Sunday, May 04, 2008

Calling occupants of interplanetary craft ...

Ok, so quoting the Carpenters is probably in bad taste, but if I had a hammmer ...

(Better stop now.)

Nick -- "When academics lose their power of reason" -- is on astonishing form today. He uses the case of Holocaust-denier nutter Nicholas Kollerstrom to tar everyone else as shills for Islamism. Kollerstrom used to be an Honorary Research Fellow at UCL, but they ended the association once they heard about his embrace of 9/11 denialism and Holocaust conspiracy fantasy. What you wouldn't guess from Nick's piece is that Kollerstrom wasn't an employee of UCL, or even what most people would think of as an "academic". Titles vary from place to place, but every university has a raft of people who get some kind of status (a library card, the occasional invitation to a wine and cheese party) just because some regular academic thinks they're useful or interesting. If the bloke in the corner with the glass of chardonnay then turns out to be a liablity, groping students in the library or telling everyone about how he's the reincarnation of Napoleon, his invitation gets rescinded. Simple as that really. No great issue of academic freedom here. Still, it is all merely the amuse guele to Nick's plat du jour:

If a bomb were to explode outside University College today, mainstream voices would fill the airwaves and say that responsibility for the carnage lay with the British, American or Israeli governments. Their arguments would be passionate and convincing, but I don't need to tell you every one of them would avoid mentioning the Islamist ideology that motivated Hasib Hussain and men like him. To divert attention from a criminal is not the same as pretending that the criminal is innocent. But it isn't so far away from it either.

Let's repeat that again: "every one of them would avoid mentioning".

No exceptions. 100 per cent.

So is Nick totally insane? Does he think that the meeja are in the grip of an anti-Decent conspiracy? Or does the "mainstream voices" element serve as a bit of anti-falsification insurance, so that anyone who did mention Islamism (say, an actual government minister or a commentator for a mass-circulation newspaper) would come to count, in Nick's eyes, as a marginalized iconoclast?

Update Sunday 4 May 6:22 pm by Chardonnay Chap I've found UCL's statement concerning Dr Nicholas Kollerstrom. (It wasn't hard: it's the first page that comes up in Google search.) I find it hard to reconcile this statement with the opinions of a certain Oliver Kamm (whom I only checked to see if anyone links to Nick's latest: he does). If any readers can explain the discrepancy, I'd be obliged. Oliver:

By taking the stand that it has, UCL has properly insisted that its academics adhere not to a particular view but to a method, that of critical inquiry.


The views expressed by Dr Kollerstrom are diametrically opposed to the aims, objectives and ethos of UCL, such that we wish to have absolutely no association with them or with their originator.

Thanks to commenter 'organic cheeseboard' below, I now understand the reference to Rachel North. She posted about Kollerstrom last month. And she's posted today on Nick's column.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't need to tell you every one of them would avoid mentioning the Islamist ideology that motivated Hasib Hussain and men like him.

Isn't the whole point of Nick's job that he does need to tell people things? or does he genuinely see himself as preaching to the converted?

Because his claims are ludicrous, unprovable rot. What he's describing didn't happen on the 7th July 2005 (in fact the only left-wing voice blaming the government was Bob Crow, who blamed PPP when the bombs were assumed to be a 'power surge').

Now 2005 was meant to be a time when Deceny wasn't really given as much of the airwaves as it is now - witness Alan Johnson's claims for Euston which Nick presumably endorses. Given that Oliver Kamm will appear on literally any programme, discussing anything (including cuban economics, which he knows nothing about), I'm not sure how long it would take for someone in the media to ring him up if (god forbid) another attack on London happened.

Who are these 'mainstream voices' Nick has invented? And what would the Decent alternatives do? wank on endlessly about Qutb, and claim that Iraq and foreign policy plays no role in converting people to the terrorist mindset, presumably.

To divert attention from a criminal is not the same as pretending that the criminal is innocent. But it isn't so far away from it either.

Nick Cohen on Iraq?

But in any case, this doesn't really apply to the hypothetical situation he's invented, does it? Is he honestly claiming that mentioning Iraq as a motivator for suicide bombing is close to calling the bombers innocent? surely by that logic, wittering on about Qutb is just as open to criticism.

And again, to come back to something i often end up saying on here, the Decent idea of what would classify as 'approvable punditry' would just be a succession of people saying TERRORISM IS BAD over and over again. It's certainly what Ian McEwan seems to want to read in the Guardian on a daily basis.

Given the quite frankly scary end of the piece, in which he looks forward to Kollerstrom's death, this is quite close to 'a new low'.

