Thursday, February 04, 2010

A 'stunning performance'

I actually haven't managed to watch the whole thing, but Richard Madeley's defence of Tony Blair is a hoot.

Not curiously at all, Norman Geras has ignored it. Harry's Place, however, says, "All I can say is: cor blimey. That’s a stunning performance from a man who is basically a daytime chatshow host." Some of Madeley's high points: Churchill had to answer inquiries into his decisions during WWII (good for democracy!), but he was acquitted, ergo so should Blair be. (Getting information out of Nazi Germany in 1944 given a state of all out war was somewhat harder than gathering intelligence with UN weapons inspectors inside Iraq in 2003: the two really don't bear comparison.) Thatcher used spin to get us into war with Argentina. (She didn't: she did use spin during the war; however Argentina mounted amphibious landings of the Falkland Islands, which would be very hard to spin as anything other than an act of war.)

What was impressive was that Madeley can walk and talk at the same time. Has anyone ever seen him chew gum?


Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I've always been suspicious of received wisdom... get up close to it and it can have a distinctly fishy smell

wow, stellar stuff. Especially since his video is an exercise in regurgitating received wisdom, not least the 'what would have happened if Saddam did have WMDs' which, if not a briefing from Blair's PR people, is doing the rounds in a very tedious way atm. from another interview we know that the person he most despises in the world is 'Fidel Castro, for getting away with it for so long'. hmm, nothing either received nor fishy about that.

accusing a PM of lying is very serious
governments do use spin to take their countries to war, eg 45 minutes.

very serious, evidently.

we must remember the time - just after 9/11 which did change everything

that sentence on its own is the entirety of his point. even blair gave us more than that.

Who’s to say what International law is?

and goes on to say, int law is very complicated so we should ask no questions about goldsmith's flip-flops, since his final decision was that the war was legal. ignoring everything that Chilcot has shown so far.

we also get that viral question about 'where would we be now if Saddam had WMDs' - apparenrtly none of Blair's critics have answered it. Surely that's an argument not for war but for more inspections though? Madeley doesn't answer it; neither did Blair. is asking the question genuinely enough?

the bookshelves are the best bit mind you. to demonstrate his seriousness we get a book by... Noddy Holder.

funnier than all of that is HP Sauce lapping it up.

2/04/2010 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger AndyB said...

China Mieville has summarised the current 'ah, but if Saddam had had WMD" pro-Blair PR line as:

"Though I was wrong I am right, because had I been right, I would have been right."

Which just about sums it up. If Blair believes himself, then he is a high-functioning mental case. If he doesn't, he's a liar.

2/04/2010 04:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is worth watching Madeley's video to the end, when the stirring background music comes in: pure kitsch.


2/04/2010 04:46:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Aaro on his book, which has a very nice cover in america:

manages to be both sensible and really offensively patronising in the same intgerview. but it beats reading another Amis interview.

2/04/2010 04:46:00 PM  
Anonymous bensix said...

O/T - Aaro's interviewed over here. According to him, The Shock Doctrine is "a gigantic conspiracy theory book". I, like Aaro, haven't read it, but I suspect that's not entirely fair.

Word verification: "tripe".

2/04/2010 05:09:00 PM  
Anonymous bensix said...

Curses. Cross-posted.

Sorry, OC.

2/04/2010 05:10:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Heh, no worries, i didn't bother to link properly.

a few highlights:

A Venezuelan professor recently claimed that the United States caused the Haiti earthquake with an underground nuclear test. What kind of background evidence is there for that? None.

The only online presence for this claim that i can find is an untrue story about Chavez. So Aaro is not, perhaps, using the best example here.

He repeats this seriously dodgy claim:

There are entire societies where the default position is to believe in conspiracy theories, like in Pakistan or Iran.

or, er, the USA where people believed that Hussein and bin Laden were allies for ages? and doesn't that rather damn Aaro's beloved Iranian Democracy Campaigners/Bus Drivers/etc?

on Klein:

I think people wanted to buy it because they felt guilty. It was bought by guilty capitalists. It's not like "The Shock Doctrine" was being sold out of baskets hand-woven by hippies.

what evidence does he have for this? Eqwually, buying a book doesn't mean you believe its claims.

Naomi Klein was in Iraq at the same time as me and had this theory that the U.S. was behind an attempt to destroy the Iraqi intelligentsia, to run Iraq like America. It was a crazy theory she convinced herself of. At that point what the Americans wanted was a strong Iraqi presence for them to hand the country over to. She’s not first and foremost a conspiracy theorist, but she is in passing.

that's a very ahistorical approach from our Aaro there. I mean, the USA insisted on Iraq privatising its oil, and insisted on the death penalty too. If anyone destroyed Iraqi intelligentsia it was the US with de-Baathification, too.


When there is no authority to the truth, prejudices thrive.

*reminds self of That Bloody Prediction

2/04/2010 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

@OC - I think Aaro's doing something quite clever there; he's implying that people buy but don't read Naomi Klein books. Of course, there will be evidence for this: I think quite a lot of books go unread (I own several), so it won't be an entirely groundless claim. That specifically books like Klein's act as tokens for guilt and are bought by liberals for each other as a sort of cultish ritual of belonging is slightly more doubtful. (However, I believe this to be roughly the case with Sarah Palin's or Glenn Beck's books, but they seem targeted at a less literate audience.)

Equally, buying a book doesn't mean you believe its claims.

No, but it is a pretty good guess that people who buy Naomi Klein don't vote Republican. As so often, I think Aaro is broadly right while being a bit disingenuous.

2/04/2010 06:30:00 PM  
Anonymous darkhorse steak tartare said...

