Monday, June 20, 2011

Off-Topic at Large

I'd just like to say, and this should come as no surprise that I agree with old Aaro[1] on lots of things. One such is his position on assisted dying. But I'll come back to Aaro in a bit.

Nick is largely right on Syria. Bashar al-Assad is an appalling dictator. Forgive me for raising a liberal orthodoxy, but I rather like Obama, and besides, I worry that when one attacks a prominent black (ethnic, etc) politician one attracts support from quarters one really rather ought not to welcome, rather as flies are attracted to shit. What is the difference between attacking Obama and attacking Bush? Obama's critics seem to know very little about their own politics and history. Anyway, if we're knocking pols for cuddling up to Syria, there are some closer to home who deserve a kicking first. I know that comes across a bit, "Shut up already, you can't criticise Barack because -- racists!" but this sort of error of taste is endemic to the White House, regardless of the beliefs of the President. When did the US last criticise Saudi Arabia, which is the only country in the world which bans women from driving. Yes, it's those pictures again.

I am disappointed by Obama. But not that disappointed, because I didn't expect too much.

This nudges us onto what I currently think is one of the crucial differences between Decency and Indecency. Professor Norm has a dig at Simon Jenkins' "monocausal theory of war" (it's not monocausal; and it's not a theory of all war, but never mind). Roughly, I think Decents believe that politics is motivated chiefly by morality and principle, and we (using the term loosely) rather more cynically believe (I could say 'observe') that money accounts for an awful lot of the variation in principle. The Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace thesis is not new, and I'm pretty sure Orwell had something similar in mind when he came up with "War is Peace." It fits the facts a lot better than the "Tony Blair and George W Bush are really caring guys with big hearts" alternative. (See also Arms to Iraq. "Bread first, then ethics", as Comrade Brecht had it.)

Many of you will already have seen Christopher Hitchens' rather splendid Mamet review. I was going to talk about Mamet anyway, because he somehow came up in the comments last week. Here are some other gems. LA Times; James Wolcott in Vanity Fair; John Lloyd in the FT; the AV club; Washington Post; and the closest thing to a good review I've seen, The Wall Street Journal.

To make this on-topic, is Mamet's change of mind in anyway similar to David Aaronovitch? (I don't think Dave is brain dead, BTW.)

Slightly bizarrely, David Mamet (whom no one ever accused of elegant variation) used the term secret knowledge for a different book only last year. This is so Pseud's Corner, that I have to quote it:

In the near future, when inflation has rendered the dollar valueless, this artifact may very well become if not the, at least a medium of exchange. In the worst case, if we are reduced to Living In Caves, you can use it for Kindling.


Even better, the comments are all of the "read my script" variety. Over to Harlan Ellison whose writing of the Star Trek with Joan Collins is, IMHO, worth more than Mamet's entire oeuvre.

[1] I'm using "old" in "The Catcher in the Rye" sense, not being gerontophobic.

319 Comments:

Blogger ejh said...

So how come Olson read Jarrett's script?

6/20/2011 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

This is an extraordinarily irritating book, written by one of those people who smugly believe that, having lost their faith, they must ipso facto have found their reason

A fine opening sentence, but when written by Christopher Hitchens, perhaps tinged with a certain (perhaps intentional?) self-reference?

6/21/2011 11:02:00 AM  
Anonymous bensix said...

I worry that when one attacks a prominent black (ethnic, etc) politician one attracts support from quarters one really rather ought not to welcome, rather as flies are attracted to shit...

Come to that, the same's true of Jewish politicians. Should one avoid criticising Joe Lieberman for fear of giving Jew-haters material?

6/21/2011 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Off topic yet again, but Owen Jones' new book contains a cracker that's of general interest...

"(After some standard Bruschetta-baiting on the war, Labour minister Kim) ...Howells might be surprised to discover that middle-class people are actually more likely to support the Afghan War than working-class people. One typical poll by Ipsos MORI in 2009 revealed that, while 52 percent of the top social category backed the war and 41 percent opposed it, just 31 percent of the bottom social category backed it while 63 percent were in the anti-war camp...

(Author quotes member of the public, then notes broad social background of antiwar marchers in 2003, which I can confirm from my own experience)

...Working class sentiment certainly surprised journalist Nick Cohen, who is a staunch backer of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When I put it to him, he was momentarily lost for words, before conceding: "I'm genuinely surprised by that". p256-7

Colour me utterly unsurprised that this hadn't occurred to Nick before. You do have to wonder who it is he thinks has actually been fighting and dying in our wars - maybe all those public school boy army spokesmen led him to believe it was being fought by blokes with double-barrelled Norman names. I've met a lot of squaddies in the last decade and can count a few among my friends, and not one of them is from a wealthy background.

You also have to wonder who the hell Nick thinks it is that has been arguing with him all these years. After all, those Guardian threads and blog arguments may well be entirely populated by the Hamas-worshipping Home Counties Miles, Giles and Samanthas of his fevered dreams, but I doubt it.

I suspect it's really, genuinely because working class people don't often turn up for his book signings or academic debating sessions. Not encountering any working class people who oppose the wars, all antiwar sentiment must spring solely from the chardonnay-sipping posh gets.

No doubt we'll see some hasty revision in Nick's work from now on, no? If only he was still on Twitter, I'd ask him how the view from his ivory tower looked, and so on.

6/21/2011 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

And, now that I come to think of it, you'd think it might have occurred to Nick that few, if any, of his fellow laptop bombardiers work in a factory, or even earn below the average wage for that matter.

6/21/2011 03:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Working class sentiment certainly surprised journalist Nick Cohen

Well I'm surprised Nick failed to make the rather obvious point that bruschetta-baiting exists not because bruschetta-eaters are more likely to oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but because their reasons for doing so are usually the worst kind. So it may well be that opposition is higher amongst the working-classes who do most of the fighting and dying and my guess is there's a link in there somewhere, but opposing the war because you're missing an uncle, brother or father is not the same as opposing the war because you think democracy is beyond the wit of Arabs, or because what goes on 'over there' is 'none of our business', or because our money would be better spent developing the south bank just a little more.

Jones and you can argue that bruschetta-baiting is misguided or simply wrong, but doing so on the basis that a tiny majority of the middle-classes supports our action in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrates a failure to understand why it exists at all.

BTW, I don't know who you think really *does* populate 'those Guardian threads and blogs', but from what I can tell it's a coterie of a few hundred obsessives straddling the social divides. A representative cross-section of our working-class salt of the earth types it is not.

6/21/2011 04:05:00 PM  
Anonymous bensix said...

Also see this stunner...

In my experience, there is a dividing line marked by class and culture when it comes to war-talk. While liberal middle-class professionals such as Canon Fraser talk breezily about it being “better to die than to kill,” some of my working-class students—often the sisters or girlfriends of the soldiers who actually do the dying—speak quietly, stoically, and with genuine expertise as sturdy Augustinian realists about the morality of the rigorous rules of engagement under which their loved ones fight (and die) in an anti-fascist war in Afghanistan.

Word vertification: bless. Aw.

6/21/2011 04:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

if any, of his fellow laptop bombardiers work in a factory, or even earn below the average wage for that matter.

Unlike the CiF patrons typing their missives with newly swarfega-ed hands each evening.

6/21/2011 04:11:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

...opposing the war because you're missing an uncle, brother or father is not the same as opposing the war because you think democracy is beyond the wit of Arabs blah blah blah

I don't know what proportion of the lowest-earning section of society personally know squaddies on the frontline Brownie, but I'm willing to bet that it's a good bit below 63%.

That suggests that antiwar sentiment may spring from more than tha librulz contempt for tha foreigns and all those other phrases you've been copying and pasting for a decade.

6/21/2011 04:14:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

is not the same as opposing the war because you think democracy is beyond the wit of Arabs[1], or because what goes on 'over there' is 'none of our business'[1], or because our money would be better spent developing the south bank just a little more[1].

[1] I believe these are the points where Wikipedia would read "[citation needed]".

6/21/2011 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

or because our money would be better spent developing the south bank just a little more

As a well-known anti-war song goes:

When will they ever learn?
When will they ev-er learn?

6/21/2011 04:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

I don't know what proportion of the lowest-earning section of society personally know squaddies on the frontline Brownie, but I'm willing to bet that it's a good bit below 63%.

It's possible to oppose the war because you're jacked-off with your working-class contemporaries doing a disproportionate amount of dying without having to "personally know" any squaddies, but in any event I don't need convincing that working-class people can muster arguments against the war that don't flow from their having a relative on the frontline.

That suggests that antiwar sentiment may spring from more than tha librulz contempt for tha foreigns

Antiwar sentiment does spring from more than that. You seem to be confusing my insistence that 'contempt for tha foreigns' is a motivating factor in some households with a claim that it is the ONLY reason why anybody could possibly oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I'm not denying the existence of coherent and entirely moral arguments against these wars however much you might want me to. But you do seem to be unwilling to acknowledge that there are altogether less-laudable anti-war arguments out there promoted by consequence-free, middle-class liberals some have termed "bruschetta eaters".

Is your problem that the incidence and significance of these arguments and those deploying them are over-stated? Or are you saying that, actually, there's no-one out there who, for example, genuinely believes that Arabs and democracy don't mix?

I was going to ask whether it's your rejection of the lazy application of labels that lies at the core of your dispute with those, like Nick, who refer to a 'bruschetta brigade', but as a fully paid-up 'decent' I know that couldn't possibly be the case.

6/21/2011 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

consequence-free

Long time passing....

6/21/2011 04:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

skidmarx/ejh,

Same question to you: are you saying that the arguments attributed to what Nick might refer to as the 'bruschetta brigade' simply don't get made? That nobody is or has said the sort of stuff that I (and you?) would regard as the racism of low expectations?

It's amazing that somebody managed to come up a phrse like "racism of low expectations" given, as per you guys, apparently, no-one has ever exhibited such a trait.

6/21/2011 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Or are you saying that, actually, there's no-one out there who, for example, genuinely believes that Arabs and democracy don't mix?

Let us imagine a Venn diagram, with three circles, depicting respectively

(a) that group
(b) those who opposed the Iraq War
(c) those who supported the Iraq War.

It's my contention that the overlap of (a) with (b) would be very small, and its overlap with (c) rather more substantial. This might be because of the similar overlap between people who thought that it would be a good idea to invade Iraq, and people who thought it would be a good idea to control the Arab World by arming and funding dictators.

Except the occasional one who got out of order, of course.

6/21/2011 04:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

It's my contention that the overlap of (a) with (b) would be very small, and its overlap with (c) rather more substantial.

Let me see: you're saying that of those people who believe Arabs and democracy don't mix (which is at least an implicit acceptance that such people exist), more supported the war than opposed it?

It's a point of view. I don't suppose there's any point asking you to expand upon this line of thinking?

6/21/2011 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

I don't need convincing that working-class people can muster arguments against the war that don't flow from their having a relative on the frontline.

Well, it seems to have come as a surprise to Nick. No wonder, since it leaves him looking like a bit of a tit, given that it bluntly contradicts his patter this last decade.

Is your problem that the incidence and significance of these arguments and those deploying them are over-stated?

Hark at you, "overstated", indeed. I was thinking more "intentionally propagandised as representing almost all antiwar sentiment, for transparently political reasons, by quite a lot of very dishonest individuals, almost all of whom are themselves well-to-do, well-educated middle class types".

I was going to ask whether it's your rejection of the lazy application of labels that lies at the core of your dispute with those, like Nick, who refer to a 'bruschetta brigade'...

No, it's not that. The main part is that my family are largely mechanics and technicians, while Mrs. R's are ex-miners and engineers, so it's a bit annoying to be finger-wagged for hooting, middle-class aga-banging politics by a bunch of London media twats who earn four times my annual salary. For ten years.

That's not the whole thing, but it's a lot of it. That whole "starting wars that kill hundreds of thousands for reasons that make no damn sense, then and bullshitting about it like an industrial bullshit factory" thing has something to do with it too.

6/21/2011 05:12:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/21/2011 05:12:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I don't suppose there's any point asking you to expand upon this line of thinking?

Not much. It's the difference between reality and your imagination.

6/21/2011 05:14:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

there are altogether less-laudable anti-war arguments out there promoted by consequence-free, middle-class liberals some have termed "bruschetta eaters"
Encore,"[citation needed]".Some idea of the incidence and significance would be nice, rather than to load all the responsibility for such an assessment on those not making a case for the ,er, incidence and significance of such arguments from such people.
I wouldn't object if you run through the streets screaming "I am the Lizard King!" But I'm largely indifferent as to whether you deny the existence of coherent and entirely moral arguments against these wars or not.

6/21/2011 05:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Hark at you, "overstated", indeed. I was thinking more "intentionally propagandised as representing almost all antiwar sentiment...

Codswallop. If there were an attempt to position bruschetta-eater arguments as representative of all antiwar sentiment, it would be illogical and indeed self-defeating to claim there was such a thing as a bruschetta-eater narrative in the first place. This notion of a bruschetta-eater argument wouldn't exist at all; it would just be antiwar argument, period.

