Sunday, November 02, 2014

"Oor Broken Politics"

The really sad thing here is that Alex Salmond is probably correct - Scotland probably is in for at least a generation of poisonously stupid, hyper-partisan politics.

The Scottish Parliament had a good, long run at doing what it was intended to do - keep the NHS ticking over, empty the bins, scrutinise legislation, keep the law up-to-date and so on and so forth. For more than ten years, MSPs toiled away doing all the dull but necessary work to keep the buses running and suchlike that theoretically, we all want them to do.

It was stupendously boring, of course, because emptying the bins is boring, and it was certainly never perfect or glamorous.  It's difficult to stoke high drama out of yearly audits of NHS trusts etcetera, because it's almost impossible to turn them into ferocious toe-to-toe confrontations with the Satanic forces of opposition bastardry.  It was a small politics of small people, which you would think might befit a small nation. 

But politicians quietly and effectively managing the nation's affairs clearly wasn't enough for us.  Where was the nerve-jangling tension?  Many of us clearly wanted more excitement and engagement. 

Italy has exciting politics.  The United States is filled with people who are very, very engaged indeed.  Very little of value gets done by either nation's ruling class, of course, because there's little time for getting the bins emptied when all parties are so busy sharpening their wedge issues.

And clearly and unambiguously, this is what many of us have long wanted for Scotland, and now we'll have it.  Where once there were tedious committee meetings on civil law reform, we shall now have nonsense declarations in defence of public services that everyone understands are not actually threatened.  Where once there were slow, soporific sessions on the budgetary implications of whatever, we shall now have relentless, boiling accusations of treason and villainy.
It took us around fifteen years to get to this point, and I'd advise you to keep this moment in mind. Years down the line, when we're all whining about our broken political system and complaining about negative, attack-only politics, we may come to realise that this was the moment that we voluntarily and gladly chose to adopt it. 

Ten years from now, let's not have any whingeing about how our politicians filled our national assembly with super-partisan nonsense about nothing.  All they're doing is selling a poor product to the public, and it's us that's buying it.

We're in charge, remember.   If we've decided that what we want is flag-waving, throat-slitting wedge issue stupidity then by God, we are all going to get it, good and hard.


organic cheeseboard said...

Off topic but this can't go unremarked. howard Jacobson's column last week on Russell Brand and miriam Margolyes (?). Praised by Rentoul among others. Ends thus:

We ask if mosques are to blame for the radicalisation of young English Muslims. What’s the narrative they listen to, we wonder. Who’s inciting them. Reader, there’s no mystery. The narrative they are listening to is ours. Whatever the mosques teach, our own media is sufficiently inflammatory to account for violent disaffection. Self-inculpation has grown to be a habit with us. We ascribe malice and self-interest to our every military involvement. Paint ourselves as marauders, the Americans as imperialists, and the Israelis as medieval fiends gorging on the blood of Palestinian babies. While on Newsnight Russell Brand preaches pantomime insurgency to the impressionable.

You don’t have to order people to decapitate their enemies. Just rub the itch of their youthful alienation, enrage them with an egregious sense of wrong, remove those filters of uncertainty that should make for hesitancy and reflection, fill their minds with the pap of propaganda, phantom grievance and prompt remedy, and no one’s head is safe.

I really don't know where to start - but I love the fact that this rant, one of the dodgiest I've ever come across (where the fuck has anyone in 'the media', by hich he must mean the mainstream media, claimed that Israelis eat babies?!) with all its utterly reprehensible insinuations (so America doesn't get involved in wars for self-interested purposes? good luck with that 'narrative'), comes at the end of a column bemoaning British culture for not being 'intellectual enough...!

flyingrodent said...

Whatever the mosques teach, our own media is sufficiently inflammatory to account for violent disaffection. Self-inculpation has grown to be a habit with us.

HJ has a hard fucking neck coming out with this kind of stuff when he's

a) Previously announced that he harbours fears that Britons are on the verge of inter-ethnic genocide, and

b) Has just released a book set in a post-genocide future UK which, as far as I can tell without actually paying for the damn thing, portrays the nation as being full of drunken, pig-ignorant philistines.

