Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

‘Aaronovitch Watch’ – The Daniel Davies factory for malicious gossip

Daniel Davies (who writes under the names ‘Bruschettaboy’ and ‘Dsquared’), proprietor of the blog ‘Aaronovitch Watch‘, printed a ‘correction‘ after one of his anonymous pet trolls falsely accused me of having been a member of Gerry Healy’s ‘Workers Revolutionary Party’. Since Healy was a gangster, rapist and cult-leader who received money from the regimes of Saddam Hussein and Muammar al-Gaddafi, and was complicit in Saddam’s murder of members of the Iraqi Communist Party, this was fairly serious lie to tell. However, since Davies’s rather more ethical fellow blogger Dave Weeden (‘Chardonnay Chap’) had already deleted the comments in question after I pointed out that they were false, and since I had not requested any further action, Davies’s printing of the ‘correction’ was not motivated by considerations of decency. In fact, the ‘correction’ was a flimsy excuse to justify his pet troll’s attempted smear, and to launch a further personal attack on me.

This is entirely characteristic of Davies’s mode of operation. His blog is, simply put, a non-stop sectarian hate-fest, in which his readers are actively encouraged to sneer at other left-wingers of whom they disapprove – specifically, members of the Eustonite or Decent Left. This sneering frequently takes the form of outright malicious gossip, the factual accuracy of which is only sporadically checked by Davies. He is someone for whom clean political debate is systematically eschewed in favour of ad hominem attacks on individuals. The particular objects of his animosity are the British journalists David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen, every one of whose articles over a period of several years has been picked to pieces by Davies and his circle in a quite unrivalled display of personal obsession. But it is a wholly unrequited obsession, as Aaronovitch and Cohen very sensibly ignore him.

As for me, Davies has been attacking me from practically the day I launched my own blog. I made the mistake of thinking that he was someone with whom it was possible to have a constructive discussion, in consequence of which, I have become another butt of his inner rage. Frequently abusive and sometimes libellous comments are posted about me on Davies’s blog. As I have discovered on this occasion, if one complains – even if Davies is forced to acknowledge the legitimacy of the complaint – it provides the occasion for him to make a further personal attack. The only possible deduction is that Davies is attempting to deter me and perhaps others from complaining about the sort of filth that appears on his blog. Because without the ad hominem sneering and the malicious gossip, Aaronovitch Watch would have no raison d’etre.

The basis for the smear that I was a member of Gerry Healy’s ‘Worker’s Revolutionary Party’ (WRP) was that in the 1990s I collaborated with members of a related but different group called the ‘Workers Revolutionary Party’ and contributed articles to its newspaper, ‘Workers’ Press’. I was not a member of this WRP either, but worked with some of its members in the context of a much broader trade-union-backed movement of solidarity with the people of Bosnia during the war of 1992-92. The movement was called ‘Workers Aid’, and most of its supporters were not WRP members. I shall say more about this shortly. Here, I note Davies’s claim that his pet troll’s smear, that I was a member of Healy’s WRP, was ‘most likely an honest mistake’. Yet Davies is very well aware that it was not an honest mistake, as the original WRP broke up into multiple fragments in the mid-1980s, when I was  in my early teens, and Healy himself died in 1989, when I was seventeen. Davies’s pet troll’s accusation was an attempt to smear me by deliberately conflating the two different groups called ‘WRP’, and associating me with Healy’s. After I had already pointed out that it was untrue, Davies’s troll repeated the allegation – not the behaviour of someone who had made an ‘innocent mistake’. Anyway, what sort of person makes these sort of out-of-the-blue ad hominem allegations while themselves hiding behind anonymity ? (Answer: the sort of person that is drawn like flies to ‘Aaronovitch Watch’ by the offal put out to attract them).

Having whitewashed his troll’s attempted smear-job, Davies then tried to blame me for it: ‘Marko did not do himself many favours by not clearing this up himself and leaving it to others to mention the Workers’ Press articles’. What he is saying, is that he is providing a forum for anonymous trolls to tell whatever stories they like about me and other people they don’t like, and that the onus is then on us to correct the falsehoods that these invariably involve, by volunteering information about our personal backgrounds. Would you want to volunteer information about your personal background on that kind of blog ? Of course, if one does then post comments on Davies’s blog to correct the falsehoods, one is then subjected to further personal attacks – as happened to me in this case.

However, Davies’s underhand attempt at throwing mud at me personally is far from the worst of it. He then attempts to attribute further nefarious motives to me for objecting to being associated with Healy, and in doing so builds upon his troll’s conflation of the two different WRPs, thereby smearing members of the latter by equating them with a gangster, rapist and paid informant of Saddam Hussein: ‘I think the problem is that, since the WRP(WP) had very similar politics to the Healyites, accepting that Slaughter-good/Healy-bad was more or less how it turned out would kind of make it impossible to slag off other people and groups based on their own embarrassing figures.’ Furthermore: ‘Depending on the circumstances, it might or might not have been a sensible idea to have been involved with the WRP(WP) during the relevant period. However, with the passage of time, it’s become slightly embarrassing.’

