What is Nick Cohen playing at?


by Sunny
25th July, 2008 at 6:44 pm    

Writing in his Evening Standard column, Nick Cohen said this week:

Browne has stood up for free speech and against liberal alliances with radical Islam, and exposed the civil servants who were pretending that a rise in HIV was due to poor sex education rather than immigration from African countries where the virus is raging. A former press officer at the Department of Health staff told me that his arguments caused consternation, not least because they were true.

Hmmm… is this anything to do with Browne joining Boris Johnson’s team, which of course the Evening Boris newspaper is desperate to prop up? Even more curious is that Nick previously said this of Browne (via Matt T):

This line of cant has been developed by Anthony Browne, an occasional contributor to this paper, and a writer for the Times and Spectator, elite journals both. “Blair’s epidemics” of Aids, TB and hepatitis B are being spread by asylum-seekers, he has asserted to great acclaim. You can understand the reasons for the applause. Browne has moved the debate on. Asylum-seekers are not only scroungers and terrorists but plague carriers, like the rats that brought the Black Death.

So earlier Browne was a nasty guy who painted asylum seekers as plague carriers, and now Browne is only speaking the truth? Its a bit unfortunate that just because Anthony Browne is similar to Melanie Phillips in shrieking about those nasty Muslims, that Nick is warming up to him.

As I said when reviewing Mad Mel’s book Londonistan, these nutcases hate the left not because they’re cosying up to Islamists, but because (to them) that is an entirely predictable alliance given the left has no moral, ethics or vision for society. The answer, for the Phillips, Steyns and Brownes of this world, is a back-to-basics vision of society, ruled by a Conservative class that subscribes to their Judeo-Christian view of the world. In other words, the problem for them isn’t making alliances with Islamists as much as it is the apparently decadent society we live in.

Its a bit sad that Nick Cohen seems to have fallen for this trick, just because Anthony Browne is saying a few similar things to him. A bit of a bizarre alliance, given Anthony Browne really really hates the left. What is Nick Cohen playing at? Dave Hill has more on this curious alliance between an old-school leftie and an immigrants / diversity / leftists hating right-wing nutjob.


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Filed in: Civil liberties,Culture,Race politics






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  1. douglas clark — on 25th July, 2008 at 7:24 pm  

    Oh shit! Well we’d better stop all tourism too! Lest out perfect society is tainted!

    (Would that get me membership of the BNP?)

  2. Tom — on 25th July, 2008 at 7:34 pm  

    “Its a bit sad that Nick Cohen seems to have fallen for this trick”

    It’s fucking outrageous if anyone still considers him in any way a figure of note on the left in British politics. He’s a small hanger on in the big pond of loony right PC-bashers who, thanks to Blair and Brown are about to inherit a country where the state has unprecedented control and access over the population. These people exist in a fantasy world they’re just itching to make you live in too. Joy. Welcome to Daily Mail island – if you thought Blair pandered to the tabloids you just wait and see what these guys have got in store.

  3. cjcjc — on 26th July, 2008 at 9:25 am  

    A former press officer at the Department of Health staff told me that his arguments caused consternation, not least because they were true.

    You may not want it to be true…but is it true?

    (Just asking…)

  4. Neil Harding — on 26th July, 2008 at 10:13 am  

    Nick Cohen has not been ‘on the left’ for a long time. He is the new Mad Mel Phillips! Remember she used to write for the Guardian and pretend to be left once – Nick is part of the same tradition – he was never anything more than a cuckoo in the nest.

  5. Sid — on 26th July, 2008 at 11:44 am  

    If the Trots of the SWP are part of the Left’s far-left, Nick Cohen is part of the Left’s far-right.

  6. Rumbold — on 26th July, 2008 at 12:06 pm  

    What’s left (after all that lot)?

  7. persephone — on 26th July, 2008 at 12:22 pm  

    perhaps you need to have a ruler with a scale to measure for leftism

  8. BenSix — on 26th July, 2008 at 12:33 pm  

    He’s tacking towards the starboard.

