Thursday, November 27, 2008

Jonathan Calder on Aaro

Keep it daft, and keep it personal, that's the motto of The Grand Unified Brotherhood of Aaronovitch Watchers and Associated Odd Fellows. I'm frankly surprised we haven't made more ourselves out of Aaro's alphabetically enhanced position - I only recall us using it in a joke once (in a post which I note with horror is more than three years ago!)


Blogger ejh said...

Christ, no wonder the Staggers is struggling if that's the standard of its articles now.

11/27/2008 04:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tsk ejh, don't you know, Jason Cowley's inspired editorial work means that the Staggers - according to him - has 'pieces of comparable quality to what is found in The New Yorker'...

11/27/2008 05:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Piss-poor stuff.

""Bright working-class kids did better when their were grammar schools" "

Dunno if Calder was one, but if so, he might note that they failed to teach him to spell. Staggers subs too, it would seem.

Chris Williams

11/27/2008 07:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[drops fiver in collection box,]

Aaro or someone sock-puppeting Aaro has appeared on an HP thread. Is this the first sighting of Aaro, at HP?

11/28/2008 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


11/28/2008 01:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here at 11:28am

11/28/2008 01:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The comment two above rather sums up HP.

11/28/2008 02:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not that it's worth commenting on again, but the main post includes the usual Decent strategy of haranguing somebody because of the content of a comment on their blog. Shades of "We Are All Hizbollah".

11/28/2008 02:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't mind people being harangued for their blog comments if there is a reasonable suggestion that they are uninterested in keeping them under control, and systematically allowing through unpleasant and/or racist material.

Of course, this applies to HP in spades, so it's obviously kind of rich for them to direct the charge elsewhere.

11/28/2008 02:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

new standpoint is out today. Nick is even worse than usual, training his malfunctioning blunderbuss on British novelists for, um, not writing about finance enough, and because every single onf of them has parents who worked in the public sector, or something. A lot of contemporary British novelists actually do write about finance - but nick obviously hasn't read them. Standpoint also contains a post on the booker winner, suggesting that a book about a relatively poor Indian whose fictional voice seems to sit oddly with his social situation wouldn't have won if it was by someone white. All well and good, if repellent, but the things they attack White Tiger for could also aply to.... Life of Pi.

11/28/2008 02:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm detecting a definite pattern to the blogs here. Somebody reports Aaronovitch as having written something somewhere, people read it then they cast around for a response but finding nothing particularly objectionable about what Aaronovitch has written they settle for slagging off Nick Cohen instead.

11/28/2008 11:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Nick Cohen is so deserving of scorn and such an easy target, it's hard to resist, no?

11/29/2008 12:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still I reserve the right to shout 'Bingo' whenever it happens.

11/29/2008 06:36:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I think in this particular instance it was specifically Aaro's appearance on a given site which caught the poster's eye, rather than the content of the posting as such, is that not so?

11/29/2008 10:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somebody reports Aaronovitch as having written something somewhere, people read it then they cast around for a response but finding nothing particularly objectionable about what Aaronovitch has written they settle for slagging off Nick Cohen instead.

that's more or less the size of it, yeah. You should have seen us when he was training for the London marathon.

11/29/2008 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

Calder wrote:

Do you remember [Aaronovitch’s] Guardian column from 29 April 2003? It was the one about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction:

"If nothing is eventually found, I - as a supporter of the war - will never believe another thing I am told by our government or that of the US, ever again. And more to the point, neither will anyone else."

Aaronovitch had certainly forgotten it by 2007 when he acted as executive producer for the BBC’s The Blair Years. More than that, he decided he was just the person to interview the former prime minister for the series. He did so at great length and turned Not Mentioning the War into an art form.

Is the quote accurate? I understand that Mr. Aaronovitch not only continues to support the war, but impugns the character and motives of those who oppose(d) it.

Bruchetta Boy wrote:
I'm frankly surprised we haven't made more ourselves out of Aaro's alphabetically enhanced position - I only recall us using it in a joke once (in a post which I note with horror is more than three years ago!)

With all due respect, I’m “frankly surprised” that you haven’t “made more [y]ourselves” out of the statement Mr. Calder quotes, in remonstrating with Mr. Aaronovitch, and in criticizing the UK government’s continuing participation in the Iraq aggression, and other related reprehensible projects, which are justified by similarly disingenuous rationales.

It is puzzling and troubling that Mr. Caldor, quoting the statement, and pointing out that Aaronovitch’s subsequent activities and positions are inconsistent with the earlier representations, explicitly declares:

“[T]hat is not what annoys me about Aaronovitch. At least those pro-war columns for the Guardian had a point. They annoyed his readers and challenged the pieties of the writers around him. Because everyone should challenge the Guardian's pieties.”

