Saturday, June 27, 2009

Whacking Jacko

Whew. Readers deserve to know that I nearly wrote a post last night concerning the current issue of Standpoint. Nick Cohen was not listed among the contributors. However, he seems to have become one of Standpoint's bloggers, so he hasn't fallen off that perch yet.

The thing about Nick, he doesn't seem to get out much, so complaining about Radio 4's Today programme has become a staple. Entirely predictably, he thinks that too much coverage was given to Michael Jackson. (BTW, what other news stories are there? What else is actually new?) Of course, he links to Oliver Kamm whose post consists of a link to and plug for Nick's new gig; a two sentence quote from same; and a complaint that the news blog of the Times has asked readers for their favourite Jackson song. Not really any 'more' there, Nick. He also links to the Drink-soaked Trots who seem to be complaining that there's more of that advertising about these days, and things were better when they were young.

Fun stuff: Oliver Kamm's colleague has managed to wring two posts out of Jackson's death: 1; 2. (The second is more substantive, and the sort of thing blogs do better than journalism.) There is an Amazon ad to the right of Nick's post: for 'Thriller' "the biggest selling album of all time." Nick still doesn't see why MJ's death was story at all. How has he survived in journalism this long?

Commenter Organic Cheeseboard has claimed that the Times blog has "hosted a chat between Finkelstein and Kamm about their favourite pop stars." I can't find this. Pity, because I can't imagine who Kamm's favourite pop stars could be.


Blogger Mr Kitty said...

The last eight comments on the prior post make some headway into NC and Jack Whacking. I can handle the hypocrisy and even the fumbling that Kamm and Nick have with issues on proportional coverage. But it's the lack of knowledge or perspective on the way media works which is so galling, and (at least with Nick) shows him up to be the journalistic dilettante he effortlessly comes across as.

6/27/2009 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

Pity, because I can't imagine who Kamm's favourite pop stars could be.

Well, The Dwarves and The Pixies spring to mind, although I imagine Death From Above might be a favourite. They even have a song called Blood On Our Hands, which seems rather apt.

6/27/2009 10:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pity, because I can't imagine who Kamm's favourite pop stars could be.

I'd guess Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson, Pat Boone, The Osmonds, and Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler.

6/27/2009 10:40:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I'm rather with the old gits on Jackson, by the way. At some point yesterday the top three stories on the Guardian Online were all about the late pop singer. Fuck's sake.

6/28/2009 08:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ollie Kamm wasn't even born when "Sing little birdie, sing" won the Eurovision Song Contest. I doubt he even really remembers "Puppet on a string". It is, however, part of the normal Kamm routine to imply that "you young people don't know anything" even when he is talkng to someone older and more experienced than he is.

6/28/2009 09:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry. "Sing little birdie" came second.

(It was all a long, long time ago)


6/28/2009 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Well, The Dwarves and The Pixies spring to mind, although I imagine Death From Above might be a favourite.

Hey! The Pixies were totally excellent and one of the best bands I've ever seen. (And a big hello to Kim Deal as well.) They were a bit big on UFO conspiracy theories, but hey ho.

6/28/2009 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

Yes, I saw them a couple of years ago too. It was a very cheap shot at Ollie's less than imposing physical stature.

6/28/2009 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

Let me know how to hit the swear-box with a quid, because the Saucers (Ker-ching!) are bashing out their most entertaining thread for years.

Long story short - A couple of ultra-religious Jews are making daft demands. Cue hysterics in the comments as regular commenters start calling each other medieval throwbacks/anti-semites. It's that basic tension between people who actually believe what they say about the Enlightenment and wingnut hardliners that has made Decency the comedy gift that keeps on giving. There's even a set-to with their resident Randroid-Satanist, Churchill-wannabe commenter, if you can believe such a bloke exists outside of The Onion.

Bonus hilarity - Ben of "Goodness I hate me some unnamed Trot totalitarians" fame posted this comment -

If you want to take me on, suggesting that I’m an anti-semite, or more generally a racist, just let me know, and I’ll destroy you to the extent necessary to deny your point any purchase. Cheers.

"I'll destroy you" - for some reason, I'm reminded of Ross Kemp on Extras.

6/28/2009 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Wild accusations of anti-Semitism, now there's a novelty.