  9. ruminator — on 26th July, 2008 at 12:53 pm  

    Why is does the left insist on covering up facts, and misrepresenting? The demographic where HIV is prolific is mind bendlingly blatant in this country

    Tragically, some nations in Africa have a 1 in 3 infection rate for HIV. Migrants from these countries are statistically have the highest chance of already carrying HIV. How can you deal with a problem if you refuse to acknowledge it?

    The New Labour government, in it’s infinite wisdom put up posters about HIV about 3 years ago. Who was in the picture? A heterosexual, white, working class couple (essex chavs to you and me).

    Really, what are the stats for HIV in this demographic? This kind of disingenuousnes, nay plain ignorance can result in the high risk groups – i.e. those having realtionshops with those within the African commuinty being infected.

    So lives are stake, why f*** with the truth? Because it will be fodder for the racists? You want to lie, so that the racists cannot use the facts to gain political power? What happened to the truth for truths’ sake? Are the liberal elitists so far up their own arses they think they own the truth?

    The facts are a precursor to response. You cannot change the facts in order to get a better response. To pretend otherwise is to be a cowardly liar.

    Nick Cohen is a brilliant writer, and is left winger. Not necessarily a contradiction.

  10. El Cid — on 26th July, 2008 at 1:44 pm  

    “So lives are stake, why f*** with the truth? Because it will be fodder for the racists? You want to lie, so that the racists cannot use the facts to gain political power? What happened to the truth for truths’ sake? Are the liberal elitists so far up their own arses they think they own the truth?”

    Sadly this is an intellectual conundrum that has opened up a massive split between regular and occasional Picklers in recent threads. You can see both sides of the argument. But that’s just a recipe for wishy-washyness and the regurgitated racial politics of the 1980s.

  11. sunny — on 26th July, 2008 at 1:46 pm  

    Why is does the left insist on covering up facts, and misrepresenting? The demographic where HIV is prolific is mind bendlingly blatant in this country

    Who is covering up what facts? Its Nick Cohen who was cussing this guy earlier, not me.

    I’m not denying that African immigrants may have a higher chance of being HIV positive, if they’re from particular countries. What’s that got to do with supporting and praising Melanie Phillips-lite nutjobs??

  12. Boyo — on 26th July, 2008 at 2:08 pm  

    Well done for exposing Nick C’s u-turn. However, catching him out once does not excuse elements of the left siding with clerical fashits now does it?

    Cohen is lambasted for going against the grain, yet I see little evidence of him yearning for a “back-to-basics vision of society, ruled by a Conservative class that subscribes to their Judeo-Christian view of the world”.

    On the contrary, he often courts the hostility of the herd by sticking to his socialist guns, while many of his detractors understanding and membership of the left appears to extend little further than whatever modish pose is the flavour of the moment.

  13. Sunny — on 26th July, 2008 at 3:51 pm  

    does not excuse elements of the left siding with clerical fashits now does it?

    Who said it does?

    yet I see little evidence of him yearning for a “back-to-basics vision of society

    Well, you’re criticising elements of the left on siding with “clerical fascists”, presumably because you don’t want to see their version of society.

    Similarly, I’m criticising Nick Cohen because I don’t want to see an Anthony Browne version of society.

    Kapish?

  14. Old Pickler — on 27th July, 2008 at 4:40 am  

    Boris 4 ever!!

  15. El Cid — on 27th July, 2008 at 10:01 am  

    I congratulate The Guardian for employing this man and not falling into the trap of trying to cater for just one crusty wishy-washy constituency (as it used to do back in the 1980s):
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jul/27/barackobama.uselections2008

  16. organic cheeseboard — on 27th July, 2008 at 10:09 am  

    he often courts the hostility of the herd by sticking to his socialist guns

    I’ve never seen him advocating anything remotely like socialism in his recent writing.

    appears to extend little further than whatever modish pose is the flavour of the moment

    is an accurate description of Cohen’s current writing, which oscillates between tory-bashing and tory-supporting, often in the space of one column.

