Friday, July 29, 2005

I'm late! I'm late! For an Aaronovitch watching date!

God how did that happen? So excited about "Cohen Watch" that I took my eye off the ball. Sorry folks. Anyway, here tis.

The words "whistling" and "dark" come inexorably to mind throughout the first half of the column. Whether or not it's appropriate to be scared of bombs, it's a very personal thing and unlikely to be helped by statistics. Nobody was ever argued out of their fear and running up reams of statistics just raises the "precisely who are you trying to convince here?" question. But this is the introductory toccata familiar to all Aaro cols.

The meat of the col starts again with "The Grievance", dealt with admirably by RK last week. The Derridean absence of Iraq is absolutely palpable here; in a week when MI5, Chatham House, the Muslims, the police, the Americans and Tony Blair are all saying "have you heard? the Muslims are angry about Iraq!", Decent Dave feels obliged to pretend that they're aggrieved about, well, "stuff".

Also in the "dogs that don't bark" category is this sentence:

"And why do sensible journalists fail to distinguish between men like the interesting and intelligent Tariq Ramadan on the one hand, and clerical fascists such as Omar Bakri Mohammad and Abu Qatada on the other? "

Abu Who? I had to look him up. I would bet dirhams to doughnuts[1] that when this sentence was drafted, it contained a reference to Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is not exactly "interesting and intelligent" on the one hand, not exactly innocent of being a "clerical fascist" on the other, but who withal is not an apologist for terror or an expansionist jihadi like OBM and Qatada. I think that Decent was originally prepared to draw a distinction between pro- and anti-terror Muslim extremists but realised that it might put him on the wrong side with a few of the other Decents and stir up animosity in the Decent camp, so we are left without the benefit of Aaro's thoughts on the most controversial recent invitee to these shores. Party line, Dave, party line.

(for those of our critics who don't understand why we bother with "Aaronovitch Watch", this sort of thing is exactly why. If you're watching Melanie Philips, say, then you can be pretty sure that everything she has to say is right there on the page, and that all of it is crap. It's precisely because Aaro is a bit better than that, that he's worth "watching". In between the more reasonable and sensible bits are little asides and lacunae which pass by the ordinary paying punter, but which a trained Aaronovologist can recognise as the shimmies and shakes of an emerging party line.)

There is also a clear subtext to the assertion that, to coin a snappy phrase of one of the heroes of the Decent Left "There Is No Such Thing As (Muslim) Community". Again with the combination of part sound common sense (self-appointed "community leaders" are almost always wankers, whether they're endorsing murders in Israel or inviting you to sign a petition about planning regs) and part sneaky little pawn moves aimed at advancing an agenda. The implication here is that all those people you see on television saying "Muslims are angry about Iraq" have no real idea, so it's quite probably not true that Muslims are angry about Iraq.

But one wouldn't want to be too hard on this col. It's really not bad (god that "new era of mutual respect" I was blithering about while shellshocked is beginning! Bring on Cohen and the Three Minute Hate!). Dave's ostensible central theme is that we all, including newspaper pundits, know much less than we think and should pass a self-denying ordinance against drawing conclusions from no facts about situations about which we know fuck-all. Yeah, preach it bro. And Dave's real central theme, which I would argue is underlying almost all the Times columns, and quite possibly those Guardian cols written after the doctor's visit which prompted the fat camp article, is summed up well in the fourth paragraph from the end.

"The vulnerability, the fallibility".

Livejournal moment:
Currently listening to:

"The future's uncertain, the end is always near" - Roadhouse Blues, The Doors

"Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey; I ache in the places where I used to play" - Tower of Song, Leonard Cohen.

Gonna start making a "Sound of Aaronovitch" compilation album.

[1]Depending on the exchange rate; possibly I mean doughnuts to dirhams.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


I am in the process of fucking about with the template. This might involve a bold new direction, about which I have not informed the rest of the team. Stay tuned, and please be understanding about any design weirdness.

Update: Yes oh yes! See above "Now Incorporating Cohen Watch"! (in somewhat smaller type as Nick Cohen is not in the greater scheme of things as important as Aaronovitch). I think that this blog has had a salutory effect on Aaro since its foundation, however deprived of the calming effect of Decent Dave's presence, Nasty Nick's worst instincts have come out. Hence, "watch". Don't worry lads this will not involve you in any more work. I have sorted out an (entirely) anonymous contributor for most of the Cohen bits and will do a few myself. Our empire grows and grows.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Aaro lights a cigarette in No-Man's Land

Oh Aaro. Ohhhhh Aaro. Oh Aaaaaaro Aaaro Aaro. You can't expect that we're gonna be merciful about this. More to come.

