Friday, November 28, 2008

Oh stop it, you're misinterpreting me you rotters!

Official AW(i'WoD') policy statement: bla bla bla

Once more, Marko makes massive sweeping rhetorical statements, then only cares to defend them in very guarded and qualified terms, and asserts that it's someone else's fault that he can't express himself clearly and without bombast. This style of Decent rhetoric (the Condemnation Ringing, the Denunciation Forthright and the Excoriation Moral) used to be terribly influential, you know, but you don't really see it on Normblog any more, or even on Harry's Place. Hey, does anyone know what happened to Brian Brivati? It's a bit like Lee & Herring really - once upon a time you could hardly get away from him, but these days not so much.


Blogger John B said...

The Lee & Herring point is a bit three years ago - Stewart Lee was behind Jerry Springer The Opera, and Richard Herring is now quite a successful stand-up and panel show regular.

11/28/2008 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

Well yes - and Brian Brivati is presumably still teaching whatever he teaches at Kingston University or wherever. But like L&H, he's stepped several rungs down the fame ladder and you don't get students repeating his catchphrases ("The shameful silence of the left!" "Moon on a stick!") over their pints of lager top.

Tangentially, Jerry Springer the Opera was shown on BBC2 in January 2005!

11/28/2008 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

For some bizarre reason the above comments generated a vision of an X-factor-type talent show for aspiring decents in which hopefuls perform in front of a panel of uber-Decents

Mel P, Eve Garrard, David T and Nick Cohen perhaps?

You could have Iraq night, Iran night, Yugo-nostalgia night, and anti-semitic-trope-spotting night.

(I should go to the pub)

11/28/2008 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Funny, I saw a bloke in the library this evening and for a moment I thought it was John Sessions.

11/28/2008 06:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I held the door of Boots open for a bloke pushing a buggy the other day, and immediately went into I know him... I know him... where do I know him from? mode. It was only after he'd got outside that I realised it was Bez. He looks older.

As for Attila Hoare, I've been thinking about what I remember of him from the time of the Bosnian war. I'm not going to claim he was always an embarrassment; I remember thinking he was a bit of a debater - young, keen, aggressive, untroubled by grey areas - but also that it was good to have a few people like that on your side.

But blimey, look at him now. Anyone who can keep a straight face and accuse the Drink-Soaked Trots of being left-wing extremists... I think he's a case study for a Mad Scientist theory of Decency - Let's see what happens if I repudiate this! Mmmm, I think I like it!

11/28/2008 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

There's a few pro-war contrarians about if you ask me...Paul Bogdanor would be one, for instance.

11/28/2008 07:33:00 PM  
Blogger john b said...

Oddly, I just turned on the TV and Mr Herring was on Dave. With seriously embarrassing hair.

11/28/2008 11:15:00 PM  
Blogger john b said...

(that's Dave the ridiculously named TV channel, rather than Mr Aaronovitch. Disappointingly.)

11/28/2008 11:16:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

We could have a longwinded debate about the meaning of "collaboration". But frankly I'd rather discuss the correct spelling of "blah".

11/29/2008 11:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We could have a longwinded debate about the meaning of "collaboration".

I don't think Marko would want that, because nowhere in his claims about either Milosevic or the Taliban could the relationship between Clinton and teh evil be construed as a collaboration. If these are collaborations, then he is collaborating with teh evil red-browns on this blog.

On a separate blog-themed topic, i find it pretty weird how proud marko is that he doesn't allow comments on his blog. He allows himself to comment on other blogs. Seems odd to me - to use Marko's slightly odd metaphor, one doesn't want dog shit on one's own front lawn and thus walls it in with a massive brick wall, but one allows one's dog to spray shit all over the front lawns of others because they've left their gate open.

11/30/2008 09:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The difference being that I miss Lee & Herring...

On the other side of the Atlanctic the wingnuts have less influence as well, compared to their heyday of 2002-2003 but they've only gone more loonier as a result. The decents on the other hand seemed to have quitely faded away or deleted their old archives...

11/30/2008 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Just what the fuck is the red-brown alliance? Nearly every post Marko writes is tagged with it (I checked). They appear to be behind teh evil everywhere but in such a shadowy way that their involvement defies description.

I even googled the term: there's an Amazon page. Books include Alexander Cockburn's "Overcoming Empire" and "Londonistan" by Melanie Phillips. Perhaps it's because I'm choking on my tea listening to the convolutions of the herpetic Jaqui Smith on Andrew Marr, but the latter volume seems to feature Ringo Starr on the cover...