  17. Ravi Naik — on 27th July, 2008 at 10:53 am  

    I congratulate The Guardian for employing this man and not falling into the trap of trying to cater for just one crusty wishy-washy constituency

    Are you serious? It is one thing to cater from the wishy-washy Left, but this one, I find, is a tad dishonest, shallow, and consequently easily debunked. Not sure what you found so remarkable about it.

  18. Ysabel Howard — on 27th July, 2008 at 11:21 am  

    Nick Cohen’s book ‘What’s Left?’ amply demonstrates where he’s coming from. I too come from a place called the Left – one grandfather a Fabian, a socialist, an atheist, the other merely solid Labour. My uncle was in the International Brigades. Aged aunts were still twittering about the wonders of Mother Russia when I went to Moscow during perestroika. How Left would you like folks such as us to be? We’ve heard it all before, all the phoney justifications of tyranny, all the non-reasons why handfuls of ego-freaks should suppress individuality, all the supposed evils of ‘bourgeois democracy’. Really, there are many similarities in the rhetoric of Stalinists and the rhetoric of Islamists
    Certainly there are troublesome elements in the actual Left to those who are engaged in dalliance with clerical fascists – atheism, feminism, self-respect. It is not I or Cohen who are cuckoos in the nest.

  19. El Cid — on 27th July, 2008 at 2:00 pm  

    “Not sure what you found so remarkable about it.”

    Remarkable would be too strong a word Ravi. There are aspects of the piece that are easily debunked, as you say. Finding something interesting is not the same as agreeing with it. Life is too complicated to have all the answers. I just like the fact that The Guardian recognises that it is catering for a very broad constituency and seeks some kind of balance by relying on a range of writers rather than adhering strictly to a central manifesto that has been approved by Sunny & co. Some people are a little too quick to categorise, label, and denounce. I am reminded of the left during the Spanish Civil War.

    However, I feel Mr Cohen is right insofar as Bush DID give a lot of the liberal-left “intelligentsia” an excuse to stick their heads up their arse. Unlike him, I would consider that to be a huge failure of U.S. foreign policy under Bush the Younger (the oil-bitch cowboy).
    His article, though, did relay something which chimes with me: that a lot of my “colleagues” on the so-called liberal left — not you Ravi — sometimes slip into hypocritical, cowardly, out-of-touch dumb-fuck mode. I try to keep a lid on that view because the world would be a poorer place without their enduring tolerance and commitment to human rights.
    But then that’s probably because I am on the right-wing of the left.

  20. BenSix — on 27th July, 2008 at 2:02 pm  

    I’ve had a bit of a poke at his latest article here:

    http://backtowardsthelocus.wordpress.com/2008/07/27/the-delicate-art-of-the-decent-ad-hominem/

    “I am reminded of the left during the Spanish Civil War.”

    Goodness, you must be old ;) .

  21. Sunny — on 27th July, 2008 at 3:05 pm  

    give a lot of the liberal-left “intelligentsia” an excuse to stick their heads up their arse.

    example?

    As for criticising Obama – that’s easily done in today’s climate. But then maybe it highlights the point that many of his critics want to avoid – why do people yearn so badly for Bush to leave?. Will Nick answer that question?

    Because if we were all anti-American (I’m certainly not) then we wouldn’ want Obama to win either.

    Secondly, is McCain really above criticism? Nothing to say about his flip-flops? Hanging around with religious nuts?

  22. El Cid — on 27th July, 2008 at 3:30 pm  

    Example?
    A general tendency to fall back on anti-imperialist rhetoric in order to rationalise an unholy alliance with totalitarian fascists. You Sunny, on the other hand, supported intervention in Afghanistan as I recall.

  23. El Cid — on 27th July, 2008 at 3:33 pm  

    I don’t think Nick was criticising Obama. I suspect that he might also want him to win. I think he was having a poke at Obamamania. While I too support Obama, I can see he has a credible point which paints the liberal-left as unthinking and naive patsies when it suits them. Still, better them than the intolerant and ignorant right eh?

