Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Solipsistic Left

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  • Craig Ranapia,

    There's a new Repeal Section 59 site which lets you email MPs of your choice to lobby them about Sue Bradford's Bill.

    Well, thanks for the link but am I the only person who questions the value of 'lobbying' by spam-generating websites? I wasn't really impressed when the Maxim Institute was pulling this kind of crap in opposition to the Civil Unions bill, and it doesn't really impress me any more when I'm (more) sympathetic to the cause.

    And here's another observation: MP's staffers aren't stupid. They can tell when they're being spammed by lobbyists, and they will give such communication their proper weight. A polite but passionate letter or e-mail that's obviously been generated by a human being is more effective.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11911 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Well, thanks for the link but am I the only person who questions the value of 'lobbying' by spam-generating websites? I wasn't really impressed when the Maxim Institute was pulling this kind of crap in opposition to the Civil Unions bill, and it doesn't really impress me any more when I'm (more) sympathetic to the cause.

    And here's another observation: MP's staffers aren't stupid. They can tell when they're being spammed by lobbyists, and they will give such communication their proper weight. A polite but passionate letter or e-mail that's obviously been generated by a human being is more effective.

    It's not quite what Maxim was doing (which was dishonestly sending the same letter to dozens of publications), and it does encourage the users to target the message to specific MPs or groups of MPs. I suspect the people behind it realised that the opponents of the bill were already deluging MPs with their views and decided that at least some kind of voice from the other side of the argument should reach MPs.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18827 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Wilson,

    Well, yes. It does seem rich that someone who jumped the wrong way on such an important issue as the war in Iraq, should be telling the liberal-left where they went wrong. But he has the right, nonetheless. The debate, as always, needs to be had on the issues, not the individuals.
    Cohen was surely wrong to support the drive to war in Iraq, and he told me several times, as I reported, that he now accepts this. But it doesn’t follow he’s wrong about everything else he says.
    And because people have always known that groups like the SWP try to hijack protest movements, it doesn’t follow the movements themselves are in good heart.
    What Cohen wants is a commitment to defending democratic rights among people committed to sharia law – and particularly for people oppressed by that law. Fair enough. He believes we need to free ourselves of knee-jerk anti-Americanism in order to do this. I think that’s fair enough too.
    He told me he sees a parallel with the 1930s. Then, there were some on the left who viewed the rise of fascism in World War 1 terms, as a matter for imperialists to squabble over. Others wanted an anti-fascist united front and, as things developed, this meant they accepted having that old war-mongering bigot Winston Churchill as a leader.
    Is the parallel fair? Perhaps in some ways but not in others? Certainly, as you suggest, this debate was not helped by Oriana Fallaci. But while Cohen admired many things about Fallaci, he didn’t support her appalling Islamophobia. He makes this clear in the very column you refer to, with a careful distinction between “the Islamic world” and “Islamism” (a common enough term in Europe but hardly used here, referring in essence to proselytising fundamentalists).
    Your reference to Baghdad Burning and the likely future for Iraq under hardline rule seems tragically accurate to me, and from my discussions with Cohen I would say he shares the analysis. He told me he thinks al-Qaeda has already won.
    But I’m afraid you lose me completely when you complain that he wants the Iraq debate to focus on what happens now, and not remain fixated on whether the invasion should have happened in the first place. Why disagree with that?
    As for your characterisation of “smug little lectures”, well, come now. This is a polemicist who begs to differ, which means there's a debate to be had. Why forego that so you can stand in line to help with the whipping?

    Since Mar 2007 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I'm usually suspicious of anyone bearing a manifesto. I like to pick and choose what I believe in.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8450 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye,

    I suspect the people behind it realised that the opponents of the bill were already deluging MPs with their views and decided that at least some kind of voice from the other side of the argument should reach MPs.

    I kinda cringed when I saw the email feature too, but there do seem to be a lot of people espousing the view that "70% of kiwis" or "90% of kiwis" (usually quoting badly-worded and partisan media polls) are against repeal, and lamenting the death of democracy. With that in mind, I think it's probably not a bad idea to redress the balance.

    Under the western motorwa… • Since Nov 2006 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    I'm usually suspicious of anyone bearing a manifesto.

    i believe the appropriate verb is 'brandishing'.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    I think its good that the centre and centre left does not share the worldview of the hard left. Anyone who reads CiF will have occassionally come across the more puritanical aspects of British left wing opinion, pitted as it currently is against the UK Labour Party. I'd guess that the relative strength of the hard left in the UK is responsible for Labour's (historical) poor showing there.

    Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    Your reference to Baghdad Burning and the likely future for Iraq under hardline rule seems tragically accurate to me, and from my discussions with Cohen I would say he shares the analysis. He told me he thinks al-Qaeda has already won.

    if i'm reading you right, and cohen is conflating 'iraq' and 'al qaeda', then he deserves derision.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Yes, any manifesto that's reached the 200 page mark can be formiddable hand weapon when rolled up. You should need a license to carry it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8450 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    He told me he thinks al-Qaeda has already won.

    Yeah. I'm sure they're overjoyed to see their despised Shia enemies seize power and start ethnically cleansing Iraq of their Sunni brethren.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 901 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Yes, but could this have any bearing on manifesto destiny?
    Sorry, hem, sorry...

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Juha Saarinen,

    "Solipsistic" is one of those words that we cannot speak after a few drinks, as my friend Halfwittgenstein likes to tell me.

    Even so, I don't see anything amiss with opposing sharia law and religious oppression brought on by believers of any flavour of imaginary people in the sky or back of the garden.

    Probably be better if it wasn't done by humourless lefties fond of fractious backstabbing though, or foaming at the mouth rightwingers.

    Since Nov 2006 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    As for your characterisation of “smug little lectures”, well, come now. This is a polemicist who begs to differ, which means there's a debate to be had. Why forego that so you can stand in line to help with the whipping?

    It's just that I object to someone who not so long ago was preaching anti-Americanism as a virtue making sweeping characterisations about liberals "losing their way". I just don't buy the narrative, and I don't believe that the majority of left-liberal opposition to the war in Iraq, or to American foreign policy, is predicated on an endorsement of Islamist bigotry.

    Oliver Kamm and his "Left-wing Case for a Neoconservative Foreign Policy" annoys me even more, if for similar reasons. I don't think the bulk of liberal opinion shifted: these people did. Kamm urged the re-election of Bush, even as it became clear that both the execution and the underpinning of Bush foreign policy was a disaster.

    Their basic point that Islamists are (far) right-wingers is quite correct. But they keep some pretty shabby company when they make it, and they have eagerly perpetuated myths about the Islamisation of Europe.

    To be honest, I think my secular modernism is under more direct threat from the religious fundamentalists of America than it is from Islamists. The Islamists' derangement might be considerably greater, but I don't think they have the power to change the society with which I identify. The other lot just might.

    Anyway, my post was something of a polemic in itself, intended to provoke discussion. But I was quite pleased with "Solipsistic Left" ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18827 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Yeah. I'm sure they're overjoyed to see their despised Shia enemies seize power and start ethnically cleansing Iraq of their Sunni brethren.

    Well, quite. If anything, al-Qaeda has lost in Iraq.

    And now you have the bizarro-world scenario of the White House trying to build a conservative Sunni coalition in the region to push back against the Shia beast its other hand is helping to create. If Cohen and Kamm spent more time pondering that instead of questioning the moral fitness of "liberal" I might be more inclined to listen.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18827 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    I'd guess that the relative strength of the hard left in the UK is responsible for Labour's (historical) poor showing there.

    I would guess that the overwhelming reach of the, almost exclusively, aside from The Mirror, right wing tabloid press has something to do with it too

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3206 posts Report Reply

  • Joanna,

    In regards to RSS, I use Bloglines, and this post still hasn't shown up on it, two hours later.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 727 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    Speaking of books about Liberals, the West, and Islam anyone bothered to read D’Souza’s The Enemy At Home: The cultural left and its responsibility for 9/11 yet?

    I've read some reviews about it that want me to punch walls, but I've not yet worked up the courage to actually see if it is as insane as some people have said.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 885 posts Report Reply

  • Riddley Walker,

    it seems to me that the SWP are hard at work on the Labour and Green parties in this country right now, in preparation for what they hope will be a Key victory.

    AKL • Since Feb 2007 • 890 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Speaking of books about Liberals, the West, and Islam anyone bothered to read D’Souza’s The Enemy At Home: The cultural left and its responsibility for 9/11 yet?

