Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Sad, Sad Tale of McGregor

Having spent years going on and on about Nick's long struggle with reality, it's some relief to see that it's now come to a messy and petulant end.

Frankly, I cannot be arsed to mark the occasion with anything more than snark, but I'm aware that a few of you will be disappointed, so I'll leave you with an old, old joke.  Please consider this a free thread for commenters to point and laugh, as is our usual charming habit.

Anyway - the root cause, I think, of all of Nick's complaints about the left has always been his horror that people were extremely rude to him for nothing more than his ostentatious support for insane wars and his constant, angry denunciations of those who vocally disagreed as traitors and dictator-fellators.

Nick seems to feel that all this has left him with an unmerited reputation as a mendacious war-monger, while he still sees himself as the proud torch-bearer for a long and storied tradition of Labour universalism, or whatever.

This reminds me of the old joke about McGregor, who is asked how he acquired his very unusual nickname.

McGregor sighs and says, You see that wall over there?  I lugged the stone for miles, dug out the clay and built that wall with my bare hands.  

Do they call me "McGregor the Wall-Builder"?  

No, they don't. 

You see that vegetable patch?  I tended the soil, sowed the seed, watered the shoots and grew the finest, plumpest vegetables for miles around.  

Do they call me "McGregor the Gardener?"

No, they don't call me "McGregor the Gardener". 

You see that barn?  I cut down the trees, chopped the wood, sanded the boards, erected the walls and nailed down the roof.  

Do they call me "McGregor the Wood-Cutter?".  Do they call me "McGregor the Barn-Builder?". 

No, no, they do not. 

But you fuck one sheep...

28 comments:

ejh said...

Yeah but isn't the point of the story that he only fucked one? Whereas Nick has been fucking that particular ewe since way back when.

dsquared said...

It was, I think, Matthew Turner who referred to NC as "a liberal who has been mugged by reality, and who was so traumatised by the experience that he has never been able to bring himself to look at his attacker ever again"

Igor Belanov said...

Really need a 'like' button on here for ejh's comment. Where's Zuckerburg when you need him?

flyingrodent said...

isn't the point of the story that he only fucked one? Whereas Nick has been fucking that particular ewe since way back when.

Well, McGregor didn't say that he only fucked it once...

"a liberal who has been mugged by reality, and who was so traumatised by the experience that he has never been able to bring himself to look at his attacker ever again"

That's a peach, and will be shamelessly stolen, by me.

The other joke I was considering was more about Nick's career in general, and it's the one about the Dad who bought his son a pile of manure as a present.

Come the kid's birthday, the Dad finds his son shovelling manure over his shoulder and laughing joyfully.

"What are you doing, son?" he asks.

"Well Dad", says the kid, "I figure that with all this horseshit, there must be a pony in there somewhere".

septicisle said...

It's difficult to feel anything other than pity really, isn't it? To go down not in a blaze of glory, but in such a whimpering, pathetic way, in the Spectator of all places. It might even be slightly respectable if he didn't hang it all on the "secular forces in the Muslim world", when surely he realised long ago that it wasn't the British left that screwed them over, it was the people who decided cock-eyed invasions of their countries were such a fabulous idea.

Moreover, his bete noire Owen Jones did recently describe the Kurdish socialists in reverential terms, as has the left more generally, although after last night's Channel 4 docu on those who felt so moved they went to fight alongside them some might think again. And who is it that's recently been bombing those same Kurdish socialists, with barely a whimper of protest? It wouldn't be our allies the Turks would it, in just the latest example of how deranged our policy on Syria has been? No, thought not.

SimonB said...

Of course Nick has his book to promote too. "What's Left" is a lengthy example of a straw man, but it's money in the bank for him,. However, if Corbyn is successful in any way he's busted.

flyingrodent said...

Down to the nuts of it, then: I like the way that Nick's entire summary of the last fifteen years can be boiled down to:

- Iraqis and Afghans were under assault by Al Qaeda, and
- The BBC failed to ask the miserable leftissess why they don't say nice things about Iraqis and Afghans.

How did e.g. Iraqis come to be under assault by Al Qaeda, the reader might ask? And in what way would that situation have been made better, if BBC journalists forcing grudging concessions that maybe they don't want all the Iraqis to be horrifically murdered from the evil lefties' lips?

On that, Nick is silent. Goodness me, I wonder why that is.

flyingrodent said...

To go down not in a blaze of glory, but in such a whimpering, pathetic way, in the Spectator of all places.

That's one of my favourite bits - quote time...

