Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Is this the same Nick Cohen?

A quickie, essentially reposting a comment I made on Nick's Spectator blog.

Tory MPs do not share platforms with BNP supporters, but Labour MPs associate [with] George Galloway, the SWP and the Muslim Brotherhood.


Is this the same Nick Cohen?

42 Comments:

Blogger ejh said...

The real point though is not Cohen's inconsistency, it's that the claim he's making is a disgusting one.

3/29/2011 11:13:00 AM  
Anonymous darkhorse steak with bernaise sauce said...

"The folly of ignoring or indulging the far left becomes apparent as soon as you realise that the similarities between the SWP and the BNP are more important than the differences"

Presumably 'as soon as you realise' this blinding revelation, you then become a slightly unhinged ex-lefty shrieking at your former fellows and cheer-leading illegal wars even after unimaginable carnage has occurred.

If you don't like the SWPers, don't carry their banners, that's how I cope with them on marches.

Bizarrely, one traditional attribute of the left that Nick can't let go of is the eternal factional infighting and nitpicking against groups that don't adhere to his own ideological impurity.

Like the most important thing in the world today is that George Galloway and the SWP are allowed on a march. Give me strength.

3/29/2011 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger AndyB said...

I thought that the Decents were against drawing moral equivalencies of this kind?

3/30/2011 07:13:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

i love the Cohen confusion on this issue. He can't actually hate on the march, so he just writes really negative stuff about it and pretends he's doing his lefty bit. ditto most decents.

I love this bit:

But they had not warned in advance that yobs would not be welcome on the march because neither is ready for a full confrontation with the fanatics.

I was on the march and ended up surrounded by the 'black bloc' at one point (and so retreated to a pub full of firemen). The black bloc aren't yobs, but equally they aren't people you can reason with; if the TUC had specifically said 'you're not wanted', they still would have attended, and there might well have been a TUC vs Black Bloc riot. Is that genuinely what Cohen wants? I don't think it's what the TUC or its members wants...

saying that, I'm pretty frustrated that uk uncut decided to deviate from the march and start occupying things, even if peacefully. get your own march. easy copy for journos, and the targets weren't all that well-chosen.

3/31/2011 07:48:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

I would think UK uncut would be pretty bad tacticians if they hadn't taken advantage of the police having other duties.
I saw people in FBU jackets in several parts of the West End. How do we know they aren't anarchists?
Nice of the yobs to organise their activities separately from the march.

3/31/2011 08:50:00 AM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

It has to be said that the meeja were going to report any "misbehaviour" in preference to the march no matter what was planned or happened.

You only had to look at the TV shots showing the scrum of photographers following the black bloc.

3/31/2011 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger James Doleman said...

Can't find a link to it but I'm pretty sure Cohen himself as debated at the SWP's annual "Marxism" event in London.

4/01/2011 02:39:00 PM  
Blogger James Doleman said...

Here we go, not a link to the event but Nick mentioning it.

http://www.workersliberty.org/node/8832

4/01/2011 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Yes, he has (I was there), in 2001, I think. If memory serves, it was a debate about the propriety of having no-platform policies for fascists.

4/01/2011 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger James Doleman said...

I assume Nick was against No Platform for fascists back then, now he is for no platform for Trots.

4/01/2011 04:23:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Claud Cockburn's comment here is pretty definitive. Or put another way: if the left are practically fascists and the friends of fascists, how come Nick didn't notice at all until he was in favour of the Iraq disaster and they were not?

4/02/2011 10:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's fascinating the way in which Cohen (Observer, 3rd April) tries to turn the blame for the LSE/Libya fiasco away from Blair (who was involved) and onto unnamed Leftists who were not involved. Spin-doctoring at its best.

Guano

4/03/2011 11:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Doug said...