11/30/2008 09:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brown = brownshirt. Red-brown alliance = Stalinists allied with authoritarian nationalists. This phenomenon has actually been observed in Russia; how good a fit it is for, well, anything else is another matter.

11/30/2008 11:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

whatever else it is, it seems to function as quite effective rhetorical covering fire for people on the move from left to right, or people on the right helping themselves to isolated elements of the left argument

11/30/2008 11:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it seems to function as quite effective rhetorical covering fire for people on the move from left to right, or people on the right helping themselves to isolated elements of the left argument

Like someone who's just signalled his intention to vote Tory, but still adresses his audience as "comrades"? That's at least as convincing as trying to pretend that Eduard Limonov has some general relevance.

Actually, there's some fun to be had, and a potential post, in Marko's rhetorical tics. Like when he's in his Titus Oates mode, implying guilt by association. Remember when he accused BB of being totally lacking in integrity for once linking to me? A sensible reader would only assume agreement where agreement is indicated, but Marko's Decent Telepathy allows him to see that BB buys my entire bill of goods.

But why stop there? I once quoted Justin Raimondo, which surely proves that I (and by extension BB) buy Justin's entire bill of goods. And Justin once worked for Pat Buchanan, which makes us all closet supporters of every daft thing Buchanan has ever said. And Buchanan was a speechwriter for Reagan, so... actually, I think Marko approves of Reagan, so the chain breaks down there.

Someone, his parents perhaps, should tell Marko that if you're going to do guilt by association you should be certain nobody can link you to anyone slightly dodgy.

The other thing I like about Marko is that, as was pointed out here before, he's as realpolitik as anybody when it comes to issues he cares about, as opposed to issues he's just using for moral grandstanding. But he won't admit that. So he likes to start off with a big sweeping statement like "I, Marko, am opposed to ethnic cleansing." Then realises his strictures could be turned against something or someone he approves of, so he has to follow his big statement with an enormous amount of caveats and qualifications and special pleading to prove that his support for Operation Storm is totally consistent with his universal values.

And by the way, if any politician encouraged the Taliban it was Benazir Bhutto. Look at Marko's obit for her and see if he mentions this.

11/30/2008 02:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marko does allow the occasional comment, or at least a link in lieu of. He spares no effort to drum up support from what appears to be an increasingly dwindling cadre of like-minded bloggers (e.g. the worryingly whimsical Sarah "puppy" Franco). However I fear that his academic standing may be suffering. I understand from those on the academic 'Balkan history circuit' that Marko is increasingly perceived as something of a single-issue crank. Indeed, when I heard these reports the image that came to mind was the Spitting Image puppet of Michael Heseltine during the Westland Affair: helicopter on head, and banging on endlessly...

It would be churlish however to ignore what is a special event: Greater Surbiton is 1 year old! (Marko himself is 13 and 3/4)


11/30/2008 05:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Off topic: amidst the scattergun anti-Greenery and guilt by association in the lastest Eye, NC (in his 'ratbiter' incarnation) has actually got something right: Tony Gosling is rather in thrall to batshit crazy anti-semitic conspiracy theories. Or at least he was the first and last time I met him.

Chris Williams

11/30/2008 11:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seeing as I am on the Balkan history circuit, and rather well-connected within it, I can assure you Marko is not viewed as a one-issue crank by any of us. Which issue, by the way, would that be?

12/01/2008 03:53:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

It is difficult for the anonymous to give assurances....

12/01/2008 08:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NC (in his 'ratbiter' incarnation) has actually got something right: Tony Gosling is rather in thrall to batshit crazy anti-semitic conspiracy theories.

he probably is right but it's a pretty inconsequential article isn't it, and the ending strikes a very sour note for me. Nick complains yesterday about mistaken historical parallels but then brings up Hitler for pretty much no reason at the end of the Eye article.

This is typical Decent fare isn't it - opposed to the Green movement per se, and equally, highly critical of any minor mistakes in terms of using historical parallels from 'decent enemies' but very happy to indulge in exactly the same kind of thing all the same in Decent 'serious' discourse.

Also worth noticing that 'Ratbiter' has been exclusively using one single source for all his political-theme articles in the last two or three months - this was a typical storm in a teacup on Harry's Place about 3 weeks ago, and the 'SNP going shooting' story was on there a while back too. Nick is also milking that case he mentioned in the Obs yesterday for all it's worth. I really don't think it's that interesting, personally, especially since the implications are in the eye of the beholder - apparently she is being targeted for X reason, but there's no real evidence for it other than her word. Nick has a habit of relying on people's word. I notice that Hassan Butt has dropped off his list of police-harassed free speech martyrs...

