Friday, June 22, 2007

Nick Cohen on What's Left

To Hampstead Synagogue's Community Centre to hear Nick Cohen deliver the 5th annual Isaiah Berlin lecture on the subject of his book What's Left?: How liberals lost their way. He spoke lucidly and not without a touch of genuine pathos at the left's moral decline then tackled questions from an appreciative audience on inter alia, anti-semitism, anti-Americanism, BBC bias and why sections of the left are so obsessed with Israel that they have no space left to be outraged by China, say or Iran. There was some petulant grumbling from my companion that Cohen isn't sufficiently oriented to the working class and that his thesis was muddied by examination of the liberal left along with the hard left. This I dismissed with the irrascible comment, "its all about the wider left, you nit, not just its outer fringes, that's what makes it relevant."
Cohen's ostentatious heresy has certainly ruffled a few a feathers. This is no bad thing. In fact, I venture that Cohen's criticism has not been systematic enough. The left isn't just undergoing a moral crisis, its in serious intellectual decline as well. There are few left-liberal commentators worth reading for either style or content (Cohen is one of the exceptions) and at the amateur end of things, the dominant characteristic of so many left blogs is their overwhelming provincial dumbness.
Does any of this matter? Well, if you want a healthy democratic culture characterised by an educated citizenry, vigorous free press and a menu of genuine political choices, then yes, it very much is. Heretics like Cohen with their propensity to ask awkward but necessary questions are doing their bit to halt the liberal left's almost inexorable slide into flabbyminded irrelevance and for that he deserves our gratitude.


Anonymous neprimerimye said...

The point you twit is that without an understanding of the central role of the proletariat scribblers like Cohen have nothing of value to say about the 'left'.

6/22/2007 1:56 PM  
Blogger voltaires said...

That's about the most empty statement I've ever read.

6/24/2007 4:58 PM  

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