Monday, January 25, 2010

Not Impressed

Something tells me that Malky Muscular was not impressed with Nick Cohen this week.

There's no disguising it sir - your presidency can't survive a bad write-up from a tiny clique of pointy-headed, no-dick academic ideologues prattling about war and swooning over belligerent-sounding bullshit.

I'm really against trying to assess the psychology of people through their writing and allegiances, but when you see someone swoon "over belligerent-sounding bullshit" it's hard to assess their mental health charitably. I do want to say to our neo-liberal chums, "You seem to have some issues about manliness and violence. Have you thought about buying a Harley-Davidson and/or a PlayStation? Couldn't you just have an affair?"


Blogger Sangiovese Fellow said...

Yes CC, you're not alone in your thoughts on motivation here. Here's part of what I said on this blog nearly a year ago following Nick's glorious Orwell Prize public performance:

"Poor Nick, that it's his judgment and temperament that's been the mid-life casualty. He and almost everyone else might have been better off if he'd bought a Harley-Davidson and bonked his secretary in the time-honoured manner instead, but maybe it really mattered to him not to resemble a Tory or Robin Cook. In any case, whatever the causes, what a sad, sad figure he cuts."

And now he's gearing up to promote a new book that on this showing might achieve the near impossible feat of being even more risible than "What's Left?"...

1/25/2010 10:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

True story: when my sister's husband left her, she took a couple of days off and went to see her boss afterwards to explain what was happening. He commiserated in a rather formal senior-civil-servant way, then said, "If my wife left me... I'd buy a motorbike."

I'm not sure if this was meant as advice or if it was just a freefloating reverie.

1/25/2010 10:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Louis M said...

Well, Nick's drinking might be a sign of him having a bit of a crisis, I sure he was just on the sauce for most of the Cairo speech so whole hours of it just seemed like a blur.

As his accusation that Obama is a reactionary for not sanctioning China to death, I dont remember any US president taking any harder line that telling Beijing to to be so naughty in the future.

1/25/2010 10:44:00 PM  
Anonymous saucy jack said...

Didn't David T claim that Obama's Cairo speech read like something drafted by the boys at HP?

1/26/2010 08:37:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

That's a supreme Malky Muscular post, great work.

I don't ncesarily think that Cohen's 'change' has come from a midlife crisis per se, so much as a longer-held feeling that he didn't actually agre with much of what the political 'side' he took was doing, even when he was an active member of that 'side'. He's not necessarily arguing with his former self like Clothes for Chaps seems to be (The Fallout is pretty much a midlife crisis in 'memoir' form). The main point of What's Left is, after all, that Lefties have been wrong about everything from the end of the Spanish Civil War onwards.

for example, the 'battles' Cohen has with 'relativism' are old news; that kind of thing was just as alive in the 80s as now. Looking over his oeuvre it's clear that he was always fairly ranty and confrontational (I don't have much time for anything he penned on foreign policy before his conversion to Decency, because it's similarly one-eyed and frequently belligerent in tone). I can't help wondering whether this is just a massive letting-off-of-steam now he's allowed himself to dissent from the orthodoxy of his previous 'side'.

What's truly worrying is that he doesn't seem to have merged his actual opinions/prejudices into a coherent set of political beliefs. He is far too open to influence, from disparate sources (thus the drinks industry one week; then Kamm the next; Amis the next; HP Sauce the week after; wingnut American right the week after that). The only thing which unites the people he is influenced by is that they praised his book-before-last - often in fairly despicable ways, but still.

If anything I think this 'crisis' is a crisis of the desire for comfort; of laziness; and of vanity. It's actually quite sad to read his fairly nuanced discussion of prejudice in 'why it's right to be anti-american' (even if the main point is a bit boneheaded) and to look at his writing now, which just consists of prejudice after prejudice with 'evidence' arranged around them.

1/26/2010 09:42:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

I'm not sure, OC. I admit I haven't opened my copy of Cruel Britannia for a while but ISTR that in those days although he was pretty, erm, forthright in his view of Blair and co he did have a coherent and consistent argument about the rottenness at the heart of New Labour, and on particular issues such as PFI and the treatment of asylum seekers he was very good. He wasn't nearly as scattergun in his choice of targets as he is today and his writing was just, well, better.
He now seems to see his output at that times as just the standard lefty Blair bashing but it always seemed more than that at the time.

1/26/2010 01:40:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

yes - maybe I was being unfair to the former Cohen. I looked over 'why it is right...' while writing that post and though it did have its annoyingly blunt bits, the nuance was striking in comparison to his post-conversion stuff; though I do think he still had the proclivity to hector more than necessary.

It's the scattergun thing that annoys me most about his recent output. He seems incapable of ever writing a column on one topic; there was no need at lal for that 'relativism' whinge to be in the Obama piece for example, and given how much he left out of that it was doubly frustrating.

