Sunday, February 08, 2009

Another Unfortunate Victim of the Recession

Sorry D2, I know we're not watching N*** C***n, but from the comments to the last post, this review has to be seen to be believed. Or not. I've seen it and (Victor Meldrew voice) I don't believe it.

Our Nick's had a hard time of it. First there was the pay thing with the Staggers, then there was the continuing comedy disaster of Standpoint (now back online). Now, he's too poor to review hardbacks. Young Master Goldberg's opus came out ten months ago. Do Observer reviewers have to go to Waterstone's and pay cash themselves now? You do realise that if he'd fawned over the original publication, the paperback (in stores now!) would have a quote from the author of 'Waiting for the Etonians.' But now, not.

See also Dave Noon and of course Sadly, No! What passes for research in Jonah Goldberg land.

Update 12:07 pm. You know, I predicted that Nick would review 'Liberal Fascism.' And then I took it back. And here's me on Jonah Goldberg's praise for Enoch Powell.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will love the Absurder picture editor forever for illustrating this article with a photo of George Clooney on a rally in support of Darfur. Hang on, Nick - wasn't that one of the causes the left has shamefully ignored in favour of the evil Palestinians?

Between this and the letters page over the last few weeks, I think the Review editors are wilfully trying to undermine Decency.

2/08/2009 11:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On connected theme, any chance that Nick did the TV review in this week's Private Eye? 'Remote Controller' vigorously defends the BBC decision not to broadcast the Gaza Appeal (while also somehow implying that they're evil Libruls nonetheless). Very unusually, there were editorial interpolations of demurral. A '(Really? Ed.)' after Nick (?) suggested that the critics of the BBC over Gaza appeal had no good arguments. Later on, something like: '(For another view on this, see letters in next issue. Probably. Ed.)'.

Surely it's Nick ventriloquising Remote Controller here. Francis Wheen would have more sense, wouldn't he?

2/08/2009 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Graham Linehan's blog is called Why, That's Delightful! (it's mostly about poker, though). If I were starting a blog called Ye Gods, That's Awful! that review would have pride of place. I had to read that first sentence about four times before I realised it wasn't ironic. (Which it damn well should be, considering that by the end of the review Cohen's acknowledged that Jonah Goldberg's politics are batshit insane.)

If I started fisking this I would literally be here all day, but one small point - how the hell does he fit Wilson's Red Scare into his leftists-are-fascists narrative? It was Communists (and anarchists, and Wobblies) who were getting locked up, for goodness' sake. It's a bit like claiming Hitler for the Left on the grounds of the Night of the Long Knives. (I realise Goldberg probably does claim Hitler for the Left, but that's by the way.)

2/08/2009 02:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seriously bonkers.

Talking of rigorous, cutting-edge, world leading research I see uber-Decent Dennis Macshane has not been appointed to the editorial board of this media monitoring organisation

If anyone can find a more absurd excuse for 'research' I'll personally buy them dinner at El Bulli.

2/08/2009 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

I reckon NC is trying to gently weasle out of his Euston position but disguising his tracks along the way by obfuscating "left" "liberal" "left founded in the right" bla bla bla. I've only skimmed his Absurder piece today but there's lots to unpick.

2/08/2009 02:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is just a shocking level of intellectual poverty at work in both the book and the review, isn't there? But Nick has a track record in thinking that things like this:

Fascism was a pagan movement, whose mystic tropes are repeated by new age healers, vegetarians and greens.

prove that teh greens = teh nazis. and he is now claiming that Goldberg's equation of vegetarians with Nazis works? Guilt by smeary, often tenuous associations, it won't convince anyone who isn't already convinced. and Nick is convinced.

i think Nick read this book a while ago - it inflects a lot of what he's written in the Eye recently and his Standpoint columns have developed a nasty habit of using the word 'leftist' as a term of abuse. the obs probably wouldn't run a review until the paperback came out.

a bracing and stylish examination of political history

dear god. STYLISH? i think this encapsulates nick's main problem, which has developed since 2002. Not only does he not seem to read much of anything, he has never studied history; and he seems to consider clearly rubbish and untrustworthy but amusingly-titled 'history' books to be the source of all his historical opinions - witness in Standpoint his preference for the 'history writing' John O'Farrell, an unfunny comedian, over Simon Schama.

an alternative history of an America that Simon Schama lacks the intellectual courage to confront

i don't know what to say. I guess goldberg is braver than Schama, in a sense; but it's not an admirable bravery.

Incidentally i thought that we were allowed to watch Nick when what he is writing is relevant to Decency in general, and the other column in the obs today is worth a look, if only to see him flail around hopelessly, again, about the financial crisis. Funny that he calls Obama an isolationaist the day after Biden said that America was going to require more from Europe than Bush had...

2/08/2009 03:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fascism was a pagan movement, whose mystic tropes are repeated by new age healers, vegetarians and greens.

Not even true, by the way; the specific version of paganism that the Nazi secret societies were generally into (Wotanism, with bits and pieces of Satanism - the American influence was quite strong) has basically nothing to do with the British-derived version of Druids.