For people who start out as Leftists but end up as imperialist cheerleaders and defenders of poor little Israel, is there a correlation between their political trajectories and the increasing amount of alcohol imbibed (with the inevitable effects on the faculties)? Cohen, Hitchens, Denham. Any more? I'm glad I don't live near any of them - I would expect to be the subject of a hysterical rant in a supermarket if I just happened to choose Spanish rather than Jaffa oranges.

4/03/2011 01:44:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

It's fascinating the way in which Cohen (Observer, 3rd April) tries to turn the blame for the LSE/Libya fiasco away from Blair (who was involved) and onto unnamed Leftists who were not involved.

What's best - at least for me - about that piece is the sense you get that his editors insisted that he put in at least a line or two about Blair. just that tiny bit undoes what little logic there was in the piece for starters, and leaves Cohen looking like a total fool. i mean he claims Gadaffi was 'neutralized' by Blair ffs.

It's very clear, from that, that as a result of his burning his bridges with any lefties he knows, he's been forced into a corner of slavishly adhering to the Blairism he once so effectively decried. it's pretty sad really.

is there a correlation between their political trajectories and the increasing amount of alcohol imbibed (with the inevitable effects on the faculties)

i think that aarowatch policy is not to discuss hypotheticals of alcohol abuse etc, with no clear evidence. And Hitchens, for whom there IS clear evidence, has always been a really heavy drinker.

On the subject of 'the hitch', anyone here managed to read Hitch-22? I read the very extensive extracts in the sunday tgimes, but the hagiographic tittering at how much of a 'genius' / sexist dickhead Martin Amis is/was in the extracts I read seems completely at odds with the near-universally good reviews. and even if you could stand his fawning, the writing itself was really crap.

4/04/2011 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Can't say that I read Hitch-22. I've read quite a few of Hitchens' books, but somehow that one doesn't appeal.

That said, his Slate article on how the Iraqi foreign minister was able to support bombing Libya, and that this proves that occupying Iraq was awesome, or something, was quite alarming. It really made no sense at all.

I feel quite shitty saying this, but I know he's very ill and I wonder how much that affected his writing: quite a lot, I suspect.

4/04/2011 08:58:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I dunno - the logic was always pretty faulty in his post-2003 pieces. i hadn't seen that piece, mind you, and it is just rubbish - but then again, if you start from such a fixed ideological position, you'll always end up with the same conclusion.

on his illness, though - one of the things I've always found toe-curling about him and his mates is the way in which they have consistently worn their clearly debilitating addictions to booze and nicotine as badges of honour.

4/04/2011 09:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

on his illness, though - one of the things I've always found toe-curling about him and his mates is the way in which they have consistently worn their clearly debilitating addictions to booze and nicotine as badges of honour.

It's a funny thing, perception. From where I've been sitting this last decade or so, Hitchens' detractors have nary penned a comment where they don't allude to his supposed (and as it happens ficitonal) drink addiciton; thiss being quite different from your suggestion that he and his supporters have celebrated his booze addiction which, as I've already mentioned, doesn't actually exist.

4/04/2011 02:56:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

thanks for saying it doesn't exist.

now that you've said that, despite his mates frequently celebrating their constant drinking in print, I'm completely convinced that Hitchens doesn't have a problem with booze at all.

4/04/2011 03:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

now that you've said that, despite his mates frequently celebrating their constant drinking in print, I'm completely convinced that Hitchens doesn't have a problem with booze at all.

Could you give me one example of his mates celebrating their "constant" drinking"? I think you're probably confusing a memory of having read one or two anecdotes that include references to a heavy session with "frequently celebrating"..."constant drinking". In fact, I'm sure of it.

On the other hand, finding a substantive comment from a detractor who includes a mention of Hitchens' supposed alcoholism is much eaier. There's you, on this thread, for instance.

4/04/2011 03:40:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I refer you to his and his mates' discussions of their time at the Staggers. including the parts of Hitch 22 I've read. and pretty much every interview with Amis which mentions booze, ever. I met Amis late last year and he looks truly awful for his age.

i hope Hitch is not an alcoholic. i hope amis isn't too. but everything I've read points towards, rather than away, from that idea.

