Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Decency Is Dead

For a few days now, there's been the stirrings of a post at the back of my mind on where Decents fall out among themselves these days. It was always a strange sort of movement; the 'Senator for Boeing' Society lot being generally Tories, Harry's Place and Marko Attila Hoare using 'Comrades' as unselfconsciously as they drink tea out of a saucer (take that any way you please), Nick Cohen and others as commenter Justin said "trying to make up for mistakes they feel they made in a previous incarnation by laying into people they think resemble their former selves."

But now we have the parting of the ways. Christopher Hitchens, model of clarity, non-puller of punches - as always leaves the reader to guess his meaning. I think he's agin the motion.

In practice, this means your [George Bush's] name will be forever linked to Iraq where your best hope is that history will look more kindly on the attempt to salvage that ruined country.
In the meantime, the other members of the "axis of evil", North Korea and Iran, are measurably closer to nuclear status than in 2001.

Via Neil D a (new to me) poster at Harry's Place, Oliver Kamm asserts that Bush made the world a safer place. Well, fuck me blind, I agree with Hitchens. (Also note, no one mentions Pakistan - a supporter of the Taliban, as has been known since Clinton fired a missile into an al-Qaeda training camp and killed two Pakistani policemen but no one else.)

I still don't understand the H'sP banner. Now it's David Davis. They're against him.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me that Decency or more specifically Harry Place has not so much died, but transfigured into Catherine Tate’s "Gran" – “what a bl**dy liberty!”

6/18/2008 09:22:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I can't quite believe Hitchens - The Hitch, again, surely - wrote all that. Maybe it's a much more elaborate version of the Nation 'who are you voting for' debacle of 2004, when an over-zealous Sub wrongly interpreted his words. Perhaps this time around the Mirror sub had to write the entire letter, as Hitchens failed to deliver?

6/18/2008 11:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The general view was that you were a provincial Texan with no interest in doing anything much except shrinking the budget and cutting the maximum tax rate. (This general view was more or less right.)

Hitchens (if it is he, Matthew's conjecture really can't be ruled out at this stage) seems to be ignoring the fact that wars cost money.[1]

[1] sorry everybody but they do, obviously one cannot measure one single human life against any amount of filthy lucre but the fact is that they do also cost money and this has been important at quite a few stages in history.

6/18/2008 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Yeah, but surely it doesn't follow that people always take that into account.

6/19/2008 06:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Matthew, believe Hitchens wrote it - he is just a slippery coward here.

Remember , he is writing for the Mirror. this is well paid work, and he will enjoy being read by a very different, British, Labour supporting working class audience. At the same time he will know that some useless defence of Bush and Iraq in this arena will mean a big complaint from this (very large) audience - really, the response you get in the tabloids is qualitatively different to a little column in Slate or even the Guardian . So he tries a little, mealy mouthed shuffle away from Bush and the war, despite his vocal support for both.

ITs a bit like Nasty Nick Cohen's recent, as-an-aside, declaration that the Iraq war was a"disaster". I bet Hitch (and I bet Nick will follow) will now keep their Obama options open. Having abandoned the left, they need to believe they have friends in power, so they will bend to whoever they thinks will win.
Ann On

6/19/2008 07:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always found decency a fairly incoherent 'movement' anyway, despite that awful article by 'Ben' a month or so ago on HP in which he expressed his pride at being 'a decent' - for him the term seemed interchangeable with 'Labour party loyalist who hated ken livingstone'.

Hitchens's views on Israel/Palestine would get him labelled an antisemite by the HP lot if he wasn't so anti-Muslim and pro- Iraq war; Gove and Kamm are Tories and don't actually have much in common with someone like David Toube at all (at least according to their stated political beliefs) - the only thing they seem to be united on is their hatred of some factions of the left (since Decency is in its nature a 'movement' united by personal grudges and hatreds) and an at best questionable approach to Islam.

in general they all seem to be united around an unquenching belief in the brilliance of a set of books of questionable merit, all published quite a long time ago, which seem to cite each other as evidence (Berman, Cohen, Wheen et al) - and are also united as decentpedia so brilliantly puts it by the idea that it is actually 1939.

6/19/2008 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

"It is 1939 and I am Winston Churcill"

which of the Harry's Place commenters said that again?

6/19/2008 11:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

morgoth, it looks like:

something I've meant to post on here for a while. In Keith Gessen's new novel 'all the sad young literary men' (very good despite what the blogospphere thinks) there's an interesting bit at the beginning, where the young graduates in the late 90s are described thus:

most of all Mark and Sasha and their friends worried about history and themselves. They read and listened and wrote and argued. . . . But what if they were missing it? What if it was happening, in New York, not a few blocks from them, what if they knew someone to whom it was happening, or who was making it happen – what if they were blind to it? What if it wasn’t them?

Strikes me that this is a dilemma that cuts to the heart of Decency, and Gessen sums it up in a throwaway line, where he says that 'about Kosovo they were right and wrong'. Joanna Biggs in the LRB elaborates on the dilemma:

Sad young and literary in 1938 and you could at least prove yourself opposing Hitler, sad young and literary in 1968 and you could demonstrate in Grosvenor Square, but what if you had the misfortune to be sad young and literary in 1998?

her review elsewhere is not great but with the reference to 1968, that nails the heart of the Decent dilemma - what position on x or y is history going to vindicate?

6/19/2008 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Brooke said...

Gessen was one of the first students I ever gave an "A" to, in the history of ancient and mediaeval political thought class I was teaching in at Harvard in 1997 (so we probably called it "medieval"). He wrote a cracking paper on Cicero's De officiis, as I recall. I'm looking forward to reading the novel.

6/19/2008 01:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a lot of the early stuff in the novel might seem quite, er, personal then... as might some of the later stuff too actually. i really liked it, but can see why other people might not.

6/19/2008 01:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is there any chance of setting up a League for True Decency? After all, if the editor of the Daily Telegraph stops saying the right thing it is presumably time to break with him. And now Israel is negotiating with Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria one would surely expect some denunciations from those who have long been proclaiming the undesirability/impossibility of such a dialogue. Perhaps David T, one of the loudest such proclaimers, can lead the charge, since his ludicrous intellectual presumptions seem to have instilled in him a notion of minimal consistency which other Decents simply ignore.

6/19/2008 02:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've also been wondering about the Decent response to the revelation that Israel and Hamas have been talking with the backing of the USA. There's been nothing about it on Harry's Place whatsoever. I wonder why.

6/19/2008 02:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...but what if you had the misfortune to be sad young and literary in 1998?

Well there was was always globalisation/No Logo/Gen X...but maybe Coupland cornered that market?


6/19/2008 03:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand you're onto me, cheeseboard. Care to give me a clue in return...?

Morgoth is a muppet, by the way. I would say "even I" think that. But there's no "even" about it.

6/22/2008 01:27:00 AM  

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