Sunday, May 31, 2009

There's a Lot of Competition, You Know...

There's a bit of fun over at Harry's Place: our man was on the radio - and we missed him! Little Atoms with David Aaronovitch - Tonight 19.00 on Resonance 104.4FM. (Only it's not tonight any more.)

As readers know, David Aaronovitch actually reads Harry's Place and posts comments there. This is his first:

I wonder whether Ari's first comment isn't the single stupidest entry on this blog, even taking the fabled Benjamin into account. Oh, and I didn't go to Cambridge.

I'm not going to quote Ari. Despite the title of this post, I do think DA has a point there. Ari is then defended by someone called 'Sean'. I won't bore you with how they got onto hemp, but the following seems somewhat appropriate for a comment on a blog post promoting a radio interview to puff a book on conspiracy theories.

Today, hemp is one of the most environmentally plants on the earth, it can provide better textiles than cotton and better paper than wood. In fact, it produced both for centuries, but certain US companies make money out of pesticides used in cotton and we have been forced to use it and tree pulp for paper.

Sean also defended Ari thus:

Just looked up Aaronovitch on wiki. He is right and Ari is wrong about him getting expelled from Cambridge…he got expelled from Oxford. Ari was right about it being for his lack of understanding of German history.

Oxford, Cambridge. Who cares? Details like this are peanuts compared to the great US capitalist cotton conspiracy. What is any discussion of Dave without the wit and wisdom of South African Nick?

I can’t comment on the accuracy of David A’s Wikipedia synopsis. What I do know, is that Wikipedia is not particularly reliable as a biographic source, especially for controversial figures. This is in the nature of the Way Wikipedia is produced where there is no meritocracy and any geezer with an axe to grind can edit an article.


He studied Modern History at Balliol College, Oxford from October 1973[2] until April 1974, when he was sent down (expelled) for failing the German part of his History exams.

DA on same:

One for the records. I failed my German language prelim (not German history) at Oxford. The historian whose work we were asked to evaluate and to translate was the 19th century Swiss art historian, Jacob Burckhardt.

DA's entry could be clearer with the addition of the word 'language' after German, but that's what the non-meritocratic Wikipedia says.

However much I disagree with DA, you really have to be nuts to think he's a Nazi apologist, but at least two Harry's Place readers seem to think just that.


Anonymous hpwatch said...

The picture of Aaronovitch is blatantly terrifying. Did they do that on purpose?

No clue what either Ari or Sean are up to (and feel that Aaronovitch slagging Benji is slightly unfair, considering I used to have to make my way through Aaro's articles with a finger under each word going "but he just said X, why's he saying Y now?" at least you know where Benjamin stands. Mostly.)

5/31/2009 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

The hemp thing is paper. It led to among other things (admittedly in a climate favourable to banning drugs popular with Mexicanos) making Marijuana public enemy no. 1. Its another conspiracy that contradicts Aaronovitch's thesis, thinking about it. Actually most political acts in relationship to drugs are pretty conspiratorial in motivation.

I haven't read the thread in question, and don't plan to.

5/31/2009 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger ordinary bloke said...

He's been everywhere recently. Damned if I know why the people at the Frontline Club would find his views of any interest. Matthew Taylor interviewed him recently at the RSA. Taylor said in his introduction that David is one of his "favourite writers" and he has "never yet written anything at the Times that I haven't agreed with...".

I also noticed that nobody has done an entry for him at the Neocon Europe wiki yet someone has posted profiles for Nick Cohen and Paul Anderson. Any volunteers for doing one for Aaronovitch?

5/31/2009 05:36:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

It's a grand idea but needs some editing. On the homepage "themselves" is written as "them selves" and on the Nick entry there is an "it's" which should be "its".

This sounds pedantic but as NC and DA are both professional writers the first thing they would scoff at (and quite rightly) is shite grammar and punctuation. There are numerous candidates at AW who could pull off an entry though.

5/31/2009 06:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

OB - here's the Paul Anderson profile in full:

"Paul Anderson is part of the 'decent left' and is not a neoconservative, though he is involved in a number of organisations linked to neoconservatives such as Democratiya and the Euston Manifesto. Accordingly there is no profile of him here. For more on Anderson see Spinprofiles [link]."

Which I think is about right. If anything he's a bit left of Decent, although his reaction if anyone mentions Leninists (Trot or CP) may belie this.

5/31/2009 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger ordinary bloke said...

