

Sutcliffe was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia that's why he heard voices. You can't even get that bit right. Plus there is no possible analogy that can be drawn with suicide bombers because all the credible research indicates they aren't suffering from mental illnesses.

The real problem with all your arguments Brownie is that you believe X person can't possibly think Y and do Z because the world isn't really like Y its like P. What it demonstrates most clearly is you have zero conception of the fact (or are unwilling to accept that) other people see the world in a very different way from the way you do. Now they may be wrong in the way they see the world but if they really see it that way then they are really following their true beliefs.

2/19/2011 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous darkhorse steak with bernaise sauce said...

And how far does the attribution of the stated motivations of extremist Islamists being randomly selected delusional elements go?

By extending this logic, the Taliban are the result of an unfortunately coincidental occurrence of sociopathic violent individuals growing up in the late 20th century in the Pushtun regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Obviously we can't describe them as an ideological/political/religious/tribal movement because, as Brownie tells us, such explanations are just bogus pretexts to justify their killy behaviour.

2/19/2011 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

There's a substantial number of people who are forever ordering us to take the statements of Islamist headbangers at face value, provided they're saying things like "Islam will dominate the world" and calling for the destruction of Israel, and so on. Any kind of interpretation or context for these statements is, variously, disgusting apologetics, post-modern mumbo-jumbo or sheer cowardice. I'm inclined to assume these people mean these things when they say them, myself.

And yet, when these idiots try to bomb Britain or the US and say things like "We are at war with the west, you attacked us and so we attack you", we're told that only a fool and a relativist would believe they actually meant it.

It's the usual one-rule-for-us stuff, isn't it? I actually think Brownie is correct and that the suicide bomber mentality is quite close to school shooters etc. - attention-seeking tantrums, histrionic. Further, I'm certain that there's really no action we could take that would compel the planet's Jihadist loonies to put down their nailbombs*. War or peace, many or even most of them would do it anyway. I don't think that the problem would disappear if we hadn't bombed a series of countries across the middle east, and I don't think that invading Iraq was a stupid idea simply because it would invite idiots to blow themselves up**.

What I will say is that it ain't me that's putting limits on interpretation. I'm not the one saying that it's essential that we listen carefully when Jihadists say (x) but ignore their statements of (y). I am saying that people who do exactly that are doing it because to do otherwise is extremely inconvenient, politically.

Further, when people like Nick say that the awful liberals are saying "bomb us, we deserve it!", he's being wilfully dishonest, and not a little bit of a prick.

*Note that "force" is one of the things that probably won't work.

**I think it was stupid for a whole range of other ideas, and that radicalisation of British Muslims is far down the list of potentially horrendous outcomes, many of which have come to pass.

2/19/2011 12:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Larry T said...

Peter Sutcliffe was going to murder 13 women regardless. Brenda Ann Spencer was going to shoot up a school. If it hadn't been voices from God and Mondays, it would have been the subliminal message in the Blue Peter theme tune and the third Thursday in every month.

I don't see how you can possibly claim to know this. In fact, it's nonsense - you know you can't.

Inconvenient though it may be to your argument, Brownie, you have to concede the possibility that if Peter Sutcliffe hadn't heard the voice of God, he wouldn't have killed anyone.

Translate that back to Mohammed Sidique Khan and see where it gets you.

(I'm also bemused at the idea that anyone would look to wear "cloaks of convenience" in their suicide messages. Surely, in those circumstances, people are likely to call things as they see them?)

2/19/2011 02:19:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

it's that we treat what they claim as motivating factors as the cloaks of convenience they so obviously are. If it's not Iraq, it's Afghanistan. If it's not Afghanistan, it's Chechnya. If it's not Chechnya, it's Kashmir.

One reason for thinking that it's not quite so obvious as Brownie's comment suggests that these are "cloaks of convenience" is that the major academic study of pre-2001 suicide terrorism (Pape's book, Dying to Win) argues that "what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland". (Quote pulled from Wikipedia in the absence of my copy of the book.)

It could be that post-2001 suicide terrorism has very little in common with its predecessor. (This seems to me unlikely.) Or it could be that the terrorists have read Pape's book, and are saying what the political scientists expect them to say, in order to confuse them. (This also seems to me to be unlikely.) Or it could be that Pape is, in fact, on to something about a phenomenon which he studied in some detail. (This, it seems to me, is somewhat more likely.)

2/19/2011 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

It's not that we ignore what these people say; it's that we treat what they claim as motivating factors as the cloaks of convenience they so obviously are.

but even with that, Andrew anthony's argument is still invalid. He claims that portraying martyrdom videos as containng material about Iraq, Israel etc is somehow dishonest and indicates a filmmaker is effectively siding iwth the bombers, and specifically calls it a lie and unrealistic.

Even if we accept (and to an extent i do) that martyrdom vidos are sculpted to appeal to others, and are not really suicide notes, it still would be a lot less realist if a realist work of art represented such a video with the killer saying 'i am a branwashed psychopath'.

It would also be an utterly shite piece of writing, and far less realist, and far more didactic, than Britz was.

we treat what they claim as motivating factors as the cloaks of convenience they so obviously are. If it's not Iraq, it's Afghanistan. If it's not Afghanistan, it's Chechnya. If it's not Chechnya, it's Kashmir. Or "dancing sluts", I seem to recall. Or whatever was the claim for Bali. And Mumbai. And the first attack on the WTC.

but there's a reason they adpot them as 'cloaks of convenience' in what are propaganda videos.

And that's because these injustices that are listed are part of the radicalizing process. that's not to say that anything should or shouldn't be done on the basis of this (and the idea of a potential increase in terrorism in the UK is certainly not the reason i or indeed almost anyone else opposed Iraq); but to deny that issues like the UK's apparent complicity in the occupation of the west Bank, and our bombing Iraqi civilians, has nothing to do with radicalisation, is quite simply counterfactual.

In fact it goes against the account of, among others, a certain Ed Husain.

2/19/2011 08:39:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

If it's not Iraq, it's Afghanistan. If it's not Afghanistan, it's Chechnya. If it's not Chechnya, it's Kashmir. Or "dancing sluts"

Group ad hominem?

2/19/2011 10:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

There was a bit of a media storm about the relationship between extremist rhetoric, political violence and mental imbalance in the US recently - chap called Jared Loughner. I've just read a terrific blog post on the topic, comparing Loughner (an apparently psychotic killer who seems to have had some political motivation) with the Shankill Butchers (apparently political killers who seem to have been psychotic). Where on the spectrum we place Atta, Siddique Khan and friends is up to the reader; what seems clear to me is that we don't have the right to say "hey, loonies, if it hadn't been one thing it'd be another", in any of those cases.

2/19/2011 10:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Where's my comment from last night?

2/20/2011 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

I just had one disappear from the Finkler thread

2/20/2011 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Sorry, chaps. Rescued from the spam-filter. No idea why it does what it does.

2/20/2011 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Thanks for the link Phil. Nice article. You could quite easily widen the parallel to contemporary Islamic radicalism. You might even argue that it has more realistic grievances to grow off than the tea party movement and is further aided by the kinds of conspiracy theories that are more likely to develop in closed autocratic societies.

I would also add that the desire to characterise movements that are disliked as stemming from collective psychopathic disorders appears common. The British government did it in NI and so do the Israelis. The motive appears obvious.

2/20/2011 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Have you updated (or indeed modernised) to New Blogger?

2/20/2011 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

bubby - yes and Aaro et al do it with 'conspiracy theorists' on an expansive usage of that word.

Are (unjustified) conspiracy theories more likely to grow in an autocratic society? Conspiracy thepries about foreign powers? Are theopries about the open actions of foreign powers even 'conspiracy theories?'

