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  • Trying to silence Nick Cohen? What rubbish

    by Sunny
    6th April, 2009 at 3:05 pm    

    I see that in today’s Independent Stephen Glover has written that our letter in the Observer against Nick Cohen was attempt to get him chucked off the newspaper.

    The letter did not challenge Mr Cohen’s characterisation of Jamaat-e-Islami as extremist, but it did take issue with his assertion that “the liberal-left has failed to engage or support liberal Muslims” or that it had refused “to challenge Islamist extremism”. Mr Cohen may well have been too sweeping in his condemnation of the Left; he is a pretty sweeping sort of fellow. There is, nonetheless, a disturbing tone in the letter’s first line, “Nick Cohen needs to find a new column to write”. This could suggest either that he would be better advised to write about other subjects in The Observer, or even that he should be columnising elsewhere.

    So in the absence of finding anything to actually disagree with what we said - Glover is trying to echo the narrative pushed by Martin Bright last week that this was an attempt to silence Nick Cohen. This is pretty pathetic, given Sunder Katwala already clarified our position below Martin Bright’s original query, but not surprising from someone who thought there was nothing offensive about using the word Golliwog.

    Frankly, I’d question why anyone who spends most of his time criticising the liberal-left, without actually trying to find out what the organisations he criticises are actually doing, to be writing for a liberal newspaper. Nick Cohen thinks there’s a grand conspiracy among the Guardian and the BBC to shut down any debate. He comes to debates drunk, then rants and raves about even more conspiracies. Even the Observer’s own Readers’ Editor had to put him straight.

    But trying to equate “Nick Cohen needs a new column to write” with “Nick Cohen should be chucked off the Observer” belongs to the same realm of conspiracy theory that Cohen himself was pushing when he said Gordon Brown fired Martin Bright. In the absence of any real riposte to what we said, it’s perhaps best not to say anything at all.

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    1. pickles

      New blog post: Trying to silence Nick Cohen? What rubbish http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/4084

    1. DelBoy — on 6th April, 2009 at 3:34 pm  

      “Nick Cohen needs a new column to write” - erm, how about, Nick ‘Fuckface” Cohen needs to stop writing the same tired old column again and again and again, and start writing something else for the column?

      Not hard is it? Ignorance is strength…

    2. billericaydicky — on 6th April, 2009 at 4:15 pm  

      Tlking about censorship Sunny how about running the article from the Friends of Blair Peach that I know you were sent. It is up on http://www.socialistunity.com. It is thirty years since he was killed in Southall and the implications of the coroners decision have implications for everyone who goes out on a demonstration today.

      Perhaps some posting here could start to think of practical matters and do a little less point scoring.

    3. Sunder Katwala — on 6th April, 2009 at 5:13 pm  

      Of course, the letter was in no way an attempt to have Nick Cohen sacked. I know from speaking ahead of sending it to both the readers’ editor and the comment editor that The Observer were aware of that.

      I sent this in to the Indy this morning.

      Stephen Glover writes his column (Media, 6th April) about a letter in The Observer, which challenged Nick Cohen’s claim that the liberal-left betrays and fails to engage liberal Muslims. The letter was an exercise in free speech, not in censorship: there was no intention whatsoever to try to get Cohen sacked. The answer to bad speech is more speech. The letter’s headline “Nick Cohen is wrong about the liberal-left” captures the challenge to his argument from a group of liberals and liberal Muslims engaged in exactly the type of work which Cohen claims never takes place. The rather gentle letter made a “comradely call on Nick Cohen to stop shouting and rejoin the conversation”. As part of his unguided missile polemic against the entire liberal-left for appeasing Islamist fascism, Cohen attacked the Fabian Society and ippr. We could easily document how much the Fabians have done to challenge Islamist extremism in our high-profile work on Britishness and integration. The Observer’s readers editor has written a column to say that Cohen’s accusation was unfounded. Nick Cohen is a talented polemicist, and should continue to write on any subject he chooses, but the value of free speech surely also includes the ability to challenge what is said in the public square, particularly if columnists make nonsense attacks on the democratic credentials of others.

    4. douglas clark — on 6th April, 2009 at 6:36 pm  

      Can I just say that readers comments do, sometimes, get journalists chucked off newspapers?

      I recall a particularily good writer on the ‘Herald’ who completely lost the plot and ended up losing his job, largely because of readers comments.

      It does happen.

    5. Tom — on 7th April, 2009 at 12:40 pm  

      “Can I just say that readers comments do, sometimes, get journalists chucked off newspapers?”

      As, in the end, do people like me who don’t often read newspapers any more because there’s rarely much of interest in them - the accurate and objective reporting of news has withered on the vine and the dominance of the self-regarding commentariat is more than a trifle dull. Mr. Cohen might well look to the fact that, in the end, his readership pays his wages, and *write something worth buying the paper for*. Otherwise the lot of them will be out of a job soon.

      The same goes for Stephen Glover - my parents have recently switched from the Independent to the Times after 26 years, precisely because of this sort of self-indulgent rubbish became too much to bear after Alton took over.

    6. organic cheeseboard — on 7th April, 2009 at 1:05 pm  

      and Cohen was a favourite of Alton at the Obs as well in its glorious Iraq war cheerleading days.

      There seems to be a cobncerted effort by Nick’s mates in the media to smear those who quite rightly took him to task. problem is it’s just making those friends look stupid with their untrue claims that Nick was either ‘bullied’ or that people ‘tried to silence’ him.

    7. oneuniverse — on 9th April, 2009 at 11:34 am  

      The phrasing “needs a new column to write” is quite different to maybe the more accurate “needs new subject matter for his column”.

      The first formulation is ambiguous and can be taken to imply that perhaps he should be writing elsewhere.

      It seems disingenuous to now say that it was only about the content.

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