The main part is that my family are largely mechanics and technicians, while Mrs. R's are ex-miners and engineers, so it's a bit annoying to be finger-wagged for hooting, middle-class aga-banging politics

Sorry, you're not a victim in this FR however much you'd like to be. You'll only get harrangued for being a bruschetta-eater if you deploy bruschetta-eater arguments. Be honest, which commenter I might know has claimed you are part of this middle-class, liberal elite?

I guess perception is 9/10ths of truth. Here I am after 10 years of being called a neo-con, imperialist, oil-hungry, Muslim-hater but apparently it's you who has been unfairly maligned for a decade. Bugger me.

6/21/2011 05:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

It's the difference between reality and your imagination.

So you have a link to this Venn diagram?

6/21/2011 05:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Not to mention that truth is 9/10ths perception. :-)

6/21/2011 05:36:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

If there were an attempt to position bruschetta-eater arguments as representative of all antiwar sentiment, it would be illogical and indeed self-defeating to claim there was such a thing as a bruschetta-eater narrative in the first place...

You might think so, yes. And yet, careers have been made out of exactly this.

Sorry, you're not a victim in this FR...

Well, I was assuming that I'm probably not unique in a nation of 60 million or so, rather than boo-hooing.

You'll only get harrangued for being a bruschetta-eater if you deploy bruschetta-eater arguments.

The mind boggles. Can I have that in writing? Perhaps you could use that as the new HP banner, just to heighten the comedy. God only knows where this would leave the wacky lunatics who make up 97% of your commenters these days.

6/21/2011 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

For a good example of a piece that suggests that Arabs and democracy don't mix, I'd recommend this one, which argues that "even if these [liberal and democratic] ideas were explained in succinct, clear terms they still wouldn’t be able to persuade most of the Arab world of their validity, as ideas such as democracy and critical thought are, sadly, outside most people’s comprehension".

It's from a website called "Harry's Place".

6/21/2011 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

If there were an attempt to position bruschetta-eater arguments as representative of all antiwar sentiment, it would be illogical and indeed self-defeating to claim there was such a thing as a bruschetta-eater narrative in the first place. This notion of a bruschetta-eater argument wouldn't exist at all; it would just be antiwar argument, period.

If all Cretans were liars, it would be illogical and self-defeating to say that they were liars. They would just be Cretans.

6/21/2011 06:19:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Er, no Bishop Berkeley, I think Madonna was right.
Howzabout this Venn Diagram.Somewhat of an overlap between "let's spend money fucking with their country" and "let's not spend money not fucking with their country", methinks.

If there were an attempt to position bruschetta-eater arguments as representative of all antiwar sentiment,... it would just be antiwar argument, period.
Then what are you doing? You may not be trying to suggest that b-muncher arguments entirely replace one's of cloth caps and good honest labour, but you are being hopelessly vague about making some sort of case for them being more representative, without ever defining your terms or indeed defining anything.
I think if I go off to battle some ghosts I may find an argument with more substance.

6/21/2011 06:21:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Perhaps you could use that as the new HP banner
Do they really have to give up their campaign to alienate every academic in the country [yes,I am using "every" as a synonym for "almost every"] so soon?

6/21/2011 06:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Couscous kid,

Oh FFS, what's with this wilful misunderstanding? DaveM has worked and lived in Syria for years (and elsewhere in ME) and he's talking about a cultural phenomenon that owes its existence at least in part to a closed media environment that actively discourages thought for thought sake. Claiming democracy is beyond most Arabs' "comprehension" is pretty uncontroversial when you consider most live cradle to grave in countries run by governments antipathetic to any notion of democracy, but that's altogether a differnet proposition to suggesting Arabs qua Arabs couldn't and wouldn't avail themselves of democracy given half the chance, which is an argument that has been proffered by various ex-diplomats, Hurdists and Chatham House chatterati types since before T E Lawrence saw his first camel.

6/21/2011 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Awesome

6/21/2011 06:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

skidmarx,

FR accepts the existence of *these people* making *these arguments* as he contends (wrongly) that I've suggested *these people* and *their arguments* are representative of all antiwar sentiment.

You, on the other hand, demand evidence of their existence.

To each his own and all that, but let's not pretend that my insistence such people and their arguments exist puts me in a club of one, eh?

6/21/2011 06:44:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

What's on the other side?

6/21/2011 06:46:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

If FR has better things to do than to doubt everything, it doesn't mean he's in your club. Do we need another Venn diagram to illustrate?
Here is a Syrian friend discussing democracy.

Are you actually going to produce a coherent, if not necessarily moral, argument, as you may run out of imaginary hairs to split before long?

6/21/2011 07:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

skidmarx,

If you scroll up, the original argument was that just because a tiny majority of the middle-classes supported the war, this did not mean the notion of a bruschetta-eater narrative was invalid or that bruschetta-baiting should therefore cease.

I really didn't think I'd be drawn into a debate about the very existence of people who think freedom and democracy are exclusively western accoutrements, so please forgive my lack of preparation.

6/21/2011 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

the original argument was that just because a tiny majority of the middle-classes supported the war, this did not mean the notion of a bruschetta-eater narrative was invalid or that bruschetta-baiting should therefore cease...

Was it? I've always mocked the Ooo, you middle class bastards stuff not because it was wrong - people come in all shapes and sizes, after all, even in the stupidest stereotypes - but because it was nakedly self-serving horseshit, cynically deployed by dishonest hacks, in furtherance of political causes that had catastrophic consequences.

If it was ever a legitimate argument - and I'm not above making it when it suits my own purposes, so I think it can be on occasion - it certainly isn't one now... Not in relation to issues of war and foreign policy, because it's been so badly misused that it's a bad parody of itself; certainly not from those like Nick, who really is a bad parody of himself.

See also, the Alan Johnson link BenSix posted above, for maximum hilarity.

6/21/2011 07:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Was it? I've always mocked the Ooo, you middle class bastards stuff not because it was wrong - people come in all shapes and sizes, after all, even in the stupidest stereotypes - but because it was nakedly self-serving horseshit, cynically deployed by dishonest hacks, in furtherance of political causes that had catastrophic consequences.

I don't understand. Either people say and write this shit or they don't. You appear to concede that *some* do, but immediately insist that it doesn't matter that they do...?

When I stop being confronted by friends, family, bloggers and journalists whose views on Iraq/Afghanistan are a toxic mix of "it's nothing to do with us" and "Arabs/Muslims don't do democracy", I'll stop referring to such people/arguments.

In all conscience, do you think Nick and decents generally have overstated the prevalence of this intellectually and morally bankrupt narrative to a greater extent than the anti-war crowd have misattributed imperialist tendencies to anyone who thought getting rid of Saddam was a good idea? Seriously?

I'm sure you'll say the same thing, but I can count on one hand the number of good faith arguments I've had about Iraq in 8 years of blogging. It's depressing, but when the opening gambit of your interlocutor is that support for the war renders you a fool or a knave, things go downhill pretty quickly.

I occasionally mention Adam Michnik, or Jose Ramos Horta, or Vaclav Havel and ask which one - fool or knave - each one of them is. Don't think I've ever had a sensible answer.

Okay, time to walk the dog. Thanks for the civil discussion.

6/21/2011 07:59:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I can count on one hand the number of good faith arguments I've had about Iraq in 8 years of blogging

It must have been like this in the Garden of Gethsemane.

6/21/2011 08:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

I just had a thought...

You don't suppose that we - all of us - are genetically predisposed to seeking out those counter-arguments that piss us off the most, and that this in turn gives us a distorted view of how widespread the disingenuousness of our opponents is?

And does anyone have a home remedy for getting beagle piss out of a carpet?

6/21/2011 08:14:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Bomb the carpet?

6/21/2011 08:18:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I'm late to this, I had an exam.

Bensix's point in the third comment is a very good one. I need a decent reply, which I don't have just now. (A sort of a start: I think attacks should be particular, that is, attacks on Obama should reference misdeeds which are his alone, such as the Bradley Manning thing. Nick's attack applies to LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, GHW Bush, Clinton, GW Bush as well as Obama, and merely noting this would make it clear that his objection to BHO is on principle, rather than skin colour. (Something I don't think Palin *can* make clear.) Likewise, Lieberman agrees with several conservatives. If you say Lieberman and Gingrich both thing X, and I think X is wrong because, you should be safe from charges of anti-Semitism.)

My god, that Alan Johnson farrago! I mean, the first paragraph is far worse than Hitchens'. What "European reaction"? He doesn't tell us, he doesn't examine it, he doesn't explain it. But it has the word "European" so it must be bad. And then he references Douglas Murray. Wasn't it Sarah AB (of Harry's Place) whose husband asked "Who is this cock?" when he was on Radio 4?

For the second paragraph, one cannot improve upon "Politics and the English Language" -- well unless one wishes to throw in Steven Poole's "Unspeak".

One reason for our (historically unprecedented) failure to stand shoulder to shoulder

Have we ever "stood shoulder to shoulder with ourselves"? Is this even possible? I'd love to know how invading Iraq is "defending ourselves"? I thought the decent belief was this was altruism (on the taxpayers' never-never, naturally).

Also, skimming, "Europeans" in para 1 vs "Europeans" in para 8 (not counting blockquote) is delightful.

I've heard that one effect of the tution fees thing is that all the old polys will close. Bet Alan Johnson becomes a strident Marxist (again) post haste. Ha ha fucker, scrap heap for you! Join your students flipping burgers, or you could always join up.

6/21/2011 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Farrago indeed. Alan NTMP:

Take Giles Fraser, a canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, and a columnist at the UK’s leading liberal newspaper, the Guardian. He was appalled at the manner of the killing of OBL:

The idea that it can be just for an unarmed man to be gunned down in his bedclothes conflates justice and revenge in a way that flies in the face of the clear teachings of Jesus, who urged his followers not to respond to the violence of the other in the same manner. ... In the manner of his own death, Jesus made it abundantly clear that it is better to die than to kill. ... just war ought to make as much sense to Christians as just adultery.

For a Christian to treat 'just war' as senseless is a symptom of a deep intellectual malady. Fraser is in thrall to the adversary culture and skilled at throwing its voice in a pseudo-religious register, but he seems actually not to know that the prime intellectual author of Just War theory was - St. Augustine (354-430).


Ta-da! The reveal. Johnson seems very pleased with this bombshell. Who knew? Well, it's a long list, but I should think Giles Fraser is on it.

And those ellipses - somehow I suspected they might not be semantically neutral.


Fraser:

None of which is to insist upon fully fledged pacifism. For while it is essential that Christians maintain a strong presumption against violence, it seems unavoidable that war can sometimes be a tragic necessity - a different claim to that which describes some war as just. All war is a form of moral failure, even when defending the weak from the strong. What the just war tradition has eroded is precisely the idea that non-violence must be the Christian default position.

The criticism from people like Weigel is that liberals cannot even take their own side in an argument. But the side Christians are called to take is not the side of the military, or that of public opinion. In the manner of his own death, Jesus made it abundantly clear that it is better to die than to kill. Hardly wishy-washy.

Those who attack the Christian presumption against violence commonly accuse it of being unrealistic. Perhaps that means it is impossible to be a US president and a Christian. For what is certainly unrealistic is the belief that the just war tradition can hold the line when a conflict arises between the rules of war and the situational demands of military necessity.

Personally, I won't lose sleep that Bin Laden is with the fishes. But Christians ought not to think his assassination was just. As the theologian Stanley Hauerwas puts it, just war ought to make as much sense to Christians as just adultery.


I reckon Heuerwas definitely knew. What with being a theologian (or as the author of Voodoo Histories would put it, 'theologist').

Now, finally, I want to ask how would Christians prepare themselves for a just war? At the Eucharist, before we receive, we wish one another the peace of Christ. How would that peace be understood if we said, "Except". I mean, I've oftentimes wondered. Christians don't develop theories of Just Adultery. I mean, you know, you could be the last resort, it's the only way to save this person and so on.

Still, Johnson is right about the rigorous rules of engagement that all those demotic squaddy-WAGs pore over. Lt-Col. Mark Wenham, speaking for ISAF recently explained: "We will never knowingly risk a civilian life" (source)

6/21/2011 08:58:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

In so far as any of this is worth it (and having the same argument for a decade is not an obviously worthwhile exercise) my judgment, as somebody involved in the antiwar movement - and having opposed, I think every war my country's been involved in that I have been aware of - is that by far the most prominent motive in opposition to that war was distaste for war. In itself.

The movement was bigger, and opposition among the population greater, than is normally the case, because the war itself was so manifestly, obviously, plainly cynical - and because it was also so stupid and dangerous and likely to lead to further conflicts, since Bush's coterie made no secret of wishing to crack on with more wars after that one. This brought in lots of people who might otherwise have cut their government some slack.

But people who were against the war were primarily motivated by hatred of war, the death and injury and other nightmares concerned. None of this cobblers about it being nothing to do with us, or Arabs not understanding democracy. Being anti-war is mostly about not liking war, and I think that the larger an antiwar movement is, the more predominant is that sentiment.