The Islamist didn't kill research fellows

Unfortunately for Nick, another of the 7/7 bombers did injure an academic. But he is off-message for the Decents.,,1639458,00.html

5/04/2008 09:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's fairly easy to get an honorary at UCL. Most people get it for access to the library and journal resources.

I know a few administrative staff there, who are 9/11 deniers. Disaffected males, all of them.

But that's beside the point. Perhaps the Decentists are bitter they didn't get an honorary whilst writing their crap manifesto near the institution. Perhaps because they would have to learn that to be a true academic, you don't smear fellow academics (like Walt and Mearsheimer) like that, and you at least read their work before critiquing it.

How long before they attack UCL Professor Philippe Sands for his new work on the Bush administration and torture?

Now, can they take their damn manifesto out of Euston and stop soiling UCL with their existence.

5/04/2008 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

What's on about when he brings Rachel North into it? I've left a comment on her blog so she knows.

5/04/2008 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

This is his most barking column yet, isn't it?

5/04/2008 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

in fact the only left-wing voice blaming the government

I did. Personally, I consider it to be one of the responsibilities of government not to madden groups of citizens until they start blowing up, and should this occur anyway, to prevent them from so doing.

5/04/2008 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Jesus, is Rachel one of the bad guys and betrayers now?

5/04/2008 11:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick's 'Orwellian plain style' deserting him again - he's not criticising Rachel in the piece, but the introductory sentence is so badly written that it looks like he is:

Rachel North, a victim of the bombings, would not contradict them on that point. She described how respect for the dead and injured didn't figure in his tormented mind. He harried survivors, she said, tracking them down and harangued them with 'his barking "theories" that the bombers were innocent "patsies" executed by the state'.

This is all from her blog, and it mainly concerns a book launch that Kollerstrom disrupted in 2006.

Nick really has lost it hasn't he?

5/04/2008 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So once again, Nick's 'research' consists of copying stuff from blogs. At least this time it's a *good* blog, though whether RN would want her post used in the service of this argument is more questionable.

5/04/2008 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Thanks OC. I still think he's saying that Rachel North is "safely dismiss[ing]" Kollerstrom. I *think* Nick's point is that if you don't quote Paul Berman quoting Qutb you're exonerating Islamism.

You're right about Nick's prose style: less looking through a pane of glass than trying to look through a wall in a dark Austrian cellar.

5/04/2008 12:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good grief. He needs help. This is barking. I think even people who supported a lot of what he said are beginning to look to the exit and feel nervous when they read this stuff. How long before the Observer looks for another columnist?

5/04/2008 04:23:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Does he perhaps have a drinking problem? How else can one explain such incoherence. I've read it twice, and I still don't really understand what point he's making, other than he has a problem with academics, all of them without exception including those bastards at the BBC, for being anti-semitic, pro-suicide bombers and other stuff. Oh, and he's in favor of academic freedom, but he possibly thinks that UCL should have killed Kellerman and displayed his corpose next to Bentham's as a warning.

How else does one explain this?

5/04/2008 05:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A shocker even by Nick's recent standards.

The comment that To divert attention from a criminal is not the same as pretending that the criminal is innocent. But it isn't so far away from it either. is just incredible.

Events like terrorism are multi-causal but according to this reasoning we shouldn't look at arguments about what drives it?

Its totally shutting down academic inquiry and its the same with the mind boogling stuff on M&W.

in academia, the scheming Jew is back as a cosmic force able to pull the strings of his dupes and order the world to his desires. American academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt argued to widespread acclaim that a conspiracy of powerful Jews decided to serve the interests of Israel by persuading America to invade Iraq in 2003.

This is an astonishing thing to say about two respected academics. To draw a compartison between them and a nut like Kollerstrom is just awful.

He also seems that to talk about the Lobby makes you anti-semite and a crank.

5/04/2008 06:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" American academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt argued to widespread acclaim that a conspiracy of powerful Jews decided to serve the interests of Israel by persuading America to invade Iraq in 2003."

That is a lie. They explicitly say in the book, which Nick obviously hasn't read, that it was +not+ a conspiracy. To compare their documented and reasoned case to the Protocols is off-the-scale bonkers, and puts him way out with Melanie Phillips. I think this is Nick's maddest column yet, by far. The Seals of Dacre have been broken.

5/04/2008 10:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheers for the hat tip.

Given that the HP lot were foaming at the mouth about people /misrepresenting' Nick, it seems pretty ballsy for him to make a claim like this:

American academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt argued to widespread acclaim that a conspiracy of powerful Jews decided to serve the interests of Israel by persuading America to invade Iraq in 2003.

