Author Topic: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis  (Read 13059 times)

Mob Bunkhaus

  • depressing & poisonous black cloud
Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« on: November 25, 2007, 09:34:29 AM »
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2216701,00.html
Quote
The absurd world of Martin Amis


Chris Morris
Sunday November 25, 2007
The Observer

Look, I'm busy. I'm writing a script and I won't be disturbed. Except that because I'm writing about terrorism and Islam, I keep being distracted by Martin Amis. He prowls the thickets of my research like a demented flasher. Sometimes Christopher Hitchens pops up, too, and flashes along with his friend. They rail against Muslims. They're obviously daft. But people take them seriously.

No matter that they act like senile 12-year-olds on the Today programme website - smoking illegal fags to look tough and cool. No matter that Amis coins truly abominable terms like 'the age of horrorism' and when criticised tells people to 'fuck off'. Surely we all chuckle at the strenuous ennui of his salon drawl. Didn't he once accidentally sneer his face off? His 'insight' about Mohammed Atta involved pretending the hijacker was constipated for six months - brilliantly smuggling into our subconscious that idea that Atta was 'full of shit'. He abandoned his satire on terrorism in which a Muslim unleashes mass rape on America because 'faced with Islamism, even satire withers and dies', not because his idea was obviously rubbish.

Despite his manifest absurdity (he called the World Trade Centre attacks 'edificide' and the towers' destruction an 'apocollapse'), people take him seriously and if they do then we must.

Last week Amis was called a racist. I saw him speak at the ICA last month. Was his negativity about Islam technically racist? I don't know. What I can tell you is that Martin Amis is the new Abu Hamza.

To recap, Amis was called a racist because he said Muslims were backward, violent, homophobic, paranoid, boring, retarded and stupid. Hitchens said no, he's conducting a 'thought experiment'.

Now Amis should be allowed to wonder aloud about anything. He can suggest Muslims should 'experience painful discrimination until they get tough with their children' if he likes. Thought experiments are fine. But if he bundles his thoughts on Islam together and iterates them one after the other as he did when I saw him, he displays not unguarded musing but the forging of an incoherent creed of hate. It goes roughly like this: 9/11 was horrific, its driving ideology was totalitarian, the totalitarians were Muslims, all Muslims follow a book they believe to be the immutable word of God, I don't believe that, therefore all Muslims are idiots, and basically bastards. Idiot bastards moping around the Middle East in a paranoid funk just cos they lost their empire, and what a rubbish empire it was, too, by the way. Now, what is your balanced view of these primitive wife-beating idiotic bastards?

Like Hamza, Amis could only make his nonsense stand up with mock erudition, vitriol and decontextualised quotes from the Koran. To risk a familiar example, it won't do for Amis (or Hamza) to state flatly that the Koran exhorts Muslims to kill Jews without even asking whether this means all Jews or some particular group of Jews with whom the Muslims were fighting in the seventh century, or indeed, whether there are other verses that modify the message by deploring killing of any kind, or describing how 'people of the book [Christians and Jews] shall have nothing to fear or regret'.

I claim no great knowledge on this subject - level-three SATs perhaps - but Amis couldn't pass the test for morning playgroup. If my Shetland pony looks like a high-horse it's only because Amis is trotting round the paddock on a chihuahua.

So how does Amis manage to move from condemning the horrors of suicide bombings to pouring scorn on anyone who can believe in paradise - effectively all Muslims? He muddles his terms. Even Hitchens concedes Amis wrongly conflates Islamism with Islam. By fudging, Amis adds the weight of his reaction against terrorism to his contempt for Muslims in general. Take 'Islamism'. What does it actually mean?

For many it means 'political Islam'. Amis calls it a 'murderous ideology', equating it with terrorism. Now look at the following statement: 'The terrorist killings in New York, Madrid and London were wrong. They were indiscriminate, un-Islamic and based on ideas abstracted to the point of insanity.' I was firmly told this by an ex-Mujahideen who fought in Afghanistan 20 years ago. He was an Islamist. I strongly doubt he was murderous.

These concepts are more complex than Amis would have us believe. This lack of clarity allows him to group Muslims who stop teenagers shooting one another with a man who cheerfully saws the heads off Jews.

It's not easy. Even ex-Islamists seem confused. Ed Husain - whose Hizb ut-Tahrir memoir The Islamist made him the summer's top ram-raid sound-biter - condemns Islamism as 'totalitarian' but later allows for 'moderate Islamists'. What sort of braincrash is a 'moderate totalitarian'? I doubt it could even walk.

These distinctions matter because the way out of this mess (and it is a mess, fuelled by ignorance, stupidity, prejudice and weapons) is to clarify and discriminate rather than hurl abuse at anything that goes near a mosque.

I doubt many Muslims can be bothered with Amis. But he nurtures in his audience a corrosive prejudice against people they've never bothered to meet. It is culturally dim for us to form confident opinions about people based upon how they look and what we've heard they think. It is also against our interests. Nonsense abounds on the causes of terrorism but it is hard to argue that alienation doesn't channel potential foot soldiers towards radicalisation. As one solitary Muslim asked him at the ICA, 'Why such contempt for Muslims?' Amis must have known something was up because he dropped his drawl and called the man 'sir'. But he could hardly unspeak his views. And those views are certainly alienating.