2/08/2009 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I went back and reread that first sentence. Has Nick ever chucked about 30s references? (I get my Decents mixed up sometimes.) I'm sure Chamberlain was a 'moderate conservative.' (And I don't have Ian Kershaw's bio of Hitler to hand, but IIRC, due to the opportunism and machinations of 'moderate conservatives', Hitler wasn't slapped down as he should have been. He was locked up, but he had an easy time in prison, easy enough to write 'Mein Kampf', and released very early. He was only guilty of the deaths of 14 policemen, after all.)

That said, there's a bit of truth in the relative harmlessness of moderate conservatives: Heath rather than Thatcher for instance. But not a great deal.

TS Eliot, who was pretty right-wing (and an anti-Semite) wrote of himself: "How unpleasant to meet Mr Eliot!/With his features of clerical cut./And his conversation, so nicely,/Restricted to what precisely/And if and perhaps and but." If modern conservatives were more like Eliot, they'd write better books.

2/08/2009 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Ooh, I can bring punk into this. Shorter Nick: when the Pistols sang, '... The Fascist regime...' in 1977, they nailed Callaghan's despotism as limp political commentators failed to do.

And what is all this bollocks Nick talks about courage?

2/08/2009 05:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The very week 'Liberal Fascism' came out, Jonah Goldberg had a column in the LA Times praising the record of the straightforwardly fascist and illegitimate government of General Pinochet.

I think even the watchful folks at Sadly, No! missed that.

A good example as any of who actually is a fan of fascism here, and what Nick has become an abject and ignorant apologist for.

2/08/2009 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Nick's pretty vacant Chardonnay Chap, but I would contest that T.S Eliot was an anti-semite in the modern sense of the definition. And the debate rages on I've read somewhere that he was actively involved in helping Jewish refugees from europe get into the US and UK.

2/08/2009 06:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christ on a pedalo, that's awful. How in fuck's name has he ended up like this?

Von Pseud

2/08/2009 06:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Avant-garde Nazi philosophers - Heidegger, Paul de Man, Carl Schmitt - are venerated by nominal leftists in the postmodern universities, who love their contempt for traditional morality and standards of truth.

Which universities is Nick talking about? Most university philosophy departments are Analytic...

Nazism was the first example of modern identity politics. All that mattered was whether you were German, Slav or Jew.

And this is just such ahistorical nonsense I don't even know how to start attacking it...

2/08/2009 07:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'You do realise that if he'd fawned over the original publication, the paperback (in stores now!) would have a quote from the author of 'Waiting for the Etonians.''

How about:

'Liberal Fascism is not a clean blow to the jaw, but a multiple rocket launcher of a book'

Sounds like a line edited out of a straight-to-video 80s action movie:

'Sharleen, why should I care that Johnny Balzac has been caught in Cambodia'?
'You don't understand Hank. This book he was researching on liberal treachery wasn't a clean blow to the jaw. We're talking a multiple rocket launcher of a book'.
(snaredrum starts up)

2/08/2009 07:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TS Eliot, who was pretty right-wing (and an anti-Semite)

Just to add - right-wing yes, certainly, but antisemitism is debatable. The Anthony Julius book isn't all that convincing a lot of the time and relies on a very odd way of reading poetry (though parts of it are certainly compelling and persuasive). In general I prefer Ricks on the subject.

There are some pretty good 'right-wing' writers of fiction out there - Alan Hollinghurst could probably be labelled as such, though he wouldn't be all that happy about the tag. And the very clearly right-wing Martin Amis still writes good stuff occasionally, if you can avoid anything about Islam...

Can anyone be bothered to write in to the Obs and point out the inconsistencies in this celebration of Goldberg, a Pinochet and Enoch-loving, self-confessed racist, blogger, as a right-headed, progressive 'intellectual'?

oh yeah:

Liberal Fascism is not a clean blow to the jaw, but a multiple rocket launcher of a book

Pretty unfortunate choice of phrase, given the recent conflict in Israel/Palestine...

2/08/2009 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

Well, I can certainly think of a reason why a tedious hack who's written a dreadful book about how fascist the left are would give a good review to another dreadful book about how fascist the left are.

BTW, I strongly disagree with AW verdict that Nick is off-topic - surely he is the very embodiment of BB's No need to be a cunt about it Decency test. Outside of Mad Mel, I have a hard time thinking of a working journalist who violates the rule more often or with such giddy abandon.

2/08/2009 07:39:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Yeah, OK, I should have left the anti-Semitism thing alone. I really just meant that although Eliot has some unpleasant facets, he's a very good model of a conservative intellectual. Nuanced and refreshing.

Totally agree about the rocket-launcher bit: what were the subeds thinking letting that through?

FR: indeed it makes sense for Nick to review 'LF' - that's why I originally predicted it. The problem with Nick is that he's now incredibly repetitive, and linking to his stuff possibly counts as an endorsement of sorts.

2/08/2009 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Indeed CC. P.J O'Rourke is another example, though no doubt I'll get blasted for saying so.

2/08/2009 07:59:00 PM  
Blogger Sangiovese Fellow said...