12/01/2008 09:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really don't think it's that interesting, personally, especially since the implications are in the eye of the beholder - apparently she is being targeted for X reason, but there's no real evidence for it other than her word.

I haven't seen any allegation from any source which would justify the treatment Sally Murrer's received. I think that's the point of the story - even on the police's own account, their actions are excessive. Unless they're playing some cards very close to their chest indeed, and Murrer is in fact a narco-terrorist Ms Big, in which case we're all going to look silly when she comes to trial.

Captcha: 'adscessi'. That'll be... first person singular, perfect tense, I departed quickly or scarpered.

12/01/2008 09:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous: the context here is that MAH was advocating a vote for John McCain over Barack Obama, explicitly based on the single issue of McCain's support for an independent Kosovo. That's the definition of crankery, surely?

12/01/2008 10:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian Brivati gets a mention in a rather fine essay on Our Kingdom - Open Democracy (about the UK as a neo-liberal state). Brivati had a book out about a year ago, which we've probably all forgotten, and which said that Blair and Brown were genuises who had solved all the UK's economic problems. It's no wonder he's keeping a low profile.

Moussaka Man

12/01/2008 11:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like Phil, I've been thinking back to the Bosnian war days - I wasn't in Britain at the time, but I'm not without contacts who were active around the issue then. Young Attila did manage to win a reputation, not for being cranky, but for being - how should I put this? - enthusiastic. He'd spent some time hanging around with the WRP[1] and had picked up some of their less attractive habits, notably a fondness for the polemical vendetta. Especially keen on attacking those far left groups who tried to develop their own positions rather than outsourcing their Yugoslav policy to his mum.[2]

I would have thought that the academic career would have calmed him down a little, but apparently not. Even when he's writing short review articles for academic journals, he seems to find it difficult to avoid inserting paragraphs of dubious relevance having a go at Misha Glenny, the SWP, the nation of Greece or whomever he's irked at at the moment.

I'm tempted to put this down to the common Marxist-Leninist trait of painting yourself into an ideological corner, but I don't think that quite covers it. There are some other Yugo-centric intellectuals or journos who have actually become more bellicose since the war ended. Possibly this is rhetorical inflation coupled with a nostalgia for being active in a big grand cause, in a general context of moving to the right. Or maybe there's something else going on here, I'm not quite sure.

[1] This would be Cliff Slaughter's fragment of the WRP that had imploded in 1985, not the real WRP. Marko may talk tough, but Healy would have eaten him for breakfast.

[2] I stress that I'm not blaming anyone who looked to Branka for answers, as she was the British left's resident Yugoslav expert and few people had any clear idea what was going on. I do think some folks should have cottoned on earlier to the direction she was heading in, but that's another matter.

12/01/2008 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I arrived home this afternoon to find the latest Private Eye in my buzón, so, turning to Ratbiter...

...that last paragraph is a fucking disgrace, isn't it?

12/01/2008 04:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess that would be The End of Decline: Blair and Brown in Power. I suspect that this is going to the great cliche, the dustbin of history. Although Amazon think not, apparently:

Only 1 left in stock--order soon (more on the way).

To the shredder I would have thought.

Even more OT, is Anthony Giddens re-writing history?

Asking those on high incomes to share more of the burden is surely right, although I would like it to have been done years back.

Many warned about the high levels of personal debt and the fragile nature of the housing bubble. Those warnings went largely unheeded.

The implication in the latter being that Giddens was amongst those doing the warning.

12/01/2008 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I made some comments about Ratbiter on Cde. Sunrise's blog that I'll beg your leave to reproduce here... nearly all Cohen's copy these days, it's written in the style of "and I'll tell you another thing".

This could be quite amusing as a stage act, I imagine, but as a short piece in a magazine, it's a little more problematic. What you're doing is saying a lot of things, none of which are necessarily untrue but none of which are obviously entirely true either, and you're coming out with a series of these things, as assertions, in a rush.

Now the thing is, the less what you're saying is obviously true, the more you need to explain it, to make a careful and supported case for it, to consider and deal with objections to your case. The more you need to make that case clear. Which itself means taking one thing at a time. Not spraying everywhere almost at random, in the hope of finally hitting something.

