Monday, February 28, 2011

Experts? What do they know?

Or, fanfare for the common knowledge man.

Thanks to Bubby in the last thread, Nick Cohen on PM (iPlayer, only available in the UK and for six days from 28/2/2011 etc; he starts just after 34:30, not, as bubby said, 24:30), striking many of the same notes as he did in the Observer.

I got back from London late on Sunday night, and I found Nick's piece because it was number 2 on the 'most viewed' list on Comment is Free. That says to me that CiF readers are drawn to the 'Middle East', which must mean something.

Right from the start, there's a lot in the CiF piece (I've listened to the PM comment, but I'm not prepared to transcribe it, so I can take it apart) which just confirms my dislike of Nick.

The Arab revolution is consigning skip-loads of articles, books and speeches about the Middle East to the dustbin of history. In a few months, readers will go through libraries or newspaper archives and wonder how so many who claimed expert knowledge could have turned their eyes from tyranny and its consequences.

Somehow this combines what I think must be direct steals from smarter writers (the first sentence is an echo of someone else, I'm sure), with a dig at expertise - hence implicit favouring of the generalist, or newspaper columnist. I suspect "wonder how so many who claimed expert knowledge could have turned their eyes from tyranny and its consequences" is also borrowed, probably from some commentary on Stalin, although the 'claimed expert knowledge' knowledge bit is Nick's own. "Those who should have known better averted their eyes" sort of thing always surprises in the "how could they?" way but, if we learn anything from history, not otherwise.

Who are those who "claimed expert knowledge"? Juan Cole and Marc Lynch (specifically attacked by Michael Ezra, though I've forgotten in which thread we argued about them) both wrote about the Middle East generally, and neither, IMO, fawningly toward dictators. Journalists? Do say, John Simpson, or Robert Fisk avert their eyes from tyranny? Who, exactly, is Nick talking about?

Here's a short list of things that Nick Cohen writes that make me hate him:

1. He's really not an expert on anything. He's got a very general degree and he writes very generally about politics. He really seems to dislike that who've dug deeper and have years of study behind them. Gosh, imagine being able to read Arabic or Farsi! That must be the biggest single mistake you could make, next they capture your mind.

2. He's infuriatingly vague. This is fine if you leaf through the Observer with a hangover and black coffee, snorting, "Politicians! What do they know? Bloody hell..." etc. But it doesn't bear any actual thought. Someone, somewhere is wrong. You know this, and reading it in a proper paper somehow confirms your superiority, and that's a good thing.

3. I think the internet changed journalism. I think it should have made journalism more like academia. If you refer to someone else's piece, you link to it, then readers can, in principle (most won't), make up their own minds. Nick really doesn't seem to like this idea.

Anyway, for the very little this is worth, here's the CIA Factbook on Libya (now out of date).

During the 1990s, QADHAFI began to rebuild his relationships with Europe. UN sanctions were suspended in April 1999 and finally lifted in September 2003 after Libya accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing. In December 2003, Libya announced that it had agreed to reveal and end its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction and to renounce terrorism. QADHAFI has made significant strides in normalizing relations with Western nations since then. He has received various Western European leaders as well as many working-level and commercial delegations, and made his first trip to Western Europe in 15 years when he traveled to Brussels in April 2004. The US rescinded Libya's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism in June 2006. In January 2008, Libya assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2008-09 term. In August 2008, the US and Libya signed a bilateral comprehensive claims settlement agreement to compensate claimants in both countries who allege injury or death at the hands of the other country, including the Lockerbie bombing, the LaBelle disco bombing, and the UTA 772 bombing. In October 2008, the US Government received $1.5 billion pursuant to the agreement to distribute to US national claimants, and as a result effectively normalized its bilateral relationship with Libya. The two countries then exchanged ambassadors for the first time since 1973 in January 2009. Libya in May 2010 was elected to its first three-year seat on the UN Human Rights Council, prompting protests from international non-governmental organizations and human rights campaigners.

You can read into that. Who has promoted Gadaffi? Western Governments, including Blair and Bush. Who has been critical? Oh, those nobodies Amnesty International and those like them. Hold on, isn't AI left-wing? But haven't they criticised Middle Eastern despots for being despotic without regard to Palestine? Oh yes, they have.

CIA Factbook on Tunisia.