First of all, I've been following this blog for months - thanks for all the stimulating stuff! - but I'm only now making my first post, partly because Cohen's ramblings are now taking him into my academic area of political philosophy so I may be able to contribute something. I won't be able to contribute often as I have a load of commitments on, but I hope I can say something worthwhile this time.

Firstly, it's worth realising that that this "green=Nazi" stuff has a history on the right here in the US (I'm a British expat, by the way) where a lot of money was ploughed into conservative think tanks by large corporations in the early 1990s, the aim being to discredit environmentalists by painting them as extremists. This went along with a political tactic of greenwashing environmentally destructive industries via PR campaigns and campaigning in DC to roll back environmental protection laws. (The movement reached its apogee in the Bush administration, with huge rollbacks accompanied by hysteria about "ecoterrorism", but I digress). A key text in this movement was Anna Bramwell's "Ecology in the 20th Century" (1989), which claimed that there was a green side to Nazism, and that modern ecological politics was thus irretrievably polluted; the claim was ignored by greens at first but leaped upon with glee by anti-environmentalists and US conservative think-tanks, none of whom were concerned to check the veracity of claims that they found so useful. It's a curious irony that Bramwell, a maverick British thinker who stays out of the limelight and has a very studiously ambiguous turn of phrase, is reputedly a revisionist who has been associated with David Irving (albeit discreetly), and so when she speaks of ecology being polluted, she quite possibly means that it's polluted through having become left-wing, democratic, pacifist, etc, rather than through the Nazi taint - but naturally her American admirers don't know this, and simply read her the way they find congenial. Moreover, most of the claims that she makes, and almost all the claims made by the US wingnuts and dutifully repeated by Decent Nick, don't stand up to scrutiny. For instance:

1) Hitler's much cited vegetarianism occurred on doctor's orders, had nothing to do with his politics, and was inconsistently followed since he actually missed meat and sometimes fell off the wagon.
2) The conservation measures passed by the Nazis stopped around 1936, and in fact the Weimar Republic passed more environmental legislation than the Nazis did.
3) The "Blood and Soil" slogan predated Nazism in peasant traditions and was adopted by the Nazis as a vote-winner to attract rural conservatives, but with the crucial change of emphasis that all the emphasis was to be on "blood", construed in Nazi racial terms, and NOT on "soil" in ecological terms. The German cult of the forest as a touchstone of German national identity also long predates Nazism, and was similarly tapped into in the short term for predominantly electoral purposes.
4) The Nazi interest in organic farming occurred once the nation was at war, and was motivated greatly by the fact that a nation on a permanent war footing will be better off if it isn't dependent on imported fertilizers for its food production - Churchill did something quite similar with "Dig for Victory".
5) The pagan aspect of Nazism, as DD rightly observes, was of a Wotanist type and thus quite distinct from views held by today's New Age green pagan types.
6) Shading into this, the concept of "nature" held by the Nazis, and by fascist groups more generally, is completely different from that held by left environmentalists today. Contemporary greens generally see both nature and society in terms that validate both social and moral equality and that emphasise symbiosis and cooperation. By contrast, fascism of all types emphasises and glorifies radical inequality of power and rank: in the Nazi formulation, nature was a scene of racialised Social Darwinist conflict, a Manichean arena based on force and survivalism in which Aryan purity was the key to strength, and in which all society should be governed under rigid hierarchy. Both movements may claim to respect "nature" as a touchstone of validity, it's true, but then so do many other political traditions; the ideas of nature that Nazism and modern green parties espouse are about as far away from each other as you can get. (If you want an excellent treatment of all these themes by a serious high quality historian, I recommend "The Green and the Brown: A History of Conservation in Nazi Germany" by Frank Uekoetter. It's a book that deals with all these issues seriously, intelligently and with proper intellectual diligence, and sadly, on present evidence it is therefore a book that Nick Cohen almost certainly won't read).

Following on from this, I would argue that it's the emphasis on radical inequality that defines fascism as a movement of the political right; though the concentration of state power in Communist states had very similar hierarchical results, the claim on the far left was always this was a necessary interim step, not that it was the intended end, whereas Fascism sought to entrench, develop and maximise these inequalities. Moreover, the key ideological components that motivated the horrors of Nazism - Social Darwinism, absolutist purity discourses, concepts of innate racial inequalities, a horror of cultural mixing - are all of a right wing pedigree. In more general terms, if one wants to establish the existence of meaningful overlaps between different movements as part of a reasoned argument, and to claim that the overlaps are dangerous because one of the movements committed atrocities, I think one needs to establish (a) whether the overlaps are real, (b) whether they are significant, and (c) whether they relate in ideological or motivational terms to the relevant aspects of the atrocity-committing group, i.e. whether the groups share a feature that actually connects to the reasons for the atrocities, rather than to something else. The last of these is important, because even foul regimes do things that are relatively neutral or even good at times, and so not just any old resemblance will do; both the Nazis and the US government have used public funds to support mechanized industry for example, but that doesn't make for any meaningful parallel between Nazism and American democracy. Indeed, I think that the refusal to make or think about such distinctions, and a preference for unsubstantiated smears over evidence based argument, are two quite common indicators of a totalitarian mindset, and alas, these tendencies are found all over Decency.

Finally, I think it's really sad just how far Nick Cohen has sunk. In the 1990s and early this century, he was one of the few journalists writing who actually dug in, thought for himself and asked real questions about power, New Labour and government. I don't mind admitting, I once greatly admired him. Now, as I've tried to indicate, our champion of the Decent left, while screaming about fascism and betrayal, is reduced to feebly parroting talking points from the US ultra-right, points themselves inspired (with delicious irony) by a controversial historian of apparent revisionist sympathies. Unscrupulous smear tactics, rightists pretending to be leftists, dishonest rewriting of history, a failure to respect values of truth and honesty, Manichean views of the nature of the world - if Nick is really worried about the rise of a totalitarian mindset around these traits in Britain, he might try looking a lot nearer home for its propagators. As the old sketch has it, "Mote and beam, sir, mote and beam!"

2/08/2009 08:27:00 PM  
Blogger Anglonoel said...

I spotted the piece below in the Mail on Sunday last weekend. Perhaps this inspired our scribe to review the book. (I somehow doubt the origins of the phrase 'Hurrah For The Blackshirts!' made it into Goldberg's magnum opus.)

2/08/2009 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger Sangiovese Fellow said...

Thanks for this, AngloNoel, and apologies for the length of my previous post to anyone who couldn't wade through it. As expected, the predictable green/Nazi stuff popped up again in Goldberg's piece. I wonder if the deeply conservative Mail might like to illustrate Goldberg's argument that it's the left who support fascism by reprinting some of their headlines and editorials on the topic from the 1930s? Funny how they neglected such a splendid opportunity...

2/08/2009 09:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While Jonah and Nick both attempt to re-envision greens, New Age spiritualism, postmodernism, liberalism and anything else they happen not to like as the bastard children of Nazism, it's worth noting a few of the major elements of Nazism and other species of fascism they've set aside:

1) Militarism
2) Imperialism
3) Torture
4) Belief that the left is treacherous and inimical to the well-being of the nation

Some of these things may even have been more significant to the history of Europe than Hitler's vegetarianism.

Sangiovese Fellow - your post was really interesting.

2/08/2009 10:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And don't forget (5) - the same as (4) but 'the left' replaced with 'one particular religious minority group'.

2/08/2009 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger Sangiovese Fellow said...

Thanks for the appreciation, Alex. You hit the nail rather nicely on the head yourself in noting the Decents' selective inability to observe the far more frightening features of fascism that are shared by their allies. Isn't this a perfect illustration of the posturing aspect of Decency too? It's really quite breathtaking that they're so much more interested in making smeary statements of doubtful relevance or accuracy about greens and small left groupings than they are in objecting to (or even noticing) actions and sufferings that genuinely do have fascist resonances and are happening in their own back yard.

2/09/2009 12:05:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

Also, to be short; would that be moderate conservatives like Franz von Papen? Alfred Hugenberg?

2/09/2009 12:46:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Alex, if that's to me, I'm sorry, but I can't remember. I had the books from the library, so I can't check. I stand by my point that - as I recall - moderate conservatives believed they could use the Nazis as a bulwark against socialism (and Hitler was clearly against socialism) and they did not do all they could have done to suppress the Nazi party.

In any case, I don't feel that moderates are always blameless, any more than I believe that radicals are always wrong.

2/09/2009 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

The Nazi Green thing is indeed bollocks, but there is a connection between the extreme right and Greens, traces of which remain today with Zac Goldsmith. Organic food (along with social credit) was an obsession of many British fascists, and a couple of organisations that are still around today (most notably the Soil Association) were founded and run by people that included fascists (the rest wanted to return to Feudal times - which is close to the politics of Teddy Goldsmith, and I suspect Zac).

Also the Ecology party was pretty right wing when founded by Goldsmith, and if memory serves that's the antecedent of today's Green party. You also see traces of it in the Tories still, and it will be interesting to see what affect Zac Goldsmith will have.

Of course that's largely ancient history now - the 70s and Gove's hated hippies took over these organisations back in the 70s. The Green party, in particular, is further left than any other mainstream political party; while the soil association doesn't really have any political views any more.

2/09/2009 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Nazi secret societies were generally into (Wotanism, with bits and pieces of Satanism - the American influence was quite strong) has basically nothing to do with the British-derived version of Druids.

Quite. Modern Wotanists also tend towards fascism, or extreme libertarianism, whereas Druids are pretty left wing in my experience and do a good line in social activism. A decent bunch.

2/09/2009 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Goodrick-Clarke's biog of Savitri Devi goes into some detail on a strain of Deep Ecology that's informed by Savitri and Evola, but that's very much a minority strain in environmentalism, and it doesn't make mainstream Greens into latter-day Nazis any more than liking Mishima's novels makes me a gay Japanese fascist.

Wiccans are a pretty good bunch, as well.