Phil/Mr Kitty
I'm afraid these weaknesses are intrinsic with the territory of wikis and some other forms of social media. As a diagnosed dyslexic myself I accept the point about the offence paid wordsmiths and language. However those that fail to extend the principle of charity (in an everyday sense) by attacking these types of points can discredit themselves by looking petty and in the process flag up the very issues that were originally mentioned.

Paul Anderson has been in dispute about his Neocon Europe entry. My reading into the current version is that could well be satirical because it links to his spinprofile. As for him being a neocon, he strongly defended/supported the invasion of Iraq which certainly points to that possibility.

6/01/2009 01:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

he strongly defended/supported the invasion of Iraq Not really -

"I was a reluctant rather than gung-ho supporter of the toppling of the Taliban by force, and I opposed the invasion of Iraq (though once it started I argued that the best thing would be for it to be successful and quick, and I believe that now the priority is to do everything in our power to ensure Iraq becomes a stable, civilised democracy, which means I am against an immediate withdrawal of coalition forces)"

Quote on his Spinprofile page.

6/01/2009 06:58:00 AM  
Blogger the management said...

I was a reluctant rather than gung-ho supporter of the toppling of the Taliban by forceI seem to remember that he was actually both reluctant and gung-ho - ie, that the soul-searching and ambivalence he felt about the actual invasion didn't restrain him one little bit in vehemently and aggressively denouncing anyone who came down on the opposite side of the fence. This combination was of course more or less constitutive of Decency, as it forms the theme of Michael Walzer's original "Decent Left" essay.

I do agree though that Anderson can't sensibly be identified as a neocon; if that means anything, it means support for US imperialism, surely?

6/01/2009 08:10:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

as NC and DA are both professional writers the first thing they would scoff at (and quite rightly) is shite grammar and punctuationHaveing read Cohen's un-edited posts on his 'blog', I'm not so sure any more, he makes a lot of really basic errors.

The slagging comes from Aaro's participation in an earlier thread (written by a 9/11 truther) about some conspiracy or other, but in parenthesis said 'truther' had a go at Aaro's account of the Reichstag fire, accusing him of sticking to the Nazi version of the facts or some such.

I still can't quite work out why Aaronovitch likes HP Sauce so much. Yes, it's Decent Heaven, but the comments are so bloody tedious, above all else, and the majority of commenters are clearly not left-wing by anyone's standards.

There's a pretty good post by 'Joe Muggs' (who is a class above most other HP Sauce contributors), which Aaro responds to but in a very cursory and inadequate way - and is promptly pulled up on.

6/01/2009 08:21:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

as NC and DA are both professional writers the first thing they would scoff at (and quite rightly) is shite grammar and punctuation Haveing read Cohen's un-edited posts on his 'blog', I'm not so sure any more, he makes a lot of really basic errorsWhich is the reason that presentation is important, because you reduce the impact of what you are saying by coming across as sloppy. NC's and DA's beef with the "internet" and bloggers is that "we" are not a trained professional and they are. So the last thing "we" need is to give them another stick to beat us with. It’s like forgetting someone’s name when you are having a debate, it puts you on the back foot. Or in the case of NC having a pissed up rant during the Orwell awards because you’re mates have not been nominated!

6/01/2009 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Or indeed "your mates".

6/01/2009 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...


6/01/2009 08:58:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I noticed that in my post I wrote this too:

Haveing read Cohen's un-edited posts on his 'blog'.

I think both Nick and aaro would be better off leaving internet commenting alone. I still don't think they really understand blogging and online commenting and they have a tendency to appear to get very annoyed, very quickly, by indulging in it. I can understand the impulse but they never seem to come out of it looking particularly good.

6/01/2009 09:01:00 AM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

professional writers still depend on the lowly likes of me to ensure their prose is quite a bit better than it is when it comes into the office from their own computers*: as we are cost-cuttingly edged out of the industry (the market in sub-editors is horrible at the moment), grown-up journalists will lose this edge

*obviously mileage varies: but a lot of quite well-known writers have their competence assembled on the production line by anonymous underpaid angels

6/01/2009 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Same here - I sub on Saturday for the Sunday Times and some of the stuff that comes in is fucking garbage, but you have to treat some of the high-profile writers like royalty. The irony is that NC's blogs are shite because he hasn't got anyone tidying them up.
Which, was essentially my initial point. If I see a mistake in the first par of something "official" I immediately subconsciously am questioning its veracity. If someone does it on here as a comment, I couldn't give two hoots because this medium is prone to it and I trust who I am talking to despite our anonymity.

