Friday, January 26, 2007

Everyone's a critic

I see that Nick is not taking the sage advice to not bother reading his own reviews …

What strikes me is how many of them have so little to do with the actual book. Here's Philip Hensher in the Independent, about the time he got into an argument with a Welsh woman. I wouldn't link to this normally, but it's part of a genre which Nick has ventured into on several occasions in the past; the one-sided recounting of an incident which very much looks like it might have been much more the author's fault than he recognises. Reading between the lines of the Hensher piece, one cannot help but think that it is at least as likely that he acted like a knob and suffered the consequences, rather than having been made the victim of the cancerous groupthink of the Left. Nick has yet more sympathy for how 'orrible the Left is to Tories in another review from the Standard here - oddly, he doesn't correct Michael Burleigh's (false) claim that Nick grew up in a Jewish household.

Nick does appear to have missed one or two reviews though.


Blogger Benjamin said...

First link's a 404, old boy.

1/26/2007 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger Marc Mulholland said...

I thought Nick's comment on Hitchens absolutely raving review (only the Dude, Martin Amis and Fascists appreciate the deadly Muzzie threat and the lengths to which tcivilisation will have to go to suppress it) was somewhat ambivalent:

"I promised myself that when What’s Left was published I would become a proper blogger and fisk the reviews. But after a close reading of this one, I’ve decided that no fisking is necessary."

An unimpeachable review by Hitchens? Or self-fisking? It could be read either as encomium or as repudiation. I'm not sure.

I see, by the way, that Cohen's book is already in Oxford's Blackwell's.

1/26/2007 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Hopefully it will be moving upstairs before too long...

1/26/2007 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

It's at the Borders in Oxford, too, where I bought my copy. Curiously they shelved it there under "political science".

1/26/2007 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger splinteredsunrise said...

'Lo, Marc. It hasn't arrived in Norn Iron yet, but I'm hoping Henry McDonald gives it a rave review in Fortnight. Two birds with one stone, y'know.

1/26/2007 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger Marc Mulholland said...

I'm sure Henry will: I'll be interested to see if Nick has anything to say about the British ultra-left's enthusiasm for the Provos in days of yore. It would fit in well with his general thesis, even if it would be equally tenuous. Liberal-left opinion in GB never liked Irish republicanism; indeed its indifference to the recent revelations of police / loyalist collusion has been striking.

I wonder is MacDonald identifies with Euston or the Henry Jackson Society (I see Bredan Simms of the latter gave Nick help). And if the two blocs will ever publicly fall out or go the whole hog and coalesce. The current refusal to acknowledge each other's existence seems a bit odd.

1/26/2007 03:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've bought it now. Using the Galbraith method of assessment (he always claimed he could tell whether he was going to like a book based on a quick glance at the "G" section of the index), I note that Ahmed Chalabi is indeed unpersoned, and the Iraqi National Congress have gone down the memory hole with them (for Nick, the authentic voice of Iraq is the PUK; he also mentions the ICP, but rather unfortunately they are out of the government, support a troops-out policy, refuse to condemn attacks on occupation troops and have a rather prominent message of solidarity with "the people of Palestine and Lebanon and their progressive forces in their resistance against the Israeli invasion").

Maryam Namazie also doesn't get a mention at all. And apparently JM Keynes' 'Economic Consequences of the Peace' "provided a root cause to justify appeasement". Nick, you see, thinks that the state of the world is like Germany in 1936, not Germany in 1919.

1/26/2007 03:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marc - two mentions of "Ireland" in the index, none of "IRA", none of "provisional IRA".

oh hang on, one "Northern Ireland conflict", p143. The context is "conservative pessimists" like Douglas Hurd, and a long list of interventionist failures (funny that)

"The Northern Ireland conflict had taught them the hopelessness of trying to reconcile competing ethnic groups and inculcated a desire to treat with men of violence". that's it, nae moor

There's a world of Watching in that one sentence. I wonder if Nick realises that "men of violence" is a very loaded phrase - I've never heard anyone other than Ian Paisley use that precise formulation. Also, it's outright contradictory; Nick appears to be saying that the non-Decents had learned that you can't reconcile ethnic groups, because there wasn't a peace process and also learned to "sit down with men who sit down with men of violence" because there was.

1/26/2007 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger splinteredsunrise said...

Marc, McDonald is a signatory of Euston. The H'S'JS is involved in a strange courtship with Tony McIntyre, but he still has some residual anti-war and anti-Zionist opinions that will keep him out of the Decent Left for a while to come.

Henry tho is probably the nearest thing we have to a Decent Left. I wrote a flippant squib about the Fortnight crew a couple of days back, which might interest you.

1/26/2007 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger splinteredsunrise said...

And, even if you accept Nick's version of Douglas Hurd in the Balkans (tendentious IMO) anybody familiar with his track record in Norn Iron in 1984-5 would fail to see the obvious connection that Nick seems to be drawing.

1/26/2007 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger Marc Mulholland said...

It sounds like Nick has imbibed Henry Jackson style 'modernisation theory', which dominated state responses during the Troubles (Paul Dixon's 'Northern Ireland: The Politics of War & Peace' is good on this). It came in two variants: lefty labour (why can't the working class realise that their class interests trump tribal atavism) and right-wing (deny all hope of significant institutional recognition of their Irishness to the catholics, force them to reconfigure their nationalism into a guilt-stricken theme-park culturalism at best). There's a lot of common ground, with the Stickies providing something of an actual transmission belt.

