Monday, September 21, 2009

Court in Session!

Why did no one tell me that Decentpedia was back? Comrade Muscular has excelled himself with Case Law.

James & Cohen vs. Western Feminists, Australian Local Intelligentsia, Australian Multiculturalist Ideologues, Legions of Australian Female Pundits, Western Female Thinkers, Writers In The Serious Newspapers, The Experts In Our Feminist Movement, The Irresponsible Semi-Intelligentsia, The Pampered Intelligentsia & Anti-Western Feminists

Via Sarah Ditum's post Condemning misogyny in Standpoint.

I'm always distrusting of men who claim to be feminist. As the term is used by newspapers today, any opinion put forth in print by a woman is by definition feminist. The corollary being that any thought which crosses a woman's head started life in her genitals. It's like Simone de Beauvoir never happened! As Sarah and Malky Muscular point out, James and Cohen attack feminists (ie women) for NOT condemning genital mutilation. Well, of course there's nothing misogynistic in men attacking women. The very thought.

I think it's worth pointing out that Greer and James were (and still are?) friends. A quick Googling found Greer's page at the University of Sydney from 2005:

Indeed Clive James and Germaine Greer were fellow students in the same small English tutorial group. It is reliably reported that no-one else could get a word in edgeways. Little wonder that Cambridge Footlights, that famous student review company, lists its two stars of 1967 as Germaine Greer and Clive James, still life-long friends and accomplices.

Almost entirely unrelated, I came across this marvellous piece on David Brooks (via DougJ of Balloon Juice) which reminds me of Nick Cohen.


Anonymous belle le triste said...

clive james has been a self-important gurning whistlehead since the dawn of time: pass it on

9/21/2009 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Can't agree with you there, Belle. He used to be a very good writer and TV reviewer. For a while, he was the best thing in the Observer -- and that was when it was a much better paper.

Still he didn't really manage the move to TV. I'll never know why he didn't go into arts programming. It wouldn't have paid as well, but he'd have had more variety than his one-trick "Let's all chortle at funny foreign TV" show. BTW, I feel that in bringing Japanese torture show "Endurance" to Western eyes, he is partially responsible for reality TV, not that that wouldn't have happened anyway.

9/21/2009 04:24:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I think he was a great TV critic, assuming one can be such a thing. He was also a very good writer, though probably only when writing as a critic, rather than as the poet he'd have liked to have been.

Either way, I still frequently find myself remembering things he wrote thirty years ago - every time I see a stupid walking shot on TV, for instance, I remember how much James hated them. And just the other day, reading how one football chairman or the other should never have passed the "fit and proper" test that supposedly applies, I remembered his remark on Tommy Docherty, then accused of not being fit to be a football manager. On the contrary, James wrote - that's exactly what he's fit for.

9/21/2009 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

I quite like Clive too, as it happens. I'd be on thin ice criticising him for being an incurable smartarse who picks on easy targets, and it's never been a crime to be a grumpy old fart - I've been one of those too, since I was about fourteen.

OTOH, the two don't really gel to make an incisive critique of modern feminism, or any of the multitude of synonyms Clive uses to avoid actually naming any of the people he's accusing. More assembly required, I think.

As for Nick's effort, it's just always Groundhog Day for that lad. His output's like Mexican food - no matter what you order, it's essentially the same shit in slightly different different packaging.

9/21/2009 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger Sarah Ditum said...

I *quite like* James. I think he's getting increasingly sloppy, though - he's often guilty of letting a slick-sounding sentence stand in for an argument. His series of essays on R4 recently were horribly guilty of that.

9/21/2009 06:44:00 PM  
Blogger donpaskini said...

Yay for Decentpedia.

semi off topic, Martin Bright has a quite staggeringly bad article in the Spectator about What Next for the Decent Left, which includes an excellent bit of Mea Culpa Sed Tu Quoque Ad Maximum:

"Incidentally, I now think the invasion was indeed an error: carried out at the wrong time, by the wrong coalition for the wrong reasons. But where I do agree with the “decents” is that those who opposed intervention in 2002/3 were arguing for the murderous Baathist regime to stay in power. This should remain on their conscience just as the murderous consequences of the invasion are on the conscience of those who supported the war."

9/22/2009 12:51:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

I see that the New Statesman editors have cut the words "ie, not at all" from the end of that sentence.

9/22/2009 07:03:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

Sorry, the Spectator editors!

