Friday, April 02, 2010

Utterly mediocre men who have never risked anything

Warning: this post contains a link to the Daily Mail. Worse, I'm actually going to suggest that you read the linked article. This post is also a little tangential to our normal watching, but still, IMO, on topic. So enough with writing about writing (curse thee, vile postmodernism) and onward with our little play.

Let us recall one of my posts from just over a year ago about that letter to the Observer: Nick Cohen is wrong about the liberal-left signed by a fairly diverse mob - not all "liberal-left": they included Peter Oborne. It was not always thus. Nick was large complimentary when he review Oborne's Honourable Members for the Observer. Oborne has been politely critical of Nick Cohen in the Observer before:

Cohen skilfully shows how the left perversely sets its moral compass by the United States. ...

He is at his very best when he exposes the dishonesty of the liberal press. ...

This is admirable. Cohen's book has made me look with greater respect at the motives behind those who led the journey to war in Iraq in 2003, and view many of the anti-war campaigners with a new scepticism. There are, however, certain important methodological flaws that cast doubt on his central thesis.

Cohen grabs key Western concepts and applies them very loosely in a Middle-Eastern context, where they have a problematic application. For him Saddam Hussein's Baath Party is 'fascist' and so are the Islamic movements that it suppressed. There is no doubt that the word 'fascist' adds power and apparent clarity to Cohen's polemic, and it is of course the case that Saddam borrowed some of the most loathsome Nazi ideas. But the use of such a specific and emotive Western term to describe a variety of complex and distinct phenomena hinders rather than enables genuine understanding.

I don't agree with Oborne's praise by the way, but I do admire the diplomacy with which he led into his attack. At least according to Stephen Glover in the Independent, Nick was 'stung' by the letter to the Observer.

He lays into the judges, and denounces two of the runners-up for the Orwell prize, Peter Hitchens of The Mail on Sunday and Peter Oborne of the Daily Mail. Ridiculously, he asserts they are "utterly mediocre men who have never risked anything". Mr Hitchens happens to be in the audience, and conducts himself with great dignity....
Referring to Mr Oborne, he said that the Mail columnist "spends most of his time trying to shut other journalists up". This is evidently an allusion to Mr Oborne's role as a signatory to the letter, and a preposterous exaggeration. I don't believe he wants to shut anyone up.

That was Nick's contribution to the Orwell prize debate (discussed by us).

Coming back to the present, we may have established that Nick thinks that going to war zones for humanitarian reasons sets one morally above those who stay at home and carp. (Oh? you see where this is going.) Peter Oborne has a fine article in the Mail (almost as good as the url[1]).

Oborne takes two kinds of risk. One, he went to dangerous country. Two, he then wrote in the Daily Mail about Christians killings Muslims. This gives some idea.

Men sat on the right of the church, gorgeously-dressed women on the left. A soldier with a gun lounged at the back, stretching and yawning. The singing was heartbreakingly beautiful. The pastor intoned: 'We pray for the peace of the nation, we pray for the people of Nigeria.'
He devoted much of his sermon to reading, with relish, from a long, inflammatory and palpably faked document setting out in great detail Muslim plans to take over and dominate Plateau State. It named leading Muslim generals and politicians as part of an organised conspiracy - Christian Nigeria's answer to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The comments are largely not from the liberal-left. I find them largely disgusting, which confirms me as a panini-chowing liberal, I guess. "Give them some more aid money. That should solve the problem." Oh, har har har. "Nigeria is a complete basket case and will never be any different, so please control Nigerian immigration to the UK, it,s their no.1 destination of choice because of our lax liberal way of life and open door policy[.]" Nothing like the old idee fixe about immigration. I thought all these Muslims hated "our lax liberal way of life" and the Christians were causing a schism in the C of E over homosexuality. "Muslim fundamentalists have one aim and that is to convert or kill any none Muslim and your simplistic idea would fail totally." Muslims are the ones being killed here, actually.

It's good reporting, and Oborne made a C4 programme to go with it.

So, your thoughts? Please limit comments about Nick's inebriation in that video. We can all see he's drunk, and even his defenders admit that Peter Hitchens' conduct won over the audience. But talk about risk, the liberal-left, and name-calling as much as you want.

[1] For those with browsers like mine (Chrome on Snow Leopard) which don't display the full url, the filename is PETER-OBORNE-Armed-guns-machetes-chanting-Kill-Kill-Kill.html which is hard to beat.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I rather like both the Peters. Peter O I've never met, but I agree with your assessment - and The Triumph of the Political Class should be compulsory reading.

Peter H I do know somewhat for professional reasons. His bread and butter is barking rightwing opinion columns, but his books are fun and his reporting from places like Pyongyang and Mogadishu is well worth a look. In short, both the Peters, though mainly employed as opinion writers, still do journalism. Does Nick?

Also, for a sense of PH's bone-dry humour, see his Mail blog. He actually answers the wingnuts who leave comments, with infinite patience. Nick, by his own admission, doesn't even read his comments.

I think the Mail hacks have the moral high ground here.

4/02/2010 10:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oborne's also done a good job on Cameron's spin doctor Andy Coulson:

If the non-Decent left and the libertarian/old-style Tories are ever to do a deal together against the Nu Lab/Nu Tory corporate/neo-con centre, Oborne might be one of the first people to go to.


4/04/2010 10:12:00 AM  

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