Thursday, February 18, 2016

Euston Ten-Year Anniversary Open Thread

From what I can gather, Nick's eulogy for Euston is a proper knee-slapper, full of the usual wails and screams but at a particularly piercing pitch and tone.

Tragically however, it's paywalled for me, and I'd rather have my wisdom teeth replaced and then pulled all over again than pay the Spectator for the privilege of perusing it.  So I'll just have to wait until it appears somewhere else.

Going by past experience, I'm betting that it's mainly some mixture of  

The wars that we demanded have left half the planet in flames and have - incredibly - elevated our bitter political foes to power, and this is definitely somebody else's fault, and  

Our political project was an abject failure, but that had nothing at all to do with the godawful behaviour of the people who promoted it. 

Still, I know some of you have read it and that you, like me, have many fond memories of the era.  For those of you who want to pick over the rubble or to discuss any notable departures from universal values, consider this an open thread. 

88 comments:

Jon Rubin said...

tonally you're right - but you missed the way he manages to oh so gently insinuate that Corbyn is both a fascist and a Stalinist ... it's a masterpiece of rhetoric lacking not just argument but anything resembling structure, coherence or ... well there are paragraphs but after that it just looks like he vomited it out with nary a further thought.

septicisle said...

And lo, Cohen and the other Eustonites warned the non-Eustonites that if they tolerated this, they would be next. And the non-Eustonites said, you and your mates are a bunch of tools, please do one.

And so it came to pass that 10 years later, Cohen and the non-dead Eustonites crowed of how right they were, as the rise of Corbyn clearly proved, despite his victory in the Labour leadership contest having very little to do really with bombing foreign nations better under the spurious justification of internationalism, democracy, and all that jazz.

And so lo, in another ten years time, with absolutely no self-awareness whatsoever will Cohen once again exclaim on how correct he is and forever more will be, and how much a bunch of dictator loving bastards and idiotarians his former allies are. And so on, until the end of time.

Gary Othic said...

I think the funniest thing about it is that it is ostensibly a piece about Norman Geras, for a collection of works on him, but the only clue to this is that Geras is the only other named member of the manifesto. Evidently Nick wasn't able to set aside his own ego, nor admit that he wasn't well-read enough to be able to discuss Geras' political and philosophical work and do the proper thing and turn down the offer to write for it. So instead we got this wibbling dirge.

Bonus points as the nasty old leftist who was telling Cohen and his mates that they're barking was David Clarkk, adviser to Robin Cook - who you resigned in protest over the Iraq War. Really tying all the grudges together there.

David B said...

[David Clark said] "Left-wingers, who criticise other left-wingers, must be closet conservatives. The Eustonites were like the early American neoconservatives who condemned the stance of others on the left, he said. They went on ‘a journey that led most of us eventually to abandon the left for good’."

I am struggling to think of e.g. a prominent commentator who has drifted steadily to the right and ended up abandoning the left. Anyone have any clues?

Anonymous said...

Paywalled? I've never been barred from anything on the Spectator's site, and I've certainly never put any money their way.

It begins thusly:

'We told you so, you fools’: the Euston Manifesto 10 years on

The Euston Manifesto appears a noble failure. It was clear in 2006 that the attempt to revive left-wing support for internationalism, democracy and universal human rights did not have a strong chance of success. Looking back a decade on, it seems doomed from the start. The tyrannical habits of mind it condemned were breaking out across the left in 2006. They are everywhere now. They define the Labour Party and most of what passes for intellectual left-wing life in the 21st century.

To take the manifesto’s first statement of principle: the left should be ‘committed to democratic norms, procedures and structures’. An easy statement to agree with, I hear you say. Not so easy when the leader of the opposition, feted by his supporters as the most ‘left-wing’ in Labour’s history, will excuse dictatorial regimes or movements, however reactionary, if and only if, they are anti-West.

The left should believe in ‘freedom of opinion and assembly,’ the manifesto continued. One need only look at the universities to know that the loudest voices in the middle-class left now concentrate so much of their energy on shouting down others, that the poor, exhausted little things have no time left to do anything else.

‘We reject without qualification the anti-Americanism now infecting so much left-liberal (and some conservative) thinking.’ Not much progress there, now that Occidentalism is the guiding principle of leftish thinking on foreign affairs.

I accept that if you insist on ignoring the evidence of your senses you might believe that the manifesto’s hopes for a principled anti-racism have been half-realised. Norman Geras, Alan Johnson and all the other bloggers and academics who produced the manifesto wanted a universal commitment to oppose ‘the anti-immigrant racism of the far Right; racism against people from Muslim countries, and the resurgence of, anti-Semitism.’ Left-wing and Muslim anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and hatreds were hardly novel a decade ago. They are now so commonplace, they shock but no longer surprise me. But you might argue, that a decade on, the left’s commitment to opposing anti-Muslim bigotry remains solid. Don’t believe it. Let a liberal Muslim or ex-Muslim start arguing against Islamist reaction and leftists will turn on him or her. The white left is all for defending Muslims, but only if they are the right sort of Muslim.

Anonymous said...

And it carries on like this:

At the same time as Norman Geras and his comrades were writing the Euston Manifesto, I was writing What’s Left, a history of how western left-wingers found themselves excusing movements of the religious and secular far right . I drew careful distinctions, as Norman did. You could not generalise, we said. There were many lefts. We ourselves were leftists, who flattered ourselves that we were upholding the best traditions of the left against the totalitarian sympathisers in our midst.

I cannot say the same now. Of course, many left-wingers reject the politics of Jeremy Corbyn. But the majority of those who call themselves left-wing do not. You can puff that the clowns who go along with inquisitorial, misogynist, racist and homophobic Islamists are not ‘true leftists’, but the fellow travellers of modern fascism. And you would be correct. But Lyndon Johnson had it right when he said ‘the first lesson of politics is to be able to count’. Numbers matter. Majorities define a movement. If the majority of people who call themselves left-wing reject the principles of the Euston Manifesto, it is tedious and pointless to argue that those principles are somehow the ideals of ‘the real left’ or the ‘true left’ or whatever else you want to call it. Left-wing politics are what left-wing people do.

What’s left of the manifesto? The vindication of history for a start. When Robert Conquest published his history of Stalin’s crimes in 1968, leftish critics denounced him as a Cold War propagandist. When Conquest republished years later, no one could deny that he was telling the truth, however hard they tried. Conquest’s friend Kingsley Amis suggested he change his title from The Great Terror to I Told you so you F—-king Fools.

The authors and signatories of the Euston Manifesto could say the same. We got much wrong, and were doubtless clumsy and rude on occasion, but we were telling the truth when we warned that dark movements were rising across the left, and not just on the far left where the darkness never lifts. For we did not confine ourselves to attacking the fringe. We said that the ideas we condemned could be found in the minds of people who regarded themselves as reasonable men and women of moderate temperament. We understood that ideas that begin on the extreme could take over the mainstream. We knew, too, that on other occasions, extremists merely magnified vices that already flourished in respectable society – as fairground mirrors distort the figures in front of them. We only had to look around us to see that those who thought themselves practical liberals and leftists had allowed their defences to moulder away.

Anonymous said...

To put it as gently as I can, our arguments were not embraced with as euphoric an enthusiasm as we had hoped. The suggestion that the liberal mainstream had problems of its own infuriated the BBC. Most Labour politicians backed away. They had their reasons. The enemies of the Euston Manifesto attacked it as a defence of the Iraq War. It was nothing of the sort. Nevertheless, Labour politicians had justifiably outraged anti-war protesters to deal with, and took the smear seriously. Then they had to think about the conservative Muslim voters they relied on. Then there was an uneasy feeling, more of a suspicion than a fully formed thought, that the Euston project broke left-wing taboos.

Leftists shouldn’t criticise other leftists, they said in effect, even if their targets were endorsing ultra-reactionary movements.

