Monday, July 21, 2008

Pot, kettle

A blogger writes:

I have problems with Dawkins when, like so many public intellectuals, he imagines his political opinions are of such depth that they merit being aired in public.


Blogger John B said...

Kamm's hardly a 'public intellectual' though. 'Pompous tool', perhaps.

7/21/2008 06:56:00 PM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

He's a leader-writer for The Times doncha know?

7/21/2008 07:04:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

Well that covers the "public" part...

7/21/2008 07:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does this mean, though, that the kettle *is* black? I still find it hard to forgive Dawkins for agreeing to fire the opening salvo in Operation Clark County. Though anything intemperate Dawkins may say about matters off his beat would still be much, much more sensible than the horrorisms of Amis Jnr, I guess.

I haven't actually read anything by Kamm, and somehow none of the secondary reports convince it'd be worth trying... What exactly is he accusing Dawkins of being "politically out of his depth" on, anyway?

7/21/2008 09:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Notice his "articulate black American" comment in this post:

He then digs a bigger hole for himself in the comments.

7/22/2008 01:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kamm is so up his own posterior that he won't see the irony of the statement.

Its typical Kamm: he disagrees with Dawkins political views so pompously implies they don't have the "depth" or "merit" to be even shared with the public.

Its Kamm's typical and unrelenting arrogance. It's not that he just disagrees with someone else's views, he often also suggests too that they are simply unworthy, dishonest, and utterly without merit, and personalises it too.

In the case of Dawkins he suggests he should stick only to his professional training.

So if we apply the same rule to Kamm, if we don't like his views, he should stick to giving advice on hedge funds and investment banking.

7/22/2008 01:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's never been the same since he fell in the cauldron of magic potion!

7/22/2008 06:40:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

It's not that he just disagrees with someone else's views, he often also suggests too that they are simply unworthy, dishonest, and utterly without merit, and personalises it too.

Yeah, that's the thing. It's a certain type of personality who finds it necessary to behave in that fashion. This question came up in relation to his notorious obituaries.

(He reminds me very much of Nigel Short, though the comparison won't mean very much to anybody who doesn't follow chess controversies.)

7/22/2008 08:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He reminds me very much of Nigel Short
the little man syndrome?
(from 0.38 onwards)

7/22/2008 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

To be fair, though, I can't see that "pot, kettle" entirely stands up. The difference between two is that Kamm has come to prominence because of his political commentary and opinions. Dawkins didn't.

(It may be - perish the thought - that Ollie's are of no more depth than he considers Dawkins' are, and to that extent the comparison holds, but the difference is nevertheless important.)

7/22/2008 05:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the pot, kettle thing works in opposites though, doesn't it? Kamm might have risen to 'prominence' as a result of his 'political opinions', but as a result he has managed to foist his opinions on things as diverse as Stockhausen, religion and science, and Oxfam trade policy on the readership of the Guardian. So evidently Kamm imagines that his opinions on art, religion, science etc are of such depth that they merit being aired in public, even though his actual field of expertise is ostensibly British politics and the merits of interventionism (to use his only book as a guide).

On the one hand, a world expert is breezily dismissed because he is apparently commenting outside his area of expertise. On the other...

7/22/2008 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger AndyB said...

I'm sure that you'll get round to it, and maybe I've been knocked out one time too many, but I cannot understand what Aaro is going on about in today's Times. Please explain.

7/22/2008 07:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew - it's "Mary Beard hates our freedom", I think. (Although he seems to have at least two people in mind - the phrase "in journals he [Andrew O'Hagan] writes for and the day after September 11" can't refer to the LRB alone.)

It's a very difficult column to get to grips with, as it's devoted to criticising the errors and inconsistencies of a position without ever establishing what that position is, let alone whether anyone actually holds it. It's a bit like watching a very bad stand-up - a Dominic Holland routine about why is it women always use so much toilet paper? comes unbidden to mind.

7/22/2008 10:53:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

If there's a more thoughtful writer in Britain than Andrew O'Hagan I don't know who they are.

7/23/2008 08:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the aaro piece is monstrously unfair to O'Hagan's non-fiction. The tired old 'we give them pop idol and they give us the wire' dichotomy is wheeled out, but O'Hagan is hardly unsympathetic to a good deal of american culture, anyone who'd read his novels would know that. I mean he contributes to the NYRB fairly regularly and has written for the New Yorker. One of the most interesting things about his most recent novel is that it really does seem to be a testing of the values of the younger generation and how they sit uneasily with those of O'Hagan's generation - and also how the 'influence of America' is not at all one-sidedly 'bad', and is not at all confined to the younger generation. it's slightly heavy-handed with this stuff at times but is generally very nuanced.