1/26/2010 01:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It reminds me a bit of Mike Banda when the WRP collapsed. Not an exact parallel in that Mike genuinely had some sort of emotional breakdown over all the stuff he'd been covering up, but...

The question Mike had to answer was that, given the WRP was obviously degenerate, at what point in his 35-year partnership with Healy this degeneration had happened. So Mike pondered this for a while, then came up with the ingenious solution that Stalin, not Trotsky, had been right in the first instance; that the Trotskyist movement had been wrong about everything since 1929; and that therefore he, Banda, was not to blame for anything that had happened since.

Of course neither Nick nor C4C have the sort of things on their conscience that Banda did. But the way Nick has moved from "the left ain't what is was in the 70s" to "the left has been wrong about everything in my lifetime" is reminiscent. What's more, it gets Nick off rhetorical hooks like the inconvenient fact that, if Ken Livingstone is as rotten as Nick says he is, he was equally bad when Nick supported him, and Nick knew this.

Still, I don't think Nick is about to turn into Peter Hitchens, as Peter has much more self-knowledge. I suspect Nick's real spiritual home is at Spiked.

1/26/2010 02:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Might it be because when Nick was writing about dodgy stuff happening in the UK, he was at least sober enough to turn up, ask intelligent questions, and find things out. Now that his world-view is predicated on some norms that largely derive from foreign policy, he's screwed. He's not prepared to actually go there ("my dear, the noise, the people, the Pilger!") perhaps not least because he might find that it's all a lot more complicated than the norms of Decency would imply, so he's left sucking up whatever truthiness he can get hold of in Islington, prey to whatever numbat bent his ear last.

And perhaps his earlier career as someone who checked his own facts in the first place has left him bereft of the skills of checking them after the fact. Verily it was just said by Malky, in the funniest bit of prose I've read this year, that with regard to That Cairo Speech Error it:

"looks rather like Cohen may have brutally fucked the dog on that one,"

Time to contact the readers' editor?

Chris Williams

1/26/2010 02:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave Weeden said...

> But the way Nick has moved from "the left ain't what is was in the 70s" to "the left has been wrong about everything in my lifetime" is reminiscent.

Yes, but Nick isn't right-wing outside supporting wars. I think he thinks something like this: "Left wing thought is OK; left-wing people are absolutely dreadful." I've no idea why he thinks this. I mean, of course, leftists have backed the wrong people sometimes and been blind to others' faults. But, Christ, so has everyone else. Rumsfeld sold Saddam weapons for crying out loud. (At least Norman Geras has written about his distaste for Rumsfeld, only partly because he thought the former Secretary of Defense was incompetent.) One of the strange things about Nick is how he doesn't appear to be embarrassed that his 'just war' was run by a man who encouraged a crazed dictator. But Ken Livingstone had a deal to buy oil from Hugo Chavez. Oh, how terrible.

1/26/2010 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Louis M said...

Well Nick think's that the Iraq war is right and Nick was right in supporting it but those bloody Arabs let him, them selfs and everyone else down, and proved that they were not ready for a decent salvation.
And as the great man of reason announced pointing the finger at the left "if your saying overthrowing a genocidle tyrant is illegal your saying genocide is legal".

1/26/2010 10:47:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

Aaro on Newsnight last night was awful - he looked terrible and was wearing that red shirt/black jacket combo he usually favours which tends to make him look like a minor character in the Sopranos. His argument on the Iraq inquiry was, literally "look, if there had been tons on nuclear weapons and no civilians had been killed, then we wouldn't even be having an inquiry, would we?"

1/27/2010 08:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Sorge said...

I'm always curious as to what his Observer colleagues make of all this. I'm sure that a " a diversity of views is a hallmark of this paper" etc, but for a liberal paper in obvious commercial decline, carrying a writer who shows such an increasing distaste-if not rancour- for the opinions, lifestyles and even life experiences of your core readership seems an increasingly naff option.

1/27/2010 09:04:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Nick isn't right-wing outside supporting wars.

I'm not so sure... His output on the Credit Crunch was confused to say the least, and he seems to have been charmed by US 'libertarians' too.

I think he thinks something like this: "Left wing thought is OK; left-wing people are absolutely dreadful." I've no idea why he thinks this. I mean, of course, leftists have backed the wrong people sometimes and been blind to others' faults. But, Christ, so has everyone else.

It's probably borne out of a dislike for the middle classes per se, based partly on a dislike of what one has become (why on earth does he live in Islington, after all); and some idea that being left-wing, because it involves ideals etc, means that anyone who in any way deviates from them (which all middle-class left-wingers have done, according to Nick - except him obv) is much more of a hypocrite than if they were an amoral right-winger.

I think those are the contortions. But something that's always truck me is how apolitical - or at least, not primarily motivated by politics - a lot of the 'things he hates in the left' are; i mean, the Obs magazine might as well be the Sunday times magazine for all the difference it'd make.

1/27/2010 01:55:00 PM  

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