  24. Sunny — on 27th July, 2008 at 3:39 pm  

    A general tendency to fall back on anti-imperialist rhetoric in order to rationalise an unholy alliance with totalitarian fascists.

    Who?? You’re doing the same as everyone else – saying there is a general tendency, while this mostly applies to the far-left.

    You Sunny, on the other hand, supported intervention in Afghanistan as I recall.

    Yes, I did. Though, they did a nice job of fucking that up as well.

  25. El Cid — on 27th July, 2008 at 3:49 pm  

    Fucked up Afghanistan? How?
    It was never going to be easy. Given the circumstances, they are doing a damn fine job from what I can see.
    How would you have done it General Clever Clogs? Ended it in six days?

  26. BenSix — on 27th July, 2008 at 4:08 pm  

    I used to have far more sympathy with ‘decent’ opinion than I do now, which led me into more unholy alliances than ‘da Left’ could shake a stick at. It stemmed, I think, from genuine confusion when faced with suffering and a self important attitude towards ‘the need for action’. What’s more perplexing is that I was never in favour of intervention – and even then would have been shocked had it been claimed that I supported the invasion of Iraq – just some hazy, hypothetical form of “action”.

    “Fucked up Afghanistan? How?”

    I think Sunny means that, nearly seven years into the conflict, Coalition forces still manage to bomb wedding parties:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/11/afghanistan.usa

    Ben

  27. Muhamad — on 27th July, 2008 at 9:10 pm  

    He’s playing at being a dickhead! I’ve seen an article by Nick Cohen in The Observer, it’s just unbelievably subtle in it’s ‘racism’.

  28. organic cheeseboard — on 27th July, 2008 at 9:17 pm  

    Fucked up Afghanistan? How?

    by deciding to move most of the troops out of there and into Iraq.

  29. Sunny — on 27th July, 2008 at 9:33 pm  

    El Cid – see this:
    http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/2154

    We’re fucked in Afghanistan. Its basically a matter of withdrawal in a way that would ensure we don’t look like we messed up there, but the country isn’t likely to be the stable democracy that many were anxiously dreaming about. In fact, I’d be interested in any measurement to indicate how Afghanistan has ‘succeeded’. Just because you’re not reading about it doesn’t mean its going fine and dandy.

  30. El Cid — on 27th July, 2008 at 9:49 pm  

    Just because I’m not reading it on PP???
    Well forgive me for disagreeing with you. Afghanistan is not a lost cause and a certain Illinois Senator appears to agree with me.
    In fact, given neighbouring Pakistan’s inability to rule large parts of its own country (whether by design or ineptitude I don’t know), I wouldn’t surprised if international forces were stationed there for decades.
    Is the IHT good enough for you?
    http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/07/27/america/campaign.php
    Moreover, just because I don’t think something is “fucked up”, doesn’t mean — BenSix and Organic — that I think thing could not have been done better. Neither does it mean I think things are “fine and dandy.” These are your words.

  31. BenSix — on 27th July, 2008 at 10:12 pm  

    “These are your words.”

    No, it was just a guess at Sunny’s views. I’ve yet to give my own.

    Ben

  32. El Cid — on 27th July, 2008 at 10:14 pm  

    Ahem… Sunny said “fine and dandy”
    Maybe I could have been clearer

  33. Sunny — on 27th July, 2008 at 10:37 pm  

    El Cid – that article doesn’t contradict what I said. Afghanistan is important – very important – we all know that. A presumptive nominee won’t explicitly say the military failed in Afghanistan, but he’s said plenty of times that the focus was wrongly shifted to Iraq.

    I’d go much further and say that place is already lost, and the effort required to make it the kind of place Nick Cohen et al dreamed off, is far beyond what the West is willing to expend.

  34. El Cid — on 27th July, 2008 at 10:45 pm  

    It demonstrates that Mr Obama disagrees with you, unless you truly believe that you know the mind of a stranger!! No matter how good you believe you are as an analyst, that would be going too far.
    You say that place is already lost. He doesn’t. Therefore it does contradict what you said.