What I can't understand is - well - the point aaro is trying to make. Is the aim of the piece genuinely to note that people who have expressed some admiration for Obama might not agree with every decision he makes as president? hardly seems worthy of a column. Does anyone honestly think that Obama is correct in every one of his positions? Classic Decent Straw Man writing.

unsurprisingly they've lapped it up at Harry's Place, because it conatins the 4 essential ingredients of a piece that the HP regulars like - trotting out of tedious old baloney about 'the left's response to 9/11', an unconvincing attempt at 'manliness' (come on then o'Hagan, you called the Iraq war 'silly', let's, er, debate the issue 5 years too late, don't mention WMDs though), a sense of trying to go against the grain while in fact conforming to almost every Decent cliche going... but most importantly, it makes absolutely no sense at all as a coherent piece of writing - each paragraph seems to have been crowbarred in from another piece (ditto Nick's Obs piece this week). It doesn't have a point.

it's devoted to criticising the errors and inconsistencies of a position without ever establishing what that position is, let alone whether anyone actually holds it

very true. After all, who said 'America, it is time to wake up and realise how much you are hated' shortly after 9/11? who wrote a column saying 'it is right to be anti-american' in 2002? etc etc.

7/23/2008 08:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aaro's article about Obama and anti-Americanism: there was a similar article by Tim Montgomerie on CiF a week or so ago, so I guess that it is based on some talking points circulating somewhere in the politico-media village. (I cannot find Montgomerie on the list of CiF contributors so I'm working from memory here.)

Aaro sets up a strawman in his very first sentence, embelishes it for a couple of paragraphs, then knocks it about a bit. This then gives him the opportunity to go on a bit about anti-Americanism and then to state that it is all due to envy (and, as an aside, suggest that anti-Zionism is anti-semitism). So the USA is indispensable (especially with the rise of China), criticisms of the USA's actions are due to a mysterious force called Anit-Americanism (which is due to envy at the USA being indispensable) so we'll all hate Obama eventually. QED.

I agree with you, Andrew: it's hard to know what Aaro is going on about because

1) the conclusions don't flow at all from his argument (he presents no evidence that the USA is indispensable or anything about envy)

2) he hints at things (eg the people who said that America "had it coming" on 9/11) without explaining what it contributes to his argument. (It's a talking point, not part of an in-depth analysis. As a talking-point it means "aren't the anti-american left crazy?". If you think too much about it you come to questions about USA actions in Afghanistan, which opens up a whole other can of worms.)

So, Andrewm you're right: it doesn;t make much sense. But the article is meant to be a comfort blanket for Times' readers, not a rigosour analysis of "how should the West respond to the rise of China?"

Moussaka Man

7/23/2008 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Didn't Aaro write a piece some years back about how great US TV was and gave, as his example, Friends?

7/23/2008 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...


Fantastic column in today's Evening Standard - Policy Exchange are bringng sanity back to a world destroyed by the BBC. Twice you think he might utter a small criticism but then it turns into a criticism of the left.

7/23/2008 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

If that link doesn't work

7/23/2008 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger BenSix said...

Nick even managed to slip criticism of 'da Left' into his pay dispute:

“If Tony Blair or David Cameron behaved in this way, the New Statesman would be denouncing them in the most virulent terms. It’s meant to be a left-wing newspaper. It’s immensely hypocritical.”

7/23/2008 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger AndyB said...

Nick Cohen is praising the appointment of Anthony Browne. If we needed any further proof that Cohen has bought the right-wing biscuit, this is it. Browne was a columnist on V-Dare, a seriously racist American website. And now he is an advisor to the Mayor of London.

I wrote about his pamphlet 'The Retreat of Reason' here:

The Virtual Stoa has a much better demolition of Browne's rubbish, I have to say. And in my post I write 'there' when I mean 'their'. The Horrorism!

It is hard to think that there is anything at all behind Decentism but general "Help! Fear! The Muslims are coming!". Browne has good form on this.

7/23/2008 06:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's the Nick piece. I think he has managed to fit in pretty much all of the Seals of Dacre there.

7/23/2008 07:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, I missed that Matthew had already linked to it.

7/23/2008 07:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It's not political correctness he (and they) are against but the perversion of liberalism by Whitehall and the BBC, which holds that it is somehow wicked to talk about racial attacks on whites, anti-Semitism or tensions between immigrants."

Perhaps Nick could cite an employee of the Beeb or a civil servant who holds that it is wicked to talk about any of the above. Or is this another case of the attack of the abominable strawman?

7/23/2008 07:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hellblazer, Dawkins says he didn't know the Graun were intending to use the letter he wrote in the way that they did:

Although to be honest this sort of thing seems to happen to him a lot (see also the Peter Kay malarky and when he somehow ended up endorsing an astrology book). Too trusting of the media, that lad.

7/23/2008 10:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Ben -- that's genuine news to me about Dawkins, and it sounds very plausible, in which case I stand corrected. I still feel that he comes across as politically/psychologically naive in recent years, but that may just be down to, erm, selective quotation by various hacks.

Oh, and EJH's Nosher analogy has *definitely* warned me off reading anything by Kamm.

7/24/2008 03:53:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Heh, you know the Nosher nickname?

the abominable strawman


7/24/2008 08:15:00 AM  

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