The right-wing version - which was the intellectuals' contribution to the semi-quasi-fascist Vanguard movement in the 1970s - has always had a considerable purchase in Northern Ireland unionism. In a way, it took a body blow with the Ulster Unionist Party's destruction under David trimble. Refugges struggled onto the Henry Scoop Jackson raft.

There's an odd Norn Iron ancestory to Decentism.

1/26/2007 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger Marc Mulholland said...

I read your Fortnight piece s'sunrise. Very funny & pertinent it is too. I had a feeling alright that maybe Henry had gone in with Euston while Bew jumped with H.S.J. You remind me that this is so. I wonder where Austen Morgan has gone.

1/26/2007 03:49:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Do these people get on well with arrogant Dublin? The PD people?

1/26/2007 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger splinteredsunrise said...

There's also an interesting Balkan parallel. You'll remember that a key Decent position on Bosnia was not only support for Izetbegovic (that went way beyond the Decent milieu) but fanatical opposition to any kind of decentralisation or checks and balances.

Now as Marc will remember, the Sticks always opposed power-sharing on the grounds that it would set sectarian divisions in stone and anyway the real majority was the working class. So on the basis of that pseudo-radical position they argued for a restoration of Stormont with unrestrained majority rule.

Incidentally this is also AFAIK the Militant/SP position, except that they want Stormont to have additional powers so when Peter H gets to be prime minister he can legislate Socialism in Six Counties. I scratch my head...

1/26/2007 04:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, you see, thinks that the state of the world is like Germany in 1936, not Germany in 1919.

That's one thing he has in common with Mel Phillips then. (Seal of Dacre?)

Only one problem with Nick pinning his hopes on the PUK: the Kurds over the border in Turkey.

PS: Friday Forecast: Nick - probation/Home Office and/or Dacre/BBC; DA: Dacre or Davos

1/26/2007 06:39:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Mine's arrived from Amazon (to be more accurate an Amazon affiliate). The conclusion about what the left can stand for nowadays is funny, particularly on the anti-globalization lot.

1/26/2007 07:55:00 PM  
Blogger steven said...

I should point out that my skit to which you kindly link isn't a review of the book, which I haven't read, but just a response to the extracts in the Obs.

1/26/2007 11:31:00 PM  
Blogger splinteredsunrise said...

Following on from Marc, Prof Bew left the Workers Party to join David Trimble's kitchen cabinet, so I assume he got Trimble to patronise HSJ. I remember Bew from the days when he was a strict Althusserian Stalinist, but even then he had a weird relationship with unionism. IIRC he was Paisley Junior's academic supervisor.

I don't remember Nick ever taking much of an interest in Norn Iron, much less show sympathy for unionism - though I assume he reads McDonald on the grounds that they're in the same paper. There's an interesting question here of whether Decency is developing a position on Ireland.

1/27/2007 03:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if Peter Oborne does write for the HateMail, he gets to the heart of the problem in his review in the Observer:

"Cohen erects paper tigers. It is easy to turn over the SWP. The key failing of the book is that nowhere does Cohen seriously engage with the mainstream, anti-war left. Cohen's thesis simply does not begin to apply to the decent and honourable left-wing men and women who opposed the war: Robin Cook, Menzies Campbell, Chris Smith, Frank Dobson, Clare Short, Alan Simpson, Bob Marshall-Andrews, and so many others. These people are not rancid homophobes or anti-semites, reflex America bashers or secret supporters of al-Qaeda. They were perfectly clear-sighted about the horror of Saddam, and nevertheless found it natural as social democrats to oppose the war."

Somehow I don't think Nick's going to enjoy reading that bit, let alone Oborne's suggestion that "[The book's] heroes include the Iraqi resistance to Saddam, Martin Amis, George W Bush, Paul Wolfowitz and Nick Cohen's long-suffering mother."

1/28/2007 06:19:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Clare Short opposed the war?

1/28/2007 07:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter Oborne is spot on. How come he can see the obvious truth while Nick Cohen can't? Sectarianism on Cohen's part? Or maybe he simply can't see the wood for the blogs?

1/28/2007 08:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's an interesting question here of whether Decency is developing a position on Ireland.

It would be tricky, because on the one hand you have Tony Blair who has gone out of his way to avoid upsetting Sinn Fein for the last decade, and on the other you have Michael Gove - not on the left, but certainly an honorary Decent - who opposes the Good Friday Agreement and thinks that Islamists used it as an example of the weakness of the west in the face of terrorism.

It depends then whether one is a Cohenite ideological Decent or an Aaronovitchite Blairite Decent, or a bit of both. It should be noted at this point that Aaronovitch has already attempted one bit of inaccurate Decent revisionism re the peace process, cf that the British government refused to speak to Sinn Fein until they had committed themselves to non-violence.

1/28/2007 11:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, the above was me.

1/28/2007 11:06:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

It's not all that surprising that Decentism should have an Irish link, when you think about it: it tends to be all about pathologising one's opponents rather that disagreeing with them.

So Oborne is on the Right, but sees leftists as people he disagrees with: the Decents see leftists as people psychologically attracted to violence and totalitarianism.

This would fit very easily with the not uncommon view of Irish politics which sees the Troubles almost entirely as a function of people who wanted violence for the sake it it.

1/29/2007 08:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I should add to the above that Decent commentator who writes most frequently on Ireland is John Lloyd, who has some background in Ulster Unionism. My guess is that if the Decents were to sit down and work out a line to take on Ireland - perhaps in a pub in Euston - it wouldn't be altogether different from the recent trajectory of the Ulster Unionist Party, albeit probably a bit softer on Blair to placate the New Labour Decents.

1/29/2007 01:44:00 PM  

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