Norman Geras: Rest in peace, comrade

18 October 2013

9:19 AM

18 October 2013

9:19 AM

I was shocked this morning to log on to Twitter and learn that Norman Geras had died. I can think of few political writers, who have influenced me more comprehensively. Whenever I faced a difficult moral question, I would at some point think ‘ah, what is Norm saying about this,’ go to his blog and see that Norm had found a way through.

Last year Norm’s colleagues Stephen de Wijze and Eve Garrard published a collection of essays in Norm’s honour. I was flattered when they asked me to write about Norm’s dual life as Manchester University’s Emeritus Professor of Politics and one of the first writers to embrace the Web.

As a tribute to him, I reprint it below.


Professor Geras and Blogger Norm

Late in his life and perhaps much to his surprise, the left-wing journalist James Cameron found that he preferred the familiarity of the old to the shock of the new. “There is much to be said for retaining the past,” he admitted to himself as much as to his readers. “I suppose I am at heart, in everything but politics, a rooted conservative.”

The many admirers of Norman Geras might have thought that Cameron’s words applied as well to him. His love of his family shines through, and his uxorious example is a living refutation of Auden’s aside

To the man-in-the-street, who, I’m sorry to say
Is a keen observer of life,
The word intellectual suggests straight away
A man who’s untrue to his wife.

He adores Country and Western, the folk music of the English-speaking world, and bows to no man (and few women) in his knowledge of Jane Austen. Above all, he loves cricket, that most traditional of sports, and loves it all the more when, as was once traditional, Australia win. Geras is to my knowledge the only political philosopher who could begin a treatise on our responsibilities to prevent torture and genocide after the Holocaust with,

“The idea which I shall present here came to me more or less out of the blue. I was on a train some five years ago, on my way to spend a day at Headingley, and I was reading a book about the death camp at Sobibor.”

Admittedly, he goes on to explain to “those who may not know this,” that Headingley is the home of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, but the dismissive use of the auxiliary “may” suggests that he finds the ignorance of “those who may not know this” incredible and reprehensible in equal measure.


And yet on Monday 28 July 2003 at 11.29 am, the apparent small “c” conservative embraced a dynamic new technology, ignored by the media executives who justified their lavish salaries with claims to possess clairvoyant powers.

Norman Geras, Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University of Manchester, dispensed with his titles and became Norm – the proprietor of and sole writer for Normblog. “In the immortal words of Sam Peckinpah ‘Let’s go’,” he declared – and off he went.

As Geras is most certainly not a conservative in his politics, his embrace of the freedom the new medium allowed is not as surprising as it seems. “I only really got wise to the blogosphere earlier this year during the lead-up to the war in Iraq,” he explained in his first post. “I began to acquaint myself with other blogs, following the links from one to another in pursuit of the debate that was taking place on this subject. My desire to do so was strengthened by the fact that, since September 11 2001, I’d come to find much of what was appearing on the opinion and letters pages of my daily newspaper of choice [the Guardian] repellent. And as a supporter of the war for regime-change reasons I was also less than comfortable with the balance of views I was encountering in the circles, professional and social, in which I move.”

I could fill the rest of this book with describing what was wrong (and remains wrong) with the liberal consensus which turned Professor Geras into Blogger Norm. A short list includes: its unwillingness to support the victims of psychopathic regimes and movements if their suffering cannot be blamed on the West; a concomitant and inevitable failure to hold onto the old leftish virtue of solidarity with those who share your principles when they are suffering at the hands of ultra-reactionary forces; a preference for the status quo, even when it is intolerable; and a relativist willingness to tolerate abuses in other cultures you would never tolerate in your own, which is really just parochialism dressed up in its Sunday best.

Plenty to argue about, but where to argue? As Geras half-recognized when he described his discomfort he felt about the arguments he was hearing in his circles, social pressure can be the most powerful and debilitating force in intellectual life. If everyone you know, every newspaper you read, every person you once admired is all saying the same thing, it takes an effort of will to argue back. As important – and I speak from experience here – it is hard to disagree rationally; to break from a consensus with intelligent arguments rather than instinctive revulsion. Unreflective consensual thinking is, I believe, more prevalent in England than in any other European democracy because the media are centralised in the capital. Everyone knows everyone else: they talk with, work with, socialize with and, on occasion, sleep with members of their tribe.

