Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Mr Cohen, meet Mr Fo.

Further NC thoughts from a different Bruschettaboy ... don't worry, I will have the Aaro column covered later today or this evening.

I have to say that I personally am finding it harder and harder to sustain the idea that NC is Basically A Good Bloke whose Heart Is In The Right Place, and this column is close to being the final straw. The general form of the piece is one of the central arguments of McCarthyism and its cognates; these damn commies/Islamists don't believe in democracy and freedom, so why the hell should we respect their rights and freedoms. Nick's very keen on making comparisons between Hizb-ut-Tahrir and fascists parties, but if anything, the comparison is more valid wth the other big totalitarian movement of the last century. Of course, to make the argument that "these damn Hizbies are as bad as the Stalinists and therefore we should set our policy toward them following the example of the House Un-American Activities Committee" would stand out a bit in the pages of the Observer (where Tailgunner Joe is still considered by and large to have been one of the bad guys), so the comparison has to be always to the BNP and (preferably) Nazi Germany.

As I say, outright McCarthyism is an idea whose time hasn't quite yet come in the Guardian Media Group (no really, they were bloody pissed off when they were bounced into blacklisting Dilpazier Aslam). So, there has to be a paragraph (it's at the end, blink and you'll miss it) in which Nick says that all things considered, we probably shouldn't ban Hizb outright and chuck all their members in jail; a sustained Cointelpro campaign and ostracism will do for the moment (perhaps we ought to consider making a list, in black, of all their sympathisers, just in case some journalists forget to expose them enough). This is what shifts Nick's column from the straightfoward genre of McCarthyism into its more left-friendly sister genre of "Liberal McCarthyism". By which I mean, the school of thought that chucks in the occasional piety about "defence of our historic liberties", rails angrily against authoritarian policies at the appointed hour every fourth Sunday, but at the end of the day ends up by reminding those readers that dammit, those Commies are as bad as the Nazis, dammit! And is it really the best use of our time to try and bail out people on blacklists, when they certainly wouldn't do the same for us if this was Soviet Russia (the Caliphate)? And you kids, when you're out there protesting against the war in Indochina, do you realise that you might as well be supporting dictators? There's no rock 'n' roll behind the Iron Curtain! And so on. All we need to complete the picture is a big old diatribe against those "fellow travellers" who have deserted the liberal values of the Democratic Party and seem to spend all their time making excuses for the Evil Empire. ("Our Friends on the Left", an examination of agonies, idiocies and compromises of mainstream liberal thought will be published by 4th Estate in 2006.)

If anyone wonders whether I'm auditioning for a minor speaking part in Nick's book as a representative of "the liberal left" who's bent on excommunicating Nick, then yes I am. I don't expect to get the part by the way; since this is the man who claimed that "the Guardian ran a web debate entitled: "David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen are enough to make a good man anti-Semitic'", I expect that most of the main roles in Nick's production to go to fictional characters or composite strawmen (in particular I strongly expect that the book's portrayal of TLL will substantially over-represent anti-Semites; the false claim that the middle class British Left are in general anti-Semitic is usually the capstone of the bridge between loony Left and loony Right). But in general, I personally (and I know that several other users of the BB pseudonym disagree with me on this matter) think that Comrade Cohen is wandering off the reservation and needs to get back on it, sharpish.

The thing is that Qutbist pan-Islamism is certainly rather less of a threat to the free world than Communist expansionism was between 1950 and 1989. Hizb-ut-Tahrir are probably more of a "conveyor belt" toward terrorist violence than the BNP (as far as I am aware, the political racists recruit from the violent racists rather than vice versa) but I doubt that it is more of a conveyor belt than the one that existed between the Italian Left in the 1970s and the Red Brigades. But, much earlier on and for much less practical reason, our government is employing much more restrictive measures than it ever employed against Communism. In this country, that is; we're about on a par with 60s USA and still a bit better than 70s Italy, although we are about to pass an anti-terrorism Bill with 90-day detention without charge and crimes of 'glorifying terrorism'. I know enough about the anni di piombo to not want to see them repeated, even in milder version, in my country. I also don't want to see the British political system damaged in the way the Italian one was by a government of authoritarians and a political opposition which was too obsessed with anti-Communism to do its job. And I certainly don't want to see a journalist I once admired carrying water for this project just because he read a book by Paul Berman.

A couple of weeks ago in the Standard, Nick was bemoaning the predictable BBC-PC liberalism of political theatre. I suspect that it won't be too long before he's reviewing the opening night of "Accidental Death Of An Islamist".

Update: Oh yeh, the "Can we sue over MMR?" filler item is a direct lift from Boris Johnson. Don't think for a moment that the addition of The Lancet to the list of guilty men is unintentional, by the way, although the stupidity of NC's actual charge possibly is. When he says "Wakefield's original research was based on a sample of just 12 children, which was too small to be meaningful, as the Lancet ought to have known", he appears to be acting under the belief that the Lancet only exists in order to publish finally considered conclusions of the entire medical profession. In fact, Wakefield's study was published as a case study of 12 cases; the Lancet regularly publishes case studies of this size because it is the only way to get the ball rolling on unusual or novel medical developments (I think my brother did one in the BMJ about a new surgical technique on diabetics which was based on half a dozen cases, which sounds pretty small but isn't if you've blunted a scalpel on every one). The Lancet was quite correct to publish the study and was also correct to be appalled at the way Wakefield overstated his case at a subsequent press conference.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...the false claim that the middle class British Left are in general anti-Semitic is usually the capstone of the bridge between loony Left and loony Right)"

Excellent stuff. According to one commenter over at NickWeb, antisemitism is demonstrated by the use of the word "cabal".

10/26/2005 01:52:00 PM  

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