Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Capsule Decentiya

Thanks to our lovely commenteers for the heads-up on this one; as a service back to the community, Decentiya, Digested.

Editor's Page: Alan NTM delivers a passionate and heartfelt encomium to himself. Then revisits his "post-left" brainfart:
Its high theory and low sensibility are increasingly important in the mass media, the arts, the academy and in what we might call graduate-popular-culture

... and Decentiya too, apparently; there are about a dozen references to "governing narratives", "discourses" etc etc scattered through this ish. Anyway, the only thing that the modern "post-Left" does is says "We Are All Hezbollah". That's it. And they say it all the time. (parenthetically, although WAAH was a monumentally stupid and counterproductive slogan for the five or six grouplets that used it, and for that reason I don't really begrudge the Decents their propagandistic use of it, I do think it's a little bit pathetic for Not The Min and his mates to totally ignore the circumstances of the invasion of 2006, still more to pretend that it's a slogan that's ever been used outside that context).

Letters to the Editor: Lyn Julius gets called on some particularly egregious bullshit about Mearsheimer and Waltz, pretends she hasn't.

The Mighty Walzer: The Democratiya Project: Epitomises the "will this do?" style of preface for the freebie Decentiya interviews compilation that you get free with the £100 club (or alternatively, that you pay £100 for). In words suspiciously close to those of Alan NTM Johnson, he tells us exactly the same thing that Alan NTM Johnson told us in the "Editor's Page".

Robert "Don't call me Wilhelm" Reich: The Paradox of Supercapitalism: Book chapter, doesn't make me want to buy the book. Reich was a puddle-deep thinker in the Clinton administration and is no better now; god help the publisher who thought that the world needed a lite- version of Joe Stiglitz.

Bring Your Daughter To Anne-Marie Slaughter: Are We Rome?: All about whether the USA is an imperialist power or not. Amusingly, the entire essay is written about the consequences for Americans of imperialism and the chances of the US hanging on to imperial power for a bit more and/or suriving the Fall. Idea that being an empire might be a bad thing to be, absent. Also amusingly:

The essence of this trend is reflected in the changing definition of the Latin word suffragium. It originally means voting tablet, or ballot. In the relatively brief days of the Roman Republic, (450 years. Are you ref. to a shorter period when a certain voting practice held, perhaps?) citizens could vote to elect individuals to specific offices,

Emphasis added; presumably this was an NTM note to A-MS which accidentally made it into the final draft.

Mark Major Major Major: The Politics Of Economic Inequality. A book report, not a review. Adds nothing. Presumably they print these to keep the review copies coming?

David Lowe: On Sharansky on Identity and Democracy. Also a bit of a book report, but Sharansky's thesis is interesting, if mental. Basically, there's nothing inconsistent between universal values and bombing the shit out of the Arabs. See, we democratically elect the leaders we like, and they democratically elect the leaders they like, and then if we don't like what they like, then there's a fight. Sharansky is basically the Id of Decentism - I'm sure none of them really endorse this, but psychologically it's what's at the bottom of the pool they're swimming in.

Ben Gidley: Jacqueline Rose and the 'Non-Jewish Jew' Not a bad essay, actually makes me want to read the book. Which, by the way, is apparently chock full o' postmodernism, Freudianism and all sorts of other naughty non-Enlightenment stuff and is endorsed by Slavoj Zizek - not sure why this one is in Democratiya at all. Gidley mentions in paragraph one that it contains an excellent essay about Edward Said, which is never mentioned again at all; presumably Rose did not toe the Decentiya line on Said (which is to say, him being a bastard).

David Milliband: Georgia: Choices For the West. If you liked it on the Foreign Office website, you'll like it again in Decentiya, I suppose.

Eric Lee: Global Labor Notes / Georgia: Why is Labor Silent?. Utterly pointless. Not even a book review; just Lee whinging on about the global labour movement not sticking up for plucky little Georgia, not like those paragons did in the 1920s. If you like trivia about the 20th century labour movement then you might like this, but Lee's politics are so absurdly slanted that I suspect his history might be too. I thought on reading this that maybe being a member of the Democratiya £100 Club (now by far the cheapest option btw; don't even consider the $200 or EUR130 options) gave you the right to have an article printed, because I can see no other reason for it. But Lee has a regular column doesn't he on "Global Labor Notes"? There must be literally fuck all happening in the world of trade unions. God. (imagine me doing a Gordon Ramsay voice on that word, like he says "God" when a chef tells him that he uses frozen spaghetti sauce).

