Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Did you ever wonder what happened to Alan Johnson? No, not that one, the other Alan Johnson

Ok then, you didn't. But I did. Don't judge me, it's a hobby.

In 2008-10 I have been engaged in consultancy work for the Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU), which is based in the Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT), using social movement theory and in-depth interviewing to examine the dynamics of 'radicalisation' and 'deradicalisation' and effective communications to encourage desistence and disengagement.

Chhhhrist. I am resisting the urge to say "your tax dollars at work", just as I did with respect to Pollard's now-nearly-totally-defunct EISCA. At the end of the day, government departments need to buy research, and they need to buy it from the producers, just as they need to buy bread rolls from bakers. I am highly sceptical as to whether this will produce a deliverable of sufficient usefulness to justify the cost, but the system works as a whole and needs to be assessed as a whole.

But also chhhhrist. "Effective communications" from the author of "Unite Against Terror"? Social movements from the leading light of the Euston Manifesto? Understanding radicalism from Phyllis Chesler's dinner party guest? In-depth interviewing from the guy who did those excruciating Democratiya pieces? Sheesh.

I suspect that RICU have had the job assigned to them, but no budget for anything more substantial than a couple of government-sponsored Decent blogs, and thus have looked around to commission research from a guy who is pretty famous for taking the approach "the answer is more Decent blog projects - what was the question?"

On a brighter note, we can now retire that joke, because we now have Professor Alan Johnson (congratulations! somewhat belatedly as he got it in 2007!), so until and unless the former Minister is given a professorship somewhere, there should be no major issues distinguishing between the two.

Coming next week "Did you ever wonder what happened to Aaronovitch Watch?"

27 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan "the Professor" Johnson writes:

"From 2011 I will stop running around so much and instead sit at my desk (and in some archives) and write about the troubled, triangular relationship between Totalitarianism, Antitotalitarianism and the Left in the 20th century."

That's something to look forward to.

Couscous Kid.

7/13/2011 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

It'll be like Jules Et Jim, only with more jokes.

7/13/2011 09:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has he decided not to do the Hal Draper biog, then? I'd like to see a Hal Draper biog, but perhaps by someone not working for the security state. Maybe Prof Johnson could do Theodore Draper instead?

Marc Mulholland.

7/13/2011 09:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bit I quoted (click on the "other information" tab) continues:

"To begin with I will return to a long-standing research interest in the political thought of Hal Draper and Irving Howe."

So something on Draper (whom I agree is an interesting subject), if not perhaps a biography. But then, excitingly...

"I also plan to write more about the ‘new authoritarian Marxism’ of the 21st century."

Is that a fancy label for George Galloway?

Couscous Kid

7/13/2011 09:14:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Is this the thing called effective communication of which you speak?

7/13/2011 01:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh God, more Paul Berman, just this time by Alan Johnson.

captcha: amess

Couscous Kid

7/13/2011 01:57:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

the troubled, triangular relationship between Totalitarianism, Antitotalitarianism and the Left

Hmm, "triangular" here says to me that not only are these three things related, but they're *exclusively* related. But the Right (if we're using capitals) have quite a lot to say about the first two, and the nature of media and economic exigencies are hardly unimportant.

Plus, I have a horrible feeling that this will come down to "the left is what I say it is" and that large-scale left movements (such as the Labour Party) will be treated as less important than a cult which met above a pub once a month.

Blimey, AJ knows how to slime without actually offering substantive criticism.

When Judith Butler—a US academic and a culture hero on campuses across America—calls Hamas “part of the global left,” she is in thrall to the “anti-imperialist” framework that produced Böse.

I have considered opinions, you have received ideas, she is in thrall... He doesn't even try to prove that Judith Butler's case was not rationally arrived at; he just treats that as a given.

Diluted versions of ideas developed by the “anti-imperialist” New Left of the 1960s and 1970s remain influential today, especially on campuses. For example, that we live in an evil, fascistic “one-dimensional society” in which the masses have been sedated with consumerism and TV.

But they have been.

7/13/2011 02:15:00 PM  
Anonymous bensix said...

...using social movement theory and in-depth interviewing to examine the dynamics of 'radicalisation' and 'deradicalisation' and effective communications to encourage desistence and disengagement...

These kind of obscurantist rhetorical feints are typical of the postmodern, leftist academia...

7/13/2011 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Very O/T as usual, but Dave's Times column on phone-hacking etc. today is a masterclass in the wise and sage pronouncment of exactly fuck-all.

To shorterise: "That MP's expenses scandal, that was an 'Esther Rantzen moment', wasn't it? Everybody was angry and some politicians went to prison, but that's about it. This News International nonsense is the same - some hacks might go to prison, but politicians will still be beholden to the tabloids and press competition will still be ferocious".

All of which is worryingly close ye olde Spiked Online tactic of saying, "Outrageous criminal scandal (x) is bad, but totally irrelevant. What we need to do instead is have a big, national debate and then everything will be aces".

I mean, sure, the MPs expenses thing didn't fundamentally restructure parliament or delouse politics. On the other hand, I bet there are damn few MPs claiming outrageous amounts of public cash for widescreen TVs and duck ponds for their houses. This is a Win for everyone except MPs, I reckon.