I also think most war opponents understood very well that the reasons that are given for wars are rarely the real reasons, that of course both sides always to say they're there because the other side are evil, and that the wise thing is not to believe them. Which it is. Because otherwise, you become a mug, forever running round after wars shouting about how good and important they are - and, because it seems almost inevitably to accompany it, how the opponents of war are engaged in all kinds of betrayal.

So you become, not just a mug, but a particularly unpopular mug.

It's not the most important of all the bad things about war. It may even be the least important. But it's one of them.

6/21/2011 09:25:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Brownie,

Sure, even if one opposed the Iraq and/or Afghanistan wars it's possible to admit that there have been valid arguments in favour and bad arguments against. What I would dispute is the latter are particularly the preserve of the "bruschetta brigade" or "consequence free, middle-class liberals" or what have you.
For example, the "it's nothing to do with us" argument seems particularly prevalent in the pages of the Daily Mail and on the right in general. And I don't think the kind of Hurdists and ex-diplomats you mention particularly fall into the bruschetta munching category either.
Also, I have to wonder how the views of those who support the wars are any less consequence-free than those of people who opposed them.

6/21/2011 10:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

their campaign to alienate every academic in the country

Jesus wept - I hadn't seen that. And in the middle of what promises to be a long, hard-fought and well-supported fight with the employers, too. Solidarity, brothers!

6/21/2011 10:13:00 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

I've heard that one effect of the tution fees thing is that all the old polys will close. Bet Alan Johnson becomes a strident Marxist (again) post haste. Ha ha fucker, scrap heap for you! Join your students flipping burgers, or you could always join up.

While I'm talking about solidarity... er, cheers, Dave.

6/21/2011 10:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

In so far as any of this is worth it...my judgment, as somebody involved in the antiwar movement...is that by far the most prominent motive in opposition to that war was distaste for war. In itself.

You may be surprised to know that I have no problem believing that at all. But just as the pro-war camp was not always represented by social democrats with the best interests of Iraqis at heart, so the StWC steering committee read like a who's who of 21st century British Stalinism, Trotskyism and knee-jerk anti-Americanism, at least some of whom were less antiwar and more pro 'the other side'. It's not your fault that the media determined that these people were the legitimate and representative voice of the antiwar movement and that we were subjected to fourth-rate, "anti-imperialist" rhetoric that would embarrass a sixth-form debating society for the best part of six years, but neither is it mine.

If you're interested in examining why this issue was as polarising as it was, you might consider the above and what you write below:

The movement was bigger, and opposition among the population greater, than is normally the case, because the war itself was so manifestly, obviously, plainly cynical - and because it was also so stupid and dangerous

Whether intended or not, you leave no room for honourable disagreement (perhaps you deny it's possible in this instance?). Your writing here is nothing more than an embroidered 'fool or knave' presumption.

I wonder, do you even realise that at least some of your misgivings about the war and those charged with prosecuting it were shared by those supporting it? I lost count of the times I prefaced my pro-war arguments with, "I doubt the plight of the Marsh Arabs keeps George Bush awake at night", but this never meant I could escape demands that I answer for GWB. I was a neo-con whether I liked it or not, and didn't I know about the failure to plan properly for the post-war, and that Rumsfeld deosn't give a shite about the Kurds, etc..

It's a bit like pro-wrestling where those loudly proclaiming that it's all staged genuinely believe they are revealing a hidden truth that has thus far escaped the grasp of wrestling fans. Well, durrr!

You're not going to like the next bit (or least you're going to dislike it more than what's come before). The antiwar position was to a large extent characterised by a moral certitude that simply wasn't matched on the pro-war side, at least not in Britain (the US possibly different). Try finding an inerview with or aticle by Tony Blair (but not just TB) in the months before war that didn't have at least one (and usually multiple) acknowledgement that there were genuine, sincere and entirely resonable objections to war and an acceptance that this was a subject on which intelligent people could disagree. Compare and contrast with your insistence in this very thread that support for war meant you were stupid or a liar. The same indignant rectitude could be found on the pro-war side, for sure, but it was in much shorter supply.

Arguments with antis about Iraq reminded me of lectures from my father, which usually began with a variation on: "Let's talk about why I'm right and you're wrong". Hardly a recipe for constructive discussion.

6/21/2011 10:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

Yes that was my husband who took against Douglas Murray on the radio.

Going back to the OP and the suggestion that Decents are driven by the idea that politics is motivated by morality and principle. I cross referenced that with EJH's point about most opponents of wars just really hating war. I suppose in so far as I am Decent (though I don't often in fact comment directly on topics such as the war in Afghanistan) I am driven by a feeling that if something awful is happening people should intervene to stop it. Kosovo is an obvious example - I felt strongly in favour of military action and remember arguing with my parents who were against, on the basis that it was interfering with another country's affairs. I am not sure what I think of Afghanistan, for example, but do react strongly against certain sorts of arguments against the war (the kind that would annoy Brownie too I expect). Anyway, I wanted to suggest that Decents and non-Decents are driven by the same ultimate goals - to avoid suffering, violence and injustice - but disagree about the optimal way of achieving those. Indecents are another matter.

6/22/2011 06:13:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Well, bluntly:

a. it's not my fault that you couldn't spot what was clearly visible to so many other people ;

b. it's not my fault that you chose to spend several years loudly proclaiming the good faith of Tony Blair, long past the point where it could have commanded any possible respect ;

c. given how your website, and how prominent supporters of the war that you like and this site does not, have in fact, dealt with opponents of the war, you really need to wind your neck in when playing the poor little victim. I mean, really, I am not interested. You've chosen to run an unpleasant and unscrupulous website, you've chosen to conduct your business in that poisonous manner, and then you come on here saying "not fair, not fair". I've said you you more than once to the internet that you don't understand why people don't like you, and if you don't understand by now I'm damned sure you never will.

I don't think I'll be going through examples, very much, because it's been done too many times already. That's the boneheaded thing, you see. Or rather, you don't. But, you know, you can either run a website which compares Paul Mason to the BNP, or you can expect to have a civilised conversation with other people. It's a miracle you get one, to be honest, as often as you do.

But maybe the boneheaded goes with the territory, in the same way that Norman Geras, an otherwise intelligent and sophisticated man, doesn't understand that you can't conduct a debate by imputing anti-Semitism to all and sundry. Similarly, you can either run pieces comparing Paul Mason to the BNP, or you can have people thinking "ooh, here's that nice Brownie, it's always a pleasure to talk to him". You can come here pleading for generosity of heart in debate, but people are going to laugh at you.

But the facts are that Tony Blair told an avalanche of lies, and that what you complain about is what you, yourself, do. Res ipsa loquitor.

6/22/2011 06:20:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Well, fun as this is, I can't help but notice that my initial question was "Why is Nick surprised to discover that working class people are more strongly against our wars than middle class people are?"

Given that these findings bluntly contradict the entire Decent narrative of a decadent, overeducated elite of smug twats undermining our glorious Will to Victory and Hating On The Foreigns, it's interesting that Nick wasn't just surprised - he was "lost for words", according to Jones. Bear in mind that Jones repeatedly quotes NC positively on class issues elsewhere, so no Decent-baiting there.

Via Brownie, I discover that the answers are

a) Working class people have reasonable objections to the war, not like them pasta-sucking toffs

b) But, like, the SWP! and

c) Ooh, those middle class bastards with their "bruschetta arguments" although of course, it's the arguments and not the class part that's objectionable.

d) It really is horrible that people on the internet are rude to each other.

e) The idea that Britain and the US should not regularly invade and occupy other countries using extreme violence - "It's nothing to do with us" - represents some kind of frightful, ideological travesty.

Well, let's just say I'm not convinced by any of these points. I also can't help but notice the disproportionate weight and importance Brownie gives to arguments b), c), d) and e), compared to that he gives to a). Ever thus.

6/22/2011 06:22:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I am driven by a feeling that if something awful is happening people should intervene to stop it.

This does, in practice, involve war, doesn't it? And arguing that there's a moral responsibility to pursue it. And arguing that people who do not agree with it are renouncing that moral responsibility. That seems to me to be the original sin here, and it leads to a style of politics and political argument that is really, to put it kindly, problematic.

6/22/2011 06:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

ejh - no, I wouldn't say that. I would be perfectly open to rational objections to a military operation designed to stop bloodshed - i.e. demonstrating that the negative effects of such a war would outweigh the positives, or that the goals of the war would be unlikely to succeed for specific military/political reasons. Doing something isn't *always* better than doing nothing.

ejh - I know that there are grey areas within antisemitism - and in some ways these are the areas which it is more important to police - but in what way does Norman Geras attribute antisemitism to all and sundry?

6/22/2011 06:57:00 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

The question isn't "can anything be done?" but (and I speak as someone who supported the Kosovo intervention) "can anything be done with justice, in accordance with international law and in such a way as to strengthen international institutions"? Which is a difficult and frustrating question to ask, not least because the answer generally appears to be No. The Decent answer, from the peaks of Walzer and Geras on down, has quite consistently been to dismiss all three of these concerns - "this is justice, if it's against international law then international law needs to change, and what good are international institutions anyway?"

The appeal of liberal interventionism is urgency - something has to be done, something has to be done now, therefore something has to be done with the means we've got available, which means mostly shooting and we'll sort out the paperwork afterwards. It's seductive, particularly for people who are new to the issues and haven't got an investment in international legality - compare this post with these comments from Mary Kaldor, who is widely regarded as a bit of a liberal interventionist herself but does think in terms of international institutions.

But why is it seductive? Why don't we think in terms of charitable and worker-based campaigns to change the world - some of which we know can succeed to the point of making themselves history?

I think the elephant in the room is imperialism: Britain used to be the kind of nation that sent gunboats and imposed treaties, rather than the kind that's subjected to both, and we've all been brought up to believe that that's still the case - or, if it's not, that we can hitch a lift with the US. And if "we" have all this power - including the power of emancipation from international law - then surely "we" should use it for good. Problem being that it's very hard to achieve a good end with bad means: to act illegally with impunity is to weaken international law, as surely as to drop bombs is to kill people. The major problem is it's generally the US government calling the shots, and 'we' (the real 'we') end up supporting actions that even our government has no control over - and saying (as I ended saying over Kosovo) that you support an intervention, but not an intervention by these people carried out in this way and with these stated objectives, just puts you in the realms of fantasy politics.

6/22/2011 08:23:00 AM  
Anonymous peter said...

Brownie I don't know who you are but this is beyond adjectives:


The antiwar position was to a large extent characterised by a moral certitude that simply wasn't matched on the pro-war side, at least not in Britain (the US possibly different).

I ended up on the March not because I was certain of anything about the rights and wrongs of the war, but because I was certain that if citizens and MPs supinely surrendered to such methodical and transparent dishonest and manipulation.

Days after I went on the March, en route to which I saw people of all ages and races at tube stops in a way that wasn't true of any of the marches in my youth, David Aaronovitch wrote a piece in the Guardian in which he confidently asserted that that meant I was stupid and wanted to kill all the jews.

It was like being in a strange dream, the Jack Straw bollocks, the dossier bollocks, the uranium bollocks, the moronic conflation of different types of people from different countries into one collective cause; the revolting lobby-minded deference of the wretched, compromised fourth estate. The overgrown debate-prize debating schoolboys who, with strauight faces, compared 2002 to 1939. It was a proper horror show.

That is why the only way we can understand those still so keen to rage at the Upper Street-sipping morons who apologise for Islamofascism and like leaders to kill their own people is to regard said ragers as being in the throes of something of a pathology.

Seriously, if you said this to psychologist, he would surely be more interested in the speaker than the confronters:

When I stop being confronted by friends, family, bloggers and journalists

Friends, family, peers, and those horrible bloggers. What's left? Great centre-left wartime leaders

6/22/2011 08:26:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

or that the goals of the war would be unlikely to succeed for specific military/political reasons.

How specific do you want? I mean does the long track record of the failure (and the ill-faith) of military interventions count here?

And I do think that firstly, it is, in practice, about war, that whenever a war comes up the same old people are loudly in favour of it. Not only that, but touting other wars (e.g. internvetion in Zimbabwe) which aren't even on the agenda. It really is the same thing time and again.

But secondly, I don't think Decnecy is just about that. That's not what gives it its tone. It's about hunting down, exposing and denouncing people who it doesn't like. The let's compare-Paul-Mason-to-the-BNP syndrome.

I don't think the two have to go together, but in practice they usually seem to, i.e. it seems to be really hard to support a war without going round pointing fingers at its opponents. And I think this may be because when you see wars as acts of moral intervention, as a habit, then that habit is a habit and it's not going to stop at foreign affairs.

6/22/2011 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

As for the Norm of Civilised Debate, see this post. In the comments, in particular, I headed off a commenter who wanted to talk about the Implicit Anti-Semitism Challenge, as well as one who wanted to apply it to me. What interested me about the post I was responding to was what was left if we took the IA-SC as read and looked at what, by implication, a world untainted by racism would look like. (Answer: scary.)