Martin "Not Bodie From The Professionals" Shaw: Georgia: Lessons for the West. Visibly commits all the sins Alan NTM accuses the "post-Left" of (ie: blames lots of it on Bush, also takes 'conspiracy theories' seriously with regard to the question of actual US instigation of the Georgian attack). Visibly all the better for it. A lot of home truths here for Decentiya readers.

David Clarke: Georgia: The Meaning of the Conflict "Review to follow". That's the entire text. Great editing Alan.

Elizabeth Porter: Building Global Feminist Movements. Book report.

Martin Shaw/David Hirsh: Antisemitism and the Boycott: An Exchange Hilarious. If you only read one article in this issue of Democratiya, it should be this one. Shaw decides to upbraid Hirsh on the whole issue of being Big Chief I-Spy of British anti-semitism. Makes lots of points that have been needed to be made to the ENGAGE tendency for a very long time (including the completely incorrect use of the phrase "institutional racism"). Hirsh attempts to patronise Shaw and gets his head handed to him.

Max Dunbar: The Ideas of Tariq Ramadan If you read Paul Berman's longer and more dreadful attempt at a hatchet-job on Ramadan you are excused this. Not very good. Decents still seem to think that presenting Ramadan's "moratorium" quote is some kind of killer gotcha even when it's clear from the quote, even out of context, that Ramadan didn't mean what they (and Sarkozy at the time) claim.

Tom Gallagher: Nationalism and Islamism in Scotland. "Narratives" and "discourses" all over the braes in this one. Blah blah SNP. Apparently they are the first people in Scotland ever to have played ethnic politics, who knew? Lots of "white working class" as well. Basically Scottish Labour is fucked and its supporters a) don't like this fact, b) can't, apparently, find any substantial or important connections between Salmond and Islamism.

Eric B. Litwack Paddywhack, Give A Dog A Bone: Collective Apology and Moral Responsibility: Somewhere between a book report and an undergraduate essay on "Can there be such a thing as a collective national apology?". Only original bit:
Two of the editors of The Age of Apology have claimed a need for American apologies for waging a war on terror in their piece: 'Apology and the American "War on Terror". [...] As much as it is entirely reasonable to expect clear contrition on errors made during the current campaigns against terrorism and extremism, it is regrettable that not the slightest mention is made by the authors of the humanitarian arguments for the toppling of the Saddam Hussein Ba'ath Party tyranny, made both by many Iraqis and by many non-Iraqis. Furthermore, they elide any acknowledgement of the real threat that fanaticism and terrorism pose both to the democratic West and to the entire Middle East itself. Their focus here is entirely on errors of emphasis, flaws in the remarkably complex and error-prone world of military intelligence, and on atrocities and abuses. On the issue of imperfections in security and military intelligence before 9/11, it is important to invoke here the 'lighthouse effect' – one always hears of the one shipwreck and its horrors, but not of the solid function of preventing possibly thousands of other shipwrecks that the lighthouse performs.

yep, "picking over the rubble". Und so weiter.

Lawrence J. Haas: Letter from Washington / Searching for Barack. I see that Democratiya isn't printing anything by Fred Siegal this quarter, hurray. But why on earth does it need a great big wordy compilation of McCain campaign sneers about what "ordinary Americans" think? Particularly not from someone who transparently wouldn't know an ordinary American if one bit him on the bum.

Cathy Lowy: Letter from Hungary. Blog post.

Gary Kent: Letter from Baghdad. Blog post. Even has a bit in it about going to Blaydon to see the red kites.

David R. Adler: Arts / On Jazz, Hip-Hop and Democracy, Kevin Higgins: Poem / Letter To A Full Time Revolutionary, Michael Weiss : Arts / On Victor Serge's Unforgiving Years There is no way on earth I'm reviewing the arts coverage. Life's too short.

And some archive material from Denis Healey, and an interview with Robert Reich in which he reads out his book chapter and Alan does his poor man's Stern act. And we are done for another trimester. Hey ho hum.