To take one example, I know from my own experience to be typical. David Clark, who had been Robin Cook’s adviser when Cook was foreign secretary, reviewed the manifesto. He agreed with its belief in the intrinsic merit of democracy. How could he not? He supported a humanitarian foreign policy, for he could hardly argue against it either. And yet, and yet, Clark worried about the bad taste of attacking leftists who were the friends of tyrants. Based on no evidence whatsoever, he decided that Geras and the other signatories of the manifesto were not passionate enough about inequality, even though they had written at length about the need to redistribute power and wealth. His throat cleared as he got to the meat of his complaint. Left-wingers, who criticise other left-wingers, must be closet conservatives. The Eustonites were like the early American neoconservatives who condemned the stance of others on the left, he said. They went on ‘a journey that led most of us eventually to abandon the left for good’.

I had Labour MPs and intellectuals deliver the same lecture. Stick to your own tribe, they said. Don’t wash dirty linen in public. Pretend that the left did not contain moral and intellectual gulfs that could not be crossed, and more to the point should not be crossed. For all their professed principles, our critics believed that the fight against misogyny, tyranny, homophobia, racism and theocracy was a fight no good leftist or earnest liberal could undertake without the risk of conservative contamination.

When the manifesto invited them to decline ‘to make excuses for, to indulgently “understand”, reactionary regimes and movements for which democracy is a hated enemy — regimes that oppress their own peoples and movements that aspire to do so’ – they declined our invitation instead.

When the manifesto urged them to draw ‘a firm line between ourselves and those left-liberal voices today quick to offer an apologetic explanation for such political force’, they placed themselves on the wrong side of the line, or more disgracefully, pretended no line existed.

Anonymous said...

Schadenfreude Klaxon!

Well, look at them now. Look at those unemployable special advisers, those impotent Labour MPs, those ignored guardians of broadsheet and academic opinion, those consensual ladies, those timid gentlemen. When the extremists came for them, they did not have one decent argument to defend themselves with. It is a measure of their dereliction of duty in the decade that followed the manifesto’s publication that a candidate with a record of excusing the imperialism of Vladimir Putin’s gangster state as well as some hideous Islamist movements, could present himself as the moral voice of the left. And get away with it.

I cannot see Mr Clark being an adviser to a future Labour foreign secretary. Sometimes I doubt that there will ever be another Labour foreign secretary. The resistible rise of the far left has guaranteed that Labour will be out of power for as far ahead as anyone can see. Its centre did not hold because it preferred to hold its nose and turn away from Norman Geras, myself and many others, who tried to warn of a coming disaster. If millions did not need an alternative to conservative rule, it would be funny. Actually, it still is funny.

The manifesto, meanwhile, continues to be read. I take a particular pleasure in seeing liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims reaching for its arguments as they struggle to understand what has gone wrong with a left they naively assumed would encourage and defend them.

As for the left-liberal mainstream, now without a hope of power in Westminster, and led by men who daily shame themselves and all who associate with them, they have a choice they have postponed making for a decade. They could try to find moral arguments that would allow a social democratic movement to flourish in the 21st century. History may be written by the victors but it can be used by the defeated, if the defeated are prepared to see their own faults. If the centre-left understands why it found itself naked before its enemies, if it is prepared to engage in overdue self-criticism, then it may find that the Euston Manifesto is still of some use to it.

But if, those who ignored or condemned the Euston Manifesto refuse to learn from their mistakes…Who cares? Others will take up its causes. Indeed, they already have.

When I was writing What’s Left I learned to appreciate the truth of William Morris’s dialectical thought from The Dream of John Ball.

"I pondered all these things, and how men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name"

Whatever what’s left of the left decides to do, the fight continues with or without them.

This piece is from a forthcoming anthology of the best writing of the late and much missed Norman Geras.

Anonymous said...

And that's it, apart from links to hit-pieces on David Shariatmadari (Left Foot Forward), Seumas Milne (New Statesman) and Jeremy Corbyn (the, er, Daily Telegraph).

Of course, if the piece is paywalled these comments should probably be deleted.

Anonymous said...

There's a hint of bitterness and regret in Nasty Nick's piece. the Euston Manifesto was basically Blairite: Intervention abroad. soft market based reform at home. don't be anti American. Yet not one big Blairite would sign. Were The Eustonarses too 'rude'. or were the MP's 'fucking fool's 'the possibility that even Battered Blairites, still in power, but damaged by Iraq, took one look at Nick's Krazy Krew and decided friends like that, egotistical cranks were more trouble than they were worth, evades our hero

Alex said...

It wasn't paywalled for me either, but I think that depends on how many previous Spectator articles your cookies say you've already read recently.

Steve Williams said...

I used to have a blog, about a decade ago. I linked Norman Geras at one point, and I believe we shared a two-or-three line conversation about cricket.

Despite his blog being on my sidebar, I grew out of reading it, although I do have two abiding memories of it - the first is that he seemed to be quite a polite person who interacted with others with a reasonable amount of generosity. The second is that he had a sort of running feature (I think on a Friday morning) where he would interview a different blogger, and ask them all sorts of questions. These people seemed to have a fairly wide variety of political backgrounds, including conservatives and anti-war liberals. In short, he seemed to be able to interact with people he disagreed with with a decent amount of respect.

I wish I could say the same for Nick Cohen. Here is just one line of that piece:

'One need only look at the universities to know that the loudest voices in the middle-class left now concentrate so much of their energy on shouting down others, that the poor, exhausted little things have no time left to do anything else.'

Forget the sentiment; smell the condescension! I could tolerate a writer with Cohen's opinions (I mean, it really is good to be challenged from time to time) who wasn't such a rocket polisher.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if they'll print the 'euston manifesto ' itself in Geras posthumous book. It really hasn't got any better with time.a lot of bland waffle until some very specific paras about how the left should stop complaining and ' get behind ' the 'reconstruction' of Iraq. this at a time when the real damage to Iraq was being done, as the occupation forces promoted the economic chaos, sectarianism and corruption that made the country safe for ISIS, as Geras, Nick and their mad mates decided they were prophets.

Simon K said...

The main thing to observe about the EM is that it makes no sense out of the context of a few petty blog arguments that were fairly arcane at the time, let alone now. Points 2 and 3 are particular "could they be talking about us?" moments. At this stage in the document it is already obvious that what most exercises them - and prompted the drafting of the EM - is people being *wrong on the internet* rather than the ongoing presence of global tyranny. I do know (as Cohen alludes to) that they spent a fair amount of effort trying to get some more senior Labour MPs to sign up to it, always coming up against the "so wtf are you actually getting at here?" obstacle.

Another thing to observe is that it's really awfully written, in a kind of convoluted portentous pseudo-academic prose, presumably to help disguise its lack of meaningful content.

There's a measure of historical irony in the bluster about "alliances with illiberal theocrats" given that the present-day inheritors of the EM mindset are most vocal about the need to prop up some pretty damned illiberal theocrats in Syria. And the 'elaboration' on the Iraqi insurgency has aged terribly, though it's a useful reminder of the way in which the liberal bombers tried (and still do) to shut down debate about why an insurgency might be happening and how the occupation was helping to inflame it.

Finally, despite its preoccupation with the middle east, it tells you something that (from what I can tell from the list) almost none of the signatories had any particular background in middle east affairs.

Ken Eadie, the prince of strikers said...

“Then there was an uneasy feeling, more of a suspicion than a fully formed thought, that the Euston project broke left-wing taboos.”

Yes, yes it most certainly did. EM and its signatories sided with and became apologists for some of the zaniest, most dingbat, hatstand neocons ever to inhabit this planet.

Those deranged left wingers and their taboos.

ejh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ejh said...

I drew careful distinctions, as Norman did

I dunno about Norman, but the idea that Nick "drew careful distinctions" may be the most self-deluding of all the deluded clais in his deluded piece.

flyingrodent said...

Thanks for posting the full thing. Jesus, Nick is pissed, even by the standards of his habitual surliness.

I guess my favourite thing about it is Nick's cast-iron certainty that his political project failed, not because it was flawed or because he and his mates often behaved in an appalling manner, but because the public are bastards and because Labour are spineless.

And who knows, he may be correct. History suggests however that a good product has a way of selling itself, and that flawed ones die in obscurity. If Euston is basically Betamax, that may not be because the public were too thick-headed and ignorant to appreciate how much better it was than VHS.

Still, let's start by treating Nick's arguments here as if they're valid, rather than monomoniacal and self-serving. It's worth asking - if the various leaders of the UK left had followed Nick's advice, what today would be different?