I have no idea what he means by “challenge[ing] the Guardian's pieties.” Whatever he means, if Aaronovich’s writing had that affect, and also annoyed his readers, would not justify writing dishonestly, including vouching for government fabrications and pretexts, a fortiori when the object of the government deceptions was war.

Hartley Sharcross, UK attorney general, and head UK prosecutor at the Nurenburg tribunal, in his opening argument, took a different view:

May it please the Tribunal, on an occasion to which reference has and will be made, Hitler, the leader of the Nazi conspirators who are now on trial before you, is reported as having said, in reference to their warlike plans:

"I shall give a propagandist cause for starting the war, never mind whether it be true or not. The victor shall not be asked later on whether he told the truth or not. In starting and making a war, not the right is what matters, but victory -the strongest has the right."

The British Empire with its Allies has twice, within the space of 25 years, been victorious in wars which have been forced upon it, but it is precisely because we realize that victory is not enough, that might is not necessarily right, that lasting peace and the rule of international law is not to be secured by the strong arm alone, that the British nation is taking part in this Trial.
Human memory is very short. Apologists for defeated nations are sometimes able to play upon the sympathy and magnanimity of their victors, so that the true facts, never authoritatively recorded, become obscured and forgotten.

One has only to recall the circumstances following upon the last World War to see the dangers to which, in the absence of any authoritative judicial pronouncement, a tolerant or a credulous people is exposed. With the passage of time the former tend to discount, perhaps because of their very horror, the stories of aggression and atrocity that may be handed down; and the latter, the credulous, misled by perhaps fanatical and perhaps dishonest propagandists, come to believe that it was not they but their opponents who were guilty of that which they would themselves condemn.

And so we believe that this Tribunal, acting, as we know it will act notwithstanding its appointment by the victorious powers, with complete and judicial objectivity, will provide a contemporary touchstone and an authoritative and impartial record to which future historians may turn for truth, and future politicians for warning. From this record shall future generations know not only what our generation suffered, but also that our suffering was the result of crimes, crimes against the laws of peoples which the peoples of the world upheld and will continue in the future to uphold-to uphold by international co-operation, not based merely on military alliances, but grounded, and firmly grounded, in the rule of law.

11/29/2008 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Thomas: the quote is indeed accurate. It's from Those weapons had better be there ... (linked as "That Bloody Prediction" on this site's homepage).

This sets Aaro apart a little from the other Decents: the position of Norman Geras, Christopher Hitchens and Oliver Kamm[1] certainly was[2] that 'regime change' is a good thing. Saddam was evil [sic]; removing him was a moral duty and not having done so earlier reflected badly on GHW Bush, Bill Clinton, and John Major (but not on Tony Blair in his first term 1997-2001). Our eponym (if that's the right word) always seemed a little less confident about this reform by main force route, as well he might be.

Actually, the rationale of this blog is pretty much to point out the serpentine logic Mr Aaronovich stoops to when he is defending the government. My personal suspicion is that the raw material for columns like the one linked above come from either government press releases or leaks. I consider neither journalism. (I consider the publication of unfriendly, whistle-blowing leaks as journalism, however.)

We watch Mr Aaronovich because of his Jekyll and Hyde nature. He's clearly motivated by decency and his instincts tend to be liberal and inclusive. He's not hard to read - why would anyone want to finish a single Melanie Phillips piece, let alone 'watch' her?

[1] It was probably also the position of Alan 'Not the Minister' Johnson, but he's too dull to read (try reading some Kamm first and bear in mind that I used to read him before you test this thesis out; this blog is against torture and we do not wish to subject our readers to cruel and unusual treatments). Also David T too, but he's been much more exercised with the hunt for 'Stoppers', 'Islamofascists' and other thought criminals.

[2] As of, say, 2006; I don't read either that much these days

11/29/2008 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Oh BTW, *that* column earned Mr A his sole appearance in the Alastair Campbell diaries. You may take this as proof that my theory essayed above is wrong - why would AC bother to praise a journalist in his private diary for writing up a line which had been fed to him? I can't answer that satisfactorily, but AC does present DA's column as the only perceptive piece on the issue when he is recording the arguments he was having with other members of the press. Of course, something like 5/6s of the diaries *haven't* been published.

In re your Hitler comparison, I hold Alastair Campbell as far guiltier than our watchee was. And Tony Blair for employing AC knowing that the latter was, frankly, round the twist (which he's now cashing in on) ditto.

11/29/2008 07:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no idea what he means by “challenge[ing] the Guardian's pieties.”