The result is stale conformism. For instance, many Conservatives in industry and the City are pro-European because they can see the business case for the Union, but you would never know it from reading the Conservative press. Not one columnist on the Mail or Telegraph treats the EU with anything but scorn. The conspiratorial may say that editorial and proprietorial pressure explain the failure to argue, or even admit the possibility that an argument might be justified. Although I have no doubt that career considerations play their part, the main explanation for uniformity is cultural rather than economic. In the newspapers and think tanks that make up the clubs of Conservative London, saying a good word about the European Union is an unforgivable breach of etiquette.

Dissident leftists often say that the vitriol against those who break the party line is worse on the Left than on the Right. I am not sure that is true: ideologues of all colours treat heretics with equal loathing. But the vitriol is certainly as bad on the Left as on the Right, and it is dispensed with a level of personal abuse rarely matched elsewhere for a reason those who are not part of the liberal-left club regard with amusement.

Despite the evidence of history, leftists assume they possess an intrinsic goodness. Even if their theories turn out to be spurious or projects unworkable, they assure themselves and others that their ideas are offered with good intent; that, to put it another way, the world would be a better place if their theories turned out not to be spurious and their projects delivered as promised. It follows that anyone who breaks with the leftish consensus is not just mistaken but wicked, mad, crooked or a tool of capitalism. The heretic is worse than a life-long Conservative, who cannot be expected to know any better, because he has seen the liberal-left’s goodness – been a good man once himself – and rejected it. The only plausible reason for breaking with the club must be some form of personal corruption. The whiff of the witch-finder rises from much left-wing writing because its authors cannot accept that opponents can disagree with them in good faith. They must be in the pay of Rupert Murdoch or an international Jewish conspiracy. There must be an ulterior motive.

The conditions for conformism in an already centralised media could not be better. On the one hand, the assumption of leftish benevolence stops people from taking on the proponents of bad arguments with the necessary rigour. On the other, the fear of denunciation, keeps the nervous in line. It is for these reasons that you can know what an opinion piece on virtually any subject in the liberal press will say without reading it.

The great service Normblog and its comrades on the Net provided was to break down the gates and allow fresh arguments in new intellectual spaces. New alliances brought contrary opinions and new sources of information to the reader. For someone writing from a similar position at the time Normblog began, I cannot over-emphasise how important it was to realise that I had comrades out there.

Put like this, it sounds easy. Norm recognized faster than most that the old media world was breaking down, and embraced the possibilities the Web was offering. But the sleek media executives who ignored the technology which was to undermine their business models were not quite the fools they seem in retrospect. At the time, it appeared reasonable to wonder why anyone would want to read the thoughts of a blogger sitting in his or her living room. The media long ago replaced their dismissal of Web 2.0 with a frantic embrace of the new technology. Yet their original question remains valid, why should anyone care what bloggers think?

Both the enthusiasts for and denigrators of the blogosphere miss the point that it simply consists of writers. As with most of what appears in the press or on television, much blogging is low grade. More often, it is a private conversation conducted in a public space by friends for friends. Outsiders have no more interest in reading them than they would have in listening into the phone calls of strangers. Many observers have argued that the blogs which rise above online chats stand out because they provide what the mainstream media isn’t giving: in the case of Normblog, an anti-fascist critique of the alliances with or an indifference to theocracy. Although I am sure there is truth in this, the real explanation is surely simpler. Like the best journalism, the best blogs survive because of the quality of their thought and prose.

Norm’s has so well expressed his ideas, and I have so ingrained them, that I now probably do not realise how many principles I take for granted came to me from him. If I examined them honestly I would realise that my notions that the deliberate killing of civilians is always a war crime, or that anti-Semitism and Occidentalism cannot be explained away as an understandable reaction to intolerable Western provocations, or that human rights can only be universal are…well, perhaps, not as original as I would like to think.

“Academic” is almost an insult in English, conjuring up images of narrowness and status-consciousness. Norm is the opposite of Dr Casaubon; he is a true intellectual who explains himself to the wider public without compromising his ideas or avoiding complexity when it is necessary. This is in my view at once the hardest and most admirable writing style for a serious journalist.

To pick an example at random, here is Norm taking apart Karen Armstrong.

Karen Armstrong wants to be able to eat her cake and at the same time keep it whole, unbitten into, let alone chewed and swallowed. Religion, she argues, is misconceived when it is thought of as being about beliefs rather than about practices:

[R]eligion is something you do, and…you cannot understand the truths of faith unless you are committed to a transformative way of life that takes you beyond the prism of selfishness.