Very little, I'd guess. The financial crisis would still have dropped the A-bomb on the economy; The Coalition would surely still have taken power and imposed a near-identical austerity programme; The Iraq War would still have ended in ignominious defeat and the rise of ISIS; Afghanistan would be just as fucked; We'd still have bombed Libya and handed control of the country to the local gang-bangers; Russia would still have annexed South Ossetia and Crimea, and would still be fucking with Ukraine. And so on and on.

We might say that Jeremy Corbyn might not have won but seriously, I can't see why we would. It's not like there's been a dearth of condemnation for anyone who thinks not bombing other nations in the hope of improving them is a better idea. On Jez specifically, it's not like there weren't many shrieks of hysterical terror about all of his awful opinions from politicians and pundits, in the run-up to his big win.

And I'd suggest that anyone who thinks that the public would've been more keen on a rock-ribbed, muscular Labour Party that spent much of its time bombing things, singing hymns to democracy and telling everyone how virtuous it is, is probably deluding themselves.

The only thing that I can see having changed, if the EM had found popularity with actual MPs, is that the original vote to bomb Syria might have passed. In which case the USAF would most likely have bunged a few missiles at Damascus and said, there, that's it.

This does not exactly strike me as some kind of major historical fork in the road.

Otherwise, what else can we say? It's possibly the most small-minded, self-indulgent and resentful opinion pieces of the year so far, from one of the nation's most small-minded, self-indulgent and resentful opinion hacks.

And on the Manifesto itself - I love how Nick is still pretending that it had nothing to do with starting wars for democracy, much as the Green Party's manifesto has little to do with getting us all to recycle.

If we assume that the purpose of a thing is what it actually does, then I'd say it's fair to conclude that the Euston Manifesto, and Nick's politics more broadly, were mainly aimed at inflaming an already pissy and furious squabble amongst a relatively small group of people. A quick look at Nick's mentions bears this out, since he has basically two forms of interaction with the public - either people calling him a Zio-Con Warmonger etc., or people kissing his arse and calling him a hero and a visionary.

Which does suggest to me that all of this has been, as a commenter suggested, a big snotty fight about people being wrong on the internet. Which is probably why Nick's latest article sounds less like an honest assessment of his own personal failures, than it does like an arsey review of Fallout 4 or an article about how Kanye West's fans are stupid and tasteless.

Chris Williams said...

Not sure about Scotland, but the GPEW manifesto hasn't got a great deal in it about recycling. Other than that, as you were.

flyingrodent said...

Not sure about Scotland, but the GPEW manifesto hasn't got a great deal in it about recycling.

Nor did the EM have much in it about unilateral invasions and occupations of other countries, but I'd say it's fair to assume that the men who drafted it are quite keen on them.

ejh said...

Of course by "drew careful distinctions" Nick might mean "we drew careful distinctions between leftists who were actually fascists and anti-Semites, and others who were merely apologists for fascists and anti-Semites because they failed to denounce them".

Phil said...

That's a bit like drawing careful distinctions between the time you were so drunk you threw up on the doorstep and the time when you crapped your pants.

As for the counter-factual - what if they'd listened to us, the bastards? - I think FR is being far too generous. Britain would not only have gone into Libya, we'd have gone in with a song in our hearts and a quotation from Michael Walzer on our lips; we'd have smashed the place up knowingly, deliberately and with the full backing of the Liberal Left(tm). As for Syria, we'd have bombed Assad's forces at the first opportunity, with Ed (or whoever) doing a This Is 1982 And I Am Michael Foot* and egging Cameron on. In the best-case scenario this would have strengthened IS politically - a bit hard to tell disaffected kids they absolutely must not support or identify with these people when these people are fighting on the same side as we are. Worst-case, it would have strengthened IS militarily into the bargain. Either way it wouldn't exactly have endeared us to Russia. (Which matters, because, y'know, nukes and everything.)

They told us so. Sure.

*Lightbulb! That's what Hilary Benn reminded me of!

Anonymous said...

An evaluation of the humanitarian programme in Syria of the UK government from 2012 to 2014 has emerged.

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/feb/18/syria-crisis-blindsided-uk-government-dfid-department-international-development

It apparently contains the following observation:-

“For a significant period … DfID’s strategic position appeared to assume (and the UK appeared to desire) that the conflict would be limited, a new regime would be put in place and that displacement of refugees would be temporary”

So, as with Iraq and Libya, UK government policy was based on a Pollyanna view of regime-change. The policy of the UK government in Syria was regime-change with no appreciation of how complex that is and with no apparent back-up plan.

Result = misery

As FR says on Twitter, for the most part, events have developed the way that Nick wanted them to, rather than how we did. The results are not pretty.

Guano

Phil said...

Forgot to add - this rather long Bernie Sanders explainer makes the very good point that, if the Iraq War is in full swing when you're first becoming aware of politics, you're not likely to react to talk of liberal imperialism and military humanitarianism by thinking "sounds crazy but it might just work... let's give it a try!". (Or, for that matter, "...what have we got to lose?" or "...what choice do we have?".)

I'm not sure where all the earlier, more successful examples of liberal imperialism are supposed to have been (Grenada?), but that's by the way. The point is that if you screw things up as badly as the US and UK screwed Iraq up, people will eventually notice and say (like Macbeth) "Hold, enough!". Which is why Corbyn would still be leader of the Labour Party in Cohen Bizarroworld.

Gary Othic said...

Another humorous part is how he berates Corbyn for supporting dictators and being anti-democracy, based on spurious allegations, but ignores Ser Tony of Blair's actual support for dictators and overthrowing democracy.

The one-line summary of the thing is basically 'If you ignore history, and actual reality, then I was completely right.'

organic cheeseboard said...

Am off to meetings so (probably thankfully) can't post much just now. But I am interested in how Cohen frames the EM now. It was apparently about the following:

dark movements were rising across the left, and not just on the far left where the darkness never lifts.

But in fact its text is largely made up, as others on here have already pointed out, of coded denunciations of anyone who didn't support the Iraq War. And yes, they had signatories who claimed to have been against it, but the text specifically includes within it a 'justification for intervention' which would have applied to Iraq. So anyone who signed it and had opposed the Iraq war is literally a fucking idiot. That includes someone who wrote the damn thing, 'Professor' Alan NTM Johnson.

But the idea behind Cohen's piece - that if only the Labour mainstream had been more denunciatory of the people that Euston Manifesto was designed to attack, Labour would still be in power - is just plain lunacy. It also avoids the main reason why so few mainstream politicians went near it, which is that it was composed by a bunch of Angry Old Men Who Spend Too Long On The Internet And Shout At The Radio And The Guardian All The Time, and was a specifically divisive, and non-inclusive, manifesto, whose main aim was to be as unpleasant as possible. Cohen says:

We got much wrong, and were doubtless clumsy and rude on occasion

for a start, it'd be nice if, in a VERY long piece about the EM, he mentioned anything he'd 'got wrong' - but no, in fact the piece is entitled 'we were right'. FFS. And it's not 'on occasion' - it is The Entire Time. Even now, Cohen denounces ALL students as 'Stalinists' because one of them said something silly about Peter Tachell. anyone who opposed the Iraq war? 'pro-Fascist'. etc etc. This is not how to win people over - even those who are sympathetic to your cause are likely to be put off by the noisy, hyperbolic denunciations.

I also like that Cohen is still pissed off at David Clark's entirely reasonable critique of Euston - so much so that he doesn't link to it directly, only to some typical windbaggery from Professor Norm. Clark said that there's barely anything about the core left-wing cause - inequality - in the EM. And he's right; Cohen et al respond by saying 'look at who signed it, you shouldn't need to ask about our beliefs about inequality'. But that doesn't really work - especially since e.g. the signatories almost immediately revealed that they actually didn't believe in e.g. human rights. If you write a manifesto it's meant to outline the stuff you believe in, and as Clark, again correctly, pointed out, almost all of the EM was dedicated to slagging off people.