If hitch definitely isn't, that's fine, but so far you've not really explained how you know for certain.

4/04/2011 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

AaroWatch has had a reasonably consistent view on the booze question, which is that we don't have an opinion as to whether Hitchens or Cohen have a problem with alcohol (we neither know nor care about anyone called Denham, I'm afraid) except to note that (i) if they do have problems, then we don't think this is an appropriate topic for criticism or mockery; rather, we think that anybody affected with severe alcohol-related problems should get the professional help they need; and that (ii) neither Hitchens nor Cohen seems to have problems submitting their work on time to the various publications for which they write, nor generally to have significant difficulties meeting their major professional obligations, all of which seems to us rather to count against the view that they are generally debilitated by alcohol.

I'll just add (as the Couscous Kid -- not ascribing these views to other members of the collective) that while Hitchens' political writing of the last decade seems to me to be pretty dreadful, the quality of his literary journalism seems to me to have held up rather well (see, for example, much of the material collected in Unacknowledged Legislation; so my view is that the lousy political writing is explained by the lousy politics, and not by anything else, and, specifically, not by the booze.

4/04/2011 03:52:00 PM  
Anonymous bensix said...

I neither know nor care about Amis or Hitchens' drinking but they clearly fancy themselves when they're puffing on a fag. Either that or they don't know what to do with their hands in photos.

4/04/2011 04:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Nick Cohen, 1999:

After ranting on for some time about a piece I'd written, [Geoff] Mulgan declaimed: "You know what. We hate you people at The Observer. You're so fashionable. You're so cynical." I felt the need to steady my nerves with the largest of unwatered whiskies and made a mental note to point out to Madame Cohen that my bedraggled clothes were, according to Her Majesty's Government, all the rage. I replied in the gentlest tones I could manage that it was a little rich to hear the word 'cynic' fall from the lips of a party that changed its principles every five minutes and had its policies blown about by every focus group it could muster.

Why bring in the whisky? Why bring in "the largest of unwatered whiskies"? It's sub-Hemingway he-man boozer chic - but it also conveys the message that Nick Cohen drinks rather a lot. Presumably the style part was what he was going for, but you can't really blame his readers for picking up on the content.

4/04/2011 04:24:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I'm commented before that if someone were writing a biography of Hitchens (or indeed Cohen) they would find it unavoidable to discuss the question of alcohol consumption. I've also commented before that there is no need for us to draw conclusions on the subject here since we don't have access to enough accurate information to draw conclusions, even if it were appropriate for us to do so.

I don't think Hitchens has been writing intellectually coherently for quite some years now. It is possible to find other reasons that alcohol for this.

If anybody wants a couple of heavy drinkers, by the way, have they seen Charles and Camilla recently?

4/04/2011 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I don't think I share Phil's conclusion that Nick was really saying that he drinks quite a lot with the unwatered whisky bit, but I'm very impressed that he found that old piece. Comparing that to his latest offering in the Observer is very much on topic. The styles are similar, but I find the Nick of 1999 to be a much better writer. He had the same righteous anger, but he was much more playful. I like the way 'vagina' is slipped in, almost gratuitously.

However, it's this bit which I think is closer to drinking braggadocio:

Labour types were well-meaning and decent. Something in their faces told you they were members of the human race whom you wouldn’t mind joining for a drink when it was late, you were tired and every gene in your body told you to go home and call it a day.

I'm not happy with the word 'gene' there, but Nick may have been tired, bless him. Partly it recalls this comment on Comment is free (it's the first one, if the link doesn't work):

At the time, most nights in the Lord High Admiral on the Vauxhall Bridge Road, Campbell's alcoholism was evident but in the surroundings wasn't unusual and was tolerated, perhaps even more than tolerated. With greater experience from life now I can see how much he was depressed as well but unless you know what you're looking for you don't really see it.

