(incorporating "World of Decency")
posted by Chardonnay Chap at 5/16/2011 09:01:00 PM
he's been in the wars recently eh. poor bloke - hope it goes well.
Indeed. Did anyone else listen to the Moral Maze yesterday? (This was presented by DA which is why I bring it up here.) I didn't catch all of it, but I thought the level of questioning was unusually low - Melanie Phillips, for example, however objectionable her pieces for the Speccie often are, is usually logical, at least, on this programme, but she seemed incapable of taking on board any nuances at all yesterday - and was incredibly rude.
I didn't: was that a repeat of the one with Douglas Murray? There's a good piece by Keenan Malik about that one (or how KM learned to stop worrying and embrace multiculturalism because the other side are ineffable wankers).I wonder how DA and Mad Mel get on. I was reminded yesterday by John Rentoul that she's a conspiracy theorist (I think about David Kelly), and according to JR,she's one of the people Dave's invited to debate on CTs. He could ask her after the show ;-)
Melanie Phillips.... is usually logical, at leastCan this possibly be true?
No,it was about slut walking. I reviewed that Moral Maze about multiculturalism at the time though - it was a good episode! 'Who is this ghastly man' asked my distressed husband when Murray came on. http://hurryupharry.org/2011/02/10/multiculturalism-the-moral-maze/Chris - she's generally much better on the MM than in print.
I can imagine that Mad Mel is against slut walking. I mean, never mind what it's about, it has a borderline dirty word in the name. Let's hope she never has to go to Scunthorpe.I hate the Moral Maze. I listened to it in its early years, but now can't stand it. I know R4 is supposed to provide highbrow conversation, but the MM does its best to convince one that discussing the weather or whether Lady Gaga is really a man are the only gambits which should be allowed in civilised company.
It's much easier to get away with bonkers stuff in print than in a live discussion where people can imediately call you out on it - Mel does tend to come across as relatively sane on MM, Question Time etc.This doesn't apply to Douglas Murray who is wonderfully bonkers in any medium. On QT the other week I thought Paddy Ashdown was going to send him to bed without any supper.
Wow, rentoul's content-free rant is bordering on parody. 2 paras about Kelly 'CTists', into which are packed: odious, peddling, offensive, green-ink, "David Icke’s other fellow-travellers", immediately followed by "Hurtful...to Kelly’s family..".Also puts forward his own 'deniable subversion' theory to explain how the Mail can say it's not a fan of CTs - suggesting R is actually unable to see the big sneer he, Aaro etc build into the concept of 'CT', which obviously means almost no-one in the mainstream will ever admit to crediting a CT.(And finally, with the weakest possible segue, the random stereotypical CT that provides his headline.)
Chardonnay Chap - with me it's programmes like In Our Time (though I'm sure it's very good really) which bring out my inner philistine - but the Moral Maze is a bit like a rather good blog thread, I think, not (generally) up itself.
Mellow Mel is due on Question Time from the Scrubs this evening.
Rentoul's standard of scepticism is charmingly illustrated in this little post - where he provides a link to his source even while demonstrating that he hasn't read it.
Looks like everyone knows about it, just not me, until nowI know how you feel, Online.
"This doesn't apply to Douglas Murray who is wonderfully bonkers in any medium"I would have agreed before, but then I saw this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzmsgEQy4N0He's actually talking some sence here and seems to have mellowed a bit since the last time I listend to anything he had to say.
I wonder if you haven't misread that tweet. The tear was not in his eye, but from his eye - the op was to remove the last vestiges of whatever bleeding heart he once had."It's much easier to get away with bonkers stuff in print than in a live discussion where people can imediately call you out on it"It's the other way round surely? Fact-checking can be done relatively easily on the web these days (hence the near ubiquity of "X WATCH" blogs), whereas debates are particularly vulnerable to the Gish gallop.Oh, and since people are talking about debate programmes, can I put in a good word for the now defunct After Dark?http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/After_Dark_%28TV_series%29
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clothes for chaps is on fine form today in the obs, reviewing Adam Curtis and (like almost every Decent) managing to simultaneously accuse Curtis of making oversimplistic arguments while simultaneously demonstrating an inability to understand said arguments, with the result of once again arguing with a straw man. i don't know why they bother.
OC, is Curtis's programme any good?