So in short, Cohen's article's point is: 'We said that 'The Left' is full of cunts. And it is, because I say so. So we were right, and anyone who disagrees is an idiot, and that includes every single member of the Labour Party'. Funny how those involved in the EM haven't noticed that this kind of debating style didn't win many over, eh. Obviously, it's all the fault of Nazi-loving cunts, because they're cunts. and if only more people had called them cunts, then David Miliband would have led Labour to victory in 2015 on a platform of austerity and foreign war (or something - Nick is very vague about all that, for some reason). That really is the sum of his thinking - seemingly on anything, now.

Anonymous said...

Well one thing we are all doing here is paying some attention to the Useless Manifesto, which is something few "serious" politicians did, which must have hurt the "we luv seriousers" Manifestoists. Going back to the Manifesto, one very hollow hypocrisy in it is the argument that all those anti war moaners should now shut up and "the proper concern of genuine liberals and members of the Left should have been the battle to put in place in Iraq a democratic political order and to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, to create after decades of the most brutal oppression a life for Iraqis which those living in democratic countries take for granted" - which none of the signatories did a damn thing about. The American and British occupiers built a sectarian, violent, undemocratic Iraq with shit infrastructure knocked up by the President's mates, and the "pro-war" types didn't raise a single complaint about the horrible mess of the occupation as it happened.

andrew adams said...

Yep, the EM failed for me as a manifesto for the left on the pretty basic grounds that it said so little about what being on the left actually meant to me. End even where it touched on areas I would agree with, such as support for democratic principles, it was couched in such a way that it came across as an excuse for the authors to settle personal scores rather than a statement of fundamental principle.

Any worthwhile political manifesto should seek to unite people who might have different views on particular issues around a common set of values and principles. The EM did the opposite.

Phil said...

And why - or possibly I mean how - is he complaining about somebody saying it looked like he was going to abandon the Left ("our imagined future is held against us" quoth Norm), a matter of months after he has abandoned the Left? Where's the bit where he says "And, OK, they got that part right"? Even if it was only "OK, they got that part right, but not in the way they think, because actually the Left left us, ha-ha, didn't think of that did you?" - even that would show a bit of self-awareness.

These people always invoke Orwell, and I think Nick has taken the very worst aspect of Orwell and made it his own - that is, his tendency to reinvent himself periodically without explanation or apology, since at any given time he was always the Plainspoken Englishman Speaking Simple English Truth And Stating Things As They Are.

organic cheeseboard said...

Well yeah. And see here for Cohen's description:

We ourselves were leftists, who flattered ourselves that we were upholding the best traditions of the left against the totalitarian sympathisers in our midst.

And when they were gold that e.g. inequality was barely mentioned in the EM, they replied "of course we believe in it you fucking idiots".

That opposition to inequality is what secured Corbyn the party leadership is of course totally ignored, because he actually won as a result of everyone on "the left" hating Jews or hating moderate Muslims or some other such bollox.

Am interested in this being stated as the key reason that Labour politicians didn't sign up:

they had to think about the conservative Muslim voters they relied on.

Now as I remember it, the most visible Labour MP linked to Euston was, um, Denis MacShane. His constituency had a fairly large "conservative Muslim" population iirc. But obviously, this kind of smear is all about, well, other people eh.

septicisle said...

Also worth recalling that the people the Eustonites were so against back in 06 were Galloway, Respect, the SWP, Stop the War, etc. With the exception of Stop the War, which is a pale shadow of the already pale shadow it was then, those groups either don't exist or might as well not exist, while Galloway is more of a laughing stock than ever. Corbyn and the left within Labour weren't really on their radar. You might have thought he'd at least have dedicated a few words to the vanquishing of those enemies, of the communitarianism they were so revolted by falling apart, but no, that might somewhat dilute his "I was right, you dipshit totalitarian loving fucktards" line of attack.

ejh said...

but ignores Ser Tony of Blair's actual support

What is this, Game of Thrones?

Gary Othic said...

"What is this, Game of Thrones?"

Well...

Chris Williams said...

Yes, I was a bit surprised that he didn't do 'Galloway, German, Rees, the SWP - where are they now, eh?' But I suppose if he had, he might have had to look at other aspects of the 10 year balance sheet. This would make it hard to avoid the conclusion that the antiwar case has convinced the UK population, and it's done so not because of the qualities of those who argued for it or against it, but because it's clear to anyone who's looked that Iraq has turned out rather badly.

organic cheeseboard said...

For some reason I ended up at Normblog just now and found this, on the bit of the Manifesto where they slag off Amnesty International, where saying:

Guantanamo is 'the gulag [of] our times' [was] an abuse of metaphor. What it was as well as that was a piece of extreme rhetorical inflation, defended by Khan and other Amnesty spokespeople as a way of trying to grab attention. This was worthy of a political propaganda department, and unworthy of the reputation which Amnesty has deservedly gained for accuracy and care. It diminishes the colossal scope of the horror and suffering that the actual Gulag produced.

And so onto Nick Cohen's piece, in a book dedicated to 'the best of norm', where Nick specifically claims that Euston's denunciation of, um, George Galloway and Jenny Tonge, is the equivalent of an exposure of the horrors of Stalinism. This in no way "diminishes the colossal scope of the horror and suffering that" Stalin produced. Well played, Nick. Of course, Norm would have approved, thanks to his double standards, but still.

Ssor Nalla said...

"And so onto Nick Cohen's piece, in a book dedicated to 'the best of norm', where Nick specifically claims that Euston's denunciation of, um, George Galloway and Jenny Tonge, is the equivalent of an exposure of the horrors of Stalinism."

Glad you spotted that. I was going to mention it, along with - ironically enough, given how much he dislikes the man, his works, and what appreciation of said works says about the totalitarianism-loving middle class ponces who go to plays - the echo of Brecht's Arturo Ui in that line about "the resistable rise of the far left."

We're not just commies lads, we're fascists. Same as it ever was.

gastro george said...

Just catching up, and almost dumbfounded by Nick new-found depths.

There are some early symptoms, like the use of "anti-West" in the second paragraph.

Then the usual appeal against shouting down, which doesn't seem to be verified by this week's headlines.

As others have noted, it just reads as a long self-justification and list of complaints against people expressing their views, while actual policy has followed his prescription and, well, that's all turned out so hunky dory, no? Internet point scoring par excellence. Tin foil hats anybody?

Anonymous said...

If a Russia versus Turkey war develops, and the Kurds are on the side of the Russians, will Nick Cohen still expect us to be in solidarity with The Kurds?


Guano

gastro george said...

It has been notable that there has been very little media coverage of recent advances in Syria by the saintly Kurds in coordination with Russian air strikes.

Al Roth said...

'The white left is all for defending Muslims, but only if they are the right sort of Muslim.'

Cohen's sort of Muslim is of course the likes of Hassan Butt and the folks at Quilliam.

ejh said...

I couldn't help noticing this piece on the state of post-reconstruction Iraq, a process which Euston loudly insisted we all get behind. No, of course Nick isn't going to be held responsible for that, that's not the way it works. And it isn't the way it works: prominent columnists on the Spectator and the Observer don't have to constantly answer for their own inconsistencies and absurdities, just as nobody who supported the Iraq War ever suffered for their stupidity, because whether they know it or not, they're on the comfortable, protected side of things.

I used to observe, regularly, that Nick thought he was channelling Orwell, which he did regularly. I now see he's modelling himself on William Morris' Dream of John Ball, presumably in the hope that the verdict of history will be in his favour and his name will one day be revived. Well, horseshit: his name gets revived pretty much every day and particularly on Sundays, he's a promnent and well-paid figure, the opposit of obscure, and the reason for this is not that he was a lone voice crying in the wilderness but that he devotes several hundred words a weeks to raving at an amorphous "the Left". His achievement hasn't been to stand up for principles that "the Left" have forgotten, it's been to dramatically degrade the standard of political discourse, and when you see proponents of the screaming-arsehole approach to political discussion (think, maybe, Padraig Reidy, or Tom Owulade, or Ben Marshall) then those are the people who have most directly been influenced by Nick's approach. "Rude" doesn't begin to cover it and "careful distinctions" certainly don't begin to come into it.

