Diddly Squat

On Sunday The Observer published a hatchet job by Nick Cohen on Ken Livingstone. The usual sort of thing you see from disenchanted leftists of a certain inclination, with tales of dark deeds from vile sects, but there was one line in particular that jarred with me: this description of Gerry Healy of the Workers’ Revolutionary party.

The cult’s main purpose, however, was to worship the personality of its great leader, Gerry Healy, a squat, bombastic Irishman and a rapist as near as damn it.

Cohen is offering a moral judgement here, based on the history of a person who existed in fact, not a novelistic invention. For him to give the details on Healy’s height, disposition and nationality alongside the accusation that the man was a rapist (which may well be true, I have no idea) is to relate the former categories and the latter.

So then – this was no ordinary rapist: he was a short-arse. Not only was he a short-arse, he was an Irish short-arse. And not only was he an Irish short-arse, he was an Irish short-arse loudmouth . And if there’s one thing worse than a rapist, it’s an Irish short-arse loudmouth rapist. We are invited to understand, by implication, that there are other categories of rapist preferable. An Irish loudmouth short-arse rapist may be worse than, say, a soft-spoken strapping English rapist.

That is a generous interpretation of his description, even if it says something about Cohen’s attitude towards short people and Irishmen. A less generous interpretation would be that Cohen sees a causative relationship between Healy’s squatness, his bombast and his Irishness, and the ‘fact’ (like I said, I have no idea) the man was a rapist. This would mean he thinks Bono to be a more likely rapist than Hugh Laurie. Which would an outrageously racist thing to say, quite frankly.


2 Responses to “Diddly Squat”

  1. 1 copernicus January 24, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Nick Cohen is perfectly vile of course, with zero integrity.

    The key question to resolve for me is whether people like Cohen – and in this country – John Waters are given a platform because

    a) they outrage right-thinking people and experiencing right-thinking outrage over the morning eggs and b. is an entertainment which the public demands, or

    b) they actually represent a (possibly substantial) constituency of opinion to which the media feels it is legitimate and necessary to give a forum.

    Were one to make one’s inference from the evidence of how we are ruled, b would seem to be the obvious. But then again neither we nor our good Saxon neighbours live in genuine republican democracies.

    So I don’t think that b is true. And even when I hear people parrot the kinds of opinions these people make, it’s not usually a deliberate distortion of reality, truth and decency, but rather a (perhaps slightly wilful) ignorance or lack of information.

  2. 2 Hugh Green January 24, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    I think there is a certain degree of truth to a) as far as Waters and the Irish Times is concerned, but I think Cohen’s viewpoint, though more stridently expressed, probably coincides fairly closely with others in the Observer. What might also be partly true of a) is that there is a certain attraction in seeking out what would be a viewpoint diametrically opposed to your own and trying to convince yourself that you are submitting your own position to rational scrutiny.

    I don’t think that b) is true either. Beyond the (far more limited than what people are inclined to think) section of internet writing that concerns itself with politics, not too many people actually give a shit. John Waters, however, is far better known in Ireland than Nick Cohen in Britain.

    As for parrotting such opinions, yes, a certain type of fathead will put himself in the position of disdaining the ‘lefties’,’liberals’,’sandal-wearers’ and so on whilst being secretly in love with them, making claims to his own independence of mind whilst being totally dependent on what he perceives to emanate from aforesaid groups. The same, of course, would apply to people who bang on ad nauseam about what ‘wingnuts’ etc. have to say for themselves.

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