Thursday, July 13, 2006

Supping with the devil

No time for extended commentary, but sometimes things speak for themselves. Norman Geras and Nick Cohen agreed to be interviewed by FrontPage Magazine, the outlet for the campaigns of US leftist-turned-rightist David Horowitz. The interview was conducted by Horowitz sidekick Jamie Glazov and the head wingnut himself. Geras and Cohen don't do a bad job of rebutting some of the FP insanity, but you have to ask yourself why they agreed to do it in the first place and whether they sometimes wonder why the Euston Manifesto gets generally approving attention from one particular pathological strand of the US right. Geras and Cohen are fond of alerting the world to any overlap between the ravings of David Duke and co and views of the Fisks and Pilgers, but they happily hang out with the Michelle Malkins and David Horowitzes.


Blogger Marc Mulholland said...

I thought Norm 'n'Nick could have done better, eg. pointing out the long liberal and 'capitalist' hostility to democracy for fear of it messing with liberty, the role of the labour movement directly in winning democratic rights, the impact of labour movement pressure in socialising and welfarising capitalism, the generally greater sensitivity of the anti-communist left to the dangers posed by the Soviet delusion, right-wing Cold Warriors arse kissing of authoritarian regimes, and so on.

The lads seemed taken aback and personally peeved; this 'how dare you question my morality' touchiness seems to be a bit of a Decent trait.

I reckon Hitchens would have counter-attacked a bit more effectively, had he still an interest in doing so.

7/13/2006 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

Hitchens has undertaken a similar interview with FPM, here. It's more conciliatory than the Geras/Cohen one, though he is admirably robust on the Israel/Palestine question in part II.

7/13/2006 07:43:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Yes in terms of how they dealt with Glazov it was definitely Hitchens, Kamm and then the Dynamic Duo, though it should be noted that our Dynamic Duo had to fight their Dynamic Duo, ie the bonkers Horowitz as well.

Of course the best really was Mad Mel

7/13/2006 09:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

when i read the hitchens/glazov interview i thought (very briefly) "poor old hitch -- this is the level of intellectual company you have chosen for yourself"

7/14/2006 09:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hitchens certainly blossoms in adversity, and at least he posseses a way with words and can deploy charm when he chooses to. Unlike Horowitz who can claim victim status from his own typing.

I apologize for putting the word “explanation” between quotes. It was careless of me, not mean-spirited, however. I just wanted to indicate that I didn’t think your explanation on that particular point explained anything.

Norman Geras didn't accuse him of mean-spiritedness. And since the following sentence says "I stand by my earlier view", I don't understand "it was careless of me."

But like the rest of you, I don't understand why they did it. Oliver Kamm's account of Glaznov's ignorance and intellectual dishonesty is perfectly lucid. Falling for it again is not to their credit.

I'm less sure about Hitchens, but I don't think that either Kamm or Geras have ever supported anti-Semitic organisations -- as Horowitz has done with the Black Panthers. He sure has a lot of gall.

7/14/2006 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Ray said...

Did Horowitz sign the Euston Manifesto?
Isn't this interview the equivalent of the uncomfortable breakfast the night after putting on the beer goggles?

7/14/2006 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No he didn't as far as I can see, although someone called "Ysabel Howard" did, with an impressively loony signing statement:

Ysabel Howard - I am a student of Voltaire and a Taoist with Marxist roots extending back into the C19th. The current prissy, irrational, authoritarian, freedom-hating excuses for the Left are frankly dismaying. The cuddling-up to theocrats and misogynists is appalling. Where I come from the Left is atheist and feminist. I like the post-Enlightenment, post-Marx, post-Woodstock modern world and have no desire to be dragged back into the C12th under a government to whom the abolition of Parliament is conceivable; the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill freaked me. 'We the people' are the sole source of power in a democracy not the passive and obedient recipients of what our masters dole out to us. Isn't there something about power in the hands of the many not the few?

7/14/2006 02:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nah, Ray. Horowitz is too much of an ego maniac to sign others' petitions now. I'm prepared to see not signing in David Aaronovitch as independence and pride, but in Horowitz it's just another aspect of a flawed character.

7/14/2006 03:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't seen a proferred alliance so brusquely brushed aside since, ooh, last Saturday's episode of Doctor Who. I kept expecting Horowitz to remark: "This is not war, this is pest control!"

7/14/2006 07:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That Cohen/Geras interview is one of the most (unintentionally) funny things that I've read in a long time.

I like the fact that Cohen ever-so-politely tells Horowitz that he is "unhinged".

7/16/2006 11:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, dear...did the Dynamic Duo do any research before they agreed to the interview?

FP: Admit it! You love Stalin!
Geras: No, I er--
FP: You support a dead ideology!
Cohen: I never sai--
FP: Join with us! Come over to the Dark Side!
Geras: No!
FP: You know you want to!
Cohen: Never!


Cohen/Geras: Oh, all right then.

On the other hand, Horovitz may be barking, but I reckon this bit was too close to the bone:

The question is this. Looking over the history of the left since 1917, this opposition to leftist tyranny from within the left has been confined to a very small segment of its ranks, and a politically insignificant one at that. I think what Jamie was asking was whether that in itself says something about the left itself. Another way to put this question is to ask: what do you think you can accomplish with this appeal to a left that historically has never responded to such appeals to principle in a politically significant way?

Of course if you want to define the left broadly to include say Tony Blair, then the opposition to leftwing tyranny and the support for the liberation of Iraq has been much larger and obviously is politically significant. But broadening the scope of the left this way drains the term of important meaning. I think this is what Jamie had in mind when he asked about your attitude towards capitalism. If you had Blair social democrats in mind in writing the Manifesto, you would hardly need a manifesto. You would just be Blair Laborites. And if this is the case, Blair has already provided all the manifesto you need. Obviously you have in mind a left with more rigorously conceived social agendas, and a narrower sense of political heritage.

So the first question is this: Why do you think the Euston Manifesto will have any significance within the left that subscribes to programs of social transformation and identifies with traditions like Marxism -- a left that is not simply the Labor Party or the Democratic Party? Second, what keeps you in this left at all, why do you still feel the need to make it part of your political identity? Why not recognize that it is never -- in its significant mass -- going to be anything more than it has been? Why not just turn your back on it, join the big crowd out there that shares your values and doesn't need manifestos and get on with your political lives without a "movement"?

No wonder they wouldn't answer - especially re. the bit about Blair.

7/17/2006 04:02:00 PM  

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