The joke is that for all the pretensions to being a struggle for the soul of the Left, it's really little more than an ongoing feud between Nick and his friends in the literary/political comment world and the people they don't like, in which the same old names (Chomsky! Pilger!) are dug up and paraded round all the time in what more and more resembles some kind of religious ceremony, an invocation of evil names in order to ward off evil. Apart from degrading the discourse it's had very little effect on abybody's thinking, and that, brothers and sisters, is because people's thinking tends to be far more influenced by real-world events, and by (say) the real-world disasters like the Iraq War and economic austerity, rather than by articles in the weeklies. That's where people go to reinforce their ideas, not to form them, and that's why the people who most thrill to Nick's pieces have always been those who loathed the Left (whether "the far Left" or "the Left" per se) already.

You know, if there's one monument to ten years of Euston and a dozen or so years of Nick-since-his epiphany, it might be that "why don't people in Britain march against Russian bombing in Syria", which is at best a silly debating point where it is not manifestly ill-motivated, is now considered by many people some kind of devastating and decisive observation. I don't regard that as a towering intellectual and political achievement. But then again I don't confuse feuding, finger-pointing and screaming for the production of ideas.

ejh said...

...although I do confuse the word mistake, which takes the preposition for, with the word confuse, which takes the preposition with. Coffee, coffee.

flyingrodent said...

No, of course Nick isn't going to be held responsible for that, that's not the way it works.

Not only is he not going to be held responsible for being utterly wrong in the past - he's going to be feted by his fellow hacks for continuing to be wrong in exactly the same way. Today's column seems to me to be thoroughly detatched from reality on a wide variety of different topics, and it's been received as rapturously as all the rest.

There's probably no point in getting upset about this, unfortunately. It just seems to be the way it is.

His achievement hasn't been to stand up for principles that "the Left" have forgotten, it's been to dramatically degrade the standard of political discourse.

Yes, I think we're past the point where we can say that Nick's fans are somehow misunderstanding this. They like him because of this. The closest comparison I can think of is Ann Coulter, who exists solely to provide her fans with ever-more dickish zingers to hurl at people that they don't like.

if there's one monument to ten years of Euston and a dozen or so years of Nick-since-his epiphany, it might be that "why don't people in Britain march against Russian bombing in Syria", which is at best a silly debating point where it is not manifestly ill-motivated, is now considered by many people some kind of devastating and decisive observation. I don't regard that as a towering intellectual and political achievement.

That really is it, isn't it. It's very noticeable that when hacks want to have a go at us awful relativists these days, it's bollocks of the "Why aren't you protesting the Russian embassy" ilk that they reach for first. And it's an achievement of sorts, but it falls somewhat short of their declared aims, doesn't it?

ejh said...

Also see "demands by people who like the phrase virtue signalling that their targets engage in virtue signalling".

It really is remarkable that a trend in political commentary which has fetishised and elevated the demand to condemn should presently be trumpeting the absurdity of people making statements purely to demonstrate what side they are on.

flyingrodent said...

On a side-note, I'm really in awe of today's Nick column, in which he lashes out at almost everyone and everything with no self-control at all. He seems to

- blame Jeremy Corbyn for Chris Grayling's conduct prior to JC becoming leader;

- appears to blame JC for the collapse of Scottish Labour, which he should presumably have prevented by time-travelling to the past;

- criticises the SNP, then hails Theresa May as a "quiet feminist" for taking action against trafficking that the SNP had in fact taken long before she did;

- neglects to spot that May's feminism doesn't extend as far as not deporting vulnerable women; and

- bewails the fact that "liberals and left-wingers" love Michael Gove, when he means that his own mates John Rentoul and David Allen Green love Michael Gove.

This reminds me of a scene in an old Steve Coogan special, one of the Paul Calf ones.

Paul's mate tells him about a Chuck Norris movie, where Chuck drops a rubbish line of dialogue on one of the bad guys before he knocks him out - "You've got shit on your shoes, and I'm the shoeshine boy".

Paul loves the line: "You've got shit on your shoes, and I'm the shoeshine boy. Whack!"

Later, a very drunk Paul gets into a confrontation with another guy. "Well," he tells his opponent, "You've got shit shoes on, y' shitty-shoe bastard", then falls over.

Ken Eadie, the prince of strikers said...

The last paragraph of his Observer article. He has got to be trolling hasn’t he?

“Last week, I had to shake myself when Jeremy Corbyn, in a rare moment of clarity, managed to spit out a half-truth – “We are now at risk of having a zombie democracy roaming around a one-party state.” He was nearly right. We are not “at risk” of seeing one-party states in England and Scotland. They are already here. And unless Labour changes, they will stay that way for as far ahead as anyone can see.”

So he’s complaining here that there is no clear opposition to the ‘one party Zombie state’ of Tory rule in England, despite there now being a clear opposition that for the first time in over 20 years has created a real choice in policy difference from the Tories, or 'clear red water' if you will. Of course this clear red water is the blood of thousands of innocents slaughtered by moral relativism and a few students no platforming Germaine Greer. What a moron.

gastro george said...

Heh, it does seem to be a trope of the "Serious Left" that you can only be a credible opposition by not being in opposition.

Phil said...

Grayling wouldn't have been Justice Secretary if the Lib Dems had insisted he wasn't - and the possibility would never have arisen if the Lib Dems hadn't gone into government with the Tories. So obviously it's Jeremy Corbyn's fault for Labour being unelectably left-wing, in 2010. (Mumble handwave long decline... Unfortunately for Nick's thesis, the 'long decline' in Labour's actual vote took place between 1997 and 2005.)

As for the 'liberal love' apparently being lavished on Gove, I read a lot of legal bloggers & tweeters, and the mood pretty much across the political spectrum is "thank God somebody's talking a bit of sense at last". Grayling was an ignorant thug who prided himself on making enemies of the legal profession, the criminal justice inspectorate and campaigners and commentators in general; it's no surprise that anyone reversing the changes he made is greeted with sighs of relief. That doesn't mean anyone has any illusions about Gove more generally.

As for the broader argument about Labour not being able to change anything, it's true but trivial - where a government has a majority no opposition party can change anything directly. If Cohen's actually saying that this extremist, unelectable Labour Party has no influence on politics at all, and that Corbyn is incapable of making any contribution to the political process, that's a more substantial claim, but it's obviously false. Nobody could deny that Labour helped force the government to back down on tax credits, or that Corbyn made a lot of noise about Saudi Arabia (and thereby set up one of the goals scored by Michael Gove).

Stephen said...

Both Thatcher and Blair had much larger majorities than Cameron. Thatcher didn't have to worry about devolved assemblies at all, and in Blair's day Scotland and Wales were controlled by Labour which, of course, also controlled Westminster. Sometimes it happens, in a democracy, that a political party is in a rather more commanding position than its rivals. There is a perfectly decent case to be made that Labour is in a bad place, that Corbyn is a poor Leader of the Opposition and the Tories look reasonably certain to win in 2020 (but not a watertight one), without resorting to hyperbole.

ejh said...

That doesn't mean anyone has any illusions about Gove more generally.

I don't think I agree with this. I think there's been quite a lot of fulsomeness about Gove and how much of an improvement he's been on Grayling - sometimes, for sure, observing that this is a contrast with his time at Education, but not always joining the dots and noticing that this may be because in one instance he's dealing with unionised public sector employees and in the other he's not. It's not too much to suggest, either, that lots of people who have regular dealings with the law and lawyers - not because they're criminals but because they're journalists and professionals -do not similarly have lots of dealings with the state education system

(Naturally it's because he doled out kickings to the state education system and its employees that he's feted by people like Tim Montgomerie and Alex Massie.)

Organic cheeseboard said...

I can sort of understand the point that Labour could have attacked Grayling a bit more back when he was doing all that nasty work in the last Parliament. But to blame Corbyn for this not happening does rather betray Nick's total obsession with him. The article makes absolutely no sense, but since when did Nick, really? Corbyn has sent him over the edge is all.

Also, something I think I've said before, but:

We are not “at risk” of seeing one-party states in England and Scotland. They are already here. And unless Labour changes, they will stay that way for as far ahead as anyone can see.

Number of times Nick says what or how Labour should "change" here, though? Zero. I mean I am guessing he means change leader, but he could make that a lot clearer. Otherwise, I fail to see what he wants Labour to actually do differently. Presumably one such thing is "support everything Michael Gove does" but they're not exactly opposing on that anyway and nor does Nick want them to. They could have opposed Grayling back in the day but a) Nick didn't say much in him at all back then and b) They probably worked out that there weren't many votes in it for them.