6/22/2011 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

As far as Upper Street is concerned, I was in the Slug and Lettuce there once. I asked for pork scratchings: they gave me Japanese rice crackers instead.

Naturally I didn't hang around at the bar in case I was invited to a dinner party with some supporters of Hamas.

(I can't remember exactly where this was off the top of my head, but I do recall that Arsenal won the League that year, so maybe 1935.)

6/22/2011 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

not like them pasta-sucking toffs...

That reminds me of a joke: my wife walked out on me because she got fed up with my habit of obsessively fondling the pasta. Now she's gone, I'm feeling cannelloni.

6/22/2011 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Did that appear on the Guardian OBO recently?

6/22/2011 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

It may have done. Or I saw it on Twitter, or something.

6/22/2011 08:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

given how your website, and how prominent supporters of the war that you like and this site does not, have in fact, dealt with opponents of the war, you really need to wind your neck in when playing the poor little victim.

ejh,

Your insistence that I answer for the (mostly imagined) crimes of all those on the same side of the Iraq war argument as me is truly bizarre. Your refusal to engage with my arguments on the basis that others even more repugnant than me were making arguments even more unconscionable than mine is, of course, your prerogative, but don't kid yourself on that this is anything other than intellectual cowardice writ large. Although to be fair to you, it’s not like you’ve spent the last 8 years sharing a camp with the likes of George Galloway and John “we can’t be choosy” Pilger.

Oh, wait a minute...

The question isn't "can anything be done?" but (and I speak as someone who supported the Kosovo intervention) "can anything be done with justice, in accordance with international law and in such a way as to strengthen international institutions"? Which is a difficult and frustrating question to ask, not least because the answer generally appears to be No. The Decent answer, from the peaks of Walzer and Geras on down, has quite consistently been to dismiss all three of these concerns - "this is justice, if it's against international law then international law needs to change, and what good are international institutions anyway?"

Phil,

So when you decided to support the intervention in Kosovo, were you summarily “dismissing” these concerns also, or did you simply come to the conclusion that sometimes there are worse places to find yourself than the wrong side of international law?

I ask because, as I’m sure you know but appear to have forgotten in the above, Kosovo was prosecuted without UN authorisation and, by the same yardstick used to measure Iraq, was unquestionably illegal under international law. The fact it was somewhat less uncontroversial than the war in Iraq is not something the law in this case recognises.

A similar argument could be made against Blair’s unilateral action in Sierra Leone.

ejh - I know that there are grey areas within antisemitism - and in some ways these are the areas which it is more important to police - but in what way does Norman Geras attribute antisemitism to all and sundry?

Sarah, Norm does this in “a way” that isn’t really “a way” at all, at least not “a way” that anyone other than ejh and few like him would understand to be “a way”.

It’s just another example of ejh looking for an excuse to avoid discussion. After all, if those with whom you disagree are all morally suspect and/or intellectually challenged, what *is* the point?

6/22/2011 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

when you decided to support the intervention in Kosovo, were you summarily “dismissing” these concerns also

Yes, pretty much, and I now believe I was wrong to do so. Sorry if that wasn't clear. (I crossed Attila Hoare going the other way - he opposed the intervention but now believes he should have supported it.)

6/22/2011 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Your insistence that I answer for the (mostly imagined) crimes of all those on the same side of the Iraq war argument as me is truly bizarre.

Well, truly imaginary perhaps.

don't kid yourself on that this is anything other than intellectual cowardice writ large.

Oh no, please don't make accusations against me, Mr Brownie. Please. Anything but that.

6/22/2011 09:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

And I do think that firstly, it is, in practice, about war, that whenever a war comes up the same old people are loudly in favour of it.

Like Phil with Kosovo?

This simply isn't true. Hands up if you know people who supported the intervention in Kosovo but not Iraq? How about pro-Afghanistan but not Iraq?

6/22/2011 09:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fact: there was no humanitarian emergency in Iraq in 2002 - early 2003.


Guano

6/22/2011 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Brownie - with all the patience that I have left, which is not very much...

...not everybody wants to have the same argument with the same people again and again until the Day Of The Greek Kalends.

Because it isn't very interesting.

And it isn't much fun.

And it involves handing over the floor to people who are monumental bores.

And every time it happens here, which is every time you turn up, this website gets less interesting.

Which is a shame.

6/22/2011 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

This simply isn't true.

No, it's not, if you think it means "everybody who supports any war supports every war". Which it plainly didn't mean, However, if it means "certain people, groups and tendencies crop up time and again supporting and advocating wars" then I think we can come to a different view.

If we try.

6/22/2011 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

Brownie writes, 'the StWC steering committee read like a who's who of 21st century British Stalinism, Trotskyism and knee-jerk anti-Americanism'

Well let's gloss over the fact that Harry's Place was founded by a notorious 21st Century British Stalinist and allies itself with pro-war 'Trots' like Christopher Hitchens and the AWL.

Instead, could Brownie give us a working definition of 'anti-Americanism' - a term used by Blair and his gang on many occasions?

Are the many Americans who opposed the war anti-American, or merely un-American?

Do Americans express their essential Americanism by waging war?

Can I love American literature, music, films etc., but still be anti-American?

Is 'anti-American' as empty a term as 'pro-American' (which opponents of the war have never used to characterise the pro-war camp)?

6/22/2011 09:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

And it involves handing over the floor to people who are monumental bores.

Get over yourself already. This is a blog. Other than the blog owners who can tell me to piss off any time they like, there is no floor to hand over and you are not the person to hand over it even if there were.

And every time it happens here, which is every time you turn up, this website gets less interesting.

And there you are, every time, ready to tell everyone just how "uninteresting" it all is.

Which is not at all uninteresting itself, no siree.

6/22/2011 09:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Sorry Coventrian, it'll have to wait. I've got some coal to dig (but not before I've let Harry know just how "notorious" he was).

6/22/2011 09:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On behalf of all at AaroWatch, Brownie, I apologise for the use of the word 'notorious' to describe Harry.

Don't say we're not fair.

Dave Weeden

6/22/2011 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Ilkley Chess said...

Dave, don't you know that the 'Harry' of 'Harry's Place' used to be in the Stalinist wing of the CPGB and adopted the moniker 'Harry Steele' as a homage to Harry Pollitt and Joe Stalin.

If that doesn't make him 'notorious' -will 'infamous' do?

Word verification - desod

6/22/2011 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

On being anti-American, I recommend this very helpful article, "Why It Is Right To Be Anti-American".

It's by a chap called Nick Cohen.

(word verification: squall)

6/22/2011 10:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ilkley (Justin?) I didn't know that. I was struck by Brownie chose to dispute the adjective, rather than the noun. - DW

6/22/2011 10:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Crikey, is AW slaughtering our eponymous Harry for possessing suspect political tendencies when he was a spotty, starry-eyed student?

You've out-Harryed Harry's Place ;-)

Be sure to let me know when Ress, Murray, German, Hudson et al have repudiated their politics.

6/22/2011 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I've never even been to Ilkley.

6/22/2011 10:57:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

So Brownie goes from "I've got some unsubstantiated allegations against some unsubstantiated people" (or maybe it's just his relatives, or his interpretation of what his relatives say) to "how dare you associate me with Harry's Place", "how can you point out that Harry named himself after Stalin when half the StW committee have been anti-Stalinists all their life" and "John Pilger's so dodgy that he must be linked to some awful people in the same way HP links the Woodcraft Folk, the Methodists,Quakers and Amnesty International to the worst of evils".
This is knee-jerk cliche trolling, and doesn't add to the sum of human knowledge.

6/22/2011 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I wish people wouldn't repudiate their politics, actually. It's such a drama-queen thing to do.

As I may have said before (and before, and before) if you've changed your mind, do so thoughtfully.

6/22/2011 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

If I'd repudiated my politics, I'd be more concerned about my own stupidity than that of my former comrades. However turncoats usually take the opposite approach.

As for David Mamet - who claimed to be, 'no longer a brain-dead liberal' - surely such a clever man should realise that while you can recover from being a liberal, there is no evidence of anyone surviving brain death.

I see Brownie was not too busy to answer my questions, so I'll give him another chance to define anti-Americanism.

6/22/2011 11:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Jumping Jesus H Christ on a bike, I just took another look at the 'steering committee' page of the StWC site:

http://www.stopwar.org.uk/index.php/about/steering-committee-and-officers

Imagine being stuck in a lift, etc.

These were the people responsible for crafting the antiwar narrative: if you went to a STW march, these were the people on the platforms giving the speeches, these were the people writing the columns in the newspapers and giving the interviews on the telly.

Once again, this isn't my fault or that of anyone else on the pro-war side. Insofar as 98% of pro-war output couldn't and can't be applied to most people commenting at blogs like this, then fair enough. But tilting at windmills we were not.

6/22/2011 11:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

If I'd repudiated my politics, I'd be more concerned about my own stupidity than that of my former comrades. However turncoats usually take the opposite approach.

Yes, I mean if there's one thing worse than a Stalinist, it's someone who used to be a Stalinist when he was 21 but who is now a social democrat.

Fucking turncoats.

I see Brownie was not too busy to answer my questions, so I'll give him another chance to define anti-Americanism.

Why, it's the only form of bigotry acceptable in polite company, of course. And there was you thinking that was anti-Semitism. Tsk.

6/22/2011 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

But tilting at windmills we were not.

No, I was thinking of a more modern cultural reference. Imagine Daleks, all going "Repudiate! Repudiate!"

6/22/2011 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

But, we've done it before, of course: it's important who was on the STW steering committee, "crafting the antiwar narrative" (good that, though not as good as "platforming extremists") but less important who was on the steering committee of the actual war.

And so it goes, round and round, like a record baby. Did we still have records, when all this started? Sometimes it seems so.

(I rather like many of the people on the STW Committee, by the way.)

6/22/2011 11:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Ironically enough, my nickname at school was 'Davros'. It's a delicate subject for me, really. To this day, I still bear the Skaro.

6/22/2011 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

If you went to a STW march, these were the people on the platforms giving the speeches...

Hmm, I recall that the key speakers at the biggest march I was on were John Swinney (now a government minister), the always awesome Margo MacDonald and the ever-mental but enteraining Tommy Sheridan.

Funnily enough, most of the marchers I spoke to were ordinary, run-o'-the-mill Scots like myself, but to be fair there were a few Barber jackets-and-wellies types too, so that probably doesn't count.

Hey, did you ever check out the protests in just about every part of Europe, or the ones over much of the rest of the planet?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/February_15,_2003_anti-war_protest

I mean, no doubt all of them were riddled with badthinkers to their brie 'n' filo pastry stuffed aristocratic guts too. You have to admit though, it does look like quite a lot of people managed to call it right, despite the baleful influence of the Commies.

These were the people responsible for crafting the antiwar narrative...

I always love the Decent concern for anti-war "narratives". It's like, there is no independent truth, man! Weigh up the arguments and decide who's right, before just joining the side that has the world's most powerful governments, military machines and media institutions anyway!

After all, I didn't need a narrative crafted for me - I just opened a paper every day to discover that Saddam was totally going to anthrax Dogdick, Alabama with model planes or that the government had been caught ripping "intelligence" off from some undergraduate's university thesis...

And I thought well, that's obviously Some Bullshit. I wonder why they're telling us this bullshit? Maybe other things they're telling us are bullshit too. And lo, they were.

Sorry, you were saying something about the SWP?

6/22/2011 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Let me see: you're saying that of those people who believe Arabs and democracy don't mix (which is at least an implicit acceptance that such people exist), more supported the war than opposed it?

Since this was the official foreign policy of the USA throughout the entire Bush era with respect to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and still is with respect to Bahrain, I think EJH is on a winner here. Since rejecting the result of the election in Gaza is the official line of your own weblog, I might even be prepared to put some money on.

6/22/2011 12:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

(I rather like many of the people on the STW Committee, by the way.)

Still on my chair, not having fallen off and not having had to pick myself up from the floor.

Laters.

6/22/2011 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Had people starting saying "laters" in 2003? Are they still saying it? How about "my bad"?

6/22/2011 12:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Since this was the official foreign policy of the USA throughout the entire Bush era with respect to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and still is with respect to Bahrain

I'd suggest there is a not inconsiderable number of people on the right of US politics who opposed changed in Egypt etc. for the very simple fact that they feared democratic reform in those countries might threaten some very vested interests. It's an argument I've heard put many times by people with a political outlook not dissimilar to your own and I'm inclined to believe there's some mileage in it.

If Arabs and democracy don't mix anyway, you really shouldn't need to spend billions every year propping up Arab dictators.

That's even if I accept your analysis of Bushie foreign policy, which I don't. You don't need to read too many books about neoconservatism in general or Bush in particular to know that the spread of demcoracy throughout the region was never far from the heart of US post-9/11 foreign policy, even if not always (or even often) for altruisitic reasons.

Start with 'Decision Points'. You can and with good reason make legitimate criticism of GW, but try to make a claim that he believes Arabs and democracy don't mix and you're going to lose. Insofar as specific instances can be cited that seem counter-intuitive to a notion of wanting to see democracy spread throughout the region, I'd say these are examples of the more cynical and duplicitous foreign policy approach to the ME rather than indicative of a belief that democracy is beoynd the wit of Arabs.