2/09/2009 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The post on this subject on Liberal Democracy has some useful links. If you follow these through you get to some definitions of fascism: Robert O. Paxton is quoted a lot. Goldberg has come to the conclusion that there is a such as thing as liberal fascism by ignoring most of the criteria that are usually used to define fascism. For example, the fascist obsession with powerful leaders really does not seem to fit the Greens, who are forever worrying about whether to have a party leader or spokesperson.

One of the nine "mobilising passions" of fascism cited by Paxton is "an overwhelming sense of crisis beyond the reach of any traditional solutions". Well of course the Greens are pointing out that environmental or resource pressures could cause a crisis beyond the reach of traditional solutions. At this point the "libertarians" jump up and say that Greens talk in this way because they want it to happen so that they can boss people around. That doesn't really seem to me be what most Greens are about: it's more like the character trait of more mainstream political parties!

Moussaka Man

2/09/2009 12:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do like the way by the end of the review even Nick has partially conceeded that closer examination of the claims, viewing cited quotations in context and in their entirety undermines the whole argument. Rather like NC's own recent work.

There's more that could be said, but the latest news is just too sweet. Hassan Butt turns out to have been a fantasist:

Now I'm sure I'm not the only one who strongly suspected this the momemnt he opened his gob. Hard-nosed journalist Nick Cohen though was utterly credulous:

Laugh, enjoy, I did.

2/09/2009 04:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Fascism was a pagan movement"

You fail history Nick Cohen.

2/09/2009 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Certainly it might have surprised General Franco to learn that his was a pagan movement.

2/09/2009 05:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

... and I have a certain difficulty in envisaging Caetano and Salazar as being fond of lentils.

Moussaka Man

2/09/2009 05:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do like the way by the end of the review even Nick has partially conceeded that closer examination of the claims, viewing cited quotations in context and in their entirety undermines the whole argument.

yes - I think the style in general proves the central problem with nick's thinking in recent years. In his heart he knows that the arguments he's making, and those he is convinced by, are illogical and make little sense. But he doesn't care any more - it's clear that prejudice is the guiding force behind most of what he writes nowadays. Witness the repeated bollocks he spouts about Timothy Garton Ash insulting Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who he seems to think is incapable of saying anything that's not true and should also be immune from criticism - Nick was slapped down in grand style by TGA but he won't let the point go. He's let his prejudices boil up into the dominant force behind his opinions. And this is common to many Decents - witness Harry's Place hating on Shami Chakrabati for pretty much no reason, all the time; witness Nick scorning anything to do with the green movement on the grounds of - um - a few of them being rich.

nobody with an iota of self-awareness would claim, as Nick has on multiple occasions now, that hitler being a vegetarian means that all vegetarians are Nazis. and at root this is goldberg's main, deeply unconvincing, argument, isn't it? Hitler occasionally listened to Wagner - Wagner was an antisemite - therefore anyone 'liberal' who listens to music is a fascist. Of course, anyone not liberal who listens to music is not a fascist because - well - they are not lefties so they're ok. or some such bollocks.

That seems to be the standard logic at work. how can anyone take it seriously?

For me this is a problem with polemic, too; Nick seems to have been won over by the idea that it's not the accuracy of what you say that makes you an important public intellectual, it's the overarching narrative you position it in. So his book which detailed some fairly tedious, isolated instances of British lefties doing bad things became a book about the British left per se, with a lot of unconvincing filler which fell apart as soon as you looked at it empirically.

2/09/2009 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I'm a vegetarian, I used to be in Greenpeace, and I like Wagner.

Do I win a prize?

Wiccans are a pretty good bunch, as well.

Are they well wicked?

2/09/2009 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

The Hassan Butt thing has been brewing for a while, but is still funny. On the Harry's Place thread at the time one commenter suggests it might be fantasty and is told that next she'll be suggesting hes an MI6 stooge

2/09/2009 05:45:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

Butt, 28, of Cheetham Hill, Manchester, has been arrested on five occasions by counter-terrorism officers – November 2002, November 2003, December 2004, October 2007 and May 2008.

So he's been arrested annually since 2002 with the exceptions of 2005 and 2006, usually in the autumn. Remarkable.

2/09/2009 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

On the subject of Nick's decline, does anyone else think this corresponds to the rise in popularity of blogging? "Pretty Straight Guys" was pretty good (I preferred Andrew Rawnsley's book on the same subject), but that took on a real political target. New Labour were in government, so actually worth writing about. "Tony Blair believes X" is also a falsifiable proposition whereas "the left believe X" isn't.

Is there a case that political blogging has actually harmed certain writers - eg Nick?

2/09/2009 06:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Is there a case that political blogging has actually harmed certain writers"

Reading too much Harry's Place is not a good way to get a clear view of things. Johann Hari was smart to jump that ship.

2/09/2009 07:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matthew - It's been a long while since I felt like wading into the comments at Harry's Place, but I'm glad that Sue C still does, or did.

And how right she was!

2/09/2009 07:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the subject of Nick's decline, does anyone else think this corresponds to the rise in popularity of blogging? "Pretty Straight Guys" was pretty good (I preferred Andrew Rawnsley's book on the same subject), but that took on a real political target.

