Saturday, September 22, 2007


Our old friend Alan 'Not the Minister' Johnson has written a letter to the Guardian which puts, shall we say, a very creative spin on Hugh Muir's Diary of Friday September 21, 2007.

'Scoop' Johnson:

We Eustonian social democrats may disagree with much Jackson said and did, but would not share Muir's seeming disgust at Jackson's opposition to totalitarianism.

Muir (in full):

How far will Gordon and his lieutenants go with this "big tent" thing? Everybody's welcome, it seems. Bring a friend, bring a bottle. At next week's Labour conference, ministers Liam Byrne and Shahid Malik are expected to address a meeting called Winning the Battle of Ideas Against Islamism and Terror. Should be a goodie, particularly as it is co-sponsored by the Henry Jackson Society, named after a virulently anti-communist Democrat who lobbied so hard for military spending that he was dubbed the "senator for Boeing". He was also an enthusiastic supporter of the internment camps set up to hold Japanese Americans during the second world war. He died in 1983, but the society is a rallying point for American neocons. Bush adviser Richard Perle, James Woolsey, promoter of the wildest absurdities about WMD in Iraq, and Bill Kristol, the publisher of neocon bible The Weekly Standard, are all on the Henry Jackson Society board. After attending the London launch two years ago, my colleague Ros Taylor described its supporters as "a smattering of spooks, diplomats, Times journalists and grandees whom recent events have treated badly". Ministers can sup with who they like, but if they let these people anywhere near the tent, there'll be trouble. Tell them the marquee is full, the bar's closed.

I know I can be a bit slow at understanding, but can someone please point out where Hugh Muir expresses "disgust at Jackson's opposition to totalitarianism" in that paragraph?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The adverb 'virulently'. Communism is totalitarianism, ergo anti-Communism cannot be a bad thing: extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice, and so forth. To imply that there was something excessive or pathological about an individual's anti-Communism is to dissent from anti-Communism itself, and hence to go soft on totalitarianism. See Kamm on British Communists and Paul Anderson's approval of same (which was when I stopped reading Paul Anderson's blog).

9/22/2007 10:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amongst Oliver Kamm's most repellent on-line characteristics is his dancing on the graves of recently dead western communists; a predilection he seems to think puts him on the side of the angels.

Marc Mulholland

9/22/2007 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Ollie's existence was first brought to my attention when a friend of mine sent me his piece on the recently-departed Paul Foot with the subject line "Ugh".

9/22/2007 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Incidentally it's not necessarily Muir's "virulently" that's the key word - it's maybe Johnson's "seemed", which is a useful term meaning "he doesn't actually say this but I shall detect it anyway". (Also see "implies", another word which often serves this helpful role.)

9/22/2007 02:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Henry Jackson Society is simply hilarious. Who on earth decided to name it after an American politician most British people have never heard of? Did they relish the idea of having to explain who he was?

9/22/2007 10:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's fairly clear why the Scoopers have chosen the name of an American for their little club. They are trying to import a very American mindset (disdain for international law and institutions) into British politics. They seemed to think that a couple of years after the invasion of Iraq would be a good time to do it, though the window of opportunity was smaller than they thought.

9/23/2007 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger Martin Wisse said...

Speaking of hilariously named neocon societies, the Dutch Edmund Burke Society has to take the cake: "Edmund who?"

