Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nick is at it again

this time in Standpoint, where he writes

George Galloway, who saluted the courage of Saddam Hussein, was there too, inevitably, as was Tariq Ramadan, the shifty academic who thinks there should only be a "moratorium" on the stoning to death of adulterous women rather than an outright ban. Imagine the fuss if, say, William Hague and Michael Gove had gone to a conference on the future of right-wing politics in London and joined members of the BNP, a far-right politician who had saluted the courage of Augusto Pinochet and an academic who argued for a "moratorium" on black immigration to Britain.

So I'm trying to get my tiny brain around this one. Stoning adulterous women is bad (agreed). A temporary halt to the stoning would be less bad than stoning going ahead, but someone who called for that (rather than for an outright ban) would not be grasping the true moral awfulness of the practice (again, agreed). So for the parallel to work, black immigration has to be a bad thing that we ought to ban ... and someone calling for a mere moratorium just doesn't get how bad black immigration is? I don't think that even Nick meant to say that.


Anonymous Asteri said...

Nick has really gone and put his foot in it yet again, he even brings Theo van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali in to it.

I recomend reading the comments below some are brilliant.

3/18/2010 01:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Apart from anything else, Tories (plain ordinary Conservatives, not "far-right politician[s]") hardly stopped saluting the courage and indefatigability of Pinochet. For goodness' sake, Thatcher went round for tea when he was under house arrest.

It really is a rant - all it's missing is a few linking phrases along the lines of "Philippe Sands? Don't get me started! I'll tell you about Mister Philippe Sands..."

I left the following comment

'What is the fifth word in the phrase "jefu wiboquw ewono ebun gip"?'

I don't know, but it makes more sense than this article.

but it's been 'queued for moderation'. Bah.

3/18/2010 01:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Asteri said...

I liked this one

"Imagine the fuss if, say, [...] Michael Gove had shared a platform in print with a think-tank worker who argued for a "moratorium" on Muslim immigration to Britain. The BBC would have exploded." well, Gove has actually done that. The BBC didn't bother to mention it. But hey..."

Our Nick is not particularly good when it comes to doing research.

3/18/2010 01:49:00 PM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

Increasingly I get the sense that Nick considers the urge to fact-check to be a symptom of moral relativism.

3/18/2010 02:22:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

that was me, that comment... dunno why i post on there as windter. Really funny that they let those comments through since the 'print platform' in question is actually, er, Standpoint, which has a monthly column by Nick's islamophobic nutjob mate Douglas Murray who's on record saying that all immigration from muslim countries to Europe must stop immediately, and that even Muslims granted asylum in Britain should be sent back too. But hilariously Nick think that to mention this stuff to Murray's face demonstrates a lack of bravery, and a lack of 'care for the laws of libel or rules of honest debate' - dear god. It's staggering that he would defend Murray in a piece about lefties being blind to bigotry - and that his speculation on what constitutes right-wing bigotry precisely mirrors Murray's views.

If Nick is going to insist on this 'share a platform' thing he's got to take a look at the kinds of place he's recently published work - Standpoint, Frontpage... But it doesn't work that way, does it - if he's published somewhere then that place is automatically non-dodgy.

The Sands stuff is utter bollocks to - spying on your students is a brave thing to do...? How does that work? Because it's an unpopular policy, which thus means that it's got merits?

Nick's attrraction to contrarianism and the idea of 'cowardice' has led him down some weird cul-de-sacs in recent years, but there is absolutely no sense to what he's advocating here. Nick seems to want Phillipe Sands - a senior professor, with all the academic responsibilities that entails - to personally monitor the activities of the UCL Islamic Society, in order to prove that he's brave, or something. bizarre.

Funniest of all is that the article in question was only available as 3 paras with a 'read the rest in the magazine' note til recently. Evidently not staffed by marketing genii, Standpoint.

3/18/2010 02:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can anyone guess where this quotation comes from?