9/22/2009 07:04:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

But if Bright is saying that he now believes the invasion to be an error he himself must by his own logic believe that the murderous Baathist regime should have remained in power.
Or maybe he does actually realise that there is a difference between arguing for something and arguing that in particularly circumstances something which is obviously undesirable is a less bad option than the alternative.

9/22/2009 07:30:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I don't think he does realise that, thanks to his weaselly 'i thought the war was both a good and bad idea' bit.

I like the action plan. including - objecting strongly to name-calling (hmm, I can see a problem with that, something to do with phrases like 'objectively pro-facist' and 'anti-semite'), vociferously rejecting charges of islamophbia (might not want to invite Brett 'Islam is a repellent ideology in all its manifestations' to that one), and building a broad coalition. Because Decents have such a good track record in bridge-building and alliance-forming... Even the more restrained ones couldn't even manage to be civil to Sunny Hundal for more than about a week, and remember Cohen vs the Fabian Society...

Btw this is the second plug Bright has given that Walzer essay, in print, in less than a week. Presumbly he re-read it recently and was re-energized by its 'brilliance'...

9/22/2009 08:12:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Oh and on feminism - I think that the Cohen definition of 'feminist' is 'woman who has said something I agree with'. I also think that his definition of a 'classic piece of feminist writing' is 'something by a woman i am friends with' - the Stangroom/Benson book looks seriously poor in terms of writing, not ideas, and the reviews he quotes back that up. Then again Nick hates an awful lot of important feminist thinkers doesn't he - Woolf, Greer, Butler... Hirsi Ali (whither her book on Mohammad going to the New York Public Library, btw, she was trailing that about 2 years ago) and Benson are obviously superior to them in every sense.

Clive James is an example of an incredibly talented journalist who aspired to the position of poet. Great on TV, pretty weak on literature.

Looking at Sarah Ditum's ace post - I'd not looked hard at that Standpoint Niquab cover. not sure, if that magazine represents a decent-approved publication, how many Muslims (even ones who don't wear headscarves at all) are going to be willing to join the 'broad coalition'...

9/22/2009 08:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bright's piece is an atempt at damage limitation: He realises enthusiasm for the Iraq war makes his friends look like idiots. He knows that any time they open their mouth people think "why should I listen to this fool, he thought the Iraq war was a good idea". So he is trying to minimise it - 'well maybe the Iraq war was a little misjudged, but the alternative was not much better ". Its the low calorie version of the old "Saddam Lover" insult. He knows that "decent" is a term of ridicule, as it means thinking George Bush was a great guy, Dick Cheney a friend of freedom, and destroying hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives an act of solidarity. I don't think he realises how bad the balance of "letting Saddam stay" vs "Yay Iraq war" actually weighs the decents: Faced with a vicious and vile dictator, they actually supported a plan that was many times worse : In simple loss of life the last five years of war vs. Saddam still in power, and the latter is - sadly and shockingly - the better option. And that leaves out the moral degradation of the warmongers, drawn into a mess of lies over WMD, apologies for torture, blind eyes to rendition etc. etc. Which is why Bright is , rightly, anxious about the Decent=Guantanamo/Decent=Neocon assumptions.
Ann On

9/22/2009 08:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

That Bright thing is basically a dashed-off blog post, but it really irritated me. (I tend to get irritated when people advance blatant contradictions and then say "no, that's not a contradiction in terms, LALALA NOT LISTENING CAN'T HEAR YOU".)

I've left a comment - let's see if it shows up.

9/22/2009 08:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Martin says :"Earlier this month I was asked to address an audience about what future there might be for the “decent left" "

I wonder what the event was, a kind of wake for decency ?

9/22/2009 08:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Martin Bright wrote some good stuff about the dodginess of the dossiers back in 2002 and 2003. It was later on that he fell in with the Policy Exchange lot and Nick Cohen.


9/22/2009 09:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think one of Bright's distinguishing characteristics is that he is committed to journalism, whereas the hard core decents are just committed to propaganda for their own eccentric cause: Bright covered the Katherine Gun story , which was v. important and v.much against the warmongers (indeed he was passed the Katherine Gun story by Yvonne Ridley). So while he is sympathetic to decency, he is also interested in reporting big events, and making an effort at truth. the Derek Pasquill leaks have a bit of this about them too, as they not only involved the "aargh - Muslim Brotherhood!" element, but also some stuff about rendition.
A good man fallen among decents, maybe ? that said, when he is opining rather than reporting he can be irritating . His thing about "why has liberal Britian deserted Pasquill" should have had a different title. As he notes " For reasons known only to themselves, the left-liberal publications and “progressive” centre-right think tank that benefited from the disclosures have chosen not to help fund his tribunal case." - That is, the Conservative Party oriented Policy Exchange are not helping Pasquill, after using his stuff for their pamphlets. So in truth the peice should be called "why has Conservative Britain deserted Derek Pasquill"

9/22/2009 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

A good man fallen among decents, maybe ?