2/20/2011 12:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Re psychosis, I think the point Moloney was making was that the Shankill Butchers' methods suggest killings carried out by someone who's not quite right in the head - at least, someone who's enjoying their work in a way that most people wouldn't. But nobody would say that the targets of those killers just happened to be Catholics.

The HP approach seems to be to cancel out the politics by saying that you have to be some kind of psychopath in order to kill people, and individuals who are psychopaths would do their best to kill other people whatever the political situation. But even if we took that to be 100% true, certain kinds of political conflict would still give those psychopaths access to weaponry, targets and other like-thinking psychopaths.

2/20/2011 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

"if we took that to be 100% true"

which, just to be extra clear, must be one of the the biggest ifs since Kipling.

Anyway I thought the main strand of 'thought' had it down as the deranging effects of that exogenous force, religion, not (also) an epidemic of psychosis or the work of the Sadistic Psychopaths' Mutual Aid Association.

2/20/2011 03:01:00 PM  
Anonymous orgainc cheeseboard said...

off topic - but one of the Decents' fave historians makes an utter tit out of himself here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/feb/20/niall-ferguson-interview-civilization

including his seriously describing some of the tenets of colonialism as 'apps', and dismissing the native americans as being of no interest other than the fact they killed bison...

sort of on topic in that the Buruma/Garton Ash/Hirsi Ali 'debate' is brought up, AGAIN, and in shockingly unintellectual terms; apparently TGA and Buruma took issue with AHA's ideas because 'she's smarter than them', though Ferguson doesn't say how, or why, and instead asks them not to pick on her cos she's a woman...

i always find it weird how quick people - including her boyfriend - are to ignore her ideas, which are dodgy in the extreme, and instead say this:

there aren't many people who really put their life on the line for human freedom. And I think when you come across someone like that you've got to be a little bit respectful. It just sticks in my throat a bit to have middle-aged men who've had cushy lives turning up their noses at someone who has gone through what she's gone through

2/20/2011 04:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Jonathan said...

Pape has produced an up-dated version of his work on suicide bombing. Post 9/11 developments appear to confirm his earlier results:

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/645605.html

2/20/2011 04:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice letter from Tim Winter in the TLS, in reply to Clive James (mentioned here in another thread):

"I am glad that Clive James, in his response to my review of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Nomad, does not challenge my central contention, namely that her jeremiads against Islam are more likely to strengthen than to undermine the fundamentalists. His main concern seems to be my failure to denounce female genital mutilation. Of course such practices are abhorrent; but since they do not occupy a significant part of her book I expect that I may be forgiven for omitting to mention them."

K

2/20/2011 06:51:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Here's Ferguson's take on one of the 'killer apps' that ensured the West's success over the past 300 years:

Work ethic: As Max Weber noted a century ago, Protestantism was a form of Christianity that encouraged hard work (and just as importantly, Ferguson adds, reading and saving). It isn't a coincidence, he says, that the decline of religion in Europe has led to Europeans becoming the "idlers of the world" (while the more religious US has remained hard-working). Interestingly, Ferguson also argues that China's embrace of hard work is partly because of the spread there of Protestantism.

This is what passes for analysis from someone whom the LSE describes as 'one of the world's most eminent scholars'.

Saints preserve us.

2/20/2011 09:58:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

I defy anyone to get to the end of the first paragraph of the Niall Ferguson interview without retching.

"I'm afraid I have to write a cheque," he says, reaching for his fountain pen. "One of life's more tedious burdens."

There's a man who's never had a proper job.

'When it comes to thinking about empire, Ferguson's preoccupation with material forces allows him to undertake what amounts to a cost-benefit analysis, weighing the good that imperial regimes have done against the bad without being unduly bothered by the kind of moral questions that traditionally concern the left. '

I think Orwell summed up this attitude perfectly here.

http://orwell.ru/library/articles/niggers/english/e_ncn

'One gets some idea of the real relationship of England and India when one reflects that the per capita annual income in England is something over £80, and in India about £7. It is quite common for an Indian coolie's leg to be thinner than the average Englishman's arm. And there is nothing racial in this, for well-fed members of the same races are of normal physique; it is due to simple starvation. This is the system which we all live on and which we denounce when there seems to be no danger of its being altered.'

2/21/2011 12:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

And the ‘dancing sluts’. It’s hardly surprising that a puritan conservative Muslim might comment on moralistic activities.

It' didn't "comment" on them. It planned to murder them by the score in the Ministry of Sound in 2004. And now I remember, it was "slags".

If Islamic justifications are on a par with the random motivations of non-ideological mass murderers, you are then left with the problem of accounting for why there is a significant amount of Islamic terrorism, compared to, Buddhist terrorism, or CofE terrorism.

No I'm not. You're conflating justification and motivation. My argument is not that what drives a serial prostitute killer is indistinguishable from what motivates a suicide-murderer, but that the justifications are equally worthless. Iraq, slags, voices from God, whatever it was in Mumbai, or Bali, Mondays...it's all the same horseshit; which is not to deny that any one of the above might conceivably act as a trigger. There are angry young men in every market town the length of the UK who every go out every Friday night, sink their 8 pints of Stella and spend the hours between 10-2pm looking for people to kick the shit out of, citing the flimsiest of reasons along the way: 'He looked at my bird', 'he stepped on my toe', 'he spilt my pint' - there's your 'triggers'. Have fun with them. If somebody ever wanted to grapple with the problem of Britain's disproportionate number of punch-top hoods, any time spent looking at trying to eliminate casual glances at other people's girlfirends, or reducing the incidences of stepped on toes and spilt pints would be time wasted.

FR pretty much goes here where he says:

I'm certain that there's really no action we could take that would compel the planet's Jihadist loonies to put down their nailbombs*. War or peace, many or even most of them would do it anyway.

How does this differ from the 'cloaks of convenince' argument? I'm not saying ignore completely that Sidique Khan and Tanweer mention "Iraq" in their videos; it's instructive at one level - this is the 'spilt my pint' moment from above. I'm saying you'd get further establishing causation if you looked at what Khan and Tanweer were doing years before Iraq was a glint in Bush's eye. I'm saying Google "Abdullah el-Faisal", for example.

The real problem with all your arguments Brownie is that you believe X person can't possibly think Y and do Z because the world isn't really like Y its like P.

Not at all. I can perfectly accept that some people see the world as 'Y'. My point is that given it's not like 'Y' and it is in fact like 'P', there's not an awful lot of relevancy or value in their stated claims that they are doing something horrific because the world is like 'Y'. Unless you tihnk we should change the world to be more like 'Y' so their actions start to make more sense?

Obviously we can't describe them as an ideological/political/religious/tribal movement because, as Brownie tells us, such explanations are just bogus pretexts to justify their killy behaviour.

Not at all. Don't know how you got here. You apepar to think that I believe there is no identifiable causation just because I reject the convenient excuses trotted in posthumous videos produced for a target audience of western useful idiots who point at the images on the screen and tell us how safe we'd all be if we stopped antagonizing the fanatical disciples of a proto-fascist, quasi-political, but mostly ideological death-cult. My clear belief is (and a glance at most suicide-murderer biographies demonstrates) that these people are already antagonized and radicalized and will try to find ways to kill us regardless (where 'us' includes a disproportionate number of other Muslims, by the way...just the wrong sort of Muslim) .

2/21/2011 01:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Inconvenient though it may be to your argument, Brownie, you have to concede the possibility that if Peter Sutcliffe hadn't heard the voice of God, he wouldn't have killed anyone.

It's not inconvenient at all given he didn't hear those voices from God because they didn't exist yet he still killed 13 women. The fact he thought he heard voices from God demonstrates he was a sandwich short of a picnic i.e. what caused Sutcliffe to bludgeon women to death is that he was a fucking nutter. The 'voices from God' are a mere manifestation of that.

