Tired of being upset

Apparently the government’s much more left-wing now than it was a few years ago: much less authoritarian, much less pro-capitalist and generally much more sensible. I didn’t know that. Did you know that?

Nick Cohen, 2001:

The first Labour government for a generation, blessed with office in a time of peace and plenty, spent a smaller proportion of gross domestic product on the hospitals and schools than John Major’s 1992 administration. Then there’s privatisation. Not even Thatcher at her most imperial shovelled public money and patients into remarkably inefficient and understaffed private hospitals, whose death rates are five times above the NHS average.If you vote for Blair you will also be lending your good name to the curtailment of the right to trial by jury, the turning of demonstrators into ‘terrorists’, the persecution of asylum-seekers, the imposition of tuition fees, the incessant manipulation of the media, the rigging of elections, the refusal to renationalise the railways, the abasement before corporate interests.

Nick Cohen, 2005:

Britain still has a Labour government. It isn’t going to be out of office anytime soon, however loudly its opponents scream, and its policies are generally sensible. Why bother with the battle of ideas?

Why indeed, Nick; why indeed.

(Hat-tip: Simon.)

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8 Comments

  1. SIAW
    Posted 25 July 2005 at 01:38 | Permalink | Reply

    Don’t know if this is your own misrepresentation of Nick’s work, or your mate Simon’s, but either way it stinks. By omitting the rest of the piece you quote from – as in “Why bother with the battle of ideas? The answer lies in the world beyond the polemics on the net and the hysterics in the media”, and so on – you leave the impression, deliberately or not, that he’s advocating giving up on the battle of ideas, which is the exact opposite of the point he’s been making consistently since before 2001: the battle of ideas against Blair and Blairism is well worth fighting, but there’s a war going on as well, and in that war Blair is on the right side. Maybe that’s just too subtle for you to get your head round, so you resort to silly tricks with quotations instead.
    And yes, obviously, anyone who clicks on the link can see that for themselves – but it looks suspiciously as if you’re assuming that most readers won’t click on it.

  2. Phil
    Posted 25 July 2005 at 10:14 | Permalink | Reply

    you leave the impression, deliberately or not, that he’s advocating giving up on the battle of ideas, which is the exact opposite of the point he’s been making consistently since before 2001: the battle of ideas against Blair and Blairism is well worth fighting, but there’s a war going on as well, and in that war Blair is on the right side.

    If you were right I’d agree with you. In the piece I quoted, Cohen specifically doesn’t say that his opposition to Islamist terrorism takes precedence over his continuing opposition to New Labour (“The battle of ideas against Blair and Blairism is well worth fighting”, in your words). He says that he opposes Islamist terrorism and doesn’t oppose New Labour (“[Labour’s] policies are generally sensible”, in his words).

  3. SIAW
    Posted 25 July 2005 at 11:43 | Permalink | Reply

    Not sure if you think you’re being terribly subtle, or you just don’t know how to read – or both. In any case, instead of responding to the charge that you have seriously misrepresented Nick’s opinions – as expressed both in this particular piece, and over the past four years and more – you take refuge in further misconstruing the passage from “Yet Britain still has a Labour government” to “Why bother with the battle of ideas?” This clearly represents, not Nick’s own view, but the consensus view to which he proposes an alternative. That alternative is as outlined in our previous comment.
    Let us put the point in plainer terms, then: do you think it’s fair to judge a writer, not by a whole body of work, but on the basis of an artfully curtailed quotation from one article? Do you even understand the question?
    One can and should oppose Blair and Blairism on most issues, while supporting the government, critically and from an independent perspective, on a few issues of overriding importance – and one should be able to do so without being defamed as some kind of renegade by those who suffer from a certain well-known infantile disorder, as well as from a conveniently selective form of illiteracy.

  4. Phil
    Posted 25 July 2005 at 12:05 | Permalink | Reply

    [Re: “generally sensible”]

    This clearly represents, not Nick’s own view, but the consensus view to which he proposes an alternative. That alternative is as outlined in our previous comment.

    I can only suggest you re-read Cohen’s statement. Yes, he says there is still a battle of ideas to fight. He then locates that battle of ideas entirely and exclusively on the terrain of opposing terrorism. There is nothing in that statement to suggest that he doesn’t believe that Labour’s policies are, in fact, “generally sensible”.

    (And, of course, it’s precisely because this position represents a departure from Cohen’s ‘whole body of work’ that I thought it was worth remarking on.)

  5. Juan Golblado
    Posted 25 July 2005 at 13:11 | Permalink | Reply

    Phil,

    You say,
    Yes, he says there is still a battle of ideas to fight. He then locates that battle of ideas entirely and exclusively on the terrain of opposing terrorism.

    The entire piece, from which you extracted 25 words, was about opposing terrorism.