The country's first president, Habib BOURGUIBA, established a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation. In November 1987, BOURGUIBA was removed from office and replaced by Zine el Abidine BEN ALI in a bloodless coup. BEN ALI is currently serving his fifth consecutive five-year term as president. Tunisia has long taken a moderate, non-aligned stance in its foreign relations. Domestically, it has sought to defuse rising pressure for a more open political society

My emphasis.

Of course, Nick, it's only left-leaning do-gooders who have turned blind eyes to dictators. We're all bad, Nick. You're quite right. We defended Stalin, except we didn't. And Hitler, except we didn't. And so on. Just say to yourself, "I am a good person."

Written in an increasingly bad mood. Add your own commentary. I know I didn't get past the first paragraph. I didn't read much further either. I have a low tolerance for finger-jabbing in my direction. I can say that I saw something worse in the Sunday Times (read over someone's shoulder on a train). There was a pullquote in the business section which went something like, "If the contagion spreads to Saudi Arabia, all bets are off." I'm sure readers will agree that propping up capitalism by any means available, even Saudi oppression of just about the total populace, is worth stopping the "contagion" of democracy and people's rights. TS Eliot didn't read the papers on Sunday. That may have been a religious thing, but it may also have been the best decision he ever made.


Blogger flyingrodent said...

It's difficult to know where to start with Nick's piece. When I've tried thus far, I can't help but point out that he's unironically accusing "the left" of trying to make absolutely everything about Israel, in a column that's theoretically about Libya.

It's also worth noting that he denounces elite collaboration with the Gaddafi regime by the IRA, BP, the long-defunct Worker's Revolutionary Party, Vanessa Redgrave, the London School of Economics, Human Rights Watch and Peter Mandelson, yet somehow uses the word "Blair" only once, in passing.

Love this, though...

In theory, they should have been able to stick by universal principles and support a just settlement for the Palestinians while opposing the dictators who kept Arabs subjugated.

You do wonder who this is addressed to. Who's supporting, say, the hunk of regal beef on the Saudi throne? It's not fucking Human Rights Watch, is it?

See also Hosni Mubarak in Egypt - rather more popular in Washington than in the dreaded wholefoods stores of Islington, you imagine. Who's playing pattycake with the Emir of Kuwait? David Cameron was hawking riot shields to them just this week. The former government of Tunisia? The Iraqi authorities who beat hundreds of protesters this week, killing at least two? Would anybody like to see a photo of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with any former Middle East dictators?

More to the point, who exactly is it that was willing to ignore the subjugated Arabs of Libya? I wonder if there are any photos of any famous politicians glad-handing Gaddafi that would provide an insight.

It really is a hilarious, slapstick performance, devoid of proportion, logic or self-awareness. I find it astonishing that any newspaper would be willing to stump up cash for such a ludicrous series of wild assertions, hoots and snorts disguised as analysis. It may well be the most childish thing that I've ever read in a newspaper, and I include the Express in that statement.

And while we're at it, we should note that the reason why Nick's column is number 2 on the "Most viewed" list is because it's been repeatedly linked by a shower of jokers including Danny Finkelstein, John Rentoul and the loonybin at CIFWatch, all of whom appear to regard it as a devastating critique rather than the nutty act of career hara-kiri that it certainly should be.

3/01/2011 06:13:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Just a quick thing: Nick says:

consider the stories that the Middle Eastern bureau chiefs missed until revolutions that had nothing to do with Palestine forced them to take notice

the stories are, in order:

1) Gaddafi was so frightened of a coup that he kept the Libyan army small and ill-equipped and hired mercenaries and paramilitary "special forces" he could count on to slaughter the civilian population when required.

ok - why, i wonder, did bureau chiefs 'miss this'? Nick thinks it's cos they're all Jew-obsessed. I can think of a few other reasons...

2) Leila Ben Ali, the wife of the Tunisian president, was a preposterously extravagant figure, who all but begged foreign correspondents to write about her rapacious pursuit of wealth. Only when Tunisians rose up did journalists stir themselves to tell their readers how she had pushed the populace to revolt by combining the least appealing traits of Imelda Marcos and Marie-Antoinette.

well, dictator's wife, in 'being a dickhead' shocker. Why would foreign corresponents not be interested in this 'story', i wonder? could it be because it's not really interesting at all, and that her extravagance had very little to do, contrary to Nick's claim, with the uprising?