Religious narratives deal in myth, she says; they’re “a programme of action”, “a species of practical knowledge”. Let’s leave aside that a person may lead a life going beyond selfishness without signing up to any religion, either belief- or practice-wise. But notice that little phrase ‘truths of faith’. What are these now if religion is about practice rather than belief? Why still call them ‘truths’? Because when all is said and done Armstrong is holding on to something of the usual referent of the word ‘belief’. Thus:

Skilled practice in these disciplines [‘yoga, prayer, liturgy and a consistently compassionate lifestyle’] can lead to intimations of the transcendence we call God, Nirvana, Brahman or Dao. Without such dedicated practice, these concepts remain incoherent, incredible and even absurd.

Practices, then, lead to ‘intimations’ of the transcendence we call God. But this latter, this transcendence, isn’t itself a practice, and the affirmation that it is some sort of reality looks, willy-nilly, like involving belief. Likewise here:

When a mythical narrative was symbolically re-enacted, it brought to light within the practitioner something “true” about human life and the way our humanity worked, even if its insights, like those of art, could not be proven rationally.
Something true about human life that is called an ‘insight’ just does bring back beliefs about the world, however dependent these might be, for their acquisition, upon practices.

Armstrong’s is a form of special pleading. No one would buy it were they to be told about the practices of dusting, roller-skating and blogging that these yield special insights which can’t be expressed and rationally defended as propositions within a system of beliefs.

Notice how Norm takes no cheap shots. There are no jokes about Armstrong being an ex-nun or criticisms of her other writings, deserving of criticism though they are. The argument in front of him is all that matters. Notice, too, how he takes the reader through the distinction between practices and truths, and allows us to grasp a complicated idea through the clarity of the writing. Observe finally, that Norm’s avoidance of polemical bitterness and his observance of the normal rules of polite debate does Ms Armstrong no good: she still ends up in pieces on the floor.

In this as in so much of his writing, he is muscular without being intimidating, forthright without being insulting. He speaks to his readers as intellectual equals, and although, alas, we rarely are his intellectual equals we are flattered into a better understanding of the struggles of our time.

As Sam Peckinpah nearly said, “Keep going!”

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Show comments
  • Chris Grey

    Norman Geras taught me when I was a Politics undergraduate at Manchester in the 1980s and he was the most inspiring teacher I have ever had. He opened my eyes to so much both in terms of political theory and about intellectual life more generally. He was a generous man – generous with his time and generous in spirit, too. At the time, he was a mentor to me – and a fellow cricket fan – and he set me on the course of my PhD and subsequent academic career. I didn’t agree with many of the positions he espoused in recent years but I will always be deeply grateful to him and I mourn his death.

  • paulus

    Its an understanding of theology not philosophy that makes you truely insightfu

  • Cornelius Bonkers

    What’s all this handwringing over the passing of another old leftie? Sympathies to his family of course, but the damage his like have done to the minds of students over the past 50 years warrants a criminal investigation – not tears. One of his favourite topics was that madman Althusser – get a grip all of you…

  • mbard

    I have read and admired much on normblog. However, he does not prove Karen Armstrong wrong – or cut her to pieces – but merely sidesteps her. It is conceivable that roller skating could provide special insights and intimations of transcedence. Perhaps because he is a Professor of Politics of a certain persuasion, he does not take Armstrong seriously enough. It is not the practise per se that provides transcedent insights, but that, through the mechanism of disciplined practise, the mind is focused and if that is a necessary condition for insight, altered consciousness, what ever you want to call it, then is can not be so lightly dismissed. The effect of certain disciplines on the mind has been known and understood, elaborated and observed in ancient meditation texts, without any confusion with belief. They are practical guides, based on experience, that produce results, and do not require faith or belief – if the discipline is followed, the truth will result. Conceivably it could be dusting, skating, or blogging, but equally prayer, yoga, repetition of a text, rather than belief in it, or a liturgy. Of course selflessness can arrive without any aid or discipline, but by putting this aside Norm does not refute that such practises could be a ground for selflessness too, at least equal to roller skating or feather dusting. This does not seem to me to be ‘special pleading’ – follow the method and changes to perception will result – but an empirical claim. What the good Professor, and Nick Cohen, can’t – or more likely, won’t – concede, is that such focused, methodical practises – what indeed used to be called ‘spiritual practices’ – inexorably, and not in the least inexplicably, alter perception, and that in doing so, will instil a moral transformation.
    In, for example the Raja-Yoga system, as elaborated in the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali, moral virtue, truthfulness etc are the first stage and pre-requisites before the mind can focus, the next stages being bodily and breath control; insight comes much later. Selflessness is thus a necessary, but not sufficient condition for insight, but crucially is not the result of religious practise – it is the ground work for a focused mind. Both Geras and Cohen manage to make a straw figure out of Armstrong – in what looks pretty close to prejudice – emphasising practise does not mean a belief system is attached, if the emphasise is on method, a purely pragmatic practise and if roller skating does it for you, then great. Personally I prefer a Passion by Bach, or a Shakuhaci flute to the dust of a Marxist world view, even on skates.