While I largely agree with OC that CfC hasn't written about Curtis' arguments, I think he's right about the simplistic thing.In fact, I'm not even sure that Curtis has arguments. Of course it's true that Alan Greenspan was a member of Ayn Rand's circle, but I can't believe that he had one influence, or one consistent philosophy. (And I really didn't like the "rescued from Logical Positivism" bit; I think Curtis glib dismissal of LP pretty much crushed any faith I had in his understanding philosophy.) In the opener of this three-parter he said it was the story of how machines "made us believe we could create a stable world that would last for ever". Wait a second, I thought, as I digested the characteristically grand claim, I don't recall ever believing that "we" could create a stable world that would last for ever. Nor do I remember being made to believe such a thing by machines.But that part is right. It was a silly, grandiose claim by Curtis.As for the rest: too much footage of Monica Lewinsky, who was unimportant to the argument, and some hipster choices of background music, which was there to distract from the lack of logical joins.Still, I think the part about China at the end was pretty good. It would have been clearer as a written essay -- and it wouldn't have been anything like as long if it had been.
Sorry, I hope I didn't come across as a massive Curtis fan. i'm not - mainly because I dislike the style of his work, and partly because I'm not a huge fan of documentaries in general. His work can give the impression CFC refers to of blaming all the world's ills on one particular thinker/set of beliefs, but in my experience of watching his stuff this is largely based on the style (e.g. that overbearing use of 'we') as opposed to content.Though I'd also be willing to wager quite a lot of money on a lot of Andrew Anthony's favourite documentary makers / writers also using that over-generalized 'we' a good deal, too. My specific complaint with this AA piece is his treatment of 'the power of nightmares', which is actively misleading - AA clims that Curtis thinks that the neocons 'invented' al-Qaeda as an 'illusion' - and this is simply untrue, an outright fabrication. Aaro went as far as to call him Riefenstahl which says everything about aaro's own pet prejudices. On the new one - I think it's easy to overstate the importance of Ayn Rand. But I liked 'The Trap' - especially the bits about the use of game theory. It's also pretty weird that Curtis gets slated by Decents for being a 'polemicist' whereas someone like Nick Cohen is actively praised for that...
I agree about Curtis suffers from over-statement but, IMHO, his value is that he is thought-provoking.By drawing together many strands of thought that, most likely, have less connection than he states, he is still showing that those connections exist at a certain level, which should make us think more deeply about "what is going on".And the sub-text of the series seems to be the takeover of managerialism, and how this is limiting discussion about how society is organised. I mean, just look at the similar views of the leadership of our three main parties. Is it any coincidence that this has occurred at a time of massively widening inequality?Those with the real power are laughing all the way to the state-subsidised bank right now.
This is the essay I wrote a few years ago about Curtis's documentary technique. I think he's basically a good thing, though my immediate reaction to last Monday's show was that too many strands of ideas and connections were packed in, and it felt unusual bumpy for his work.
sorry, the essay's here:http://www.filmquarterly.org/2008/09/ghost-law/
gg- managerialism, and how this is limiting discussion about how society is organisedI don't think this is quite right. I think managerialism is the result or, probably better, corollary of a lack of discussion about how society is organised. Likewise, 'technocrats' is a term for those who won't consider any but a very narrow range of policies, viz. tinkering with 'markets'.Both terms signify a narrow ideological orthodoxy, but add a connotation of solid sensible pragmatism.(blt - I like unusual bumpy: has a Dickensian flavour.)(Also, and this a genuine addendum not a hidden agendum, there's a cursory fair-use fisking of Aaro on UBL here. Usual drill - the article is in red, so commentary can be skipped.)
(actually, not on UBL himself: on responses to the UBL affair)
Tim - yes, I wasn't clear enough in my post. "Managerialism" is the consequence of the intellectual capture of the political class.
All of Curtis' previous docs can be viewed here...http://thoughtmaybe.com/browse/video/adam-curtis
I am much less positive than any of you about Curtis. But I'm not even sure I know what you're talking about now. "the intellectual capture of the political class" -- by whom?By drawing together many strands of thought that, most likely, have less connection than he states, he is still showing that those connections exist at a certain level, which should make us think more deeply about "what is going on".Really disagree here. I find Curtis' examples rather weak. To prove that Ayn Rand had marked US business life, he said that some companies had taken their names from companies in her books. Lots of companies are incorporated every day. A couple of names shows nothing. I mean, so what? That's very much a CT type connection. I STILL don't understand how Alan Greenspan got from being a Rand acolyte to doubting the Clinton boom (by reading stock reports in his bath -- and this was voiceover; who knows what Greenspan did in his bath?) to somehow causing the 2008 banking collapse.For me it's awfully close to: John Ravenscroft went to school with Richard Ingrams, subsequently he was in Dallas in November 1963. He went on to champion Manchester misery-merchants 'The Fall'. Is this why Private Eye won't run a "Mark E Smith" shot JFK story? It's just dreadful logic. I'm not going to forget the slight on Logical Positivism, btw.And the sub-text of the series seems to be the takeover of managerialism, and how this is limiting discussion about how society is organised. I mean, just look at the similar views of the leadership of our three main parties. Is it any coincidence that this has occurred at a time of massively widening inequality?Sorry to pile on, but I think this reverses cause and effect. I'm coming to think that the Thatcher-Reagan years did much more harm that we ever realised at the time. That's when inequality started to widen, IMO. It's just carried on since. Managerialism (though I think you're reifying a bit) isn't the cause of inequality widening; it's the result of same. But I agree that alternative discussions were shut down, although I'm at a loss to articulate how or by whom.
