Monday, June 06, 2011

The Armchair Generalist

While Nick is probably right about Simon Schama, his Standpoint tv column is bizarre even for him. As far as I can tell, he regards television as a means of gaining insight into contemporary Britain (the world) and to this end he selects one programme per month and bases a sermon on the approaching end times on it. I also think his premise is wrong: confident, secure, happy people are those most receptive to surprising facts. What Nick sees as somehow blinding us to reality is the greatest gift that I possess.

I don't know much about football, but the (ahem!) English press seem to have been exaggerating Sepp Blatter's bad qualities, as if we were preparing to go to war with him. I'm pretty sure FIFA is corrupt, in a similar way at least to the way that the IOC is, and Formula 1 is and all these sport-in-the-service-of-advertising gravy trains are. Discuss this how you like.

As for this one (thanks to Conventrian), he lost me at 'embraced' that all purpose, meaningless word which no Decent attack is complete without.[1]

[1] This is a handshake, not an embrace. Discuss. This is an embrace. One of these people really is a mass murderer and a dictator. The other should be ashamed; perhaps his supporters will be on his behalf.


Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

The JC piece is really just a terrible piece of writing. Starts with 'I hear that' then tries to pretend to give a verbatin eyewitness account. Then we get:

I do not know what subterranean currents swirl in the Livingstone's psyche, and have no particular desire to find out. [...] Livingstone is a candidate for public office who is happy to engage with a men who

so we can safely conclude that Nick is not edited by the JC.

This is also pissweak writing:

Sharp observers would notice that the Livingstone type of leftist, who is forever telling voters that they cannot support sexist and racist Tories - even though, and for all its faults, the modern Conservative Party does not support discrimination against, let alone the execution of, homosexuals and apostates on theocratic grounds.

that the type of leftist does... what? no verb in the sentence. and it's not like these lefties aren't 'satirized', it's jsut that the satire relies on a whole bunch of leaps of logic, ending up with the HP Sauce brand of what=would-galloway-do 'satire' which is always deeply unfunny.

I'm really shocked to see this, too:

the "Blue Labour" tendency which wishes to find what it calls "common ground" with religious extremists

AFAICT Blue Labour is being run by Hazel Blears and James Purnell, who Nick enthused about at length back in the day. what's changed?

the piece ends with this:

Journalists are pack animals. They disregard stories that seem to cry to high heaven for coverage for years, and then turn as one and savage their prey.

something about Nick and Fifa springs to mind here.

for example:

All dictatorships subscribe to the Blatterian notions that contested elections set brother against brother by dividing happy "families" and corruption is not worth worrying about when business is booming.

But the fifa election WAS contested - until the last minute, when a fifa member - not an English journo - dished the dirt on Blatter's rival who is clearly at least as corrupt as Blatter.

I know, however, that reforms large and small always begin when insiders stand up and admit that the accusations of outside critics are essentially true.

This is exactly what happened at fifa, though, in one reading of events: an exec member decided that Bin Hammam was too corrupt and so shopped him. leaving Blatter unopposed. It is corrupt from top to bottom, but all the same, Nick's logic just doesn't work here.

Seriously, a five year old could do better research than Nick has in this car rash of an article.

6/06/2011 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger donpaskini said...

"AFAICT Blue Labour is being run by Hazel Blears and James Purnell, who Nick enthused about at length back in the day. what's changed?"

This one is quite a good story:

Blue Labour's guru is Lord Glasman. Lord Glasman is a leading light in London Citizens. London Citizens have a trustee who is a member of the East London Mosque, and who made speeches praising Hamas.

London Citizens take the view that bringing together different people from the East End - christians, muslims, jews and a few non-religious folk - in pursuit of things like the living wage, decent treatment of migrants and affordable housing is a good plan.

Martin Bright and Harry's Place disagree and think London Citizens should condemn the East London Mosque rather than acting as apologists for theocratic fascism and condoning terrorism.

6/07/2011 05:36:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

London Citizens take the view that bringing together different people from the East End - christians, muslims, jews and a few non-religious folk - in pursuit of things like the living wage, decent treatment of migrants and affordable housing is a good plan.

Shocking, isn't it? What sort of pseudo-leftists are these people? Why can't they write blog posts wagging the waggy finger at CiF articles on Israel from the comfort of their employers' offices like good leftists, and leave all that buggering about to the politicians the democratic process in its infinite wisdom has selected to rule over us? I'm not saying that HP secretly likes the tories, or god forbid, they think that protest is like a nuclear reactor meltdown, and the further the way it is from you, the better.

I thought the Finsbury Park mosque was where all the would-be terrorists hung out. Is it all mosques now?

Of course, for sensible people, what London Citizens want and what Martin Bright wants are not naturally incompatible. One can work with people with whom one does not totally agree. But Harry's Place do love their ideological purity and boycotting anyone in they detect improper thoughts.

I sometimes think that the reason they hate Cuddly Ken so much is that he actually got things done, and he's insincere to everyone.

6/08/2011 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Did Nick use to invoke Orwell almost every column, or hdid he only cuire the habit in 2003?

6/08/2011 09:30:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I don't know Orwell well (lol) but isn't the two minutes' hate thing a daily activity? The link to the FA bloke seems really weak - so there were some anti-English speeches over the next 2 hours at FIFA congress, but it's not like they're going to force everyone to hate him for two minutes a day; most of them won't even know his name. The link doesn't work really.

Cheers donPaskini - my eyes glaze over whenever the ELM comes up on HP Sauce or elsewhere since it seems to be hated whatever its atenders do, or don't do.

at least this means that Blue Labour has lost most of its most sympathetic columnists. It is interesting to see Cohen assuming that his readership in the JC would make this logical connection. I've always felt that Cohen when writing for the JC has a very questionable intended reader...