Update: I said above that, thank the Lord, Democratiya had stopped publishing the awful Fred "France is going through an intifada" Siegal. This judgement may have been premature.


Blogger Matthew said...

I think the editing mistake is a classic Word 'accept tracked changes' - 'without reviewing them?' - 'Yes'. It's what you do when you are too bored to read the copy again Most people don't do it, however, without having it proof-read once more.

On the £100 club, maybe Aarowatch could pay the hosting bills by arbitrage -buying up dollar memberships, and selling them to sterling-based wannabe members for £95.

9/02/2008 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

you're mocking me, aren't you?

9/02/2008 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

All this harshing on the SNP is several tons of sheer mental, BTW. So far as I can tell, their chief crime is handing a cheque to Osama Saeed, who is of course a great big fascist. I've seen a lot of people (none of them actually Scottish) bash Alex Salmond for this, thus missing his basic genuine flaw - that he's an appalling arsehole and a bullshit merchant.

Big up Martin Shaw though, I loved him when he played that crimebusting gumshoe judge.

9/02/2008 07:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good - thanks for the digest.

David Hirsch actually quotes scripture to explain the mote and beam metaphor. What must be his expectations of Decentiya readers!

Martin Shaw sends in a little letter, and finds himself confronted by a walloping reply collectively composed by no less that 9 authors. It's very like the modus operandi familiar back in my days in a Trotskyist outfit. Any peep of dissidence is 'democratically' piled in on by the leadership, leaving the unfortunate deviant dazed and isolated. While registering my caveats about his reply, the manoeuvre in this case has clearly and spectacularly failed to dish Shaw.

Having read it now, Martin Shaw's article on Georgia is almost diametrically opposed to the entire logic of Decentry. What's he doing being an editorial advisor to their house academic journal? Strange.

9/02/2008 07:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FR: any more spin on Omar Saeed? All I know about him is that he has Aaronovitch Watch on his blogroll (and I didn't know that until I just looked him up on Google). He doesn't look particularly unreasonable on his blog, but then a lot of these MAB types don't and then you turn around and they're suddenly embarrassing you by saying something weird.

Marc: think you're dead right on Shaw and suspect that after the Hirsh furor he might be considering his position. Though he was given the last word in that debate which was a pretty small-d decent thing of NTM to do.

9/02/2008 08:06:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

"you're mocking me, aren't you?"

Possibly. On reflection, however, I think Alan NTM's pricing policy is simply that US readers get more out of it than those in the UK, so he's charging them more. If exchange rates correct the other way he will start appealing to a more UK audience.

9/02/2008 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

Re: Osama Saeed - well, he's always seemed perfectly sane and civil when he's shown up at my blog, but I've seen him on TV and in the papers quite a few times and he seems to suffer a bit from the all-too-modern problem of not being able to distinguish between criticism and racist attacks. HP and the lunatic wing at the DSTs hate his guts, and have a tendency to produce some babbling, hook-handed loon every once in a while and demand OS condemn him unreservedly, as is their way.

I've looked his blog over once or twice and seen the odd wingnut commenter babbling about Islamic law in Britain as well, which probably isn't surprising for a site about political Islam, but doesn't bode well. By and large I'd say he'd seem like a decent bloke in the flesh but likely has some pretty loopy ideas.

Mind you, I'd advise you not to take my word for anything - I have trouble remembering what day it is.

9/02/2008 08:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Decents still seem to think that presenting Ramadan's "moratorium" quote is some kind of killer gotcha even when it's clear from the quote, even out of context, that Ramadan didn't mean what they (and Sarkozy at the time) claim.

Aye, I remember collecting quotes with which to condemn. It's squalid and very stupid, but much easier than actually engaging with ideas.

9/02/2008 08:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What winds up Scottish Labour (and indeed English Labour) about the SNP and Osama Saeed is not so much that a political Islamist is being allowed to participate in mainstream politics, but that a political Islamist is participating in mainstream politics without the primary aim of delivering block votes for the Labour Party. The latter exist in some numbers but are quietly hidden away, invisible except to the small and insignificant few who closely follow municipal politics. Their grasp of English is also often poor, which prevents them saying anything embarrassing in public.

