What’s Left? The Weekend Papers.

There’s an interview with me in the Sunday Times. Wapping seems to be having problems with its computers at the moment, and I’ll post a link when they’re up again.

Update 6 February: The site still isn’t working properly. Look’s like the Times has let latte-slurping graphic designers loose on their system and is paying a terrible price. There’s a copy here, however.

Ruth Dudley Edwards mentions What’s Left? in this discussion of radical Islam in the Sunday Telegraph.

There’s also a review by Anthony Daniels, not online, in which he writes:

‘Nick Cohen is an unusual journalist whose work has an unusual aroma – that of thought. He has his prejudices, of course, but he does not regard all questions as settled in advance. And he thinks there is something rotten in the state of Leftdom.
With the comprehensive victory both practical and ideological of market economies over planned economies, the Left had to invent a new stick with which to be beat the status quo. It was not enough that, as always, there were plenty of particular grievances over which the virtuous could display their deep concern; a new overarching principle was required: cultural and moral relativism served the turn.
This enabled the Left, according to Cohen, to indulge in perpetual double standards. The slightest deviation from the strictest virtue by liberal democracies was treated as if it were a terrible crime, while all kinds of political pathology, especially in the Third World were treated as if they were both culturally appropriate and fundamentally caused by the policies of the liberal democracies, and therefore not only explicable but excusable.
As he points out, this special pleading slides quickly into racism of a not so subtle racism.’

Hmmm…not so sure about this. Does thought have an ‘aroma’, and if so what does it smell of, neurons, grey matter? But the central point about relativism leading to racism is spot on, although as I show in the chapter on the thirties this is hardly a novel phenomenon. Auden said that he and the other fellow travellers went along with Stalin because they regarded the peoples of the Soviet Union as lesser breeds because they hadn’t experienced the Reformation and Enlightenment.

Daniels goes on to say that my support for the universal values of that Enlightenment could be a recipe for permanent war. ‘The idea that our policy should be determined by our interests as well as our principles occurs nowhere in his thinking. At heart, he is an idealist for whom intractable reality does not really exist.’

That’s not quite right. In the chapter on Bosnia I defend the little England or realist position and give good reasons for supporting it. My criticism of Douglas Hurd was not that he stopped British troops intervening effectively in Bosnia, but he tried to stop the troops of other countries intervening as well. As for other conflicts, all I say is that if people can’t support those who share their values when they are caught up in the fighting then that calls their values into question. Whether they are for or anti-war is neither here nor there.

Anyway I can’t complain because he concludes that Left and Right are becoming meaningless terms. ‘I would prefer honest and dishonest. Though I disagree with him on many things, I think Mr Cohen veers strongly towards honesty.’

There’s a rave in the Mail on Sunday by James Delingpole which describes What’s Left as a ‘powerful, angry, forensically argued’ book. (Not online).

There’s a stinker from my former editor and old friend Peter Wilby in the Guardian which he says I’m a ‘political innocent’ who switched position because of the 9/11 attacks.

”The Damascene moment – about which this book is frustratingly uninformative – followed shortly afterwards. “My pieces weren’t written in good faith,” Cohen states. “I wanted anything associated with Tony Blair to fail because that would allow me to return to the easy life of attacking him”.’

Oh I don’t know Peter old thing, what could make anyone working on the New Statesman in September 2001 wonder if they were heading in the right direction. Maybe your very own leader which wasn’t so much politically innocent as politically bankrupt when it stated

‘American bond traders, you may say, are as innocent and as undeserving of terror as Vietnamese or Iraqi peasants…Well, yes and no, because Americans, unlike Iraqis and many others in poor countries, at least have the privileges of democracy and freedom that allow them to vote and speak in favour of a different order. If America seems a greedy and overweening power, that is partly because its people have willed it. They preferred George Bush to both Al Gore and Ralph Nader. These are harsh judgments but we live in harsh times.’

As I point out in the book,

‘ A harsh judge of my former editor would have noted that al-Qaeda declared war on the United States when Bill Clinton was its President and Al Gore its Vice-President, and that Islamism was the sworn enemy of the human rights that robust campaigner for the underdog, Ralph Nader, had spent his life defending.’

In any event my Damascene moment, such as it was .came when I realised that many rich world liberals and socialists weren’t prepared to support poor world liberals and socialists — an issue he refuses to discuss, presumably because he hasn’t the courage to face it.

There was also a stinker in the Telegraph which isn’t online which is a pity because it’s quite the weirdest review I’ve had. It’s by a novelist called Nicholas Bincoe and, in as much as I could make a sense of it, lambasts me for calling everyone a fascist. Nope. I only call people who believe in the subjugation of women, the killing of Jews, homosexuals, freemasons, socialists and trade unionists, the literal truth of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the establishment of a totalitarian state fascists or, on occasion, ultra-rightists. What am I meant to call them, Liberal Democrats?

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