Translate that back to Mohammed Sidique Khan and see where it gets you.

So taking out Iraq (Khan's equivalent of Sutcliffe's voices in his head), we've still got a young man having his mind poisoned by Abdullah el-Faisal for half a decade, a stint training with Jemaah Islamiyah and a handful of other trips to bomb-making night-school in Pakistan, all before a single GI or squaddie set foot in Mesopotamia.

So I guess that means on March 17th 2003 Khan was just your regular Dewsbury resident, right?

(I'm also bemused at the idea that anyone would look to wear "cloaks of convenience" in their suicide messages. Surely, in those circumstances, people are likely to call things as they see them?)

Whether by this stage the suicide-murderers actually believe what they say is moot. What's far more important is what got these people to a point where they're sat in their front rooms in Dewsbury talking about mass murder and suicide because of somethng happening 3,000 miles away. (It's worth acknowledging at this point that the indiscriminate slaughter option is eschewed by 99.99999% of fellow Muslims, including those living amongst the death and destruction whether in Iraq or Arghanistan or Pakistan.) And even then, these final videos are less parting thoughts for close friends and family than they are party political broadcasts on behalf of the Ba'heid party. See the point above about target audiences.

One reason for thinking that it's not quite so obvious as Brownie's comment suggests that these are "cloaks of convenience" is that the major academic study of pre-2001 suicide terrorism (Pape's book, Dying to Win) argues that "what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland".

What they may have in common is an *expression* of something similar to the above. My argument is not that these things aren't said by the suicide-murderers, but rather that these reasons are not themselves causal. That might be a crap argument, but you/Pape don't refute it by merely citing the fact that the suicide-murderers still say these things.

Even if we accept (and to an extent i do) that martyrdom vidos are sculpted to appeal to others, and are not really suicide notes, it still would be a lot less realist if a realist work of art represented such a video with the killer saying 'i am a branwashed psychopath'.

I accept this. That said - and without alluding to any drama in particular - there's a difference between the writer simply depiciting things how they were and using the words of the murderers to sculpt a subliminal anti-war message. A drama about 7/7 could include Khan's references to Iraq, but to do this and ignore completely his radicalization at the hands of Abdullah el-Faisal and enthusiasm for trips to military camps in the Hindu Kush - ALL PRE-IRAQ - would seem to me a little disingenuous.

2/21/2011 02:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

but there's a reason they adpot them as 'cloaks of convenience' in what are propaganda videos.

And that's because these injustices that are listed are part of the radicalizing process. that's not to say that anything should or shouldn't be done on the basis of this (and the idea of a potential increase in terrorism in the UK is certainly not the reason i or indeed almost anyone else opposed Iraq); but to deny that issues like the UK's apparent complicity in the occupation of the west Bank, and our bombing Iraqi civilians, has nothing to do with radicalisation, is quite simply counterfactual.

See above about the formative years of Khan's political awakening...and not just Khan. There are common denominators: exposure to a virulent strain of political Islam and deep piety amongst others. If we're really to swallow the Iraq line in case of 7/7, for example, it's as likely that the bombers would be secular, if not entirely irreligious. Of course, if we're honest, each one of us could have written Khan's bio before we'd discovered the first thing about him. Why is that, do you think?

Where on the spectrum we place Atta, Siddique Khan and friends is up to the reader; what seems clear to me is that we don't have the right to say "hey, loonies, if it hadn't been one thing it'd be another", in any of those cases.

We do if our experience is one of ever-changing justifications proffered by a series of suicide-murderers who do a good impression of havng been cast from the same mould.

There are clerly discernable patterns for anyone who cares to look for them.

2/21/2011 02:54:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

It' didn't "comment" on them. It planned to murder them by the score in the Ministry of Sound in 2004. And now I remember, it was "slags".

It? Brownie, can you clarify the subject of this sentence for me please? Darkhorse was talking about a putative 'puritan Muslim': you seem to have extended this to Islamic extremism or all Islam. But I may have misunderstood.

There are clerly discernable patterns for anyone who cares to look for them.

There's a good* book on people who care to look for 'discernable patterns' which no one else can see. I recommend 'Voodoo Histories' by David Aaronovitch.

* Good as in an enjoyable read and far superior to Francis Wheen's "How Mumbo-Jumbo..." which it somewhat resembles in deprecating 'modern' irrationalism.

2/21/2011 06:28:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

And in today's Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/21/open-door-pullquote-corrections-writers

2/21/2011 08:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Larry said...

I don't entirely disagree with Brownie.

In fact I quite like the
conception of decency as the politics of going around at 2am deliberately spilling lots of piss-heads' pints, and then wibbling about 'genuine causation' when a ruckus inevitably kicks off.

2/21/2011 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Don't entirely disagree with Brownie myself, but have to repeat that it may be worth listening to what bombers themselves actually have to say. Take Faisal Shahzad, one of a string of would-be terrorists too stupid to set fire to petrol, now serving life in a pound-me-in-the-ass federal penitentiary...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10368329

I mean, you have to laugh. The guy stands up, declares himself to be a soldier in a war and that his slapstick attempted bombing was retaliation for Iraq and Afghanistan, and that although he has failed, some Jihadist double-oh-eight will be along to continue the mission presently... And there are people falling over themselves to explain that he can't possibly have meant what he said!

I entirely agree that plenty of Jihadists are just angry young men looking for an excuse - Chris Morris's film was pretty spot-on with the white convert who wanted to bomb the mosque "as an example", I think.

I just think it's precious that people who spend so much time telling us to listen to what the various terrorist organisations actually say are so keen to dismiss what they actually say when it's politically expedient to do so. It doesn't speak to a rigorous analytical method, much, and looks a lot more like opportunism.

I quite like the
conception of decency as the politics of going around at 2am deliberately spilling lots of piss-heads' pints, and then wibbling about 'genuine causation' when a ruckus inevitably kicks off.


This.

2/21/2011 09:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

It? Brownie, can you clarify the subject of this sentence for me please?

I misread. I saw "puritan conservative Islam" instead of "puritan conservative Muslim". But the point stands.

I think if people examine the circumstances surrounding many of the plots that never came to fruition rather than focusing on the infamous cases where they did, the more obvious it seems that Iraq/Afghanistan/etc. are the figleaves I say they are. Think about the various failed attacks in Germany, what was planned for LAX on the eve of the millennium, etc.

2/21/2011 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Reading Brownie's last batch of comments, it seems that the bit about actual mental illness was just a rhetorical flourish. So forget that part.

Nevertheless, I think my original comment works (with a couple of revisions). The HP approach seems to be to cancel out the politics by saying that you have to be some kind of religiously brainwashed sociopath in order to kill people, and individuals who are religiously brainwashed sociopaths would do their best to kill other people whatever the political situation. But even if we took that to be 100% true, certain kinds of political conflict would still give those sociopaths access to weaponry, targets and other like-thinking sociopaths.

...and, I might add, taking this into account at the planning stage would have been sensible, just as it is sensible to take into account the likelihood of the Mob taking an interest when relaxing gambling regulations.

(I don't think anyone here is saying that the 'indoctrinated sociopaths' explanation is 100% false, by the way.)

As for

ever-changing justifications proffered by a series of suicide-murderers who do a good impression of havng been cast from the same mould

this is a bait-and-switch: you're pre-emptively classing some explanations as political and others as the product of sociopathic brainwashing. So a statement reading "I oppose the Western occupation of Iraq" would go into the 'political' bucket, but if it's "we oppose the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and all Muslim lands" then we're dealing with people cast from the same mould - people who kill because of who they are, not because of what they believe and certainly not because of what's happened in the real world. I don't think this is a valid distinction.