The standard explanation from left-wingers is equally self-serving. Turncoats are like prostitutes, they say, who sell their virtue for money. They are pure; those who disagree with them are corrupt; and that is all there is to it.

Translation: I'm painfully aware of how ridiculous I look for using my paid gig at the nation's leading right-wing boobyhatch magazine to piss and moan about how I'm leaving left-wing politics.

Thus, anyone who says that people who do exactly what I am now doing are ridiculous, is some kind of wanky ideological purist.

Well, I don't think you have to be a street warrior for justice to note that Nick has had his cake, eaten it, then eaten more cake, and is now furiously denying having ever eaten any cake at all.

Metatone said...

Nick won't like this, but as a brown person on the left, I'm glad to see him go.
His dogwhistling has been a big part of the hostile atmosphere that has seen "centrists" taken on UKIP style attitudes to those whose face doesn't fit.

Phil said...

I made a point on the Twitter about this thing, which I'll reconstruct here now...

One point in Nick Cohen's piece that's worth commenting on: his reference to anti-semitic "dogwhistle" politics on the Left. Makes explicit what Cohen and others have suggested before: that Corbyn's denials of anti-semitism can & should be ignored. Which puts Corbyn in an impossible position - impossible to persuade Cohen unless he breaks with A, denounces B and so endlessly on. But the 'dogwhistle' ref says more. Racist 'dogwhistle' politics is about using superficially non-racist messages *to mobilise racists*. So this is Cohen's position on the pro-Palestinian/anti-Zionist politics of the Left: not that it needs to break with anti-semitism, but that its raison d'etre is anti-semitism: they say things that alienate many Jews because they want to mobilise anti-semites. So anything they say that does alienate anyone Jewish can be denounced as anti-semitic in tendency. Nasty, and oddly self-enclosed - when somebody's made this judgment, what possible statement from a Left-winger could make them revise it?

I got one hostile reply, from someone who quoted someone else saying, inter alia,

"He's been specifically asked on live radio why he won't condemn those of his followers who are anti-Semitic. His answer is to repeat that he's not an anti-Semite. Great answer... to a question that wasn't asked."

Because that's how you find out if somebody's politics are anti-semitic - ask him a question in the form "when will you condemn" or "why do you refuse to condemn". That always works.

flyingrodent said...

One point in Nick Cohen's piece that's worth commenting on: his reference to anti-semitic "dogwhistle" politics on the Left...

That's the one part where you really have to say: No, fuck you, Nick.

Although it's probably worth remembering that it's only a few days since Nick announced that "Mosley would have voted Corbyn. He would have loved the anti-Semitism".

https://twitter.com/NickCohen4/status/643017165302579200

Which suggests to me that Nick hasn't resigned from the left, so much as he's resigned from even trying to keep his shit together. You have to imagine that as he's showing this little restraint, he's only going to get more hysterical from here on in.

Metatone said...

Isn't the hysteria all of a piece with Tory strategy?

"Threat to national security."
"Mosley would have loved Corbyn."

You can only spend so long with the National Security headbangers before it becomes your dominant worldview, I suspect.

ejh said...

Well, perhaps it's just the case that one of the minor consequences of the Iraq War has been a serious degeneration of political discussion in the UK (and I'm not under the impression it was exactly a Socratic dialogue beforehand). And if that process has had a leader, it's been Nick Cohen.

flyingrodent said...

(And this is quite a pissy, tu quoque kind of point, but one that probably needs to be made)

If Nick's really worried about being in the company of racists, anti-semites, criminals and propagandists for Nazis, the quickest way to get away from them isn't to write a column announcing that he's "leaving the left".

It'd be to stop writing for the Spectator, which recently gave self-declared anti-semite Taki room to try a rehabilitation of Greek Nazi movement Golden Dawn; has been busted for Rod Liddle's racist comments; gave convicted child-molester Jonathan King a column to decry the "abuse allegations industry", and so on and on.

None of this does any more than smear the mud about, but it was Nick that declared it was open season on people for their whiffy associations, and not me.

Igor Belanov said...

Has Cohen not shot himself in the foot here?

Surely his value for the right-wing press as troll numero uno depends on his continuing to claim that he is of the left?

Anonymous said...

Nick will be back next week, and the week after, saying that he is going to leave The Left. He will check out but he will never leave. It will only stop when the Spectator find someone fresh to write this "I used to be on the Left but ... " stuff that has been a staple of the press as long as I can remember.