If Howard is looking for a pop culture validation of the view that Britons deserve to be rubbed out, he could take a long, hard look at certain writers who never shut up about what a bunch of disgusting, violent, racist, shit-thick scumbags we all are.

organic cheeseboard said...

Jacobson's last column is actually even worse. Can't remember if Decentpedia had an entry on 'intelligent' but this is a great example of someone using the word 'intelligent' to mean 'someone I agree with':

A few highlights:

The claim that 'J' and 'The Finkler Question' represent his two ideas about antisemisitm - one, saying we can't exaggerate the danger enough; the other saying we can in fact do so. Onlt TFQ included random antisemitic stabbings as a matter of course in London, when in fact no such thing has happened in recent years, and every single young person in that novel was a Jew-hating conspiracist loon. HJ is simply lying in that part of this article.


The unintelligence in this instance comprised describing an insolubly bloody problem and then expecting an unbloody solution to it. If Israel had a right to defend itself, how was it going to do so, in the circumstances it was faced with, except in ways that would cause suffering? It is not easy to defend the deaths of innocent people in war, but there are times when we can explain why those deaths occur. If we make horror our sticking point, no war is justifiable.

Except that the comments Miliband made (ages ago, it should be noted - I've no idea why HJ is writing this now, except to pile onto Miliband when others were too - HJ is pretty much a Tory so it's not unexpected) - 'i cannot defend the horrifying deaths of hundreds of Palestinians' - don't imply that he thought there could be a bloodless solution. What they imply - or in fact directly state - is that Israel's response to acts of violence this summer was unjustifiable. I can't work out what's worse - that HJ doesn't understand this, in a piece which lamabasts others for 'unintelligence', or that he does in fact know this full well and is deliberately ignoring it in order to avoid having to deal with his actual support of the Israeli atrocities in Gaza (including deliberately aiming cannons at children playing on a beach, etc etc) which he doesn't even mention. They weren't simply 'bloody', they involved onslaughts utterly unsuited to their ostenible purposes, which themselves changed on a daily basis. To quibble about semantics in the face of this says an awful lot about his priorities.

Worst of all is this:

Not every Jew connects with Israel. And of those who do, many have strong reservations. But willy-nilly there is an identification of Jews and Israel, if not in the minds of Jews themselves, then in the minds of those who equate the Star of David with the swastika.

this 'willy-nilly' thing is just preposterous. The country has the star of David on its flag ffs, and its government are trying desperately to get everyone calling it 'The Jewish State'. It's not some sort of airy-fairy concept. Again, remember this is in an article bemoaning how 'unintelligent' everyone in Britain is. And he comes up with this shit?

flyingrodent said...

this is a great example of someone using the word 'intelligent' to mean 'someone I agree with.

A particularly obvious and shameless one, I'd say. Oh yes, it is possible to disagree with me intelligently but in practice, there are so many invisible caveats attached to this proposition that it is actually (and intentionally) impossible to do so.

You really do have to wonder where Howard thinks he's going with this stuff. If Ed's if-this-then-that stance on the matter is hopelessly stupid and verging on turning a blind eye to racism, HJ is painting himself into a corner. There's no room for the old nuanced debate when your basic stance is that everyone who disagrees with you is either a Nazi or an idiot.

But then, this does all look fairly deliberate. I can't remember who said it, but I saw a blogger observing that most sci-fi authors use the medium to explore issues that it wouldn't be possible to examine without fantastical leaps of imagination. And this is why HJ has suddenly and unexpectedly turned to the genre for the first time in his career.

flyingrodent said...

Oh, and if you want a laugh, Martin Bright's ongoing discovery that Tony Blair likes money a lot more than he likes democracy is a cracker.

organic cheeseboard said...

Ah, good old Martin not-very-Bright. My favourite bit of this latest expose of how stupid he is:

By the time I resigned in May, it was clear to me that the charity Blair set up to bring about a greater understanding of faith and conflict was fatally damaged by its patron’s legacy as a politician, and by his ongoing business dealings.

I still cannot understand how Bright didn't think about this prior to taking up a job as Tone's propagandist-in-chief. He must have done - all this 'suddenly i realised' bollocks is just that. Blair was giving Saudi an easy ride while in office ffs - Brighty must have missed that.

