So this is how grown-ups argue

November 15, 2009 at 2:56 pm | Posted in Blogging about blogging | 8 Comments

I think they call this a self-fulfilling prophesy. In The Samosa, Laurie Penny accuses Harry’s Place of practicing bullying and sectarianism. In response, HP regular Marcus tries his best to prove her right:

People like Ms Penny – home counties raised and not long out of university – simply haven’t had that much time to reflect on matters beyond their own limited life experience and can’t therefore recognise political reaction if it comes with more melanin than she herself inherited, even if it spells out its ultimate aims in the blood of women shopping at market places.

Sadly, it gets worse:

since when did Socialism mean the rest of us had to be rearranged to suit the whims of a self-obsessed privately-educated, Oxbridge-cocooned twenty-three year old? Wasn’t socialism, at least in theory, about something else once upon a time?

You can say what you like about the English upper middle-classes, but you’ve got to admire their sense of entitlement, haven’t you?

In other words: “sit down you silly little girl, this is grown folks business”. Whilst I wouldn’t care to speculate about the age of this particular author, the argument Marcus makes here is often used by people who’ve gotten too old to remember how seethingly furious they were when someone directed it at them. Well, they say we all turn into our parents one day.

As for the crass jibes about her background, these are the kinds of resentments & class jealousies which only nullify any argument you’re trying to make: when you can’t tell whether the writer’s statements are born out of logic & rationality or some disdain for people from a different background, there’s really no incentive to accept them as valid or relevant. Really, it’s little more than an exercise in self-defeat.

As it happens, I think it’s quite possible (providing you don’t venture into the comment threads) to read Harry’s Place and not find much which is quarrelsome or controversial. It’s not often that a day passes without HP posting something I generally agree with, and they are strong on some important areas, like the illiberal wreck of our libel laws or the BNP being an ‘orrible bunch of thugs.

But it’s posts like this which give HP the reputation for bullying and sectarianism which Laurie was decrying. The habit of singling individuals out and ‘exposing’ them as morally or intellectually deficient doesn’t speak well of the site, particularly when the writers claim to be interested in some of the big international debates of our time.

This leads on to my main frustration with the site: for all the intention to stand up for democracy and human rights around the world, and all the time spent standing against ideologues, racists & militants wherever they may be found, the actual foreign policy content on Harry’s Place is incredibly superficial.

Where is the analysis of the options open to President Obama in Afghanistan? Should our troops still be there? And if so, for how long? Is counter-insurgency the right strategy, or should we focus more on counter-terrorism? Which military/national security bloggers can bring us valuable insights? How well is reconstruction going and are we upholding our commitments to human rights?

The site likes to defend Israel from its critics, so why not have an appraisal of how well (or badly) Netanyahu is doing as Prime Minister, or whether the U.S. has the right policy regarding settlements? Can Obama achieve anything in the Middle East when his approval ratings in Israel are in single digits? What are the causes of this antipathy, and what can be done about it? When your most substantive FP content is coming from occasional guest posters, chances are you’ve got your priorities a little mixed-up.

If you’re really concerned with waging a valiant fight for the left, how about trying something a bit different? For example, instead of wasting a Sunday dismissing a journalist on the basis that she’s young and went to university, why not demonstrate your vastly superior maturity by trying to engage with some of the big issues the site has always claimed to address?

Or, y’know, you could just keep on singling people out and calling them ‘logically-challenged’. Maybe that’s what grown-ups do.


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  1. […] that. Of course, Marcus does, with hilarity. The best way to sum up his response is actually done by Neil Robertson, who says: In other words: “sit down you silly little girl, this is grown folks business”. […]

  2. […] do by Conor Foley     November 16, 2009 at 6:46 pm There is a good piece at the Bleeding Heart Show on the recent attack on Laurie Penny at Harry’s Place. I completely agree with the following […]

  3. Excellent post, spot on, I understand what you mean about HP, indeed some of the BNP articles and work done by Edmund Standing I believe is excellent but the atmosphere there and the bile in the comments means it is always a place I avoid.

    • Thanks Daniel.

      For me, there’s nothing about HP which isn’t salvagable, but at a time when there are Pretty Bloody Serious debates about foreign policy and the future of western power, Harry’s Place is more concerned with publicising some crank that nobody’s ever heard of or dismissing a young journalist for the crime of not having accumulated too many crow’s feet. They’re obsessed by frivolity and times are too serious for that.

  4. Harry’s Place is essentially a blog for people who like the idea of politics more than the reality and wish we lived in more exciting times. Everything has to be an oh-so-important struggle to defend our principles or something. It lost contact with the mainstream left years ago.

  5. Penny exhibits every ancient bruise and sore to the whole wide world and is bitterly hurt if and when anyone jeers at her witless and totally ignorant opinions.

    Not that it matters; her blog is no fun to read compared with some.

    • Bill, I think you’re exhibiting your own persona prejudice on the issue at hand, you have to be because a neutral reading of the situation could never draw that kind of response.

      I presume you’re a big fan of HP?

      You’re a joke.

  6. 5 years have passed — and I checked on Penny again. She hasn’t improved much – spouting the same logically challenged and factually poor nonsense. She has some interviews and debates on Youtube — in one word “cringeworthy”. Just shows the vacuity of leftwingers. The demand by LP’s fans for HP to censor its comments should qualify LP for the Orwell prize in doublespeak. That is what is really bugging them. That unlike ALL other leftwing blogs that are heavy on censorship, e.g. The Guardian, HP respects varied opinions and stands to its ideal of liberty and freedom of speech. No leftwing hypocrisy there. In each leftist there is a totalitarian struggling to come out.

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