6/28/2009 10:28:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I can't find this Kamm/Finkelstein exchange either, I'm afraid - it was sort of serious in that it was ostensibly about whether one's favourite musicians/actors/whatever having dodgy political views should invalidate the merits of their art, but in reality most of those are just exercises in 'i like X therefore he/she is exempt'. Case in point being HP Sauce's approach to Morrissey, who according to their often unfair logic should get it in the neck, but is instead venerated like a minor deity.

I think Decents would say that 'Iran' is a more important story, in a very un-specific manner...

6/28/2009 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

OT but Nick's in calling-kettle- black mode again today re left and muslim strange bedfellows.

"Instead of adopting the methods of the witch-finder, ministers could try behaving like politicians. They could abandon selective anti-fascism and notice that many of the supposedly left-wing thinkers and trade union leaders who urge them to sack BNP members have been happy to share platforms with the reactionary ultras of Jamaat-i-Islami and the Muslim Brotherhood, as indeed have Jack Straw and many another Labour grandee."

Or... certain journalists could stop adopting the methods of witch-finder? Perhaps...?

6/28/2009 01:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Which may come across a bit better had Nick shown any humility about being taken in by Hassan Butt. Apropos of which, Private Eye Love Nick is still maintaining total radio silence on the matter, which can't be good for Street of Shame's credibility.

But proportional coverage? I could sympathise if it wasn't coming from these guys. You know, the people who think that what's going on in Iran is intrinsically less interesting than what Seumas Milne says about what's going on in Iran. At this rate, Professor Normblog will soon be disappearing up his own simulacrum.

6/28/2009 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Nick: "there was not that much to say about him [Jackson]." Paul Therouxmanages to say quite a lot.

6/28/2009 04:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Der Bruno Stroszek said...

I was wondering whether Nick was still clinging on by his fingernails at Private Eye the other day. Even an old boys' club like that must be aware that Nick's pieces on Hassan Butt and Policy Exchange vs Newsnight have been a colossal embarrassment. I strongly suspect he wrote that piece about Saving Africa's Witch Children in Media News two issues ago, firstly because the supposed villain of the piece was gratuitously identified as a Muslim, and secondly because, according to a letter in the new issue from someone involved in the programme, the piece was pretty much completely fabricated. That's our man!

6/28/2009 05:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's still there, but mostly confined to the back pages where he's been boring us all to death with Simon Singh versus the chiropractors. Even at an old boys' club, it must be recognised that giving Nick lots of prominent space to attack teh Mooslims is more trouble than it's worth.

BTW, nice bait-and-switch in making an article supposedly about the BNP into yet another screed about the Muslim Brotherhood, "the left" (this time starring Jack Straw) and why Nick is the heir to Orwell. Has he not run out of green biros yet?

6/28/2009 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

"Has he not run out of green biros yet?"

No, but the ink is clearly getting dry and sticky...

6/28/2009 05:51:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Well there's been no Ratbiter for ages. And that's no bad thing. It does depress me when the Eye cites and an authority an organisation which the author of the article belongs to, as Cohen does with his ultra-boring Singh material. I'm not even sure I agree with the sentiment of those pieces either - there's an awful lot of bitching about libel law and very little meat.

I do like the pattern of Cohen's recent Observer pieces. The last one attacked conspiracy theorists while creating a brand new conspiracy theory. This one attacks people who witch-hunt before launching into a witch-hunt.

Just on the top article - is Cohen really not in the latest Standpoint? he's got a massive long piece on the net version about Englishness, or something - I got too bored and confused by the first portion to read the rest. Also has another boring TV peice restating his well-established beliefs.

No idea why they, after a redesign, they've persevered with the whole 'pieces in ten parts which you have to click through individually' format. That only works if the stuff is worth reading.

Cohen is really in illustrious company as a Standpoint blogger, isn't he? Chris Hitchens's neocon son has a blog on there...

6/28/2009 08:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can still find Ratbiter, but you have to hunt around in In The Back. It's a bit of a comedown from those tremendous splashes they had been giving him. Maybe Hislop just got bored of running "Ratbiter Bitten" on the letters page...

Anyway, he's been writing about either Singh or libel tourism for ages now, and even though they look at first sight like progressive causes - you're right, the huffing and puffing over very little substance makes me wonder if they are worth supporting. Nice one, Nick.