Having said all that, if the AW contributors were to begin making mistakes (spelling, grammar, punctuation) on a regular basis in their posts I'd begin to get annoyed.

6/01/2009 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/01/2009 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger the management said...

You really are going to rugret saying that if im any juge of charachter.

6/01/2009 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

I seem to remember that he was actually both reluctant and gung-ho - ie, that the soul-searching and ambivalence he felt about the actual invasion didn't restrain him one little bit in vehemently and aggressively denouncing anyone who came down on the opposite side of the fence. This combination was of course more or less constitutive of Decency, as it forms the theme of Michael Walzer's original "Decent Left" essay. Well I won't plead guilty to denouncing "anyone" on the other side of the fence, I think a lot of us occupied roughly the same ground that Anderson did in the year after 9/11. And it has to be said that some of anti- crowd said some pretty stupid stuff (Peter Wilby, George Monbiot, ... er Nick Cohen ...). Since I have a healthy respect for my former self, I'd better be careful about denouncing Anderson for what he said back then.

For me, at any rate, Iraq was the decider. The Gerases clearly believed that there was some logical requirement to back Bush all the way and that you were somehow inconsistent, letting the side down, if you stopped at Kabul.

BTW, Anderson (Balliol, iirc) was my Oxford contemporary and was a rather sneering self-satisfied anarchist at the time. He rather arrogantly told everyone who would listen that he was a certainty for a first. He got a 2.1.

6/01/2009 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

As far as Afghanistan is concerned, I was against it at the time and have not seen any obvious reason since to think I was wrong.

6/01/2009 11:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

the soul-searching and ambivalence he felt about the actual invasion didn't restrain him one little bit in vehemently and aggressively denouncing anyone who came down on the opposite side of the fence
True - and very Decent, as you say; remember Norm's "although I've decided I was wrong to support the war, I stand by my decision to support the war, and will continue to denounce anyone who failed to make this entirely appropriate and virtuous decision - even though I now know it was wrong".

But I think I stand by slightly-left-of-Decent - Anderson's not really a believer in the way Nick and Aaro are. The only GISOOT he's interested in is the one against Leninists (which is a hatred he's carried over from his anarchist period, but which works fine in the Labour Party context).

6/01/2009 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger steven said...

I remember from my subbing years that the writers who submitted the cleanest copy were generally also the nicest to deal with if you wanted to phone them up to question something. The ones who send in subliterate garbage (yes, I would love to name names but... etc) know on some level that they are dependent on the subs, and they resent it.

6/01/2009 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

There was a great exchange between Giles Coren and the subs which spilled out Personally i think the guy is a buffoon and he wrote some ridiculous piece a few months ago on the lines of why-I'm-thinking-about-voting-tory-because-of-tax-increase butfeelguiltybecause-i'm a trotskyist-at-heart shite.

But the exchange between him and the subs was really amusing.

6/01/2009 02:50:00 PM  
Blogger the management said...

What was the other half of the exchange? I'd like to hope it was:

"Dear Giles,

Here's a sentence for you that ends on an unstressed syllable; Go fuck yourself.

Love, the subs".

6/01/2009 02:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Richard J said...

If I were to, say, look significantly in the direction of a picture of a man with a ridiculous perm and a love of fast cars, and his occasional trip buddy (fond of dining with attractive women and someone who confuses snobbery from a particular social status point seemingly occupied only by himself with wit), would I be on the right lines?

6/01/2009 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger the management said...

Erratum to the above; depending on how you pronounce it, the last syllable of "Go fuck yourself" might be stressed or otherwise. A good sub-editor would have changed it to:

"Dear Giles,

Here's a sentence for you that ends on an unstressed syllable; Fuck off, dickhead.

Love, the subs"

6/01/2009 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

The irony is that we've been trying to make him look good for years and then he turned in spectacular fashion. Also odd that we're paid pittance to make a wannabe writer look good when he hasn't had an original idea in his head for years and we're the "cunts" he turns on.

I'm happy to play out the game of Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? But journos who earn serious money by essentially relying on someone who will knock their stuff into shape are the lowest of the low.

6/01/2009 03:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But Coren's dickheaderry was responsible for the Downfall mashup which is the funniest thing I have seen this year. Perhaps I should get out more.

Chris Williams

6/01/2009 03:14:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

True Chris, that made my year when it came out.

6/01/2009 03:19:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I remember reading that email and wondering how someone could get quite so prissy about a throwaway, not very funny, and not very original, joke.

I might be an outlier in actually liking some of Coren's stuff, and it's nice to think that some journos care about their writing, but he doesn't look good there.