  • Abu Faris

    What a wonderfully written and passionate tribute to a very good and great man.

  • Aussie

    Comments? Anyone could email Norm and debate with him personally, as he would promptly reply. To me, who didn’t agree with him, he was faithful and polite for nearly a decade. Who needs comments when you can have direct mind-expanding dialogue with such a one as he? I remember almost everything he said to me, and it changed me, even when I did not accept. I think we do not see anyone else like him. What a loss!

    • Clap Hammer

      I remember almost everything he said to me, and it changed me, even when I did not accept.

      A great epitaph for a true intellectual.

  • Ron Todd

    I had a look at the essays on Amazon they came up as a frightening £65. Does anybody know if that is correct and if so is there any way to get a cheaper copy?

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    but -that little phrase ‘truths of faith’ – might be best understood as authentic affectations in practice, perhaps.

    Authentic truth can only come from one, absolute point. And of course, with dedication one can meet it via dusting, ironing or whatever else one happens to be doing, God willing.

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    – the dismissive use of the auxiliary “may” suggests that he finds the ignorance of “those who may not know this” incredible and reprehensible in equal measure. –

    Er – no it doesn’t. The expression is quite polite in the common sense , I think.

    Clearly, Given our wonderfully generous (largely unwritten) UK constitution , there can be nothing wrong with being able to openly “not know” something.

  • Bob-B

    I had many conversations with Norm over the last eight years both through email and sometimes face to face. My last email conversation involved Malala, Shane Watson (Norm’s least favourite Australian cricketer), and Tom Graveney (the cricketing hero of my youth). It is sad to think that there will be no more such conversations.

  • Cutiepie

    Reading the comments that follow several other articles and columns on this page might highlight the reason why Prof. Geras didn’t wish to engage with all his readers. He was civil, reasonable and thoughtful; it’s a shame that some other Spectator writers and commenters haven’t followed his lead.

  • Argaman

    I think I started reading Normblog sometime in 2004 – I discovered him from one of the other political blogs, maybe Harry’s Place. At that time I was looking to read people who didn’t adhere to the left-wing consensus on Iraq, which was pretty stifling among liberal academics in the US. I enjoyed reading his political posts, but also what he had to say about other things – although being an American I didn’t really understand what he had to say about cricket. I’m sad that he’s gone – may he rest in peace.

  • danielroseman

    I took Norm’s course on the Holocaust at Manchester in the 1990s, and he supervised my dissertation on the subject. I followed his blog for ages, but for some reason never contacted him to renew the relationship, a fact which of course I now regret. He was a great influence on my thinking and politics over recent years, and will be much missed.

  • Mr Eugenides

    An overused phrase, this, but he was a great man; and this is a great tribute. RIP.

  • @billcookeiii

    Thanks Nick. I could never always agree with him, but when one didn’t, by gosh he made you work to be clear in your own mind why that was. Moral compass. And at the same time, those of us who know people who worked with him in Manchester will know he was a very kind man. His quizzes and music and book polls will be missed too. It is a very sad day.

    • Tatty_D

      And he was also a lot fun. Which seemed to come as a surprise to those who knew him from afar.

  • S&A

    ‘Norm’s has so well expressed his ideas, and I have so ingrained them, that I now probably do not realise how many principles I take for granted came to me from him. If I examined them honestly I would realise that my notions that the deliberate killing of civilians is always a war crime, or that anti-Semitism and Occidentalism cannot be explained away as an understandable reaction to intolerable Western provocations, or that human rights can only be universal are…well, perhaps, not as original as I would like to think’.