A hard conclusion to come to for anyone who watched his Did Hitler's love-child grow up in Gloucestershire? documentary!

9/22/2009 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Hey, don't knock that show. It made the front cover of the Oxford Mail!

9/22/2009 11:42:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

To his credit, Bright does identify one quintissential failing of the decents -

Without being anti-American, it should be quite possible to oppose the human rights abuses of the US government. Indeed, it should be possible to defend the human rights of Islamic radicals whilst abhorring their totalitarian politics. Sometimes the decent left finds this too difficult.

Unfortunately, this failing is not considered serious enough to be addressed as part of his action plan.

As for that plan, I am particularly intrigued by this one -

3. Recognise the true nature of the opposition. The movements on the Islamic extreme right are strong and well organised. The Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-i-Islami operations in Britain are effective and sophisticated. The Jamaat control of East London mosque, London Muslim Centre, the Muslim Council of Britain the Islamic Foundation is solid and well funded.

I mean is he really suggesting that the Decents are insufficiently aware of the threat posed by these organisations? Did he give hat tips to Nick Cohen and HP without having read a word of what they have written for the last few years?

9/22/2009 12:32:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Good to see AW regulars in full force in the comments there...

I agree with the person up there who said that Bright is a good investigative journo but a bad opinion journo and an especially bad online opinion journo. I think he was a decent political editor at the NS, too, because he was working with people he disagreed with and had a strong editor above him - the latter will be the case in a different sense at the JC - expect to see its pages dominated by HP Sauce-derived guff.

he lost that gig at the NS because of his cavalier online behaviour. The internet has a tendency to bring people out in extremes, and for normally sensible people to adopt a tone they'd never use in either print or in the flesh - but too much time on the internet, especially if you've only been introduced to it fairly recently, and you end up taking the negative aspects of online commenting into your printed work and that's clearly happened with Bright, most clearly in the despicable 'I don't think all lefties hate Jews BUT' piece for the JC.

The action plan is laughable, it jsut says 'keep going, you're doing great'. I especially liek this bit:

Recognise the true nature of the opposition.

Obscure trade union activists, 'the British left' in general, the quakers, anyone involved in the green movement, anyone who dares to criticise the Israeli armed forces? nope, he's talking about a very small minority of the British Muslim population.

The charges of islamophobia would be slightly easier to shake off if Bright hadn't just defined Decency as having its opposition exclusively located in a small, if unpleasant, section of the Muslim population. Again, it's not the best way to build bridges with moderate Muslims, to define your political movement as being exclusively opposed to Muslim bigotry; to promote magazines with clearly islamophobic covers like Standpoint; and to so often offer fulsome praise (and webspace) to people who are very clearly islamophobic. What's most embarrassing is that they'll jump down the throat of even the smallest criticism of Zionism, but look at their online 'comrades' and you can see why there are pretty much no Muslims at all invovled in Decency.

And how many more times does he want HP Sauce to post 'teh MCB are teh Nazis' before anyone who is likely to be persuaded will be won over?

Just a blog post, yes (and why doesn't he ever proofread his blog posts?), but a very, very poor one.

9/23/2009 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

he lost that gig at the NS because of his cavalier online behaviour.

Nooo! It was a Gordon Brown plot! Seriously, I don't think we know exactly why. The Statesman does go through staff.

...defined Decency as having its opposition exclusively located in a small, if unpleasant, section of the Muslim population.

What strikes me here is that we can further define this section: almost exclusively male, and mostly young - teens to 30 - with a few greybeards who are the leaders (or never grew up). In other words, pretty much a mirror image of Decency.

I know I've had a go at you for psychologising, but there's one thing David T said to Conor Foley in a Harry's Place thread which I can't forget.

What I’m saying, basically, is that you’re a fighty person. You seek out arguments, because you enjoy them, and because you think that there are some things which are worth arguing about. That’s why - despite going to places where people who disagree with you will try to kill you - you also hang around blogs, fighting.