2/21/2011 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Phil,

Nevertheless, I think my original comment works (with a couple of revisions). The HP approach seems to be to cancel out the politics by saying that you have to be some kind of religiously brainwashed sociopath in order to kill people, and individuals who are religiously brainwashed sociopaths would do their best to kill other people whatever the political situation. But even if we took that to be 100% true, certain kinds of political conflict would still give those sociopaths access to weaponry, targets and other like-thinking sociopaths.

I don't have too many problems with this. It's worth considering what might be the response of brainwashed sociopaths to foreign policy X, in the same way that it's a good idea to give the Friday night fight crew a wide berth. I would mention again that there aren't too many secular Muslims running round blowing themselves and their fellow citizens to pieces, and I think that's significant. It's possibly true that you don't *have* to be a religiously brainwashed sociopath to take part in things like 7/7, 9/11, Bali I and II, etc., but I think it helps.

you're pre-emptively classing some explanations as political and others as the product of sociopathic brainwashing. So a statement reading "I oppose the Western occupation of Iraq" would go into the 'political' bucket, but if it's "we oppose the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and all Muslim lands" then we're dealing with people cast from the same mould - people who kill because of who they are, not because of what they believe and certainly not because of what's happened in the real world.

I'm not excluding all possiblity that there is some element of politicisation going on or a specific political aspiration might contribute to motivation to commit sicide murder. It's *possible* Khan may have just remained a latent brainwashed sociopath without Iraq. But Iraq minus the brainwashing probably just sees Khan protesting on the street, writing letters to his MP and maybe even an attempted targeted political assasiatnion if he's really, really annoyed; but random slaughter on the tube requires something else, I think.

I have to work, but lastly I'd just ask others to consider how much time is given over to attempts to dissect the motivation of those like Khan as opposed to, say, David Copeland. No-one asks what gay people might have done to provoke Copeland. None of us really thinks there is much point examining the political asprations of members of the EDL.

Sometimes the simplest, most obvious explanations are the correct ones.

2/21/2011 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

No-one asks what gay people might have done to provoke Copeland.

Oh, indeed. Similarly, no-one asks what a bunch of random strangers did to provoke the tube bombers etc., unless they're trying to smuggle some very silly propositions undetected.

Such propositions might include "The mere suggestion that suicide bombers may have been partially or wholly inspired to commit their crimes by western foreign policy disasters is tantamount to claiming that attacks on civilians are justified, you terrorism-justifier you".

Thus do you get Nick Cohen claiming that his political foes believe that they deserve to be murdered by terrorists, and I'm fairly sure that Nick might have made some fundamental errors in his analysis there. I'm sure Brownie wouldn't try and pull anything as silly as that, though!

Sometimes the simplest, most obvious explanations are the correct ones.

All too true, and sometimes the simplest, most obvious explanations just happen to be the ones that are, by sheer coincidence, the most politically convenient.

2/21/2011 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

Here's Brownie on the occupation of Arab territory.

http://aaronovitch.blogspot.com/2011/01/for-those-who-dont-like-harrys-place.html

'So Israel continues to occupy 2/3rds of the Golan. If I were Syrian, I'd be annoyed.'

That's right, annoyed. To hate the occupier of your country would of course make you a psychopath.

Perhaps Brownie might like to speculate on the psychological make-up of the perpetrators of the following atrocities.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Irgun_attacks_during_the_1930s

2/21/2011 01:20:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Well Brownie's 'useful idiots' include the UK and US security, services, Chatam House, RUSI as well as pretty much every credible expert on Islamic radicalim.

I would make two futher points about Brownie's comments.

1. You lump suicide bombers together as if they are all motivated by the same issues. I see you have let Tony Blair do your thinking for you on this one. There is no reason to imagine that a Palestinian suicide bomber works to the same motivation as one from Chechnya, Dewsbury, Lebanon, Sri Lanka or Afghanistan. You see free floating religion as the unifying ideology which links all of these events. Nobody credible who has studied the phenomena agrees with you and all point to the vital role that particular social and political contexts play.

2. The idea that this is the work of 'brainwashed sociopaths' also needs challenging. As the Pape book shows all the research on suicide bombers shows that they are not mentally ill. It also shows that the idea that they are brainwashed is also incorrect. Most are 'self-starters'. As Jason Burke notes becoming a 7-7 type suicide bomber -so here he is talking about a particular form of 'transnational terrorism' - is related to the convergence of a series of factors - grievance, alienation, group dynamics and contact with hardened radicals outside the UK who are able to play on particular scriptural interpretations:

both the activists themselves, in their public and private statements, and those watching them tend to describe a similar phenomenon and factors leading to radicalisation and eventual violence. Recruiters are not "the preachers of hate" but older brothers, respected peers, charismatic strong characters. Many militants are "self-starters", not brainwashed recruits. The images that bombard us all are important - not just clever propaganda . Yes, frustration, alienation, a sense of injustice, a search for adventure, a need for recognition is all important but so are "small group dynamics", who you happen to meet and when. Increasing isolation within the group is essential for the progressive dehumanisation of "the enemy" and the hardening and maintenance of psychological readiness to die "for the cause".

The preferred reading in UK counter-terrorism circles is works by experts specialising in "social movements", many of which have nothing to do with Islam. However, with many British militants, the input of senior terrorist figures, often encountered in Pakistan, who adeptly exploit resources within the Islamic faith and the political and religious ignorance of most of their admirers, appears critical in the final stages of individuals turning towards mass casualty suicide attacks.

They are not loners either and the level of psychological illness, as far as anyone can tell, is little higher than that of the general population.


Brownie's comments really remind me of Melanie Phillips's writing on climate change. People like Pape and Burke may have spent their lives carrying out hundreds of interviews, meticulously cataloging their findings, reaching sober and nuanced conclusions but Brownie doesn't need to consider this research. After all he knows so much more about it than these experts.

2/21/2011 01:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

"The mere suggestion that suicide bombers may have been partially or wholly inspired to commit their crimes by western foreign policy disasters is tantamount to claiming that attacks on civilians are justified, you terrorism-justifier you".

But this cuts both ways, surely? Are the majority of people who point to the Khan and Tanweer videos and their utterances about Iraq merely asking us to process another data point? Doesn't seem that way to me a lot of the time. It feels very much more like: "See, if it hadn't been for Iraq this would never have happened. Blair/Bush have the blood of 52 Londoners on their hands, etc.".

A little more intellectual honesty all round wouldn't go amiss.

All too true, and sometimes the simplest, most obvious explanations just happen to be the ones that are, by sheer coincidence, the most politically convenient.

Well so long as it is just by 'sheer coincidence'.

That's right, annoyed. To hate the occupier of your country would of course make you a psychopath.

You obviously weren't paying attention to that discussion or others, Coventrian.

I repeat, I do not have too much trouble imagining myself taking part in an Intifada, whether that's throwing stones or shooting at the IDF. I do have lots of trouble picturirng myself strapping on an explosives vest and walking into a Tel Aviv pizzeria and pulling the cord (or whatever it is they do). So, apparently, do the vast, vast majority of Palestinians.

As for Irgun, you'd no doubt be surprised, but only because you insist on assuming you know more about my views than you evidently do.

2/21/2011 02:08:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

I do have lots of trouble picturirng myself strapping on an explosives vest and walking into a Tel Aviv pizzeria and pulling the cord (or whatever it is they do). So, apparently, do the vast, vast majority of Palestinians.

Well during the height of the Intifada they didn't.

In the realm of peace and security, the findings show widespread support, reaching 75%, for the suicide attack at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa, where 20 Israelis were killed.

As you can see from the other polls support for suicide bombings fluctuated as the conflict and prospects for a just settlement ebbed and flowed.

This I would suggest means that it is unwise to try and imagine how you might react in extreme hypothetical examples. Psychological research indicates that human beings are notorious poor at making these kinds of predictions.

