Tuesday, September 09, 2008


The 14th issue of Democratiya is out. I hope to write something about it. For now, here's three bloggers of the Indecent Left.

First, class warrior Tony Greenstein demonstrates a bit of good old-fashioned academic elitism by describing Democratiya's editor as "a lecturer in an obscure Merseyside college", as if we should only take seriously the political views of Oxbridge careerists. As Tony himself might say, "Elitism doesn't die it just takes on the jaded colours of 'left' [anti-]Zionism."

On possibly the most badly formatted blog I've seen this week, he cuts and pastes the entire debate between Martin Shaw and David Hirsh on the relationship between antisemitism and an Israel boycott. Surely a link would have done? But that might open up the danger of anti-Zionists actually reading any of the rest of the issue.

Second, Martin Sullivan of IslamophobiaWatch utterly misses the point of Max Dunbar's excellent review of Caroline Fourest’s book on Tariq Ramadan. Dunbar points out that, far from being a figure of reform, Ramadan can be identified with a "fear of women"... morbid obsession with what lovers do behind closed doors... paranoid conspiracism regarding external forces... the desire to impose an impossible past upon the rest of us... [a] wish for Islamic education in schools,... approval of the fundamentalist regimes of Iran and Sudan, [and] apologia for Hamas and the jihadis in Iraq". Dunbar asks "Why is this man regarded any more favourably than Pat Robertson or Stephen Green’s Christian Voice?" Sullivan claims:
This sort of thing does our job for us. As we've remarked in the past, those who promote the view that Professor Ramadan represents some sort of fundamentalist threat to Western society discredit themselves more effectively than we ever could.
However, Sullivan does not explain why Ramadan's violent misogyny and jihadi politics deserve a place in our public sphere. Dunbar's answer to his Pat Robertson question sums up the IslamophobiaWatch project:
The racism of low expectations; the tendency to think of people in terms of monolithic blocs, defined entirely by race or religion, instead of individuals with a diverse range of competing identities; the anaemic machismo of street politics and prejudice; the creepy servility to unashamed power; and the vicarious thrill of being able to ‘contextualise’ fanaticism and misogyny.
Sullivan also criticises Tom Gallagher for, among other things, quoting Munira Mirza. It is not clear why this is automatically bad: because she is a former member of the RCP, or because she is an apostate from Islam?

Finally, the ur-text of the Indecentists is, of course, the snidey Bruschetta Boy of AaronovitchWatch, replete with not-quite-amusing ad hominem attacks on most of the authors (but letting Ben Gidley and Martin Shaw off the hook, as slightly less Decent than the other contributors). The Boy seems to have read most of the issue, for which we have to feel sorry for him, as it can't have been much fun. Having saved you from having to go through the same torture, he declines to add a link.


Some Decentist blog links:


Ben Cohen said...

Hi Bob

Thanks for the links.

I enjoyed your remarks on Greenstein so much that I clicked on the link. And there I found this comment left by Alan Johnson which is so good I'm pasting it here. Enjoy.

Alan Johnson said...

It's much worse than you think. When we moved out of Merseyside in the 1930s, we kept the name. So 'Edge Hill' is really an obscure Ormskirk college! Urgh! And he has the nerve to edit a journal!

As for Democratiya being 'far-right', The Dissent Editor Michael Walzer writes, 'Two commitments give shape to the Democratiya project. The first is to defend and promote a left politics that is liberal, democratic, egalitarian, and internationalist. Those four adjectives should routinely characterize left politics, but we all know that they don’t. The second commitment is to defend and promote a form of political argument that is nuanced, probing, and concrete, principled but open to disagreement: no slogans, no jargon, no unexamined assumptions, no party line. This argumentative style, which is also a moral style, is exemplified in these interviews, where no-one is flattered or set up and where no hard questions go unasked. The men and women interviewed speak plainly, without concealment, and they take importantly different positions on a range of issues.'

Oh, and for the record, I opposed the invasion of Iraq, worked with the Iraqi unions, and co-wrote (with Abdullah Muhsin) Hadi Never Died: Hadi Saleh and the Iraqi Trade Unions, published by the TUC in 2006, and launched latter than year in the US by the AFL-CIO.

Thanks for publicising the Shaw-Hirsh debate though. The editorial introduction (cut in your post) invited readers to respond to the debate in issue 15, Winter 2008. I've already had letters from the UK and Israel, so why not consider writing in?

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Tony Greenstein and academic elitism - this combo is a winner. Great stuff, thanks.

fleshisgrass said...

"the most badly formatted blog" I've seen this week"

snarky! :-D

maxdunbar said...

Snarky - but fair enough. What is it with the far left and formatting? John Molyneux's blog is an absolute nightmare to read.