Sunday, December 13, 2015


Another Sunday, another dire column by Nick.  Before I start whingeing about it though, an anecdote:

Many moons ago, I used to write another blog, about the many follies of the belligerent, evangelical democratic centrism that was quite popular at the time.  If you want a simple image to describe the phenomenon that I was talking about, think of that recent Hilary Benn speech, but with the Iraq war rather than Syria, and with the words "And fuck everyone who disagrees with me, for they are basically Nazis" appended to the end of every sentence.

In order to write it, I had to read endless amounts of nonsense written by people who had lots of axes to grind.  You might imagine that this kind of thing isn't good for your mental well-being, and so it proved to be.  After a while, I started to notice what I took to be particular trends and modes of thinking in the articles and blog posts that I was reading.  I then found myself catching whiffs of these phenomena everywhere, in the most unlikely places.

It became apparent quite quickly that my focus on a small group of particularly vitriolic writers and politicians was distorting my thinking on more than just politics.  This caused me to make some fairly silly pronouncements, and to get into needlessly pissy arguments with people who, I later realised, were basically correct and rational.  I began to make grand, false assumptions about people of whom I knew nothing, leading to a couple of embarrassing incidents.

This didn't last long, because I realised that I was making enough basic errors to suggest that my fundamental assumptions could only be wrong.  Worse than just acting like a dickhead, I was a dickhead - clearly wrong, and being very arsey about it indeed.

As I realised then: if you find that you're routinely surprised by events, or that you're regularly coming to conclusions that are obviously incorrect or nonsensical, then it's time to reconsider your thinking.

And with that, let's go back to Nick, who today observes the rise of aggressive nativist politics in Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen, and concludes that

a) He doesn't like Jeremy Corbyn, and that

b) The success of Trump and Le Pen is primarily the fault of the librulz, for restricting free speech by e.g. organising petitions to ban Trump from Britain via Facebook and by calling people racists.

Let's quickly observe that Nick probably wouldn't much humour suggestions that e.g. the Nazi Party owed much of its success to the punitive terms of the Treaty of Versailles.  Nor do I think that he would be much more receptive to any musings on the failings of the Weimar Republic.  He'd blame the Nazis and those who enabled them for their own malicious actions.

If I started a long consideration of the rise of ISIS by grousing about the radicalising effect of the Iraq War, I'd expect denunciation in the strongest possible terms.   I'd most likely be told that any such suggestion amounted to absolving ISIS of their brutality.

And yet, faced with the reality of actual racist right-wing xenophobes kicking arses in the polls, Nick concludes that their success is mainly the fault of his librul neighbours, not least because of, like, this Facebook petition.

Now if I had to explain the rise of fucknut xenophobia in mainstream politics, I'd be more inclined to lay blame upon mainstream political figures who wanted to reap all of the economic benefits of mass immigration, but also wanted to claim the electoral rewards that foreigner-bashing reliably brings.  I'd also place a chunk of culpability on public figures who have spent years using immigration as a stick to beat their political foes, painting their enemies as soft on crime and so on, thus riling up their readers to the point where nothing but the most roaring race-baiting nonsense will get them hard any more.

I'm aware that this conveniently places blame on people that I didn't much like in the first place, and far from my own front door.  Nonetheless, I think it makes a lot more sense, since it locates culpability for the rise of racist lunacy with the few people who have the power and influence required to achieve it.

Perhaps the key point worth noting here however is this - the public can raise all the Ban-Trump petitions that they like; they can write to their MPs and newspapers, they can even take to the streets and protest, if they want.

But nothing - not so much as a parliamentary expression of disapproval - will get done about banning Trump, or any other campaign raised by members of the public, unless it suits some key people in positions of power and authority to do so.

With that in mind, the idea that Trumpism is the result of anything that the bloody Guardian readers do or say, strikes me as especially ridiculous. That Nick seems to think otherwise, suggests to me that something is fundamentally wrong with his thinking, and that he needs to reassess his assumptions.

I don't intend to hold my breath until that happens, though.


Justin McK said...

I stopped reading the Cohen piece at the Trump/Corbyn conflation. What a sack of crap that man is.

There's nothing wrong with this country that putting its political commentariat to work picking up dogshit wouldn't improve by about 90%.

Anonymous said...

That's what I love about Trump, he is basically exposing the Republican party for who they really are, which for the most part are fear mongers. They've used the "threat" of Mexicans, Muslims, terrorists, Blacks, gays, communists, etc for decades to progress their own success.

All of a sudden now, the leading republican candidate is the person who openly appeals to the fear and paranoia which the party has been quietly stoking for years within their votership. The Republicans now have an existential crisis on their hands where they may have to alienate large swathes of their voters by retreating from the fear monger tactics they've been fond of for so long.

Trump is unlikely to become president, but his actions are going to humiliate, if not potentially destroy the republicans. We could be looking at the biggest shift in US politics in history.

I really hope at some point, Trump attacks Obama over drone strikes. It's all well and good saying Trump is a racist, but he has yet to kill any Muslims as far as I'm aware. Now that is a shit storm I would pay to see.

levi9909 said...

I just read the whole of the ibtimes article Nick Cohen linked to to make his point about Corbyn's "insistent" defence of antisemites. It was as painful as Nick himself but it didn't mention antisemitism at all.

levi9909 said...
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Gary Othic said...

Nick is rather amusing/depressing (delete according to mood that day). The funny thing is that I'm about 90% sure that he himself is actually aware that he's wrong, or saying silly things, but he's just invested so much in it that he can't back out from it.

In that way he reminds me of the character Ushui from Kenshin.

ejh said...

he needs to reassess his assumptions.

That's probably because he thinks he's somebody who's already done this, but in fact he isn't. This is a normal for people who undergo political epiphanies.