BTW any chance of rescuing one of my comments from the spam filter?

2/21/2011 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Are the majority of people who point to the Khan and Tanweer videos and their utterances about Iraq merely asking us to process another data point?

I have no idea. I like to think most of AW's commmenters - though likely not all - are indeed processing a data point.

Certainly there were plenty rushing to blame Tony Blair for the bombings, which I thought was unfair. As with Nick though, the solution is to say well, they're wrong about that.

The thing either is or it isn't, surely. I don't regard other peoples' dishonesty as a good reason to go any further than that.

2/21/2011 02:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

As you can see from the other polls support for suicide bombings fluctuated as the conflict and prospects for a just settlement ebbed and flowed.

Yeah, well the proof of the pudding and all that. It's one thing spouting off down a microphone, but the physical evidence suggests the vast majority of Palestinians living at the coal-face as it were are happy enough to pass up martrydom opportunities.

This I would suggest means that it is unwise to try and imagine how you might react in extreme hypothetical examples.

Speak for youself, bub. I'm talking specfically about what I *wouldn't do*. I'm quite prepared to accept that I could be persuaded to do all sorts of nasty things in the right circumstances, but short of a brainwashing at the hands of religious fanatics or similar (see above several times over), I'm not going to murder in cold blood dozens of innocent men, women and children tucking into their margheritas.

History is replete with examples of the vast majority of the oppressed, subjugated and abused maintaining their moral redlines.

2/21/2011 03:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

History is replete with examples of the vast majority of the oppressed, subjugated and abused maintaining their moral redlines.

So what? If it comes to that, history is replete with examples of peasants not revolting.

random slaughter on the tube requires something else

Again, so what? What you're saying is sociologically valid - the 7/7 bombers went through a whole process of cumulative radicalisation, rejection of the version of Islam they'd grown up with, articulation of grievances in particular ways & ultimately actual training. It was only at the end of that process that they were killers. This is not in the least surprising. Front-line soldiers often find it hard to kill; without months of training (and indoctrination) it'd be much harder. It's also true that only a tiny minority of disaffected politicised Muslims went down that particular route of 'radicalisation' - and again, so what? Not that many young men join the army.

Your analysis of the jihadi phenomenon seems to boil down to "they're the kind of people who kill people like us, because they believe in killing people like us" - although you've now clarified or modified the second clause to "because they've been indoctrinated to believe in killing people like us". This may be factually accurate, but it completely brackets out all the non-ideological factors which encourage people to tolerate, sympathise with, support & ultimately join the groups that do the indoctrinating. And that's unfortunate, as it's those factors that we can actually do something about.

2/21/2011 04:03:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Are the majority of people who point to the Khan and Tanweer videos and their utterances about Iraq merely asking us to process another data point? Doesn't seem that way to me a lot of the time. It feels very much more like: "See, if it hadn't been for Iraq this would never have happened. Blair/Bush have the blood of 52 Londoners on their hands, etc.".

though Brownie hasn't wrenched this of topic like a certain M Ezra, all the same: there's a reason this stuff was brought up. It was because andrew anthony alleged that if a work of art represented a martyrdom video as containg material about Iraq, tht the work of art would be dishonest and effectively side with the bombers. The layers of aregument above or below are fair enough, and i don't think Brownie is far from any of us on this isue; but it's still central to the Decency of Andrew anthony and Nick Cohen that if you mentioned the fact that martyrdom videos often mention Iraq, you are being dishonest at best and at worst actively asking to be bombed.

2/21/2011 04:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

all the non-ideological factors which encourage people to tolerate, sympathise with, support & ultimately join the groups that do the indoctrinating

Just to be clear, I also think a focus on those factors wrt the EDL would be highly appropriate.

2/21/2011 04:11:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

History is replete with examples of the vast majority of the oppressed, subjugated and abused maintaining their moral redlines.

And history is replete with instances where battered women haven't murdered their husbands.

But when after years of sustained abuse certain women have killed their husbands it would seem obtuse to argue that the abuse wasn't a significant causal factor.

2/21/2011 05:03:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

...when after years of sustained abuse certain women have killed their husbands it would seem obtuse to argue that the abuse wasn't a significant causal factor.

I think the point that Brownie's making is that this is more like an abused woman - and often not even abused - going and murdering somebody else's husband, plus all of that husband's friends, tennis partners etc., which is a fair enough point.

I think it does rather miss the fact that, no matter how barking we might think it is, suicide bombers do seem to believe that blowing up a load of innocent civvies is some kind of hammerblow against the Great Satan and so on etc. Clearly it isn't that at all, but if the psychology of bombers is the question, the fact that they're killing total innocents is immaterial.

Really though, I don't understand why this is up for debate at all. Al Qaeda, for instance, have been very vocal about why they commit the atrocities they do and what their demands are. They may look mental to us, but that's beside the point - what matters is that they most certainly do believe the things that they say. They are, after all, willing to kill themselves and lots of other people to make their point.

2/21/2011 05:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

It was because andrew anthony alleged that if a work of art represented a martyrdom video as containg material about Iraq, tht the work of art would be dishonest and effectively side with the bombers.

I didn't see the Andrew Anthony article, but if it said what you say it said then I would accept your criticism. I'm going out on a limb and suggesting he may have been more nuanced than you report, however. Moreover, I mentioned earlier that were one to make a drama about 7/7, for example, and include Khan's references to Iraq whilst glossing over his earlier radicalisation and excursions to the sub-continent for bomb-making lessons, then this would be not a little disingenuous.

I only watched bits of Britz and can't remember exactly what it did and didn't cover, but any drama that depicted homegrown suicide-bombers as well-grounded, moderate citizens until HMG embarked on conflict X at which point the protagonists become wannabe martyrs, would be using a rather large slice of dramatic licence and appear to be more interested in reflecting the fantastical, evidence-free theories of the writers. At which point, it's fair to at least quesiton why the terrorist template wasn't closer to what our recent history teaches us is a much more likely homegrown suicide-bomber profile.

2/21/2011 05:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

As the Pape book shows all the research on suicide bombers shows that they are not mentally ill. It also shows that the idea that they are brainwashed is also incorrect.

While largely true, this probably isn't true in Pakistan (lot of young kids, impoverished and brainwashed by the Western/Saudi financed Madrissas).

On the other hand, the suicide drivers of Hezbollah were no different in mentality/bravery/ideology than your typical special forces type.

2/21/2011 05:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

But when after years of sustained abuse certain women have killed their husbands it would seem obtuse to argue that the abuse wasn't a significant causal factor.

It's funny you should mention this. In the same vogue as the Friday night Ned who'll chin you for spilling his pint, there's the abusive husband who'll justfiy his assualts on his wife because she gives him lip. I'm sure we could prove that there's a correlation between instances of lippiness and broken jaws of battered women, in the same way that Iraq 'triggers' reprisals from homegrown suicide-murderers. But the problem isn't lippy women any more than it is Iraq.

2/21/2011 05:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Are the majority of people who point to the Khan and Tanweer videos and their utterances about Iraq merely asking us to process another data point? Doesn't seem that way to me a lot of the time. It feels very much more like: "See, if it hadn't been for Iraq this would never have happened. Blair/Bush have the blood of 52 Londoners on their hands, etc.".

The second last sentence doesn't imply the last. Unless somebody here has explicitly linked them, this point is invalid.

I'm sure several people here would argue that Blair has some responsibility for creating the situation that led to the bombing, but that's a much weaker argument.

Put a different way. Tory cuts will lead to conditions that will probably lead to more people being killed by spouses/parents/etc, and desperate people commiting suicide. And yes they should carry some of the responsibility for that.

