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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Guido vs. Gracchi

The inimitable Guido Fawkes decides to use Samizdata to explain what he is… and what he is not.

Over on the misnamed Liberal Conspiracy blog ‘Gracchi’ proffers a serious and fair minded critique of my Guido alter ego’s oeuvre, rather than the usual “Guido is an evil baby eating Nazi who once voted Tory, does not use trackbacks and deletes comments” tripe. I will give it a reply here and defend my approach.

Clearly we all have a political agenda of some kind. Mine is the politics of anti-politics. It stems from wanting to expand the non-political space in life and culture. This flows from my belief in the primacy of individual liberty.

The charge of partisanship does have some validity, I would rather get this shower in government out, but the choice on offer is hardly compelling. It is not as if there was any attempt on my part to pretend to some kind of impartial objectivity. So far as the right-of-centre leaning blogosphere has any influence on the Tories it is often attacking from the ‘right’ of the Tory centre of gravity. The Samizdatistas despair of the Tories, Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome is more hawkish and less socially liberal than his party, even Iain Dale is more Thatcherite than the Tory leadership and my views on tax cuts, the minimal state, free migration and drug prohibition position me in a very different place on the political spectrum to the Tories. It is inimical to Toryism for instance to be a republican, so to characterise me as a Tory seems intellectually lazy to the point of cretinous.

I have written no ideological essays for nearly two decades. There are some still available from the Libertarian Alliance if you are interested – on human rights, the economics of the City and most famously acid house culture.

Gracchi is right to nuance the self-interest charge against politicians, they are more precisely motivated by “perceived self-interest”. I will adopt that phrase from now on. As for my understanding about policy development and the importance of wonks, well I have lived in that world, financially supported think tanks and indeed worked for think tanks in my youth. I just do not advertise it.

The rest of the complaint is based on a poor premise, on the evidence of Guido’s blog I am naive, according to Gracchi. Do you mean Paul Staines or the Guido personality? You are confusing the character with the author. The blog provides a tabloid sensationalist, personality driven narrative. It is meant to entertain in order to be populist. Carefully nuanced argumentation is not what it is about. Complaining that it is populist and not what blogging should aspire to, is like complaining that the New York Post is not the New York Times. You do your thing, Guido will do his thing.

Of course the irony is that more intellectuals, wonks and political thinkers read Guido’s blog than the New Statesman. In Gramscian terms Guido’s blog is now arguably the more important ‘site of struggle’. Discuss.

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31 comments to Guido vs. Gracchi

  • >In Gramscian terms Guido’s blog is now arguably the more important ‘site of struggle’.

    Yeah, one where you decide who gets to say what and when (and even who got to say what and when on any particular day). So, more like your own little panopticon then. Dream on.

  • So Donald, that would be because unlike Guido, New Statement doesn’t get to decide who gets to say what on its pages?

    And I wonder if you know what the word ‘panopticon’ actually means? Much as I’m sure Guido wishes he could get most politicians locked up under constant observation, I don’t really see how his blog qualifies.

  • The way I see it, Guido’s job is to bring politics itself into disrepute. It is a job he seems good at in his own distinctive way.

    The more people start regarding politicians as a breed as not unlike Mafiosi, the more he (and we, for that matter) win. Rather than arguing for this or that policy, I see his job as highlighting the absurdity of allowing people to have so much force backed power. Holding the political class up for often bawdy derision seems a not unreasonable way of doing that.

  • I read neither of them, unless under severe duress. (Though, unlike the NS, Paul could change the past if he fancied.)

    And, yes, I do know what it means. Think about it. It’s called a metaphor.

    Bye.

  • I think his point is that it was a crap metaphor, Donald.

  • No, I rather think he didn’t understand the metaphor, Perry. And it wasn’t exactly a tricky one either.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Donald, who’s a clever boy then?

  • Well obviously no one thinks Guido was the ghastly Bentham in a past life, but quite how blowing raspberries at the Establishment on the internet creates a metaphorical panopticon is also unclear to me too. Covering the country with CCTV and requiring people submit to their communications being monitored, that sounds a bit more apt for as a panoticon metaphor.

  • douglas clark

    Guido,

    For a believer in a minimalist intervention of the state in human affairs, something I have some sympathy with, it is unbecoming for whoever claims to be the moral actor – Paul Staines or Guido Fawkes – to be vanguarding the legalising of the blogosphere.

    Which one of you is doing. For sure.

    I am not a fan of Timothy Irelands’ but your reaction to his comments is nearer High Church Tory (with money) than that of a so called libertarian.

    For those that don’t know, Guido Fawkes or his alter ego are using the law to attack another blogger.

    This is the site, but I frankly can’t navigate it.

    http://www.bloggerheads.com/

    So, Guido/Paul, libertarianism only cuts one way? Towards those that can afford to sue, you perhaps, and against those that can’t? That is maybe the realpolitic of contemporary Britain, it is certainly not any sort of libertarianism I’d like to share with you.

    Frankly, you use the full panoply of state apparatus, which obviously includes laws passed by the hated political class, when it suits you. Apparently.

    Explain that!