On HJ, it strikes me that his columns are only really written for people who already agree with him and enjoy his writing (I remember this beign the case with the ultra-awful Tracey Emin column in the Indie whoch precipitated me stopping buying it). There's no way that confused mess, with lots of vaguely wise-sounding phrases but absolutely no argument aside from 'anyone who disagrees with me is a Nazi idiot' as you say, would convince anyone of anything. Lurking behind that piece, though, is an acceptance of anything Israel does, seemingly because to oppose Israel makes you a Nazi or idiot - but surely even Jacobson knows that makes no sense. I think his guise as 'comic writer' (even if I've never read anything by him that's even vaguely funny) allows him to get away with this kind of angry-old-man ranting in the same manner as the SF thing you mention.

Anonymous said...

HJ - I read both of the columns in question and I had a hard time understanding either of them. I was continually thinking - what is he referring to now? Presumably you have to be on his wavelength to understand the references, and that probably means mainly people who already agree with him. The references to "intelligent argument" were an added insult. I agree with him that there is a lack of intelligent and rational arguments around our politics, but his style is not the answer.

MB - It should be clear to anyone that the Tony Blair empire is a nexus of conflicts of interest. There is business, there is politics and there is a so-called civil society organisation and they all revolve around one controversial personality. It's a recipe for trouble. In partial defence of Martin Bright I will say that there are an awful lot of people like him who do not recognise this kind of conflict of interest. His article does have the merit of putting into print the fact that, in cases like this, charitable activities will be affected by Blair's business interests and his preoccupation with what Chilcot's report will say.

Julian Assange says, in a recent Newsweek article,

"Since at least the 1970s, authentic actors like unions and churches have folded under a sustained assault by free-market statism, transforming “civil society” into a buyer’s market for political factions and corporate interests looking to exert influence at arm’s length. The last forty years have seen a huge proliferation of think tanks and political NGOs whose purpose ... is to execute political agendas by proxy."

That should be obvious but to many people it isn't. At least Bright is getting this into the Daily Mail (alongside the sidebar with somebody called Kim Kardashian whose body shape appears to be of great interest to Mail readers).


organic cheeseboard said...

I think the problem with the HJ pieces - and HJ's writing in general - is exactly that you have to more or less be him to understand his references, to be able to identify the people he's attacking, etc. A lot of writers affiliated with Decency are similar - Nick Cohen, for one - but even he has a tendency to name names, and it's shocking but he actually affords his 'enemies' more intellectual charity than Jacobson.

As you say, his writing - full of rhetoric, insinuation, and condemnation, is entirely the wrong way to go about political debate. Also probably worth noting that Jacobson is probably the single most pretentious, and least Orwellian, political writer out there - far worse than Russell Brand - yet Decents seem to lap his shit up.

i'm still not sure I can believe that Martin Bright didn't realise that working for the Tony Blair Faith foundation (something MB occasionally pretends was just called 'The Faith Foundation') might in some way be associated with managing Tony Blair's reputation. Bright knew that Chilcot was coming (is it?) - to pretend that his website would in some way be free from contamination based on that, even if free for TB's editorial influence, is just boneheaded.

The Assange point is correct more generally, and people might well have trouble realising that, say, the Taxpayer's Alliance is in fact a Tory front - but nobody really needs to be told that the TBFF is associated with TB, surely?

bonus Decency points today - Nick Cohen's piece attacking David Cameron in the spectator is actually quite good. A shame, then that Cohen actively praised Cameron in the run-up to the previous election and can't bring himself to even vaguely praise Ed Miliband, even after repeatedly siding with him on every single domestic issue going.

organic cheeseboard said...

Brett Lock, David Toube and chums are playing a gig! in aid of Medecins Sans Frontieres in Syria:

Sadly I'm busy that evening. You'll note from that Facebook page that the great and the good will be present, e.g. James Bloodworth. Glad to see the Decents finally actually doing something other than 'blogging for Iranian democracy' (which lest we forget meant making racist comments about Seumas Milne's name).

HP Sauce commenters, of course, think that MSF is antisemitic: