Friday, March 13, 2009

Nick Gets A Deserved Kicking

Sarah Ditum posted a comment on an earlier thread, and I found an excellent post on Nick Cohen on her site. (If anything disproves Oliver Kamm's rather paranoid contention that there is a "concatenation" of Cohen critics, I hope this is it.)

She hits a lot of buttons for me. First, Cohen is not a careful writer. Modifiers which should be tweaked pre-publication, aren't. Detail really isn't a Cohen thing. Broad-brush anger (and moral superiority) is.

Then again, I’m not one of the “determined, if scientifically illiterate, middle-class mothers with easy access to lawyers”. But hang on! Nor is Nick - he might be scientifically illiterate, bar the odd happy guess, but he is absolutely, definitely a father. So that “large section of the supposedly adult population” from whom Cohen distinguishes himself, even though he partook of their terrors? That would be the women. Cohen might have had doubts, but it’s the mothers who were in a “raving panic”. Covert misogyny alert!

I think I'm a liberal (that is, one of the dreaded left-liberals Nick is so astringent about). And I think the thing about being a liberal is this: it's much more cold-blooded than it's presented by the press. I read about some terrible atrocity, and part of me wants to eviscerate the persons responsible. And then something kicks in that says: "Hold on, that doesn't work. It's in your memory banks, go check." Being a liberal means (and yes, this is sort of smug) trying to rise above simple emotionalism (where Melanie Phillips seems to live) and having an editor. Nick doesn't seem to have an editor.

I sort of think that the Observer subs take his stuff because 'it hits your guts'. Shorter me: if it hits you in the gut, it's probably wrong. Perhaps I've been hanging out with the 'Enlightenment Values' crowd too long.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's not so much a liberal thing as not being an idiot thing, there may even be some conservative/rightwing people who think that way..

Outside the media, the number of people who don't immediately respond emotionally tend to be much larger than you would guess from reading the newspapers.

3/14/2009 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

That's why I love Rowan Williams (no relation). I disagree with most of what he has to say, but it's 100% rational. He doesn't waste an instant worrying about the hypothetical reactions of numpties who haven't understood the argument but merely picked up on a couple of keywords.

A bit less of the 'seems' and a bit more of the 'is' is what's needed generally, especially in the next 20-odd years.

3/14/2009 09:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like the post is a bit too old to be worth commenting on, but of course we on here know from a bit of internet research that Cohen was actually taken in by MMR.

It's an unfortunate and alarming recent trend in his writing that he's now started to invent his earlier opinions (I wasn;t taken in by MMR, I predicted the credit crunch) - precisely at the time when search engines make them hyper-accessible. That, coupled with his, ahem, 'interesting' approach to research (as epitomised by the 'Londoned' column, evinces a rather depressing trend.

I wonder, however, how many newspaper columnists are genuinely thoughtful writers. Some of them seem to produce rather more substnatial pieces of writing - Freedland and Jenkins spring to mind - but their stuff is still written to a tight deadline, it's still written, generally, to produce as diverse and annoyed a set of reactions as possible.

Teh internets has a lot to answer for here, I think, because certainly cif are more likely to ask you back if you generate tons of comments. I think that's why the Obs keeps Cohen on, really, because he's been relegated to absolutely the arse end of the paper and they rarely print any of the letters taking issue with his work (and there will be a lot).

3/14/2009 09:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The number of people who have become noisily pro-MMR has increased significantly since it became clear that Wakefield was a crank and a self-publicist but, as the linked post makes clear, the evidence was always there for those who wanted to find it. The issue now seems to have become totemic for the Furediites, with lots of people like Nick trailing in their wake and congratulating themselves on their own bravery in supporting 'science' several years after the controversy passed its peak.

3/14/2009 11:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Decent Left? They're finished and they don't even know it, which I guess is a good illustration of how clueless they always were.

3/15/2009 01:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

we still watching Nick otherwise?

His column today is just boring. Not even worth getting annoyed by, he's repeating old, boring half-truths and attacking non-existent straw men once again. It's just rubbish.

3/15/2009 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought the one about Hazel Blears being the voice of unwavering liberal principle was good for a laugh. Blears is Queen ASBO - she's about as liberal as Cyril Smith - but she's deeply concerned about the threat to our traditional English way of life posed by people with brown skins (very few of whom, coincidentally enough, live in her constituency), so she's OK. Nick really is through the looking-glass.

3/15/2009 02:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ansar Ahmed Ullah is pally with the neo-con Policy Exchange

3/16/2009 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, now that Obama is in, this place is winding down.

3/17/2009 06:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick has managed to misspell the name of his only source in his latest blog post. He's also pretty much made it explicit that his last column was a piece of Policy Exchange PR.

Aaro today is worthy of a proper post i think.

3/17/2009 09:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick's waffle only hits your guts in the sense that it makes you want to vomit.

3/19/2009 10:38:00 AM  

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