3) Hearteningly, for those of us who retain a nostalgia for the best traditions of the old left, Tunisia and Egypt had independent trade unionists, who could play "a leading role", as we used to say, in organising and executing uprisings.

I'm really not sure how a trade union existing is a news story. And my holiday guidebook on Egypt mentions the existence of trade unions.

also - one last thing:

antagonism to Israel everywhere served the interests of oppressors

Mubarak? Seriously? What's so funny about this column is that nick berates everyone else or not following the news in the ME while displaying close to no awareness of anything to do with it himself.

3/01/2011 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Well actually none of them are "stories", they're more background facts. I guess Nick's brain has degenerated so badly he know longer even knows how his own industry works.

As somebody who didn't pay a huge amount of attention to N. America, save Egypt, I knew all of those things.

3/01/2011 09:26:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

In theory, they should have been able to stick by universal principles and support a just settlement for the Palestinians while opposing the dictators who kept Arabs subjugated

Presumably "they" here is not actually Israel?

3/01/2011 09:27:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

The Yorkshire ranter described it as 'zombie' journalism and it's easy to see the analogy. However I would say that Nick reminds me more of a drunk than a zombie. He's obviously very angry but his rage is incoherent and he just seems to swing and miss at completely random targets. It's fairly obvious, as the rodent notes, that the good guys here are the human rights groups who diligently and carefully recorded all the abuses and lobbied Western governments to act. The bad guys are those who supplied weapons to the dictators and sent the SAS in to train their security forces to better repress their people.

But no. The real villains are the WRP. Mad.

But I guess once you've gone on record as seeing the US Army as the 'armed wing of amnesty international' then things must get terribly confusing.

I very much enjoyed 'Being John Malkovich' though I didn't think it was as good as the masterful 'Adaptation'. What if you had a secret portal in Nick's brain? Crikey what strange things you might find.

3/01/2011 10:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FR " ....yet somehow uses the word "Blair" only once, in passing."

It's also interesting how rarely Blair gets mentioned by foaming-at-the-mouth right-wing commentators when criticising Labour's record. Bloggers who work themselves up into apoplexy about Brown apear to forget that Blair was PM for 10 of the 13 years of the last Labour government.


3/01/2011 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

My turn to go off-topic. What is this obsession with Hobsbawm? Norman Geras is an unapologetic Marxist. Eric Hobsbawm is an unapologetic Marxist, but he's the wrong kind of unapologetic Marxist. I really don't understand this. Is it a generation thing, like Shuggy still not trusting hippies as he approaches 50? Can anyone explain?

3/02/2011 06:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it because he is a Companion of Honour and they is not? Incidentally, CH has traditionally been one of the ways that inordinately fellow-travellers have been brought inside the tent - Blackett, for example, was one.

Chris Williams

3/02/2011 07:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

Eric Hobsbawm is a well respected and much read historian whose books on the long nineteenth century and short twentieth century have remained in print since their first publication. His opinions are taken seriously by a great many of his colleagues, even if they disagree with him. His past as a wrong 'un for staying in the CPB past 1956 is only a handicap with people ideologically opposed to his views anyway.

Norm Geras on the other hand has a blog.

3/02/2011 07:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

I blame Ollie. There was always a strong transplanted Cold Warrior element to Decency, but Kamm was the first one to denounce (ex-)Communists in the same tone that Decents use for Islamists (which is just the same tone that the old Cold Warriors used for the Left - what goes around comes around). I'm thinking of an odd kind of grumpily self-congratulatory rationalist* alarmism - as if to say, "these beliefs inevitably lead to the Caliphate (or the Gulags), and no one but an idiot or a fellow-traveller could deny it; unfortunately there are a lot of idiots and fellow-travellers around these days, but at least *we* see through them".

Anyway, the anti-Communist strain is seeping back in. What annoys me most of all about this is that there is stuff to be said in this are about Hobsbawm's history, which is after all what makes him worth attending to in the first place - see the really outrageous comment about May '68 recorded here. Norm and Nick don't seem interested in that, or in anything other than pointing and saying "Communistses! Evil!!"

*Not doing rationalists any favours here. I'm using the word to mean "convinced of one's own rationality and hence convinced that one's own beliefs must be shared by anyone else rational"; there may be a better word for it. (Apart from 'Gerasian'.)

