Credit where credit’s due


I must confess that these days I read Private Eye more out of duty and habit than real pleasure. Certainly, I don’t anticipate its arrival every fortnight the same way I look forward to the latest issue of, say, the American Conservative or the Journal of Forensic Sciences. In fact, it often succeeds in annoying me not inconsiderably. Oh yes.

But the latest issue has picked up a bit. As regular readers will know, one thing that tends to get up my goat is the flagship Street of Shame section. This is where the Eye exposes bad journalism, with a nice little sideline in exposing cronyism in the press. Sadly, it’s been undermined over the last few years by the whole phenomenon of the Decent Left. Concretely, it’s either ignored or actively defended some shocking examples of bad journalism, and it often looks as though this is not unrelated to the perpetrators being mates of the bloke who writes Street of Shame. For instance, the Grauniad‘s infamous faked interview with Chomsky, which wasn’t given the treatment it deserved, I assume because Francis was off signing open letters demanding that the Graun retract its retraction.

But this issue, we finally see an appearance from Nick Cohen, who’s been a frequent beneficiary of this sort of thing. This is apropos of Nick’s inebriated rant at the Orwell Prize, which gets covered in some depth. Now, if only the Eye scribes would make an effort to remember that having a go at targets close to home increases your credibility… I know Ingrams was very aware of that.

We also have regular Decent columnist ‘Ratbiter’, who takes time off from bashing the Mooslims to deal with the question of electoral fraud. In particular, Birmingham, where the combination of postal votes on demand and the patriarchal relationships in the Kashmiri community have created an electoral regime that would make Bob Mugabe blush. Maybe it’s me, but I honestly can’t remember any Decents previously having a problem with this outrage. Possibly it’s because the main beneficiary, as Ratbiter points out, is the Labour Party. Possibly it’s because, as Ratbiter doesn’t point out, one of the main critical voices has been Respect councillor Salma Yaqoob, and because those disenfranchised have been Asian women and youth, who are much more likely to vote Respect. Still, good to see the issue get an airing.

And we also discover that the Kuwaiti royal family have, for a considerable sum, retained the services of Mr Tony Blair. Taken on the back of Mr Tony’s million-dollar bung from the Israelis, you can see why he’s an ideal honest broker for the Middle East peace process.

A return to form, then. Keep it up, guys.


  1. Guano said,

    April 2, 2009 at 6:22 am

    So it’s got better just after I cancelled my subscription? Bah! Humbug!

  2. organic cheeseboard said,

    April 2, 2009 at 8:32 am

    I thought the previous issue was the nadir and I was seriously considering cancelling, but this one is back on track, precisely because of the absence of clunkingly obvious pro-decency prejudice (Ratbiter citing David Toube as an authority was as cringeworthy as you can get). you could also have mentioned the bizarre piece on the Hari/Cohen/Harry’s Place affair a couple of years ago where the pro-Cohen prejudice was open and embarrassing. At least his hissy fits aren’t being reproduced in sobered-up prose and re-presented as fact now.

    Though the account of the Cohen drunken rant is not entirely trustworthy – the Eye mkes it sounds like the audience enjoyed his hysteria while the video clearly shows that he plays to a crowd who are not interested in how he feels his best mate has been wronged by a bunch of ‘stalinists’ or whatever (since they were there to hear a debate about politics, not journalism, that’s hardly surprising) and it is actually an audience member who ends up shutting him up. They also mention the Livingstone Dispatches programme which is odd because the idea of this being a factor in Bright’s tenture at the NS was debunked in Private Eye about 8 months ago. Bright is also now on record on his blog stating that Cohen was wrong and that Brown had nothing to do with this.

    As for the Eye, the literary review has also finally returned to talking about novels as opposed to celeb memoirs. The last issue’s sole revelation that ‘artists sometimes act like wankers’ was just boring.

  3. Marc Mulholland said,

    April 2, 2009 at 8:50 am

    I thought that PE’s account of the Orwell meeting was entirely pro-Nick Cohen, with even the mention of his being ‘tired and emotional’ – hardly deniable – being the set up for our hero speaking-truth-to-power without due regard for his own welfare. I really can’t see Nick objecting, and it’s certainly how I’d like one of my pissed-up incoherent conspiratorial rants to be depicted.

  4. organic cheeseboard said,

    April 2, 2009 at 8:56 am

    Well at the very least the piece undercuts Cohen’s idea of ‘the spirit of Orwell’ being resident in Martin Bright and himself, doesn’t it, with the ‘i just despise you’ crap it ends on.

    I don’t think we’ll ever see anything actually taking on Cohen’s genuinely pisspoor journalism (anyone else who’d made that howler about ‘Londoned’, where he regurgitated a press release and managed to make his piece even less factually accurate, would have been torn to shreds). But hey, something which paints Saint Nick of the Eye in a vauguely bad light is better than nothing.

  5. Snowball said,

    April 3, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    The ‘In the Back’ team have also been good to cover the Yunus Bakhsh saga…

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