Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Reviews, Dialogues, and a Second Preference

I'm not really in the mood for this, but despite not appearing as usual in the Observer, Nick's been busy elsewhere.

In the Spectator, he's changed his mind on AV. We've discussed this a bit in the last thread, but you're welcome to say more here. In my opinion, this is about a trillion times more persuasive.

He's written a sort of a skit, Dialogue with a western leftist in the Jewish Chronicle. I can't fathom this at all. It's like a less convincing, less funny, less insightful reply to Michael Ezra.

Nick wasn't completely absent from the Observer, he "reviews" Fred Halliday's OpenDemocracy essays in the Observer. Scare quotes because his essay may be the purest hagiography I've ever read. I'll leave it to those familiar with Halliday's work to comment, but where I have any knowledge at all, what Nick says seems to be wrong.

He writes with admirable hard-headedness from Iran on how the apocalyptic figure of Ahmadinejad follows the pattern set by his predecessors in Russia and China. All have engaged in late spasms of militancy and violence rather than compromise with reality as the failures of the revolution's utopian hopes became evident. Like Stalin with his purges and Mao with the cultural revolution, the heirs of Khomeini have convinced themselves that one last bloody heave will bring heaven to earth.

But Stalin started the purges in 1934, and they were to consolidate his power base. And probably the most violent phase of post-revolutionary Iran's history was the Iran-Iraq war. You can say many things against Iran, but there's nothing really comparable to the scale of the purges or the Cultural Revolution.


Blogger flyingrodent said...

That back and forth is a hilarious effort by Nick, isn't it? I mean, I assume it's meant to be funny and ironic on at least some level. What it actually does is brutally illustrate exactly what Nick means when he says "liberals", which is basically two-parts the type of miserable anus who hangs around Comment is Free and one part Nick's rich and wacky fantasy life.

And dragging us O/T as usual, you have to check out Nick's latest in the Speccy.

In short - the fact that Nato's Libya campaign looks like a godawful, uncontrollable balls-up is... A major smackdown on the awful liberals!

Seriously, it works like this - the awful liberals think that the UK shouldn't tear-ass off around the world bombing shit out of people with no regard for the law. But - Libya was legally approved! Ergo, the liberals suck and Nick is awesome and Iraq, and so on.

The idea that Libya looks like a godawful, uncontrollable balls-up because it is - like Iraq - yet another attempt to make the world behave the way that war-happy cranks and well-meaning idiots want it to, doesn't occur to Nick. The idea that Libya and Iraq may share many more similarities than they do differences doesn't cross his mind.

Also - Nick reiterates his "Obama hates the suffering peoples worse than anyone since Nixon" point again. It's every bit as cretinous as it was originally, bashing Obama for not loudly pledging to back every oppressed group to the hilt. You'd think that Libya would prove Nick hilariously wrong here, since we told the rebels that we'd be with them to the end and then had to watch them being rocketed to within an inch of their lives, but no. Apparently, it tells us nothing about the limits of loud hosannas to freedom and democracy.

Finally, he closes by saying that Libya shows that Europe can't defend itself, and that we're too dependent on the US but... In what way does a small number of Euro states voluntarily intervening in a North African civil war constitute "defence of Europe"? The answer - it doesn't at all and only an idiot would pretend that it does.

Sorry, I've rambled, but you have to admit that it's a strong contender for the most Wrong Thing Ever To Appear On The Internet, up until Nick's next piece.

4/28/2011 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

We complained, often with justice, about American policies but we did not have to pay for our own defence or fight our own wars.

Er, the Falklands? Northern Ireland? The Cod War? Suez? We have a nuclear deterrent which is paid for by our taxes; not Uncle Sam's.

But I do not suffer from the illusion that his record on supporting liberation movements from Burma to Iran has been anything other than appalling – one has to go back to Richard Nixon to find an American president so indifferent to the victims of dictatorship.

But Nixon was one of those who suggested invading Vietnam in the first place -- to save the poor little south from communist dictatorship. Nixon's a shining example of what's wrong with interventionism.

She cannot afford to maintain vast forces in Europe given her budget deficit, and in any case cannot see why she should given that Asia is now at the centre of American interests and Europe is a rich region that can afford to pay for its own armies.