Hard to take someone talking about the metre of prose seriously when they've written an entire paragraph to make an unfunny joke about how you can get oral sex in Soho.

6/01/2009 03:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Richard J said...

There was the sub's response.

Not quite the response of the Zaprozhian (sp?) Cossacks to the Turkish Sultan, but it'll do.

6/01/2009 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Richard J said...


6/01/2009 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

I remember from my subbing years that the writers who submitted the cleanest copy were generally also the nicest to deal with if you wanted to phone them up to question something.Yes, I remember it well.
Writer turns in 850 words of insightful, entertaining and tightly-written prose when we asked him for 800.
I cut a word here, a word there and, reluctantly, an entire sentence over there, and bring it down to length.
Writer, so far from berating me for hacking about his beautiful prose, says thanks.

Writer turns in 1000 words of disorganised blather
OR precisely 800 words consisting mostly of padding
OR 900 words of which only 500 are relevant
I get it into shape. (Somehow. Possibly not quite the shape I originally had in mind.)
Writer, so far from saying thanks, queries every single change
OR insists that a sentence I deleted as padding is actually crucial to the entire argument
OR (possibly the most annoying of all) proposes edits to my edits, involving adding a couple of hundred words of new material...

I don't do that stuff much any more.

6/01/2009 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger steven said...

The weirdest thing about that was that Giles Coren showed he doesn't know shit about prosody either.

6/01/2009 03:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Richard J said...

steven> Were I a sub (though I have done some heavy hacking about of English written by Germans in the past), I'd point out that your sentence could be ended at 'doesn't know shit' with no loss of clarity.

6/01/2009 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger steven said...

PS "dickhead" could be read as a spondee, so I submit that the safest subs' response would be "Go fuck yourself, wanker."

6/01/2009 03:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But what inquiring minds really want the subs (ex-subs, mere submersibles, etc) reading this to tell me is: does 'dickheaderry' really have two Rs? I dashed it off in haste hoping a professional would correct it.

Chris Williams

6/01/2009 04:08:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

Being subbed can be annoying or helpful.

Being edited by people who are not subs or indeed surface ships, however, is utterly infuriating.

6/01/2009 07:04:00 PM  
Blogger the management said...

It sort of sounds like an olde Englishe folk song:

"with a hey ho who
and dickheaderry doo"

6/01/2009 07:33:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

I was working on a Dick Emery with false teeth joke regarding the dickheaderry pronunciation but realized I was in the wrong sketch.

Or something like that.

Where are the subs when you need them?

6/01/2009 07:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Der Bruno Stroszek said...

Apologies if someone's already posted a link to this, because I couldn't get some of the links to work, but here, from Harper's Monthly, is the subs' response to Coren:

"Dear Giles,

Subediting is a noble profession. It is also a thankless one - particularly when your writers call you a "useless cunt".

There was a sharp intake of breath when your email hit the inbox of subs throughout the industry this week - that was after we'd stopped laughing. Not that we didn't think you had a point. Yes, tinkering with copy just for the sake of it and without consultation is wrong. It is disrespectful and arrogant. And we can see why you'd be furious at the loss even of an indefinite article.

There is nothing more irritating than a subeditor who thinks he knows better than a writer, particularly one who cares deeply about his work. But did you really have to be so rude?

If you could only see the state of some of the raw copy we have to knock into shape. It's badly structured, poorly spelt, appallingly punctuated, lazily researched. We're not saying your writing falls into that category - on the contrary, your journalism is highly accomplished. Never having worked on your copy, we can only take your word for it that it is beyond improvement in its pre-published state. Strange as it may seem, many writers do not possess your grasp of language; indeed, it is sometimes difficult to believe that English is their mother tongue, and they don't give a damn about what they produce because they know that a good, often highly educated subeditor will correct it, check it and turn it into readable prose.

None of this can excuse your nasty, bullying "know your place, you insignificant little fuckwit" email. Yes, it's funny, in a way that pieces that use "fuck", "shit" and "cunt" so liberally often can be, but, please - someone made a mistake. He surely had no intention of sabotaging your deathless prose. So you don't like what happened to your piece - have a word with your editor. The hapless sub will no doubt already have been soundly thrashed and his dictionary privileges removed.

Some years ago, a colleague of ours had a T-shirt printed up with the legend XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXX IS A CUNT, which he wore every week when having to deal with the writer to whom it referred, because he, like you, became so disproportionately abusive when his use of language was questioned. We'd hate that to happen to you, because you can actually write, and having GILES COREN IS A SANCTIMONIOUS LITTLE TWAT WHO NEEDS TO GET OVER HIMSELF could be quite costly in T-shirt lettering. Subs are no more infallible than writers. So let's all try a little mutual respect, shall we?

