Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bad stuff happens, nothing can be done

Bad stuff happens when people hate one another, and there's not much the state can do about it. That's the take-home message from Nick's treatment of Fathers for Justice, the Leo Blair non-kidnap plot, and related matters in his Observer column. Aside from Nick's fatalism there's not much of substance to take issue with: good separated dads should continue to get to seek their kids, violent nasty ones shouldn't. Harry Fletcher on the probation officer's union gets a mention, seems like he's up there with Gorgeous George and Saddam in the Nick-nameckeck ratings. He should worry about that. Much to quibble with in the detail, though: "The 'plot' to kidnap the PM's son may have been pub talk, but far away from Downing Street, there has been a genuine low-level terror campaign." So what does this mean? Perhaps Nick wants to suggest the F4J didn't want to kidnap Leo but they have been attacking and harassing court officials? Well maybe. Nick doesn't say so however, but moves effortlessly from wild talk in internet chatrooms to a particular attack on a solicitor. "No one knows who was responsible." Including you then Nick. Elsewhere there's some unhelpful use of statistics, with Nick telling us that in the "most intractable cases" allegations by women that their partners beat them up are "upheld in one-third of ... cases". Nick introduces this as the "tip of the iceberg" of male violence during family breakup. It may well be, but F4J would no doubt take solace in a claim that in "the most intractable cases" two-thirds of such allegations are rejected. Surely Nick could have come up with a better factoid merely by using google for half-an-hour?

The rest of the column is padded out with a swipe at the Blairites for not being keen on finding out exactly what the US is up to in the way of torture and extraordinary rendition and a retelling of Ariel Dorfman's address to the Modern Language Association of America. This was widely covered by the usual blogs in the middle of last week. I should therefore have seen it coming but went for "Chirac's nuclear threats" instead on the basis that there was bound to be something lifted from HP Sauce or Normblog. So my guess was right about type but wrong about token. I don't suppose that counts. Is Nick paying Norm and Harry commission?

Bruschettaboy adds: Harry Fletcher, Harry Fletcher, Fletcher Fletcher, Rama Rama, Hare Hare? The man is in every week. Bloody well done to him for singlehandedly eradicating the problem of violent Fathers 4 Justice, as well as all the other major government policies he's reshaped in recent weeks. Perhaps we could persuade him to have a look at Northern Ireland where things are not going as quickly as we had hoped? Or maybe even Iraq? (Is the National Association of Probation Officers affiliated to the Stop the War Coalition ... no surely not, that would be too easy ... but yes they are)

I think Cap Cab has a real point here about Nick's sourcing of material from blogs. I am not accusing anyone of plagiarism or anything, but it is clear to me that the Harry's Place and Normblog blogs have been at least as significant in generating ideas and leads for Nick as Harry Fletcher has, and they have AFAICT not once been given so much as a shout-out (Harry's Place got mentioned in the Standard column once if I remember correctly and both have been mentioned in the Staggers, but in the Observer which is Nick's highest profile gig, nada). It seems a bit poor.

The Ariel Dorfman bit is interesting. I suspect that if we look back at the last few weeks of Nick's columns, it will be blindingly obvious in retrospect that he has been hoaxing us. The "Liberal left" have ensured that the case for war in Iraq has been systematically censored? George Galloway always gets an easy ride from the BBC? Nobody in the government knew about extraordinary rendition? Of course Nick couldn't really have been claiming that in a national newspaper. Christ, how did we fall for those? I blame Zizek.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Minor point: as well as shoving him towards the centre pages, the observer have, after several years, stopped titling nick's column 'without prejudice'. Good call, i reckon.

1/22/2006 10:32:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

yeh, and there is now a "Furthermore ..." tag at the top of one of the items. presumably indicating that it is a joke, although there really ought to be other tags at the top of the others indicating they aren't.

1/22/2006 10:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just noticed something else. For those not in the loop, I hijacked one of Matthew Turner's comment threads and turned it into a discussion on Tom Utley in the Torygraph on the "Leo Kidnap plot"

Tom Utley [TU]:

... I must say from the start that the story, in Wednesday's Sun, struck me as absolute tripe from beginning to end.

Nick Cohen [NC]:

The alleged ‘world exclusive’ on the front page of last Wednesday’s Sun - ‘Plot to kidnap Leo Blair. Cops foil Fathers 4 Justice extremists’ - was such self-evident tripe ...


Now hold it right there. If "Special Branch cops" really had "smashed" a genuine plot to do something as evil as kidnapping the Prime Minister's son, then why had they made no arrests?


There was no conspiracy; if there had been, the police would have thrown the militant fathers into prison.

Er, Nick, the police arrest people: they then detain them in the cells. They don't put anyone in prison; only the courts can do that.

Well, the Telegraph makes a change from Harry's place. The pieces then go their separate ways: Utley to the media-effectiveness of the F4J stunts; Cohen to their sinister sub-terror nature. Utley is closer to my own views on this.

1/23/2006 11:07:00 AM  

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