Similarly, the NotW scandal won't fumigate the media, but it may strongly discourage newspaper editors from suborning police officers, attempting to pervert the course of justice, hacking into the phones of murdered children and relatives of dead soldiers and jamming their peckers down Prime Ministerial throats.

Neither scandal is likely to result in a perfect outcome, but both have punished criminals and encouraged les autres not to commit any more crimes. If you knew nothing about either scandal and were only going by Aaro's article, you would never know about either of these entirely positive effects. Nice, and rather suspect IMHO.

Also contains some really dubious musing on the good old days of politics when Lord Beaverbrook could be both a press baron and Minister for Information, BTW, with the strong implication that freedom of information legislation hasn't left us that much further forward. A really dodgy and weaselly effort by Dave, this.

7/14/2011 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

It also occurs to me that the charges against NotW and its execs are far, far more serious than those in the MPs expenses debacle, by an order of magnitude.

Attempting to undermine an ongoing police investigation into your own activities on its own is much more serious than ripping off a thick wad of cash via dodgy expenses claims. Combine that with the near-sexual relationship between media, government and police, and we're talking about an attempt to subvery democracy itself.

To Aaro though, the two are similar enough to fit into the same pigeonhole.

7/14/2011 09:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Yeah, well Dave's a company man

7/14/2011 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

What got me was that casual "and some politicians went to prison", as if MPs getting nicked for criminal offences was an everyday occurrence rather than a massive scandal in itself. At the risk of being a bore, this really is very Italian. (In a way that the status quo before it all blew up wasn't - it's the brazenness that's new.)

7/14/2011 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Dave was on Sky News earlier, agreeing with Adam Boulton and the other pundits that this is all getting a bit out of hand and a bit silly, and we all need to calm down, innit. The NotW is like the Times' "dark twin", don't you know.

He seemed very concerned that MPs might want to carpet Murdoch senior, not because his employees have been proven to have committed criminal acts as a matter of routine, but because the committee might want to show off - "get a feather in their caps", I think it was.

I'm sure you'll all agree that the possibility of some MPs getting a bit bumptious is a real danger, and a very serious concern at this time.

I mean, I always knew Aaro had infinite charity for politicians who have been caught misleading the public. I didn't think it would extend to making excuses for individuals who have been caught concocting criminal conspiracies.

7/14/2011 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

Dave was on Sky News earlier, agreeing with Adam Boulton and the other pundits that this is all getting a bit out of hand and a bit silly

Ugh. I think we've lost him.

7/14/2011 02:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

This is a man scrabbling to save his pay check I think. Which to be fair is something anyone with a family is prone to. Kids and a mortgage do suck some of the radicalism out of you.

7/14/2011 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Perhaps he is scrabbling to save his pay check. But if he'd jumped last week - when George Monbiot suggested he should, he'd have been free when the Indy needed a new interviewer.

7/14/2011 02:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps he is scrabbling to save his pay check. But if he'd jumped last week - when George Monbiot suggested he should, he'd have been free when the Indy needed a new interviewer.

What and swap a lead role in a cage for a walk-on part in the war?

[redpesto]

7/14/2011 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Damned sight more than two lost souls swimming in this particular fishbowl, I reckon.

(Good line, the original. Roger Waters has had his moments.)

7/14/2011 09:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Darius Jedburgh said...

But CC -- It is pretty silly to call Hamas "part of the global left." Isn't that "a given"? Is there a burden of proof on the person who thinks that that's "not rationally arrived at?" (It seems Butler also called them a "progressive social movement"! She denied it later but the video is online.)

Nb I'm not saying that Butler's views are a really important issue, or defending AJ's extrapolations from them.

7/15/2011 02:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I mean, sure, the MPs expenses thing didn't fundamentally restructure parliament or delouse politics. On the other hand, I bet there are damn few MPs claiming outrageous amounts of public cash for widescreen TVs and duck ponds for their houses. This is a Win for everyone except MPs, I reckon.

Well yes, and the White House no longer has a policy of torture any more, but I submit that the policy of Look Forward Not Backwards is still a bad one. Lack of accountability and justice should worry everyone, and papering over corruption is not a solution. So yes, we're less likely to see MPs abusing their expenses in future, but because there seems to have been little in the way of justice, this is only a minor win, since if you don't hold people accountable for crimes at one time, you give them free range to commit other crimes or corruption later on. And in fact the cosy relationship between the press and the politicians being debated now is an example of what happens when corruption like the expenses scandal is not properly dealt with. Prevention is better than a cure.

But anyway, a better comparison to the NOTW scandal would be the financial crisis. Yes, we're less likely to see MPs abusing their expenses in future, but have we solved the problems of 21st century capitalism in order to prevent/diminish another financial crisis? Are we likely to? Have politicians, and other relevant people, learnt the lessons of the crisis? If you think they have (which, knowing your political views, I doubt you do), take a look at the recent Cabinet Office White Paper paraded by Cameron.

