Cover Story: “How Islamic is Islamic State?”
Mehdi Hasan argues that the Quran cannot be blamed for violent political extremism
No true Scotsman
is an informal fallacy
, an ad hoc
attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion. When faced with a counterexample
to a universal
claim (“no Scotsman would do such a thing”), rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric
, without reference to any specific objective rule (“no true
Scotsman would do such a thing”
A simple rendition of the fallacy:
- Person A: “No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”
- Person B: “But my uncle Angus likes sugar with his porridge.”
- Person A: “Ah yes, but no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”
Mehdi’s article is here … so you can judge for yourself
We don’t particularly like A.A Gill here. But his award-winning hatchet-job on that pretentious pillock Morrissey, is much to our liking…
… here ’tis:
A A Gill on Autobiography by Morrissey
THE SUNDAY TIMES
AS NOËL Coward might have said, nothing incites intemperate cultural hyperbole like cheap music. Who can forget that the Beatles were once authoritatively lauded as the equal of Mozart, or that Bob Dylan was dubbed a contemporary Keats? The Beatles continued to ignore Covent Garden, and Mozart is rarely heard at Glastonbury; Dylan has been silently culled from the latest edition of the Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry in English.
The publication of Autobiography was the second item on Channel 4’s news on the day it was released. Krishnan Guru-Murthy excitably told the nation that Morrissey really could write — presumably he was reading from an Autocue — and a pop journalist thrilled that he was one of the nation’s greatest cultural icons. He isn’t even one of Manchester’s greatest cultural icons.
This belief in high-low cultural relativity leads to a certain sort of chippy pop star feeling undervalued and then hoitily producing a rock opera or duet with concert harpsichord. Morrissey, though, didn’t have to attain the chip of being needily undervalued; he was born with it. He tells us he ditched “Steve”, his given name, to be known by his portentous unimoniker because — deep reverential breath here — great classical composers only have one name. Mussorgsky, Mozart, Morrissey.
His most pooterishly embarrassing piece of intellectual social climbing is having this autobiography published by Penguin Classics. Not Modern Classics, you understand, where the authors can still do book signings, but the classic Classics, where they’re dead and some of them only have one name. Molière, Machiavelli, Morrissey.
He has made up for being alive by having a photograph of himself pretending to be dead on the cover. The book’s publication was late and trade gossip has it that Steve insisted on each and every bookshop taking a minimum order of two dozen, misunderstanding how modern publishing works. But this is not unsurprising when you read the book. He is constantly moaning about record producers not pressing enough discs to get him to No 1. What is surprising is that any publisher would want to publish the book, not because it is any worse than a lot of other pop memoirs, but because Morrissey is plainly the most ornery, cantankerous, entitled, whingeing, self-martyred human being who ever drew breath. And those are just his good qualities.
The book falls into two distinct passages. The first quarter is devoted to growing up in Manchester (where he was born in 1959) and his schooling. This is laughably overwrought and overwritten, a litany of retrospective hurt and score-settling that reads like a cross between Madonna and Catherine Cookson. No teacher is too insignificant not to be humiliated from the heights of success, no slight is too small not to be rehashed with a final, killing esprit d’escalier. There are pages of lists of television programmes he watched (with plot analysis and character criticism). He could go on Mastermind with the specialist subject of Coronation Street or the works of Peter Wyngarde. There is the food he ate, the groups that appeared on Top of the Pops (with critical comments) and the poetry he liked (with quotes).
All of this takes quite a lot of time due to the amount of curlicues, falderals and bibelots he insists on dragging along as authorial decoration. Instead of adding colour or depth, they simply result in a cacophony of jangling, misheard and misused words. After 100 pages, he’s still at the school gate kicking dead teachers.
