Monday, 29 August 2011

What's Left?, Nick Cohen

Nick Cohen got into a lot of trouble with the comrades for writing this book.  Various right-wingers liked it, and Christopher Hitchens called it "exceptional and necessary".  On the left, however, the reactions were rather different.  He was politely patronised in the Guardian by Peter Wilby, and he got into a rather tedious argument with no less a person than Johann Hari (Cohen later settled this score by publicly exposing Hari's Wikipedian sock-puppetry).  The Socialist Worker sneered that the book consisted of "363 pages of tedious, self-righteous diatribe", while a better mannered old-left blogger sniffed that it had "a terminological inexactitude on just about every page".  Cohen had clearly hit some raw nerves.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Rights of Man, Thomas Paine

This well-known pamphlet represents the pro-revolution side's riposte to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France.  Dedicated to George Washington, whom Paine admired, it earned its author a conviction for seditious libel in the English courts.

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Cameron Delusion, Peter Hitchens (aka The Broken Compass)

"If the Conservative Party were your refrigerator, all your food would go bad.  If it were your car or bicycle, you would be stranded by the side of the road.  If it were your accountant, you would be bankrupt.  If it were your lawyer, you would be in prison.  If any consumer good, service or profession so consistently and predictably disappointed or failed in its ostensible main purpose, people would turn their backs on it.  It would be overtaken, replaced and driven out of business by a better competitor."

The old battles between left and right, says Peter Hitchens, are over.  The Conservatives' recovery after 2005 was manufactured by the media, who felt able to trust David Cameron to preserve the prevailing left-of-centre consensus.  The torch of New Labour was passed, over Gordon Brown's head, from "Anthony Blair" to David Cameron.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Flat Earth News, Nick Davies

How sure can we be that we know what we think we know about the world?  Not very sure at all, if we rely on the media and Nick Davies' account of modern journalism is to be believed.