9/02/2008 09:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hirsh's perfunctory second letter is amusing. He's clearly hoping that Shaw will be crushed by the rhetorical weight of his group-authored rejoinder, but in the face of a careful and measured reply from Shaw he obviously can't be bothered to go any further and so throws together a few half-hearted semi-relevant accusations about the UCU in the (possibly reasonable) expectation that no one will be reading that far.

9/02/2008 09:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incidentally, not only has NTM failed to actually publish David Clark's article, he hasn't even done him the courtesy of spelling his name correctly.

(When it appears, Clark's piece should be interesting - he confuses Decents somewhat by being equally critical of Russian and US imperialism)

9/02/2008 09:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it's the David Clark I'm thinking of, the one who used to be a government advisor and has written columns for the Guardian, then I've always thought he was a good guy.

9/02/2008 09:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Clark's writing is pretty good. Strong on international law and human rights. IMMSMC I think he was an aide to Robin Cook some time ago.

Respect to you BB for actually reading an entire edition of Democratiya. I think that kind of dedication, beyond the call of duty, deserves a special prize.

What I think is most sad about the journal is not the horror of their dreadful, bloated prose or the sheer predictability of the writing but its the fact that they are not even able to argue their case well.

Hirsh and Julius got completely flattened and they weren't able to put any fight.

9/03/2008 12:42:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Basically Scottish Labour is fucked and its supporters a) don't like this fact, b) can't, apparently, find any substantial or important connections between Salmond and Islamism.

A good point, not least because it contributes to my thesis that a large segment of Decency derives not from ex-far-leftists wrestling with their pasts, but from rightwing Labour whose political habits have always involved a tribal loathing of everybody outwith their camp and a lack of scruple as to how these people should be described.

9/03/2008 07:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I think is most sad about the journal is not the horror of their dreadful, bloated prose or the sheer predictability of the writing but its the fact that they are not even able to argue their case well.

the prose and the argument (and to a lesser extent to wretched presentation) go hand in hand. Decentiya, if it represents anything, is a place where you can go to have your prejudices indulged in the comfort of knowing that they appear in a 'scholarly' journal, despite it clearly not being peer-reviewed (the track changes in this edition being the latest in a long series of editorial clangers - they don't even have a house style). I thought Nick Cohen and Aaro had a massive problem with non-peer-reviewed research? Or maybe that's only if they disagree with it.

Its admirers (chiefly Harry's Place) seem to think that including old speeches by David Miliband = 'importance' and 'relevance'. At least there's not another article 'debunking Edward Said' by an MA student writing in American English in this issue.

9/03/2008 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

David Clark - didn't he draft the Freedom of Information Act, and then resign because Blair and Jack Straw let Sir Humphrey water it down? Jesus, it seems a long time ago.

Meanwhile, Sharansky's bollocks "town square test" always reminded me of the old Soviet joke about the American visitor who says that at home, he could sit on the Capitol steps and shout "Ronald Reagan must go!"

To which the Russian says, well, I can always go to the Kremlin and say that Reagan must go...

Given that his political party supports "transfer", i.e. ethnic cleansing, I have to say I can't tell the difference between him and various ex-Yugoslav politicians of note.

9/03/2008 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does the fact that the meeting was at the home of Phyllis Chesler get a pass?





OK, I might have overdone it with the articles. Just one would probably have sufficed. But the woman is a fully fledged Eurabian conspiracy lunatic.

9/03/2008 10:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for this link! I love the way the photos are annotated:
From Right to Left
From Left to Right
From Left to Right
Right to Left

The second picture is of Alan Johnson by himself, and so requires neither "Right to Left" nor "Left to Right"


9/03/2008 12:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ! I hadn't come across Phylliss Chesler before and assumed that her only relevance was through the connection to Fred Siegal. How wrong you can be; it appears that four posts below "A Glittering Dinner With Alan Johnson of Democratiya" on her blog appears "American Woman, Arab Man: Tales of Horror in the Harem". Which is about as bad as it sounds. What the fucking hell did NTM think he was playing at?

With that, the Andrew Anthony pieces, plus the bare-faced cheek of the owners of the Harry's Place comments section presuming to lecture anyone else on "you ought to ask yourself why you attract these racists", I think we nearly have enough material for a "Decent Racism" special issue, and I am close to being annoyed enough to write it.

9/03/2008 12:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dd, is there anything I can do to annoy you a bit more? I fancy reading that piece.

9/03/2008 12:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a good one.