I guess the old adage is still true - you're only as good as your sources. And the problem is that the rise of political blogging has coincided with Nick becoming a father, fairly late in his life. The rise of political blogs means that it's easy to sit around at home, and read what looks like a succession of 'scoops' but are in general just the witterings of a madman.

The availability of so much material online will naturally lead journalists, who are notoriously pushed for time, to read the little snippets that you can get from blogs as opposed to reading full books. This undoubtedly explains the clanging factual errors that litter What's Left, which (maddeningly) you could put straight into google to find NC's 'sources', usually Decent or wingnut blogs. Nick has also clearly stopped reading books - the only two he's mentioned in recent years are Liberal Fascism (essentially a crappy wingnut blog in paper form, so not much different from what NC's otherwise reading) and that John O'Farrell 'amusing' history one. Oh and Simon Schama's American century which Nick didn't seem to have actually read, because he claimed it was in a different structure to the accompanying TV show, when in fact they were structured in exactly the same way.

(Incidentally, look back to Nick's Standpoint article on Schama - he claimed that the BBC show was rubbish but the book is great. Then in the Goldberg article NC claimed that Schama is not corageous enough to tackle the material Goldberg does. I wonder how Nick's BBC-bashing standpoint review would have read if Schama had made a progamme about the history of american 'liberal fascism' just before the Obama election? Something tells me that Nick's column about the BBC's 'leftist, anti-american frenzy' would not have been so appreciative.)

It's also clear that most of Nick's Westminster stuff comes from Denis MacShane, and him alone, such is the frequency with which his name is mentioned in the Ratbiter pieces. It would not surprise me at all if MacShane is also the source for Nick's stuff about 'old-school proper leftwingers'.

I guess to sum up this meandering post - it's not so much the content of the political blogs that is the problem, it's the place where reading a lot of these blogs when you're pushed for time leaves you. If you're still reading books and talking to people, it's fine (for all his faults it looks like Oliver Kamm is doing this), but if you're increasingly neglecting your contacts and your reading you're in trouble.

2/10/2009 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

OC, I pretty much agree with all of that. I think there's a 'serendipity' side if you will to reading a real newspaper (a paper paper) - you just come across stuff, especially news. If you get your news from blog linkage, you mostly get columnists, and you only get the ones the blogs you read either agree with or really hate. Goodbye subtlety.

If you're at home, as Nick is, the echo chamber is never far away.

2/10/2009 09:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the reasons Nick is pushing hard on that "moderate conservatism" is honorable-and non -mass-murdery line is that he is getting ready for a conservative government. He wants someone at the top to talk to him, so he is buttering up some tories (witness his recent announcement that David Willets is a 'conservative intellectual').Leaving aside wether "moderate conservatives" did resist fascism where the left did not (!?) - I love the idea that Jonah Goldberg is a "moderate conservate" at all . Somehow I guess the signs of moderation do not include calling Hilary Clinton a fascist, or suggesting Woodrwo Wilson was Mussolini

2/10/2009 11:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spotted today, already for sale in the second hand dept of Waterstones Bloomsbury - a copy of the paperback of Liberal Fascism.

One of the reasons Nick is pushing hard on that "moderate conservatism" is honorable-and non -mass-murdery line is that he is getting ready for a conservative government.

I do think it'll be interesting to see which way Nick decides to go if the tories do end up in power. Will he revert to what made him famous - criticising the government's alliances with dubious businesses? The tories will give him myriad chances to do that... or will he instead stick to tedious leftie-bashing?

I think we all know the answer. But we can all dream...

2/10/2009 02:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does Nick count Douglas Hurd and Malcolm Rifkind as moderate conservatives?

Moussaka Man

2/11/2009 08:13:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Don't be silly, Douglas Hurd and Malcolm Rifkind are 'amoral quietists'. You are forgetting Marko's egg of doom, or whatever it was called.

2/11/2009 09:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to add on the issue of reliance on blogs - it's not a coincidence that the US political blogosphere is generally left-wing, and the British one is generally right-wing. Prolonged opposition breeds that kind of culture. Which is of course a problem for Nick and other 'left-wing' journos who rely on blogs...

Just a thought I had - if Nick genuinsly agrees with goldberg, doesn't that mean that everything he's been saying about the british left getting into bed with the extreme right is rubbish? surely, if goldberg and nick are right, it's actuall a case of getting into bed with the extreme left? etc etc....

behind all that lies the fundamentally uneasy relationship Nick has with the terms left-wing and right-wing...

2/11/2009 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes indeed, I was being silly. So who then, according to Marko's egg theory, are the moderate conservatives? Hague, Gove, Portillo, whoever is the foreign secretary in a Conservative Government?

Moussaka Man

2/11/2009 01:57:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Basically it's OK when they are shiny and youngish and come from the Policy Exchange and can't be right wing as they are gay, that sort of thing.