9/23/2007 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Off topic, but Andrew Anthony seems to have radically changed his own life story, re-editing it with a decent filter .
Observer Journalist Andrew Anthony launched his book “The Fall out, how a guilty liberal lost his innocence”, a “personal memoir” that does what so many Observer writers seem to do and waves goodbye to the left because he thinks they didn’t respond properly to 9/11. Anthony’s book, launched with a glowing (sycophantic) review in the Observer, adds a little extra to this standard Observer- middle-aged man-moves-rightward moan by adding a lot of autobiography – Anthony came from a council estate and went to a comprehensive school, which is a typical experience for many, but unusual in Fleet Street. Anthony’s book shows that all the horrid lefties at Haverstock Comprehensive, Camden in the 1970’s talked a good talk, but let down a poor working class boy (it’s a bit like the History man set in a comp). Anthony reveals that his maths teacher was a Maoist with a copy of the little red book and “my science teacher, my tutor, my English teacher, my history and my art teachers made it apparent that they were broadly sympathetic to my Math’s teachers way of thinking. They were hard left, revolutionary left, at a time when barricades were still discussed without irony” [p.33]. However, all these reds failed poor Anthony as “Nor did any teacher ever mention the possibility that I might take a degree”. [p.36] In the end Anthony was “expelled from school with barely any qualifications”[ p.39]. However, Anthony has written about his schooldays before, and the story was very different. In 1994 Anthony wrote a 5,800 word piece for the Observer about his schooldays [he just loves writing about himself]. Back then none of the ‘loony lefty’ teachers were mentioned. And was he expelled from school ?. In 1994 he said “I was asked to leave school. Not expelled or, as the practice is referred to today, excluded but simply informed that my services as a student were no longer required. Six months short of sitting my A-levels, I was carefully but resolutely told by a tribunal of teachers that taking into account the worsening job market it made sense to steal a march on my competitors”. So he wasn’t expelled – it is a bit hard to be expelled from the 2nd year of 6th form – he was just told he might be better off out. And did they ask him to leave because they had never discussed going on to higher education ? In 1994 Anthony reproduced some of his school report. It read “'If Andrew is seriously aiming to enter higher education he must radically alter his attitude toward school. Scholarship is a competitive business: the flippant simply do not succeed.” – so it seems not only did his teachers actually discuss higher education, they also told him to work harder to get there, and than suggested he leave school because he wasn’t working hard enough. And did he really leave school with “barely any qualifications” . In his book Anthony does not even mention being in the Sixth Form, but, surely even back then Haverstock would not accept a pupil on an A Level course without a few ‘O’ levels ?. Of course he may just be writing more accurately about his school days now, 28 years on, than he did in 1994 when the memories were only 15 years old, but it would be easier if he stuck to just one story

9/24/2007 07:39:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Keep up, anonymous! September 11th "changed everything", remember?

9/24/2007 01:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/24/2007 01:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harry developed a soft spot for Italian Fascists

Anonymous, if you're going to stitch up other anonymous bloggers (however deserving they might be) could you do us a favour and

a) do it under your own name
b) supply URLs that don't break
c) get your facts right?

I'm no fan of the odious Harry, and have taken issue with his reading of Italian politics before. But he's got Fini pretty much right; I wrote something similar myself here. (But wait - am I Harry? No, I'm not. Or... am I?)

9/24/2007 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

If I find a way to delete comments, consider Anon's comment above (the one about Harry Hatchet, not the one about Andrew Anthony) deleted. I don't think Harry of the Place has done anything to merit outing, and if you do out someone, at least have the courage and - ahem! - decency to do so under your own name.

BTW, Phil is not Harry. Nor am I.

9/24/2007 03:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neither am I

9/24/2007 03:51:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Like Harry or not (and I'll have a large "not" with a great deal of "not in the slightest" on the side) you don't really want to be outing people anonymously on somebody else's blog. It's not really cricket, is it?

9/24/2007 03:57:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

I do have a way to delete comments ...

A"NTM"J does have a wonderful selective memory. Scoop was opposed to the "obscene profits" of the oil companies, while actually getting himself nicknamed after an even bigger profiteer. Meanwhile, the most important thing going on in the world in 1974 was a campaign about emigration from the Soviet Union.

9/24/2007 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Oliver Kamm has commented on this too. He makes a rare successful joke: "I read the [Guardian political] Diary religiously. It's particularly strong when dealing with funny names and the dangerous activities of squirrels. But now it's ventured into political commentary, it appears less sure of its ground." As often with a pedant like Ollie, what he leaves out seems significant.

"[Jackson] ... was one of the most prominent figures in his party in the 1970s, twice seeking the presidential nomination. He was an effective legislator, admired on both sides."

But lots of nuts seek the presidency, and he doesn't seem to achieved any notable office.

9/24/2007 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

strange, isn't it, that there were two Senator Henry Jacksons, one of whom went on to have the "Scoop" society named after him, and the other one who is most famous for being "the Senator for Boeing" and a loony Vietnam hawk long after anyone thought it sensible.

9/25/2007 07:20:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

I'd also note that if Scoop did in fact "regret" Japanese internment he doesn't seem to have done so publicly - even his own son[1] didn't make this claim on his behalf during the debate over the placement of his statue at Washington University, and nor does his biographer, Robert Kaufman.

Scoop also opposed affirmative action (unlike Richard Nixon) and busing, ran on an explicitly anti-abortion program on both of his attempts at the Presidency and, sorry to keep harping on about this, was crazily and militantly in favour of the Vietnam War. He was also instrumental in screwing some Native Americans out of some land that he wanted an air force base built on. Oh yeah, and "staunch advocate of Israel" meant roughly the same attitude to human rights in that country as it does now, which also cost Jackson a few friends.