    I have a hard time locating good will and good sense in your decision to copy a Cohen extract on opposing terrorism and paste it into your construct about domestic issues.

    Think about it. Had you made clear in your own remarks that you were quoting him in a different context, what would that have done to your point? You might as well not have done it for all the effect it would have had.

  6. Phil
    Posted 25 July 2005 at 20:34 | Permalink | Reply

    Juan:
    The entire piece, from which you extracted 25 words, was about opposing terrorism.

    Actually, no, it’s not. It’s about taking a stand against “the Michael Moroonification of the majority of leftish opinion” and against leftists who are (in Cohen’s view) “apologists for the extreme right”. Cohen suggests, rhetorically, that these extreme-right-leftists aren’t going to do any damage, so that the battle of ideas (against them) doesn’t really matter. He then says that, “in the world beyond the polemics on the net”, the MichaelMooro-fascists are a menace and that the battle of ideas against them does matter, which is why he signed the statement.

    In passing, he refers to this government’s policies approvingly (“generally sensible”) – they are among the things the Guardianistas can’t damage. Similarly, Labour’s grip on power is presented as a factor which might induce complacency in anyone opposed to the extreme right.

    This is a stark contrast with Cohen’s position in 2001, when he portrayed New Labour itself as further to the Right than the Tories. He advocated voting for parties to the left of Labour, specifically including the Socialist Alliance (the forerunner of those “apologists for the extreme right” Respect). He’s travelled a long way.

    I have a hard time locating good will and good sense in your decision to copy a Cohen extract on opposing terrorism and paste it into your construct about domestic issues.

    Good will towards Cohen? Entirely absent – I’m extremely angry with him. Good sense? The selectivity of the quote is tendentious, I’ll grant you, but (contrary to SIAW’s dark suspicions) I assumed that anyone interested enough to read my post would also be interested enough to click through to the originals. Disbelief, curiosity, close attention to the words Cohen actually wrote and then, perhaps, second thoughts: “He never said that! Oh, he didn’t – but he did say that…”

  7. SIAW
    Posted 26 July 2005 at 00:30 | Permalink | Reply

    Further evasions, further confusions, confirming the darkest of our “dark suspicions”: you’re simply too stupid, too arrogant and/or too stuck on your narrow and self-serving preconceptions to grasp what Nick, we and Juan have each been trying to say, let alone respond adequately to any of it. We give up: we’d get a less pig-ignorant and less obstinate stream of nonsense from Vicky Pollard.
    But never mind. You just carry on with your verbose convolutions, here and at The Sharpener, and let the rest of us continue to pay attention to the real world, with all its complexities, impurities and, yes, inconsistencies, which your purely philosophical, drably idealist ultraleft musings cannot begin to capture. We’re confident that Nick would be flattered rather than bothered by your extreme and evidently irrational anger: it shows, once again, that he’s hitting the right targets.
    Bye!

  8. Phil
    Posted 26 July 2005 at 09:12 | Permalink | Reply

    Their Waitingships:

    Further evasions, further confusions

    Quite possibly, but if you don’t identify them no one will ever know. Never mind, I’ll live.

    you’re simply too stupid, too arrogant and/or too stuck on your narrow and self-serving preconceptions to grasp what Nick, we and Juan have each been trying to say

    I grasp it, I just don’t agree (yes, that is possible). You think I twisted Cohen’s words and invented a shift to the Right which isn’t really there. As I said in my reply to Juan, I’ll cop to the word-twisting charge, but the rightward-shift part isn’t dependent on it. Can you (I’ll put it to the boys and girls at home) read Cohen’s pro-UAT statement and think “this is the work of someone who thinks New Labour is a right-wing party and that socialists should vote against them at every opportunity”?

    We give up

    Not all bad, then. Incidentally, how many of you are there? I’ve always wondered. Do you compose every comment collectively – and if so, do you take a word at a time or do alternate sentences? Or is it the royal We? Inquiring minds want to know.

    You just carry on with your verbose convolutions, here and at The Sharpener, and let the rest of us continue to pay attention to the real world, with all its complexities, impurities and, yes, inconsistencies, which your purely philosophical, drably idealist ultraleft musings cannot begin to capture.

    Hold on a sec. First you dig out the Cold War stuff and tell me I’m like one of old Joe’s high class thugs who swore black was white and killed their friends and so forth. Then you go back to Vlad’s face off with the Far Left, and now I’m like one of them. And at the same time we’re right back with Karl, and I’m like one of the guys that he said got it wrong, on the grounds that they got lost in their thoughts when the real goal was to change the world. I mean, which is it to be? You seem to think I’m like all the kinds of Left there are which you don’t like, but I don’t see how one guy could say all those things at once – not in the space of one post, at least. But you’re right on one count – I do use long words quite a lot. Not all the time, though.

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