Behind an Islamic discourse that minimizes the reality and rounds off the angles, and within the shadows of this “almost never”, lurks a somber reality where women and men are punished, beaten, stoned and executed in the name of hudūd while Muslim conscience the world over remains untouched. It is as if one does not know, as though a minor violation is being done to the Islamic teachings. A still more grave injustice is that these penalties are applied almost exclusively to women and the poor, the doubly victimized, never to the wealthy, the powerful, or the oppressors. Furthermore, hundreds of prisoners have no access to anything that could even remotely be called defense counsel. Death sentences are decided and carried out against women, men and even minors (political prisoners, traffickers, delinquents, etc.) without ever given a chance to obtain legal counsel. In resigning ourselves to having a superficial relationship to the scriptural sources, we betray the message of justice of Islam.

Clearly the words of a moderate voice that all decent people should support, no?

I'm rethinking my position on British libel law by the day - there are so many people who are clearly only restrained from even more repellent behaviour by the effective threat of litigation.

3/18/2010 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Alex, it sounds like Nick, but I'd spell the word 'sombre' (I think; now having one of those moments where I suddenly feel I can't spell anything), which suggests an American publication - so Hitchens? But I said Nick first, and lacks the flourishes Hitchens can't resist.

3/18/2010 06:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's Tariq Ramadan's essay calling for a moratorium on corporal and capital punishment.

3/18/2010 07:36:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I'm rethinking my position on British libel law by the day

so, evidently, is Cohen, as one of his attacks on the NUS president is that he doesn't have respect for... British libel law.

I've never quite understood the Decent problem with Ramadan. It can't only be to do with the 'moratorium on stonings' comment can it? He seems on message for Decency most of the time, ad is defintely a 'moderate muslim', the people who Decents claim to have so much time for - yet he is universally despised in the Decentsphere.

3/18/2010 08:45:00 PM  
Anonymous magistra said...

Ramadan’s project, as I understand it, is the potentially useful one of changing a religion’s theology to get rid of some of the nastier bits while claiming you’re being entirely orthodox. It’s the same process by which eighteenth and nineteenth century British evangelicals decided that the Bible did not actually endorse slavery and had never done so, and late twentieth century Evangelical Anglicans decided that women priests were actually scripturally OK. (The Catholic Church has done a similar, but even more imperceptible glide by allowing contraception via the rhythm method).

This kind of theological wriggling is always going to seem rather unprincipled to the non-religious or religious liberals: you should instead boldly admit that this bit of a sacred text or tradition is wrong and stupid. But if you move too fast you’re likely to scare the more literally-minded bigots and never get them to change their mind. The moratorium sounds like a useful device to get the immediate practical benefits of a more humane approach while Muslim theologians do the heavy lifting work of convincing more Muslims that the practice is morally wrong.

3/18/2010 08:50:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I guess that's it - the actual 'moderate Muslim' they want is someone who's renounced the faith and will attack Islam loudly and more or less constantly. The 'moratorium' thing might sound dodgy, but surely it's bettr to call for that - to try and stop it - than doing nothing. sadly it looks liek the penalty for trying to make things better, but deviating slightly from Decent orthodoxy, is villification.

Hilariously, Dougie Murray's defence against charges of islamophobia is that he's no more islamophobic than... Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

3/18/2010 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Sorry, Alex. Missed your point there.

I can't see anything to disagree with in a moratorium on corporal and capital punishment. And I don't understand Nick's point "Tariq Ramadan, the shifty academic who thinks there should only be a "moratorium" on the stoning to death of adulterous women rather than an outright ban." Which is more likely to be enacted faster? Also, and this should be obvious, bans don't stop things completely. Hunting allegedly continues in this country. Prohibition didn't stop Americans drinking. Laws against drugs are simply risible. Oddly enough, a moratorium on stonings seems much more likely to be effective than a ban. But one of the symptoms of Decency is not caring about real-world effects.

I think I skimmed Nick's article before. He really reifies 'left' and 'right' to an absurd degree. Really, it only applies within parliamentary type politics. I certainly think Labour was right to defend itself[1] against Militant entryists and the Tories were right to disassociate themselves from the Federation of Conservative Students. And being 'left' or 'right' isn't linear as Nick suggests, it's much more where one is taking several beliefs into account. It's all much more like a Venn diagram.

