Friday, July 04, 2008

We haven't forgotten Aaro

No indeed. And he's still writing, twice a week now, over on the Times. 10 days ago he wrote about Mugabe. B2 is ignoring the Yank election process and is thinking about Africa, so I've left that one to him.

Hooray! Dave seems to have a regular gig reading the Times archive. His method, if he has one, is to stay away from anniversaries of any sort. Last Saturday was the 94th June 28 since the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.[1] Instead, our man chose to write about the arts patroness and salonière Lady Ottoline Morrell. Pretty blah really, in my humble. (Yes, I did check out what she looked like - DA: “Arresting” is the word. Billie Piper has nothing to fear.)

I also don't have any views either way on the guilt or innocence of Dr Crippen. I will point out that DA has not, to my knowledge, ever won Mr Hat Wearer UK or similar.

So what is there to watch? Nothing. Today, readers, we are listeners. Our man has debated with David Davis, Denis MacShane, Henry Porter on a Guardian podcast "Is liberty in peril?" I may write about this later. Updates depending on rain in SW1.

Update! Sat 12:50. Still haven't heard the thing, but Ros Taylor in tehgrauniad sums up:

The fact that the whole topic appeared to bore Aaronovitch did not endear him to the audience. "We have reached the point almost of paranoia about civil liberties ... It is, in my opinion, a paranoid fantasy," he said. The barely disguised hint that they were hanging out with the little Englanders and the green ink faction did not please the majority of those present. "You're not all being watched," he concluded, exasperated.

One of the comments recommends Martin Bell by contrast, although Bell (lucky enough to have a very very famous nephew) doesn't address DA's point "I conceive it as a civil liberty not to have to use a lift that someone craps in every day". (I don't buy the Times for similar reasons, though the crap there is more metaphorical.)

[1] I know this because it was mentioned in a book review in the Torygraph - which I can't find online. I don't carry this sort of trivia about in my head, you know. You need to subscribe to view the Times archive but if you do, the report is here. Sadly, the Times did not recommend intervention and hunting for WMDs, but it did report this:

Cabrinovitch is said to be a well-known ne'er-do-well who has been in Montenegro and Belgrade, while Prinzip was expelled from Bosnia some years ago for taking part in a pro-Serb demonstration. Both are said to have assumed a most cynical attitude during their examination. Notwithstanding their statements that they had no accomplices, the plot is generally believed to have been prepared long beforehand and to have had extensive ramifications.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have not yet listened to the Guardian podcast, but I am willing to bet the farm that Aaro's contribution will be along the lines of "Everything's fine, why won't you stop questioning your betters?"

7/04/2008 07:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OT: Nick update - not only is he not in the Observer he isn't even listed as 'away'. Has Finkelstein pulled off a Decent brace by luring him to the Times the same week as Kamm?

7/06/2008 03:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kamm is a terrible choice for a leader writer. The only reason he got gigs on the guardian was because his po-faced, risible views antagonised the readers. When faced with an audience of his actual peers - right-wingers - he is found wanting.

And it was fairly clear that the Obs didn't want Cohen, even without the gossip on here last week.

7/06/2008 06:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Organic Cheeseboard: whilst I agree that Kamm is an appalling writer (verbosity is no disguise for flimsy, and often reprehensible arguments), is it not a contradiction that while on the one hand the Guardian hired Kamm for his antagonistic qualities, but the Obs were sick of Cohen (for presumably similar reasons)? Surely Cohen, of late, was at least as antagonistic as Kamm? Certainly the comments on GU were fairly equal in their vitriol.

I'm not saying you are wrong, and I accept there are editorial differences between the Guardian and Obs, but I wonder if there is something more to Cohen's leaving (if he has) than he fact that he pisses off the readers.

7/06/2008 11:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is it not a contradiction that while on the one hand the Guardian hired Kamm for his antagonistic qualities, but the Obs were sick of Cohen (for presumably similar reasons)?

Yeah maybe my post wasn't that clear-cut. I think the difference is that Kamm was overwhelmingly an online presence on CiF - I can't remember him having much in the paper beside occasional 'condensed Cif' pieces and that article on how Iran has nukes which came out on the same day that it was shown that even the US didn't think they did.

I think the reason the Obs didn't want Cohen is not really for similar reasons. Say whatever you like about Kamm, but he is most definitely versatile, capable of showering any subject under the sun with his right-wing faux-verbosity, regarless of his expertise on the topic (witness his opinions on Cuba, and on Stockhausen). He's mainly celebrated even by his admirers (such as those on HP) because he annoys lefties - and that was his job on CiF.