I think the view was encapsulated in this famous HP (sorry) piece:

2/11/2009 04:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we're wrongly letting Nick off the hook here by talking about "moderate conservatives" in the present tense or by reference only to very recent history, when his review explicitly praises them for having "avoided complicity in the horrors of the last century". He's almost certainly also wrong in that statement, since moderate conservatives in Britain and elsewhere were extremely prominent in appeasing fascism - for instance Orwell reports (in "The Road to Wigan Pier" if I recall correctly) that when the news came through that British volunteers going to fight for the Spanish Republicans were bombed by Mussolini's air force, Conservative MPs stood up in the House of Commons and cheered. As late as 1940, an English translation of "Mein Kampf" appeared in Britain edited from a pro-Hitler standpoint, such had been the enthusiasm for the German dictator from the mainstream right-wing of politics until the Stukas were howling over Poland. (Orwell also reviewed the book and mentioned the editorial slant - funny how these inconvenient facts vanish in Decent treatments of their supposed hero). So it looks like Nick has pressed the Decent Tardis into action again with his judgment here. Alas, he's far more concerned with imaginary appeasement of real but marginal threats today than he is with the facts about moral responsibility for real appeasement of genuine and lethal threats in history.

Sangiovese Fellow

2/11/2009 06:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

when the news came through that British volunteers going to fight for the Spanish Republicans were bombed by Mussolini's air force, Conservative MPs stood up in the House of Commons and cheered

Ah, but those obviously weren't moderate Conservatives. You see? Simple really. (Still, it makes you think. Who'd have thought there were so many Communists in the Conservative Party?)

I may be taking Goldberg too seriously, but I'm starting to think he's developed the Internet dickhead style (lie, smear, always counter-attack, never admit anything) into something even more toxic - a kind of anti-knowledge. His dedication to chiselling odd bits of historical fact away from their context and reassembling them in a mosaic of received ideas and prejudice is, well, remarkable. Read history through the Liberal Fascism filter and you come out not just knowing less than you did before, but less capable of learning anything. I'm almost tempted to read the book.

2/11/2009 07:17:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

As I recall the bombing was of British ships that were bringing supplies, rather than volunteers, to Spain. I don't know if he mentions it in Wigan Pier but he certainly does in the review of Muggeridge's book that I mentioned here a few comments boxes ago.

Not all Conservatives backed Franco and if Hugh Thomas is to be believed, Eden very much didn't (and not just because Franco bombed the Merchant Navy). This might make him a proto-Decent Conservative given that he stood up to Nasser, or however you want to put it.

2/11/2009 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger Sangiovese Fellow said...

I think that's fair comment, EJH, agreed, and I'm happy to defer to Thomas's views about Eden. However my point wasn't to claim that all conservatives supported Franco and the appeasement policy, merely that the majority of them of various stripes did, and that Cohen's statement is thus almost certainly false. I've now checked my Orwell, and you're right about the point of the ships carrying food rather than volunteers; also, my reference should have been to Part 1 of "The Lion and the Unicorn", not to "The Road to Wigan Pier". Apologies. I'm not sure what you mean about Orwell's review of a Muggeridge book - maybe I missed that post - but he certainly mentions the Tory applause/Fascist bombing in his 1943 review of "The Trial of Mussolini" by "Cassius", the latter being a pen name of Michael Foot. Foot's book goes into great details about the immense extent to which British Conservatives pandered to Fascism - heck, even Churchill had warm words for Mussolini in the late 1920s - and so in any case, I think the historical point I was making about Nick Cohen, conservatism and appeasement still stands. Meanwhile, if Nick wants to argue that moderate conservatives alone in politics "avoided complicity in the horrors of the last century", I wonder if he can tell us how many horrors have been caused by Scandinavian social democracy, and how they're worse than the appeasement just mentioned?

2/12/2009 01:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple of months ago, Aussie top history blogger dude Brett Holman spent a few weeks live-blogging the British press from 80 years previously over their coverage of the Second Czech (AKA 'Munich') Crisis. It's here:

Shorter 1938 Manchester Gruaniad: "This Munich deal has sold out the Czechs and we shouldn't have done it unless we really had to, in which case it would be nothing to celebrate."

Shorter 1938 Daily Mail "Chamberlain! Get In!"

We have always been at war with Eastasia.

Chris Williams

2/12/2009 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

"moderate conservatives" would presumably be on the hook for the 1943 Bengal famine, wouldn't they? (3m deaths). In general, Nick's thesis very much relies on "Not Counting N*****s" with respect to European colonies.

2/12/2009 10:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, to be fair to Conservatives it was Amery (supported by Wavell) raising shit in the Cabinet who was over-ruled by Churchill over Bengal, in the concrete matter of where to send fifty thousand tons of grain.

I'm not entirely sure about the 3m figure either. I'd be happy with "in excess of 1.5m". The report's a bit vague, as you might expect.


PS - I know a little bit about this topic. The best thing I've ever done in my life is this:

2/12/2009 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

The Muggeridge review is in comments here.

2/12/2009 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Sangiovese Fellow said...