All the best,
Mia Aimaro Ogden
Joanna Duckworth

6/03/2009 07:43:00 AM  
Anonymous saucy jack said...

Did anybody ever point out to Giles Coren that neither he nor his equally useless sister would be writing anything at all in newspapers were it not for who their father was?

6/03/2009 09:05:00 AM  
Anonymous ichomobothogogus said...

i think the subs were far too generous to Giles Coren. from what little i've read of his work it appears that he can't write for shit. that last sentence was one of the clumsiest constructions ive ever read. forget removing the "a", the whole sentence should have been humanely destroyed with a hammer and buried in an unmarked grave.

6/03/2009 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Well if that sentence (in either version) is typical, he ain't funny.

6/03/2009 02:12:00 PM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

i favour a less direct response: if ever you're a sub in charge of mr coren's prose, you send him detailed sheets of polite queries as to which sentences exactly are meant to be funny and which are not, please, -- and those which are, can he explain how, as you certainly wouldn't want to spoil his jokes

be very careful not to assume that this information jumps out at the reader

6/03/2009 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

This piece pretty much sums Giles up

The pondering middle aged end-of-an-era review of one's politics cast into new light by recent events (in this case the Brown hiking of tax on high earners) that I'm afraid is reminiscent of the turn that NC's work took in 2003.

6/03/2009 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger the management said...

my soi-disant brother-in-law (we Tories say thing like “soi-disant”),

presumably it is the revenge of the subs to leave Coren looking like a fucking idiot who doesn't know what soi-disant means? Or is he literally saying that the guy goes around calling himself "Giles Coren's brother-in-law"?

6/03/2009 06:59:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Ha ha. Hopefully both. Either way he is clearly not his brother-in-law's keeper; of his dictionary or otherwise.

6/03/2009 07:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

He's worrying about whether he'll be able to afford school fees (if he ever has kids) because of the marginal effect of paying a slightly higher upper-bracket tax rate? And he's so worried that he's prepared to bung the Tory Party two and a half grand?

I don't shout about this, what with being a Marxist and everything, but we pay school fees - out of a total household income that wouldn't get one person into the higher tax bracket. And we don't vote Tory.

Those subs can save their money - words 1-4 and 7 are all that's needed.

PS Any bets on what he thinks 'soi-disant' means?

6/03/2009 07:38:00 PM  
Blogger the management said...

It was meant to be self-deprecating humour and could have been a quite charming wry confessional column in the Jon Ronson mode if it had been about half the length and five times funnier.

6/04/2009 07:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

I guess that would be the charitable explanation. If he had his father's talent it would have been quite funny.

But the "two and a half grand" part really grates. It's like Stephen Fry's take on the expenses scandal - come on, who hasn't skimmed off a few K here and there? (slight paraphrase) You could say that it's all relative, so that in effect what £2,500 looks like to Giles Coren (or Stephen Fry) is probably pretty much what, oh, £50 looks like to me - but at the end of the day £2,500 buys just as many Mars bars for them as for me. See also Toby Bloody Young excusing his Blackberry addiction by saying that he's a freelance so he's got no money at all and has to work all the time... He must be using some bloody expensive drugs, that's all I can imagine.

Captcha: TINSC. (Oh yes there is...)

6/04/2009 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Maybe Giles was at command control offering advice!

6/04/2009 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger steven said...

To be fair to the insufferable twerp, he might actually mean "soi-disant". His sister is not actually married, so it could be that her boyfriend humorously calls GC his brother-in-law (when they are sitting around conversing bilingually in Latin and Greek).

6/04/2009 09:47:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

I was in a car with Giles Coren once where he mentioned that he would have no idea about how to go about signing on. We had a friend in common when I first lived in Hackney, after hearing my stories about living there and Giles telling him about the soap operas he'd seen declared my stories to be more interesting.
When I studied the socilogy of deviance it was suggested that the illegalisation of marijuana in the US was an example of bureaucratic entrepreneurship on the part of Harry Anslinger.

6/05/2009 03:52:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Giles Coren update: after an hour and a half of sitting through a hatchet job on Robespierre on BBC2 on Saturday, I was a little taken aback when it was left to Giles on the Supersizers an hour later to point out that the White Terror killed more people than the Jacobins ever did.

7/13/2009 11:20:00 AM  

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