You'll note that the other columns in the Eye don't make this error. Whether I agree with them or not, for instance, Nooks and Corners or even Down on the Farm will expound their view on one outrage at a time - even if there's more than one per column, the subjects are separated out. With Ratbiter/Nick it's all piled on top of one another. Why is this? He's been paid to write polemics in wide-circulation, good-standard periodicals for well over a decade now. Why does he write so badly?

12/01/2008 04:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ejh - disgraceful, maybe, but it's also both cliched and insane, which is an odd and almost cherishable combination.

Splinty - Especially keen on attacking those far left groups who tried to develop their own positions rather than outsourcing their Yugoslav policy to his mum


a) Branka was part of the far left at the time.
b) She had views with which it was quite possible to agree, without any loss of rationality or intelligence.

She made a lot more sense to me than Mary Kaldor, Misha Glenny or Peter Gowan - let alone the kind of defend the heritage of Tito know-nothingism that Benn passed off as a position on Yugoslavia.

Not that I'm still bitter about spending several years feeling out of step with 99% of the Left, or anything...

12/01/2008 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

That percentage seems to me a little exaggerated.

12/01/2008 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I'm adding Ratbiter's last paragaph to my Christmas Quiz - what was Nick Cohen's most disgraceful moment of 2008? Top favourites at the moment are his declaring that David Horowitz was too soft on liberals, and his musing that Mandela was a moral 'coward' and lacked guts.

12/01/2008 07:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As dd notes, Marko's reason for cheer-leading McCain over Obama is evidence enough of his crankery. However, Marko's 'big issue' is of course Serbia rather than Kosovo. Cassandra has nothing on Marko when it comes to dishing out dire prophesies: Oh foolish West, EU, Spain (whatever) ignore the Serbs at your peril! As if recent history (the standard Marko-approved narrative, that is) wasn't enough, Marko has looked back in time and discovered that the Serbs have always been mad, bad and dangerous to know. Slowly but surely, Marko has cultivated in his writings what amounts to an equivalence between the Ustashe and the Chetniks. Phrases like this pop-up: "the Ustasha and Chetnik genocides in Axis-occupied Yugoslavia during World War II". Only on planet Marko are these both apples. Even Marko can't entirely ignore this rather inglorious period in Croat history, so instead he levels the field. One might be forgiven for thinking that it was Zagreb that the Luftwaffe flattened. Back to his latest offering:

"In Kosova, the consequences of EU appeasement of Serbia are beginning to make themselves felt, with the Kosovars - up till now the most pro-Western nation in the Balkans - uniting in opposition to the form EU policy is taking. Their opposition is manifesting itself in mass demonstrations, but there are ominous signs that resistance is also taking a more extreme form: on 14 November, a bomb attack was carried out on the EU representative office in Pristina, with a group calling itself the ‘Army of the Republic of Kosova’ claiming responsibility, and threatening further attacks against Kosovo’s Serb minority. Pursuing the will o’ the wisp of Serbian goodwill over Kosova, we have consequently let down our own Kosovar ally to such an extent that we risk engendering a new terrorist-extremist threat in this sensitive spot."

I think it is time: Nurse, the screens!


12/01/2008 10:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I opened the current Eye especially to check (I'm a bit behind and haven't even finished the last issue yet), that's in bad taste! Seriously.
Great cartoon by Newman on the same page though.

12/01/2008 11:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ejh - I did say 'feeling'. I have had a couple of people tell me subsequently that large swathes of the Left held positions which were either close to mine or within civilised debating distance, which certainly wasn't the way it seemed at the time. Which suggests that I got it wrong at the time - but that's difficult to take on board without invalidating my memories of the period, which ironically would compound my sense of isolation.

Politics does seem unnecessarily difficult sometimes.

12/01/2008 11:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil, I can assure you that I don't really have any dogs in the fight of who said what on the London left in the early 90s. I have big disagreements with Glenny; a whole other set of disagreements with Gowan; Mary Kaldor I thought didn't have a clue what she was talking about. I was informed really by my own experiences and much more by my extended family. There were a lot of people close to me who had got the rough end of Titoism and a lot more who got the rough end of humanitarian intervention.

My memory of the British left at the time was that there were rather a lot of people who held positions close to your own. The big exception was the SWP, but they were very studiously neutral and often quite paranoid about the accusation of being pro-Serb. So the big argument was between people who bought into the idea of the oppressor nation and collective guilt, and people who didn't want to say anything concrete.