He does have the honesty to admit in his previous comment (which the above was intended to explain) that he is similar to his description of Conor. I think there are certain aspects of Islam which bring out the worst in young men: sexual segregation for one thing, but the same can be said for the self-selecting posters on blogs. I think Harry's Place sort of evolved by continuing to favour angry posts because these got the most enthusiastic comments. I'm sure the same sort of process happens in some mosques.

9/23/2009 09:50:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

IMHO Bright is a pretty poor journalist. He may have published some reasonable articles on the lead-up to the Iraq War but he was also a conduit for New Labour spin during this period. Those people who think that Bright is a credible investigative journalist ought to read this and consider whether a journalists with any critical faculties would reproduce the content of such anonymous briefings with no caveats , especially when it was so clear we were being softened up for war.

And his Dispatches expose on Livingstone was truly dreadful.

9/23/2009 09:56:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Yes, the Livingstone thing was appalling. His broadcast work hasn't been great generally from the evidence above... and his blog now is just yet another anti-Gordon Brown 'discussion point'.

The Toube post is pretty illuminating. I do kind of admire the energy of the people on there - it must be quite hard to be that upset about fairly inconsequential stuff all the time, though I guess you just get used to it.

There's certainly a herd mentality to the HP Sauce crowd in particular, though i'd hesitate from saying that the commenters on there are really representative of Decent thinking - the vast majority are outspokenly right-wing, usually fairly hardline on Israel (esp the settlements) and islamophobic, and I genuinely don't think that the people who run it consider themselves as such (even with evidence to the contrary). but as you say, the reception informs the tone which is pretty damaging in the long run. and as has been said a fair few times on here, you do have to eventually look in the mirror when the website you run is awash with racism and hatred.

and it comes back round - the tone of posts has certainly contributed to that kind of person being the average HP Sauce reader - witness the treatment of Flying Rodent on there today, where an entirely balanced and sensible post is used as 'evidence' of the left loving Hitler or something - and that's by David Toube who is ostensibly more moderate than the commenters. Someone with as 'interesting' views as Chas Newkey-Burden should not really be the kind of person you're linking to, even if you're a moderate right-wing blog.

That's why I find it inconceivable that Decents are genuine about bridge-building. Any dissent from someone on 'the left' about anything is treated as a loony, antisemitic embrace of fascism. I still dont' quite understand how supposedly rational people can come to that conclusion, but hey.

As as aside, from posts on there recently it looks like Toube has signed up to the same meme as Cohen, that the Tories (without any real evidence) are a party of moderation and 'the left' is full of extremists. Expect to see very little in the way of anti-Tory discussion from any of these people in the run-up to the election - I'm sure the line will run 'Labour = Brown = awful while the Tories admired Blair so they're ok'. Toube is even explaining away the tory alliance in Europe with the far right as realpolitik, which is breathtaking really given Decent treatment of Labour realpolitik. The support has primarily stemmed from the Gove-approved school vouchers system - totally unworkable and obviously not left-wing in the slightest (also paving the way to far more faith schools), but clearly attractive to upper-middle-class people with young children.

9/23/2009 11:15:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Apparently "Bush = Hitler" is beyond the pale at HP but "the EU = the USSR" is allowed to pass without comment.

9/23/2009 11:36:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

On the subject of the commenters at HP much has been said before of course. In fairness, the herd mentality is hardly exclusive to HP - there are other saner leftish blogs where dissenting commenters tend to get dismissed as trolls - but at HP it's notable partly because it's so nasty but also because, as OC points out, it happens to people who post comments which are reasonably argued and should hardly be controversial for what is supposed to be a left wing blog, while others can seemingly post hate filled right wing bilge with impunity (hello Morgoth).
Of course any site which posts extensively on the subject of Israel/Palestine (and there's nothing wrong with this per se) is likely to attract a fairly extreme bunch - it's the unfortunate nature on online discussion on the subject, and the fact that they have a strongly pro-Israel stance means that they attract a particular faction.
You would think though that they might recognise this and be careful not to post stuff which gives those people ammunition with which to display the full extent of their lunacy and downright unpleasantness. And although no blog can control who decides to comment there do they not stop to wonder why so many right wing people seem to at home on a purportedly left wing blog?

9/23/2009 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

To be fair, given that anybody with eyes can see what HP is like, surely part of the reason for going there in the first place has to be winding them up? I mean what are people expecting, a rational discussion?

9/23/2009 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Re EJH comments


Isn't this the dilemma? HP are clearly spoiling for a fight and though I can fence with the best of them, I'm fucked if I'll be drawn into it. Particularly as Israel/Palestine is when the gloves appear to be off in both camps. And that is a dirty fight when one is not involved directly.

