On my first day of blogging, I posted nine short posts. My first ever post was a picture of Prince Harry dressed as a Nazi. My second was a link to the Alliance for Workers Liberty attacking Stop the War's alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood. My third post was extremely obscure, linking "left-wing clown Michael Moore" with poet John Sinclair and a right-winger called Gerald L Atkinson. My fourth post was on Israel/Palestine, linking to AWL again. The fifth was on the French ethnographer Loic Wacquant. The sixth was on another anthropologist, Clifford Geertz, and what he said about cultural relativism. The seventh was the story of a union organiser in Colombia, living in the shadow of assassination by the hired thugs of American mining corporations. The eighth appears to endorse Hugo Chavez's land reforms and links to the appalling website of the Stalinoid ex-Trotskyist International Marxist Tendency. Finally the ninth links to a superb attack by Joe Lockard against a dreadful leftist paean to Iraqi Islamist thugs.
A few themes there, obviously, that I settled on as the main topic for the Bob From Brockley project, especially in the second and ninth: the articulation from within the left of a critique of the kneejerk anti-American, borderline antisemitic bullshit that has become dominant on the left in current period. Here's Lockard:
It is one politics to demand an end to US violence in and neo-colonial occupation of Iraq; it is another matter entirely to call for solidarity with some of the most retrograde theocratic forces allied with equally retrograde ultra-nationalists and remaindered Ba’athists. They have nothing in common with any progressive politics; indeed, when in power in Iraq the latter forces were responsible for suppressing left-wing political movements and torturing their members. A secular call for solidarity with Shiite theocrats in Iraq is reminiscent of when members of the Western left trailed behind pro-Khomeini demonstrations during the 1970s, but were appalled when Iranian progressives followed immediately after the Shah’s supporters on post-revolution arrest and execution lists.But there are also a few discontinuities. I was still optimistic about Chavez, for example. The kind of short one-link/no comment posts would by ephemeral tweets now rather than recorded for posterity on the blog. And I was probably more eclectic in coverage than I became, not having fixed on a core purpose for the blog.
It's been a strange ride. I probably got too obsessive about the blog over the first four or five years, devoting too much time to it for not enough return, as I watched my readership grow from single figures to double figures to triple figures. The times I started getting four-figure readerships were generally later, when I invested in quality rather than quantity.
But I made some good friends, some of whom became in-the-flesh friends not just virtual, both in my neighbourhood and across the world (I won't name you all, but you know who you are!). I found a kind of community that provided some succour as I felt increasingly politically homeless. I'm proud of a handful of posts.
Below the fold, some of my greatest hits, but mainly I wanted to say thank you to my friends and readers and to all those who've been writing on their own blogs stuff that has provoked and inspired me, and those who have fought the good fight along with me.
My most-read posts:
1. Gaza/Warsaw Ghetto 24 Jul 2014
2. Alexander Cockburn and CounterPunch 11 Jun 2008I think this post got lots of hits when Ron Radosh, a writer I admire, linked to it when Cockburn died:
To read about the background of Cockburn and the links to his father, I highly recommend first this article written a few years ago by a blogger that provides chapter and verse about Claude Cockburn and his son Alex. The writer shows how Alex regularly sought to replicate and endorse his father’s lies.
I know this because over the years I was the subject of Cockburn’s attacks. They reveal a hard-line Stalinist, not a mythical, crusading journalist heralded by his colleagues at The Nation (like John Nichols) as a simple teller of truth to power.I'm glad that got some readership, because I put a lot of time into writing it.
3. Satire or smear? Islam-themed cartoons 11 Dec 2013
Although the roots for this movement go back much further (in my generation, Steve Cohen’s 1984 pamphlet That's Funny You Don't Look Anti-Semitic was a key moment), by the end of the noughties, there were a wide range of groups and individuals expressing some version of the backlash against the new orthodoxy – from liberals such as David Aaronovitch to Trotskyists such as the Alliance for Workers Liberty to ultra-leftists such as Shift magazine. Most of the bloggers on my blogroll, including both Andrew Coates and most of the writers at Harry’s Place, as well as Shiraz Socialist and most of the survivors of the sadly defunct Drink-Soaked Trots, would fall into this broad category.7. A lot of bullshit about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman 18 Jul 2013
In fact, for some of us who feel alienated by the common sense of the mainstream left, the internet has become a kind of place of refuge where we can connect to others who share our disgust. It was never my intention when I started blogging to concentrate on these sorts of issues (I thought I’d be blogging about stuff like films, TV, books and comics!), but there was something self-indulgently cathartic and something that felt politically important in being a link in this chain. I think I first realised this when my trade union first considered boycotting Israel, and I had a small leap in my readership stats when I posted against this.
Clearly, a group that includes a Class War anarchist like Paul Stott, a Henry Jackson Society member like Marko Attila Hoare and a Pabloite like Andrew Coates is too disparate to be a movement, and most people in this group would reject the label “decent left”. But it seems to me that what unites this motley crew is a certain quality of moral decency and an increasingly rare commitment to some of the core values of the left, such as human emancipation, internationalism, women’s rights and secularism.
8. Luton, Lewisham, Cairo, Oslo and elsewhere 7 Dec 2012
9. Seymour on the Paris attacks 8 Jan 2015
And some of the posts I wish you'd have read:
What's wrong with Chomsky? November 2005: my withering attack on the Noamster.
A great woman. July 2005: my obituary for Hannah Baneth.
Thinking with an open heart. August 2005: why I love Hannah Arendt.
Galloway's hubris.August 2005: my withering attack on the Georgester.
Neo-liberalism's assault on civic culture. July 2006: on schools and stuff.
Germaine Greer versus Monica Ali. July 2006: on Brick Lane.
Rushdie and "secular fundamentalism" June 2007. Where I stand on the politics of secularism
The conservatism of the anti-war radicals. February 2008: where I argue that the war-stoppers are actually conservatives not leftists. There's also a follow-up here, where I made acquaintance with Dave Semple, who founded the Where Cowards Flinch group blog, through which I have made more friends.
Between Burke and Paine in the twenty-first century and Decentism and defectors, lumpen and otherwise. April 2008. More triangulation of Bobism.
The Miner's Strike at 25. March 2009. Who broke our broken society?
Ellie Greenwich, z''l. August 2009. An obituary for a forgotten singer.