Those who are at all familiar with the history of the original WRP know that Healy was a sadistic thug who ran his Trotskyist sect as a cult, in which he psychologically and often physically and sexually abused its members. There were many members of this party that had joined as principled and committed left-wing activists but had then become victims – in the very real sense – of Healy’s abuse. The break-up of the original WRP began with a rebellion against Healy by those members who strongly objected to his methods; some of these had themselves been victims of Healy’s abuse. When the party fragmented, some of the fragments remained loyal to Healy’s legacy to various degrees. But the fragment with which I subsequently worked in the Workers Aid movement in the mid-1990s was made up of the people who had rejected Healy’s methods and rebelled against him. Davies has sneeringly and ignorantly conflated them with the gangster and rapist whom they rejected and overthrew, and who in some cases had personally abused them. He thus drags in wholly innocent third parties into his own petty little personal vendetta against me and the Decent Left. Members of the WRP/WP did not abuse their fellow members, or receive money from Saddam Hussein, or inform on members of the Iraqi Communist Party to Saddam’s secret police. Davies’s claim that ‘the WRP(WP) had very similar politics to the Healyites’ is therefore a smear of the worst kind.

The members of the WRP (‘Workers Press’) with whom I collaborated in Workers Aid were among the bravest, most principled and most committed fighters for social justice and political liberation that I have ever met. When the Bosnian genocide was at its height and when much of the rest of the Western left was either sitting on the sidelines or actively sympathising with the perpetrators, these people built the Workers Aid movement to bring aid to, and show solidarity with, the people of the Bosnian city of Tuzla. This was an industrial city with a proud left-wing and working-class history, whose own miners had supported the British miners’ strike in the 1980s and whose citizens maintained a social democratic administration in power throughout the Bosnian war. Members of the WRP/WP and other supporters of Workers Aid – sometimes risking their own lives as they guided their convoy of rickety lorries along the broken roads of a country at war and through sniper zones – built a movement of solidarity between British and European trade unionists and Bosnian trade unionists that defied the ethnic cleansers and their Western backers.

That is the WRP with which I worked in the 1990s, and to whose newspaper I contributed. Although I have since mostly lost touch with them, I remember with particular respect and fondness Bob Myers, Dot Gibson, Charlie Pottins, Bronwen Handyside, Cliff Slaughter, the late Geoff Pilling and others, some of whose names I don’t recall. It was an honour to have worked with them and to have contributed to their newspaper, and though I suspect they might not approve of my subsequent political evolution, I would do so again. So no, I don’t find my past association with them ’embarrassing’ (I have advertised my former involvement with Workers Aid in the ‘About’ section of my blog since the day it was launched); they represented what was best in the British left.

For someone like Daniel Davies, an armchair leftist whose sole political activity seems to consist of running a blog devoted to smearing and rubbishing other left-wingers, the same cannot be said. He is something of a pillar of London finance capitalism, being a stockbroker and financial advisor working for the Credit Suisse Group, and personally on record last year for complaining about the imposition of new taxes on European banks and other financial institutions, describing them as ‘about as bad news for the sector as it could have been… The hostile regulatory environment continues to move on, and will continue to generate unpleasant surprises like this one.’ He was also an early supporter of a US invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein – provided it wasn’t led by the Bush Administration. In his own words in October 2002:

‘I retain my original belief that improvement in Iraq is politically impossible unless there is some sort of shooting war in the area culminating in the removal of Saddam Hussein. I don’t set much score by “national-building”, and don’t really believe that what the Gulf needs is more US client states, and I never believed any of the scare stories related to the “WMD” acronym which is currently doing such sterling duty in picking out weblog authors who don’t have a fucking clue what they’re talking about. I just think that Saddam needs to go, because it’s just one of those Damned Things which Has To Happen. I’m a fatalist, not a moralist.

So, how can we square these beliefs a) that something has to be done and b) that if something is done, it will be a disastrous imperial adventure by George Bush. Here’s how, and it’s so simple it’s beautiful:

The official policy of D-Squared Digest [Davies’s personal blog] with respect to Iraq is now that we support a policy of containment until after the 2004 Presidential elections, and after that, we will support immediate war with Iraq if and only if someone other than George W Bush is elected.’ [emphasis in original]

This makes his obsessive hostility toward the Decent Left somewhat easier to understand: it is not the hostility of an ideological opposite, but of someone whose own politics are highly similar yet not quite identical. A type of hostility, in other words, in the tradition of the hostility of the People’s Front of Judea to the Judean People’s Front. As for me, Davies admits he has a ‘grudge’ against me, arising from my having revealed that a blogger whom he described as part of ‘Aaronovitch Watch’s extended family’ was in fact a sympathiser of a neo-Nazi party.

Hat tip: Neil Clark.

Update 1: And just when you thought the gutter couldn’t be scraped any further by Davies and his disgusting pack of trolls, here are some of their comments aimed against a visitor who was much more polite and reasonable than I would have been:

‘he sure looks like something that lives under a bridge and accosts under age goats.’

‘are you William Hague’s love child? A tragically precious 20 something, with the mind of an aging fogey? If so, yes its true, we have been too hard on you. We should have treated you with kindness, referred you to specialists who could help with your tragic condition.’

Update 2: Anyone interested in further information about Davies’s alignments should look here.

Sunday, 13 February 2011 - Posted by | Bosnia, The Left | , , , , , , , , , ,


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