"the intellectual capture of the political class" -- by whom?Capture by bad ideas, on my reading -- as I argued in FQ, he's a philosophical idealist*, or rather plays at being one in order to undermine the worldview according to idealism; so that his argument about Greenspan isn't causal in the sense of "Ayn Rand caused the cash by hypnotising Alan G with silliness", it's more like "what species of error would you expect someone who was so hot for Rand's silliness to continue to make, that would have real-world impact?" I'm much less bothered by what you're calling "bad logic", because I don't think he's setting himself up as an authoritative respectable pundit: could his approach be any more obviously tweaking self-serious documentary montage protocols and cliches? (But then his sense of humour and naughtiness suits mine; and the Rand interview on its own justified the price of admission...) *which is not to deny that idealism is a poor start-point for explaining economics as a whole, which was exactly where this latest one made some rather bumpy jumps -- but they were rushed context jumps, not causal linkage jumps(i remember he mentioned the logical positivists but not what he said about them: i think i too do rather file them with randians, but it's 30 years since i read any...)
"the worldview according to idealism" -- meaning "the the worldview according to the particular idealism he's putting on the hook"
the essay I wrote a few years agoNice, and gets at what I think of as Curtis's ever-present irony. (I defended him on this basis against a MediaLens-inspired critique on CT recently; the argument seemed to be that if you read Curtis straight he was saying that he thought American power was entirely benign, and that there was no obvious reason not to read him straight. So much the worse for obvious reasons, said I.) It's true that he works on the level of ideas, but mostly he's playing with them more than working. (Have you just outed yourself, btw?)
I feel I'm hanging myself with my own inarticulaciness.
I out myself quite often but it never seems to take! "belle" is just a low-googleability device really
To prove that Ayn Rand had marked US business life, he said that some companies had taken their names from companies in her books. Lots of companies are incorporated every day. A couple of names shows nothing. I mean, so what? That's very much a CT type connection.Point of order, brother chair, I wish to register my objection to this flagrant smear on the good name of uur brithers and sisters in the parapolitical community, and furthermore, may I take this opportunity to...I must admit though that I've accasionally wondered whether someone involved in naming the RAND corp. was making an allusion - but hadn't considered it a matter of any consequence (despite being a self-confessed wearer of the foil helmet). A brief google tells me that RAND was formed in 1948, which would be the right sort of time, as the Fountainhead was bestselling around then.I agree broadly with b. le t. on Curtis's method. I take him to be dealing in (informal) social psychology as much as anything (i.e. ideas - broadly construed - in action). Maybe he's roughly in the tradition of Homer and/or Aesop in the narrative method of getting this kind of thing across, hence all the film clips. Not sure what I think about the slightly stylised use of factual content - on the one hand, simplification is necessary to get a complex message across (and much of the message is rather inchoate, engaging an intuitive understanding of psychological phenomena). On the other, there's a danger that this kind of thing can expose him - not necessarily unjustly - to accusations of allowing mythmaking and confabulation to distort his account of the old actualité. Which in turn ineteracts with the dissent-as-distortion/paranoid fantasy CT trope, both smearing him and contributing to that general conception which as I often tire of telling people, utterly derails factual-political debate as it is caaried on in the 'main stream'.
FWIW, Aaro on the technocracy - chairing The Moral Maze tonight.I thought that evolutionary psychology had been trashed a couple of years ago?
So it is all blokes on Blood and Treasure then.