2/21/2011 05:29:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Sure Cian. That's why I argued that you had to look at the specific social context of each attack. I doubt that many Palestinian or Lebanese suicide bombers were brainwashed but it's likely to be a different in somewhere like Pakistan.

2/21/2011 05:34:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Brownie I find that analogy rather distasteful. If you think that Muslims feeling angry about what Western foreign policy is like a wife-beating husband being angry about their wife 'giving them lip' then I am astounded.

Can you not see why a British Muslim might see for instance Blair's attempt to block a ceasefire whilst the IDF was laying waste to much of Southern Lebanon as deeply wrong?

2/21/2011 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Prior to Iraq we didn't have any suicide bombings. Shortly after Iraq we get a string of them. I dunno, Brownie's argument doesn't really seem to fit the actual events...

The argument that supporters of Palestinian suicide bombings would use is actually pretty similar to that used by us to justify bombing civilians in WWII, or for that matter the sanctions on Iraq. The difference between us (or our leaders) and theirs is not so great as we like to pretend.

And given that Israel has killed far more civilians than the PLO (very deliberately in S. Lebanon during the war, and equally so during the recent attacks on Gaza), I find the obsessive focus on the weaker side very interesting.

I don't think either side should attack civilians. But one side has the world's most sophisticated weapons, total air and sea superiority and is illegally occupying the land. The other side has some aging small arms and handmade rockets. Its strange how its only the latter that receives all the moral condemnation.

And no I doubt I'd strap explosives to myself, but then I also wouldn't drop a bomb on a house with kids in it either.

2/21/2011 05:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Unless somebody here has explicitly linked them, this point is invalid.

This is joke, right?

This is where these discussions inevitably lead. You don't recognise the version of in-Decency to which I'm referring, and I don't recognise the strain of Decency which you decry.

If you think that Muslims feeling angry about what Western foreign policy is like a wife-beating husband being angry about their wife 'giving them lip' then I am astounded.

Yeah, well I'm continually astounded that many people don't understand what the role of analogy is. What it isn't is a demand that you concede everything in comparator A is EXACTLY THE SAME as everything in comparator B.

I think that's me on this thread..

2/21/2011 06:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

And no I doubt I'd strap explosives to myself, but then I also wouldn't drop a bomb on a house with kids in it either.

But you're a pacifist, right? So as well as the above, you wouldn't drop a bomb on a house full of genocidal maniacs about to slaughter an entire camp of civilians, would you?

2/21/2011 06:08:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Yeah, well I'm continually astounded that many people don't understand what the role of analogy is. What it isn't is a demand that you concede everything in comparator A is EXACTLY THE SAME as everything in comparator B.

I didn't say that there were 'exactly the same' what I said there is no conceivable way in which I can see Muslims being angry at their co-religionists being slaughtered by Western troops as being in any way analogous to a wife-beater being angry at his wife giving him 'lip'.

2/21/2011 06:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Bubby, leaving aside the point that you didn't say what you say you said (there is no "in any way" in your first comment), the comparator with the abusive husband is not "Muslims angry about foreign policy", but Muslims committing mass-murder of random civilians. But even then, the point is not to compare relative malevolence, but rather the flimsiness of the excuses offered i.e. "Iraq made me do it" and "She answered me back".

And "Muslims being angry at their co-religionists being slaughtered by Western troops" is problematic in itself given only a knave peddles the notion that this is a war on Muslims, not to mention that most of the Muslim-slaughtering is happening at the hands of other co-religionists - the very people western troops are trying to defeat.

If 7/7 really is a logical (even by suicide-bomber standards) response to what's happening in Afghanistan and Iraq, then I'd expect to see similar and a greater number of operations against those actually responsible for the vast majority of spilt Muslim blood.

The issue is not that I fail to comprehend the rationale of the suicide-murderer, but rather their expressed motivations don't even make sense on their own terms.

I missed this first time aorund:


plus all of that husband's friends, tennis partners etc

My, the circles some people move in, Mr Rodent.

Love to Cassandra and Nigel!

2/21/2011 08:07:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Think the distribution list for General Melchitt's secret plan in Blackadder and you'll be closer to the truth.

2/21/2011 08:11:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Oh bollocks, Brownie. I don't know about you, but we do know that your co-bloggers at Harry's Place include a hedge fund trader (Michael) and a lawyer (David T), so please knock of the salt-of-the-earth chippiness. Well, unless you want a couple of ferrets down your trousers.

You seem to move in similar circles, so try to remember the old Jewish saying which goes something like, "If god lived in a glass house, people would break his windows."

2/21/2011 08:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

And there was I thinking I could get away with that one without a smiley face appended. I just didn't account for C Chap's finely tuned sense of grievance...I mean humour.

I'll get back to my 'Jim Davidson's Top 10 jokes about Great Ormond Street Hospital' cd.

2/21/2011 08:34:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

Has anyone claimed that terrorism is a "logical" reaction to the U.S./U.K.'s interventions? If they have they're wrong, of course: it's a ludicrous, lamentable reaction but one that nonetheless seems to be evident. I'll agree that this shouldn't dissuade one from an action that's both judicious and moral but if someone else has taken action that I feel was stupid, wrong and also dangerous I think they bear responsibility. Say a mate insisted that he show off his Travolta dance even as this leery drunk was stumbling past with a tray...

2/21/2011 09:57:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

And "Muslims being angry at their co-religionists being slaughtered by Western troops" is problematic in itself given only a knave peddles the notion that this is a war on Muslims, not to mention that most of the Muslim-slaughtering is happening at the hands of other co-religionists - the very people western troops are trying to defeat.

This is what I mean by your inability to imagine how others might see events. I know you see the Iraq War as a great moral crusade but can you not imagine others fail to view it in those terms. War especially big war as historically prosecuted by the US involves the massive use of firepower and inevitably leads to huge civilian casualties. I mean what do you think 'shock and awe' means? Even the most sympathetic statistics estimate that at least 30% of the killings have been committed by US/UK troops and even on the most conservative calculations that tens of thousands of people. That's before we even attribute blame for the casualties created by the power vacuum left by the botched aftermath for which we bear a great deal of responsibility also. Its very convenient to just say 'oh its all the fault of the jihadists, nothing to do with us guv' but I'm not sure that anyone outside your dwindling band of true believers really sees it that way.

2/21/2011 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger AndyB said...

"Say a mate insisted that he show off his Travolta dance even as this leery drunk was stumbling past with a tray..."

If you think that Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Negroponte were showing off their Travolta dance... That would suggest that the course of action - which involved the foreseeable the destruction of hundreds of thousands of human beings and the tremendous enrichment of their mates - was taken with the best of [misguided] intentions.

That might do for Blair, at a push, if we want to cast him as a pathetic idiot capable of seeing human spirit in the butchers of Central America.

But the lot that actually planned and prosecuted the wars... I'd day they were running round the place spilling drinks in everyone's face, safe in the knowledge that everyone knew they were the hardest men in town.

2/22/2011 12:42:00 AM  
Blogger AndyB said...

By the way Brownie, is your analysis of why some people commit great violence symmetrically applicable?

I mean, does it apply to those who say, 'terrorism (committed by a bunch of Saudis) made me do it' when they explain why they made the decision to obliterate hundreds of thousands of people? Do you say that you can't take those accounts at face value, especially, if, grouped together as Western state leaders (as you have grouped Muslim terrorists, so that when one says 'Iraq' it can't be true because another said 'sluts' and a third said 'Jews'), they've got a history of butchering brown, poor, foreigners in immense numbers. I mean, using your logic, we needn't point out the those responsible for mass deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan were the VERY SAME people responsible for mass deaths in El Salvador, Nicaragua, etc., the very fact that they're in the same group as those who organised the pulverising of Vietnam and Cambodia, etc. etc. would do.

