Friday, October 05, 2007

Easily led

Michael Burleigh reviews Andrew Anthony in the Telegraph

After a spell at City and East London College, Anthony went to London's School of Oriental and African Studies where he took a degree in history and politics. Mediocre lecturers inducted him into the alphabet soup of the 1980s sectarian hard Left; the SWP, RCP, WRP and CPGB among them. He was so committed that he went to Nicaragua for six months, as part of a work brigade designed to free up fighters for the Sandinistas.

I can see how charismatic, charming, or brilliant lecturers might have turned Anthony's head, but he seems to have been seduced by mediocre ones.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

the SWP, RCP, WRP and CPGB among them

I haven't read Anthony's book, but this seems to be suggesting that his mediocre lecturers induced him to join at least five organisations, including three mutually incompatible versions of Trotskyism and a formerly-Stalinist group that hates the lot of them. He must have been a busy lad. Or is he saying that his lecturers told him about the existence of the SWP, etc, etc? In which case (a) I really rather doubt it - the posters on the wall of the SU probably had more to do with it, but in any case (b) so what?

10/05/2007 06:59:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

It's a dreadful review that (if it's the S.Telegraph one, I can't be bothered to look). Burleigh at one point (quoting but approvingly) descrbes the Met as 'the armed wing of the Guardian', which is about as stupid as you can get, plus I'd be a bit pissed off if I was a police officer.

10/05/2007 07:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

although as Anthony strikingly admits, he regularly omitted things from his articles that might have grated on the sensibilities of Guardian readers.

I am hard pressed to see what he might have included in this vein in either the telly reviews or "Clothes for Chaps".

10/05/2007 07:19:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

It was around the time of "Clothes for chaps" that I was convinced Andrew Anthony was the actor in chariots of fire.

Now, the issue for the Decents at the moment is surely who is going to speak out for Martin Amis? I suppose Hitchens did, in a kind of 'I can't believe he said THAT! Titter. He's so brave', but it'll be interesting if any of the British decents do.

10/05/2007 08:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Burleigh's review is a useful insight into the mindset of contemporary right-wing Britain. It refuses to grow up and take responsibility for its own decisions and actions. It cannot stop blaming its own mistakes on a stage-army of hard-left groups and jihadists that, it thinks, infest the BBC and now the Police. "Growing up" is getting a bourgeois job and buying a car, and not thinking about Nicaragua.

All in all a very uiseful reminder of the myopia of Middle England.

10/05/2007 09:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>Anthony comes from a working-class London Irish background in Kentish Town and went to the local comprehensive school. It still rankles that a local councillor, Tessa Jowell, currently clinging by her fingertips to minor office, once lectured his mother about 'racism'. Doubtless, Ms Jowell won't be expiring like Mrs Anthony in an NHS ward glad to be surrounded by elderly Jamaicans in a similar terminal condition.<<
I really don't understand the point the reviewer is making here.

10/05/2007 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

Interestingly, Melanie Phillips believes that the editorial pages of the Guardian had intimidated not only the Metropolitan Police (where there is at least some tangential point of contact with reality via the Stevens report) but also MI5 and MI6

10/05/2007 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

God, that's a terribly stupid and badly written review. "During the 1930s and 1940s brave ex-Communists wrote compelling indictments of a totalitarian creed they had often espoused only because of its anti-Fascism." I think he's thinking of Malcolm Muggeridge and I don't believe that St Mugg was ever only a communist because of the CPs anti-fascism. If one wanted to be anti-fascist in the 30s, one could find allies in The Guardian, the Labour Party, and Churchill. Only an idiot would join the Communists as a single-issue party. Orwell seems to have been a committed socialist - he certainly believed in reforming England in some vaguely egalitarian way - until his death.

I don't know of any hatchet jobs on George Orwell. The most mean-spirited thing one can say about Koestler is that he raped Jill Craigie (which he did); "Darkness at Noon" is still a great book.

10/05/2007 11:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I really don't understand the point that the reviewer is making here."

I don't understand a lot of what the reviewer is saying. It only makes sense if you have a certain mindset. It pushes all the right buttons for people with a Telegraph mindset.

Ann On Ann On

10/05/2007 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

How brave was it, actually, to write "I renounce communism" pieces in Western countries? What unpleasant consequences were suffered by people who wrote them?

Here's Isaac Deutscher.

10/05/2007 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Burleigh always gives vent to his prejuduces. His book on the Nazis, while informative, is sodden with anti-left diatribes. At one point comparing Hitler's generalship with that of Stalin's, he goes off on one attacking "left-wing activists who criticised General Haigh but not Stalin". It's a shame he didn't have a good editor who would have taken it all out. Still I presume at the Telegraph they like that sort of thing.
Now don't get me on Ferguson

10/05/2007 01:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is all a bit complicated in one of those decent dances of meaning, but the point about his mum and Tessa Jowell is that Anthony admits his mum was a racist, but says all the middle class liberals he met made him feel guily about this, not least T Jowell with her condescending lecture - but his old ma came round in the end , by saying a West Indian woman in the same ward in which she lay dying was "loveley". Whereas Jowell is horrid, or something.

Ann On (not Ann on Ann on)

10/05/2007 01:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And at the risk of repetition, Antony mines his biography for decent fools gold, but he also falsifies a lot of his life story in his book.
Anthony came from a council estate and went to a comprehensive school, which is a typical experience for many, but unusual in Fleet Street. He goes on about his background, to get some “street cred”, which Torygraph toff lap up. 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 – weel perhaps he censored that bit because he was in the grip of a lib-left consensus. However, the other facts of his autobiography have been simply changed. So was he really expelled from school as he says in 2007 ?. 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

Ann On

10/05/2007 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

"How brave was it, actually, to write "I renounce communism" pieces in Western countries? "

Probably not very, but I prefer that such a thing is a test of bravery than the current lot's, which appears to be how far you can go in attacking muslims and people who might be muslims becauase they look a bit like others who do .

10/05/2007 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

It must rankle with Anthony that, despite becoming the darling of the Decent Left, the Observer still won't AFAICT give him any kind of regular column. He seems to be the journalistic equivalent of the supply teacher, doing the telly when Kathryn Flett is away, a bit of politics when one of the proper columnists is on holiday, and a fashion column or something when they can't find anything else for him to do.

At least with Cohen you had some kind of investment in his journalistic history.

On the subject of Nick, btw, the second edition of 'What's Left' is out, with some kind of epilogue where he bleats at the critical reaction. Has anyone read it? I only flicked through to check that he had changed the falsehood in the final chapter about the Nazar Afisi book (he has, and replaced it with a probably out-of-context quote from her about left-liberals being relativists, or something)

10/05/2007 08:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll pop down to Books Etc at lunchtime and have a look. I'm not buying that thing again.

10/08/2007 07:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why doesn't Anthony show any pride in going to Nicaragua (footsteps of Orwell, fighting fascism, that sort of thing)?

10/08/2007 07:44:00 AM  

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