Re: Gove, he is still absolutely beloved of journalists across the spectrum because he's one of them. Cohen was praising him way back in the day, in fact suggesting he should have gone on Question Time vs Nick Griffin. Most hacks couldn't justify his terrible reign as education sec, but just stayed quiet, because they still love him deep down.

Anonymous said...

"They could have opposed Grayling back in the day but a) Nick didn't say much in him at all back then and b) They probably worked out that there weren't many votes in it for them."

Labour would have got a lot of grief from the press about Europe interfering in our right to be mean to prisoners (and other such sentiments). I think that Labour should have been harder on Grayling (and others) but would Nick have backed them up? Would Nick have taken on the rest of the press? Labour's silence in this area goes back to the time of Blair and Straw as shadow Home Secretaries.

Guano

Phil said...

Back on the Euston angle, I'm wondering idly what the proverbial future historians will make of it all. On a thread at Simon Wren-Lewis's blog the other day, it struck me that there's a certain style of "centre-left" comment(er) that you see all over the place these days - superficially patient but quietly simmering with fury, pedantic in exposition of wildly tendentious readings, unshakeably convinced of their own correctness but constantly lashing out and picking fights. I wonder if Euston was where it started.

Certainly I don't think it's always been like that. The Left's always had divisions - I've been on the minority side in a couple of big ones - and there's always been the big split between Moderate Sensible Labour and Wild Shouty Trot, but I don't remember any of this awful schoolmasterly crap flying around at the time of (say) the Armagh bomb or the Kosovo conflict.

As to why it started, we can certainly trace Euston (Feb 2006) back to Unite Against Terror (July 2005), but I think those future historians will look back another couple of months to May 2005, the election where lots of pinkoes didn't vote Labour. New Labour was a real thing, but one of the realest things about it was belief in New Labour: to 'be' New Labour was to believe both that New Labour worked and that there was no alternative to New Labour. For the party's leaders, its sympathisers in the media and many of its individual members, the 1997 election represented a dream come true - or, more precisely, the realisation that this was the only way that the dream could possibly come true. The waiting, the preparation, the tedious work of opposition was over: now, finally, they were on the right side of History.

In 2003 that started to ebb away, and in 2005 the results came in. And they've been very cross with us about it ever since.

organic cheeseboard said...

I think that's right, and it's somewhat exposed by Blair's supposed 'bafflement' at the success of Sanders and Corbyn.

For a start, he as usual genuflects to the right while knocking the left - he did this all the time as party leader, but not when running for party leader (I just looked it up and he uses the word 'comrades' in his first conference speech as leader, for instance).

He seems a lot keener to highlight Sanders/Corbyn as loonies than, for instance Donald Trump, on whom he said 'He is a dangerous nutter whose ideas such as shooting bullets dipped in pigs' blood are totally beyond the pale' - oh no wait, he actually said “It’s important that people are aware of the fact that we need allies within Islam to fight this and those allies will be in the majority Muslim, so it’s not sensible to alienate them from the outset.” Way to stand up to extremism! Instead of e.g. directly confronting the literally racist frontrunner for the Republican nomination, he said:

“Free tuition fees: well, that’s great, but someone’s going to have pay for it. An end to war, but there are wars.”

For a start, Blairites surely don't think free tuition fees are 'great' - they're meant to be holding back the lower classes from progressive success or some such bollocks. And you can fund them pretty easily - since a lot of countries in the EU still do exactly that via e.g. taxation and via not saddling the country (and its inhabitants) with a huge amount of terrible-quality debt. But equally, 'there are wars' - as i'm sure many on Twitter pointed out - doesn't mean that one has to look out for any and every chance of war and then enthusiastically join in, without thinking about the aftermath. To dismiss the anti-Iraq nature of both Milliband and Corbyn's victories in this way is just plain denial.

when you put the question of electability as a factor in your decision to nominate a leader, it’s how small the numbers are that this is the decisive factor. That sounds curious to me.

I'm too young to remember it properly, but did Blair REALLY run on an 'I am electable and that's it' platform when going for the leadership? i'm sure that was part of it, but surely not ALL of it. I mean it wasn't even the sum total of David Cameron's campaign.

Anonymous said...

George Packer in the New Yorker on "Exit Right", a new book about "Why do leftists move right", says of the argument "My principles and myself remain unchanged - it's the definition of 'liberalism' which has been changed " - "It's like blaming your spouse for your own unfaithfulness. Political conversions are painful affairs, as hard to face up to as falling out of love or losing your religion"

Sounds quite familiar

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/02/22/why-leftists-go-right

Phil said...

oc - borrowing and extending a comment I recently posted at UK Polling Report:

In Blair’s heyday, I remember a lot of stuff about how the party had been transformed and its beliefs had been modernised, etc, etc. I don’t remember much commentary to the effect that Labour members only supported Blair because he could win elections, and (by extension) would dump him like a shot if Labour started losing.

Blair had the great advantage of taking over the leadership at a time when the next election was pretty much in the bag, such was the state of the Tory party. So the remaking of the Labour party to which he was always committed could plausibly be presented, subsequently, as having been necessary in order for Labour to win. But it wasn't all about the winning. I think we were all supposed to believe that New Labour was a good idea in its own right - and that it won elections because it was a good idea, not vice versa - and I’m pretty sure lots of people did.

parkenf said...

George seems to end his piece with an appeal to symmetry. The idea that the power of the right to produce thinkers such as Nixon and Reagan has degenerated into Trump and Palin will ultimately make the left-right move seem intellectually bankrupt and will create a new generation of bright young things who'll document their conversion from Cruz to Clinton.

It's a neat rhetorical flourish but I think it denies the essential truth that the left-right move was always the triumph of expediency over humanity. Champagne socialists are roundly and righteously denounced but dear god please give me the patricians who sit at the high table and say "what can we do for the poor" over the new believers in all that is good and powerful who sit at the same table and say "this is nice, these people have earned this, this is their due, this is MY due".

It's always more comfortable to speak softly to power than speak hard truths. And there's more money to be made from the sort of apostasy that comforts privilege than that which promotes fellowship.

parkenf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
belle le triste said...

I think you can trace this schoolmasterly tone at least to Dr David Owen in the early 80s.

ejh said...

From http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/02/22/why-leftists-go-right:

An old friend told Chambers, near the end of his life, “You never changed, Whit, you just changed sides.”

Yup

chris y said...

I'm wondering idly what the proverbial future historians will make of it all.

So far as the EM goes, they will make nothing of it. Its existence will be forgotten until in about 2116 a Masters student at Leeds Met,. desperately searching for a dissertation topic, will chance on a reference to it and write a brief thesis using it to illustrate the curiosities of its times. The student will go on to become a moderately effective HR manager, her thesis will be filed, and that will be that.

Anonymous said...

Nowhere else to go, and sorry for that, but instructive on 'true opposition' as discussed on here several times. From John Rentoul:

True opposition update: only awkward moments for Cam at #PMQs from David Davis on immig & when Barry Sheerman compared him to Harold Wilson

So 'true oppositon' for ABCs now means 1) making references to things only people who care about politics care about (much like when someone compared Hillary Benn to Ramsay McDonald - I quite like politics and history but still don't really get these references), and a question about immigration - which, if Labour asked it, would be an open goal for Cameron to slag them off. There's no way Corbyn could ask the Q about National Insurance figures for migrants without Cameron yelling at him about how much he loves teh bunch of teh migrants.

Corbyn asking decent Qs about childcare etc? Not true opposition. Cos John Rentoul, champion of 'politics that appeals to the centre' and thus champion of, um, asking the Prime Minister about politicians from the 1970s, says so. And coincidentally, nothing Jeremy Corbyn will ever do is true opposition - because it's being done by Corbyn, who's not a true opponent. etc.

organic cheeseboard

Anonymous said...

It is hard to know why Rentoul thinks that comparing David Cameron to Harold Wilson created an awkward moment. As far as I can see, no other commentator thought this. Perhaps Rentoul thinks that Wilson was so awful that this is a deadly insult, but surely most of the people who had an obsessive dislike of Wilson are now dead.