As anonymous above says, that wasn't actually their argument at all - the whole point of the article (and subsequent book, which Nick undoubtedly hasn't read, in fact it's almsot certain that he's only read the HP paraphrases of the article) was that the Israel lobby is not necessarily Jewish. And Iraq, from what i can remember, was only a small part of their argument.

AIPAC is pretty much universally seen as having a very significant influence on US foreing policy, and calling the rigorous, factual argument of M&W modern-day 'protocols' makes Nick look... well let's just say it makes him look like the kind of person who should probably not be criticising internationally respected academics for their intellectual honesty. Just to go over this point - Protocols = made up and antisemitic. M&W = neither of those things.

Nice to see the LRB get a kicking from the Decents again. Why do they have it in for that particular periodical? nick used to write for them - maybe the commissions dried up... I know from personal experience that the commissioning is a bit idiosyncratic, but it's still a very good read, for the most part. Can it really be that one paragraph by Mary Beard?

5/04/2008 11:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was really hoping that the LRB might commission a reviewer to give "What's Left" an almighty kicking, but they might have decided it wasn't interesting enough even to merit that.

5/05/2008 12:01:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

There is one brilliant comment in the CiF responses by RP2008 (whom I swear is not me).

Nick Cohen is a bit of a one-trick pony; and it's not even a good trick. Here's how it goes:
1) here's a nutter 2) you know who else are nutters? or are like nutters? or who once met a nutter? The "Left", that's who. And "liberals". Across the board. All nutters. They used to know right from wrong, back in World War 2. Now they're just bonkers.
My question is this. Does Nick believe that he deserves to be paid far more -- for sitting on his arse, ripping off other peoples' blogs, and making paranoid assumptions about his neighbours -- than a nurse who makes peoples' lives better; and in some cases *saves* their lives? Seriously?
Because these days, his columns write themselves. Same obsessions, same crass analogising, same mad generalisations and suppositions, same bad prose. And I am not saying that not for political reasons. Many Spectator columnists, or Times writers like Michael Gove (all of whom are currently slightly to the right of Nick), can actually write beautiful, witty, researched, provocative prose. What the hell is Cohen paid for? There are so many people out there who do what he does; but with intelligence and style.
Thank God I never pay for The Observer.

We could just recycle this every week. The observation that his columns write themselves is excellent. No wait, that was me, inter alia.

5/05/2008 08:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does he perhaps have a drinking problem?

This is a question that regularly comes up on AW(i'WoD') and if we had a FAQ, the entry would read:

Q: Does Nick Cohen have a drinking problem?

A: Basically no. The evidence we have (including a lot of information that he's written about in his journalism, or that Euan Ferguson has written about, plus a big store of anecdotes from other people that we're not going to reprint unless they give us permission), would support the following view of affairs:

1) Nick Cohen definitely does like a drink, and works in an industry which is renowned for partying hard.

2) He is not a particularly friendly drunk; when in his cups, he does often lose his temper and has a tendency to rant.

3) However, the guy visibly does deliver at least two columns a week; we may not always think they're very good but they always show up, and he got that book written too.

4) He's also got, (as far as anyone knows which is not very far because he basically never discusses it) a stable family life.

So since the term "a drinking problem" has to mean "drinking which causes someone to have a problem with holding down a normal career and normal relationships" (rather than just "drinks a lot") we would say that Nick Cohen does not have a drinking problem.

With respect to M&W, I think it's fair to say that Iraq was a bit more than a minor part of their argument, and I thought it was one of the weakest parts of the book when they tried to argue that this invasion was unambiguously in the national interest of Israel. However, this is tangential - NC's characterisation of that book is insane. It's certainly worth periodically comparing some of this crap to what Norman Geras has said about the same subjects; I personally regard NG as being quite a long way far out on Blue Six, but compared to Cohen he's like Thomas Jefferson.

5/05/2008 11:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah, I was watching a bit of Raiders of the Lost Ark on TV, I wonder if this could have been the inspiration for Nick Cohen's mummification theme:

"Rather than seeking to restrict Kollerstrom's academic freedom, their successors would have done better to have agreed to preserve his body and place it next to Bentham's as a reminder to liberal intellectuals of the state they may come to if they abandon liberal principles."

5/05/2008 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

So since the term "a drinking problem" has to mean "drinking which causes someone to have a problem with holding down a normal career and normal relationships" (rather than just "drinks a lot") we would say that Nick Cohen does not have a drinking problem.

well not really. Christopher Hitchens clearly has quite a severe drinking problem, but he still manages to get a lot done. Not uncommon.