Didn't Nick Cohen used to be very concerned about Muslims setting up a caliphate? Has he acknowledged that there is now a vast tract of land in the Middle East dominated by Muslims who see it as the kernel of a caliphate? Has he analysed how this has come to be? Has he got a plan for how this can be dealt with?

Guano

Ken Eadie, the prince of strikers said...

Nick will be back next week, and the week after, saying that he is going to leave The Left.

I'm not so sure- Nick has definitely left the left and now we can look forward to even more biting, incisive critiques of the left by a learned insider now outsider who was constantly persecuted and gagged by the left throughout his lonely crusade within the left. He's now taken leave of the left and can finally speak uncensored, ungagged and unbound.

In fact now that Nick has personally left the left, his blistering, condemnatory tome "What's Left" should now be published as a third edition entitled "Nothing, Nada, Nichts, Rien."

gastro george said...

"It will only stop when the Spectator find someone fresh to write this 'I used to be on the Left but ... '"

Dan Hodges?

dsquared said...

Nick will be back next week, and the week after, saying that he is going to leave The Left.

Rather in the manner in which George Monbiot has an epiphany every nine months or so, in which he realises that unlike those terrible old hippy-greenies, he is a modern scientific greeny and supports nuclear power.

Chris said...

Accusations of antisemitism against Corbyn (my party leader) are so obviously false they give away their ulterior motive.

The thing about Cohen is that, let's be honest, he was always a hack. He was never one to be slightly fair to people he disagreed with. Only difference was that he used to be on our side.

Anonymous said...

"Dan Hodges?"

I don't think Hodges built up enough cred as part of the Left before he started attacking the Left.


Guano

organic cheeseboard said...

Lots of ABCs retweeting this thing about "one in 5 Labour voters planning to vote Tory" non-story today. Not sure how that's squared with the opinion polls where Corbyn has remained more or less at the level of Miliband, if not a bit better. Plus the Election is so far away and Labour have no real firmly defined policies. But zomg Corbyn is awful.

Equally a lot of the poll where voters claim that David Cameron will be a better PM than Corbyn. Ok, maybe, but Corbyn won't be up against Dave if he makes it to 2020. Wonder how Corbyn compares to Osborne, or Boris? Seemingly there's no press interest in a poll related to the General Elections that might actually happen, vs the one that definitely won't.

Can't be bothered to go through the Cohen piece but there is just so much wrong with it. Accusing Corbyn of having "best friends who are anti-Semites" is just horrific (since he is referring to people who Corbyn hardly knows), and that in a piece which supposedly bemoans other people being nasty and hurling insults around.

Equally, despite the "quit the left" thing being obvious bullshit, which left-wing figures has Cohen ever endorsed? I can think of Denis MacShane, and we all know how that one ended - but who else? He seemed to be on board with David Miliband's campaign last time around but that was motivated by his hatred of Charlie Whelan. That also explains his dislike of Gordon Brown, and he also wrote books attacking Blair (who he subsequently rated). All this "once Blair left I assumed that a true left-wing govt would rule Britain" stuff is just bullshit from start to finish.

flyingrodent said...

Accusing Corbyn of having "best friends who are anti-Semites" is just horrific

This is what's so hilarious about it all. Surely there's more than enough actual real stuff he can get on at Corbyn about, without having to use his imagination?

I've pointed this one out before, but "the Labour party has just endorsed an apologist for Putin’s imperial aggression" is rip-roaring bullshit of the first order also. It's based entirely on comments to the effect that Nato policy in eastern Europe over the last decade has been thoroughly idiotic, which it most certainly has been. Apparently, it's not possible to observe this fact without also entirely endorsing everything Bad Vlad does.

But why even bother with this line of attack? Surely there's more than enough pictures of JC with Gerry Adams and so on to mean that no need to invent further nonsense. It's also notable that the Putin thing is now just one of those "facts" that can be true without ever having to be justified or proven at all. It looks like it's subject to the old rule - as soon as a Decent says a thing, then it then becomes true for all time, regardless of whether it has any merit at all.

See also: Corbyn "(sees) a moral equivalence between 9/11 and the assassination of Bin Laden" and Nick's bizarre hints that the cabinet is 52% female because Corbyn, like, looooves Iran. And that's before we get to the "dog-whistle" antisemitism, another everyone-knows-it-to-be-true fact that doesn't have to be evidenced at all.

I mean, why even bother with this and-a-pony stuff? Surely Nick has more than enough ammo to start with. All this confected nonsense just makes him look like a bullshit artist and an idiot.

A side note, here - one of the most depressing sights this week has been the number of actually good, entertaining opinion hacks tweeting Nick to tell him how much they liked his tantrum. Really discouraging stuff, given the amount of utter silliness that's in it.

