Thursday, August 04, 2005

Leave it!

Tom at Let’s Be Sensible flags up a big bunfight about the concept of the ‘pro-war left’.

It was all started by a posting on a blog called Talk Politics. Lots of people now appear to have taken up the gauntlet.

I think they’ve been tricked by the name of the blog concerned – ‘Talk Politics’. It sounds a bit official doesn’t it? Perhaps it’s the official forum of the Institute for Advanced Applied Political Debate (you know the one, slightly musty place, just off Tavistock Square – Bernard Crick used to teach the M.A. course there?)

No. It’s just a blog. A fairly obsessive one at that. The author is anonymous and uncontactable as far as I can see. And it doesn’t seem to say anything that hasn’t already appeared a dozen times in Harry’s comment boxes.

Yet there appear to be plenty of takers for this mudslinging. And it all seems to be a bit of a dialogue of the deaf.

Despite what Peter Wilby says, ‘revisionism’ is obviously a good thing. Having thought something in the past is not a good enough reason to keep thinking it. (Paul Anderson has already tagged this PoV as 'Wilbyism'...)

This doesn't mean that the way that some of the more obsessive 'stoppers' close down any serious discussion should drive people who've always thought of themselves as progressive, into a general alliance with the centre-right. Or worse.

James Hamilton hints that this is his position - yet he wrote a good deconstruction of the stopper mindset only a few weeks ago.

But I’m a bit bothered by the obsessiveness of it on all sides. Why do those good people at Harry’s and the Drink Soaked Ex-Trotskyist Popinjays for War seem to be determined to prove something that everyone else already knows - over and over again?

It's time to move on. They should all relax, because....

  • Almost everyone knows that the SWP aren’t ever worth listening to. Most of the people who take their infantile leftism seriously are usually too self-loathing to ever do anything about it anyway
  • Lots of us - the 'million marchers' who started out as anti-war - have been tempted to change our minds half-a-dozen times by the idiocy of many on our own side
  • There are plenty of reasons for perfectly respectable lefties to be sceptical about the war in Iraq without being ‘apologists’ or ‘appeasers.’
  • Those who think that British troops should be withdrawn from Iraq as a response to the London bombings are a vocal minority that most people just humour. They are not likely to be taken seriously - so why get worked up about it?

The debate among the general public is a lot more important than the headbutting going on between ‘stoppers’ and ‘revisionists.’ It’s a lot more interesting than the staged brawl that we are offered in lieu of ‘debate’ on TV as well. The BBC's Question Time is just a disgrace these days.

So, OK. Some of the people I speak to think the troops should come home anyway. Some think that the war has created a context that has magnified existing grievances among Muslims.

But I rarely hear these views expressed without a hint of doubt. Yet the obsession with ‘root causes’ on some blogs is to imagine that the Guardian op-ed pages are a reflection of a mass debate that is gripping Britain.

It isn’t. Everyone I speak to on this appears slightly confused and fairly open-minded on most of the issues.

The textbook appears to be anti-fascism here: The notion that there is an ideology here that – if unchallenged – will take hold and strangle us. The SWP, Respect and Hizb Ut Tahrir do not, between them, have an appeal that will ever rise above 'marginal'. George Galloway weaves his own noose every time he speaks.

So we can all relax about them.

There is no doubt that the Muslim community in Britain conceals an uglier underbelly than most people seem to realise. But shouting ‘Islamofascist’ louder than everyone else is hardly going to do the trick, is it? A more subtle engagement is more likely to work.

Most people that I speak to have a much more complex point of view. And most accept that it’s a big complicated picture that none of us really have a handle on. That’s why a lot of the certainty on display lacks credibility.

I've argued before that much of the most important information that anyone would need to draw conclusions about Britain's role in Iraq is not available in a form that most of the public can understand it. That's why I bang on about 'representative democracy' so much on this blog.

There is a much more interesting conversation (one with a lot of agreement to be had) between moderate supporters and opponents of the current UK foreign policy.

The Popinjays, Harry’s et al would do themselves no harm by turning the TV off, leaving the op-ed pages alone for a few days, and just going to the pub with their workmates and neighbours.

That's where I'm going now.


Update - 5th August: QED


Tom said...

I agree with a lot of this - and I hope you're right about the bits I'm not so sure about. But blogs tend to lend themselves somewhat to a "dialogue of the deaf", because every time you post something, someone says something stupid about it. So even if the debate in wider society doesn't look like the debate on blogs, it can feel like it does if you're a blogger. That's particularly because a lot of blog discussion is triggered by statements and events in the "real" world and "real" media - which feel like they're reflective of public opinion, even if they aren't really.

Unity said...

You obviously missed my own response to Tom's piece, in the comments, where I explained some of the how and why of that particular piece which I consider to be a success precisely because it sparked reponses like those of Tom, James Hamilton and Rob Newman, all of whom have moved beyond the entrenched lines of, as you put it 'stoppers' vs 'revisionists'.

I'm working on piece for my blog - which I might note thas never pretended to be anything other than a blog, the name 'Talk Politics' arose simply because it was a good domain name which was available at the time I was setting it up - which will explain exactly where I'm coming from on this at the moment but as for that piece, which I've happily admitted elsewhere is significantly flawed, let's just say that sometimes when you're faced with a 'dialogue of the deaf' it becomes necessary to shout in order to make yourself heard.

Anonymous and uncontactable? Only in the sense that I haven't gotten around to sticking an email address on the site, but if you want to chat privately, its - knock yourself out - and the comments boxes are always open anyway.

Revisionism? Ah, I can see where the confusion arises.

You're thinking revisionism in the personal sense of reconsidering and evolving your position in the light of experience - yes, that is a good thing, just not the issue thats being debated.

What is at issue is 'historical revisionism' in the sense that there are some, notably on the 'pro-war' side, who push the line that the purpose of the war was to liberate the Iraqi people, not that their liberation was a byproduct of a war prosecuted for other reasons.

Bloggers4Labour said...

I agree with a lot of that too. It does seem that blog posts are quite detached from what people talk about in the real world, and it's easy for people without firm views to be carried along by bloggers with perceived 'authority'. Does that mean we're just wasting our time?

That's why I came up with our 'summer essays' idea, which you're welcome to take part in.

Anonymous said...

The brit blogs are too
domimated By the "pro war Left" including this one
how trying this blog out

The "pro war Left" only supports the Iraq war because of the oil and is concerned of Britains overall strategic position as regards other powers such as Russia and China.