To take your Bahrain example, it could be argued that the US is displaying double-standards in failing to push for democratic reform there in the same way it does in, say, Syria. I'd argue there are manifest differences and legitimate reasons why that might be the case, but even conceding this is double-standards in no way supports your contention that there is an underpinning belief that Arabs and democracy don't mix; the point would be that in the case of Bahrain, other factors are in play and the US, unscrupulously, is giving them primacy over the demands of the local population to have genuine reform.

Since rejecting the result of the election in Gaza is the official line of your own weblog,

Hmm, interesting use of "rejection". I think what you mean is that we (along with folk like Abbas) would have preferred a differnet result in Gaza, just as I'm likely to have preferred a different result in any Israeli election won by Likud or indeed our own general election last year.

Are you saying that unless we agree with the result of every election conducted in every Arab country from now until Coventrian stops asking me to define 'anti-Americanism' that we are implicitly endorsing the 'Arabs and democracy don't mix' line?

Of course we believe Arabs and democracy mix, but that doesn't prohibit us from looking at specific Arab election results and concluding "WTF?"

6/22/2011 12:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Had people starting saying "laters" in 2003? Are they still saying it? How about "my bad"?

It's time to lay aside that Dr Who anthology, pack up the chess board and get down wid da kidz, cuz.

6/22/2011 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

You don't need to read too many books about neoconservatism in general or Bush in particular to know that the spread of demcoracy throughout the region was never far from the heart of US post-9/11 foreign policy

And yet, curiously, in practice, they kept shelling out to keep these guys in power.

I dunno, maybe they just never got round to it. You know what red tape's like.

6/22/2011 12:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

And yet, curiously, in practice, they kept shelling out to keep these guys in power.

And spent even more money getting rid of one.

Are you saying that when Obama and Clinton call on Assad to institute a process of genuine, democratic reform, they don't really mean it?

There are those who argue this and not just as it applies to Syria. The argument goes that the US is actually shit-scared about just how well the Muslim Brotherhood might do in free and fair elections in Egypt, for example. But even if this argument has some merit, it cannot be reconciled with a simultaneous assertion that the US believes Arabs and democracy don't mix. On the contrary, the only conclusion is that the US believes Arabs and democracy might mix *too* well.

6/22/2011 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

That last argument is Jesuitical without ceasing to be barmy.

6/22/2011 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

can't be arsed in getting into this, will jjust focus on the originl post and a bit down here:

there is a not inconsiderable number of people on the right of US politics who opposed changed in Egypt

indeed. There's also a fair few UK right-wingers who wanted Mubarak to stay in power. Including the Henry Jackson Society.

Nick, in his piece:

the pro-democracy thinktank, the Henry Jackson Society

hmm.

Also on the original post:

To make this on-topic, is Mamet's change of mind in anyway similar to David Aaronovitch?

i think it's a lot more simmilar to the 'conversion' of Nick Cohen. The curious bedfellows, the bizarre reasons for dciding you're 'against' stuff, the embracing of decidedly dodgy policies seemingly on the basis of who opposes them, picking fights with artists based on one's own misreading of them... it's not quite as extreme as Mamet, but still.

I'm interested in reading what Mamet has to say about Brecht, which is sort of on topic with my above paragraph. Elsewhere, from cursory research, Mamet has said of Brecht that:

his theories 'bear little relationship to his plays, which are extraordinarily charming and beautiful and lyrical and upsetting'

Surely this is the right way to read someone like Brecht, just as it;s the right way to read someone like Eliot (who Nick Cohen has quoted approvingly fairly recently) or indeed Pound. Even if an artist is at root didactic (and at root, most are), that doesn't mean you have to fully agree with their aims to enjoy their work.

6/22/2011 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

And spent even more money getting rid of one.

I am absolutely not doing this one, by the way. I'd rather put my arm in the shredder.

6/22/2011 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

I asked Brownie to define anti-Americanism because was accusing anti-war activists of being motivated by it.

He replied, 'Why, it's the only form of bigotry acceptable in polite company, of course.'

Well that may or may not be true, but that does nothing to define it. I'm beginning to think he can't.

Brownie adds, 'And there was you thinking that was anti-Semitism. Tsk.' Now that is implying that I am at least soft on anti-Semitism. This is a disgusting slur, but then that is the modus operandi of Harry's Place. When cornered, slime the opposition.

If he can't define anti-Americanism, he can at least apopogise and withdraw his smear.

6/22/2011 01:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Brownie adds, 'And there was you thinking that was anti-Semitism. Tsk.' Now that is implying that I am at least soft on anti-Semitism.

Only if you have the reading comprehension of a ladybird, and a ladybird with victim-complex issues.

I was referring to the fact that many commentators, including those on our own blog, have regularly claimed that anti-Semitism is now the only acceptable form of racism. I was simply pre-empting your disputing my claim that anti-Americanism is today's acceptable form of bigotry by saying something along the lines of: "Oh, I thought that was anti-Semitism?"

I really don't go in for snidey accusations of this sort and I've got a pretty good track record of not making this particular allegation. In 10 years of blogging, I don't think I've ever accused anyone of being anti-Semitic, even those I've no doubt are.

I am willing to make an exception for you, though. I promise that the second I'm convinced of your anti-Semitic credentials, I'll come right out and accuse you. Okay?

If you can show rather than assert that I think you're soft on anti-Semitism, not only will I apologise but I'll turn on my webcam and do it naked.

6/22/2011 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

with victim-complex issues

!!!!!

6/22/2011 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

If I remember rightly, Coventrian, this is at least the second if not third time you've accused me of calling you anti-Semitic, or soft on anti-Semitism. You appear desperate for me to make this claim for some inexplicable reason and your manufactured outrage is starting to grate.

I think you can fuck right off, frankly. With a bit of luck, this gratuitous abuse will be enough to get me thrown off this thread so I can actually to do some bloody work.

6/22/2011 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

' I was simply pre-empting your disputing my claim that anti-Americanism is today's acceptable form of bigotry by saying something along the lines of: "Oh, I thought that was anti-Semitism?" '

Simply?

As for manufactured outrage, I'll leave that to you. You do it so well.

I think we can conclude that you are able to accuse people of anti-Americanism, claim it to be today's acceptable form of bigotry, but you have absolutely no idea what it is.

Browniebird, Browniebird fly away home

6/22/2011 01:37:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

And Horton turns that one round the corner for a single, and that's the hundred....

6/22/2011 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Oh we couldn't possibly throw you off this thread. I'd have your ruining your laptop/iPad/phone with coal dust if you went back to work now on my conscience.

And generally, I try to avoid actions that may nag at my conscience later.

6/22/2011 01:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Coventrian,

Sorry, but I really can't be doing with the "define X" mode of debate. It invariably leads to pissing contests about the precise parameters of the definition and the more substantive issues go untouched.

If you want to conclude that this means I can't define the term, knock yourself out.

It can be important to establish common understanding on terms in order for debate to take place, of course it can, but I dispute that, short of those who deny the existence of an anti-American phenomenon entirely, there really are that many material differences when it comes to defining the term. Even if you suspect your definition would differ markedly to my own, I suggest you could make a pretty decent fist of guessing how I define the term and this ought to be enough for the discussion to proceed.

I could come here every day and ask how the regulars are defining "decent" that day. It semes to mean whatever you guys want it to mean one day to the next. But rather than do that, I've even adopted the term myself when making an argument as, whatever I think about the term and its definition, there is sufficient mutual understanding to allow discussion to take place without needing to engage in these demands that each party define 'decent'.

To this specific case, unless you think there's no such thing as 'anti-Americanism', your demands that I define it are diversionary and, more to the point, monumentally tedious.

6/22/2011 01:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Oh we couldn't possily throw you off this thread.

Fascist!

6/22/2011 02:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

John Lloyd wrote the best definition of a-A years ago in an article for the Guardian. Looking for it now.

6/22/2011 02:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

And here it is:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2002/mar/17/world.comment

Anti-Americanism is not criticism of the American government's policies, any more than criticism of the Israeli government's policies is anti-Semitism. But there is now a narrative of the left - complete in itself in the way such narratives are - which sees in the US an imperial predator whose actions - all actions - are conditioned by this aspect of its being.

This narrative has ceased to be critical, but become predestinarian: rather as predestinarians divided humanity into those whose actions could never be wrong and those whose actions could never be right, so this strain of left critique arrogates to itself the first and confers on the US the second. It is important not to confuse this grand, totalising critique with criticism, from left or right. The latter is essential for governments, most essential for governments with such awful power as the US commands. But the totalising critique is an intellectual construct, derived from the techniques of 19th century philosophy, which bends all facts to fit the ideological line.

6/22/2011 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

BTW, anti-Americanism seems terribly close to unAmerican Activities, and those are really hard to pin down. Basically, they're what people you don't like do.

This is good. Two people essentially accuse other of being un-American. Guess which one I'm on the side of?

While the EU is hardly clean on this, the US does rather glory in making weapons and selling them to dictators. (See Rumsfeld[1] > Saddam; Oliver North > Iran (in the support of the Contras, a thoroughly nasty group of thugs) etc.) And they're good clients. Nick (see original post) is pretty lucid about the failings of Syria, but these countries (Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia) need to keep buying weapons, because they keep using them, on their own people mostly. The global arms trade is too much like a scam for comfort. We keep producing a product which is essentially good for nothing, and to sell it, we make other countries dependent. This sort of thing wouldn't be allowed in the City.

As Brownie says, the US spent a lot removing Saddam. Possible benefits: depletion of arms stock, therefore orders for more (to arms companies who donate to the Republican Party); greater influence for bellicose Senators; jobs! (paid for by the tax payer, but not in a bad way like building things or caring for people -- in a good, clean, manly way where tax payers should feel glad that they're supporting the nation rather than helping scroungers and people who are going to die anyway). The cynical reasons for having wars seem to fit the facts much better than the 'principled' reasons.

[1] Sorry to come back to this, but can anyone have thought that Rumsfeld support for the invasion of Iraq had anything to do with hatred of Saddam? I mean, what fucking planet do you have to be on to think that Bush II, Cheney, and Rumsfeld *had* any good faith to act on?

6/22/2011 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I am reminded of John Cleese, looking for the chicken inside the trifle.

6/22/2011 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Sorry, Brownie, missed your post, while writing mine.

But there is now a narrative of the left - complete in itself in the way such narratives are - which sees in the US an imperial predator whose actions - all actions - are conditioned by this aspect of its being.

Apart from "all actions" (the US is large, it contains multitudes, etc), that's a very good description of my position. If you'd posted it a bit earlier, you'd have saved me some typing.

6/22/2011 02:47:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

One might say that unless you think there's no such thing as 'decency', your demands that we define it are diversionary and, more to the point, monumentally tedious.

On John Lloyd: first we have a non-definition(and one that reminds one of the bullshit of the current Fuck UCU campaign at HP: it isn't necessarily anti-semitic to attack the existence of a racist state in Palestine until you do it), secondly we learn that anti-Ams essentialise the US as an imperial predator, and can see no activity that takes place within its territory, let alone the rest of the world, that doesn't fit this paradigm.[Wasn't this answered upthread re anti-American Americans among others?]
Thirdly we get that these anti-Ams have a twinfold absolute certainty[citation needed?], and finally that this arises from their adoption of nineteenth century philosophy. Was that the philosophy of this slightly sexist gentleman,or this bloke?

Stop digging, Brownie,the shaft is about to collapse!

6/22/2011 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Surely you wouldn't be digging in the immediate vicinity of the shaft anyway?

6/22/2011 02:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

CChap,

Have you checked out those SIPRI arms sales figures for Iraq?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SIPRI_Arms_Transfers_Database,_Iraq_1973%E2%80%931990

Maybe the US championed regime change in Iraq so they could sell more weapons? Maybe the 3 permanent members of the UNSC opposing the war - who just so happened to be the three biggest weapons exporters to Iraq under Saddam - had their own motives, too?

Sorry to come back to this, but can anyone have thought that Rumsfeld support for the invasion of Iraq had anything to do with hatred of Saddam?

I agree with the sentiment, but then my support for the war was never contingent on a mistaken belief that Rumsfeld et al gave two hoots for the Iraqi people (I actually think the position is more nuanced with respect to Bush).

Then again, I don't suppose the Kurds, for instance, were overly-concerned what Rumsfled secretly thought. If someone is prepared to kick-out the guy who's been murdering your family and friends for decades, how many questions are you going to ask, exactly?

6/22/2011 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Do you know, that argument never occurred to me before.

6/22/2011 03:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If someone is prepared to kick-out the guy who's been murdering your family and friends for decades, how many questions are you going to ask, exactly?

Ask no questions, just get the strong men in to achieve your dream. This naive position that moral philosophers, notably Norman Geras, will never give up defending. But it ignores politics and pragmatics -- and it led to the human disaster of 2003 and following.