Thanks, especially to ejh and Chris. If you're interested, the Orwell review of Foot's book is at
I suspect that a reason for Nick's utter confusion over left-wing and right-wing labels these days is that he's partly bought into a common American rightist perception which roughly goes "government = basis of institutional coercive power, worst atrocities = abuses of institutional coercive power, leftism = statism, therefore leftism = blank cheque for every historic evil and cause of such ills". Once you start perceiving things through these distorting spectacles, necessarily equating the left with statism and coercion, then huge chunks of reality go missing or get twisted - left anarchism vanishes from view, along with the realities of economic forms of coercion in the market, the differences between egalitarian and anti-egalitarian types of statism, the cosiness of many conservatives and much of big business with imperialism and dictators, the existence of democratic and successful moderate statism, and so on - and one winds up with idiocies like Goldberg's, saying essentially that anything bad the political right ever did was because, er, they weren't really the right, they were the left! Naturally I'm not saying that Cohen holds to all that stuff, but his flirtations with wingnuttery do seem to have given him a set of half-moon spectacles of this type, as it were, and they sit in front of eyes that were accustomed to seeing the political world in terms of the British independent left tradition. The result is that he sometimes looks at politics through the wingnut half-moons, sometimes over them, and sometimes half-and-half; not surprisingly this causes his view of political affairs to be almost permanently ill-focused, and his resultant movements on the political spectrum to lurch around like a drunken sailor on his last night of shore leave... Just a suggestion as to part of the reason why a clear writer, which Nick once was, has now become so incoherent - make of it what you will.

2/12/2009 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

That's a good review, though it goes skew-wiff in the last couple of paragraphs (of course, it's easy to say this with hindsight). Funny, though ,when he talks about ignominious getaways - I can think of two British monarchs (or would-be monarchs) of the Stuart dynasty who are celebrated for their ignominious getaways.

2/12/2009 06:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot of what Sangiovese Fellow says. In fact I think that there is an emerging Tory theme: New Labour is authoritarian because it is obsessed with the State, why are all you Lefties complaining about New Labour's authoritarianism when you obsess about the State? etc etc. This skirts round the fact that the Tories were much slower to pick up on the New Labour disdain for rights and even supported some of the early steps on that direction. (They also seem to have only decided to start attacking New Labour on this area after Blair departed.) It also skirts around the fact that the need for collective action and decisions is a reality, not an obsession: we share the same space and the same economy so there is a need for collective decisions, and the question is how decisions are made how power is distributed.

I suspect that Nick may be trying to reach out to this position, or find a way that he can link up with it. Although it has been an American way of looking at things, it is emerging here (eg Fascism is left-wing, some of Henry Porter's political analysis of rights) and that's possibly where Nick is trying to head to.

Moussaka Man

2/12/2009 06:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'In fact I think that there is an emerging Tory theme: New Labour is authoritarian because it is obsessed with the State, why are all you Lefties complaining about New Labour's authoritarianism when you obsess about the State? etc etc. This skirts round the fact that the Tories were much slower to pick up on the New Labour disdain for rights and even supported some of the early steps on that direction'

Indeed. Conservatives have been trying to edge in on the civil liberties thing, but look at Boris Johnson. He has increased even Ken Livingstone's CCTV system, expanding it in public transport.

The idea that the Tories are anti-state is a joke: they have done nothing for civil liberties and are just as eager for large-scale state intervention in foreign countries.

2/12/2009 06:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed Tories are not really anti-State but I do think that we'll hear from them more of the discourse that says that New Labour authoritarianism is the fault of the Left (even if the Left were the first to criticise it) because the Left are obsessed with the State and "the collective". That's where I suspect that Nick will link up with them.

Moussaka Man

2/12/2009 10:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Conservatives have been trying to edge in on the civil liberties thing, but look at Boris Johnson. He has increased even Ken Livingstone's CCTV system, expanding it in public transport.

Exactly - and I'm not all that sure that the Tory front bench are keen to pursue civil liberties all that strongly as a piolitical cause. David Davis was sacked for trying to make it one of the Tory core policies; and the reasons for this are as cynical as those of Labour - it looks like it's a votewinner in the swing constituencies. The tories oppose ID cards on the basis of cost, not principle, and I doubt they'd have done much different over most of Labour's civil liberties policies. All this stuff about 'we're the most watched nation on earth' is never going to be adopted by the front bench in a serious way, because a Cameron govt is unlikely to even get rid of any speed cameras, and that's before we get to Bo-Jo's CCTV on buses.

Incidentally, but related, to come back to something that Marc Mulholland said at the top, I don't think Nick did write the remote controller column in the Eye this week as at the beginnign it effectively calls Michael Gove uninteresting, and Nick loves him.

The idea that the Tories are anti-state is a joke

Indeed, and it's a shame to see that NC and some other political commentators have been taken in by the libertarian posturing (and it really is only posturing) of a few Tory bloggers in this regard. You can see that in Nick's aburd repetition of Goldberg's fundamental misquote of Hillary Clinton.

2/13/2009 08:28:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Yeah, my Eye arrived today and I don't think that's Cohen writing either.

2/13/2009 06:54:00 PM  

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