    That more or less describes the effect his writings had on me.

    When I encountered his blog six years ago I found that his writings not only clarified the inchoate thoughts I had, but also widened my own intellectual horizons. I cannot say how much of a debt I owe him.

    If the British left was what it should be, and not what it is, Norman Geras would have had a column in ‘The Guardian’ or ‘The Independent’. He would have been a guest on ‘Newsnight Review’ or on ‘Question Time’, and may very well have been given his own documentary slot on BBC2 or BBC4. In a world of puffed-up reputations he deserved far more prominence than he got.

    I suppose the last words belong to Pike Bishop:

    ‘We’re gonna stick together, just like it used to be! When you side with a man, you stay with him! And if you can’t do that, you’re like some animal, you’re finished! *We’re* finished! All of us!’

  • Mr Grumpy

    He was a model blogger in many ways. May he rest in peace and know the joy of discovering he was wrong about at least one thing.

  • Lucy Coats

    One of my proudest moments was being allowed to have my say about books and life in general in the Profile and Writer’s Choice sections of Norm’s blog. He informed me, he challenged me, he made me laugh. I wish I’d met him, and I shall miss his wise words immeasurably, as well as his ‘either/or” challenges on Facebook, which sparked so much erudite (and not so erudite) discussion.

  • nb

    Very sad news. I also exchanged a few emails with Norm over the years, as with a wise and courteous friend. What will become of the Normblog archives? There is so much writing of permanent value that would be lost if it is simply unplugged and swept down the Internet memoryhole at some point…

  • Trofim

    I sent him a few emails and replied to some of his tweets. I’ve never encountered anyone else on the internet in whom I could say I felt there was real wisdom. How strange that the death of a man who was a stranger in real life could evoke in me such a feeling of sadness and loss.

  • judyk113

    So very sad that Norm has gone. It feels like the death of a good, close friend. We exchanged many emails and even though I never met him face to face, the warm and caring person who wrote the blog and who never failed to respond as if he were indeed a good personal friend always shone through.

  • PaulBurgin

    Didn’t always agree with him, but found him in my dealings with him and in observing his blog that he was often courteous and thoughtful. Politics and the media need more personalities like him! Today the blogging world is a bit lonely without him

  • sfefssdadsd

    Very sad to hear of his death.

    Your focus on his embrace of technology omits a very important and uncomfortably un-democratic fact – he never allowed comments on his blog. And on that blog he also aired uncritically the views of some really dodgy people – not least the person behind the ‘Gates of Vienna’ blog. Of course, one couldn’t challenge him on this in the comments.

    • Trofim

      I believe he did allow comments on his blog, but was so overwelmed by abuse that he decided to discontinue them.

      • Tatty_D

        As I posted above. It was more than that. Even on Face Book with people he was familiar with in real life, he found it to easier to deal with people who shared his new found world view.

        • Trofim

          Surely it is a truism that people prefer to interact with people who share their world view. How many SWP members include conservatives in their social circle and vice versa?
          With regard to “new found world view” – is that simply a paraphrase for “he changed his mind about certain things”? That is, in my book, a healthy character trait. Would that Hitler and Pol Pot had had it!

          • Tatty_D

            Couldn’t disagree more. I can’t think if anything less insecure & sterile, & frankly anything more dull.

            The phrase you pick up on, as far as I have thought about it, refers to a new found ‘muscularity’ in Left wingers, invariably male, of a certain age. I would put Cohen in that category too.

            See, even you enjoy it.

          • sfefssdadsd

            I woudn’t mind this line of thinking if it didn’t go against every principle that Cohen claims to stand for, and is claiming for Geras too. It’s not a noble political conversation if everyone agrees. Too much Decent writing took place in echo chambers where questionable ideas became ‘true’ simply because of the frequency of their restatement.

            • Lbnaz

              I can just imagine the type of stale conformist bandwagon krap that makes you happy. Gawd you are a bore

            • Abu Faris

              Staring into a mirror and then blaming others for the reflection that is left there was never the nicest habit of leftardism…

              It is (and was) actually the “orthodox” left who have spent much of the time engaging in echo-chamber “debates” with themselves.

      • mightymark

        That is interesting and there would doubtless be many out there who would have abused him – not because he was wrong but because he was almost invariably right.