I don't as it goes blame Branka for being Branka, she had her reasons for the way she went. I did think her left credentials should have been shot to pieces after Knin, but apparently not.

12/02/2008 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I've said before that the Yugoslav war is one of the places where Decency has its roots: it's where a lot of leftists found themselves, perhaps for the first time, supporting armed intervention from the West and a lot of Decent tropes (the demanding of condemnations, the characterisng of other peoples opinions according to what they apparently imply - "objectively" - rather than what acually are) were widely used in the period.

So it's not particularly unreasonable that the SWP were paranoid about being described as pro-Serbian, given that they supported the right of Croatian secession (or that they objected to being characterised as pro-Milosevic, given that they were loudly keen on his overthrow). It doesn't necessarily follow that they were right about these things or about any others, but what was intolerable was to see people told that they were objectively supporters of Serbian genocide because they were against dropping the arms boycott or against the West joining the war. And of course once people start thinking it OK to do that sort of thing, it's not something they tend to stop.

12/02/2008 09:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whether I agree with them or not, for instance, Nooks and Corners or even Down on the Farm will expound their view on one outrage at a time - even if there's more than one per column, the subjects are separated out. With Ratbiter/Nick it's all piled on top of one another. Why is this?

I think it's a mistaken belief that he is writing in their house style (and this is also a fault of the Eye subs). Nooks and Corners has built up a set of assumed truths (eg Foster being awful no matter what) and a lot of Eye columnists are the same, which for me leads towards tedium (eg Street of Shame being fixated on a couple of convictions for violence and endlessly listing Desmond's porn channels titles).

The problem for Nick is that most of his Ratbiter pieces are lifted direct, with no real fact-checking or wider context, from Harry's Place (kerching, but there's a good reason for bringing this up i promise). HP's house style is a bastardised version of the Eye approach described above - ie they will work very hard to 'prove', in a deeply unconvincing manner, that Counterpunch 'is a neo-Nazi magazine' or some such, and then this will be treated as accepted fact, often without even a link to the piece which 'proved it', in all subsequent pieces.

The problem is that this is clearly terrible journalistic technique on HP, 'edited' by a bunch of non-journalists, and yet Nick seems to have carried it over, probably because he spends too long reading dodgy, web-only stuff that tells him what he wants to hear (ie the set of 'fellow democrats' links on decentpedia) and he does not seem to be even bothering to read contradictory sources any more. In fact I'm not sure what he reads any more. His latest Standpoint piece attacks an imaginary set of British novelists for not dealing with finance, over a month and a half after there were a spate of much more detailed and nuanced approaches to the same subject both online and in print. When he based his Obs column on Jonathan Bate's Standpoint article he managed to expose himself as a 'selective' reader, too.

And at the heart of this problem with web-reliance is the fact that these Ratbiter pieces are deeply inconsequential. A story about a politician going shooting and being slightly mean to their kids is uninteresting unless you have a deep-seated and poorly-thought-through grudge, as HP and Nick do, against the party that politician they belong to; and this 'exposure of green-brown alliance', which is what it was intended as, is similarly uninteresting. small political party in having vaguely poor vetting procedure shocker - and the man in question has since left the party.

When stuff this weak, which would only warrant a chuckle-worthy paragraph at best, is given as much space as Nick's is, it needs all the extra guff around it to make it seem interesting - but the problem is that the guff needs a lot more space to even make sense. The tortured leaps in logic that are needed to establish the SNP as pro-fascist don't really work when detailed in a long Decentiya piece or in a series of long HP posts, and when they're added to a single (or even double) column in the Eye they look pissweak and can be deconstructed very easily, as proven by the interminable 'Ratbiter bitten' letters which follow almost every single column.

And this is where we return to the central development in Nick's style over the last 5 years - it's another interweb-inspired development. He is employed by the Obs because the majority of its readers dislike him - guaranteed online traffic. And these Eye pieces seem designed to piss readers off. A lapse in editorial judgment, in my eyes, as it devalues a brand i used to cherish. But evidently Hislop and Wheen disagree.

12/02/2008 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

The book review in that issue is rather Decent, too. I can't remember what is was about though.

12/02/2008 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

David Hare.

12/02/2008 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been reading Private Eye for more than 30 years, on and off. While it has had its ups and downs in that period, it does seem to me that it is going through a particularly sticky patch at the moment. I suspect that journalists now have other outlets for stories that the dead-tree press won't publish (such as their own blogs or on-line newsletters) so Private Eye has got stuck with a very limited range of themes (badgers, Desmond, Worstgroup).