I've read and enjoyed John Sutherland, BTW. And the best riposte I can think of the anecdote about him is that when I was in Sixth Year [Form for the English] the far rightists were quite happy to talk about hanging me with piano wire when their revolution came. As a much more humane leftist, I'd have had them shot in the backs of their necks. I don't know what happened to any of them; they probably joined the FCS and read Ayn Rand. A much worse fate, really.

Back at the university in London, he [Steve Jones] heard more and more Muslim science students insisting that evolution could not be true.

Thank the turtle that carries our flat world on its back that this could never happen in that mother of democracies, America. Not the Muslim bit - the 'insisting that evolution could not be true' bit. Truly, Eurabia has arrived.
[1] that's the way I see it.

3/18/2010 09:23:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Sutherland spread himself too thinly towards the end of his career, but he's written some truly seminal books. That anecdote doesn't really tell us very much - a friend of a friend remembered something which might well have been taken out of context ("He wasn't joking; he was predicting" - not at all sure about this, and surely the 'mild complaint' isn't sufficiently 'brave' for Cohen). Suspiciously reminscent of that Martin Amis anecdote about going to the mosque in Jerusalem and discovering, on the basis of not being allowed in after closing, that all Arabs want to kill him and his children.

Can't help wondering if Nick's chosen the right 'UCL Professor' (tecnically Sutherland is professor emeritus), mind you. googling John Sutherland Iraq brought up a 2003 article with the subheading 'The US has taken the rap for the trashing of Iraqi antiquities, but Britain specialises in the vandalism of heritage'...

I'm also unconvinced that Nick's arguments about UCL and universities more generally really have much logic behind them. When I took issue with the ideas about academics surveilling students and vetting every student society's list of speakers on pickled politics a while back, it transpired that actually, there are no feasible ways for this stuff to happen. Academics might keep an eye on students they personally tutor, but to an extent they'd do this anyway. Cohen seems to want academics to personally attend every student society's meetings on campus, but putting aside the time and contract issues, if that were to happen the societies would just move activities off campus, wouldn't they? And monitoring of this nature, if not done by academics (who would rightly refuse), would be enormously expensive at a time when the Labour govt Nick is voting or are cutting funding to higher education. In any case, the 'extremist events' that the pants bomber organised are extremist on the basis of inviting speakers who also attended, er, the thing Cohen went to.

The problem I have with Decent hysteria over universities is that there is no real solution at all, aside from blogging a lot and pretending to be concerned, oh and getting upset when the uni staff deviate from the Decent party line. Nick here seems to think that a few soundbites from Phillipe Sands would be sufficiently 'brave'; typically of decency, there's a lot of bluster with pretty much nothing in the way of constructive discussion.

3/18/2010 10:04:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

OC - the only thing in that that I disagree with is that the "monitoring" of student societies is both repressive and pointless. Students say some daft things. Cecil Parkinson was a Labour student; Tam Dayell a Tory (both reflected their backgrounds). Part of a university education is taking control of your life: deciding who to associate with, finding out how much is too much, and so on. That means forming societies, having pointless arguments, and making lots of mistakes. To me, that's the difference between enlightened democracy and everything else. No matter what these hotheads say now, half of them will be working in banking when they're thirty. Student society meetings should be closed to academics anyway.

I can't get away from the Onion headline "Kitten thinks of nothing but murder all day." We can handle kittens. Really. And they grow up, and prefer having their bellies scratched. "Students call for utopian and bloodthirsty solution to all world's problems" is not news, people. It's more an eternal truth. Norman Geras's faith in Marx is nothing short of miraculous by comparison. OK, most of them grow up and abandon their idols (I'm using the word in the Nietzschean sense); those who don't, teach, I guess.

3/18/2010 10:31:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

But if you move too fast you’re likely to scare the more literally-minded bigots and never get them to change their mind. The moratorium sounds like a useful device to get the immediate practical benefits of a more humane approach while Muslim theologians do the heavy lifting work of convincing more Muslims that the practice is morally wrong.

