Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ted and Nick's Excellent Adventure

Honderich's response to the NC piece is now up on his own website - thanks very much to Callan and Cian in the comments for the heads-up. In as much as the Aaronovitch Watch predictions were a) that Nick's interview was the hackjob to end all hackjobs and b) Honderich is really rather barking on this subject, we look pretty prescient. Fans of the Ted Honderich prose style, disappointed you will not be. I suspect that ENGAGE will have a field day with section 10, as TH appears to not be aware that neither Nick nor Dave are religiously or matrilineally[1] Jewish, and therefore refers to Nick's statement "I am no more Jewish than David Aaronovitch" as "Kabbalistic".

[1] I nearly said "ethnically", but am not sure what this would mean with regard to Dave, see below - the matrilineal criterion is IIRC what matters with respect to Israeli immigration policy, but I don't think that's the necessarily definitive given that he does refer to the Jewish community with the first person plural in his journalism. Are there any experts on ethnic studies out there who can enlighten?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

AFAIK, matrilineality (if that is a real word) is the criteria used by Orthodox Jews to establish who is in and who is not - with the exception of converts. I gather that Progressive/ Liberal Synagogues are more flexible.

I think (I am entirely open to correction) that one would properly speak of Messrs Aaronovitch and Cohen as being 'of Jewish descent', or some such, if one wished to allude to their ethnic origins. (Why one would feel the need to do this is unclear.) I am under the impression that some persons of Jewish descent self-identify as Jews for various reasons (not least the fact that anti-semites don't make fine distinctions and they don't want to be seen as letting the side down).

My guess is that Aaronovitch probably flits between the two usages because, OTOH, he presumably has Jewish family and OTOH he isn't a Jew by virtue of matrilineality or religion. Which strikes me as entirely sympathetic and understandable.

11/22/2006 06:22:00 PM  
Blogger Backword Dave said...

I'm going to dispute the assertion that 'Honderich is really rather barking on this subject' - I think his reply to NC is careful and lucid. I'll confess my ignorance of the proper use of 'Kabbalistic' (if there is one) - I thought it referered the expensive water Madonna buys; but 'gnomic' seems about right. The truth or otherwise of Nick's denial depends on how Jewish David Aaronovitch is; it's a meaningless statement on its own. I thought Nick self-identified as a humanist materialist (Marxist?) lefty. I suppose he is of Jewish decent, but I've never read that as having any import in his political views. So I think Honderich's accusation is wrong (and I give evil BB that that is a bit barking); and Nick's deflection seems disingenuous.

I do like section 5 of Honderich, especially It was he who was emotional, in need of calming, maybe restraint. ... Understand is what he was not in a fit state to do.

I increasingly find the descent of Nick pitiful: he used to be talented and energetic, always in a 'Mr Angry' way, but that was OK with me - there's a lot to be angry about. Despite writing a couple of essential books on New Labour, Nick hasn't learned its virtues: he's worried about house prices in Chelsea - if there was one thing New Labour promised to dump, it was envy. Roughly speaking, I'm all for robbing the rich to give to the poor; I'm not for robbing the rich because they have more money than me.

11/22/2006 09:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kabbala was a particular form of Jewish mysticism concerned with the true name of God. All kinds of weird and wonderful textual analysis of the Torah, assigning numbers to letters and stuff. Not to be confused with cult designed to rip off moronic pop stars through overpriced water and wristbands.

Though in this instance I think its just a fancy way of pointing out that both Nick and Aaronovitch have Jewish surnames, which rather obscures whatever point Nick was trying to make (which was what exactly?).

Maybe Nick's saying that like Dave, he's only Jewish when it suits his argument.

11/23/2006 01:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incidentally, Nick popped up on Radio 4's Analysis last week
(, available on listen again until this afternoon). My transcript (using my new dictation software):

The question posed by 9/11 won't go away. The question that 9/11 posed was: there will always be dictatorial regimes across the Middle East, mainly Middle East, and they repress their people, and the only outlet for radicalism is ever more extreme versions of Wahhabi Islam and that's the only place for people to go. And so, the answer to that is democracy, human rights, all of that. Now, you know, you can have what is rather laughingly called a realist foreign policy: that is, we keep dictators in power, at least they keep the lid on things. But then you're just gonna create more and more radicals, competing with each other in ever more violent versions of psychopathic religion. So, yeah, Bush is going to be gone soon, Tony Blair is going to be gone soon, British troops will be out of Iraq - my guess, by this time next year they will be gone. But that big big question isn't going to disappear, and a lot of people at the moment want to duck it and say "You know, democracy's not for people with brown skins. Democracy's not for Arabs. You know, keep them under dictators", although they don't quite have to guts to put it as bluntly as I do but that's the sub-text.

British troops out by this time next year? It's a bold prediction.

11/23/2006 03:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blimming flip, there's more. I wish I hadn't started this now.

Nick: Islamism is a great dynamic force, as dynamic as communism and fascism before it. People keep talking as if the West holds all the cards, and if only we could get the right attitude, like develop the right strategy to win a chess game, we would be fine. It may not be up to us. It may not be that we can have the luxury of sitting here and deciding what we do about it. We may have to react rather than be the instigators. It's a very comforting and very parochial idea that people sitting in London, Paris, Washington hold all the cards, and if something goes wrong it's all their fault, if it goes right it's all their success. Not so.

Sariya Masani (?): You don't think there's a role for disengagement, for saying, as we did during the cold war, we, you know, threw up a kind of iron curtain or cordon sanitaire and say, you know "Do what you like. A plague on all your houses and just leave us alone."?

Nick: You put it more bluntly, [indistinct] blunt, than most people in Europe do. That's really the European position, a liberal democrat position of, you know, they don't like being as blunt as you because they all like to pretend they're principled, moral people as well. Is that possible though? Is that possible with Europe's Muslim minority? Is that possible with borders breaking down, the Internet, the spread of weapons of mass destruction. I suspect that this is something you can't just close the gates of fortress Europe on.

11/23/2006 04:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doh! BBC transcript here. (it's Zareer):

11/23/2006 04:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fallhammer: did that really come straight from your dictation software, or did you have to do some editing? I gave up on dictation software in about 1999 because it was so frustrating and inefficient (not unlike Nick, I have a really clotted and mumbling voice), but I might give it another go if it's advanced to the point of being able to pick up Nick Cohen from a radio broadcast, which would be a pretty high-tariff task.

(of course I suppose that you might have specifically trained your dictation software to recognise Nick Cohen's voice, in which case I am rather scared of you).

11/23/2006 08:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The software has come a long way since 1999 but it's not magic yet. I listened to the stream and repeated what Nick was saying, and then I edited. It is still a long way from being perfect, but with training it can be extremely useful for certain kinds of work (such as technical translation, which is what I do). I can concentrate on the source document and babble away for a paragraph or two, rephrasing and recorrecting, and then do a quick keyboard edit. To my knowledge, that's the first time I've heard Nick's voice; my Essex drone is significantly worse (though I never interject "you know").

Anyway, my apologies for dragging this thread off topic.

11/23/2006 11:13:00 AM  

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