Thursday, May 20, 2010

Closing down sale ...

As CC says below, the Times is going to go paywall at the end of this month, and that seems to us like a natural point to bring "Aaronovitch Watch" to a close. Whatever the ease or otherwise of getting Aaro's weekly column on the down-low, the fact is that with his disappearance behind the paywall he's going to be a less influential and less important columnist - with the passing of New Labour as well, this was always going to be the case anyway.

In the wider "World of Decency", I also feel that a historical moment has largely passed by. There are still imperial wars out there, of course, still ludicrous double standards on human rights and even the New Labour project is not 100% dead yet. And Harry's Place and Normblog and all will presumably continue to be as ghastly as they ever were, while Nick Cohen is unlikely to shut up as he is to ever write a readable column again. And all of these baleful social phenomena will still have their crowd of cheerleaders from a soi-Decent Left perspective, with willyoucondemnathons and all. But, well, do you care as much as you did five years ago? I know I don't. If we carry this thing on beyond its natural life, it's almost certain to end up as another site about bloody Israel.

So, we're now entering wind-down period. I have a few things I want to post, particularly the intellectual biography of Sir John Birt I've been promising since the site began, plus a few other essays wrapping up themes of "The Aaronovitch Years". Any requests, put them in comments.

Aaro, in the Times, also appears to be in valedictory mode. Still with the ID cards and DNA databases, but now they have no funding, who cares now? Bye bye, old hobbyhorse. Ah, here's Brian Haw, remember him? All these things must pass. Aaro's new theme appears to be to oppose some of the more mindless "decentralisation" initiatives, and I rather agree with him on that. In general (although the irritating trope of believing that the public's disdain for politicians is rooted in some weird psychopathology, rather than accurate assessment of their delivery), I suspect that Aaro will be a lot more worth reading (and paradoxically, thereby less worth Watching) as he sinks beneath the waves ... and so do we.

Everything Must Go!


Blogger cian said...

Something on the leadership election? It seems relevant somehow.

5/20/2010 07:33:00 PM  
Blogger Sangiovese Fellow said...

I'll miss this site... How about the long awaited post on Decent racism before you go?

5/20/2010 07:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Nathaniel said...

It's been a good run. It's definitely true that the Decent Left project has run its course in terms of sorting out the decent from the indecent and having their claimed audience of leftists pay them much attention.

Probably the most recent development "on the left" (that has provoked some interest) is an elitist Adorno-influenced discussion circle out of Chicago called Platypus founded by an ex-Spart. It has the obsession with the left as a constant disappointment ("the left is dead! long live the left"), frequent use of a term like "pseudo-left" (though not AWL's kitsch left) and a lot of shifty language about the organization's positions on Israel and US-led wars.* This should have been apparent to me when a Decent Left friend enthusiastically joined them. The most entertaining way to learn about them is probably this Louis Proyect post with 100+ comments

*By "shifty" I mean stuff about the vague "potentialities" of Israel or the Iraq War (and similar things) and how the pseudo-Left fails to appreciate them.

Anyway, I'll miss this blog, even though I probably commented at most once or twice.

5/20/2010 07:47:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Sort of on topic, I liked this which may signal the waning of neo-warmongering in the US too: Any effort amongst conservatives that replaces a default presumption of the success of bellicosity with a productive positive-sum approach is one progressives ought to applaud. And if it appropriates bellicose rhetoric as the sugar to to make the medicine go down, that’s cool with me.

5/20/2010 08:05:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

I can't believe you made it all the way to the grand finale before coining "soi-Decent."

5/20/2010 08:33:00 PM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

"soi decent' is mine i think, from some time back

5/20/2010 08:50:00 PM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

haha google finds BB using it in 2006 and me claiming it's mine then also -- but no evidence of me using it first... perhaps it should let this go and cede it (perhaps i only invented it in my head and never wrote it down)

5/20/2010 08:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Biz said...

Very sad to see the end of AW. Loyal reader for many years & interviewed Flying Rodent on Decency just before the election for Resonance (if you haven't had a chance, listen to him via the Decentpedia - he's very good...)
Not that anyone may be interested but over the last 5 years my favourite analysis of 'Bermanism' was by Tony Judt in the LRB (2006) - spot on:

Best of luck, all

5/20/2010 09:36:00 PM  
Blogger fatbongo said...

I'll be sad to see the end of AW. It's been one of my favourites.

As I'm going to need to find a new place to lurk, I'd appreciate it if people could suggest more blogs, forums, website etc to visit.

5/20/2010 09:36:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

We're not dead yet! There's a couple more posts to come ...

5/20/2010 10:15:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

This site was always miles more entertaining than it had any right to be, given that I've never really been specially interested in Mr A.

Decency - didn't you coin the term? (I know Walzer might claim otherwise) - has sadly been an influential movement in the last few years, and I'm grateful for the relentless scrutiny it's been put under here. But it probably is time to Watch in different directions. Before you go, I echo the request for the promised Decent racism post.

5/20/2010 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger Ben Aaronovitch said...

But who will ping in my Google alert now - sob.

5/21/2010 05:20:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I think "Decent Left" was coined by Berman in that essay, which was in 2002 and after that a lot of left-wing US blogs got annoyed with it in a more general way - 'of course we are decent' etc. I'm not sure of its first use in a derogatory way about its advocates was, my first use of it online is in April 2005, just before this 'blog started, but I don't think I was trailblazing.