Sure, AA's comments are correct but that same line could be levelled at AW (given a skim reading of some of our comments) so it should be facts/sloppy reasoning that are picked off rather than entrenched rhetoric that appears to be left or right.

9/23/2009 07:27:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

you're almost certainly right EJH. Though I dunno how much of AA's comments can be applie to this blog. While trolling is frowned upon (though it's usually one in such an obviously mean-spirited and half-hearted way that it's not worth bothering with), the recent stuff on conspiracies and lockerbie didn't reveal a 'party line', and equally comments on this blog steer clear, generally, of imputing the absolute worst motives possible in people who come in for criticism.

By the way, since we were taling about Nick Cohen being under-employed, from the new Standpoint it looks like what he has been doing is writing more long-winded guff about libel laws for standpoint - and getting round to the Ant and Dec 'quiz-fixing' scandal about three years too late... I have more time for his TV piece than usual but it stll betrays absolutely no understanding of the audiences for TV shows or the rationale behind decisions - and once again it comes off as strangely elitist, rom someone who's usually so quick to accuse others of that 'crime'.

9/24/2009 08:21:00 AM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

Since it's all HP on this thread, anyone else notice that both David T. and Gene describe LGF's Charles Johnson as "Centre Right" on that Anti-war protesters and idiotic Obamanazi protesters are essentially identical thread?

Even more entertaining is Gene's naive surprise to discover that the Instapundit is not, in fact, a fair-minded, non-partisan libertarian...

...frankly I’m surprised that Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit– who I thought operated somewhere in the realm of rationality– seems to be lining up with the racists and the crazies.

To be clear for those unfamiliar with their output, Charles Johnson may have had the basic common sense to reject the Teabaggers' more idiotic fantasies, but he's still one of those "anti-jihadist" wingnuts whose belligerent lunacy make Cheney and Netanyahu look like a pair of cringing, Dhimmi pussies. The Instapundit is a Republican hack whose job is whipping up some kind of semi-rational froth for whatever dingbat non-scandal the party is terrifying the snake-handlers with this week. Even I'm astonished that Gene finds this discovery surprising in 2009.

If the two longest-serving HP regulars regard these bloggers as "rational" "center rightists", I think this is a pretty good guide to who HP are talking about when they're bleating about the "bonkers far left".

9/24/2009 04:09:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Yeah, I raised my eyebrows at that - I don't know much about Johnson but from what I've seen of LGF it seems pretty deranged.
I know he's been getting flack from some even more insane right wingers recently, which may make him appear more mainstream by comparison (see also Alan Dershowitz being berated by Melanie Phillips for selling out Israel) but really...
Of course where the commenters at HP object to this description it seems to be on the grounds that it unfairly ignores his crypto-leftist tendencies.

9/24/2009 04:32:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I appreciate that every post on this thread shuld have the word ker-ching in it, but still...

I think the HP Sauce writers think it's acceptable to be endorsing LGF now because he's taking flak from the really, really nuts right-wing in America.

You can just move every HP Sauce 'political definition' one block to the right. So their centre-right usually means hardline/extreme right, or at nthe very least committed neoconservative; their centre-left (or indeed social democrat) usually means centre-right; their 'loony left extremists' are more often than not moderate left-wingers woh happened ot oppose to Iraq war and don't constantly support the actions of the IDF; etc etc.

Incidentally they briefly had a 'will you condemn' post up a couple of days ago urging Sunny Hundal not to go to an Amnesty event opposing Guantanamo because Yvonne Ridley is speaking at it (the open letter did not appear to have actually been sent to Hundal first). The guilt by association looks all the more stupid when their site, which apparently views Hitler = Bush/Obama as one of the greatest sins possible to commit, hosts material written by people use phrases like 'Obama's brownshirts'...

9/25/2009 08:33:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

their centre-left (or indeed social democrat) usually means centre-right; their 'loony left extremists' are more often than not moderate left-wingers woh happened ot oppose to Iraq war and don't constantly support the actions of the IDF; etc etc

It kind of works both ways - mainstream leftists are portrayed as extremists and the real extremists are portrayed as the mainstream. Basically, their idea of what constitutes "acceptable" left wing opinion is so narrow it comes down to them against everyone else, because if we're not directly guilty of extremism we're guilty by association by, for example "going to rallies organised by terrorists and communists" (direct quote from DavidT).

