Saturday, January 09, 2010

Sometimes a long spoon isn't enough

This is majorly off-topic, but the last thread was dying. I think it was D-squared who came up with the nickname "Little Red Footballs" for "Harry's Place." Huffington Post: Charles Johnson Got Threats After Breaking With Right, Relocated. It's sort of a non-story, highlighting a couple of paras from the LA Times' interview with Charles Johnson.

As I talked to Johnson in his office, an alert flashed on one of his two giant computer monitors. An angry screed targeting him on another website concluded: "I think a visit to Mr. Johnson's home might be warranted. Anybody got his address?"
Such veiled threats are at least one reason why Johnson, 56, relocated not long ago. He remains in the Los Angeles area, but now is in a gated community.

Now, to paraphrase the New Yorker cartoon, "On the internet, no one knows you're harmless" - a lot of stupid gets said, and very little done. But I can think of other sites which haven't discouraged commenters from intemperate rhetoric. It would be glib to say "Heh" here.


Anonymous John Fallhammer said...

Andrew Anthony does Malcom Caldwell and the Khmer Rouge (in Life And Style). Apart from the usual clumsiness, he does seem to be trying to be fair, and then in the last part he starts babbling about means and ends and Marxist-Leninist ideology.

1/10/2010 01:49:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

my heart really bleeds for him. I can't work out how it took him so long to notice that his blog comments were at least 40% (to use a similarly useful number) full of bigoted, scary nutters. Before he noticed this he'd done everything in his power to at least covertly encourage it, and when he talks about bigotry he might want unknol at how often he has used phrases like "rop"-a mocking reference to islam as "religion of peace"-etc. He reminds me of people like douglas murray, who realise that bigotry attracts internet weirdos but won't get you paid gigs as a talking head, and won't get you political influence. Sadly most decents seem incapable of remembering the abhorrent and mostly unretracted past statements of these people when they're usually so hot on such acts of memory.

1/10/2010 09:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AA's trying unsuccessfully to link 'ends justify the means' to leftists, while throwing sand about to try and stop the same critique being applied to the 'ends justify the means' of the rightists. There's that brief bit about the US 'indirectly' supporting the KR through the 1980s. Er, no.

Chris Williams

1/10/2010 11:51:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheseboard said...

You think Clothes for Chaps was bad on Caldwell (marxism = nazism thus all lefties are tehnazis)?

try his hagiography in the obs yesterday on Martin Amis. I don't think i've ever read a less informed piece of writing on old Mart. and the 'all muslims should be stripsearched' debacle? apparently it was 'ill-advised' though Terry Eagleton's criticisms were unfounded since he is too self-regarding, and jealous of Mart being hired to teach at Manchester on an entirely separate course, or something.

He also suggested that 'everyone' has copied Amis's approach of naming people things like Dave Asbo - er, no they haven't CFC.

1/11/2010 08:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

I haven't checked, but Google suggests that quite a lot of this piece is lifted from this long article in Decentiya by Michael Ezra.

What doesn't come through at all from Anthony's piece is how little anybody knew about the Khmer Rouge at the time. Phnom Penh fell in 1975; I remember the stories about the KR clearing the city, and the tone in which they were reported - which was very much "sounds a bit extreme, glad it's not happening here, but I suppose they have their reasons". Nobody knew - "Khmer Rouge" didn't mean "mounds of skulls", it just meant "Cambodian liberation movement". Anthony mentions Ponchaud's book: it appeared in French in 1977 and in English in 1978 - the same year Caldwell died. And it was massively controversial: the story Ponchaud told seemed mightily convenient (the US has bombed the entire region to a pulp, and suddenly it's not their fault?) and far too extreme to be true. The Barron and Paul book, which Anthony mentions approvingly, had a subtitle about "Communist Genocide". As we now know, that was precisely what went on in Cambodia, but the phrase wasn't exactly calculated to win friends on the Left.

There is a story to be told about Chomsky's take on Cambodia - it goes "a small part of the French ultra-left goes collectively insane, with bad consequences for anyone who trusts them" - but being sceptical of the official story wasn't at all unusual at the time.

What was unusual, on the other hand, was being an enthusiast for both Pol Pot and Kim Il Sung - and what irritates me most about Anthony's piece is the way that he alternately acknowledges and denies this. I mean,
p1 Caldwell tolerated mass murder
p2 Caldwell was a leftist
c leftists tolerate mass murder

is a bog-standard excluded middle; what Anthony does is more like
p1 Caldwell was highly unusual among leftists in tolerating mass murder
p2 some people who knew him say that Caldwell was a perfectly ordinary leftist
p2.1 Chomsky!
p3 Caldwell wasn't highly unusual among leftists in tolerating mass murder! Ha!

(Enough commenting already. I really should get back to posting on my own blog.)

1/11/2010 10:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Der Bruno Stroszek said...

He also suggested that 'everyone' has copied Amis's approach of naming people things like Dave Asbo - er, no they haven't CFC.

Cor, I used to think people were joking when they said most Decent columnists have never read a novelist other than Amis, but that really is a classic of literary criticism, isn't it? Yes, before Mart came and invented silly names, no writer would dream of calling a drunken character Toby Belch, or a woman in a bit of a fix Lady Dedlock...

1/11/2010 06:49:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

What's even worse about that claim is that no literary heavyweight has actually followed Amis's lead as CFC is suggesting; the only person who comes close is Alan Hollinghurst, who gave two minor characters in The Line of Beauty Amis-inspired names as a joke.

Splintered Sunrise on the other CFC thread notes quite rightly that CFC fulfils one of the central tenets of decency - the need to be a cunt about it, all the time - he also fulfils another tenet which is philistinism, coupled with a belief that the artists whose work one loved at the age of 21 cannot be bettered and are still clearly more relevant than anyone who's come since, regardless of whether one has even bothered to read them, listen to them, or even vaguely follow their career since one turned 22. Thus CFC is still confident that Amis and Rushdie are the two most significant people writing in English today, when anyone in the know realises that both of them lost the plot in the late 1980s.

honourable exception to the philistinism might be Norman Geras, who at least seems to read more than one novel a year.

Amis is the literary equivalent of morrissey; did his best and only truly lasting work in the mid-80s; is still doing the same thing as he did in the early days, only not as well; gets a lot of press coverage because he has blindly adoring fans; and was never the countercultural icon he was built up as by his admirers. NB this is not to say that Moz's later stuff isn't ok, but it's nothing new.

1/12/2010 09:16:00 AM  

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