    I'm still trying to finish his first book: To Live in Infamy: How Beatkniks, Loose Women and Uppity Nigra were Responsible for Pearl Harbour

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 901 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    If anything, al-Qaeda has lost in Iraq.

    unless you consider the whole, "create a graveyard for americans" objective, which seems to be going swimmingly.

    no, wait... that was afghanistan. i guess the graveyard thing is a moveable feast.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    I think we should be cautious of judging people simply on whether or not they supported Iraqi "regime change".

    The Guardian's David Aaronovitch was a supporter of the Iraq war, and George Bush Snr was against it. Hillary Clinton and John McCain still refuse to apologise for their votes to authorise the invasion. I personally retain a lot of respect for Tony Blair, but think that George Bush has, without doubt and by some distance, been the worst US president of modern times.

    Related to this is the question of whether any occupation force could ever have restored order (say, by adopting Shinseki's troop estimate or by operating under the auspices of the UN) or whether this fiasco was a product of the Bush Administration's incompetence. I tend to think it probably could have been done by a competently led multi-national force.

    Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • djb,

    Re: all these white guys who want to reunify the left, isn't their problem that they missed the basic civil rights, anti-colonial and feminist messages, which basically add up to "sorry, your time for telling the entire world what it should be doing is over." Accepting that it might not be a good idea to have a "solution" for Iraq could be a good start, which I think is part of Russel's point.

    The whole problem with the classical (white) left liberal strategy is that it pretends that politics should be about "issues, not individuals" when a) there are obviously a whole lot of individuals on the left who they don't like but don't call out by name ("Anti-Americans" for example, who have somehow infected the Left from... where exactly?), so it's hypocritical; and b) representative media democracy is about electing personalities, so it won't work.

    Unfortunately, guys like Cohen have probably worked out that they're never going to get elected because no one likes them, so a better strategy is to write an insider expose of what's wrong with your former political allies that panders to the prejudices of the mainstream. Cool.

    Since Dec 2006 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    The primary "crime" of the left has been its failure to uncritically accept the imperial exceptionalism of the Bushites as a justification for ex-judicial rendition, systematic torture and contempt for due process and any other principle or rights that underlay a democractic and free society. The critics of the left would have us swallow a Manichean world view where we must accept that our fascists are not as bad as their fascists, since our ends justify the means and theirs do not. Quite simply, the left refuses to accept the Heinlein-like propostion that we are locked into some kind of Darwinistic war between Arab arachnids and American humans. To reject both Wahabism and the new American project is exactly what the left should be doing.

    Secondly, the likes of Cohen appear to make little attempt to discern the difference between anti-neo conservatism and anti-Americanism. Bush and the neo-cons enjoy the support of around 25% of American voters - the rest either didn't vote or voted against Bush. Those who did support Bush often represent a strain of uniquely American extremism that is as repugnant to liberal and progressive people as the utterances of any Taliban mullah. To say that being against Pat Robertson and the corporate cronyism of Cheney and the rest of the new Southern Confederacy is anti-American is a complete load of arse. the fact of the matter is the entire world was united behind the United States in the aftermath of 9/11 - NATO invoked for the first time Article of the Washington treaty - and the most spectacular achievemet of the Bush administration has been the squandering of that goodwill.

    In summary, the left is entirely consistant in its simultaneous rejection of both the neo-fascist exceptionalism of the current US regime and idea we must accept are engaged in genocidal cultural war, since both ideas are contrary to the basic principles that make a socialist a socialist.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1796 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Related to this is the question of whether any occupation force could ever have restored order (say, by adopting Shinseki's troop estimate or by operating under the auspices of the UN) or whether this fiasco was a product of the Bush Administration's incompetence. I tend to think it probably could have been done by a competently led multi-national force.

    That's an interesting question. The conception and the execution of the Iraq plan have been so bad that you have to wonder how things might have gone if someone had had a more sensible plan and actually carried it out competently. Then again, a clear-eyed analysis might simply have said "don't bother".

    It is worth noting that the only major project in the new Iraq that did exceed expectations was the elections, which were run by the UN.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18827 posts Report Reply

  • Riddley Walker,

    a better strategy is to write an insider expose of what's wrong with your former political allies that panders to the prejudices of the mainstream

    why that sounds just like Michael Bassett.
    and who else i wonder?

    AKL • Since Feb 2007 • 890 posts Report Reply

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