Nick's "argumentum ad Nazium" does seem to mark another step donwads though.

12/02/2008 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My memory of the British left at the time was that there were rather a lot of people who held positions close to your own.

I can think of John Palmer, Ken Livingstone, Mary Kaldor just about (although I always thought she basically wanted a kinder gentler Dayton), but then I'm into professional activists, minute Trot groups and people who weren't even on the Left. The Bosnian cause wasn't supported by any Left organisation of anywhere near the SWP's scale, or any Left spokesperson with the visibility of Pinter, Pilger or, um, that American linguist guy, name escapes me.

the big argument was between people who bought into the idea of the oppressor nation and collective guilt, and people who didn't want to say anything concrete

Meanwhile, of course, I thought the people identifying Milosevic and Mladic with Serbia, and Serbia with The Serbs, were their sympathisers. Glenny in particular used to adopt this tone that reminded me of an indulgent owner of a large dog - did the man provoke you then? silly man, should have known not to provoke the Serbs, shouldn't he?

I was more into the idea of Bosnia-Herzegovina not being dismembered by a combination of force and guile - and when that cause began to be lost, of the legitimate government thereof being equipped to defend itself. I couldn't (and still can't) see any good reason for lining up with, um, Tory bloke, wears glasses, funny hair.

But hey. All a long time ago and superseded to some extent by the argument over Kosovo - on which I'm prepared to admit that I was wrong, and you and Marko were right.

12/02/2008 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The David Hare review wasn't too bad, I thought. I think he's been getting pretty lazy and sanctimonious, and this play seems to be part of that - it also seems to suffer from John updike 'Terrorist' syndrome whereby everyone is related to semior government officials.

Though it seems odd that it was in the books bit as it is a review of the play, right down to descriptions of audience reactions. however I'd rather they branched out in that manner than review yet a-bloody-nother celeb autiobiography which is - shock horror - boring and badly-written.

I always think it's a bit rough to criticise theatre audiences for laughing at comedy, even if it is broad. Hare's play is criticised for having the PM say that he's been to church but Hislop had that as a running joke for about 10 years - is the beef genuinely only that Hare's play is a fiction? at least the Eye review didn't fall into the Aaronovitch trap of deciding that laughter or applause means something it obviously doesn't...

12/02/2008 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

If you're looking for Decency in the current Eye can I recommend the Letter From Tblisi?

It may be the only Letter From I've ever seen that constituted a defence of the government described.

12/02/2008 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

or any Left spokesperson with the visibility of Pinter, Pilger or, um, that American linguist guy, name escapes me.

What about Christopher Hitchens?

12/02/2008 03:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear God, I've just realised I never got my Eye this fortnight. I know I didn't cancel my subscription...

As for the former South Slav entity, I try not to get too annoyed about what people were saying years ago. But if Marko ever calls me a Nazi again, I'll go round to his house and feed him his socks.

12/02/2008 03:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Tblisi letter is really strange. it's nowhere near as detailed as they usually are and adds precisely nothing to the understanding of the subject, which again is odd - it reads like a pro-Georgia report written shortly after the conflict as opposed to some sort of new update on the situation. I wonder why they bothered to include it. Particularly odd is the scorn on the use of the word 'regime' - it's pretty much universally agreed by those who don't have an anti-Russian axe to grind that Saakashvili was not democratically elected - and his election was certainly less democratic than that of Putin, who is 'prime minister' in inverted commas...

12/02/2008 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

it's nowhere near as detailed as they usually are

which leads me to suspect - not based on much, I accept - whether it really did come from a Georgian source.

12/02/2008 03:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since this is Aaro watch, he's got a column on Mumbai in the times today. it seems to have been written by a simpleton for an audience of simpletons and is as scattergun as Nick Cohen's latest pieces in the Eye and in standpoint. The coda is 'why kill the Rabbi' (who appears to have been killed in crossfire during the rescue as opposed to being murdered before it) and the piece includes this passage:

Why invade the small headquarters of a small outreach sect of a small religion, which far from being even a big symbol of anything, you would almost certainly need a detailed map and inside knowledge even to find?

shorter Aaro, answering his own question - because these terrorists are not only thick but also brainwashed. And I've no doubt that this is partly true - as is the fact that the men are likely to have been anti-Semites.