6/28/2009 08:57:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I can see the point of that stuff, and it's not like the British libel laws are perfect, but it'd be helpful if Cohen could get a few more examples. He seems stuck on the 'Funding Terror' one which was really a very long time ago, and he repeats it ad nauseam in the Eye with diminishing returns and all that. Things like wikileaks and the net more generally have rendered a lot of the objections moot (eg Gove saying that 'counterterrorism is being affected by this libel ruling against the book' - yes I bet that MI5 can't get access to the information in it at all). And Nick manages to make the subject of libel law even more boring than it already is with his hysterical tone and general approach of applying his rather odd kind of 'common sense' to British law. consulting David Toube, nothing liek a libel specialist, and Denis MacShane, doesn't really count as proper legal research.

Which bring me onto the Singh stuff. It is a worthwhile cause, but I'd have a lot more time for it if it wasn't almost entirely being championed by a bunch of know-it-all, cleverer-than-thou-even-though-we're-not pub bores (and indeed, it would seem, slightly nutty witchhunters too). I still can't quite work out how cohen, who believed in the MMR stuff enough to refuse the vaccine, can sell himself as some sort of 'seeker for scientific truth'. And the libel rulings don't actually seem all that shocking, in fact the linguistic logic seems to work, though I do feel sorry for Singh who obviously just chose the wrong word. It's also clear that chiropractors are falsely advertising - but where would a relaxing of libel laws leave us in those terms? the last ratbiter seems to gloat that their being called up by trading standards would be a good thing, but how does that relate to the 'freedom of speech' paraded at the top of the ratbiter pieces?

I can't help thinking that relaxing British libel laws wouldn't exactly improve the quality of journalism in this country, and what the hell would Decent journalism look like?

6/29/2009 07:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Der Bruno Stroszek said...

The Decent enthusiasm for science is quite baffling, considering how utterly ignorant most of them are on the subject. You can see this in the Ratbiter pieces about homeopathy; it's not difficult to set across a clear and coherent explanation as to why homeopathy doesn't work, but Nick can't even manage that, so he falls back on his old standby of "these people are friends with some nasty people, therefore they are wrong."

Talking about relaxing the libel laws is also a bit rich coming from him, since we've seen, what, two instances now where he's ran off to Harry's Place after publication of a mildly critical article about him and said he's going to sue? I'm thinking of that piece in the Guardian Review a bit back that "misrepresented his thesis" and the infamous Johann Hari review that 'Attyfurly' on Wikipedia is still amazingly sore about.

6/29/2009 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

In fairness, I don't think Nick ever threatened to sue on that occasion, although David T seemed to think he would have a case. Which caused me to make a mental note that T's judgement on matters libelular was not necessarily something I'd like to rely on.

6/29/2009 08:49:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

The Decent enthusiasm for science is quite baffling, considering how utterly ignorant most of them are on the subject.

Tsk, don't you know, they all link to bad science and butterflies and wheels, and none of them are religious, ergo they have the equivalent of postgrad science degrees.

cohen seems to think that using the phrases 'snake-oil salesman' and 'bogus' over and over again counts as enlightening discussion of the vices of homeopaths.

and just to mention something I forgot up there - the entirely fabricated Eye piece which needlessly identified the BBC's new head of religion, or whatever it is, as a muslim was also obviously written by Cohen. It's the kind of thing that would provoke Decent hysteria if, I dunno, it said 'Jewish'; also it rather goes against Cohen's 'anti-multiculturalist' arguments as found in the Obs this week. He genuinely seems to think that multiculturalism is entirely to blame for the rise of the BNP - this is surely reductive at best.

David Toube, verbatim:

Edgar misrepresents Cohen’s thesis to such a grand extent that Cohen should sue him.

6/29/2009 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

the entirely fabricated Eye piece which needlessly identified the BBC's new head of religion, or whatever it is, as a muslim

Tell me more, I've only seen the Eye piece.

(Word verification mensae - good to see Latin creeping back into everyday use)

6/29/2009 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

"It's the kind of thing that would provoke Decent hysteria if, I dunno, it said 'Jewish'"

whenever I'm looking for a laugh I upload any NC articles into word and find and replace muslims with jews.

It's an extremely old joke/trick/dull thing to do but it shows up the form of what he says (rather than the content) in illuminating ways!

6/29/2009 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

That was actually me, Mr Kitty above. Damn this blog anonymity masquerade bollocks! It's exposing my schizophrenia.

6/29/2009 04:09:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

EJH - story, almsot certainly penned by Cohen, in the Eye before last about 'BBC Muslim head of religion takes credit for someone else's work' or some such - comprehensively debunked in a letter in the following issue. Original piece appears to have been written using a single source who has a grudge...