This was always my take on why Ramadan approached the issue of stoning in the way he did. People like NC are so obsessed with condemning things they have never really considered that sometimes 'softly, softly catchy monkey'

3/18/2010 11:39:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

the "monitoring" of student societies is both repressive and pointless

Oh yeah don't get me wrong, I agree. Even if there were a point to it, and even if the security services aren't doing it already, it's still completely unworkable; I guess what I was trying to say is that it's just another example of Decent concern-trolling, because not a single one of them has ever made a coherent suggestion of how their concerns might be addressed in the real world. Nick's scary descriptions of videos are based on personal experience, and his recourse to phrases like 'hypnotic music' is just plain silly.

No matter what these hotheads say now, half of them will be working in banking when they're thirty. Student society meetings should be closed to academics anyway.

One of the things I typed then deleted from the last post was 'university isn't school'. I do think this is an important distinction that a lot of decents - possibly because so many are oxbridge-educated [1] - don't seem to be willing to admit. Students will always be quite radical as you say; activities should be off limits to academics, unless invited. students are, after all, young adults. That's before we get to the issue of what banning certain meetings will do - alienate, and force things underground.

People like NC are so obsessed with condemning things they have never really considered that sometimes 'softly, softly catchy monkey'

Yeah it's just ridiculous. It definitely fits into Decent thinking on diplomacy, but still, it's just plain counterfactual to label Ramadan a villain for taking this approach. That's why Nick's 'shifty' is reaaly unpleasant sleight of hand (and if Ramadan is shifty then god knowsw what that makes Nick's friend Dougie Murray).

[1] that's not meant to be a snipe at oxbridge not being 'the real world', but just that the student experience at that kind of collegiate university is very different from the student experience elswhere, and it has a lot more in common with being at school than, say, going to UCL. Warwick is another place that has a very definitely 'different' student experience, too.

3/19/2010 07:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

the student experience at that kind of collegiate university is very different from the student experience elswhere, and it has a lot more in common with being at school than, say, going to UCL

That was interesting, and took me aback a bit - if I was looking for something to compare with my college routine of "two-person supervision once a week, essay once a fortnight, lectures when you feel like it" it wouldn't be school. From my experience on the other side of the desk, the post-92 experience is a lot more school-like. Socially, though, I think Oxbridge does have a fair bit in common with school, for selected values of 'school'. I suspect that for many it has a lot in common with being at boarding school.

3/19/2010 08:08:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

yeah i meant in terms of social life, and day-to-day living (eg the way that at many colleges you can live onsite, or nearby, for all 3 years, and the insularity that develops among a year group of roughly 100) - not in terms of work... in relation to this 'student socities' thing, if you've been at an oxford college then it's not actually all that hard to think of ways to ensure student socities are monitored. you're also used to weekly supervisions, as you intimated, which is totally different from the majority of students' experience of university in the UK.

as you intimate, it's hard at post-92 unis, often, to get students to understand the difference between uni and school, just in the sense of behaviour in seminars and lectures.

3/19/2010 08:34:00 AM  
Anonymous magistra said...

Just to stand up for Oxbridge's equal claim to stupid and meaningless student radicalism, the JCR (undergraduate student body) at my Oxford college in the 1980s voted to rename its common room after an IRA terrorist. Though of course, it was a terrorist who was an alumna.

3/19/2010 09:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A reminder of Norman Tebbit's comments from last month:

"General Pinochet overthrew the Marxist dictatorship of Allende who had had come to power in Chile on about the same percentage of the vote that propelled Hitler into office as Chancellor of Germany. Had he not done so, the Soviet Union would have been able to open a South American second front in the Cold War. Certainly he would not have helped us to liberate the Falklands from the Argentinian fascists. Just think, had there been in the German General Staff a man as strong, patriotic and brave as Pinochet we might never have had to fight the Second World War at all"

3/19/2010 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a man on the German General Staff as strong, patriotic and brave as Pinochet. Keitel.

Chris Williams

3/19/2010 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Galloway has just issued a writ against David T. Can't they both lose? I think on balance I will offer largely symbolic backing to DT on this one.

Chris Williams

3/19/2010 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger the management said...

Details? HP Sauce is unavailable. I am going to ... find out what the specifics are before deciding; since I dislike both parties more or less equally, I should probably at least put some decision-weight on the actual legal merits of the case.

3/19/2010 03:35:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Can't they both lose?