Update: Actually a rather good and unexceptionable piece (or possibly, I haven't found the Blair/War angle yet). There is something hilarious about Aaro being sent to a fat farm by Guardian Weekend who were "worried about his health"[1], but to be honest if the guy had a weight problem and decided to do something about it, that's not really a bad thing and not one that can really be mocked without doing a lot of collateral damage to some fairly harmless and good-natured Americans (I note the appearance of a character called Alfred, however, who "believed every conspiracy theory going" and might have made a few anonymous appearances in subsequent Aaronovitch columns). So what the hey. I do actually believe that Aaronovitch's weight problem and general midlife issues have a lot to do with his enthusiasm for the "don't just stand there, Do Something" Blair project and we will return to this theme in future, but the GW article ain't a bad one and Aaronovitch is probably correct in what he says.

[1]And then when he lost weight, he fucked off to the Times. Tsk, they must have been vexed.
[2]Full disclosure; Bruschetta Boy #1 is 6'1" tall (same as Aaro) and weighs 210 pounds (two stone less than Aaro, but still a bit too much. It's all muscle I tell you).

Thursday, July 21, 2005


I'm not going to try to top the Rioja Kid's assessment of the last Aaaro[1] col - all I have in my notes is that "The Grievance" isn't a generalised teenager's pout, it has a specific Aarabic[2] name which translates as "The War On Islam Being Fought By The Unfaithful" and since Aaronovitch is actually one of the most prominent media voices trying to claim that there is such a war and there ought to be more of it, I for one would appreciate it if he would stop trying to play the old school game of lets-you-and-him-fight.

Anyway, this post is really to put up a link to Melanie Phillips Watch. Trends usually take a couple of years to cross the Atlantic, but I think the "Watcher" craze could take off in the UK. Ms Phillips provides more in the way of unintentional comedy than Aaro so I suspect that MPW will be more popular than us in a short space of time but what the hey. If anyone fancies setting up "Nick Cohen Watch" they can count on a plug here btw, but I would suggest that anyone who does so would need to be a Londoner as Cohen's really bad material is in his column for the Standard which isn't on the Web.

[1]No it's not a misspelling; I'm trying to suggest that he changes his name so that he appears in the Directory of English Pundits ahead of Aaron Aardvark.
[2]Fair enough, that one was a typo. I've got Aaro on the brain.

Update: Big up to Aaronovitch Watch Watch too (I told you this trend was spreading like wildfire). In all honesty, Decent Dave is not the worst columnist in the world by a long way. But that's why he matters; few genuine loonies do. And anyway, he started it. You diss our bruschetta, you're dissing us.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

He seethes, he fumes

While certain people seem to have been pissing themselves with glee since July 7, it has to be said that Dave hasn’t been up in the vanguard. Perhaps he’s got an old tankie’s suspicion of unauthorised enthusiasm.

Instead, he’s been doing a bit of pundit shoplifting. This week’s theme – that the cause of the bombing isn’t in mere events but in a pathological sense of grievance nurtured by Muslims – looks like a straight lift from a Howard Jacobson column in the Independent a few months back. More generally it’s evidence for the proposition that people who can’t handle the facts prefer to take refuge in amateur psychoanalysis, especially when they’re nursing a grievance. And so:

I blame the ideology and the psychology of Grievance — the pleasurable, destructive business of imagining that “they” are being bad to “you”, and of therefore calculating every event on that basis. We call it “nursing” a grudge for a reason. We take this aspect of existence and add to it, almost lovingly.

Now let’s assume that this strange condition does indeed arise in the Muslim mind irrespective of actual events here and in the Middle East or South Asia. These Muslims – a bit twitchy aren’t they. It’s best not to draw attention to anything that might heighten their pathological sense of grievance. If you do, then it follows that you share responsibility for anything nasty that follows once the little brown people get all overexcited.

Yes, once again, it’s Iraq, Aaro’s own pet grievance. He just can’t leave it alone. His response to carnage is to search for a way to discredit opponents of his own position on that issue and to imply that they have some indirect responsibility for terrorism. This is the meaning he puts to an atrocity. It’s a means to embarrass those who disagree with him into shutting up.

It simply is not an accident — in psychological terms — that anything that conflicts with the Grievance is discounted, and anything that contributes to it is emphasised.

True, Aaro, true…

The Rioja Kid

Friday, July 15, 2005

All Aaro, all the time

In the interests of nerdy Aaronovitch completeness, this from the Press Gazette

News editor Robert Wellman said: "First of all we concentrated on getting our reporting staff in the right place, then we started thinking about our specialist writers and getting them going on various aspects of it all.

"We had about 15 people out and a fair few in the office working on it.

People from other departments helped so we had Suzy Jagger from the business desk who was close to one of the stations and did some good work for us there.