3/02/2011 10:48:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

A little odd also that the NBlog's Irish election entry (subbed by Sean Coleman) should omit all reference to Sinn Fein or to the Left of Labour Left, and think that Fianna Fail will just bounce back.

3/02/2011 11:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Where's my comment gone?

3/02/2011 01:51:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Here's an account by an Israeli of a disappointing meeting chaired by DA.

3/02/2011 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

More experts Nick won't like

3/02/2011 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Last two links each caused a double take by propounding something obviously, intuitively wrong which though can't quite be rejected outright without taking a few queasy, am-I-going-mad seconds to confirm their absurdity.

From ejh's: 1/3 + 1/4 + 2/5 = 1.

From skidmarx's: there is an Oxford philosopher called Brian Klug.

One of them is of course a reasonable enough approximation.

3/02/2011 10:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think part of the problem with Hobsbawm and the Decents is their confusion between understanding something and excusing it. Whether we agree with them or not, Hobsbawm has explained his reasons for remaining a lifetime Communist, most notably in his autobiography. Growing up Jewish in inter-war Austria and Germany obviously influenced him, but he is one of those people who clearly adopted Communism as something of a faith rather than just a body of ideas and/or principles. Thus, like some Catholics, he was able to be intellectually rigorous while remaining ultimately wedded to the Communist Party and the Soviet Union. His actual politics are very moderate and he has always stated that he thought the 'ideal' Communist strategy was that of the 30s popular front, Communism at its least threatening to the ruling class. I recall Nick Cohen doing the same with Christopher Hill after he died, basically disregarding his entire body of historical works.

But why try to analyse all these things when you can just point your finger and shout 'Stalinist!'???

Igor Belanov

3/03/2011 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

The only thing that surprised me about Justin's link was that this was apparently news. I'm pretty sure I've seen similar research over the years that shows a similar thing. And as my dad points out (having experienced one) some Grammar Schools were really bad.

The reason that you got lots more interclass mobility in the post war years was that suddenly there were a lot more middle class jobs. People moved up - they didn't, on the whole, move down nearly as much.

3/03/2011 09:34:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

For me, the hobsbawm thing is to do with a general Decent discomfort with history (as opposed to History); for them, his membership of the Communist Party should invalidate his work in general, and I think they generally realise that this won't happen in real life. So they have to rage against this whenever possible.

That itself stems from the general Decent idea that someone once having said or done something dodgy invalidates them per se. Again, history tells us that this won't be the way people are remembered (or not); john Galliano will be remembered more for his astonishing clothes than his latest filthy outburst; Hobsbawm will be remembered and read long after Nick Cohen's favourite, Dominic Sandbrook, is forgotten.

On 'expertise'; Nick's narrative of the ME troubles is that 'experts didn't predict this, ergo they're idiots'. the main reason for this is pretty clear; Nick and his mates, so ostensibly keen on Arab democracy, paid absolutely no attention to anywhere that the US wasn't prioritising. Note just how often Tony Blair nowadays shoehorns in tought-guy comments about Iran, for example, and which democratic movement the Decents are fondest of. And the reason Decency is so excised about Iran over other tyrannies, including those their poster boys enthusiastically back?

One can only think of comments about 'wiping Israel of the map', and the specifically religious 'reasoning' of its leaders.

Maybe Nick does have a sort-of point; though it doesn't really damn the people he wants it to...

3/03/2011 10:00:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

1/3 + 1/4 + 2/5 = 59/60 ?

@Tim - I'm not sure how this is relevant, or of the Brain Klug thing.

3/03/2011 11:02:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

But why try to analyse all these things when you can just point your finger and shout 'Stalinist!'???

To draw a cricketing analogy, Decentism has always contained far too many Geoffrey Boycotts and not enough Jonathan Agnews.

3/03/2011 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger oversear said...

'Nick', I can call him that? OK, 'Nick' is an archetype of left-liberal vacuity. He wrings his hands about the 'thusness' of 'the world', and then wrings the neck of anyone with the effrontery to act to change it...he performs a ritual each Sunday which allows his like minded readers to gawk at the style section with a 'good conscience' around 'feeling lefty' whilst (as a matter of principle) doing buggerall.