In researching this I came across at the same time the most embarassing yet funny weblog post of all time: 'Drinking with Christopher Hitchens and the Iraqis' which I link to here for nostalgia.

5/21/2010 06:49:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

If I get my act together, either next week or (more likely) the week after I can probably pen a short-ish piece about Decency and literature, if you'd like...

I'll be really sad to see this place go, am sure we'll all end up at similar places ie flying rodent, chickyog, liberal conspiracy, pickled politics etc...

5/21/2010 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

Yes, sorry to see you shutting down. I'll second that call for the long-awaited Decent racism post, not least because it's long since become the Mrs. Columbo of AaroWatch.

@BenAaro: Good work to you for Remembrance of the Daleks, by the way. That bit where the claw came out of the Dalek casing and grabbed Sylvester McCoy by the neck scared the piss out of me when I was eleven.

5/21/2010 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

This has been the first site I've accessed afer logging on for a couple of years now, though perhaps the Aardvark Taxis principle may have applied to some degree.

Anyway, I shall be sorry to see it go, not least for the intelligence of the discussions, but I agree that all good things need to be brought to an end - Fawlty Towers and Mr Benn are examples of good practice, The Simpsons an example of bad. People should check out Ellis Sharp's old blog (The Sharp Side) to see how this can be classily done.

I think that a period dominated by Iraq is being supplanted by a period dominated by the financial crisis and its impact, and that will change the nature of political discussion to a degree. Nevertheless, the opportunity, which grew out of the antiwar movement, for liberals of a leftist bent and leftists of a liberal bent to enjoy a period of friendly discussion is one that I hope will not disappear.

Will Aaro's old stuff also disappear behind the paywall? That would be a shame, as well as rendering past postings on the site difficult to decipher entirely. Never mind.

Good luck, and may your cats go with you.

5/21/2010 08:41:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

If I get my act together, either next week or (more likely) the week after I can probably pen a short-ish piece about Decency and literature, if you'd like...

Ooh, that would be nice - I'm currently writing "Was Byron A Decent?"

5/21/2010 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Yes please! to OC's offer of a piece on Decency in literature. That's been a neglected theme on AaroWatch, where we can't be arsed to wade through novels by Ian McEwen, Martin Amis, etc.

On "Decent left", surely the origin was Michael Walzer's 2002 essay in Dissent called "Can there be a decent left?"

It's over here.

5/21/2010 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Sorry I meant Walzer in 2002, not Berman.

However he meant it positively, I think as a term of criticism it was a quite a bit later, and that's the meaning this site had a minor role in popularising (if not inventing)

5/21/2010 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Actually there are 3 stages

1. Walzer posing his question
2. The pro-war left saying 'hey, yeah, we're the left and Decent, so we're the Decent Left'
3. Everyone laughingly calling them that.

I vaguely remember Gene from HP being in on point 2.

5/21/2010 10:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

sure we'll all end up at similar places ie flying rodent, chickyog, liberal conspiracy, pickled politics etc...

Not the same though, is it? LibCon and PP do the we're thoughtful enlightened liberals, not like those nasty leftistses act a bit too often for me, & CY and FR are more angry more of the time than I'm comfortable with. A unique niche is what it is.

On Decency and culture, your target to beat is here. (I also liked Ellis's leavetaking at the end of 2007, although these days Barbaric Document seems to be serving pretty much the same function that the Sharp Side did.0

5/21/2010 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Not sure my attempt would be as long, or detailed, as that one; in lieu of my piece, which might end up being a bit like the decent racism one, this sums up Saturday pretty well:

5/21/2010 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be sorry to see you go, although I lurked more than I posted, more fool me. I look forward to the Birt and books final posts, but since your asking for any other comments... Haven't the RCP/Spiked/Institute of Ideas played ghost at the feast of the Decent's all this time-if not Nick Cohen's very own Mr Hyde?


5/21/2010 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Have the RCP bunch done anything recently? Claire Fox on Moral Outrage excepted.

5/21/2010 05:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll miss you guys: ever since Cohen fell out with Peter Wilby at the NS I've suspected that he'd end up the Paul Johnson/Peter Hitchens de nos jours - and the AW team have spared me the unpleasant bother of finding that out at first hand.


5/21/2010 09:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Sunny said...

shame! but yeah, I'm sure the sentiments will live on at places like FR's place and LC and PP...

5/22/2010 01:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you sure about this? Michael Gove is a Minister of the Crown after all.

5/22/2010 10:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shame. It was great to find a site that calmly unpicked the spin of Aaro and others. I'm sure that we'll find other ways to carry on punishing Aaro and New Labour over the invasion of Iraq for many years to come.


5/22/2010 01:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't go! You've achieved so much...

Long Time Reader

5/22/2010 08:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't go! You've achieved so much...

Long Time Reader

5/22/2010 08:43:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Such as?

We keep trying and we keep losing.

5/22/2010 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

One terrific accomplishment was using the words 'Decency', 'Decents' and 'Decent Left' as pejoratives. It's not often used as a self-appellation any more, possibly as a result. And the Encyclopedia of Decency has been an excellent resource and mental tool-kit.

I salute your indefatigability.

5/23/2010 09:27:00 AM  

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