  • Not sure how that is relevant to his laying out what he is trying to do. This article is about Guido responding to an attempt at a reasonable critique (contention: concentrating on scandal reduces politics to its largely irrelevant individual players, what he should be doing it arguing his case…)

    My take on that is what Guido does is work to bring the system into disrepute, so criticising him for not spending much time making ideological argument rather misses the point of what he is trying to do.

    Also whilst I have no views at all on the contretemps in question, Douglas, even in libertopia there will be lawyers and people getting sued.

  • Gabriel

    Guido is a Republican? How on earth does he square that with the politics of anti-politics?

  • Gabriel

    Sorry, that’s what I meant actually. To be specific how can one advocate the “politics of anti-politics” whilst simultaneously embracing an intellectual tradition which sees the summum bonum as lying in life of active civic virtue?.

  • Active civic virtue is the antithesis of politics, and having the least state possible (but not less) is the best way to enable active civil virtue.

  • douglas clark

    Perry de Havilland,

    You, perhaps deliberately, miss the point. Sock puppets are united in their love of Paul. Paul himself is unable to answer the straightforward question. What the heck is he doing using the law against anyone, given his, so called libertarianism? Answer me that.

    Instead of pissing in the wind.

  • douglas clark

    Perry de Havilland,

    The point being that your chum is a first order hypocrite. But you love him, just the same.

  • No, it is you who misses the point. How is that relevant to the article?

    Answer me that.

    Well no, I would have to insist he doesn’t answer your particular questions, at least not in this comment section attached to this article.

    As you seem a bit unfamiliar with this parish, let me lay it out for you: the topic (and we do try, with varying degrees of success, to keep things more or less on-topic) is “what Guido does with his blog and why: a response to Gracchi”.

    You may think his dispute with Tim Ireland is important, but that ain’t the topic on offer for discussion in this article. Just as we ban ‘race realists’ for turning every article regardless of subject into one about racial IQ because that is what they want to talk about, we tend to delete other people for hijacking threads with non sequiturs just because they want to talk about something different.

    The topic is not Guido himself (other than tangentially) or his character flaws or even directly his political/anti-political philosophy (although that of course is what motivates him and why what he does makes sense), it is “what is the Guido Fawkes blog actually trying to achieve and is Guido actually wrong (as Gracchi feels) to be doing what he is doing?”.

    Discuss something somewhat related to that… or do not let the door hit you on the way out.

  • James

    What the heck is he doing using the law against anyone, given his, so called libertarianism? Answer me that.

    Are you confusing libertarianism with anarchism?

  • Logic for beginners.

    1. Douglas Clark attacks Guido for being prepared to go legal against ‘another blogger’

    2. Anyone can set up a blog.

    3. Anyone can be ‘another blogger’

    Conclusion – when you start blogging, Douglas Clark and other morons on the left think that you forfeit all legal rights. Says it all.

    Re Guido’s blog itself, the attacks on him are what I think the Australians call tall poppy syndrome.

  • RobtE

    DonaldS –

    Explain that!, Anwer me that.

    I’m guessing your mama didn’t spend a lot of time teaching you to say “please” and “thank you”.

  • In this article Guido is saying both that his “blog provides a tabloid sensationalist, personality driven narrative. It is meant to entertain in order to be populist” and also that his agenda is “the politics of anti-politics. It stems from wanting to expand the non-political space in life and culture”. In that case his blog certainly succeeds in the former, but if he seriously thinks he is having any effect on the latter then I think he is building his part somewhat. Why any serious libertarian should defend his blog, other than out of some sort of misplaced tribalism, I do not know.

    As for the charge about him “going legal” against Tim Ireland; Tim can write about whatever he wants and Guido has recourse to the law if he genuinely believes himself to have been libelled. That doesn’t appear to be what is happening here, or what has happened previously; here Guido seems to like throwing legal threats about in order to silence free speech, a la Robert Maxwell. If that is representative of his “belief in the primacy of individual liberty” then it is one that hands power to the monied and the privileged, which again jars with my ideas of the aesthetics of libertarianism. But then again, I’m not a libertarian.

  • douglas clark

    Deleted

    Editor’s note: You are rather like the guest at a party who gets drunk and when he ignores a polite indication of ‘house rules’, acts surprised when he gets kicked out.

  • Why any serious libertarian should defend his blog, other than out of some sort of misplaced tribalism, I do not know.

    Then I assume you did not read my reply because I explain why quite clearly. Building hostility to and contempt for the political class and the political system is clearly in our interests. So now you do know. No tribalism required… and the fact you even suggest that indicates you do not know much about ‘us’ as we are appallingly quick to go for the throat of ‘fellow travellers’ on the basis of ideological impurity. Tribal we ain’t.

    But then again, I’m not a libertarian.

    I never would have guessed.

    then it is one that hands power to the monied and the privileged, which again jars with my ideas of the aesthetics of libertarianism

    Monied and privileged? LOL. You clearly don’t know Paul Staines very well.

  • Then I assume you did not read my reply because I explain why quite clearly. Building hostility to and contempt for the political class and the political system is clearly in our interests.