Chris said...

Cohen was a leftwinger once. Prior to about 2002 his views seem to have been roughly of the Campaign Group type.

I bet he admired Jeremy Corbyn once. Surely he would have. Somehow he picked up some bizarre notions about foreign policy and they seem to have come to totally define and dominate his political thinking.

That's the thing with "decency", I guess. It basically requires you to think people you disagree with are morally corrupt and it turns every issue into an ultra high stakes battle for civilisation.

flyingrodent said...

It's very noticeable that up until we get to the second-last paragraph, the only thing that Nick has to say about what left-wing people should do and/or believe in is: Be comrades with people in the countries that we occupy.

Even if we just grant that this is a wonderfully good point, has Nick ever offered any explanation at all of how this would help anyone, either here or in e.g. Iraq?

organic cheeseboard said...

Funniest thing about Cohen's piece is that he parades the fact that he was "was one of the first journalists to denounce New Labour’s embrace of corporate capitalism" - and indeed he's right. Yet he doesn't mention the fact - and it is a fact - that it's precisely as a protest against Labour doing this that, er, Corbyn won.

as you say, to be a true left-winger, Nick says this is the only criterion:

If they were true to their professed principles, my book argued, modern leftists would search out secular forces in the Muslim world — Iranian and Arab feminists, say, Kurdish socialists or Muslim liberals struggling against reactionary clerics here in Britain — and embrace them as comrades. Instead, they preferred to excuse half the anti-western theocrats and dictators on the planet. As, in their quiet way, did many in the liberal mainstream.

Is it me, or has left-wing politics never been exclusively secular? Nick seems to be suggesting here and elsewhere (see below) that it's a core of left-wing politics, but it surely isn't?

Also just on the 'Nick Cohen dressing up bullshit as fact', we get the usual 'in their own quiet way', i.e. 'they didn't really do this but I'm going to pretend otherwise because leftiesare bad.'

We also get this:

The causes I most care about — secularism, freedom of speech, universal human rights — are not their causes.

Oh yes, universal human rights, that cause which Nick stuck to so admirably in his post-Iraq writings.

But overall it's truly previous to see nick claiming that it's somehow tedious to say what is or isn't left-wing, while doing EXACTLY that. And he's been at it ever since What's Left, if not before - for him, to not support the Iraq war was to not be 'liberal' or on the left. Problem is, he can't win that argument - because his position is le bullshit. So now we get a hissy fit where Nick's own lack of ability to convince others is somehow the fault of other people.

flyingrodent said...

he doesn't mention the fact - and it is a fact - that it's precisely as a protest against Labour doing this that, er, Corbyn won.

I don't particularly understand why most of the major Decents are so averse to acknowledging this, either - presumably they think that it would detract from their Everyone's crazy except me and my monkey patter.

Is it me, or has left-wing politics never been exclusively secular?

It hasn't, although there's been a strain of aggressive atheism, most significantly from the particular sections of the left that Nick especially dislikes.

So now we get a hissy fit where Nick's own lack of ability to convince others is somehow the fault of other people.

That would make for a pretty concise summary, I think.

And I note that we can now add "coming out in favour of pig-fucking" to the long list of the Spectator's recent travesties. You'd think that Nick would be more discerning in his choice of allies and where he chooses to speak etc. etc.

ejh said...

If they were true to their professed principles, my book argued, modern leftists would search out secular forces in the Muslim world — Iranian and Arab feminists, say, Kurdish socialists or Muslim liberals struggling against reactionary clerics here in Britain — and embrace them as comrades

As often with Nick, there's a point in here that I'm happy enough to agree with, but it would help if it was combined with the thoughts that

(a) there are also other principles and causes that are properly of great importance to the left, opposition to war being a notable one ;
(b) "modern leftists" do, in fact, spend quite a lot of time highlighting Arab feminists, Kurdish socialists and so on, and the only way you can fail to see this is if you try not to ;
(c) sometimes everybody finds themselves on the same side as people they have every reason to dislike otherwise, which is why we have an expression "politics makes strange bedfellows", why "modern leftists" can find themselves on the same side as Hamas against a state which practices ethnic cleansing (important cause, that, Nick) and why Nick has some dicky allies himself and why his allies have even dickier allies.

Another way of approaching this is the phrase "life isn't simple", a concept of little use if your main preoccupation is making war of your former allies, your former friends and your former self. This is what Nick and his fellow-epiphanists do. And I don't like epiphanists.