All the same it seems odd that Aaro lingers on the fact that none of them are ever likely to have met a Jew before. I'm sure a lot of hardline supporters of the Iraq war had never met an Iraqi either. The point he's trying to make is 'the terrorists were brainwashed' which is fair enough, but he does it in a very odd way. And to go back to the part I quoted - it is by no means apologising for terrorism to suggest that the conflation of Israelis and Jews, which is not always made by anti-semites, leads those already radicalised by western actions in the middle east to consider all Jews a target. Put simply, the reason these Jews were targetted is less because they were Jewish and more because they were considered by the terrorists to be Israeli - as indeed most of them were. They were targeted because thy were seen as part of the GB/US/Israeli alliance in the ME - they were targeted for the same reason the Brits and US citizens were singled out. There is a clear antisemitic undertone to it all, granted. Reprehensible, yes, but to ignore the existence of this geopolitical reality is to feign ignorance, which is what Aaro is doing throughout the piece. oh and:

young, cool-looking men with the grenades and the machineguns.

I really don't think anyone would claim that they looked cool.

12/02/2008 08:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aaro's article on Mumbai was boilerplate Decentism.

Its the ideology stupid.

It also certainly confirms that it was really Dave posting at HP last week. I hope he posts more often.

It also had some very strange passages:

I'm sure there are plenty of Deobandi followers who are in no way violent or dangerous, but one sees here an ideology, a psychosis in search of a grievance, not an expression of an existing grievance. And it will always find a grievance.

A psychosis in search of a grievance?

Is a mental disturbance - i.e. a psychosis the same as an ideology? Isn't he conflating two very different things? Adhering to an ideology ,even a very unpleasant one, surely doesn't automatically equate to suffering from a psychosis.

He then engages in a rather unconvincing bit of amateur psychoanalysis.

But what arises instead is a political-religious movement of men espousing violent self-righteousness, impossible purity and hatred of human complexity. No wonder the target was cosmopolitan Mumbai, with its foreigners, minorities, its maddening mix of people and moralities, all of them diluting the one, true, narrow way.

How on earth can Aaro possibly know the motivations of those who carried out the attacks? Call me a hardcore empiricist but I really dislike how in the immediate aftermath of these kinds of attacks, but before anything concrete is revealed about the perpetrators, commentators (left and right) pile in with fairly predictable pet theories.

12/03/2008 12:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder why they bothered to include it. Particularly odd is the scorn on the use of the word 'regime' - it's pretty much universally agreed by those who don't have an anti-Russian axe to grind that Saakashvili was not democratically elected

This isn't true. Both OSCE and EU sent observers to the Presidential election and reported that it met democratic standards, notwithstanding some irregularities. There have been views expressed to the contrary, but certainly not 'pretty much universal agreement' about anything at all.

12/03/2008 12:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, we'll have to disagree about Saakashvili.

I really dislike how in the immediate aftermath of these kinds of attacks, but before anything concrete is revealed about the perpetrators, commentators (left and right) pile in with fairly predictable pet theories.

And hilariously, Aaro rails at people for doing the exact same thing at the beginning of his piece (including a swipe at standard Decent enemy Arundahti Roy).

What I find so odd is his feigning ignorance. Claiming it's either psychosis or ideology, neither of which are really defined in any great depth despite a nod towards Jason Burke who i sincerely doubt is happy with Aaro appropriating his work for these ends. If Aaro is meant to add something, a good few days after the siege is over, it's depressing that this deeply confused piece is the best he can come up with.

What's weirdest is that Aaro asks 'why the Rabbi' but not 'why the Brits'. Is the targetting of Brits and Americans taken as understandable then? Does it not need 'explanation' in the way that Aaro unconvincingly 'explains' the targetting of the Rabbi?

It feels like about 3 separate pieces shunted together.

12/03/2008 08:37:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

This isn't true. Both OSCE and EU sent observers to the Presidential election and reported that it met democratic standards, notwithstanding some irregularities.

Well, sort of.

12/03/2008 09:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Apologies...) Nick's/Ratbiter's column this week will be about [drum roll] Jon Snow!:

12/03/2008 10:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12/03/2008 10:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's pretty much all lifted from a Rod Liddle column. I'm never convinced by this kind of cherrypicking approach to 'media bias'. it makes for easy copy but unconvincing analysis. Nick will, all the same, probably steal from it for the next Standpoint piece he writes. After all the examples in this are more based in reality than his 'the BBC considers the Iraq war an acceptable reason to blow 52 people up' claims, which he repeats ad nauseam.