3/03/2011 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

skidmarx - it's not very relevant, but the grammar schools links divides up the sample in that way - a reasonable approximation.

Klug: just being snide really. I had never encountered a single reference to this Klug character's work, so had a quick look at what it consists of. Having recently observed first hand the hugely overinflated ego of John Finnis in action, I'm a bit intolerant of Oxford philosophy credentials being bandied about.


bubby - except that Boycott is almost always right in the 75% of the time when he is talking about actual cricketing matters, rather than modern nancification, uncovered peetches, etc.


Phil - yes, Decency seems for a lot of them to be a sort of bait-and-switch waystation en route to officially realigning in opposition to the (long-abandoned) economic core of leftism.

Norman Finkelstein hinted at this, re: Hitchens. And some random idiot went on about it in relation to Nick et al, in what was the closest I could manage to providing a non-excoriatory review of Hitch jr.'s 'Broken Compass' book (as a favour to a mutual friend). (He does have a fairly good chapter criticising rail privatisation though, and some straight-ish 1st-hand reportage on the Eastern bloc IIRC.)

3/03/2011 01:23:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

except that Boycott is almost always right in the 75% of the time when he is talking about actual cricketing matters, rather than modern nancification, uncovered peetches, etc.

Well yes. Boycott certainly knows his stuff. What I was really trying to get at though iss his smug and abrasive self-righteousness in marked contrast to Agnew's more nuanced and measured approach. Decentism means never having to say you're sorry.

3/03/2011 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Aye no argument there - Decents don't even have any authority to back up their rants - the chest-prodding is the message.

3/03/2011 03:37:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

sort of on topic, since we're discussing Our Nick and his experts; the judith butler article in the current LRB is easy to understand, clearly written, and very good.

3/03/2011 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Butler is always quite readable in the LRB. I think the LRB editorial staff probably has quite a lot to do with this.

3/03/2011 10:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

The LRB editorial staff do a lot of work. A case in point is a piece by Oliver Sacks for which Mary Beard came up with the title "The man who mistook his wife for a hat". And the rest is history. (Sacks was already fairly eminent at the time, thanks to Awakenings, but the book which eventualy took that title was a success on a different level.)

3/04/2011 08:57:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Nick now appears to be hopping mad over the LSE taking money from Gadaffi. Which rather begs the question: 1) why not similarly mad over, i dunno, Blair, and 2) why has he only managed to find it out now? Oh and 3) Niall Ferguson works there...

LRB editors are good at their jobs though they did can the piece they commissioned from me. I got paid, but would rather have had no money but the publication.

3/04/2011 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked once for a charity and the moral dilemmas in the fund-raising section came thick and fast. "Does anyone know these people called Hinduja?" as my Director once asked. Having major educational institutions dependent on private funds is just asking for trouble.


3/04/2011 01:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having major educational institutions dependent on private funds is just asking for trouble.

I give you Alan Bennnett v Rupert Murdoch


3/04/2011 01:33:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

just offhand the example of the Said business school at Nick's (and my) alma mater springs to mind. I'm assuming that Nick will get round to that one once somebody tells him about it, long after it was in any way a 'scoop', and he'll presumably complain that his lack of knowledge is the left's fault or something.

Worth noting that Labour actively and agressively encouraged universities to forge these sorts of alliance.

I can't help feeling that the LSE thing is being rather too zealously pursued by people who should surely be looking outside academia for the true scandal of British dealings with Libya. but nick just can't resist an opportunity to hate on academics - or, ahem, 'experts'...

3/04/2011 01:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't help feeling that the LSE thing is being rather too zealously pursued by people who should surely be looking outside academia for the true scandal of British dealings with Libya.

As Professor Renault might have said: 'I am shocked, shocked, that this is going on in a major university'

Lecturer: Professor, Robert Mugabe's on the phone about the Chair in Zimbabwe Studies he's endowed.


3/04/2011 01:55:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

Today's column leaves one wondering why Cohen doesn't try to "criticise religious ideas" himself rather than wail that others should. (And, indeed, what good he thinks that it'll do to a nation like Pakistan.)

3/06/2011 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

Quite. I notice that even Richard Dawkins has now joined the ranks of the evil liberals who are insufficiently critical of Islam. This raises interesting questions about who is.