The thing posted here about Nick last week - that he continually pitches the same story every week - is fairly believbable, both because of the phoned-in nature of his other writings (remember the piece on antique furniture, or the last thing he wrote for the Obs in which he managed to misread his lone source?) and because he is seemingly incapable of writing anything without resorting to insult and petty bitching now (see the Standard piece on Mandela, the Standpoint piece on 'unmanly' John Snow, the claim to know what every single academic in the world thinks about everything, the constant sneers at anyone who dares to spend their money on organic food). This general lefty-bashing has infected everything he's written for such a long time now that it's just become tedious. It's not that Obs readers only want to read postiive things about themselves, but that Cohen in particular seems incapable of seeing anything good about anyone British who's even vaguely liberal. Attacking sacred cows is all well and good, but that was never Cohen's job and he isn't very good at it.

I don't think the number of vitriolic comments on CiF is evidence of his being kept on as an antagonist, since that's not the reason he was initially employed, and in general print columnists (at least on the new, post-Jasper Gerard Obs) are not meant to annoy in the way that online ones are - see the marked difference between Nick's pieces and those which replaced them.

7/07/2008 08:02:00 AM  
Blogger AndyB said...

For all Cohen's talk of 'unmanliness', is he, you know, actually 'hard'? Or, more to the point, does he think that he is?

Do you think that he'd be willing to do an Uwe Boll?

7/07/2008 09:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Manly enough to lech after the ladies, but not to throw a serious punch. If you want to psychologise Cohen (using some borrowed decent telepathy) his rapid surge to the right came after he (1) became a father ,somewhat late in life and (2) lost his own father, who was left wing. So he subconsciously believes his transformation into a reactionary old fart represents a "growing up" and a somewhat delayed separation from his parents.

7/07/2008 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Organic cheeseboard, I almost posted on your behalf this morning.

I think your position is defensible - it makes more sense that it appears to when set out logically as Big Al has. I think all writers have limitations: given the same subject matter, they tend to repeat themselves. It their views chime with yours, that's pretty much OK. (Polly Toynbee's made a career out of writing blah columns for people who largely agree with her.) If they don't, the repetition shows. In other words, you need to replenish your contrarians regularly.

However, I agree with all you say. Oliver Kamm is versatile: at least he has wider-ranging interests than Nick admits to. Ditto Aaro. No, hold on. I disagree with faux verbosity. OK's is genuine 24 carat verbosity.

I think the thing about Nick's attack on Jon Snow, as a for instance (I know it wasn't for the Obs), was its lack of balance. One sided essays don't work for broadsheet readers. Or the target has to be considerably worse than a news anchor could conceivably be. Osama bin Laden is an all-out bad guy: someone who reads the news, even if they earn at lot more than you, isn't. (Well, I'm starting to think of exceptions, but they're all in the States, and I know of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh second hand.)

7/07/2008 05:33:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Kamm's capacity for research his rather greater than Cohen's. I think he misuses what he finds, in fact I think that's his whole technique, but he certainy knows what the people he attacks have written and what they were writing about.

7/07/2008 06:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most Decent writing lacks analysis, most of it is just polemic.

Furthermore there is an overwhelming sense that the evidence is always cherry-picked to suit a particular agenda. Say what you like about someone like Toynbee, but she does do analysis and I would trust her to much more intellectually flexible and rigorous than most of the Decents.

At the far end of ideologue scale you have someone like Mad Mel who takes a bonkers position ('Climate change is a scam', 'Saddam did have WMD') and defends it to the last, despite the cost to her intellectual credibility.

But a lot of Decent writing is similar to this. Look at the attempts to deny that resources were a factor in the Iraq War or that Blair misled the public over WMD or the desperate attempts to discredit the Lancet Iraq mortality study. These are the reactions of people who are not prepared to consider facts that challenge what they would like to believe. And let's face it you wouldn't trust the judgment of someone who treated evidence in this way.

7/07/2008 08:39:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Mercifully I am in a Pyrenean hotel paying €1 for every thirty minutes of internet time and am therefore persuaded not to say what I like about Polly Toynbee...

7/08/2008 09:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But Ejh are you seriously saying you would trust the judgment of Kamm or Nick over Toynbee?

Personally I don't like a lot of what she writes either- especially on foreign policy- but I can't see her writing anything in support of torture or cluster bombs.

7/08/2008 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Oh of course not. I just don't think she's particularly intellectually rigorous and her flexibility largely extends to allowing herself the freedom to criticise the Labour Government when she's none too fond of anybody else who does it.

7/08/2008 05:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a very apt comment about Aaro

Moussaka Man

7/09/2008 04:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It their views chime with yours, that's pretty much OK. (Polly Toynbee's made a career out of writing blah columns for people who largely agree with her.) If they don't, the repetition shows.

I've agreed with much of what Toynbee says, but the repetitions are increasingly obvious if you read her stuff for long enough, and if you realise that she can't reconcile what New Labour actually does with the idealised government that exists in her head.


7/13/2008 03:01:00 PM  

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