6/29/2009 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Ah, OK, ta. I saw the original piece but the current issue is yet to reach my Aragonese hamlet.

6/29/2009 04:32:00 PM  
Blogger AndyB said...

"whenever I'm looking for a laugh I upload any NC articles into word and find and replace muslims with jews.

It's an extremely old joke/trick/dull thing to do but it shows up the form of what he says (rather than the content) in illuminating ways!"

Yes, and it points out why it is important to someone that the Decent's would call a 'relativist'. NC et al. would argue that it doesn't matter if their arguments have the form of anti-semitic arguments, because the content is different, most notably because the content is true. But, if we were in the 1930s (and not just in Germany), we'd believe the truth of the bases of anti-semitic arguments. We would not have the resources to deny the truth of these. So we must, as insulation against inhumanity, be able to believe the basic truths put forward by islamophobes and anti-semites (that they're all disloyal, conspiring, anti-western revolutionaries, who simultaneously control the world's finances) without going all Nazi.

The examples of history suggest that a thoroughing decent humanism depends on a disregard for the anti-human truths of the age.

6/29/2009 05:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, if you plug 'Beth Din' into the space marked 'sharia' in the one law for all campaign, you come out with something that the Board of Deputies are going to go ever so slightly apoplectic about.

Chris Williams

6/29/2009 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

"But, if we were in the 1930s (and not just in Germany), we'd believe the truth of the bases of anti-semitic arguments. We would not have the resources to deny the truth of these."

But is it not the case that resources rather than being an oasis of counter-propaganda are just as likely to be mis-used.

Depends on how you define resources really. And "we".

6/29/2009 05:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Der Bruno Stroszek said...

Also it's worth pointing out that the letter into the Eye debunking Nick's story was written by someone who worked on Saving Africa's Witch Children and who had no vested interest in covering this Head of Religion bloke's back if he really was stealing his credit. He didn't seem to have a Muslim-sounding name, either, so Nick couldn't rely on the old NotARacist standby of them all sticking together to protect their own.

6/30/2009 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Right. The Eye arrives (spookily, with the plastic envelope opened and the corner torn off!) and in Ratbiter's defence, although the cameraman turns him over completely on that aspect of the story, it would be fair to say that it doesn't affect the meat of the story. Just the accompanying anecdote. No?

6/30/2009 12:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I reckon this blog should propose readers write to Ian Hislop, suggesting it is seriously damaging Street of Shame's reputation that they
(a) never expose Nick Cohen's lies, errors and nonsense, while exposing far lesser failings by other journalists
(b) let Francis Wheen smear Cohen's critics, like Johan Hari, whenever he criticises Cohen, without declaring his own massive conflict of interest (precisely the behaviour Private Eye condemns in others)

Anyone got Ian Hislop's email address? Anyone fancy writing a post for the blog about it?

6/30/2009 01:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and the +outrageous+ description of Nick at the Orwell prize in Street of Shame, claiming the audie3nce was 'urging him on' (or some such blatant lie), shows Wheen actually explicitly lies to support Cohen. Anybody who has watched the YouTube clip can see that. That should be pointed out to Hislop too: it seriously damages the Eye's reputation.

6/30/2009 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the story about the "Witch children" TV programme and Ratbiter? Ironically I am in the middle of Africa and my PE's are presumably piling up behind the door in the UK, but would love to know how Ratbiter latched on to this TV programme.


6/30/2009 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Perhaps there's simply too much on Nick to go in. Where would you start? Why it is Right to be Anti American? Or Anthony Browne?

6/30/2009 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

"Never pick a fight with Private Eye" is probably a reasonable rule.

6/30/2009 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

""Never pick a fight with Private Eye" is probably a reasonable rule."

Good maxim. Satirists always hold that trump card.

Now... if Hislop launched at Nick's hypocrisy on an even battlefield I'd come out for Hisser.

6/30/2009 02:39:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Anyway, on a completely different topic - I know whatabouttery is a largely deplorable habit but I thought I'd just check around a few Decentish sites - notably those that have been loudest about the stolen election in Iran - to see what they've been saying about the coup in Honduras. Solidarity with the beautiful people of Tegucigalpa, human rights and democracy are universal, you know the sort of thing.

Anyway, current scores in full:

Modernity Blog 0
Tendance Coatsey 0
Drink-Soaked Trots 0
Frank Owen's Paintbrush 0
Shiraz Socialist 0
The Good Professor Geras 0
Ollie 0
You Know Where 0

(Note: no other sites than these were checked. Subject to correction, facts accurate as at 1820 BST this evening. No refunds are available without a ticket stub.)