The Shock Doctrine is a conspiracy theory inasmuch as the rather painful way that Naomi Klein wedges her 'case-studies' into her overarching 'Shock Doctrine' theory.

However, the various tales and chapters in the book are interesting, and sometimes educational in a Chomskyesque vein, and you aren't obliged to take the theoretical overlay seriously in order to appreciate the book.

So I've actually read it, despite its size, and it is better than bloody No Logo, which I was forced to give up on when she started drivelling on about Adbusters.

2/04/2010 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger Sangiovese Fellow said...

I never bothered to get "No Logo" but I have read "The Shock Doctrine", and I really think I must come to Klein's defence here. Aaro's accusation is both false and utterly predictable. Klein focuses on two things: the ways in which Milton Friedman's economic doctrines have been used by a range of dominant groups to increase inequalities of wealth and power in their own favour, and the ways in which this has been politically done by opportunistic exploitation of highly destabilising events, whether accidental (e.g. the Asian tsunami) or planned (e.g. the Pinochet coup). Yes, she points to the fact that Friedman's proteges the Chicago Boys made themselves available for such political opportunities as arose, but contra Aaro, that doesn't make their activities conspiratorial as such nor does it make Klein a conspiracist - like many social scientists, Friedman's boys wanted their ideas to have reach and political influence, and Klein doesn't allege "conspiracy" in any sense that would make her book conspiracist in the pejorative sense. (There are several possible meanings of "conspiracy theory" of course, of which more later). What she's really suggesting is that over time the Chicago economics became a kind of franchise, a policy tool which powerful groups used to reinforce their economic dominance when political opportunities arose, and that shock has tended to be exploited as an opportunity in those circumstances because the mass of people would not accept these policies if they were consulted under benign democratic conditions. The case that Klein makes for this is extremely well supported with empirical evidence - unlike one of Aaro's heroes, for instance, she wholly refrains from lifting data from 12 year old postgraduate theses off the Internet or cherry picking bits of alarming data out of context and highlighting them to create an emotive effect - and to my mind, very persuasive. The value of the book, it seems to me, lies especially in using the mass of factual evidence to explode a myth that the right have been propagating ever since Fukuyama's post-1989 book: the myth that Friedman-style capitalism and democracy are near-automatic natural partners and that the predominance of today's massive differentials of wealth and power came about through an honest, free and peaceful process of adoption and right-wing intellectual success. One doesn't need to buy all her thesis in order to be grateful to her for putting enough factual information in one place to show up such disgraceful self-serving historical revisionism for what it is. Of course, the book has its ups and downs - I found the chapter on China a bit tenuous in some of the reasoning and evidence, for example - but for factual accuracy and intellectual integrity, it beats the hell out of anything I've ever seen come from Aaro's pen. It's certainly notable that the political right have almost entirely avoided challenging Klein on the facts, instead preferring to either ignore or smear her, and indeed the "conspiracy theory" slur against the book, which Aaro so predictably repeats, originally came from the Cato Institute in Washington DC. (Just a thought - if New Labour and American right-wing think-tanks stopped producing press releases, would Decent Dave and his chums have any idea at all of how to politically react to anything?). Klein responds to the Cato charges on her website, quite effectively I think.

2/05/2010 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger Sangiovese Fellow said...

Turning from Aaro to one of our correspondents here, darkhorse steak tartare said: "'The Shock Doctrine' is a conspiracy theory inasmuch as the rather painful way that Naomi Klein wedges her 'case-studies' into her overarching 'Shock Doctrine' theory." But that doesn't make it a conspiracy theory, it just means that some of the connections aren't as tight as one might like (as I've already said myself in relation to the China chapter). A conspiracy theory requires, at the very least, (i) some identifiable conspirators who actually conspire, and to this one can usually add (ii) effective secrecy in the conspiring, (iii) a desired event that is planned and brought about by the conspiracy. It's the difficulty in sustaining secrecy that is usually pointed to as the weakness in conspiracy theories, and thus the main cause of the phrase "conspiracy theory" being used pejoratively. The mere presence of deliberate group agency, however, is not a logically sufficient condition for conspiracy, since if it were, then all collective political action - parliamentary parties, trade unions, lobby groups - would count as conspiracies. It's the latter type of standard collective political activity, especially the use of opportunism, that Klein largely points to, and when she does deal with what might properly be called conspiracy, it's in cases where the existence of a pre-existing conspiracy is generally acknowledged and has been known about in the public domain for years, as with her treatment of the Pinochet coup. So one way and another, I'd strongly reject the "conspiracy theory" accusation against Klein, and recommend that a lot more people actually read the book.

2/05/2010 02:10:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

I would tend to agree - Naomi Klein appears to have rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way (including people I really like and rate like Doug Henwood, who gave "Shock Doctrine" a bad review) but I've always had a bit of a soft spot for her myself. TSD is definitely an "opportunism theory" rather than a "conspiracy theory"; she doesn't alledge that the neoliberals intentionally caused the crises in order to benefit from them (except in the few cases where it's well-documented that they did, like engineering recessions in order to break organised labour).

It must just be her writing style; John "Economic Hit Man" Perkins also has the gift of telling what is actually a quite coherent and well-substantiated story in the manner of someone who sits in a cafe scribbling tiny handwritten notes in a miniature diary.

2/05/2010 02:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I quite like her writing style. It's very Canadian. You'd nearly have to read it with an accent.

As we keep saying, Aaro's scientific definition of a conspiracy theory is "an explanation of events that seems unlikely to Aaro". And given Aaro's propensity to give our rulers the benefit of the doubt - bias against understanding and all that - it covers a multitude of sins.

It would be nice if Aaro actually read Klein, but maybe he really needs to read Wu Ming. Make a nice change from Amis.

2/06/2010 01:21:00 AM  

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