I am keeping my eye on Rentoul's column at the The Independent because it sometimes includes extracts from talks at Kings College London about liberal interventionism, which might provide pointers about how Chilcot's report will get spun.


Guano

gastro george said...

Any comments on Far Too Predictable Nick today? I'm trying to stop stabbing the newspaper with my lunch knife.

"... an overwhelming feeling in leftwing circles that it was racist to question those who supported the most intolerant versions of Islam ..."

WTF.

gastro george said...

Any comments on Far Too Predictable Nick today? I'm trying to stop stabbing the newspaper with my lunch knife.

"... an overwhelming feeling in leftwing circles that it was racist to question those who supported the most intolerant versions of Islam ..."

WTF.

parkenf said...

I know it's tiresome but anyone wish to comment on Nick's latest? It's so incredibly one eyed that even the Guardian commentariat haven't missed it. You get halfway through with a lament about how nasty Goldsmith is damning a nice Blairite by association, and how you might end up sharing a platform at a good cause with some fairly unpleasant characters without that being an endorsement of said characters. Just when you think he might have had some sorry of epiphany he announces that this is all Corbyn's fault for genuinely agreeing with all the unpleasant types he's stood at a Palestine rally with. He so constantly fails to see his own reflection he must have difficulty shaving.

Anonymous said...

Last two comments:- "Any comments on Far Too Predictable Nick today?" ...... "I know it's tiresome but anyone wish to comment on Nick's latest?"

Which week are you referring to? There have been a succession of corkers, with some interesting logical twists.

Guano

Witchsmeller Pursuivant said...

Another signatory to the EM, 'the empty, bombastic Murdoch lickspittle Oliver Kamm', is currently taking fire from Craig Murray.

parkenf said...

It took a week for my comment to go up but it was about his column about Goldsmith being nasty about Khan. That's about it.

organic cheeseboard said...

Almost no point even bothering with nick now that he's been reduced to copying and pasting his old Jewish Chronicle pieces from 7 years ago as he's got nothing new to say and is desperate for attention so is now just shouting 'I'M A JEW!'. But he even manages to screw this up - at least the JC piece, for all its stupidity, made some kind of sense. Now he says:

Unfortunately, I assured anyone who asked (and some who did not) that, despite appearances to the contrary, I wasn’t Jewish. And that was as dishonourable. I sounded like a black man trying to pass as white

For a start, 'appearances to the contrary' - hmm, not sure I like where that one's going. But also - no you didn't - you sounded like someone who was telling the truth. You're not, and never have been, Jewish. You're claiming to be Jewish on the basis of having sympathy for Jewish people, which is about as pissweak an argument as it gets. The Israeli Govt wouldn't accept it. And I still, 7 years on, don't see the point of this argument. People see his name and assume he is Jewish, and that this is the reason he e.g. never writes critically about Israel. So his response is to, er, claim, on spurious grounds, to in fact be Jewish, and thus... prove his prejudiced critics right? I don't get it. Equally it's really dispiriting to see Cohen and other non-Jews lecturing Jewish people on loyalty etc. Witness his 'Ed Miliband - Finkler' bollocks among other things.

But in any case, I've just ordered 50 kilos of popcorn to watch the Tory party self-destruct. I really didn't see this coming but I am very, very happy. Anyone would think that recent history has demonstrated that ignoring the base* and trying to do everything to appeal to a narrow bunch of swing voters might not guarantee you power forever!

*I genuinely think that e.g. cutting disability payments and even benefits are not that popular with grassroots Tories but are quite popular with swing voters

gastro george said...

Hilarious post by Murray.

gastro george said...

@Guano - I wish the timestamp on posts included a date, but my bad for not linking. I was referring to this post about Khan/Goldsmith

The following week's piece on flooding was hilarious for the naked gratuitous jibe at Corbyn in the last para.

This week he narcissistically indulges his victimhood.

Al Roth said...

The Night Manager. Part of a sinister leftist agenda?

http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/6423/full

gastro george said...

The Night Manager. Just a bit rubbish?

organic cheeseboard said...

Nick is never going to give anything related to Le Carre a fair hearing, primarily because it gives him an excuse to self-plagiarise re: Le Carre on Rushdie and also in this instance re: all British drama not hating on Arabs enough (even though in this programme, by the end, there actually were some genuine Arab targets, i.e. gangsters who were previously pro-Mubarak now thriving under the 'new regime' - but they're not Islamists so obviously aren't evil enough, and what is more Nick didn't watch the whole series before coming to his conclusion on it). Equally, Nick's column once again isn't a TV review - it's the usual anti-Le Carre rant, despite the fact that the thing under consideration wasn't even written by him (in this case, even though Le Carre's book is set somewhere totally different, JLC gets it in the neck because he 'approved' the switch to the middle east).

The Night Manager was pretty enjoyable and compelling but it was also really not very believable on a plot level, e.g. for half the series, ultra savvy arms dealer not noticing the link between 'inviting mysterious bloke into his inner sanctum' and 'his operations immediately and repeatedly going tits up'.

I was pleased to see Nick again self-plagiarising re: Boris Johnson this weekend too. Anyone would think this was a different Nick Cohen from the bloke who campaigned for 'anyone but Ken' twice in a row, thus being a de facto supporter of, um, Boris Johnson.

flyingrodent said...

I didn't watch the Night Manager, but I'm actually hoping that when I do, it's stuffed to the gills with everything that winds Nick up. His culture writing has always been properly deranged Why-Aren't-There-More-Muslim-Baddies nonsense, and nothing will beat the one about how the Die Hard sequels kept haing nasty European thieves as villains, just like the original one did.

And it is quite notable that Nick's former stance on Boris has disappeared down the Memory Hole.

Still though, Nick's column on Galloway is my favourite for some time...

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/03/farewell-george-galloway/

...In which Nick decides that Galloway is now a powerless irrelevance, a ridiculous figure to be mocked.

Sharper eyes might note that Galloway has always been powerless, irrelevant and ridiculous, and that Nick has now spent at least 15 years pretending to be frightened of him. Nick could've written this Ha ha Galloway, you will never win! article at any point in the last three decades and been correct.

As I was saying yesterday:

What did you do in the wars, Daddy?

Why, I spent fifteen years denouncing George Galloway and warning everyone who would listen about the dire threat that he posed to democracy.

Who was George Galloway, Daddy?

God knows, some kind of MP or something.


Still, I suppose you have to seize on the little victories wherever you can find them.

Anonymous said...

The last time Galloway had any power was 30 years ago as General Secretary of War on Want, and he ran into difficulties with his colleagues as soon as he tried to use the organisation to jump-start his political career.

He was never leader of the anti-war movement because it was, err, like ... a movement. But does Cohen still think that there was something wrong with being against the invasion of Iraq?

Guano

flyingrodent said...

...does Cohen still think that there was something wrong with being against the invasion of Iraq?

I'd say definitely so. The closest we've had was Norm's declaration that it would've been acceptable to disagree with the invasion, but to stay at home in the huff pointedly not saying you disagreed.

Apologies for the ropey comments moderation recently - this is due to two factors:

1) Blogger seems overly suspicious of comments on older posts, and

2) I've been on holiday without internet and haven't had many opportunities to keep an eye on it.

Plus, as the lack of recent posts demonstrates, I'm also incredibly lazy.

organic cheeseboard said...

Funny (by which I mean entirely predictable) that Decent journos are coming out more or less against steelworkers because fuck Corbyn. EG Rentoul retweeted by our Nick "One of the 1st things Corbyn did was to kick the steelworkers union off Labour NEC for hard-left bakers." From what I can tell this happened in one of those things known as 'elections' where it was in fact the GMB and Unite whose votes swayed things as opposed to Corbyn doing anything himself, but hey ho.

Onto Galloway, and again I just can't understand the DEcent obsession with him. Nick says:

For years, you jump up and down shouting ‘look at what he’s done!’ All but a handful ignore you. But he’s a character, the rest cry. He’s not like those poll-driven, focus-group–tested on-message politicians, who speak in soundbites. He is passionate about his beliefs.