It comes from the same place as the 'decent wage' post on decentpedia - ie, the correct stance to take on the guardian for both decents and a lot of other people is to instinctively condemn it and think that its editorial stance can be reduced to a series of 'pieties', usually based on a few out of context quotes from Seumas Milne and Polly Toynbee columns and some waffle about ethical shopping, but nonetheless one tries hard to be published by it (either online or in print) and one continues to read it online, and probably buy it as well. The 'pieties' he is allusing to would far more obviously describe the standard line the Staggers takes - even under Cowley the Staggers is noticeably more radical on Israel/Palestine than tehgraun. One of the reasons I get the Guardian daily is because as well as publishing Milne it also publishes Simon Jenkins and Max Hastings - you don't get that range in many other British papers. As a note I feel the same way about people who attack all Mail readers - while the mail is a lot closer to the standard caricature, it's not without its merits (Craig Brown in the MoS for example).

a lot of decents seem to think that annoying guardian readers is intrinsically a good thing - as if guardian readers are one homogenous sandal-wearing, public-sector-working blob. Oliver Kamm in particular thinks that if he gets a lot of replies on CIF, 'he must be doing something right'. In fact while there are a few dimwitted 9/11 truth types who will reply to everything on there with batshit insane theories, the majority of people who respond to Kamm/Cohen/etc on there - and i think this is true of the attitude on this blog too - are frustrated not by the oppositional stance, but by the sheer poverty of writing and the contortions people like Aaro and Nick Cohen make to justify views which are, in essence, unjustifiable. Witness Nick's fairly recent 'if you say it is illegal to overthrow a genocidal tyrant then you have to say that genocide is legal'. These people are rewarded - handsomely - for their opinions.

This is why I half-enjoyed Aaro's columns in the buildup to war - because they showed just how difficult it was to stick to a government line that more or less made no sense. If the professionals can't do it...

11/30/2008 08:47:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I tended to think the bit about pieties meant "I am a pompous career Liberal Democrat who will attack both left and right in their caricature forms and exude a sense of superiority in doing so".

11/30/2008 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Oliver Kamm in particular thinks that if he gets a lot of replies on CIF, 'he must be doing something right'.

I think that's the guiding principle of CiF; it's not just Oliver Kamm. Apologies to Daniel, who is usually very good when he's on there, but CiF sunk very quickly to favouring writers who troll the readers, and I refuse to even look at it these days. I agree about the uselessness of the writing; the thinking of contributors seems to be that if it were more elegant, the peice could be sold at a higher price elsewhere, and if the point were better argued, it might survive the subediting process. Not that the Guardian seems to have one these days. (Or the Staggers, it seems: Bright working-class kids did better when their were grammar schools Forsooth! The argument is pants too.)

11/30/2008 09:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Off-topically, is Nick (yes, OK Dylan) having a rethink?

I gave up on Amnesty International when it said that Guantanamo Bay, in which the guards killed no one, was the modern equivalent of Stalin's Gulag, through which the secret police killed millions. Tory writers strike me as hitting similar peaks of vacuity and delirium when they claim that New Labour is 'Zanu Nu-Lab'.

Can we agree that Britain is not Zimbabwe and then say: 'So what?' The unelected Robert Mugabe is worse than the unelected Gordon Brown, but that does not excuse the assaults on the rights of Parliament and the freedom of the press.

Yes. About that... can we agree that the War on Terror is not the Great Purge and then say: 'So what?' Stalin was worse than Bush, but... you get the idea.

Indeed, the descent into hyperbole plays into Brown's hands and allows him to dismiss valid criticisms as hysteria.

Or, indeed, allows supporters of tWoT to do very much the same thing.

11/30/2008 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I'm glad you posted that Phil. It allows me to say that what Nick calls 'hyperbole', I call 'rhetoric'. Gosh, I mean to say, are only journalists allow to heighten and exaggerate? Is there a licence one must apply for?

I'm having placards made up with slogans like, "I mean to say, what, this is just not cricket, old sport", "He's not a nice chap, you know", "If this carries on, something unfortunate may occur", and "I don't approve, if that's quite all right with you". Get the point across and won't cause Nick any worries. Suitable for all demonstrations.

11/30/2008 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

..."Down with this sort of thing", "Steady now".

It's a good point though - Decents will sieze on the slightest use of hyperbole by their of opponents and claim it is proof that their entire arguments can safely be ignored, as if, say, invading foreign coutries on a dodgy pretext or seeing our civil liberties attacked are not things worth actually getting worked up about.

As for the Decent attitude to Guardian readers, well that's got to be worth a post in itself. I'm still awaiting my invite to one of those infamous dinnerparties.

12/01/2008 08:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will just add as well that the way that Amnesty's "gulag" quote has been used by Nick and some of the other Decents as a get out clause, to somehow mitigate human rights violations by the West, is pretty disgraceful.

12/01/2008 05:31:00 PM  

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