But then he sets off on the grown-up musical bit and the writing calms down and becomes more diary-like, bloggish, though with an incontinent use of italics that are a sort of stage direction or aside to the audience. He changes tenses in ways that are supposed to be elegant but just sound camp. There is one passage that stands out — this is the first time he sings. “Against the command of everyone I had ever known, I sing. My mouth meets the microphone and the tremolo quaver eats the room with acceptable pitch and I am removed from the lifelong definition of others and their opinions matter no more. I am singing the truth by myself which will also be the truth of others and give me a whole life. Let the voice speak up for once and for all.” That has the sense of being both revelatory and touching, but it stands out like the reflection of the moon in a sea of Stygian self-justification and stilted self-conscious prose.
The hurt recrimination is sometimes risible but mostly dull, like listening to neighbours bicker through a partition wall, and occasionally startlingly unpleasant, such as the reference to the Moors murderers and the unfound grave of their victim Keith Bennett. “Of course, had Keith been a child of privilege or moneyed background, the search would never have been called off. But he was a poor, gawky boy from Manchester’s forgotten side streets and minus the blond fantasy fetish of a cutesy Madeleine McCann.”
It’s what’s left out of this book rather than what’s put in that is strangest. There is an absence of music, not just in its tone, but the content. There are emetic pools of limpid prose about the music business, the ingratitude of fellow musicians and band members and the lack of talent in other performers, but there is nothing about the making of music itself, the composing of lyrics, the process of singing or the emotion of creation. He seems to assume we will already know his back catalogue and can hum along to his recorded life. This is 450 pages of what makes Morrissey, but nothing of what Morrissey makes.
There is the peevishness at managers, record labels and bouncers, a list of opaque court cases, all of which he manages to lose unfairly, due to the inherited stupidity of judges. Even his relation with the audience is equivocal. Morrissey likes them when they’re worshipping from a distance, but he is not so keen when they’re up close. As an adolescent he approaches Marc Bolan for an autograph. Bolan refuses and Morrissey, still awkwardly humiliated after all these years, has the last word. But then later in the book and life, he does exactly the same thing to his own fans without apparent irony.
There is little about his private life. A boyfriend slips in and out with barely a namecheck. This is him on his early sexual awakening: “Unfathomably I had several cupcake grapples in this year of 1973… Plunge or no plunge, girls remain mysteriously attracted to me.” There is precious little plunging after that.
There are many pop autobiographies that shouldn’t be written. Some to protect the unwary reader, and some to protect the author. In Morrissey’s case, he has managed both. This is a book that cries out like one of his maudlin ditties to be edited. But were an editor to start, there would be no stopping. It is a heavy tome, utterly devoid of insight, warmth, wisdom or likeability. It is a potential firelighter of vanity, self-pity and logorrhoeic dullness. Putting it in Penguin Classics doesn’t diminish Aristotle or Homer or Tolstoy; it just roundly mocks Morrissey, and this is a humiliation constructed by the self-regard of its victim.
This article originally appeared in The Sunday Times on 27/10/13
Read all reviews for Morrissey’s Autobiography
Today’s Graun carries an editorial about a man who wrote some fine music but who was (to be charitable) an idiot when it came to politics. Maybe because his execrable political opinions quite resemble those of many Graun journalists and (no doubt) readers, it’s an almost laughable piece of hagiography:
Benjamin Britten at 100: voice of the century
Above all, he was the writer of music that still thrills because of its toughness, beauty, originality and quality
Imagine an English classical music composer who is so famous in his own lifetime that his name is known throughout the country, who is the first British composer to end his life as a peer of the realm, a composer from whom the BBC uniquely commissions a prime-time new opera for television, and whose every important new premiere is a national event, a recording of one of which – though it is 90 minutes long – sells 200,000 copies almost as soon as it is released, and a musician whose death leads the news bulletins and the front pages.
Next, imagine an English classical composer who is a gay man when homosexuality is still illegal, who lives and writes at an angle to the world, who can compose strikingly subversive music, who is passionately anti-war, so much so that he escapes to America as the second world war threatens, who is in many ways a man of the left, certainly an anti-fascist, certainly a believer in the dignity of labour, as well as a visitor to the Soviet Union and a lifelong supporter of civil liberties causes.