I'd be willing to bet that in fact 'the rest' say 'who he? Oh right that bloke from celebrity big brother, about 10 years ago, I'd forgotten who he is just like I've forgotten Jackie Stallone' for the most part. And again, there's a reason, oft-stated on here, why people ignore Decent diatribes - because they're so massively over the top and so often based on dubious bullshit. If Decents really cared about politicians who in the past had been photographed with, and praised, dictators, then they'd oppose the Iraq war run by Rumsfeld, would have disowned Saint Tony re: Gadaffi etc.

Nice interview with Nick here:

http://www.timesofisrael.com/why-a-british-militant-atheist-decided-to-become-a-jew/

Includes this guaranteed friend-making statement:

Corbyn, says Cohen, witheringly, has neither the ability nor the intelligence to stamp out anti-Semitism in today’s Labour Party. “It’s like asking Nick Griffin to rid the British National Party of racism. He [Corbyn] just can’t do it,” he says.

Now hold on. The BNP is a racist party, whose policies are literally racist. Nick Griffin is also an avowed racist. Thus our chum Nick Cohen is saying, via this analogy, that Labour, whose last leader was Jewish, lest we forget (and he was actually Jewish, unlike Nick Cohen), is a party dedicated to antisemitism, and its leader is also a dedicated anti-Semite. Great stuff.

But just to get back to Cohen's decision to call himself Jewish. He says:

hang on, first of all, your questioner is in a lot of trouble if they want to check whether you are Jewish. Checking whether people are Jewish does not have a good history. And you’re in even worse trouble by denying you’re Jewish, because you’re pandering to racism or trying to get yourself a get-out-of-jail-free card,” he says.

No, if you are nick Cohen and you deny you're Jewish, you're telling the truth, since you are not and never have been Jewish.

Also interesting that this interview is in the times of Israel, which ran columns literally praising genocide only a couple of years ago. By Cohen's own Corbyn-logic, he's now a genocide supporter...

flyingrodent said...

Funny (by which I mean entirely predictable) that Decent journos are coming out more or less against steelworkers because fuck Corbyn. EG Rentoul retweeted by our Nick "One of the 1st things Corbyn did was to kick the steelworkers union off Labour NEC for hard-left bakers."

A quick compare-and-contrast on reactions to news of the respective closures of Port Talbot and The Independent might be useful, here.

I don't recall much in the way of lectures about how market forces proved that Independent staff were surplus to requirements, or on the need to face painful realities.

Thus our chum Nick Cohen is saying, via this analogy, that Labour, whose last leader was Jewish, lest we forget (and he was actually Jewish, unlike Nick Cohen), is a party dedicated to antisemitism, and its leader is also a dedicated anti-Semite. Great stuff.

It really is absurd, and you can't imagine anything like this happening with any other party or tendency in the country.

Try this on for size - recent revelations about nasty, racist statements made by minor Labour political figures demonstrates a serious problem in a way that the daily avalanche of petty racist lunacy across every other sector of UK life isn't. Or, imagine senior Tories, Kippers or Nats seriously addressing their own crazies.

Not really credible, is it?

ejh said...

While I don't really want to spend my entire life talking abut Nick Cohen, I only discovered this evening that he recently referred to John Le Carré as having a "Jew obsession".

Pushing his luck, is Nick.

organic cheeseboard said...

He throws that one round quite a lot - I remember his using it to describe Ken Livingstone a while back, or maybe that was 'Jew-Baiter'? He very proudly in that times of Israel interview states that the Spectator have never edited him at all, and I'm sure that's true of Standpoint as well - I think he was trying to claim that this demonstrated the Higher Standards of the right-wing press but in reality it's presumably because they know full well what the content of any Cohen column is going to be, i.e. lefty-bashing.

Cohen replied to someone calling him out on this on Twitter with a link to a piece by, er, the editor of Standpoint (wow, what a surprise), which quotes a Today interview with JLC from 2003, saying the neocons "appointed the state of Israel as the purpose of practically all policy".

And according to Nick, pointing out that neoconservatism is a movement = being a conspiracy theorist. Pointing out that Neoconservatives are motivated substantially (though not exclusively) by support of Israel = antisemitism (even though e.g. Andrew Sullivan, who was a neocon himsself, pointed this out). But even still, this 203 interview is Cohen's only evidence - there's nothing in the novels and certainly nothing in The night Manager. But hey ho.

Might be wise not to get into this but still - that Charlie Hebdo editorial, eh?

I don't recall much in the way of lectures about how market forces proved that Independent staff were surplus to requirements, or on the need to face painful realities.

Well, Nick in particular is always banging on about how journalism is dead etc, though this doesn't stop him from e.g. consistently recycling old columns and doing no research at all (see above).

Phil said...

That link from ejh reminds me - I was wondering the other day just what it is that makes some 'moderate' commentators so crazy. Exhibit A was Eoghan Harris - formerly of [Official] Sinn Fein - rejecting the idea that the Easter Rising was a rebellion against British imperialism, on the grounds that some Fenians sided with Germany against Britain & their imperialism was even worse. If you follow it through he's actually suggesting that British rule in Ireland was more progressive than rebelling against it - the kind of conclusion that would make most people go back and check their premises.

I think two things are going on with Harris (and many others like him), and they both stem from ignoring one crucial fact: we're all partisan. Nobody is sitting in serene, unworldly judgment on the antics of the foolish mortals; everyone is screeching and throwing things at their enemies while frantically covering up for their friends. Everyone criticises the people they already oppose and defends the people they already support. Overlooking this fact leads to two errors: one is taking your bearings from what some other group is doing or saying - rather than by trying to take a coherent view on the issues - and the other is denying that you're doing it.

So Harris doesn't check his premises, because premise #1 is "Down With The Provos" and #2 is "Premise #1 Is Objectively Correct". In that light it makes a kind of sense - if everything the Provos do, say, think or touch is evil, even Easter 1916 must be a bad thing. Or, if not bad exactly, complex, and problematic, and full of harsh truths and difficult historical lessons and (cont'd p. 94).

Something similar's happened to Nick, just as it did to Aaro and Norm and that one commenter on HP/Engage/etc who seemed so reasonable that time (insert own recollection here). The Trots are truly, objectively wrong, so everything the Trots believe is truly, objectively wrong, and anyone who believes anything similar is also truly, objectively wrong. Hence the eventual conversion experience - Cohen's Jewish identity or Burchill's Catholicism: one's enemies believe a lot of things, and if they're all wrong that leaves a bit of a vacuum.

Chris Williams said...

Didn't Orwell make a very similar point in 'notes on nationalism'? The important thing is not to be for what you are for, but to be against what your enemies are for.

Anonymous said...

Phil:- "The Trots are truly, objectively wrong, so everything the Trots believe is truly, objectively wrong, and anyone who believes anything similar is also truly, objectively wrong."

There's still a lot of this about, isn't there? There's still quite a bit of the use of "Stoppers" as a term of abuse. And that's why I asked, somewhere up-thread, "But does Cohen still think that there was something wrong with being against the invasion of Iraq?" - it still seems to be OK to avoid taking responsibility for the results of what you supported vociferously and be abusive about people who were correct in their fears and concerns.

Guano

chris y said...

"It matters not at all in what way I lay this poker on the floor. But if Bonaparte should say it must be placed in this direction, we must instantly insist on its being laid in some other one." - Horatio Nelson.

As a principle, it has a long history, with many dodgier advocates than Orwell- the Nelson thing was quoted approvingly by George Will.

organic cheeseboard said...

it still seems to be OK to avoid taking responsibility for the results of what you supported vociferously and be abusive about people who were correct in their fears and concerns

In the World of Decency, the results don't actually matter all that much - what matters is the purity of your belief. And any 'Stopper' is impure, because relativism/self-hatred/guilt/some such bollocks.

That's unless that Stopper is otherwise on message hating on lefties and loving intervention of course (the typical Decent-who-opposed-the-Iraq-war tends to be willing to justify the war anyway). Then they're ok because they're similarly pure at heart.

Phil said...

Nelson doesn't really count, as he was actually in a fairly serious political contest with Napoleon. But that is very much the mentality of our assorted Consciences of the Left - I guess they really feel that they personally are locked in a world-historical battle with the Trots/the Provos/Galloway/Corbyn/the Muslims/the anti-Zionists...