A brief google tells me that RAND was formed in 1948, which would be the right sort of time, as the Fountainhead was bestselling around then.My quick Google comes up with 1946 -- and it's an acronym. I don't see how being a non-profit and quasi-governmental fits Ayn Randianism at all.Besides, Curtis was referring to names of businesses from the books, such as, IIRC, 'The North Group' (though Google refuses to confirm that any such organisation existed in her books).I still haven't seen episode 2 of Curtis, but while I see Belle's points, episode 1 made an argument which seemed to go:1. Ayn Rand argued for selfishness and hated co-operation;2. she greatly influenced Silicon Valley, especially those programmers who believed in spontaneous co-operation (eg the pong game).3. Altruism and anti-altruism: they're the same thing, innit? (I am not a professional philosopher, but I would say, "no".)Maybe he's roughly in the tradition of Homer and/or Aesop in the narrative method of getting this kind of thing across, hence all the film clips. No, I think all the film clips are there because he's a film-maker. If he argued in print, the shoddiness of his assertions would be obvious. In film, he's a sort of Puff Daddy figure. The bits he's stolen are at least good; where he's on his own (such as narrating what Alan Greenspan got up to in his bath), he's frankly dreadful.Evolutionary Psychology while somewhat prone to bullshitting is still cool, btw.I maintain that the final part about China and hegemony was the best bit of episode 1. But hegemonies did not originate with Ayn Rand or anyone else name checked in the programme. And if the US government really was operating a sort of welfare state for large businesses (which I believe it was), Ayn Rand and her acolytes were deluded patsies. As such, Curtis was screening interviews with the wrong people. It's like he was asking Bertie Wooster what was going on. He should have been asking Jeeves.Perhaps China is putting the squeeze on the US economy as Curtis alleges. If so, I think it's because their leaders have read Marx, not because they stole the Empire's old clothes. (Sorry for that one.)
FWIW, O/T or whatever acronym I should be using here - anyone hear Kamm on R3 Nightwaves last night? Amnesty is terrible now because they draw moral equivalence between democratic regimes and jihadists (yes, Cageprisoners) and treated Gita Sahgal terribly - subject of Times campaigning journalism, we were assured. Available through listen again - although I'm not I'd recommend anyone bother.
I was just wondering what had happened to Kamm and whether he had fallen into the cauldron of magic potion again. He isn't blogging these days, is he? Guano
Talking of where-are-they-now, I find myself in a receipt of an ad for Prospect which promises a piece on the Middle East by Tony Blair.
RE Curtis: I agree that the first installment was quite weak. I think that's the result of trying to make the sort of argument in an hour that he would have previously extended to a whole series (i.e. as in "The Century of the Self", and "The Power of Nightmares"). However, I have watched "Pandora's Box", his early 90's series about science and power, and the format was similar to his latest except that, from what I can remember, the arguments were much more coherent and the casual missteps less apparent. I think that may be because he wasn't trying to make the sort of overarching pop psych thesis he has now done with "The Trap" and his current one. The stories were told for their own sake rather than trying to do service to a visual op-ed column.All that being said, I'm still a big fan of Curtis. What you have to "get" about his work (feel free to slap me down here...)is that it's part of a huge, interconnected project that is ongoing. He, for example, often uses his blog to fill in the "blanks" left by his series; he'll go in-depth about the ideological origins of the war on terror in a way he didn't do in "The Power of Nightmares". Somebody here said that he makes the sort of arguments that wouldn't work on paper; I would say that that's not the case, and the proof is to be found in his blog.Moreover, I would also posit that all of his 00's series (the latest one included) are all part of a single argument. Unconvinced by Rand's influence on economics? Then go back to The Trap to learn more about the theoretical origins of the current neo-classical origin. And so forth.Lastly, I had a little argument with DA on Twitter concerning his old Guardian review, so if anyone here is missing a good example of Decent disingenuousness now that DA is behind a paywall you can find our little spat here:http://twitter.com/#!/JuanmNS
Blair promised a PIECE ON the Middle East? I thought he was going to bring PEACE TO the Middle East.That is so a mondegreen for the ages.
And as for Kamm, I someone retweeted his gloating about 'Nightwaves' last night or this morning. I'll give it a miss.We need a new post, BTW. I meant to write one on Nick's dismissal of BHL after the philosophe's rather lame defence of Strauss-Kahn. I wonder how tough that was to write? BHL's piece was terrible, and with any luck that'll puncture his credibility. Standpoint looks typically risible this month. Convicted Fraudster Conrad Black toasts the Strange Death of Liberal Canada. (The winning conservatives had just under 40% of the vote; that's not success.) Douglas Murray hates Europeans because of "hand-wringing over the death of the arch-terrorist [UBL]". Quite a few yanks had doubts about the legality of the hit. And Irwin Stelzer claims that the Tories are pursuing austerity.