Or is this one of the cases where Universalism breaks down?

2/22/2011 12:51:00 AM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

If you think that Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Negroponte were showing off their Travolta dance... That would suggest that the course of action - which involved the foreseeable the destruction of hundreds of thousands of human beings and the tremendous enrichment of their mates - was taken with the best of [misguided] intentions.

It wasn't a parallel (I don't believe they fought with good intentions) but a case where you might hold someone responsible for bringing on another's illegitimate reaction.

2/22/2011 12:57:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

No-one with any claim to being taken seriously thinks there is (a) a unitary group of bombers, (b) whose motivation is to be placed into one of the categories: religious mania, brainwashing, response to the Iraq War, hatred of The Jews, etc.

And they especially don't vacillate between positions that fall under (b), while insisting everyone else must pick one and sit in it.

To select one item from the horrid mess Brownie has made on this thread, the drunken brawler analogy is quite misconceived, since the big thing about drunken brawlers is they don't expect to suffer any consequences for their actions, oh yeah, and the kind who pick on some for spilling pint (rather than adjourning to the car park with a like-minded bruiser for a punch up) don't make preparations for their recreational violence.

A better comparator for not-directly-politically-motivated but-organised and lethal violence by young men (concerning which Brownie's ridiculous aetiology seems to hit bedrock with brainwashing, instrinsic sociopathy, etc, none of this lefty bullshit about social determinants of violence for him) would be the knuckleheads in the IDF and US forces, who seem happy enough killing civilians en masse.

(And btw I do think there is a point examining the political asprations of members of the EDL, the more so the closer you get to the top, and especially at the very top.)

Let's suppose we want to undertake an analysis of recent instances of Terror, i.e. the thing our latest permanent and diffuse state of war is supposed to be a response to. Among the disparate phenomena we would want to examine, along with the desperately depraved missions carried about by the 2nd and 3rd generation brutalisees of Palestine, would be all the failed, foiled and forestalled plots that we keep hearing about, and which swell the number of Terror events considerably.

And if we wanted to be responsive to reality instead of playing silly parlour games, we would have to try to take into account the part played by deliberate provocation of, and indeed participation in, various events by Western 'security' services (and semi-Western ones like the Pak. ISI).

Oh yeah, and this bit of unreconstructed Aaronovitzianism:

Sometimes the simplest, most obvious explanations are the correct ones.

Is Tardis-like in its capacity for error.

1. 'sometimes' is here used, if to do anything anything, then to infer 'in this case'.

2. 'simplest, most obvious' involves either a dual maximand, or a false equivalence

3.obviousness is obviously not an objective test of a hypothesis

4. simplicity is simply not a usable test of a hypothesis

5. before you provide an explanation, it's comnsidered good manners to define what the explanandum is. Here is a template: 'I am going to explain why [insert proposition 1] rather than [insert proposition 2]'.

6 The definite article is out of place in 'the correct explanation' - even in a deterministic system of discrete events (and we are here talking about what is epistemically speaking a stochastic setup, involving fuzzy events) there are multiple correct explanations, of differing levels of generality and scope.

To pick out another bit of verbiage:

only a knave peddles the notion that this [sic] is a war on Muslims

whatever this was supposed to establish, it's worth pointing out that while it's untrue, the syllogistically-challenged might well draw that conclusion, given that those prosecuting the 'war' are knaves and do exactly that, backing it up by their actions.

Ach, what am I doing? At least Aaro had a certain plausibility about his bullshit that made deconstructing it somewhat satisfying. This is like scraping dead fish off the bottom of a barrel.

2/22/2011 03:57:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

But you're a pacifist, right? So as well as the above, you wouldn't drop a bomb on a house full of genocidal maniacs about to slaughter an entire camp of civilians, would you?

No, but that wouldn't mean I wouldn't do everything possible to stop them in this contrived and implausible situation (is this a house filled with supermen? Or just an extraordinarily big house that can fit a small small army in it).

The problem with violence is that innocent people get killed, and that it leads to revenge, instability and spill over effects. The idea of clean, surgical violence is a myth. Violence can succeed if its horrific enough, but the level of violence needs to be at the level of the Hama massacre against an opposition who aren't culturally warlike (so it won't work against Checheans, or Pashtun), where the survivors have something to lose.


This is joke, right?


Why would it be a joke. You made a leap of logic to infer that "the majority of people who point to the Khan and Tanweer videos and their utterances about Iraq merely asking us to process another data point?" are arguing that "Blair/Bush have the blood of 52 Londoners on their hands, etc."

Can you back this accusation up, or is this just a "feeling".

"You don't recognise the version of in-Decency to which I'm referring, and I don't recognise the strain of Decency which you decry."

This version of in-Decency that you refer to seems to be largely a product of your imagination. This version of Decency that we decry is precisely that: the condemnation of people for crimes committed within your imagination.

2/22/2011 11:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

Has anyone claimed that terrorism is a "logical" reaction to the U.S./U.K.'s interventions?

If nobody has, they should. Once you invade a country you can expect resistance, resistance includes "terrorism" and it's not a far cry from attacking a country's soldiers to its civilians. There's no difference between suicide bombing and air bombardments other than that the suicide bomber gets killed as well, while a bomber pilot is safely above the carnage he creates.

Why shouldn't the civilians of London suffer like the civilians of Baghdad? Why are the dead in London innocent victims of evil men but the victims in Baghdad just collatoral damage?

Had the UK not been involved in the wars in afghanistan and Iraq, the 7/7 bombings would not have happened. Everybody who thinks otherwise is a fool or a knave.

2/23/2011 09:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

This version of in-Decency that you refer to seems to be largely a product of your imagination.

Then up pops Martin.

2/23/2011 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

I am not a double effect scholar - indeed I'm not especially interested in the topic and have only been researching it for about 6 - albeit pretty intensive - weeks.

But I'd say I'm in a substantially better position (600-10,000% better, to quote some almost meaningless numbers) to comment on double effect than Brownie. Frankly, and in the nicest way possible - which is still not hugely nice, admittedly - he is a bullshit merchant (though largely kind-of-sincere, I imagine) whose remarks might be acceptable as contribs of his own opinion to a collaborative discussion - like many remarks here - but are almost entirely worthless as any kind of adversarial or persuasive argument, which is how they are presented.

And I'm with Martin W to the extent that I agree that there is no reason to accept the main justification (double effect) generally given for ethically privileging 'collateral damage' over 'terror' (for swarthy types)/'psyops' (for grey soldiers)/'forcing surrender by the least damaging means available' (for Truman).

Among philosophers who are familiar with the state of the art, I'd say support for double effect is a minority position, and losing ground fast - and that does mean something, because double effect is exactly the kind of rinky-dink self-contained principle that is amenable to being picked apart by philosophers.

Actual instances of either kind of civilian killing are vanishingly infrequently justified on ordinary proportionality grounds, unrelated to double effect. Even when we are not counting cases in which the official justification misrepresents the real motivation (see, e.g., Truman).

And of course trrr bombing may well be a 'logical response' to invasion, without being justifiable, and may be a predictable consequence of an assault without being either.

Various security sources IIRC said it was somewhat predictable, i.e. more likely; everyone worth bothering with can agree that it can be a rational strategy; and Martin (and I, and rather a loty of others who have thought about it quite hard) say remote bombardment is not less wrong than hands-on killing; the only issue left (pausing to note that btw plenty of people have backed terror bombings in Dresden, Hiroshima etc) is the distinction between terror bombing and voluntary choice to bomb civilians as a 'side-effect', which is generally considered to be the province of double effect.

And a predictable consequence of action may not be such as to attract blame to the agent, but that depends on a lot of things - with how much certainty it was predictable, what the alternatives were, whether a moral novus actus interveniens principle applies, whether it is in fact predicted and if not whether any blame attaches to the failure to predict, whether that blame carries over to the ill-informed action itself, etc.

