I am a huge admirer of Nick Cohen, and yet I was a little disappointed in this book of his. It reads like a collection of newspaper articles, and there is nothing wrong with that, but I just found it a bit slick. He is wrong on the English libel laws. He is against them as they currently are, on free-speech grounds. Of which, possibly, more later. In general terms though he is good in this book. On blogging and so on, which some of us do quite often, he says "politically active Westerners can find that the Web seduces them away from the public they need to influence - it gives them unrestricted freedom, and then denies them the audience that makes that freedom effective". This I think is right, and is the downside (there is always a downside) of the internet debate, dialogue, call it what you will. This is why the Reading boys are wrong to be solely in broadcast mode in their online presence, because they have not understood that others can say exactly what they like - their own denial of a platform does not mean that the platform is not there. You really can say what you like, and no-one (almost) can stop you saying it, but equally, no-one is reading. Or, most of the time, most people are not. So what is the alternative? Ah, well, there is the rub.
He appears to be a sound interventionist: (here on Belarus) "if the men with guns do not want democratic change it takes other men with guns to make them change their minds." I do not think this can be faulted. Go on then, if you think you can.
Thanks Nick for this book, ,and I'm sorry I was a little disappointed. This time. But you are a sound man. And I am sorry I refused you a cigarette that time in the Strangers' Bar at the Commons, because you were not Blairite enough for me. And nearly nine years ago I gave up smoking, so I can't offer you one now, even if you still wanted it.