The rebuilding of Japan (1945-); The Korean War (1951-53); Vietnam (late 1950s onward). What is this with the 'now'? The US hasn't fought as the US in Europe since WWII (Kosovo etc were joint efforts). It has fought in Asia many times.

What is the point of a humanitarian intervention that prolongs the conflict and leaves the abuser of human rights in charge? None that I can see. But apparently it is legal.

Pretty much describes Gulf War I.

4/28/2011 05:20:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

am away so can´t be bothered to work myself up about his latest ramblings - strikes me that he´s working on his book and filing copy at pretty short notice, to judge by the ´quality´of the JC piece.

One of the benefits of being away is that I had the time to read the latest New Yorker, which has a pretty interesting piece about Obama´s foreign policy - it veers a little towards oversymparthy, but it´s very in-depth and comes from the most important people. Nick certainly hasn´t read it.

All that stuff about Europe and immigration is weird, too. VG doesn´t exactly look like le monde... looks more liek the sun.

Anyone with a copy of What´s Left to hand willing to look up Halliday, Fred in the index? I don´t recall Cohen ever mentioning him, anywhere, til the LSE stuff blew up recently... In contrast, Halliday is mentioned a fair few times in Unspeak.

4/29/2011 08:35:00 AM  
Anonymous darkhorse steak with bernaise sauce said...

Straw Man Leftie: "Hamas won Gaza in free elections. Palestinians must unite against the colonial enemy and the Israel Lobby in the West."

Tell-It-Like-It-Is Nick: "But they cannot unite..."

Bad timing Nick, writing this article the same day that Fatah and Hamas announce a reconciliation deal brokered in Cairo.

4/29/2011 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

A rather strange dig at our Laureate.

David Aaronovitch
Has Carole Ann Duffy taken a break from routine anti-war verse to pen a few lines that I have somehow missed?
11 hours ago via web

Surely Aaro reads the newspapers e.g.

Perhaps Aaro shouldn't accuse anyone of 'routine' anything.

4/29/2011 09:23:00 PM  
Anonymous bensix said...

I hear she tried to write a poem in response but the only rhyme for "Aaronovitch" was too obvious.

4/29/2011 11:51:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...


4/30/2011 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

Will this do?

There was a young man called Aaronovitch
A comrade, of sorts, of Christopher Hitch
There wan't a war
He couldn't cheer for
But please don't call him Murdoch's bitch

Carol Ann Duffer

4/30/2011 11:56:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

There is a Meredith Brooks track which would provide appropriate structure for a song.

4/30/2011 03:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

@organic cheeseboard - not in the index, no.

5/01/2011 06:19:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

cheers Sarah. I've no problem with Nick coming late to Halliday (though he wrote for the Observer ffs) but Nick could at least admit this. Equally, the man was surely a nuanced enough thinker for Nick to find something worth quibbling with...

5/02/2011 04:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always felt that Stalin's and Mao's purges were all about the mundane matter of destroying rival factions that stood in their way of obtaining full-blown power, not about a last heave in bringing heaven to earth. It's funny how very ideological these Decents are.

Dr Paul

5/02/2011 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Indeed. A point I've made before, that.

Wasn't Halliday a big supporter of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, or am I making that up?

5/03/2011 09:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, I just listened to you on the radio and had to make this comment. You said 'why did America not just plant WWD, they could have done'.

You are a journalist and write a column for two newspapers so I would have assumed you would have come across the two pieces of news that would refute your claim. One being the 'mobile lab' the other being the senator sent to Africa to find out the claim that Saddam purchased some biological weapon, which turned out to be a lie too. Thie second is worse becauase the NeoCons then exposed the senators wife who had been a CIA agent, endangering her and her family, and all because they didn't like the result her husband had come up with, ie, the truth.

Surely you know of these cases? Either that or you are deliberately misleading or you really are stupid and should not be in the profeession you are when you miss vital news such as these.

5/03/2011 05:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apologies, I know my comment was off topic, but I really needed to have my say and I know that David comes here and reads comments. Apologies once again.

5/03/2011 05:03:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

That was indeed an absurd comment for Aaro to make (and we can hardly say that DA is off topic given what the rest of us all get up to) but 1) please sign posts, anonymous and 2) a better option for contacting Aaro is to email him

5/03/2011 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

I heard that Aaronovitch piece also. I think talk of conspiracies brings out his demented side. At one point he appeared to be arguing that the Americans shouldn't show the corpose of Bin Laden, as that wouldn't convince absolutely everyone. Well no it probably wouldn't, but it might convince a few more...