Decents' hatred based on tangential links works oddly too. I mean, Nick lets Bernard Henry-Levy off the hook for his repeated defence of sexual predators on the basis of his also being anti-Muslim (or some such), but others are in the 'denounce' column for a lot less. Ditto Quilliam with their al-Qaeda-affiliated members.

6/08/2011 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I don't know that Nick has let BHL off the hook.

Levy has earned deserved praise for being one of the few left-wing European intellectuals prepared to make a stand against the fanatical misogyny of radical Islam.

Rape and the French elite. That's not a defence, though I like the false modesty of "deserved praise" for "I praised him myself". Otherwise, I rather like Nick's piece on BHL.

As for the Orwell references, I've been guilty of that, although I'd use the "I'll stop citing Orwell when they stop using 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' as a policy guide" defence.

Actually, I think the most Orwellian thing about Nick is his use of "Cookite" as invective. I think Robin Cook was the best of the New Labour ministers. He managed to be both principled and pragmatic and carried both off with resolve and courage. His ideological deviancy (if that's possible in New Labour) was trivial compared to the differences over Europe between Blair and Brown. Cook handled by Nick has far more in common with Goldstein than any FA hack has.

6/08/2011 10:27:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

sorry, what I meant was that generally in the denunciatory world of Decency, BHL would be a persona non grata, but loving the Iraq war seems to let him off the hook for that.

The Cook example is useful on that front - being a Cookite = you don't need to be listened to, loving the Iraq war = you should be listened to even if you're happy to support misogyny when it's white people doing the woman-hating.

6/08/2011 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous bensix said...

A rather good review of Mamet's new polemic by John Lloyd. I've not read much from the guy, so I'm not sure if that's surprising.

6/08/2011 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I think Iraq is Nick's touchstone, isn't it? Nobody who was against the war can really be good, and nobody in favour can really be bad. It's his Issue of Issues.

Re: Mamet, obviously I have almost no knowledge of contemporary literature, but hasn't he had issues with liberals since Oleanna?

One of my great fears about growing old, you know, is the fear of turning into some old fucker who exists on bile and resentments.

6/08/2011 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

John Lloyd!

From the review above:

'I would rather watch a Mamet anything than read a Karl Marx anything. But between Marx’s political writings and Mamet’s? It wouldn’t be a close call: Marx, whatever horrors he helped unleash, is at least interesting.'

This from a former (and long time) member of the proudly Stalinist British & Irish Communist Organisation (aka the British & Irish Communist Orangemen)

6/09/2011 11:08:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

In Nick's latest, I don't know how accurate his overall case is, but this struck me as needless:
"In the obituaries for Husain, one could detect a certain tension. Here was a magnificent artist of global stature and yet his obituarists felt the need to explain who exactly he was.

But British ignorance was not only the result of cultural parochialism."
Where there is ignorance, let us bring understanding, perhaps?

6/12/2011 01:15:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I'm really not convinced by Nick on Husain. He only seems interested in him because of the 2006 gallry-closure furore, and as a stick with which to beat other artists. The entirety of Nick's article is founded on his own quotation of the BBC:

her picture of a "pop star" painter with "an eye for publicity", whose life prefigured today's artists who "have allied their work with celebrity".

Nick claims that 'everything jarred about this' yet goes on to agree completely. He then decides, arbitrarily, that ao comparison is being drawn with Damien Hirst:

a stuntman who pretended to be shocking to an audience which pretended to be shocked.

Well, for starters, the shark was fairly shocking when it first appeared, as were some of the other animals in virtines. The cow's head sculptures, with flies and usual horrible smell, are also actively repulsive - that's the point, and they definitely still shock some audiences.

In the obituaries for Husain, one could detect a certain tension. Here was a magnificent artist of global stature and yet his obituarists felt the need to explain who exactly he was.

and so does Nick. at length.

The best tribute Britain could give Husain would be for the Royal Academy to organise a major retrospective of his art and include in the exhibition the supposedly offensive works, so viewers can realise how confected the charges of his accusers were.

hmm. As usual Nick only lieks art which has been banned in some way, and only expresses an interest in print in order to make a political point. Nick on Husain in Standpoint:

Western conceptual art is now so formulaic, so lost in mannerism and ironic self-reference, he may be the world's greatest living artist, although writers tempt ridicule when they make such ostentatious claims. I would defy any critic, however, to deny that Husain embodies the spirit of his country.

the last bit is pretty stupid. The earlier bit even more so; he's simply nowhere near good enough to be labelled the 'greatest artist'.

Oh and Nick is again self-plagiarising. Nick in Standpoint:

Husain's real offence was to be born into a Muslim family almost 100 years ago


They wrecked galleries that showed his work, ransacked his home in Mumbai and threatened him with prosecution for one reason only: that he was born into a Muslim family almost 100 years ago.

6/12/2011 02:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

I think what Damien Hirst does is exactly the opposite of what Nick says - Hirst pretends not to be setting out to shock, and his audience pretend not to be shocked.

He seems to have wanted to say that Husain was both a great artist and worthy of political support, because he didn't set out to shock but did get banned; by contrast, decadent mediocre Brit-Artists do set out to shock and don't get banned. The problem is that, even if we take the point that setting out to shock is the mark of mediocrity, what anyone sets out to do isn't in the public domain. As a result, the point about the quality of the art fades away and we're left with "banning art bad, not banning art good". (And you know that George Galloway? He totally wants to ban art. No, he does.)

6/12/2011 09:41:00 PM  

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