Perhaps wrongly, I read the Nick comment as intended with a sort of wink to the reader, as if saying, "If Fred West and Peter Sutcliffe knocked on my office door at five to five, and suggested a half of Shandy, I'd show Linford Christie how to get out of the blocks! but *even I* won't go for a pint with Mulgan and Straw." But I could be projecting furiously here. It's been known.

Re Hitchens and Justin's comment. I find Hitchens much more convincing when I agree with him (on atheism, mostly) - surprise! But I think some of that is that, where he's stuck to the arguments he had when he was good at arguing, he's still got it. It's new arguments he can't do. Whether that's an age thing, or a drink thing, or again something I've just made up, I can't say.

4/04/2011 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Actually, 'vagina' wasn't quite as gratuitous or playful as I suggested. Nice to see that he had Bea Campbell's number at the time. He was really incredibly right about New Labour too. It's a great shame that he casts similar aspersions as Mulgan over NuLab's detractors now. The 'fashionable' one if not the 'cynical' one.

4/04/2011 06:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

I refer you to his and his mates' discussions of their time at the Staggers.

You mean a bunch of 20-something journos larging it a bit? Unheard of.

I find Hitchens much more convincing when I agree with him (on atheism, mostly) - surprise! But I think some of that is that, where he's stuck to the arguments he had when he was good at arguing, he's still got it. It's new arguments he can't do. Whether that's an age thing, or a drink thing, or again something I've just made up, I can't say.

Have you noticed any correlation in the incidence of your failure to agree with the points he is making and what I'm sure is your competley objective assessment of the literary worth of such pieces?

4/04/2011 06:40:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Is there any element of projection in that last comment?

4/04/2011 07:42:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Brownie, the answer to the question you ask is obviously Yes, and it's right there in the very words of CC's comment that you quote...

4/04/2011 07:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Is there any element of projection in that last comment?

Almost certainly.

4/04/2011 08:39:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

For what it's worth, I think that Hitchens' post-9/11 writing and thinking has been very badly scarred by themes of score-settling and denunciation. I also think he's displayed a high level of pomposity. He was always fond of himself but for my money he used to handle it quite well, but it's degenerated into an enormous sense of self-importance.

I don't think this is particularly unusual for the high-profile renegade from the left (visitors to the Cedar Lounge Revolution will be regularly entertained by similar performances from one Senator Eoghan Harris). It's a combination of a conviction that one has a Mission to expose one's former comrades combined with a belief that one is displaying great courage and principle in doing so.

For me, Cockburn (as cited above) pricked this particularly pompous balloon a very long time ago. I'd add that people who make it their business to do this sort of thing almost always display most of the traits they would like to believe they are exposing in others. They're also, almost inevitably, professional-standard bores. (I've made this crack before, but it's very much as if somebody accosted you in a bar and said "sit yourself down, buddy, and I'll spend a couple of hours telling you about my ex-wife".)

Nothing wrong with changing your opinions, mind you, or even reversing your opinion on any given subject. But I would have thought that with any change of mind should come increasing uncertainty, or at least awareness and acknowledgement of uncertainty. And I would also have thought that you need to extend a large degree of generosity to people whose crime is agreeing with propositions that you yourself only recently agreed with. In practice, this very rarely happens - instead of acquiring qualities such as caution, self-awareness and thoughtfulness, people demonstrate an absence of same, an increase in pomposity and in other respects display the very intolerance and absence of intellectual generosity that they denounce in their former friends.

Which is sad, in a number of ways and for a number of reasons, but not least because they ought, really, to have all sorts of interesting things to say. If only they were interested in saying them.

4/04/2011 08:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

I wouldn't disagree with the pomposity suggestion or that a greater degree of generosity could be affored erstwhile intellectual allies, although I'd offer the mitigation that some of those allies were less than shy about denouncing Hitchens in the strongest terms for his supposed "betrayal"; an accisation Hitchens of course rejects, inssiting as he does that he remains true to his natural liberal-left disposition.