    The idea that the focus was wrongly shifted to Iraq is not what is in question here. What is in question is whether Afghanistan is “fucked”. And it isn’t.
    This is going to be a long long war, for many reasons.

  35. El Cid — on 27th July, 2008 at 11:10 pm  

    On the other hand, I have just spotted some unintended comic irony in my last post. Obviously, if it is going to be a long long war, then Afghanistan could be described as fucked in a different sense. What I meant was that it is not fucked in terms of it being a lost cause.
    One just have to be realistic about what can be achieved and how long it will take.
    Good night

  36. Sunny — on 28th July, 2008 at 1:32 am  

    One just have to be realistic about what can be achieved and how long it will take.

    I agree. I just don’t think there is much willingness or committment to Afghanistan. We already shot ourselves in the foot by invading Iraq. We’ll have to see… if Obama does come into power, pulls out of Iraq soon and puts more energy into Afghanistan and brings together a wider coalition to sort out the country, its possible. But right now, the situation is very dire.

  37. organic cheeseboard — on 28th July, 2008 at 8:36 am  

    This is going to be a long long war, for many reasons.

    the main one being that the decision was made to essentially ignore Afghanistan and invade Iraq in a totally pointless endeavour.

    One just have to be realistic about what can be achieved and how long it will take.

    indeed, which is yet another reason not to have supported the Iraq invasion. Afghanistan would not be so fucked if our militaries had been fully focused on the Afghan conflict.

  38. douglas clark — on 28th July, 2008 at 9:17 am  

    Afghanistan is more important than Iraq, I think.

    Obama has made the unsubtle point that going after OBL and his spawn, ought to be the fucking point. The White house, under G W Bush took it’s eye off that agenda. And made a comlete fool of itself in the process.

    I have never understood, in other than psychological terms, why we attacked Iraq. Sure, it was ‘unfinished business’ for the Bush ascendancy, it certainly wasn’t the only, or right method, of putting Saddam Hussein in a concrete waistcoat.

    What the hell is the point of having the CIA if you don’t use them?

    But that is irrelevant, really.

    OBL declared that he’d done it. Bombed to bits the WTC, the Pentagon, etc. And the goon in the White House immediately moves the goal posts? What the hell is that about?

    Iraq became tied into 9/11 when it had clearly nothing to do with it.

    We have been lied to by senior politicians for far too long. Barak Obama is, at the very least, directing us back to the evil that is the philosophy of OBL. And pointing out to us what truth is.

    Practically, he is right and the last eight years or so have been half truths, obfuscation and lies.

  39. Sid — on 28th July, 2008 at 9:32 am  

    But then that’s probably because I am on the right-wing of the left.

    I might have joined you. But I alighted when your lot, with Nick Cohen’s help, unconditionally supported Bush’s war on Iraq (though you’ll all probably deny it now), turn a blind eye and indeed advocate the US and UK’s use of torture, and the bombing of Lebanon in 2006.

  40. douglas clark — on 28th July, 2008 at 9:47 am  

    Sid,

    Or grieve over a few thousand troops that died, when at least a million Iraqis have been exterminated? That is relativism, big style.

  41. El Cid — on 28th July, 2008 at 10:10 am  

    I’ll ignore the loosely-knitted rhetorical outpourings and highlight what is obvious from the last few posts — that there is more agreement between us than meets the eye.

  42. Sid — on 28th July, 2008 at 10:13 am  

    the loosely-knitted rhetorical outpourings

    Not a bad synopsis of Cohen’s stuff since 2003. ;)

  43. douglas clark — on 28th July, 2008 at 10:38 am  

    El Cid,

    I have always thought that most Pickled Politicians (is that right?) had more in common than they had apart. We might fight each other sometimes, but we definitely don’t hate each other.

    That is a profound good.

    Apart from the occasional guest post from the lunatic fringe, I have always felt pretty comfortable here. There are so many sensible voices that they tend to drown out the idiots.

    At least, that’s what I think.

    And you sir, count as a sensible voice. Just in case you were wondering….

  44. El Cid — on 28th July, 2008 at 10:59 am  

    I dunno about that Douglas, but thanks

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