9/25/2009 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I appreciate that every post on this thread should have the word ker-ching in it, but still...

Indeed. I was going to start my new job on Tuesday but I might just send some invoices instead.

9/25/2009 03:26:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Strictly OT but did anybody see this? I had an idea it was bad but this is staggering. I await with baited breath Norm's article on the moral conumdrums of advocating war from the cosy confines of a Manchester drawing room.

9/25/2009 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger Gregor said...

'If the two longest-serving HP regulars regard these bloggers as "rational" "center rightists", I think this is a pretty good guide to who HP are talking about when they're bleating about the "bonkers far left".'

Whilst I have a bad memory, and have no idea what search terms I could use to verify this, if I remember correctly (which may not be correct, if you follow) it was Gene who made me give up on HP a few years ago.

He showed (with more disclaimers about my bad memory, though now I've remembered it wasn't even all that bad) a cartoon showing drooling, impoverished hicks talking about why they would vote Republican and he said 'imagine if these were black people'. Whilst I did not like the cartoon myself, I do find this 'imagine if they were black' is usually a type of subtle racism whereby people can protest against racist stereotypes that are not used and through this imply that there is a truth in racial stereotypes themselves.

(put it this way, I wouldn't be terribly flattered if someone showed this cartoon of idiots with bad teeth or a Jewish caricature with a big nose and said 'imagine if people made cartoons like this about Gregor'... why me particularly? would it imply I'm somehow vulnerable to such caricaturing?)

However, that was just the last straw. Whilst I do seem to remember that there were many anti-War protestors who were extremely self-righteous and some idiots who did minimise Saddam's human rights abuses, the 'decents' were the other side of the same coin.

Maybe Ian McEwan will write a sequel to Saturday where a down-to-earth narrator will attend the Hitchens/beardedtwassock-
whosenameicantremember party and wonder if using bombs on civilian targets needs sober introspection rather than a self-congratulatory piss-up.

9/25/2009 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger Sangiovese Fellow said...

I'm disappointed that there hasn't been much response to the splendid David Brooks link, so I'll respond myself. Brooks resembles Cohen in that his claims are persistently anecdotal and thus usually unverifiable; when he does deal with specifics, they are almost always skewed interpretations of existing theories, exaggerations or just statements that are simply false, and always used to back up a certain predictable political perspective. The piece on him captures this very nicely, and I thought the moment when Brooks complained about having his misleading information revealed was exquisite - a man who had no qualms about giving an easy ride to the most corrupt and dishonest US administration in living memory protesting at the dreadful injustice involved in, er, suggesting that journalists shouldn't embroider reality! This said, although he shares the very tenuous grip on reality that is such a feature of the US right, it must be said that Brooks isn't a headbanging wingnut loon like Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, nor as humourless and malevolent as Cohen has become. He had the sense to see Sarah Palin for the walking disaster area that she is, which is more than can be said for our Nick, and for all its persistent inaccuracy, his writing can at least sometimes elicit a wry smile, which is one up on the scribblings of most Decents. So although I'm deeply unimpressed by both his politics and his honesty, when placed next to the Fox News cohort and their useful idiots he almost looks like Edmund Burke.

9/25/2009 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Cheers, SF! The Brooks thing was the best bit of the post for me (I thought readers would know all the rest). For the record, it came from a Balloon Juice thread (I do read lots of other stuff, I just find BJ the most stimulating [need better word] blog at the moment.) Anyway, also on Balloon Juice, see this on Edmund Burke. (Brooks brought Burke to the table, so to speak. Paine's retort describes Decency or at least Christopher Hitchens perfectly. @name links on Balloon Juice go to the comment being replied to.)

9/25/2009 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Here is a post that I was going to save and publish when the news story at the end had been clarified. However, it seems to be more appropriate to this thread and particularly comments made around the 24th and 25th of this month. I'm always conflicted by freedom of speech issues. As I understand it, what I object to is suppression by force by the state. I do think people should censor themselves: there is a time to bite one's tongue. I think people should advise others not to publish ("You'll look like an idiot."). Anyway, I think I think that blogs are roughly akin to private property: the police shouldn't break the door down without very good reason, but you wouldn't let random people shit on your carpet either. I hope the post (which now follows) makes that analogy clearer.

See the comment by comment by M-o-r-g-o-t-h at 23 September 2009, 11:32 am on thisDavid T post.