In other words, he was the kind of economic liberal that calls for government redistribution while comically in the pocket of corporate interests (surprise surprise, he didn't like environmentalists) and the kind of social liberal that courageously rails against human rights abuses perpetrated by unpopular regimes overseas.

(also perhaps worth noting that there were two Communist totalitarian states in the world during the Cold War, and Scoop was a big friend of China, regularly commenting that human rights issues needed to take second place to diplomacy there.)

[1] I mean his actual son, not any of his spiritual sons at Cambridge

9/25/2007 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

It's Kammocks. David Neiwert, who has written a book on Japanese/American internment,

In all my research, I could, however, find no evidence that Jackson ever expressed any regret for his wartime activism against Japanese Americans, even as reparations were being discussed late in his career. He remained mum, hoping no one would remember his own role in the affair.

9/25/2007 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

I think that there is potentially a fine dinner party game in here, where one tries to summarise a historical figure's views so as to be able to plausibly claim them as part of "the Liberal Left" - viz one might describe Oswald Mosely as having been an anti-militarist who believed in an agenda of nationalised industries and democratic represention of India and the African colonies within the British Parliament. Sort of "Decent Botticelli".

9/25/2007 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

And of course he "regretted" his rabid anti-semitism. Diana Mosley told me.

9/25/2007 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

Oliver used to caveat his lionisation of Scoop by saying that the man had a blind spot with respect to China, but this disclaimer seems to have fallen away. I think I am going to get even a little more annoyed retrospectively about his JK Galbraith obituary (Marc is overoptimistic, by the way, to assume that the Kamm grave-pissing obituary style was restricted only to Communists; anyone on the left appears to be fair game, although Milton Friedman unaccountably got away without even a mention of Pinochet), as he poured a bucket of shit over JKG for writing "A China Passage" in 1973, given that the very next fucking year that his mate Scoop was going out there for a love-in with the PRC government (even Robert Kaufman notes that he "remained uncharacteristically obtuse about the dark side of the PRC until the day he died", while in 1980 he lamented the USA's failure to understand that "while the Chinese were Communists, they were not Russians").

9/25/2007 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

In fact the entire quote is a treasure for the "anti-totalitarian" hero:

"The great tragedy of the McCarthy period was our failure to understand China. The result was that we were not able to listen to our scholars or experts on China, the people who understood that our long-term interest was with the PRC, not with Chiang Kai Shek or Taiwan. Korea might not have happened. Vietnam might not have happened. The greatest mistake in American diplomacy and intelligence during this century was our failure to understand mainland China, the fact that while they were Communists, they were not Russians. This was a major error in US policy - Had we understood China properly and had not had the McCarthy hysteria, Vietnam would enver have happened. China would have been our ally in that part of the world"

just for the avoidance of historical doubt, this is Scoop talking in 1980 and saying that the USA should have allied with Maoist China in the 1950s and continued that alliance through the 1970s, specifically suggesting that support of Taiwan was a bad idea. The guy was, apparently, not just a mild Sinophile - he was specifically, definitely in favour of something stronger than detente with Mao.

I think a reasonably good slogan for the H"S"JS would be that it is a society which aims to defend the legacy of Henry M Jackson when talking about Russia from the onslaught of the legacy of Henry M Jackson when talking about China.

9/25/2007 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'To boot, Jackson was a New Deal-Fair Deal Democrat who attacked the "obscene profits" of the oil companies. He stood for civil rights, environmental protections (well ahead of his time) and the public control of electric and nuclear power.' Writes Mr. Johnson. He'd never get into the Labour Party then.

9/25/2007 06:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bruschettaboy - in that quote, which meaning of 'understand' applies here? The more common one or the Decent definition?

Just asking. ;-)

9/26/2007 09:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry rp: I cannot answer your question because I have a whole little department of my subconscious mind dedicated to shielding my conscious mind from the knowledge that Norman Geras coined the word "mbunderstand"

9/26/2007 02:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that Alan Johnson has disavowed Marxism and taken on board lock, stock and barrel Cold War social democracy, will he now embark upon a full-scale revision of his previous ideas?

Logically, he will retrospectively hail the Vietnam War as a freedom struggle against the totalitarian Vietcong; the Korean War likewise against the totalitarian North Koreans and their Kremlin backers; and so on. He should also condemn the Bolsheviks for seizing power in 1917, and thus setting off the whole totalitarian project in the first place.

How long will it take him to do this? Any suggestions?

9/27/2007 09:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the whole issue of when the Decent Tardis will be brought into action to revise all opinions about North Vietnam will (hopefully) be the subject of a forthcoming post

9/27/2007 11:31:00 PM  

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