        It must, especially for independent bloggers, be good deal of trouble “moderating” comments. I know some where it takes a great deal of time for comments to appear – presumably for that reason. It is different of course where it is a corporate site (The Spectator or Guardian) that has resources to do this. So I would not criticise anyone who refused comments. And one could always discuss with Norm over e mail as as many have confirmed, he would reply.

        A huge loss.

    • Ben Stanley

      But one could challenge him on Twitter. And one would invariably receive a thoughtful and civil reply.

      I am glad normblog did not allow comments. Some writers’ work should – and deserves to – stand by itself. In any case, Twitter was Norm’s comments section, and he did more than enough to engage with people there for any notion of an ‘un-democratic’ attitude to be absurd.

      • Tatty_D

        And how is this status acquired?

        • sfefssdadsd

          A comments section which didn’t exist until very recently. I admire him for responding to people on Twitter, but that came very late in the day, when he wasn’t really posting much on his blog other than musings on cricket and music.

          • Ben Stanley

            That’s simply incorrect.

    • Tatty_D

      I was one of hos former students. He supervised my theses on The Holocaust. The Blogger and media hero of the Right, and effectively Right was unrecognizable. Not for difference of opinion, but the dismissal of a reading that did not corresponded to his new found view.

      He had retreated in in to that cyber echo chamber where confirmation was all that was valued. That may have been the price that was bound to be paid for turning from a humble academic to celebrity blogger.

      He was a generous teacher. With a long & honourable past in the services of social justice & the world’s biggest Emmylou Harris.

      May he rest in peace. Thoughts to his much loved daughter.

      • sfefssdadsd

        Well, yes – he was clearly a great academic and a nice bloke, from what I could tell. as you say, tough, not allowing comments on his blog, from the start to the end, is a synechdoche of a world view which didn’t tolerate dissent, and saw him (like Cohen, it has to be said) siding with people they’d usually run away from because of a supposed ‘common opposition to terrorism’. witness this kind of totally unjustifiable rant:

        the way it gives house room to every snivelling apologist for
        terrorism, and every prejudice of the verkrappt section of the left, and every yearner after Hugo Chavez and other such heroes of the people, and every trope of anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism, and to Caryl Churchill’s miserable collection of all the anti-Jewish mythemes known to Guardianreaderkind, is enough to make a guy cry out ‘Hogh, hogh, n’gagheghen!’

        If you agree, then fine – obviously Cohen does, not that it stops him collecting a monthly cheque from the GMG. But If you don’t agree – and as I’ve said, this is an unjustifiable rant – Geras simply wouldn’t listen to you.

        • Tatty_D

          I am not talking about public forums only, but private ones like FB. It was not exactly Republic of Letters, and came as a surprise to many of us who were taught so well by him.

          Your post is not terribly clear. What is your point?

          • sfefssdadsd

            I wouldn’t know about the Facebook side of things. But it is telling that so many people who celebrate the potentials for the internet’s capacity of debate should themselves loudly say things like ‘never read the comments’ – as Nick Cohen often does on Twitter – and should either not allow comments on their own blogs or pre-moderate them so only kind words get published (which is how Nick Cohen treats his blog). Thus Geras’s frankly laughable fixation on there actually being a ‘war on terror’ – which totally ignored the very sensible objections people have, and had, to the term – was perpetuated by his admirers or years despite clearly having no legs as an idea at all.

            And Cohen’s idea about there being no ‘cheap shots’ in his work sits very oddly with Geras’s coining of ‘verkrappt’, meaning, as he says, ‘very crap’, to mean ‘any part of the British left i disagree with’. Argument doesn’t come much more infantile than that.

    • sheenaghpugh

      What on earth is undemocratic about disallowing comments on a blog post? It was his space; he had a right to decide who posted in it. It would be undemocratic for me to ban someone from writing graffiti on their garden wall, but if they write it on mine, I have every right to go out with a sponge. People have a right of reply in their own webspace; they don’t necessarily have the right to “challenge” in other people’s.

      • sfefssdadsd

        That’s partly true, but it totally undermines Nick Cohen’s idealistic presentation of Geras’s cyber-self. As people say, he responded to queries on Twitter, but didn’t allow any challenges to his writing on his own site. His ‘blog’ wasn’t really a blog at all.

        • radicalcentrist

          You’re only partly correct, in that it’s wholly true. A blog with no comments section in no way restricts your right to free speech. And as for your assertion that his wasn’t a blog at all because there was no comment section is absurd to put it mildly.