Now, imagine an English composer who in many estimations is simply the most prodigiously talented musician ever born in this country, who wrote some of the deepest and most rewarding scores of the 20th century, who set the English language to music more beautifully than anyone before or since, who almost single-handedly created an English operatic tradition and who, all his life, saw it as his responsibility to write music, not just for the academic priesthood or for the music professionals but for the common people, young and old, of his country.
Benjamin Britten, who was born in Lowestoft 100 years ago, was not just some of those multifarious things. He was all of them. And he was much more besides – including a wonderful pianist, the founder of the Aldeburgh Festival, and arguably the 20th century composer who is best served by his own extensive legacy in the recording studio. He was also, as many have written, a difficult and troubled man – even at times a troubling one.
Above all, he was the writer of music that still thrills because of its toughness, beauty, originality and quality. In his 1964 Aspen lecture, Britten said: “I do not write for posterity.” In fact, he did. In his lecture he said he wanted his music to be useful – a noble aim for an artist. He said he did not write for pressure groups, snobs or critics. He wrote, he said, as a member of society. His job was to write music that would inspire, comfort, touch, entertain and “even educate” his fellows. Britten spoke – and composed – as a serious man of his serious time. Impressively, much of that endures. If we seem today to have let some of Britten’s ideals slip, that may say more about our shortcomings as a culture than about Britten’s greatness and achievement, then and now.
Bearing in mind that “visitor to the Soviet Union” is Grauniad-speak for “willfully blind apologist for mass-murder”, just how many non-sequiturs can you spot in the following:
“…passionately anti-war, so much so that he escapes to America as the second world war threatens, who is in many ways a man of the left, certainly an anti-fascist, certainly a believer in the dignity of labour, as well as a visitor to the Soviet Union and a lifelong supporter of civil liberties causes” ..?
Don’t know why
There’s no sun up in the sky
Stormy weather . .
Keeps rainin’ all the time.
Summer should be like this:-
Lazing on a sunny afternoon
In the summertime.
Upgrade the summer!
This is fisking for dummies, but it’s Christmas after all:-
Let’s just hope God is merciful, Chris
By George Galloway
WELL, he kens noo. I hope that the deceased, unbelieving English man of letters Christopher Hitchens has discovered that God is not only great but merciful too.
[Now, when Christians say that kind of thing in pious tones, you know they are lying. May all my enemies go to hell, Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel]
I had taken a self-denying ordinance over his demise at the weekend from osophageal cancer on the grounds that one should not speak ill of the recently dead and there would be nothing good to say about him considering the circumstances.
Two things forced me to shorten my purdah. The first was the way in which almost every one of the eulogies and profiles, in which I had declined to be represented on grounds of taste, nonetheless managed to attack me in the process of praising him.
[Oooh George – I’ve read loads of these, and y’know, you’re not mentioned THAT much. The American ones don’t mention you at all. But of course if your google alert says “George Galloway” – and I’m sure it does, not out of mere vanity though yours should never be underestimated, but for litigation opportunities – that’s how it must seem to you.]
The second was the sight of his friend Tony Blair, his voice catching with emotion in the “death of Diana way”, telling us what a great man he was.
This canonisation of the departed by some of the worst hypocrites operating in the English language must be halted before it slithers any further.
[Weel, I’d be very careful of the “h” word if I were you.]
Hitchens was the only-known case of a butterfly changing back into a slug.
He wrote like an angel but placed himself in the service of the devils.
He was a drink-soaked former Trotskyite popinjay, the Englishman in New York who discovered there were large bundles of right-wing dollars available for apostates like him. If they were prepared to betray their friends, their principles and sell the soul he didn’t believe he had in the first place.