5/04/2011 10:56:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

I can hardly say that anything in particular is off topic, least of all media appearances by Aaro, but JFTR, there is not much evidence at all that DA reads the comment threads here and his website has a "contact" section which gives an email address for him so that is probably an easier way to get a direct message through. He responds to Twitter comments too.

5/04/2011 05:38:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Presumably between 75 and 82 minutes into this.
For an expert on conspiracy theories it is deeply sinister that he couldn't tell Richard Bacon that the idea that JFK's body has been dug up is nonsense, suggesting that he's been bought off/had a visit from men in black/little grey men.

5/04/2011 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

There's some reasonably good evidence that he has read - and commented on - some of them though, at least if we are willing to discount an impostor thesis, perhaps on nemo gratis mendax grounds.

(I'd find it hard to resist temptation to check a Tim Wilkinson Watch from time to time; the vanity of a sleb columnist perhaps has higher standards, though.)

Though somewhere at the bottom of a thread that's not about him, on a blog which is mainly about Nick these days, is a bit of a long shot.

Still thanks to anonymous for mentioning it, as I missed it. Assume it was R4 - when/what programme was it? (I'd assume an interview on PM or Today, probably with a second interviewee for balance.)

I have seen and heard a lot of comments, e.g. from Damian 'Counterknowledge' Thompson, complaining about the US sending UBL to sleep with the fishes so precipitately.

The problem with it is that it is bound to give rise to conspiracy theories ('lies told about covert op' shock). It is very likely to do that, isn't it. And the mechanism whereby it's likely to do so is by providing a reason for suspicion, rather than any more deviant machanism.

The explanation for the US giving the tinfoil hatters such a juicy bit of circumstantial, er, ammunition? Once you have eliminated the impossible 'conspiracy', whatever cock-up remains, however ill-advised and easily-avoidable, must be true.

(In the films, when you don't see a dead body, the supposed corpse always jumps out later and tries to strangle someone. It's too far-fetched, even by my unsqueamish standards, to suppose that the possibility of a sequel is being left open though.)

There are reasons why they might want to avaoid scrutiny of the body even assuming (not unreasonably) that they had one freshly killed in line with the story. For example, it might be obvious that he was in no state to resist arrest, which would blow the official half-cover used to impart a modicum of implausible deniability to the execution scenario.

5/05/2011 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Vaguely on-topic, then, did anybody else see the Eye being a little bitchy about Aaro the other day? Last issue but one, I think.

5/05/2011 02:22:00 PM  
Anonymous darkhorse steak with bernaise sauce said...

Isn't the common-or-garden conspiracy theory usually more interesting than the boring old truth though?

Assuming that the truth is: US forces broke into OBL's house and shot him dead - well, that is pretty interesting.

What embellishments are required to enhance the story's pull?

5/05/2011 06:29:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...


You mean

"The outraged newspaper editorials following the latest flurry [of superinjunctions]...were swiftly followed online by comments from high-minded readers (and David Aaronovich) pointing out that they couldn't care less about famous people's sex lives"

A bit harsh methinks - Aaro is as high-minded as anyone when he is in the mood.

5/05/2011 08:59:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

That's the one. What's that all about?

5/06/2011 11:50:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

I don't know, it does sound like the sort of thing Aaro would say (and I would probably agree with him) but I'm not sure why the snark - I guess the writer has a bit of a personal beef with Aaro.

5/06/2011 12:41:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Did aaro actually comment on a thread on that topic? that might be why he's named - maybe the 'online' is a giveaway.

otherwise it's probably just an excuse to bash him cos he's spoken out against the hislop party line.

5/06/2011 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Aaro's chairing the moral maze tonight.

5/11/2011 06:40:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Fuck me, Clothes for Chaps is writing about Bobby Fischer now. Gissa job.

5/15/2011 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

FYI, came across something uncharacteristically flagrant from Aaro's 2005 output that I don't think has been remarked on before.

Presented without that much milking here:

5/15/2011 08:36:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Bensix has pointed out that (as I should have guessed) the matter was been dealt with and Aaro's claim retracted (under the rubric of carelessness).