6/30/2009 05:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kerching, but interesting discussion on You Know Where. Our second-favourite half-Croatian pundit[1], for whom a pro-Turkish and pro-Albanian policy is central to his worldview, has a moment of lucidity, and remarks that the HP comments boxes are full of racists who hate all Muslims, and the editors seem very relaxed about this. Nothing escapes that man.

[1] After TV's Adrian Chiles, of course.

6/30/2009 08:24:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

In what post? I refuse to look through more than one.

6/30/2009 09:08:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

I have no comment to make about anything, but I swear on my life that the captcha I can see below this box spells "ricin". This is clearly a sign. Possibly a sign that the captcha game has reached a natural conclusion, but definitely a sign of something.

6/30/2009 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Our second-favourite half-Croatian pundit

Was he actually with you on the question of Greenland independence? I'm afraid I lacked the patience to find out...

(Oh yes: Marko 0, but it's not his speciality so I won't hold it against him. Also he's obviously a nice guy when he's not emitting steam from his ears in front of a keyboard and he did I believe come second in the AW competition to decide which Decent was most likely to have a cat.)

6/30/2009 09:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In fairness, H***YS P***E had a post on 28th June , "opposing Coups", all about Honduras, against the coup, which says elected leaders should "be given the benefit of the doubt" and coups opposed, even if they are Chavez or as bad as Chavez

7/01/2009 07:12:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Thanks: I missed that one. Happy to be corrected.

7/01/2009 07:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Is Tendance Coatesy Decent? He was anything but when I knew him - he backed Milosevic more or less from the off, and (I can hear the hackles rising from here) in this case I really do mean he backed Milosevic; during the siege of Vukovar he said we should look forward to the day when the red star of Yugoslavia flew over Zagreb. He may have changed a bit since then; people do.

7/01/2009 07:35:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

He's kind of a bit hard to figure out (and not really worth it) not least on the grounds that he's a supreme multiparagrapher. Also, Marko hasn't forgotten his Yugoslavian comments, you'll be amazed to learn. But I think he's on-message as far as certain Middle East issues are concerned.

7/01/2009 08:35:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

In what post? I refuse to look through more than one.

It was on the first one to do with Lindsey german, if you can trawl the archives. She accused them of allowing islamophobic comments to go unchallenged on their comments. The people who run the site threw a hissy fit and started a typical 'give me her email address' witch-hunt, but as Marko pointed out, she was right - doubly damning is the fact that anything vaguely equivocal on the middle east or anything which vaguely suggests that the Iraq war is not teh best thing ever immediately gets subjected to torrents of abuse, and also often gets deleted.

If you have a genuinely open approach to moderation then you don't ban anyone, or you only ban people who are outrightly islamophobic or racist, but they ban and delete quite a lot. It's just that they ban people they consider trolls, as opposed to the islamophobes or the crazily partisan settlement-supporters, who presumably are not trolling - which says quite a lot.

HP has also had several pieces supporting coups in the past.

7/01/2009 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Thinking about it I believe Coates may be something to do with Shiraz Socialist, who are, to put it not too unkindly, SWP-obsessed loons. On message there, at any rate.

7/01/2009 02:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Gotcha. Marko on Coates - from the Can't They Both Lose file.

7/01/2009 03:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And indeed, Coatesy was rash enough to try to reply. Maybe they'll bore each other into submission. I suspect this is part of Marko's My Name Is Earl project of ticking off a big list of everyone who's ever disagreed with him and/or his parents... "Yup, that's Coates nailed for a letter he wrote to Living Marxism in 1992. Next, it'll be some retired academic for something he said at an IMG meeting before I was born."

Yeah, I'm with Phil on this. Replace Coatesy with Brendan O'Neill and the sentiment would be even more perfect.

7/01/2009 07:34:00 PM  
Anonymous dsquared said...

"My Name Is Marko". Genius. I'll have a treatment written up by Wednesday week. That bastard Ianucci's got to bite on one of these ideas.

7/01/2009 09:41:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

Co-starring Brian Brivati as his slightly slow sidekick, naturally.

7/01/2009 09:45:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

With the "World's tallest dwarf and shortest giant" replaced by the "World's least read Manifesto"

7/02/2009 08:34:00 AM  

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