The latest from Nasty Nick.http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/columnists/49869/labours-tasteless-joke-policyNote he hasn't the guts (or money) to come out and smear Ken Livingstone as an antisemite, but uses this form of words,'The atmosphere became tenser as it became embarrassingly evident that, in the opinion of many of those present, the leader of the Labour Party was asking Jews to endorse a politician some of them considered to be an antisemite.'I wonder if one of those present was Nick's fellow JC columnist Geoffrey Alderman who had this to say about a murdered peace activist.http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/columnists/48886/this-was-no-peace-activist'Few events - not even the execution of Osama bin Laden - have caused me greater pleasure in recent weeks than news of the death of the Italian so-called "peace activist" Vittorio Arrigoni.'
Even allowing for the fact that Nick Cohen knows nothing about football, this piece is really ignorant of the facts.Could it be true?
Yes, that Cohen piece is dreadful. I did more research than him while listening to 5 live sport the other night. and the tone! it's embarrassing.
That CiF comment is a bit ranty, isn't it? And Nick's not a neoliberal as far as I can see.He does know even less about football than a Crooked Timber comments thread though.And of course, there wouldn't have been any of this fuss if the FA's World Cup bid had succeeded. everybody's known what Blatter is for years and years. The fuss is welcome of course, but there's quite a lot of "shocked! shocked!" about it,
The cif comment is ranty and I'd argue a bit off topic, but all the same, the comments there in general do expose Nick's general lack of knowledge about football generally. Witness:Bernstein achieved more than he realised. He made suspicions that had been confined to the writings of the best sports journalists concrete.er no, Chuck Blazer did that about a week before, by forcing the resignation of Blatter's rival and likely conqueror, in a piece of politicking that was specifically designed to ensure that Blatter would win the election. You couldn't make it up - but Nick seems to have missed the fact that the only real fifa resignation was forced not by a plucky British journo but a member of Fifa's exec.If he'd been bothered to do even a bit of research - if he actually follwoed the news - he could have railed against the FA and the British govt for putting up with the Fifa charade for so long - to the extent to agreeing their tax-free profits in our world cup bid and promising Trinidad tons of money, to be funnelled through Warner, as well as knackering our players by sending them on pointless friendlies in Thailand (mercifully cancelled now). Also he could expose Brown AND Cameron's lack of judgment by their entering into a bidding process that was totally doomed from the start. But no, instead we get some truly weird, scattergun ramblings about the benefits of the internet and some really poor quality Orwell analogies. As EJH says, the fuss is welcome but it'll disappear in the very near future, and the vast majority of it is sour grapes. oh and since I'm not on twitter, can i just say this for mumsnet - its product reviews are really useful.
The really entertaining thing about Nick's column is that if you blanked the names, readers would probably assume this was yet another column about the Gaddafi or Hussein families. It does show you how much of his work is basically pro-forma: a collection of denunciatory sentences into which more or less any individual or subject can be wedged with minimal effort. Not that I grudge Nick his wages, of course - somebody, somewhere must enjoy his output, for reasons other than wicked schadenfreude - but really. If you can talk about FIFA and the Mullahs of Iran in the same tone of voice then friend, you have perspective problems.
One more thing, Cohen refers to Blatter as a 'dictator' throughout the article.As we have seen, 'dictator' in the world of decency can sometimes mean 'someone elected of whom we disapprove'.Blatter has been elected and re-elected on several occasions, sometimes with the vote of the English FA.Blatter's overwhelming majority indicates widespread support for his presidency, in fact the English ignored the wishes of the rest of UEFA.Nick is so ignorant of football he must be a Man Utd fan.
Blatter's overwhelming majority indicates widespread support for his presidencyWell, among people who have votes in that particular election. Which is not a wide electorate.
Well, among people who have votes in that particular election. Which is not a wide electorate.Except it's one delegate per country - just like the UN General Assembly. Are you suggesting that every football fan in the world should have a vote?Blatter got 186 out of a possible 203 votes in a secret ballot. If anyone didn't want to vote for Blatter, they were free to do so without suffering any repercussions. I don't think corruption is the only reason why they didn't.Mind you, I'm looking forward to Nick Cohen's analysis of the last FIDE elections. That would have everything.
Are you suggesting that every football fan in the world should have a voteI'm suggesting it's a tiny electorate manipulated by bribery. All the power is at the top and none at all at the grassroots.There's no good defence that can be made of Sepp Blatter, or of FIFA under his control. It's an enormously corrupt organisation which cannot meaningfully be challenged.
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