There's more. Hithcens' and his opinions may not be short of allies in Washington, but it's at least arguable that his take on things is somewhat under-represented on the left. I live in a Tory-stornghold and growing up my mates insisted I was overly-argumentative in that every pub dicussion about politics inevitably involved me. But it would, wouldn't it, in that the Tory view was evenly distributed amongst half a dozen friends and on the other side was, um, me. I get a sense Hitchens feels a little like this and perhaps he even fears that this is an argument he is losing with the bulk of the left and that this distrsses him more than anything else. Hence the certitude.

If nothing else, for those of us sharing the majority of his opinions he is a more than adequate bulwark against the propagators of the more insiduous left narratives enjoying unwarranted popularity in the post-9/11 west.

4/04/2011 09:13:00 PM  
Anonymous bensix said...

To what extent is Hitchens a leftist? I don't mean that in a "counter-revolutionary Shachtmanite vermin"-type way, I'm just not sure I've seen him write about or mention class in yonks...

4/04/2011 10:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

I'm just not sure I've seen him write about or mention class in yonks

That's coz he's a Yank now, init?

4/04/2011 10:40:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

he is a more than adequate bulwark against the propagators of the more insiduous left narratives enjoying unwarranted popularity in the post-9/11 west.

No

4/05/2011 05:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Do you mean that he is an inadequate bulwark, or that there are no insidious left narratives that require a bulwark?

4/05/2011 06:49:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Are we still playing that game where the first person to say 'narratives' loses?

4/05/2011 07:33:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

Having left my narratives on the bus, I now require a bulwark.

4/05/2011 08:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

It could've been worse. I nearly used 'paradigm'.

4/05/2011 08:42:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Nowt wrong with 'paradigm', my lad. (NB I have read Thomas Kuhn.)

If nothing else, for those of us sharing the majority of his opinions he is a more than adequate bulwark against the propagators of the more insiduous left narratives enjoying unwarranted popularity in the post-9/11 west.

Brownie, could you explain this? To be specific:

a) what are "the more insiduous left narratives"?

b) How do these differ from narratives (you've got me at it now) concerning the ME pre-9/11?

c) Should he be a bulwark against the propagators or the narratives themselves?

d) Who are these propagators? (I assume I'm one, but I would like to know where I've been so.)

e) How is he a bulwark? You seem to be claiming that he is effective, but you're also claiming (I think) that these narratives are everywhere, which would suggest that he isn't.

This is sort of my main point. In 1999, Nick was a lucid writer with specific targets. You can see what he's got against Straw, Mulgan, and Campbell. More recently, he's moved to being against unnamed 'leftists' for not-very-well-defined examples of ungoodthink.

Second thoughts on Hitchens. Perhaps as I suggested before, he was a good writer once, and when he revisits his old hits (Kissinger, Mother Teresa) some of the old magic comes back, it's just that the new material isn't as good. Happened to Paul McCartney when he was a lot younger than Hitchens. Or perhaps what he was good at was iconoclasm. He's totally unpersuasive (to me) when he tried to support TWAT. We've been here before but that Slate piece still makes me boil.

4/05/2011 11:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Rosie said...

As to Hitchens's writing falling off since 2003, Hitch-22 contained some brilliant writing about his parents, as well as some bloody irritating stuff about his mates. His writings about his cancer are pretty amazing as well.

Hitchens has missed one Slate column because of his illness. So he isn't doing too bad. He does seem to have had a robust constitution so could drink five times as much as most people.

Loads of English writers have been hard drinkers. Martin Amis has an essay about being drunk under the table by Anthony Burgess, taking two days to recover, whereas Burgess went back to work and composed an opera, a sonnet sequence and a short novel.

4/05/2011 08:35:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

And you thought Ian Botham was impressive.

I think people do, generally, wite well about their parents.

4/06/2011 05:12:00 PM  

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