"Once the enormity of the situation was clear experience kicks in and you make sure you have got the right people in the right places. We also made sure that our good writers, such as Matthew Paris, David Aaronovitch and Robert Crampton, were out there in the thick of it."

Minor factual; Aaro was not actually out in the thick of it, he wrote a piece about how the news drifted out to the suburbs.

While we're on about it, I found the Google ads selected to appear alongside Action Man's "Liberal Optimism Can Change The World" column hilarious. Google clearly has Aaro taped.

it's not exactly "Ooh look! A polevaulter!" but it's close

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

action Aaro

I think my colleague has dealt more than sufficiently with the main theme of “Action Aaro’s” latest contribution to our general understanding of events. However, I do detect a retreat from the high tide of pro war liberalism where it was axiomatic that what we did in Afghanistan and Iraq was necessary, effective and morally mandated. Now it’s just good because we do things.

I think it unlikely that Dave hasn’t heard here of the proposed partial withdrawal of troops from Iraq by the US, the UK and the Italians, announced shortly after last week’s bombings. Whatever we’re doing in Iraq, we’re going to be doing a good deal less of it come next year. And while it’s still debateable whether what we did inspired the terrorists to do what they did last week, it’s pretty clear that what we’ve done in the name of opposing them hasn’t done anything to stop them doing things. Never mind. In Dave’s world whatever we do we have to keep on doing things, presumably because if we didn’t the only things that would get done would be done by terrorists. It’s a doing things competition, and we will win because we do nicer things, in a spirit of liberal optimism. Oooh, look! A pole vaulter.

- the Rioja Kid


Truce over, I think. More excoriation of that small and peculiar subset of the world who both opposes the Iraq War and thinks that we are doing too much for Africa. But the real deal-breaker for me was this paragraph; possibly the single slimiest and sneakiest piece of equivocation I've seen for a while.

Even so, it is possible to argue that the Iraq war might have pushed a few more young men from the video-watching phase to the re-enactment — though it can’t be argued with any certainty. And so, prima facie, you can make out a self-interested case for standing back when New York gets attacked or a few Jews or Shia are exploded in some faraway place. (emphasis added)

This is the thesis that even George Bush is not bothering to defend any more; that it was necessary to invade Iraq because of 9/11. To not attack Afghanistan after 9/11 would have been "standing back when New York gets attacked". The remark about "a few Jews" is presumably Dave trying to drip, drip away at this "only anti-Semites oppose the war" theme that was there in the Atzmon col a while ago. "Shia" might be a reference to Iraq itself, but those massacres happened in 1993/4, when Osama bin Laden was right at the bottom of the Terrorist Top Trumps deck so the issue of "standing back" does not really arise.

What Decent Dave does not appear to realise, let alone acknowledge, is that That Bloody War was a war of choice. Nobody made us do it. We chose to. In other moods, Dave defends this choice; we chose to do it for the sake of the poor ickle Iraqis. In yet other moods, Dave attempts to stand by That Bloody Prediction and claim that we had to do it, Saddam had a gun to our head. But never before have I seen him try to muddy the waters between the need to fight against Islamic non-state terrorists who want to kill us, and a war we fought against a non-Islamic state which posed us no immediate threat. Not very decent, Dave.

In the rest of the col, Dave plays the Decent Left's strongest card (I see that the Times subeditors are still removing the word "mindless" from phrases like "liberal optimism"). And it's pretty weak. The idea is that because massacres happened in places where we didn't intervene (Srebenica is the topical one because of the anniversary, but Rwanda is more common), we could have stopped them by intervening. Set out like that, the missing counterfactual is a bit obvious, so you need to pour on the rage and emotion to make it work even a little bit; mentioning Douglas Hurd and "Tory pessimism" helps. But the fallacy is obvious; Dave even sums it up in the last paragraph but two and refutes it with the stunning argument "No.". Liberal intervention gives you the "chance of changing the world", but refraining from steaming in without a plan is much cheaper, in lives as well as dollars.

The irony is that the central point of Aaro's column this week is correct. We cannot expect to be "left alone" if we don't provoke them. Jihadis hate us for a variety of reasons and if we get rid of the existing ones, they will invent some more. But whatever the views of Jihadis, it was still a bad idea to kill a hundred thousand Iraqis and spend a hundred billion dollars with damnably little to show for it. Wars are not like Olympic Games or housing developments or aid programmes for Africa; if you fuck one up, it's a lot more serious. The "spontaneous urge to action rather than inaction" is strong in Dave at the moment (every single Times col is full of metaphors for physical activity in Aaronovitch himself, some of them quite obviously sexual). And it's an urge which is laudable in businessmen, unreliable in administrators and nine times out of ten downright disastrous in statesmen. Take some bromide already Aaro.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Gradual return to normality ...