Similarly, the NotW scandal won't fumigate the media, but it may strongly discourage newspaper editors from suborning police officers, attempting to pervert the course of justice, hacking into the phones of murdered children and relatives of dead soldiers and jamming their peckers down Prime Ministerial throats.

Wrong comparison. Go back to the previous AW post about the surveillance state/economy. Barely anyone important is talking about this civil liberties aspect. Yes, we may see less phone hacking going on in future, but I see nothing to suggest that politicians have seen the connection between this scandal and the Stasi mentality (or rather, want to see it), and how screwed up the issue of privacy is in this country (seriously, Ryan Giggs got to prevent everyone from revealing he had an affair, including the person he had an affair with, but we all get our movements tracked on ANPR cameras??). So I am pessimistic about what will be done (and remember, isn't it normally the tabloids that see to it that "Something must be done" becomes "This is something, therefore we must do it"?).

I mean, I always knew Aaro had infinite charity for politicians who have been caught misleading the public. I didn't think it would extend to making excuses for individuals who have been caught concocting criminal conspiracies.

But I think that second description fits Tony Blair as well as the first.

Anyway - sure, apologizing for NOTW is a bad thing to do, but I'm not sure why anyone should be surprised. 650,000 dead Iraqis is not a small matter, as I'm sure we all agree. After all, isn't that the whole point (well the original point) of this blog - to look at not the John Boltons, but at those who provide them a veneer of respectability.

7/15/2011 04:20:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Darius, yes it is pretty silly, if she did. Not least because I don't know what the global left is.

It's the mechanism Johnson suggests which annoyed me. He seems to say, "she disagrees with me, because she has been mesmerised or something". And that, in turn, lefts him off the hook from ever having to read any Palestinian supporters' arguments closely. They're all in thrall. Besides, *how* do Hamas get people palely loitering etc?

He can't just say "this is so much pseudo-Marxian cant and a concatenation of PC received ideas" because that applies to him just as much.

7/15/2011 05:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Is Judith Butler a "culture hero"? This seems kinda hyperbolic.

Apparently torture is still going on by US, um, operatives (dunno. Contractors/CIA/special forces?).

If I was the one responsible for judging humans on judgement day, I would make torture a mortal sin. Its far worse than murder - at least the way the US are doing it.

7/15/2011 07:58:00 AM  
Anonymous saucy jack said...

AVIVA-Berlin: How do you feel about the accusation that you have perhaps taken an anti-Semitic position concerning your statement about the Hamas and the Hezbollah as progressive social movements? Does that bother you more as a philosopher or on a personal level?
Judith Butler: Unfortunately, that clip was cut short and did not include all of my response. What I actually said was that although groups like Hamas and Hezbollah should be described as left movements, that like all left movements, one has to choose which ones one supports and which ones one refuses. They are "left" in the sense that they oppose colonialism and imperialism, but their tactics are not ones that I would ever condone. I have never supported either group, and my very public affiliation with a politics of non-violence would make it impossible for me to support them. The editing of my response was obviously an effort to distort my view, and I am very sorry that the distortion has been able to circulate as it has.

http://www.aviva-berlin.de/aviva/content_Interviews.php?id=1427323

7/15/2011 08:21:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

650,000 dead Iraqis is not a small matter, as I'm sure we all agree.

Yes, of course. I'm starting to think this frequent naivete of mine comes from following Dave on Twitter, where he seems quite pleasant and amiable.

His wackier columns these days are a bit like reading Bridget Jones' Diary only to suddenly discover shes's scrawled the words Exterminate All The Brutes!!! in blood halfway through an amusing anecdote involving a pair of fluffy slippers and a handbag.

And I entirely agree that the financial crisis has barely touched the corruption of international finance; that the MPs expenses scandal has not put paid to political chicanery and that the Hacking scandal won't exterminate sharp practice in journalism. Did anyone seriously, deep down, believe that they would?

Your point is similar to Dave's, and my answer is, so what? So, none of these scandals will lead to a permanent fix for everything. What does Dave think our response should be? I suggest Let's jail as many of these crooked little shits as merit it. Dave appears to be suggesting that we all calm down a bit, and... that's it.

I'm always amenable to calls for people to calm down and be a bit more rational, but that appears to be the totality of the plan.

7/15/2011 09:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Darius Jedburgh said...

Cian: She's certainly revered by a large section of the US academic left, fwiw. The reverence is largely limited to academia because only really, really clever people can understand what she's on about most of the time.

CC: Fair enough. I was just looking at the accusation and abstracting from the possible hypocrisy of the accuser.

7/15/2011 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I've not read a Dsve column since he went paywall, but if you're right about getting wackier then surely this was easily predicted - in fact was predicted - by critics of the paywall idea. He's now writing for a very small number of people who think paying to access the Times' website is a good idea.

7/16/2011 07:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Johnson does produce his opus on Hal Draper, he'll have radically to rewrite it. I have somewhere a paper he wrote some years back praising Draper for promoting a libertarian brand of socialism. Now I guess that he'll have to be condemned for providing a disingenuous veneer for a totalitarian theory.

Dr Paul

7/25/2011 10:03:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home