Every single Eurocrat should be hung, drawn and quartered for crimes against free humanity. Every single EU office should be flattened. Every single EUlackey in the UK such as Nick Clegg, Dennis Cunting MacShane and the rest of the treacherous quisling abble should be put on trial for treason against this country.

David Toube himself commented on the thread at 23 September 2009, 12:23 pm in reply to another comment, so I can't believe that he didn't read the thread. Nor can I believe that Harry's Place never bans people; I know they've banned D Squared. I suspect that David T is more pro-EU than not (this being roughly the Labour line), and I'm sure he's against capital punishment, so it's not a question that he endorses Morgoth's view. I'm not accusing him of favouritism, I'm accusing him of a lack of discernment - he doesn't distinguish which comments constitute debate and which are hate speech - and a lack of will in dealing with offenders.

Anyway, after the long intro, the point. AP source: Census worker hanged with 'fed' on body.

The FBI is investigating the hanging death of a U.S. Census worker near a Kentucky cemetery. A law enforcement official says the word "fed" was scrawled on his chest.

The federal government occupies much the same symbolic space in the US as the EU does here. It's faceless, anti-freedom, and god knows what.

I think my point is that we (I mean, all bloggers) can learn from Harry's Place. I think they made some very bad decisions (which can, nevertheless, help the rest of us make better decisions). They banned people who criticised them (which I call debate), but didn't ban or censure nasty outbursts, such as Morgoth's. This was absolutely the wrong decision. John Cole went a different way -- even when he was a Republican. Cole also got the Kevin Drum catblogging memo: you can't be serious all the time - cats think life is good. Andrew Sullivan, for all his faults, regularly has 'Mental Health Break' posts. Shorter me (over the past several months): where Nick went wrong was in not getting that. Norman Geras did.

9/25/2009 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger Sangiovese Fellow said...

Thanks CC - the Balloon Juice material is indeed rather enjoyable! I think some of Brooks' success comes from the fact that he plays a right-wing game but does so in a good-natured way, being careful not to offend the left with the sort of vitriol that gets spewed from the Fox News crowd. Hence the inclination on both sides of the spectrum to regard him as "thoughtful" even on the occasions when he's really just recycling folksy cliches. More generally, I think what he does is to give a respectable face to the American right's favorite rhetorical trope: to associate conservatives with authenticity, humility, small-town simplicity, religion, friendliness and suchlike via a set of codings about rural life, consumer choices, trustworthiness and practical know-how, while linking US liberals to privilege, arrogance, expensive tastes, pretentious intellectualism and so forth by a similar set of opposed codings. By talking about class in this coded way whilst carefully ignoring any real hard facts about wealth distribution, its effects and its connections to political parties, the US right's political payoff is to turn the American rural poor into footsoldiers for the very same corporate interests that destroy their livelihoods and deprive their children of workplace rights and opportunities. Brooks is very much the acceptable face of this tendency, but for a splendid work debunking the mythology, I recommend Thomas Frank's book "What's the Matter with Kansas?". It's both perceptive and funny, and as a newly arrived British academic expat 4 years ago, it served me very well in helping to understand the thought processes of the rural conservatives amongst my American students.

9/25/2009 09:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

I never commented on that Brooks link, because it's such old material and linked to hell and back on the yankee liberal blogs years ago...

9/26/2009 06:20:00 AM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

To be fair, the ZOMFG the brie-eating liberals think they're so goddamn smart, not like the deeply authentic conservatives stuff isn't a recent phenomenon - it's been a fixture in American politics since Nixon was in power.

It's core culture war stuff, which is why it's so entertaining when it comes up in Nick and Aaro's output - they genuinely seem to think they're reclaiming some bygone leftist principle, rather than just parroting Spiro Agnew's most tiresome speeches.

9/26/2009 09:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

it's been a fixture in American politics since Nixon was in power

It goes back way further than that - all that Nixon did was switch the party labels (or consolidate a switch that was already under way). Historically the Democrats were the party of organised labour and the plain common sense of the (Southern) working man, and the Republicans stood for big money, social liberalism, effete New Englanders and book-larnin'. Look at the first couple of decades in the last century, when the NAACP, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood got started - all of them much more associated with Republicans than Democrats.

9/26/2009 11:33:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

The brie-munching stuff is surely also the result of a shared distrust of intellectuals (who have a tendency to not toe political party lines) and a desire to appear 'down to earth', one of 'the working people', isn't it? Both stem from a kind of weird cartoonish version of history with no basis in reality where anyone who was elft-wing in the 1930s was a factory worker, had never been to university, etc, and if you went to Eton it meant that you had to be a Tory, deep down, cough, cough, mumble, Orwell. It's why Nick wanks on ad nauseam about where Perry Anderson went to school. Cheap, personal attacks as opposed to yer actual analysis.