I myself am not convinced that the presupposition(!) of the 7/7 inquest is accurate or that the prima facie case for additional input to those events, of unknown origin and extent, has been adeuqately met, so the issue of whther Blair has blood on his gore-sodden hands for that one is particularly moot in my own case.

But I'd still agree that Had the UK not been involved in the wars in afghanistan and Iraq, the 7/7 bombings would not have happened. is pretty plausible - and remains so over quite a wide range of methods for evaluating counterfactuals.

Or if it would be more acceptable to Brownie, I could offer some sniggery little quip that almost escapes being wrong through sheer vapidity.

2/23/2011 01:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

But I'd say I'm in a substantially better position (600-10,000% better, to quote some almost meaningless numbers) to comment on double effect than Brownie.

As a statement of fact this may very well be true, but it implicitly suggests I've offered a comment on the subject of double effect. I have not.

We've only exchanged comments a handful of times, but I already detect a pattern, Tim. I find these discussions can be so much more fruitful if interlocutors eschew the temptation to simply imagine what each other is saying.

To clarify my last comment, this was addressed to Cian and Bubby albeit it immediately followed Martin. The point is that Bubby and Cian seemed to doubt the existence of a particular strain of inDecent thought, so I thought I'd highlight a comment that so clearly exemplified it.

If more evidence of this (failure of) reasoning is required, see John Pilger's "Blair's Bombs" article a week after 7/7, one of several Guardian (and indeed Telegraph) leaders in the days immediately following the atrocity, or a recording of the Question Time special which I attended. Boy, were there some inDecents in the audience that night!

Frankly...[Brownie] is a bullshit merchant...whose remarks might be acceptable as contribs of his own opinion to a collaborative discussion - like many remarks here - but are almost entirely worthless as any kind of adversarial or persuasive argument, which is how they are presented.

What in the name of jumping Jesus Christ is this supposed to mean? How does one meaningfully contribute to a discussion in a forum like this without offering an argument, or staking out a position and defending it? By posting links all day long? Perhaps you can highlight how my contributions substantively differ in form – given form is what you’re specifically criticising rather than persuasiveness or lack thereof - to those of Bubby, Cian, Chardonay Chap, OG and whoever else has contributed on this thread? Some specifics would be nice.

Actually, they wouldn’t, as I have to say I find this sort of thing interminably tedious, rather like your earlier deconstruction of Occam’s Razor as if I’d just pulled the concept out of my arse and it didn’t enjoy broad acceptance as a perfectly logical, if debatable, proposition. I’d rather draw a rabbit on my scrotum and lie under an osprey’s nest than engage with this tripe.

Or if it would be more acceptable to Brownie, I could offer some sniggery little quip that almost escapes being wrong through sheer vapidity.

If you can pull off sniggery as well as you do pompous and supercilious, then I look forward to it even more than I do my dinner invitation from Lucretia Borgia.

2/23/2011 06:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Rosie said...

Has anyone claimed that terrorism is a "logical" reaction to the U.S./U.K.'s interventions?

People often say “logical” when they mean “reasonable”. But here’s a significant writer at The Guardian saying something like that:-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/06/capitalism-multiculturalism-cameron-flawed-analysis

Pinning these long-term trends to questions of Muslim integration has been a cruel and deceitful sleight of hand of politicians on both sides of the spectrum. It has ensured two things: first the key questions of racism and inequality – which drive segregation – are ignored. Second, it dodges the political rationale for extremist violence as a critique of UK foreign policy.

That’s Saint Madeleine Bunting of course. Extremist violence as a “critique” of UK foreign policy. I suppose the drunken thug that has been haunting this thread - the one you don’t annoy for fear of reprisals - is offering a “critique” of your behaviour when he kicks your head in for looking at his pint the wrong way.

2/23/2011 06:51:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

I detect a pattern too, Brownie. you don't respond to my commments unless they include an ill-considered response to your trolling, which you can latch onto, Dershowitz style, and get the subject off the actual ishoos. Like this last one which is all solely about who said what, etc. Sod that for a lark.

2/24/2011 05:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Tim,

A quick perusal of this thread demonstrates that I'm more than prepapred to have a civil discussion with anyone who is willing to reciprocate.

2/24/2011 11:35:00 PM  
Blogger Sangiovese Fellow said...

If I can make a ludicrously late response to Kevin Donoghue and Belle le Triste on the Orwell, "1984" and O’Brien issue, there is in my view a more plausible reading of the name and character that has tangential reference to Decency. Jeffrey Meyers’ 2000 biography of Orwell states that he chose the name O’Brien partly “to suggest the absolute power of the Catholic church”, and this claim would be in keeping with the extensive parallel that Orwell drew between the character traits of Catholic and communist intellectuals in “The Road to Wigan Pier”, especially considering the confessor-type role that O’Brien plays in the novel. However, whilst that might explain the use of the Irish prefix, it doesn’t tell us why the name “O’Brien” was chosen rather than O’Leary, O’Driscoll or the various other options, and as Kevin says, the link to Conor Cruise O’Brien is pretty loosely circumstantial. A major influence on “1984”, however, was the work of James Burnham, a US philosophy professor whose 1941 book “The Managerial Revolution” predicted a world broken up into 3 super-states, with Nazism victorious over Britain and Russia, Japan dominant in the Pacific and the USA controlling the Americas, with each super-state under the command of an elite of authoritarian technocrats who divide the world amongst themselves while making endless war upon one another, and keep their working classes permanently in subjection – the shape of world given in “1984”. Orwell was struck by the sharpness of Burnham’s perception in relation to the historical tendency towards the growth of superstates but was deeply suspicious of Burnham’s attitude to politics, which he regarded as typifying the corrupt tendency to power-worship amongst intellectuals. The two men clashed sharply in the pages of “Tribune” in 1944, an exchange in which Orwell quoted Burnham’s own earlier words to demonstrate that Burnham was attempting to rewrite his prophecies after they had been falsified; two book reviews and two essays on Burnham’s work followed from Orwell’s pen between 1945 and 1947. Now, given that Orwell linked the characters of Catholic and communist intellectuals, that Burnham was a former Stalinist who was traveling rightwards without abandoning his authoritarianism, that the character of O’Brien destroys some of the evidence of the Party’s re-writing of history when interrogating Winston in Room 101 and that Orwell saw Burnham’s work as symptomatic of the wider intellectual malaise, isn’t it most likely that the name “O’Brien” was derived by yoking together the Irish Catholic prefix with the closest available suffix to “Burnham”? It seems the most plausible explanation to me (and indeed I’ve suggested as much in published work elsewhere). Finally, the link to Decency is given by Burnham’s subsequent career. Moving from the authoritarian left to the authoritarian right, Burnham trod a path almost identical to that of many contemporary neoconservatives, but minus the Israel fixation: he became a postwar supporter of William Buckley and one of the intellectual fathers of McCarthyism, finally receiving the award of the Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1987 – a choice of award that I can’t help but find hideously ironic. In short, the same Decents who try to claim Orwell’s mantle are allied with neoconservatives whose political trajectories mirror that of the man whom Orwell saw as an incarnation of intellectual corruption. Rum old world, eh?

2/27/2011 06:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

They happened even though Lord Halifax said they happened. The raping and butchering in Chinese cities, the tortures in the cellars of the Gestapo, the elderly Jewish professors flung into cesspools, the machine-gunning of refugees along the Spanish roads — they all happened, and they did not happen any the less because the DAILY TELEGRAPH has suddenly found out about them when it is five years too late.

Decents are no more "allied" with Neocons than Orwell was with Halifax and the Daily Telegraph.

3/01/2011 11:36:00 AM  

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