K

6/22/2011 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger Ilkley Chess said...

The reason I asked for a definition of anti-Americanism is that I'd like proof of the antiwar movement being anti-American.

Since Brownie didn't have a definition of his own, he borrowed one off John Lloyd who coincidentally I suppose also saw a parallel with anti-Semitism.

Lloyd defines it as seeing 'in the US an imperial predator whose actions - all actions - are conditioned by this aspect of its being.'

This reminds me of the sort of nonsense Lloyd himself believed when a member of the ultra-Stalinist British and Irish Communist Organisation. The links below make fascinating reading. At least Aaro was a Euro.

http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/John_Lloyd

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

Nice to have a definition which can frame any criticism of bombing, starvation sanctions, invasion, kidnap, torture and bloody war as 'anti-Americanism'.

6/22/2011 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Brownie, I'm happy to believe that everyone has their cynical motives. I don't believe that those countries who opposed the Iraq War necessarily did so for principled reasons. I just don't believe that the US is exceptional is this regard. It's always about money [1].

As for the Kurds...

If someone is prepared to kick-out the guy who's been murdering your family and friends for decades, how many questions are you going to ask, exactly?

This is complex. First, Cheney was Vice President during the Iraq War (and was reputed to control Bush, though this way of seeing the power balance in the White House faded somewhat in the second term) had been Secretary for Defense in the Gulf War. As such, he's pretty much the guy who sold out the Kurds in 1991. To paraphrase someone, the Kurds were fooled once, shame on (the person who fooled them), fool them twice, they can't be fooled again.

Against that, of course, the Kurds were better off after the Gulf War. The US flew sorties to protect them. (This seems especially Clintonesque with hindsight.) Saddam killed a lot fewer Kurds between 1991 and 2003 than he had in the days when Rumsfeld was selling him arms.

On the third hand, Turkey (which also has a rotten human rights record re the Kurds) is a member of NATO and an ally in TWAT.

I sympathise with your point, and no doubt many Kurds articulated it at greater length, but were I a Kurd, I'd have been wondering if I can trust these people to do what they say they'll do, given their record and their allies.

[1] Here I come back to Mamet. If you're going to write a play (or novel or film script), which looks like the most plausible motivation for your characters? Random goodness or money? ('Bicycle Thieves' would be a good example: everyone's actions are determined by economic concerns. Also true of "Glengarry Glen Ross.") Why should we expect nations to behave altruistically? Their voters don't want that. Yes people behave unselfishly when there's little cost: giving up a seat, a quid or two to a beggar. They don't tend to take great personal risks for strangers. And the US hasn't been behaving selflessly: politicians are, more or less literally, under siege by large corporations. Arms companies need sales. The US government (ie the taxpayer) buys. The obliging senators get a small cut. But they need wars for this. Basically, Simon Jenkins is right.

6/22/2011 03:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

ejh,

I don't doubt that it occurred to you. Some indication that it featured in your analysis would be nice, though.

When opponets of the war say things like CChap just has re Rumsfled, do you genuinely suppose that this comes as some great revelation to the vast majority of those who supported the war?

Those things happened (in Iraq) even though Rumsfeld said they happened.

6/22/2011 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Some indication that it featured in your analysis would be nice, though.

Such indications were available in 2003, and, for that matter for a few years after that. Regrettably they now appear to be out of print and there seems to be no immediate indication of the publisher issuing a new edition.

6/22/2011 03:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

The reason I asked for a definition of anti-Americanism is that I'd like proof of the antiwar movement being anti-American.

Why do you want proof of something I've never alleged?

Some members of the antiwar movement most definitely are anti-American. I doubt the more sentient amongst the AW commentariat truly dispute this.

6/22/2011 03:58:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

I ingenuously suppose that they are either knaves or fools, and aren't so concerned which.
There were things that happened in Iraq that Rumsfeld didn't say happen, there were things that didn't happen that he said did, and there were things that didn't happen that he didn't say happened. It's a rich tapestry.

6/22/2011 04:00:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Some members of the antiwar movement most definitely are anti-American.
Is that on John Lloyd's easily discredited definition?

6/22/2011 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Not so easily discredited, I think: because one of the big lessons of the internet is surely that it's precisely things that are untrue, or unverifiable, which are hardest to challenge.

6/22/2011 04:04:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Or

6/22/2011 04:08:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Mmm, but that which can be asserted with low-quality evidence can never really be dismissed.

6/22/2011 04:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

CChap,

This reminds me of a theme dominating discussions I had in the early months of the war.

Opponents: "Are we really to suppose that the US is, post-9/11, suddenly consumed by a desire to spread freedom and democracy to all corners of the globe, the new nemesis of tyrants everywhere?"

Me: "Not at all. I'm happy to agree that the US continues to act as it ever did: in its own self-interest. The good news is that post-9/11, occasionally, acting in its own self-interest will enjoy the happy corollary of removing dictators rather than continually propping them up and thereby bring freedom to what were previously democratic wastelands. Or, the objective is the same as it ever was: do what's best for Uncle Sam, however, the realisation now is that you don’t do that by acting as puppet-master to a coterie of subservient client states – at least not all the time. Hence Iraq."

In other words, nobody was being asked to believe that the US, alone amongst the nations of the world, was now subordinating its own self-interest and embarking on a crusade for good for good’s sake.

This is why, to members of the pro-war left (all 17 of us), why America was doing what she was doing was far less important than the fact that she was doing it.

6/22/2011 04:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Not so easily discredited

Well there is no arbiter of what is and isn't 'anti-American' - it's entirely subjective. This means that your ability to discredit Lloyd's definition is constrained only by your powers of persuasiveness.

6/22/2011 04:38:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

To paraphrase one of the great statesmen of the era, I'm intensely relaxed about the idea that 2003's antiwar types were influenced to any degree by anti-Americanism.

After all, the idea that the Americans as a group are a uniquely evil bunch strikes me as childish, rather than threatening. The UK's general contempt for the French is in much the same vein.

On the other hand, the idea that the American government is a huge amoral beast with drives, needs and purposes that are often the antithetical to its declared aims is common sense, given everything we've seen it do in the last few decades. This goes double when we're talking about an administration that was as obviously deranged and corrupt as the last.

No doubt there are some good reasons to disagree with that assessment, but people who defend against it to the hilt have tended to wind up with a lot of egg on their faces, i.e. writing long articles called things like "Okay, the Iraq invasion was a total disaster but I was still right to cheer it on like it was Liverpool vs. Chelsea".

Which is a bit like a vegetarian trying to pretend a pig is some previously unrecognised species of root vegetable.

6/22/2011 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

In other words, nobody was being asked to believe that the US, alone amongst the nations of the world, was now subordinating its own self-interest and embarking on a crusade for good for good’s sake.

Well actually they were, even if not (on your account) by you personally.

My recollection is that casting doubt on the US's motives, from the anti-war side, was precisely what tended to draw forth the accusation
of anti-Americanism.

But it doesn't matter. It mostly doesn't matter because you were wrong, and we were right. Sorry to state it so bluntly, but there it is.

6/22/2011 04:46:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Which is a bit like a vegetarian trying to pretend a pig is some previously unrecognised species of root vegetable.

A fish, mind you...

6/22/2011 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

And while I'm at it, "removing dictators" is certainly one way of putting what the Bush administration was up to.

Another would be "Launching ludicrously ill-planned military disasters with reckless contempt for forethought or planning; Intentionally imposing some of the most corrupt and regressive policies imaginable on the country as fast as it could in order to turn it into a giant cash cow for wealthy Americans; Putting massive mobs of murderous psychopaths on the American payroll and then quietly presiding over a nation with a human rights record only marginally better than its horrifying neighbours".

I've left out a lot there, but I think we've established that "Removing dictators" might be a rather convenient figleaf for a lot of really, really despicable policies and fuck-ups.

6/22/2011 04:53:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Well there is no arbiter of what is and isn't 'anti-American' - it's entirely subjective.
There is an understanding of words that fits with a rational understanding of those words relation to the things they describe in a way that permits their use in communication between sentient beings, and then there's you.Anti-American has an obvious conventional meaning -dislike of Americans - that John Lloyd isn't applying here, instead we see some hodgepodge of notions about how one might look on the works of the mighty United States and despair, and thus be guilty of applying a Manichean template to the war anti-war axis. I am currently worried that as Chardonnay Chap thought there was something in your anti-Am definition, and people can only be totally right or so totally like wrong, he must have transformed into an evil neo-con,or...DOES NOT COMPUTE[head explodes,etc.]

the realisation now is that you don’t do that by acting as puppet-master to a coterie of subservient client states
Wasn't Jimmy Carter supposed to have gone for something like that? Only I saw the other day that it is the Carter Doctrine that promoted the idea that the US should engage in consultation and close cooperation with countries in the Persian Gulf to prevent any threats to their interest. Is it possible that whenever US policy-makers say that their policy will be guided more by love of freedom and democracy they are being disingenuous?
Oh you say because its their actions that matter.But as Tom Lehrer put it, the countries they've invaded only have all their rights respected until someone they like has been elected. If by "all their rights respected" we mean killing hundreds of thousands of them,...[drones on about the evils of America for a bit]

6/22/2011 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

One popular game at the time was to suggest that if somebody said US foreign policy was no better than anybody else's, they were saying that the US, was no better than anywhere else: that it might as well be a dictatorship itself. Peter Beaumont no stranger to this particular manoeuvre, I seem to recall. Nor was he alone.

6/22/2011 05:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

There is an understanding of words that fits with a rational understanding of those words relation to the things they describe in a way that permits their use in communication between sentient beings

Blimey, more or less exactly what I said to Coventrian when he was demanding I provide a definition.

My point re 'subjectivity' was in direct response to ejh's lament that Lloyd's own definition was unfalsifiable, as if Lloyd were somehow being unfair.

My recollection is that casting doubt on the US's motives, from the anti-war side, was precisely what tended to draw forth the accusation of anti-Americanism.

Well yeah, if you were arguing with numbskulls. I have my own experiences of being called 'Richard the Lionheart' by those who insisted the Iraq war was a ruse to spread the gospel in Muslim lands.

I think the trick was to identify potential debating partners who weren't batshit crazy and engage with them, not the other sort.

6/22/2011 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

And that's why I steer clear of HP.

6/23/2011 06:12:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

the realisation now is that you don’t do that by acting as puppet-master to a coterie of subservient client states

The lesson of Afghanistan and Iraq is that the USA has given up on trying to run a coterie of subservient client states?

6/23/2011 06:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

What are you implying? That Karzai is "subservient"?

Be sure to let Washington know. They'll be delighted.

6/23/2011 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

You would think that the accusation of Anti-Americanism was something that only came from the fringes. It's not, of course: it's an absolutely mainstream term, used not at all sparingly.

6/23/2011 08:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Washington does not care what Karzai thinks:

http://mobile.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2011/05/31/afghanistan/index.html

6/23/2011 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Hasn't Karzai heard that ISAF will "never knowingly risk a civilian life"?

6/24/2011 12:22:00 AM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

Brownie said...

"Well there is no arbiter of what is and isn't 'anti-American' - it's entirely subjective."

Reminds me of...

Humpty Dumpty took the book and looked at it carefully. 'That seems to be done right —' he began.
'You're holding it upside down!' Alice interrupted.
'To be sure I was!' Humpty Dumpty said gaily as she turned it round for him. 'I thought it looked a little queer. As I was saying, that seems to be done right — though I haven't time to look it over thoroughly just now — and that shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents —'
'Certainly,' said Alice.
'And only one for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!'
'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'
'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'
'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'

6/24/2011 01:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Witchsmeller Pursuivant said...

Brownie - I really don't go in for snidey accusations of this sort and I've got a pretty good track record of not making this particular allegation. In 10 years of blogging, I don't think I've ever accused anyone of being anti-Semitic, even those I've no doubt are.

Do you not remember describing Daniel as;

the editor of a blog which exists for the sole purpose of 'watching' and discrediting a single journalist of Jewish extraction

Cos I'd describe that as very snide.

6/24/2011 08:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Witchsmeller,

Following yet more deliberate misrepresentation of our blog and its authors, I thought it was worth pointing out how easy a game that was to play. As I explain in the thread:

"The point of my remark in my previous comment that alluded to this blog's nominal raison d'etre is not that the editors are self-evidently anti-Semites*, but that this kind of bullshit analysis based on selective reading can be just as easily and readily applied to AW. Any dumbfuck can do it, the question is why do you?"

"*For the hard of thinking, I'd like to clarify that I don't believe FR, or DD or any of the editors at this blog are anti-Semites. In fact, I don't think I've ever accused anyone of being an anti-Semite ever. Even anti-Semites."

So if you want to imply I'm levelling accusations of anti-Semitism in discussions where I explicitly state that I don't think my debating partners are anti-Semites, go right ahead. But please stop emailing me pictures of you in your underpants. It was 'no' then and it's still 'no'.

6/24/2011 09:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Witchsmeller Pursuivant said...

And as the venerable organic cheeseboard said at the time;

From the antisemitism charge above, now recast as some sort of postmodern performance joke or something, i think we all know what it is.