The Aaronovitch column from hell has been written ... unfortunately, it was written by Nick Cohen which makes it off topic for us, even though it is quite the kind of repulsive passive-aggressive crap that motivated us to set up this blog. Nick Cohen, quite literally, hopes that the bombings will act as a "wake-up call" to us, the dinner party liberals ("social success at the dinner table belonged to the man who could simultaneously maintain that we've got it coming but that nothing was going to come"; in my world, social success at the dinner table goes to the man who isn't a cunt, but there you go). And Nick does actually think that we (as in, not him) had it coming, you see; if only we'd listened to Nick (and Dave) and stood foursquare behind Tony Blair we'd be sipping mochalatte on the Circle Line right now. Fucker. He also repeats a hoary old misquote about Karlheinz Stockhausen, btw, so any fans of music concrete who want to stick the boot in, the Guardian Reader's Editor is Ian Mayles.

Aaro, himself, in a col for the Saturday "Faith" section which is a bit difficult to link to but is available through the search function on the Times site (he also wrote a book review which we found unobjectionable) is more or less sticking to the terms of our ceasefire agreement; he puts out a boilerplate para. about George Galloway being a knobber for bringing politics into sport, but does so with a certain lightness of touch that's missing from the Cohen atrocity. It also looks to me as if Dave's heart wasn't really in that one; it's not so much a hymn of hate to grouplets of the 1980s, but rather an attempt to bring the "Faith" section readers, who may not be regulars of the Tuesday comments section, up to date with Dave's views on the subject of George Galloway.

To be honest, Decent Dave is finding it a bit difficult to get going on anything these days, including the exercise bike down the gym (this is a lift from the hard-to-find column, by the way, not a nasty personal remark from me). He seems to be fighting vainly the old ennui at the moment; not hard to see why given that he is part of the same global media organisation that saw the bombs and thought "time to buy". More on Tuesday, I'm sure but so far I think that Dave has had a good few days.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

An Olive Branch

Dave, I suspect you read this blog so I'm offering you a deal. In the spirit of solidarity between Londoners, I undertake that if you do not a) try to claim that the bombs in London tell us anything about the Iraq war or b) try to score yet more points off the Socialist Worker's Party or George Galloway, then I will give you more or less a free pass on Tuesday's column (I cannot speak for Rioja Kid or the other Bruschetta Boy, but I am the BB who has been most vituperative so far, so even if they have a go, it won't be anything like as nasty). I will also hold fire on a few unpleasant and personal remarks I was planning to make on last week's. If you really play a blinder in terms of steering clear of hackery (ie if you vet every sentence asking "does this look like something Christopher Hitchens might have said?") it might even herald the start of a new era of mutual respect for AW. If not, then cry havoc and et cetera.

If you're casting around for a theme, I'd suggest writing something about terrorist attacks in Israel, and specifically bus bombs. That's a subject where I'd actually be interested to read what you had to say.

Update: Nice one fella.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Being a provincial...

...I cannot add much to my esteemed colleague's assessment of Dave's urban encomium, except:

LAST SATURDAY my 12-year-old daughter Lily, spontaneously and conveniently, turned and said to me: “I love London, Dad.”

Well last night, my three year old Jack Russell Terrier, spontaneously and conveniently, turned and said to me "I hate it when columnists make up stuff their winsome daughters say to them and then hang a column around it. At least Nixon did it with his dog."

Then he trotted off to see a band called Vulture at the Apollo - they rocked, apparently - before we all settled down to some bruschetta spread with pedigree chum.

Dome D-Dome Dome

No real time to ponder the hidden agenda behind today's dismal attempt to resurrect Cool Britannia (1998 called, Dave, they want their swinging multicultural Britpop London puff piece back). I'm sure that there is one, even if it's just Blair-toadying; as I say you cannot trust him to tell you the time without trying to work an angle on you.

But a couple of links. First, a quick glance at the restos of Gabriel's Wharf suggests that at least half of them have bruschetta on the menu, yum yum (to be honest, I can only read the "stopping off for a priecy salad beneath the Oxo Tower after going to the theatre" paras as meaning "how gosh-dratted jolly it is to get a big pay rise and not have to produce a Sunday col"). And second, it is apparently an obscure NUJ regulation that the incumbent of the Simon Jenkins column must be a vocal supporter of ludicrous white elephant New Labour vanity projects in the East of London.

By the way the missing col has been added to the list without any fanfare; presumably some Times minion has been suitably chastised. Maybe we'll do something on it for a Christmas Special or some such; I would lay into it now, but at the moment it just looks soooooo fucking depressing.