3/06/2011 04:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Nick meets the Brain Eater, Decent version. It would be a reasonable bit of polemic against liberal apologists for the murder of Salmaan Taseer or the attack on Gary Smith, if there were any. As it stands, the column hasn't got anyone specific to attack for saying or doing anything specific - not only that, but Nick's forgotten that it should have.

3/06/2011 04:42:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

It would be a reasonable bit of polemic against liberal apologists for the murder of Salmaan Taseer or the attack on Gary Smith, if there were any

well yeh. He's given up even trying now really. Interestingly it looks liek the preamble is a direct copy and paste from a draft of the book he's working on.

also does anyone else not really recognise the 'sentence summary' of the plot of the Satanic Verses Nick gives us? Sure, there's a fair bit about Islam in it, but it's not primarily about that. a sentence summary which only covers two of the novel's dream sequences? hmm.

People at the time complained that many protesting about the novel had never read it. But i'm not sure Nick has either.

3/06/2011 07:32:00 PM  
Anonymous darkhorse steak with bernaise sauce said...

Nick said: "Close readers of Richard Dawkins will notice that almost all his examples of clerical folly are drawn from the Catholic and American evangelical churches, whose congregations are unlikely to firebomb his publishers".

Somebody on CiF has responded:

"Islam is mention on page 3, 23, 24, 25, 26, 32, 37, 200, 242, 249, 269, 287, 293, 296, 306, 307, 344, 379, 382. Muhammad on 24, 37, 249, 287, 307".

In Nickspeak, "Close reading," appears to mean, "What I imagine Richard Dawkins to write".

Nice to see that Nick feels that it is as important to condemn Richard Dawkins for an imagined failing, as it is to condemn a extremist murderer in Pakistan.

3/06/2011 07:37:00 PM  
Anonymous darkhorse steak with bernaise sauce said...

That's pages of The God Delusion, I should have mentioned above.

3/06/2011 07:38:00 PM  
Anonymous darkhorse steak with bernaise sauce said...

Sorry about three posts in a row...but the more I think about Nick's moral superiority towards Dawkins, the more enraged I get.

Who is most likely to be at the greatest risk of murder by a religious fanatic?

Richard Dawkins, a regular tv face who is publicly 'the face' of militant atheism, fiercely challenging and provoking the beliefs of all monotheisms?

Or Nick Cohen, largely anonymous hack. 'the face' of militant Decentism, stupidly challenging and provoking the beliefs of middle-class left-wing people who live in the UK?

3/06/2011 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger AndyB said...

Cohen should visit Dawkins website - the comments sections are sewers of Islamophobic hate.

3/07/2011 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger AndyB said...

There was one time when a member of he website posted up a video by Pat Condell, a vile comedian, ranting about the 'Ground Zero Mosque'. A few commenters said something along the line of 'take this video down. This is a place for rationalism, not hate.' Dawkins then turned up in the comments section, saying something along the lines of 'No! Keep it up. Condell is telling it like it is. Islam is the greatest evil in the world and we need to wake up!'

Honestly, if you stuck that stuff up on an EDL board, or on Pam Geller's site, or places like those, Dawkins' views on Muslims and Islam wouldn't be out of place.

3/07/2011 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

the first sentence is an echo of someone else, I'm sure

Not sure how serious you're being, but just in case you are, I believe the dustbin phrase in Trotsky's.

3/07/2011 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Thanks Justin. I was being serious, BTW. I suspected that all his better phrases were lifts from someone else, even when, as with Trotsky, I couldn't place who had said them first. I don't think he's doing it in a post-modern or ironic way. I don't think he wants readers to get any depth from the reuse of quotations in new contexts. I think it's recycling or theft.

3/07/2011 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I don't think it's theft, I it's think just that that phrase has, by frequency of use, simply become part of the English language. I don't suppose most people who use it know where it comes from.

3/07/2011 10:47:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

The centre and Right wings of the Socialist Revolutionaries as well as the Mensheviks believed that Lenin and the Bolsheviks had illegally seized power and they walked out before the resolution was passed. As they exited, they were taunted by Leon Trotsky who told them "You are pitiful isolated individuals; you are bankrupts; your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on — into the dustbin of history!"

Ken McLeod was suggesting that the Left had been unfairly having a go at Dawkins.

3/08/2011 02:47:00 PM  

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