[And I’m sure your work for Iran’s Press TV is done for a small pittance, barely enough to keep you in cigars. Also the “popinjay” – which one is the dapper little chap and which one the untidy handsome guy out of you two? And though it’s the season for recycling, couldn’t you have at least come up with some new insults?]
Easy. As Groucho Marx once put it: “These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.”
Thus, the man who once praised Saddam Hussein in adoration and opposed the first Gulf War when the Iraqi tyrant was still occupying Kuwait, was transformed into the main literary cheerleader for the second war.
[Ah, well you would know about “adoration” of Saddam Hussein, not to mention his rapist offspring.]
And he was still blowing the weapons of mass destruction trumpet long after its tinny notes were discredited.
The man who once championed the Palestinian cause became a little echo for Benjamin Netanyahu, denouncing the 10 Turkish dead on the ship Mavi Marmara as “Hamas-sympathisers” who got what they asked for.
[Do you mean that they DIDN’T sympathise with Hamas? I’m shocked. And – get your little head around this – it’s possible to champion the Palestinian cause and not become a pimp for what Hitchens would call “gaunt fascists with an Islamic face”.]
Sure his ditties were witty, his parsing precise and, if you like your men drunk, slurred and slobbering, he could be charming no doubt.
[You really know you were outclassed on all fronts – “ditties were witty”, “parsing precise” – is that your way of showing you can do that writing thing as well?]
But when you’re slobbering in support of the re-election of George W Bush for his catastrophic second term, or backing Bush’s handling of the clean-up operation after Hurricane Katrina (where he was the only man in the country other than Bush who thought the Federal Emergency Agency was doing a “heck of a job”) and you have written the script for the most disastrous massacre since Vietnam, I’m afraid literary pretence must be put in its proper place. Down the lavatory.
Hitchens and I shared the ring in an epic “Grapple in the Apple” back in 2005 in Manhattan.
Thousands of people queued around the block for ringside seats paying top dollar for the privilege. You can watch it on YouTube or wait for the DVD, with commentary and my updates, which I will produce shortly.
[My dear, plug your work in the visual media as you will, your most popular appearance on YouTube will continue to be pretending to be a cat in a red leotard.]
Ultimately, the real reason for the tear-stained eulogies from the British media commentariat for the late Mr Hitchens is that, by and large, the writers and editors are weeping for themselves.
They share his guilt over the Iraq War and deep inside they know it.
But all the salty tears in the world will not out that damned spot. The next reason is class.
Hitchens was a toff, a Lord. And the English-speaking world, it seems, still likes to love a Lord.
[Admiration undeservedly won, nothing to do with talent of course. And congratulations for the best example of resentful envy and self-promotion ineptly disguising itself as principled opposition I’ve seen in a long while.]
Above: lest we forget: Galloway is, and always has been, a liar, pro-fascist appeaser and enthusiastic sucker of “strong-men”‘s cocks (writes Jim Denham).
I often despair of the Grauniad, my daily paper of choice for nearly forty years. Ignorant shite like this regularly reduces me to a quivering semi-coherent hypostasis of unalloyed fury. And they won’t even let me onto ‘Comment is Free’ because I’ve been nasty to posh-boy Seamas so his pretorian guard “pre-moderate” me every time.
Then every Monday, along comes the Graun‘s number one saving grace. He’s in vintage form, on a particular bête noire of mine, today:
“Anyway, the whole disagreement reminded me how furiously defensive sports fans become when you attack their favoured pursuit, as though they’ve invested half their personal self-worth into it. Was our relationship with sport always like this? Back in the 1930s, when men with handlebar moustaches played football in long johns and tails, and the ball was a spherical clod of bitumen, did fans weep in the stands when their team lost? No. They limited their responses to a muttered “blast” or a muted “hurrah” before going home to smoke a pipe and lean on the mantelpiece. People had “hobbies” and “interests” and no one claimed to have “a passion” for anything…”
Give yourself a treat: read the rest here
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