Ignore me.

5/16/2011 09:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aaro's mistake is on the front page of this very website (Reader's correction to Aaro's correction)! However it is worth mentioning again, as it's one of those "mistakes" that churnalists tend to make but journalists tend not to.

Laurie, of course, does clearly believe that the UK was right to invade Iraq because it might have WMD in the future. He negected to say that this is illegal and to point out the risks of this kind of war of choice.


5/16/2011 01:12:00 PM  
Anonymous hellblazer said...

@ejh: that Fischer piece wasn't that bad, was it? It managed to annoy me less than the last time I read Stephen Moss writing anything about chess (though this may be a low bar).

5/17/2011 08:03:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I agree that it's not a bad piece, and good for CfC actually doing the going-out-and-nosing-around kind of research. However, I think he downplays the congenital mental illness side of Fischer too much. Fischer was always weird. He didn't become weird as a result of stress. His problem is that he seems to have had some autistic traits, some paranoid traits, some schizophrenic traits, possibly OCD and narcissism. About the only commonly diagnosed problem he didn't have was ADHD. In the case of BF I don't believe medical intervention was have done him any good: it would just have made him ordinary, and he may not have been able to cope for himself. But he could have been handled a lot better, but, well, we should all be so lucky.

5/17/2011 08:44:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Chardononnay Chap is your assessment that no treatment would have done any good simply that of his fellow professionals, reported by journalists and then given voice by the author of the article? I have my doubts about the assertion in the same paragraph that Fischer couldn't have risen to the top without the aid of wealthy sponsors, and the obvious saw occurs that it's not all paranoia when they're out to get you.

I am not a clinical psychologist.

5/17/2011 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

that Fischer piece wasn't that bad, was it?

No, it's perfectly all right to be honest, knows his stuff all right ,even manages to get some thougtful stuff out of Nosher.

(By "thoughtful" I mean "manages to to make a prick of himself", since although he's a clever guy, Short has an uncontrollable habit of being unpleasant at the expense of people he considers weaker than himself. Perhaps Fischer, being both stronger than him and dead, gets an exemption from the treatment. Actually, since as in addition to being objectionable he also writes well, and has strong rightwing free-market politics, he'd make an ideal Spectator columnist if they ever got rid of the serial plagiarist currently doing the job.)

But, at the same time, why give a big writing-about-chess gig to somebody who doesn't actually seem to know the game? I know that's how the Observer Sports Monthly used to work, but then again I always loathed the OSM, not least because that's what they did.

5/17/2011 05:59:00 PM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

I really liked the Karpov piece on Fischer in the NYRB -- it was very unwriterly and direct, which I found rather moving.

5/17/2011 09:16:00 PM  
Anonymous hellblazer said...

belle: wrong K. (I've never read anything by Karpov, either on chess or on chess players; I wonder what he'd be like.)

5/17/2011 11:16:00 PM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

oops yes, apologies: i do actually know the difference usually... never trust a sub-editor when they're tired and a bit tipsy

5/18/2011 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

Justin, the thoughtful stuff from Nosher i.e. chess keeping mad people sane, was ripped off from Bill Hartston.

I'm just pissed off with the tired old trope of mad chessplayers. Of the current crop, only Ivanchuk could be described as mildly eccentric. I doubt there's any evidence that chess players go insane in any proportion different from the general population.

Apart from Fischer, all the examples given relate to a time when Syphilis was rife and being a professional chess player was a very nomadic and precarious occupation. I'm surprised that more didn't end up in institutions.

5/19/2011 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Justin, the thoughtful stuff from Nosher i.e. chess keeping mad people sane, was ripped off from Bill Hartston.

Yes of course, but given that Nosher was being interviewed for somebody else's `piece I don't think he's obliged to give references.

Professional chess still is a nomadic and (except for the highest echelon) precarious occupation, but yes, the "madness" business is a bit wearing. However, it's recently undergone modernisation and become "they're all Aspies".

I'll try and get round to reading the Kasparov piece later. It's suggested in some quarters that Kasparov's written English is not really good enough for the the job of writing magazine pieces and that they may be ghosted by Mig Greengard. At least that way the pieces are generally good and interesting, words which can't be applied to anything I've ever read by (or attributed to) Karpov.

5/20/2011 08:11:00 AM  

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