Well quite. However Galloway has a exemplary record in winning libel cases and HP have certainly been sailing very close to the wind for a long time.

3/19/2010 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Search Toube and Galloway and you'll get a copy of the letter. It seems a bit weak to me insofar as Galloway wasn't actually mentioned.

3/19/2010 04:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am also not going to give an opinion on GG versus DavidT until I know more. In certain quarters there appears to be an assumption that you can say anything about GG. In the case of GG against the Daily Telegraph, the Telegraph tried to make the case about GG's character rather than the specific allegations that they had made, and the paper lost because they couldn't provide evidence to support their original story. Nick Cohen cites GG's win in this case as being a reason to change the libel laws, which I disagree with because the Telegraph said things that they couldn't substantiate so deserved to lose.

Like with Saddam Hussein or Gordon Brown, some people get a bit carried away with what they say about GG. And I've seen him in operation and I would not want anything to do with him, but that doesn't mean that people can say whatever comes into their head about him. So I await further information, and I hope that those who say we should support DavidT are clearer about their case.


3/19/2010 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger the management said...

The solicitor's letter is pretty illiterate, but I must say I am glad that it is someone other than me who has the job of defending the phrase "Hamas fundraising operation" in court. GG is (for obvious reasons related to War on Want and the Mariam Appeal) likely to be very sensitive on issues related to charities law, and unfortunately for T, he's been investigated and cleared on the subject of raising money for Hamas.

Fifty grand for damages is taking the piss more than somewhat since he wasn't even actually named and it was a f'ing blog comment, but then again Toube appears to have done a lot of the plaintiff's work for him by subsequently publicising the remark on Harry's Place, confirming that he did mean to refer to Galloway and seemingly doing his level best to establish malice.

It is not impossible, shall we say, that GG and his cronies have been watching Toube for a while, waiting for him to put a foot wrong.

I see no reason to change the AW official policy in previous libel and free speech cases involving Harry's Place (and other defendants who are equally ludicrously the authors of their own misfortunes, and who have been equally keen to threaten and harass other people in the past). That is, we support them, in an entirely grudging and half-hearted manner, and do so with as little inconvenience to ourselves as possible. This is our official statement of support, unless someone takes a fancy to doing a bigger one.

3/19/2010 05:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

50K is taking the piss, but apart from that I find it very difficult to sympathise with Toube in any way at all. He's a nasty piece of work who seems to think he can throw career-threatening accusations around like confetti without any comeback; he's also a lawyer, of all things. It was about time he was reacquainted with reality. The slur in question is particularly disgusting - it's a smear on Hamas and a smear on Galloway, but more importantly it's a smear on relief work for Gaza. Essentially it's no different from the 1980s attempts to discredit Oxfam and Christian Aid by making out they were funding the evil Communistses.

As I say, the 50K shakedown is way over the top, and I wouldn't like to be Toube now. (He may already be having some sort of breakdown, if this video is anything to go by.) But apart from that I'm backing the Stalinist over the Zionist.

3/19/2010 05:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bartholomew's notes has more details on the case.

I'll quote:

"The comment does not mention either man, but it does refer to the aid convoy charity Viva Palestina, of which both men are trustees. David suggests that the organisation is a “Hamas fundraising operation” and scoffs that it would “have been an honest way to advertise their activities” if Viva Palestina’s official t-shirts had included a hadith concerning the killing of Jews, since this Hadith appears in the Hamas covenant. He futher jokes that “he could have sworn” that this hadith was what was written on the t-shirts, but that “google translate must have let me down”."

Don't know about you lot but I'm not feeling a very strong urge to sign any petitions

rioja kid

3/19/2010 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

Obviously libel suits against Harry's Place need to be judged on their individual merits rather than on general principle, given the site's track record of saying what the fuck it likes about whoever the fuck it likes.

Indeed this case seems to fit that pattern. Having said which, opportunistically suing people you don't like for £100,000 - on the basis of a goddamn blog comment - is wankery of the most complete kind. So on balance, I strongly hope David sends GG packing.

3/19/2010 11:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Google Translate must have let me down"

Seriously, my point upthread applies.

3/21/2010 12:41:00 PM  

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