Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Reviews, Dialogues, and a Second Preference

I'm not really in the mood for this, but despite not appearing as usual in the Observer, Nick's been busy elsewhere.

In the Spectator, he's changed his mind on AV. We've discussed this a bit in the last thread, but you're welcome to say more here. In my opinion, this is about a trillion times more persuasive.

He's written a sort of a skit, Dialogue with a western leftist in the Jewish Chronicle. I can't fathom this at all. It's like a less convincing, less funny, less insightful reply to Michael Ezra.

Nick wasn't completely absent from the Observer, he "reviews" Fred Halliday's OpenDemocracy essays in the Observer. Scare quotes because his essay may be the purest hagiography I've ever read. I'll leave it to those familiar with Halliday's work to comment, but where I have any knowledge at all, what Nick says seems to be wrong.

He writes with admirable hard-headedness from Iran on how the apocalyptic figure of Ahmadinejad follows the pattern set by his predecessors in Russia and China. All have engaged in late spasms of militancy and violence rather than compromise with reality as the failures of the revolution's utopian hopes became evident. Like Stalin with his purges and Mao with the cultural revolution, the heirs of Khomeini have convinced themselves that one last bloody heave will bring heaven to earth.

But Stalin started the purges in 1934, and they were to consolidate his power base. And probably the most violent phase of post-revolutionary Iran's history was the Iran-Iraq war. You can say many things against Iran, but there's nothing really comparable to the scale of the purges or the Cultural Revolution.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

England's Second Last Feminist on The Important Issue of the Day

[Continuing our irregular series of 'People get paid to write this shit?']

I haven't looked at 'Standpoint' for a bit, and I wondered idly what else it published apart from Nick ranting about lack of Conservative political correctness on the BBC. Never let it be said that the editors of Standpoint stand about idly in the weeks when the magazine doesn't go to press. They have 'online only' articles which, judging by the standard of Julie Bindel's laughable effort even they'd be embarrassed to ask people to pay for.

Williams and Bull say that their treatment by the bar staff was inappropriate and heavy handed, and I agree that it seems over the top to attempt to physically eject the men from the pub for such a minor misdemeanour. But was it homophobia? As a lesbian, and a life-long campaigner against anti-gay bigotry I can honestly say I do not know.

This is because Bindel's entire research consists of reading the Guardian. One of the men is on Twitter; the pub is in Soho, and Bindel lives in Islington. Could she get a quote from either? "Check facts? But I'm a lesbian! This is discrimination!"

Still, Bindel sets herself up nicely:

I have lost count of how many times I have...

Use your thumb, dear. Then there's your other hand.

All gays want is equality, but who wants to live in cheese-eating surrender monkey land when we hate people instead.

Is there a word for supposed 'progressives' whose views just happen to serve the status quo? (Not that I'm keen on the term 'progressive' but you know, needs must.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Not worth watching

I'm an atheist, and largely in the Hitch and Dawkins "aggressively so" camp, but even I think Nick's jeremiad against Professor Sir Martin Rees is a bit much.

As Mrs Merton knew, there are questions that answer themselves. "What first attracted astronomer royal Martin Rees to the £1m Templeton prize?"

As far as I can tell, Rees won the prize, which, like the Nobel, doesn't have an application process. They just give it to you. You don't have to ask. Previous winners include John D Barrow and Freeman Dyson. Never mind the million quid, being on the same platform as them is an honour that would be hard to turn down.

First Nick seems to think that Rees's statement that he "respects religion" means that he agrees with Osama bin Laden and the Inquisition. I very much doubt that this is true. I think it's much more the case that Rees (whom I should say I admire) has no problem with the Vatican's interest in science. As far as I know, the Vatican actually does some very good science, and banging on about evolution (which the Catholic Church has no problem with) or the age of the universe (ditto) isn't going to make any difference to that.

Like millions who should know better, Rees is not religious himself but "respects" religion and wants it to live in "peaceful co-existence" with it.

What does Nick want instead? Pogroms?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Even if...

No news organisation in the West could base their main Middle Eastern bureau anywhere other than Israel, for the simple reason that it was the only free country with a free press, an independent judiciary and a constitution. Researchers and diplomats, as well as reporters, could phone or visit Palestinians in the occupied territories, as indeed could anyone else. Crucially, in an age dominated by images, television crews could get pictures. I am not saying that the authorities do not harass foreign or Israeli correspondents trying to report the undoubted violations of Palestinian rights, simply that they can report from Jerusalem but cannot from Damascus or Riyadh.

Even if the Baathists or Wahaabis let journalists in, they would place them under constant surveillance. Meanwhile any local invited to go on air to criticise his or her rulers would refuse because they knew that they would be running a terrible risk.

Nick's rather strange Standpoint tv reviewer gig continues.

Al Jazeera is based in Qatar. Wikipedia has a rather long section on the attempts to censor or silence the network.

During the 2011 Egyptian protests, on 30 January, the Egyptian government ordered the TV channel to close its offices. A day after, on 31 January, Egyptian security forces arrested six Al Jazeera journalists for several hours and seized their camera equipment. There were also reports of disruption in Al Jazeera Mubasher's Broadcast to Egypt.

On 4 March 2011, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Al Jazeera provided more informative news coverage than the opinion driven coverage of American mass media. Most American media outlets declined comment. Michael Clemente of Fox News called the comments "curious," while not directly refuting them.

I think that Nick wrote what he did because he's taken to using "the Middle East" to mean "Palestine" but if so, that doesn't quite fit with his broader criticisms of Jeremy Bowen.

The BBC's Middle East editor is not the only expert whose expertise now looks spurious. The Arab uprising is annihilating the assumptions of foreign ministries, academia and human rights groups with true revolutionary élan. In journalistic language, it is showing they had committed the greatest blunder a reporter can commit: they missed the story. They thought that the problems of the Middle East were at root the fault of democratic Israel or more broadly the democratic West.

Some of the problems of the ME are the fault of the West. These go back to at least World War I, and we do keep giving money and selling arms to the bastards currently in power so they can stay there. I can't think of any human rights group or expert who has ever praised Gadaffi (for example) except in the very faint way of saying that he's less of a bastard than he used to be.

Two 'bastards' in one paragraph. Elegant variation can eat my shorts.