You made the smear and then backtracked, ludicrously, when you were called out on it.

6/24/2011 09:58:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

I don't think I've ever accused anyone of being an anti-Semite ever. Even anti-Semites.
Because then it's just stating a fact, not "making an allegation", right?

6/24/2011 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

But please stop emailing me pictures of you in your underpants.

Gross

6/24/2011 10:54:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

I would have thought that comparisons with pants e-mailers might be more appropriate with those that are pro-Israeli and have little regard for the truth, don'tcha think?

6/24/2011 11:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that it's a bad thing and it makes me feel dirty afterwards, but I nipped over to HP yesterday to check out the level of sewage in the pit. Sarah AB's put up a highly reasonable post about opposition to a mosque in Cambridge (shorter: she has no problem with said mosque and people who do are wrong) and has been confronted by a wall of bigotry and/or race-hate from the vast majority of the commentariat. It's kind of like that bit in the horror B-movie where the mad scientist, cornered by the monster of his own creation, says: "But . . . I _made_ you! Get back! Nooooo!", but in the format of a blog comments thread.

Chris Williams

6/24/2011 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Sarah's also getting flack for objecting to people comparing the Koran with Mein Kampf.

6/24/2011 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

http://tinyurl.com/h9rut

6/24/2011 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Sarah's also getting flack for objecting to people comparing the Koran with Mein Kampf.

You'd think she'd learn, given she comes off as an intelligent and sharp person. After all, any time she suggests that Roma are people with the right to live free from persecution or that Muslims aren't literally swarming Europe with genocide in their collective hearts, it's exactly the same thing.

Michael Ezra's thread on Benny Morris also turned into a hair-raising row on Israel's supposed right to the occasional bit of domestic repression and democide, which was quite alarming too.

I wouldn't mention this usually, since we all know it goes on and it isn't new or interesting, but it never hurts to remind ourselves.

6/24/2011 12:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

And as the venerable organic cheeseboard said at the time;

...and, unoriginally, got it wrong.

a) It wasn't a 'joke' - whatever gave you that idea? I was providing another example of how easy it is to produce manufactured outrage and bullshit analysis based on selective reading, and

b) I didn't 'backtrack'. I'd be more than willing to provide this and similar examples in the face of continued and repeated misrepresentation* of mmy views and the blog where I post them.

* Including explicit and not just implied suggestion I/we hate Muslims (nice!). Like, every day.

However much you might want it to be otherwise (and it seems very much), I haven't accused any author at this blog, ever, of anti-Semitism and I don't hear any of them protesting too loudly to the contrary, regardless of your selfless if slightly weird and unrequested protestations on their behalf (you do this a lot, you know?). And if I thought it, I would actually say it rather than just insinuate or imply it. I really would.

gross

Do people still say "gross"?

6/24/2011 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Actually it was a Lord of the Rings hommage. This being the internet, I assumed everybody would get it.

6/24/2011 12:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

I know that it's a bad thing and it makes me feel dirty afterwards, but I nipped over to HP yesterday

Like you do everyday, Chris.

And oh look, there's Andrew and FR fresh from their forays into HP territory.

Shorter you three: some perfectly reasonable above the line posts followed by some less than reasonable commentary from some regulars.

Fair enough?

6/24/2011 12:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Witchsmeller Pursuivant said...

To be fair some of the stick she's getting is understandable. After stating the comparison is "highly offensive", she then cheerfully admits to having read neither, adding

I don’t want to read it mostly because I don’t think I’d find it very interesting. I’m sure I’ve scanned quite a few of the worst bits just through reading HP comments.

I salute your intellectual curiosity Sarah. The quip about Samson being a a biblical suicide bomber was probably a little ill-advised though. A bit off-message for HP.

6/24/2011 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, by the time the actual mad scientist gets eaten by the monster, the Igor figure has usually met the same fate. But sometimes he scurries off stage in time, so as to be available for the sequel.

CW

6/24/2011 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Samson made Captive, Blind, and now in the Prison at Gaza

6/24/2011 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Shorter you three: some perfectly reasonable above the line posts followed by some less than reasonable commentary from some regulars.

Blogs get the comments they deserve.

There are one or two exceptions to this general rule, but Harry's Place is not one of them.

6/24/2011 12:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

There are one or two exceptions to this general rule...

he said, playing his get-out-of-jail-free card.

After stating the comparison is "highly offensive", she then cheerfully admits to having read neither

If she were attmepting some form of academic critique, not having read the texts would mean she faced something of a challenge. But she's not. A conclusion that a comparison of the Koran to Mein Kampt is deisgned to be "highly offensive" does not demand intimate, first-hand knowledge of all the material in question.

Or as she puts it:

I want to try to reinforce this point about the Qur’an and Mein Kampf and explain why I think I can say it’s offensive even though a) I’ve read neither and b) I am perfectly open to the possibility that the Q is as or more offensive than MK. The Qur’an is the iconic sacred text of Islam. Mein Kampf is the iconic profane text, as it were, of what might be termed the most terrible imaginable crime. Its link with the Holocaust cannot be limited to what is actually in the book which I believe is nothing like so shocking, though still horrible.

It’s not enough to say that the parallel perhaps works, logically, in terms of parallel passages. Linking the two texts together has this tremendous emotional charge which puts it in a different category from all the fair and necessary criticisms of various aspects of Islam/Islam in practice today/Islamic regimes etc etc – many of them touched on in this thread, many more all the time above the line, and which I rarely take any issue with at all.

I’m not saying he shouldn’t be allowed to say that if he wants to, but it’s not enough simply to investigate whether it is ‘true’ – because Mein Kampf signifies a lot more than just the words within its covers.

6/24/2011 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Mein Kampf is, of course, freely available in university libraries.

6/24/2011 01:11:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

There are one or two exceptions to this general rule...
"he said, playing his get-out-of-jail-free card."

Er, no. The blog you are defending is HP. The blog identified as not being an exception to the rule that blogs get the commenters they deserve is HP.
If you misread what was said as "There are couple of posters on HP that don't deserve the shit commentariat", now would be a good time to admit your error.
I think after her comments on the understandabilty of "Roma-scepticism",her suggestion that Jody McIntyre's wheelchair could well have been an offensive weapon, and her support for the idea that Amnesty's link with Cageprisoners is a reason to ditance decent people from it because Moazzem Begg's connected to al-Qaida,among other things, a case might be made for not thinking that Sarah AB is simply an innocent among wolves.

6/24/2011 01:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Witchsmeller Pursuivant said...

If she were attmepting some form of academic critique, not having read the texts would mean she faced something of a challenge.

I was merely highlighting the incongruity of a university professor passing judgement on texts she hasn't read, except through the prism of the HP comments box. Doesn't seem very rigorous to me, even if she is only an academic in the arts.

6/24/2011 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Oooooooh.

6/24/2011 01:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's try and get this back on topic, shall we, with a short recap about two social groups*: one hardly visible, one only too visible:

In the red corner, we have the Islington liberals, with their Brusetta-munching and their relativism. These are pretty elusive, save for their use by Decents as rhetorical devices. Another important fact about them is that they are impotent: the major 'War or no War' decisions made by the UK (UNSC veto member; H-bombs, etc) in the last 12 years have gone against them.

In the blue corner, we have a bunch of Islamophobic and racist reactionaries, too toxic even for Charles Johnson to hang round with any more. They clearly do exist: look at HP's comments and we find them. Look in the newspapers, and we also find that there have been several terrorism trials in the UK involving members of this group, who have taken their fear and hatred of teh Mooslims to the point of making bombs. Other representatives of this tendency came to my city last year and smashed up chunks of it, for the crime of having too many brown people in it.

So, which is the problem group which needs combatting, and which needs giving a platform? Take your time with this one, Brownie.

CW
*Other groups are available.

6/24/2011 01:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

er, hello. Thanks for copying my comment Brownie - I thought I'd have to go back and dig around for it. I think skidmarx offers a rather skewed, or flattened, perspective on what I've said about the three topics where he takes issue with me. Clearly my political views are not identical with those of Skidmarx - however they are probably closer to most of you than they are to most of the people who seem to have been commenting on my posts recently.

6/24/2011 01:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

I was merely highlighting the incongruity of a university professor passing judgement on texts

But she wasn't "passing judgment on the texts". She was "passing judgment" on a transparently and deliberately offensive comparison.

Do you need to have read Archer's 'Kane and Abel' and 'Crime and Punishment' to know that unfavourably comparing the latter to the former is probably a mistake?

CW,

They clearly do exist: look at HP's comments and we find them. Look in the newspapers, and we also find that there have been several terrorism trials in the UK involving members of this group

"This group"?

Is there a doctor in the house? And a lwayer?

6/24/2011 02:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Witchsmeller Pursuivant said...

Do you need to have read Archer's 'Kane and Abel' and 'Crime and Punishment' to know that unfavourably comparing the latter to the former is probably a mistake?

I suppose it depends whether you like to know what you're talking about or if you're comfortable with parroting the opinions of others when they fit with your own existing prejudices. In the specific case you mention, I wouldn't know, only having read the Dostoyevsky novel. However, I'd imagine the Archer effort probably sold more.

6/24/2011 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Hmm. I wonder if that's true, given how long Crime and Punishment has been in print in many different languages.

Greatest thing I've ever read, by the way. Mind you, I've not read Kane and Abel, parp parp

6/24/2011 02:19:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Crime and Punishment left me fairly cold. The Brothers Karamazov, on the other hand, is a marvellous novel.

I haven't read Kane and Abel. I have read First Among Equals, however, and can confirm that it is not very good.

6/24/2011 02:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read something by Archer once and I can confirm that it was so shite I can't even remember which one it was. Possibly K and A.

CW

6/24/2011 02:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

I read 'Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less'.

It was annoyingly enjoyable. The print version of a wiggly tooth.

Time to bow out. I've got some work to complete before the weekend and those nail-bombs won't make themselves.

6/24/2011 02:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Waterloo Sunset said...

Coventrian- If I'd repudiated my politics, I'd be more concerned about my own stupidity than that of my former comrades. However turncoats usually take the opposite approach.

If you look carefully, that's not actually what Harry did and not the tradition that HP follows on this. Harry's Place, on the whole, isn't that interested in Stalinism. It's interested in Trots. Fine, but that actually is completely in keeping with the Stalinist tradition. As, for that matter, is anti-trot alliances between Stalinists and the Labour right. Now, none of that means that HP are still a Stalinist blog. (I sometimes claim such, but that's just me being a dick for the sake of it). It merely means that the current and past content of HP in no way would preclude that. Apart from Mikey Ezra, who is a law unto himself, bless him.

@ Brownie

Yes, I mean if there's one thing worse than a Stalinist, it's someone who used to be a Stalinist when he was 21 but who is now a social democrat.

I know you're not going to be prepared to reveal Harry's identity. (Which seems rather hypocritical, as HP don't generally mind giving out the IRL names of other bloggers, but hey). But can you give us a brief chronology of his political career, as that's always been a bit murky? When was he a student? When did he join and leave the CP? Is he a member of a political party at the moment? That kind of thing.

As a general point, personally I have no problem with class-baiting at all. And I think we should look at the class makeup of the pro-war left. It certainly seems that a lot of the most prominent figures are either journalists or academics.

So let's have this one out. How can HP possibly claim to be in any way against the 'bruschetta brigade' when you have the (frightfully posh) David T and Michael Ezra as above the line commentators? Has David T ever been to Aldi? In fact, does he do his own shopping or does his butler do it for him? Who else on HP is a bit of a toff, out of interest? I accept that there's a few forelock tuggers to provide working class cover, but that doesn't change the overall impression given by the bunch of posh boys running HP.

6/24/2011 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Never mind that, what dinner parties have we all been invited to this weekend?

6/24/2011 03:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Has David T ever been to Aldi?

Is that in Tuscany?

6/24/2011 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Is that in Tuscany?

I'm delighted to say that I'm heading off for my Summer holiday in Tuscany first thing tomorrow morning, passing into the Eurotunnel just before nine.

I promise everyone here that I'll eat lots of bruschetta, and that I'll keep my ears open for crazy anti-Semites at the dinner table.

6/24/2011 04:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

Waterloo Sunset - I'm deeply bourgeois. We aspire to Waitrose but also go to Asda.

6/24/2011 05:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

Brownie - Aldi - :-)

couscous kid - have a nice time!

6/24/2011 05:42:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Brownie,

Shorter you three: some perfectly reasonable above the line posts followed by some less than reasonable commentary from some regulars.

Fair enough?

Absolutely, but you have to wonder why you attract some the regulars that you do.

I certainly have no problem with the post in question and although I don't always agree with Sarah her posts are generally thoughtful and intelligent. I even kind of like Michael Ezra, although I guess I won't get much agreement from some regulars here. On the other hand you have the likes of Edmund Standing, "Lucy Lips" and, especially, "LibbyT".

Seriously, don't you sometimes look at HP nowadays and compare it to when you used to post regularly a few years back and wonder what happened?

