A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

In praise of Nick Cohen

One of the effects of the post 9/11 era has been to bring out the worst in some people on the left - prime example G Galloway - and the best in others.

Nick Cohen pre-2001 was a rather irritating Observer columnist mainly churning out trite and simplistic attacks on Blair and PPP and PFI.

Post-2001 he has focussed instead on a very admirable defence of the universal values of democracy and liberalism and disecting the worst dicator-apologising instincts of the anti-war left.

A really good example of the stuff he writes is his interview this week with political philosopher Prof Ted Honderich in the New Statesman - here.

Honderich, who nauseatingly is actually still a member of the Labour Party, comes out with gems such as accusing David Aaronovitch of being a part of "Israel's fifth column", conflating Islamism, al-Qaeda and Islam into one set of ideas, saying al-Qaeda terrorism is the fault of "neo-Zionism"and ends up by telling Cohen that he is "delighted" not to be like "a lot of people, of whom perhaps you are one, who have managed, as you would say, to educate yourself and change your views under various pressures. One of them, by the way, is the pressure of being Jewish."

Cohen to his credit terminated the interview at the point that Honderich said "Everything is very dark at the moment and you are making a contribution to it. The world is ever darker. It's a shitty place now and you are also responsible, [you] bear a part of the responsibility for 9/11 and 7/7."

Cohen concludes:

"It was only when I was making my way home through Tavistock Square that I realised the "root cause" of the errors of Honderich and those like him. In a review of After the Terror for the online journal Democratiya, Jon Pike, a philosopher with the Open University, told me something I hadn't realised about the 7/7 attacks. The bus bomb in the square exploded just round the corner from Honderich's University College. Emails flew across the net, as academics checked that the bomber hadn't killed their colleagues. All the philosophers survived to carry on speculating. University College's sole fatality was Gladys Wundowa, a Ghanaian cleaner and charity worker.

If Honderich could have brought the bus bomber Hasib Hussain back to life and asked him what kind of society he had murdered her to create, what would he have said? If that sounds too speculative, look at the societies being created by the movements Honderich explains away as the fault of others. Would feminists, socialists, liberals, religious minorities and atheists be happy living in a Palestine ruled by Hamas rather than Fatah, or modern Iran, or Afghanistan, if al-Qaeda and the Taliban come back, or Iraq if the "insurgents" win? Would emeritus professors?

It's a poor consequentialist who can't think about consequences. Honderich can't because, I think, the emotional consequences of admitting that not all the darkness of the world is the fault of the west would be too great for him to endure."


Anonymous Duncan said...

Strange how people are 'trite and simplistic' when they disagree with you, but are 'admirable' when they agree. Of course people can be both right and trite. And can properly defend themselves against an ad hominem attack, while in fact still being in the wrong on the broader picture.

5:33 pm, November 18, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Actually I genuinely think Cohen's writing has improved with his change of subject matter - it's less sarcastic for the sake of it for a start.

5:53 pm, November 18, 2006

Blogger kris said...

You possibly won't be thrilled with my endorsement- but right on Nick Cohen!

6:50 pm, November 18, 2006


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