I was being a little facetious, but whenever I read Cohen's articles now I feel like I am an intruder on a very private grief. The politics, the sloppy research - these I can understand. But his writing is amateurish now. Formless, poorly structured, confusing and (worst sin of all as far as newspaper's are concerned) boring. Lazy would make sense if he was a hack, but he obviously cares about this stuff. So how does one explain it? Drink, drugs? Some kind of cogntitive insult? I mean is this really just the result of a long standing animus against Muslims.

5/05/2008 09:14:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

worst sin of all as far as newspaper's are concerned


5/06/2008 09:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nahhh, I'm not convinced in the case of Hitchens either. He drinks a lot, but he appears to enjoy it. Of course if either of them did have a genuine problem with alcoholism, this would be grounds for sympathy and sensitivity, neither of which is particularly compatible with the mission statement of AW so perhaps I am seeing what I want to see here. Certainly I am not in favour of either the Guardian or Vanity Fair sacking their employees for substance abuse problems rather than helping them to overcome them.

5/06/2008 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

I'm not convinced in the case of Hitchens either. He drinks a lot, but he appears to enjoy it.

He's drunk much of the time in public, possibly all of the time. He's pretty skilled at managing it, but there it is.
Plenty of alcholics love a drunk and love being drunk. And plenty of alcoholics hold down a demanding job, in banking say, for years without anyone realising.

I have no idea as to whether Cohen is an alcoholic or not, I'm just finding his columns increasingly sad. Its like when you see an interview with a once brilliant intellect suffering from senile dementia. Okay, he was never that brilliant, but his articles are pathetic. I really don't understand what happened, and I feel like a rubbernecker gawping at the wreckage.

5/06/2008 04:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me that his writing has been that of a man in a fairly deep personal crisis for years, but that's a result of the fact that his politrics changed suddenly, through a convesrion experience, and conversion experiences can be disorienting - you lose your political anchors and frames of reference, you begin to get ashamed of your past, your life seems're plunged into the greatest intellectual struggle of our time.

So I think the problem is that he's been on the Berman.

rioja kid

5/06/2008 06:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look who Nick is hobnobbing with

Among those attending were author and Evening Standard columnist Nick Cohen, the presenter of Radio 4's Talking Politics Dennis Sewell, arts philanthropist Donald Kahn, Lord Salisbury, the director of Civitas Robert Whelan, Jonathan Foreman of the forthcoming Standpoint magazine, the celebrated pianist Charles Johnson, the founder of the English Music Festival Em Marshall, Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, and author and journalist Damian Thompson.

The NCF is trying to do for the Arts what the Adam Smith foundation did for local government finance.

I quote

The New Culture Forum will

challenge the discredited left/liberal cultural orthodoxy and change the terms of debate

provide a strong basis for mutual support and association for centre-right and other dissenting voices who work in the broad cultural arena of the media, academic, educational and cultural worlds

affirm and celebrate the canon of Western cultural achievement and our own national history, rather than resile from them in ill-considered shame and embarrassment.

promote a new flowering of excellence in the arts, motivated by aesthetic honesty, not box-ticking or political indoctrination.

5/08/2008 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Dougie Murray is centre-right? What's "centre" doing in there?

5/08/2008 12:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

from its links page:

Melanie Phillips
Mark Steyn
Hilton Global Initiative
The New Criterion
Social Affairs Unit
London Theatre Blog
The Spectator
Britain and America
Social Cohesion
Ruth Dudley Edwards

Phillips and Steyn! 'what's left' indeed... and the NCF appars to have been going since 2006. Not exactly fulfiling its aims so far is it, at least not acroding to the arts-elite-hating Decents...

Since their own knowledge of the arts is, shall we say, patchy (witness Nick on novels, on Mark Wallinger, and satire, and David T on Shakespeare) it's fair to say the arts establishment, whatever that is, will hardly be quaking in its boots.

5/08/2008 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

The NCF is trying to do for the Arts what the Adam Smith foundation did for local government finance.

...or what Jurgen Mollemann did for parachuting.

5/08/2008 06:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This looks like a festival of nepotistic decency. How come Amis and Hitchens jnrs haven't enlisted to fight the Good War in uniform. Making tea won't defeat IslamoFascistNazismStalinistBaathiism!!!

'Jobs for their boys

'Standpoint', the new right-wing magazine, launching this month, will boast a stellar cast of writers. Mark Steyn, Alain de Botton and Nick Cohen have all signed up. And there's no riff-raff on the staff, either, even down to the "workies". I hear the two stooges making the tea are Christopher Hitchens's son and one Luke Amis. No prizes for guessing who his father is. '

5/09/2008 04:07:00 PM  

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