    I did read your reply, did you read mine? In my opinion he succeeds in throwing around tittle-tattle but fails to build hostility to the political class, rather like Heat magazine is failing to destroy the cult of celebrity.

    Monied and privileged? LOL. You clearly don’t know Paul Staines very well.

    Correct. But I was playing the tactic, not the man.

  • I did read your reply, did you read mine?

    Sure but you were the one saying “Why any serious libertarian should defend his blog, other than out of some sort of misplaced tribalism, I do not know“… so I explained again the actual reasons I defend what Guido’s blog does (not the Samizdata ‘mission statement’, to be sure, but so what?). Heat magazine is is part of the pop culture machine, not a thorn in its side trying to get people to see it differently.

    You don’t have to agree that Guido is effective, but understanding why I and other ‘serious’ libertarians support what he does has been explained, so no need for you to say “I do not know”. Now feel free to buy me a beer for being so helpful.

  • stanislav

    Order-order is not, formally, a liberation movement but a congregation of the disillusioned angry, believing, or hoping that it’s spleen will anger or shame any or all of those against whom it is vented.

    It can be argued, of course, that the provision of an orchestrated cyber speakers’ corner in itself neutralises, short-circuits more traditional and arguably, once, more productive political action but since this is now either heavily corralled and managed by the three branches of NewPolitics – even the ancient meek get strong-armed from a Jack Straw Rally – or forbidden by a profusion of anti-democratic, supposedly anti-terror legislative measures it is hard to see where else people can publicly raise their discordant voices if not on the net, in this case at Guido’s invitation and on his sufferance; not all are pamphleteers, or would-be essayists and even if they were, a political cabal which would take us on an insane and illegal military adventure and then say Whoops!, we were misled, but never mind, eh? is unlikely to pay too much attention to more conventional critiques.

    It is certainly ludicrous to propose that either the broadsheets or the BBC pages are places of free comment; where, then, if not in the bustling, anarchic blogosphere, are people to raise their voices ? One novice order-orderite commented recently that the site was better than pornworld, where he normally spent his spare time; tell me, aesthetes and snobs and nitpickers, what, pray, is wrong with that ? Would not the chairpersons of all the parties love to be able to report such a thing about their own dismal promotional efforts. By engaging, interesting and stimulating those formerly excluded or alienated from politics, order-order does civic society a service. it may nor be in the interests of the current, abysmally inept and corrupt political-media caste but that’s tough shit.

    Guido is both immodest and imperfect. My own gripe about order-order is the rapidity of Guido’s postings; often fast and furious, few are developed over a few days by fairly lengthy comment/discussion; they rise and topple one on another until the whole site resembles a gospel meeting, call-and-responseathon – Peter Hain is a thief – Oh yes he is,( chorus hundreds) Hallelujah, Praise the Lord; Ed Balls is useless – Amen, Lord, So he is. let me just count the ways, Lord and so on and so on. But within all the chaos a shared language forms, a terminology, largely of abuse, and rightly so; contemptuous and irreverent and rightly so. docile no more, a continuum of scepticism. Within the miasma of bile and rage and righteous indignation there are insights to be gleaned, temperatures to be taken, information to be shared and often a clarification of previously abstruse financial matters; the cartoon captioneers can be the sharpest and wittiest. There are some every clever people at order-order, maybe not time-served polemicists but quick and sharp and my complaint about speed of turnover is, actually, irrelevant; rapid-fire is the default setting of the Guido armament; my need for something less belligerent, more languid, is my own problem.

    This writer has never been in a tribe of any kind and is not altogether sure what is meant by the term liberationism; he was, however, for many years, a newspaper, political biography and BBC junkie. Having wearied – or sickened – of all that some years ago, he found the Guido site refreshing and stimulating; the MediaMinster news is cut and pasted for him, assembled and cross referenced in all it’s glorious, anti-democratic, conspiratorial toxicity. To know that so very many loathe and detest not only these events but their conventional press coverage, too, and to read their discord and frustration and impotence and hatred is a great comfort and an even greater stimulus. Everybody should try it. I love the smell of anarchy in the morning.

    As for Guido suing people, well I don’t care about that and nor should anyone else. If he sues me, I’ll sue him right back again, with my team of emigre Polish lawyers. So there, he has been warned.

  • Perry, “I do not know” in that context was more of a rhetorical device, but either way, I’ll post you a beer.

  • 45govt

    And if Guido didn’t exist, we would have to invent him.

    Le mot juste, from Stanislav – “I love the smell of anarchy in the morning” – oorrraaahhh!

  • James Hamilton

    Quite apart from all of the above, the mystery to me is how the likes of Paul Staines can sustain the interest of properly thinking, intelligent people of the Micklethwait/Perry type. Gracchi really is reaching down several levels even to engage, and in all honesty these attempts to justify the man’s activities don’t convince.

    Perry, really – even two years ago, would you have given Staines house room on one of British blogging’s brightest sites? There was stronger debate to be had here once.

  • He is doing a ‘tabloid’ approach and although it is not ‘my thing’, it is nevertheless interesting what he is trying to do.

  • me

    try and keep up guys.
    it will help if you aren’t as petty
    as the politicians.