The word 'terrorism' was all over the BBC reports as were analyses to do with the aim of 'making India a Muslim country'. The problem is, as someone up there hinted, that we still don't really know what these people wanted at all. And until these things are known then it's actually less journalistically accurate to call the actions terrorism - unless all rampages, regardless of whether the intentions are known or not, are called terrorism as a first port of call by all media.

That's the hallmark of pieces like this. the NYT reports very factually and calmly. and the writer wants it to jump to conclusions - as do decents the world over. Witness the idea that shouting 'allah akbar' from a building is evidence of, well, anything other than these people considering themselves Muslims.

12/03/2008 10:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gosh that's a terrible article by Tom Gross. But then he used to write for the Sunday Telegraph so...

I think our broadcasters are correct not to use 'boo words' like terrorism. It has no widely accepted definition and inevitably would be used in a selective manner. I also think they are correct not to speculate on motivations before more is known. The article also smeared the Beeb with this accusation of anti-semitism:

For some time, many have argued that an element of anti-Semitism has distorted the way the BBC covers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But now, following the Mumbai events, we can perhaps see that anti-Semitism may even be at work in the way the BBC covers foreign news in general.

many have argued ?

Many wingnuts have argued surely?

12/03/2008 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger pj said...

"Even the Times's British equivalent, the Guardian, began its news story..."

So while we accuse the NYT and BBC of anti-semitism the Guardian is now not? I'm very confused.

12/03/2008 01:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hm - that article is rather predictable if you do a bit of background on Mr Gross too... in fact it seems to be a regurgitated list of his pet hates. his wikipedia entry also looks very, ahem, complimentary...

12/03/2008 04:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just got my hands on the latest Private Eye on a stroll through town. As noted above that ''The Greens! The Mooslims! The Nazis!' piece is fucking dumb even by Ratbiter's imposingly low standards. That last paragraph could have been written by Jonah 'Liberal Fascism' Goldberg.


12/03/2008 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the list of people writing recommendations on Gross's work, which appear on his website alongside his tributes to the 'colossus' Ariel Sharon who had an 'outstanding political and military career', probably tell us all you need to know about Mr Gross. Its a veritable roll-call of wingnuttery.

Simon Sebag-Montefiore, Mad Mel, Stephen Pollard, Clive Davis, Julie Burchill, Peter Hitchens, Andrew Roberts, Norman Podhoertz, Mark Steyn and Charles Johnson (LGF)

How desperate for publicity do you have to be before you start putting endorsement from Little Green Footballs on your website?

12/03/2008 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Aaro is always awful on world events, presumably because he knows very little about it. There are two things that anybody commenting on Mumbi should know:
1) While this was a very well organised attack (and clearly not intended as a suicide raid), there was nothing terribly new about it except for the target. Bombs having been routinely going off in India for a while now - but this is the first attack to target the elites. The comparisons to 9/11 would only hold up if 9/11 had targeted luxury hotels, and had been preceeded by attacks on malls in small town America.

2) Only a moron could seriously argue that attackers from Kashmir are somehow only motivated by ideology. Its the same bullshit you hear about Palestine, or Lebannon. These people hate us because they're sub-human - rather than these people hate us because of our brutal policies.

Incidentally I'm amazed so many people still read Private Eye. I find it pretty unreadable these days.

12/04/2008 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I think more than any other publication I can think of, "it is what it is" applies to Private Eye. There's always been loads of pisspoor stuff in it, but the stuff in the back, plus the occasional piece nearer the front and some of the cartoons keep it worth subscribing to. To my mind the middle sections have been lazy for years and there's too much stuff which derives from the droning-on Right, but it still plays a role that no other magazine seems prepared to play.

And no other bastards seem interested in the fact that the Spectator's chess correspondent is a serial plagiarist.

12/04/2008 06:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a local government person I do enjoy Rotten Boroughs, but I usually read it in the shop rather than actually buying the magazine.

The quality of the satirical material does seem to have plunged in the last few years. I'm sure there was a point where it was frequently genuinely amusing. Now the response is more "yes, I see what you've done there..."

12/04/2008 07:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It'll pick up once Cameron is in power.

12/04/2008 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger BenSix said...

Come now friends, be of good cheer,

They've released another issue of Democratiya.

12/05/2008 05:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew Bostom seems like a fairly ripe character.

12/05/2008 07:06:00 PM  

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