I find this especially odd given that in both the wingnut case and also the Decent case the people who front as being 'down to earth' are better educated and clearly go to more fancy dinner parties in the poshest parts of the country than most of the people they're criticising (Bill O'Reilly living in one of the most affluent parts of Long Island, for example).

because they revel in their philistinism it's ok for them to criticise almost everyone they live near, or something. I mean, I'd have more time for Aaro and Nick's whingeing about Islington and Hampstead society if they hadn't made the decision to live in these sodding places. London's a big place after all - Britain's even bigger. The anti-middle classes stuff is what I find most tedious about Decency. If it annoys them so much then they shouldn't be part of it. You don't actually have to live in Islington and Hampstead.

I'm not accusing him of favouritism, I'm accusing him of a lack of discernment - he doesn't distinguish which comments constitute debate and which are hate speech - and a lack of will in dealing with offenders.

I think it does stem from favouritism, though. There's no other way to explain the treatment of 'loveable weirdo who consistently advocates state-sanctioned murder' and the treatment of people like flying rodent on the very few times they bother going on there.

If you toe the party line on the 'most important issues' then you can get away with anything else - hence the otherwise baffling embrace of Chas Newkey-Burden and the 'MereRhetoric' guy and the banning of DSquared. I can't think of any other way to explain that than favouritism and the desire for an easy life - of not having to answer awkward questions. What I find most genuinely depressing about that place is that people aren't interested in debate at all - the commitment to free speech is laughable because anyone they think might be opposed to the GISOOT is either deleted or has their words intentionally misinterpreted.

9/26/2009 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Kevin Drum? Catblogging? I know nothing of this, what do I need to know?

Re: this Morgoth chap on this "HP" site, I'm reminded that where have been a number of trials in the UK where the evidence against the defendants has basically consisted of things they have posted on the internet. On such occasions I've always found myself commenting that if such a policy was followed consistently, a lot of people would find themselves on trial, and most of them very far from being Islamists.

9/26/2009 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger Sangiovese Fellow said...

Just a very quick line on the Brooks/US culture war stuff. One reason why I posted the Thomas Frank recommendation was that he deals with this history very effectively in the book concerned, and points to the way in which the right have effectively stolen the left's rhetorical clothes whilst the Democratic Party has persistently let down and sold out what should be its core constituency amongst labour. He acknowledges that the tropes themselves have been going for many years - in fact his book title is taken from the name of an early 20th century conservative essay bemoaning the rabid leftism of what is now a very right wing state - but argues that the political cashing out of these on the political stage with their present loadings really started to emerge out of Nixon's Southern strategy, and hit the jackpot with Reagan and the strategic follies of the DNC since then.

9/26/2009 01:58:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Cohen's piece in the Obs is reasonable enough, lengthy and largely pointless Kipling references aside, until you get to this:

In the fragmented media future, I doubt if anyone will be able to make money out of Westminster reporting. But dominating rich men prepared to subside websites and newspapers, as their predecessors in the 18th century oligarchy patronised political writers, will find that what they lose in profits they gain in political influence.

um... Standpoint? Which only exists cos a right-wing 'dominating rich man' funds it? oh dear.

9/27/2009 08:21:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

Of course, the key element in the whole David Brooks/weekend columnist thing is that you make things up to fit your existing prejudices and political program.

9/28/2009 12:51:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

Cohen kind-of-sort-of-nah-doesn't-actually apologise to Nick Davies, here...

It includes this...

"The example of a media conspiracy theory I used was Nick Davies's account of the Observer's coverage of the Iraq war in his book Flat Earth News which, I said, contained stories he must have known weren't true."

I'm sure that the "must have" was missing from the original piece.

9/29/2009 04:48:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

(Actually, that's a bit unfair: there is an apology contained within it, but it's drowned out by all the teeth-grating.)

9/29/2009 04:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The original quote.

"I found Nick Davies's assault on my newspaper, the Observer, hugely unconvincing. He presented as fact allegations I knew weren't true, and, I later discovered he knew weren't true."


9/29/2009 04:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the several things that winds me up about Cohen on a personal level is that he appears to think that his readers are very stupid. This anpology-that-isn't is a case in point.

Chris Williams

9/29/2009 05:43:00 PM  

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