"Here, I want to focus on those things that specifically endanger America in the absence of a massive influx of Arab and Muslim immigrants bent on jihad. I am talking about the ways in which a small but organized number of Muslim-Americans and Muslim immigrants, aided by their many Christian- and Jewish-American supporters, are currently seeking to begin the Islamification of America.

According to the scholar Bat Ye’or and the journalist Oriana Fallaci, Europe became “Eurabia” due to a massive influx of hostile Muslim immigrants with a high birth rate whose passage to Europe was aggressively funded both by Arab oil money and by European doctrines of “multi-cultural tolerance.”

A similarly dangerous, multi-cultural tolerance also exists in America. So far, however, it has won support mainly among our intellectual elite and our liberal and progressive media. Respect for barbarism thankfully does not yet exist among most American civilians. "


An American friend told me that Chesler used to be a well respected feminist critic, but she seems to have gone batty in her old age.

9/03/2008 12:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She also apparently had a really nasty experience living in Afghanistan during her first marriage to a rich monarchist Afghan in 1961, which explains if not excuses a lot of her writings about how the evil Muslims "pretend to be Westernised but are just waiting to revert to type".

Andrew: actually I'm going to write it anyway. I do think that a wedge ought to be driven between those Decents who appear to be happy fellow-travellers of racists (or at the very least, who like to "raise issues") and those who aren't. Particularly, I'd love to know what Marko Attila Hoare (a key tenet of whose foreign policy is Turkish membership of the EU) or Oliver Kamm (a free-movement-of-labour neoliberal) think about the immigration policies of Andrew Anthony or Anthony Browne (as endorsed by Nick Cohen).

9/03/2008 12:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One final word on Chesler. She initially supported the blogger Lionheart who was threatened with prosecution for hatespeech (no idea what happened in that case). Among the things that Lionheart wrote on his site was that Muslims were introducing human flesh into the food chain via kebab shops. All reference to Lionheart has subsequently been removed from her site, although her fawning interview is still available on some blogs:


I don't doubt that Chesler wasn't fully aware quite how bad he was, but given how anxious the Decents are to prosecute crimes of association, I thought I'd mention it.

9/03/2008 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

Some material for your decent racism extravaganza: I've just spent far too long in the comments here arguing, much assisted by Chris Brooke, that this is blatent racism. At least two HP editors, plus a load of regular commenters, disagree.

9/03/2008 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger BenSix said...

From the Chesler interview:

""stirring” and highly informative articles"

9/03/2008 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Larry, may the usual curses rain down unto the ninth generation of your descendants for even linking to Harry's Place like that ... but kudos to you and especially Chris Brooke (pbuh; should he ever read this site) for those comments. I read the first "Mettaculuture" reply; the second seemed too full of cliche to finish. I did like this in his first screed:

"Computer coding languages specifically seek to conceptually engineer thought for precise ends."

He's not come across Perl then.

9/03/2008 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

Another corker in the Slaughter piece:

"This is the phenomenon that we know as privatisation, or as some describe it, the 'outsourcing of American power.' [who describes it in those terms? Is it worth saying?]"

I think it is worth saying Alan.

9/04/2008 12:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you fancy digging into Phyllis Chesler oeuvre, here's the Amazon list, and you can even search inside The New Anti Seminitsm (fears for the worst regarding the overall argument)


9/04/2008 09:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops...are typos anti-semitic?


9/04/2008 09:39:00 AM  
Blogger johng said...

Martin Shaw has always been one of those academics who is worth reading even when you disagree with him (which for me is most of the time). Which is why it was always a bit odd that he wrote for a journal which published almost nothing worth reading no matter whether you agreed with it or not.

9/04/2008 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger johng said...

Martin Shaw was always one of those academics worth reading even if you didn't agree with what he was saying. Which is why it was always strange that he should be associated with a journal which almost never produced anything worth reading whether you agreed with it or not.

9/04/2008 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

Thanks CChap. Can't say I did more than skim-read Mettaculture's long posts, myself... His/her comments seem to be more about painting a grand vision of the world, rather than debating the specifics of the matter to hand.

9/04/2008 08:27:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Do you think NTM and Phyllis Chesler talked about Kosovo? She's about as anti- as Marko is pro-.

9/05/2008 10:01:00 AM  

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