6/24/2011 10:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think, AA, that this particular B-movie is one where the Igor figure sees the fatal encounter between the monster and its creator, but lacks the courage to intervene.

CW

6/24/2011 10:46:00 PM  
Anonymous saucy jack said...

"Yes, I mean if there's one thing worse than a Stalinist, it's someone who used to be a Stalinist when he was 21 but who is now a social democrat"
Was Harry 21 when he started Harry's Place then? Because in his first few posts then he was quite upfront about being, shall we say, an "orthodox Communist". And just prior to that he had been involved in running an ultra-Stalinist website, though presumably he was in sixth form then (actually I am fully aware of who Harry is, and that his Stalinism was somewhat more than a youthful indiscretion).

6/25/2011 12:04:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

fairly on topic for once, arro in the JC:

http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/columnists/50802/conspirers-against-conspirers

It mixes the good:

Is Richard Gage antisemitic? No. He'd probably rather go to jail than bait a Jew. But most of us can avoid sharing air time with known racists.

which is a noticeable difference betwen aaro and nick, who absofuckinglutely loves the term 'jew-biater...

and the bad:

And just as careless is Ian Henshall. Which was the point I made about him all those years ago, and which he was still so angry about on Monday night.

you probably need to read the whole piece for this to make sense. But the Henshall instance is from a 2003 article about 'the use of antisemitic rtopes'. And that, for me, is where the distinctions get a bit ropey, though I have no time for this Henshall figure - hanging around with racists is different from, say, writing a meticulously-detailed book entitled 'The Israel Lobby',

6/25/2011 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Anyway, talking about having the same old arguments all over again (via Cde Rodent's Twitter feed)

6/25/2011 08:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Blogs get the comments they deserve"

So what does the above Brownie-dominated thread say about this blog?

"I've got some work to complete before the weekend and those nail-bombs won't make themselves."

Careful now. You don't want to end up like Paul Chambers.

Anyway are you really saying that there is no, shall we say, affinity between the views of the regulars at HP, and the views of those attempting race-based terrorist attacks in recent years? Are you saying that an editorial policy similar to that at HP found in many British daily newspapers, is not impart responsible for the views held by these fascists?

Do you also think that two millenia of antisemitism had nothing to do with the Holocaust?

6/26/2011 02:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"is not impart responsible"

I think this is known as an "eggcorn".

6/26/2011 02:27:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Yes, a good sharp look at that "Wilders: If liberty means anything..." thread might be illuminating here.

6/26/2011 03:19:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

And yet, the prospect of illumination tempts me not.

6/26/2011 07:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just too late to say

"One hundred and eighty"


Guano

6/26/2011 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

OC - huzzah, Aaro rides in to rescue us from the alternately querulous and denunciatory cycle of Decent trollery.

(Trying to think of an elevated lit. ref. for that behavioural pattern, but only Gollum/Smeagol and, by vague unreliable memory, the old couple in A Gun for Sale come to mind. 'Acky'. My philistine fault, perhaps, but also not exactly the stuff of grand narrative is it.)


On Aaro - you wanna check his wares very carefully before accepting anything. His position is as we know at the utterly sane and reasonable end of the witchhunting spectrum - more so than Hitchens's nonchalant mention of Vidal's very, very slight [vanishingly slight, it seems] tendency to bring up the Jewish question where it doesn't belong.

The latest on the Henshall character is thin in parts, for example the stuff about Cynthia McKinney, which is pretty well-attested and which he probably got from Alexander Cockburn.

The bit I'm unhappy with is the letter on the Webster site (http://northwestnationalists.blogspot.com/2008/02/jewish-journalists-frighten-911.html - a text link promotes it less than a Google search hit).

While the sub-Galloway charge of being polite in rebuffing a polite fascist in a private email doesn;t really do it for me taken in isolation, H says The main attack on the 911 Truth movement is that we are "holocaust deniers" ie anti-semitic [wrong - the A-S accusations not mediated by H.D.] and it is amazing to note the key media people who have attacked us are Johan Hari, Nick Cohen, David Aaronovitch, George Monbiot, Mathew Rothschild.

I do think the general angle of imputing rampant jew-sniffing conspiracism to those connecting loyalty to the Jewish state to supprt for Iraq war has to be discounted substantially. It was Dershowitz and Phillips, esp. addressing the faithful, who first informed me that the war was seen as an Israeli/non-self-hating-Jewish issue. (Dershowitz uses his illusory* opposition to the Iraq war as showing he's not an 'apologist for Israel'*).

And the war did implement long-standing Likudnik plans, well documented to have been developed by exactly those who would become key neocon strategists (even though obviously others, notably Cheney, had to be in favour, presumably for other reasons).

But H's list is salient only as one of 'Jewish' - rather than 'key' - media critics, and there's no reason to think, Monbiot (presumably Jewish - ironically I don't have a nose for this as some seem to), e.g., has a Likudnik motive for opposition, nor that he has ever sought to smear with A-S in this way.

It's a tricky area - Aaro in the 2003 piece says: Paul Foot - veteran leftwinger and campaigner - defended Dalyell suggesting that Tam was merely "wrong to complain about Jewish pressure on Blair and Bush when he means Zionist pressure". "But," explained Foot "that's a mistake that is constantly encouraged by the Zionists." Clever bastards, they even manipulated poor old Tam into looking like the anti-Semite he isn't.

Leave aside that Dalyell was substantially misreported by Chinese whispering of his original remarks as selected by a Blair fan in a now-unavailable Vanity Fair interview. Foot's point does have some force, though obviously providing an excuse rather than a justification.

...

6/26/2011 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Also, Aaro's CT sneer against Foot is unjust, since the anti-Jewish/anti-Zionist conflation is indeed a propaganda tactic which can't be accidental. Nor can you simply change the word "Jewish" to "Zionist" and somehow be exempt from the charge of low-level racism ought to work in reverse, too. See Aaro's insinuation about Henshall's "stories designed to suggest a connection between Israel and the 9/11 attacks".

Basically, there kinda something in it, but when inputs are nuanced and outputs are not, you have to try and adjust for Aaro's thumb on the scales, and only then re-run the whole calculation. You can't start from aaro's conclusion then apply mitigation/refutation in dribs and drabs, because none alone can make any impact against

Also, on Gage:
most of us can avoid sharing air time with known racists. (True, I've managed it.) But when you're consigned to an intellectual ghetto rather than being the go-to guy for anti-CT soundbites, things become a lot more tricky.

* (Source: me. Google 'Hawk Iraq Drag')

6/26/2011 03:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

"Anyway are you really saying that there is no, shall we say, affinity between the views of the regulars at HP, and the views of those attempting race-based terrorist attacks in recent years? Are you saying that an editorial policy similar to that at HP found in many British daily newspapers, is not impart responsible for the views held by these fascists?"

Anonymous - HP does post *against* the EDL pretty actively, and also covers stories about anti-muslim bigotry whereas the papers you are thinking of tend to publish stories about 'Muslim toilets', etc.

But, yes, there do seem to be affinities between the views of some commenters and say the EDL - though I think it must be emphasised that you can have very bigoted views yet still completely avoid and deplore violence.

I don't agree with every single post on HP but I do like the way it tries to carve out some middle ground - which is more difficult to do than occupy an extreme position. It's a pity that we seem to attract so many to the right - to me it seems possible to agree with the posts about particular problems with individual preachers or Islamist groups AND oppose the EDL and Geert Wilders.

6/26/2011 04:01:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

I was thinking of asking anyway if this comment was carving out some middle ground:
[my apologies to those who'd rather not see anything from HP reprinted]
Lamia
For people like Galloway, brown-skinnned people who are born into Islam should damn well stay Muslim and obey the rules or be treated as traitors, even by non-Muslims – just as that other far left favourite Julian Assange calls Afghan opponents of the Taliban traitors (evidently Julian approved of the suicide bombing of a hospital a couple of days back). I suspect white skinned christians and Jews are allowed rather more leeway. Such is the deep-seated racism of the far left.

and then saw
Sarah AB
26 June 2011, 5:05 pm
What Lamia said.


Now I can't be bothered to point out why this is really quite offensive.Perhaps someone else will, if we haven't all moved onto the latest from the eponymous blog subject(I'd largely agree with Tim, though I think I'd be more specific on Webster that "I can't be your friend because it looks bad" is not impressive).

Perhaps you should try looking at what's been previously been written here about HP to appreciate the gulf between your assessment and those of others.

6/26/2011 05:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

You should look at the Galloway quote - it's disgusting. I wouldn't put it as pungently as Lamia - but I agree with him.

6/26/2011 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

And do you think Julian Assange approved of the suicide bombing of a hospital?

6/26/2011 06:56:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

With your reading of the Decentpedia, you'll know that what you're doing there is Whatabouttery.

Leave aside the smears on Galloway and Assange for a moment. Let's just take the last line again:
Such is the deep-seated racism of the far left.
Not just racist, but deep-seated. Not just the named targets, but the "far left" as a group are guilty of same.
I feel the urge to engage in a great deal of abuse at this point, but for the moment I'll just say that there may be a lot of people here that would think that if you can't understand why unqualified approval of such a statement is major-league offensiveness, then questioning your credentials to impart knowledge of English might be in order.
Oh and Howard Jacobsen on Alice Walker is not good, have someone else explain it to you or read Mondoweiss, because if you can't understand why wild accusations of racism are not the done thing, then not much about why the Decent view of the world is generally held to be quite indecent and lacking in elementary logic hereabouts is likely to get through.

6/26/2011 07:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

I'd class the hospital comment as acceptable blogger's hyperbole - I don't suppose Lamia believes that is literally true.

I think you have a point - it was all expressed a good deal more strongly than I would have put it - but it is horribly offensive to say 'I challenge the renegade Rushdie to a public debate on Islamic extremism. Come & have a go sneaky Salman- if you’ve got the moral fibre!' And I do think the far left have problems with racism of low expectations and also a lack of concern about antisemitism.

Why don't you respond to comments you disagree with in their original context though?

6/26/2011 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I'd class the hospital comment as acceptable blogger's hyperbole - I don't suppose Lamia believes that is literally true.

I don't think that's good enough. If you say really serious things about people, you need to be able to back them up.

6/26/2011 07:43:00 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

One of the things on which I agree with skidmarx is that it's sometimes nice not to share a political party with George Galloway, particularly when it comes to justifying whatever he's come out with this time. That said, I don't see the 'renegade' line as particularly offensive to anyone except Salman Rushdie, whom it was obviously intended to offend. (No, I don't think he's saying that no Muslim should ever change religion. No, I don't think he's saying that any Muslim who changes religion should be called a renegade. I think if he meant either of those things he would have said them. Maybe he will tomorrow - who knows? - and we can get start this all over again. But I really think the hounds can be called off with regard to this one. Oh, too late.)

I find it a hell of a lot more offensive to accuse an entire group of "deep-seated racism", and to do so in a resigned, hand-washing aside (what are we to do with these awful people...?) It's not the kind of thing you do if you want to stay on speaking terms with anyone who self-identifies as part of that group, or who identifies with people who you put in it. Which, in this case, I rather thought you did, Sarah.

6/26/2011 09:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"acceptable bloggers hyperbole". What a remarkably convenient coinage. Perhaps you'd care to list a few times when you've classed on-the-face-of-it-dodgy comments from your opponents in a similar fashion?

Chris Williams

6/26/2011 10:02:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

It's not the kind of thing you do if you want to stay on speaking terms with anyone who self-identifies as part of that group, or who identifies with people who you put in it.

This is The Point That Is Usually Not Grasped.

6/26/2011 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

Rushdie said, "The mistake is to think that this is their culture and you've got to let them have it; at the lunatic fringes you get people like George Galloway, and a tolerance for what ought to be intolerable. "But the problem is the mainstream acceptance of his relativist argument; and I think that's dangerous,"

So he put the Gorgeous One on 'the lunatic fringes', I think Galloway is entitled to reply in kind.

As for 'renegade', I remember when Rusdie posed as a leftist, he is now Sir Salman Rushdie - honoured by the government that invaded Iraq.

Rushdie is very fond of exercising his right to offend (Satanic Verses aside); for example his portrayal of Benazir Bhutto in 'Shame' as 'The Virgin Ironpants' was a particularly nasty case of personal and sexist abuse.

6/26/2011 10:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

"It's not the kind of thing you do if you want to stay on speaking terms with anyone who self-identifies as part of that group" - I suppose I have a pretty narrow view of the far left, and takes in the kind of people who cosy up to Hamas or other Islamist groups. (Important contrast with people who are very critical of Israel, more critical than me, but also very critical of Hamas.) To me it has a meaning somewhat different from 'very left wing'. In rather the same way I would only use the term 'far right' to describe someone with racist/fascist views - not someone who was very libertarian and anti-state. I can't say I ever think of this site as 'far left' - I think one reason I find AW interesting is because it seems so set against 'Decency' yet often seems only to have rather marginal differences with its key figures.

6/27/2011 05:43:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

200! (I have something to say, but it will have to wait...)

6/27/2011 05:45:00 AM  

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