With ignorance on his side, Amis can stare east through the salon window and convince us of a single advancing hoard. He's clever. He might put it brilliantly. He might call it a 'Meccalanche' or an 'Attaclysm'. But when he speaks, think 'Hamza'.

ยท Chris Morris is a writer and broadcaster


Comments

Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2007, 12:55:21 PM »
1 - Seems a bit odd to criticise Amis for making up funny sounding compound words, when Morris has made a career out of it.

2 - Is this Morris' first piece of 'serious' journalistic writing?

3 - Is there nothing more to the debate than the right/old left saying 'I think all muslims are evil' and Liberals saying 'actually, I think muslims are just fine, obviously there are a few bad apples, but thats hardly surprising considering Israel and the US and global warming and that.'

Xander

  • Together. Blue and Gold. Just like the old days.
    • http://www.myspace.com/tromeo
Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2007, 01:54:30 PM »
I do think Amis comes across as an odious cunt a lot of the time, but this sounds slightly bitter and personal. Didn't Morris try and challenge Amis at the meeting he's talking about, and end up getting completely defeated?

1 - Seems a bit odd to criticise Amis for making up funny sounding compound words, when Morris has made a career out of it.


Yes, but Morris did it in a satirical way, lampooning the way the media use buzzwords in and around political and ideological discourse. Amis is doing almost exactly what Morris was railing against.
 

Quote from: JCBillington
3 - Is there nothing more to the debate than the right/old left saying 'I think all muslims are evil' and Liberals saying 'actually, I think muslims are just fine, obviously there are a few bad apples, but thats hardly surprising considering Israel and the US and global warming and that.'

 I see what you're saying, but whilst Morris may hold those liberal views, in this article, he just seems to say "Let's be nuanced about this.  You get nowhere for being indiscriminate. Or by telling me to fuck off like Martin did."

Mob Bunkhaus

  • depressing & poisonous black cloud
Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2007, 01:56:08 PM »
Quote
1 - Seems a bit odd to criticise Amis for making up funny sounding compound words, when Morris has made a career out of it.

2 - Is this Morris' first piece of 'serious' journalistic writing?

3 - Is there nothing more to the debate than the right/old left saying 'I think all muslims are evil' and Liberals saying 'actually, I think muslims are just fine, obviously there are a few bad apples, but thats hardly surprising considering Israel and the US and global warming and that.'

1. Well, Morris meant his words to be funny, whereas Amis is bathetically serious.

2. Yes, I think it is. Which bodes well for the passion he's bringing to this.

3. That's an excellent precis of how sterile the 'debate' is.

4. Briskly efficient, these list chaps, aren't they?
« Last Edit: November 25, 2007, 02:12:56 PM by Mob Bunkhaus »

Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2007, 02:43:42 PM »
Yes, but Morris did it in a satirical way, lampooning the way the media use buzzwords in and around political and ideological discourse.

I agree this is true with OTH and TDT, but by Brass Eye, Morris was having fun making up silly words, a gag he pushed to breaking point with Blue Jam/Jam. He even uses 'Braincrash' in the article. I agree that Amis's new words are ridiculous, of course

I'm pretty ambivalent about the whole thing, to be honest. Morris and Amis are both people I used to greatly admire and now find quite annoying. I dont want to restart the Islamophobia debate - this isn't the forum for it - but, despite Morris' alleged desire for nuance and discrimination, they seem to represent the least interesting, least insightful, most polarised, kneejerk sides of the debate. I just think there's better people to comment on this than a washed-up novelist and a washed-up comedian.

Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2007, 02:59:47 PM »

Thanks for the article Mob, I'm glad to see Chris Morris using his intelligence and writing skills for something important. It's not an astoundingly original opinion, but it's one that should be said as often and accessibly as possible. It's clear that Amis really pissed him off, but then Morris always was a bit spiteful when people annoyed him, so long as his fury is at the right people, then it's useful.

Xander

  • Together. Blue and Gold. Just like the old days.
    • http://www.myspace.com/tromeo
Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2007, 03:04:11 PM »
I agree this is true with OTH and TDT, but by Brass Eye, Morris was having fun making up silly words, a gag he pushed to breaking point with Blue Jam/Jam. He even uses 'Braincrash' in the article. I agree that Amis's new words are ridiculous, of course


Oh, of course there was a sense of fun to them, but I think that the satire still extended to BrassEye, if just to show how little difference there was between his words and those of real campaigns. The fact that many slebs didn't bat an eyelid to Nonce Sense, Cake, etc, re-enforces the way language is used even in apparently 'serious' documentaries. And the idiocy of Bernard Manning, of course.

But even so, Morris is having FUN making up new words. Whether that be for satirical purposes or just for the sheer larks, it's still completely opposed to the reason Amis is doing it.

Shoulders?-Stomach!

  • Are we human? Or are we toilet
    • http://jackanderton.jamendo.net/
Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2007, 03:06:08 PM »
Quote
If my Shetland pony looks like a high-horse it's only because Amis is trotting round the paddock on a chihuahua.

Super duper.

Backstage With Slowdive

  • Sonic cathedrals of Ben Elton
Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2007, 03:20:00 PM »
Amis is a washed-out ancient enfant terrible vainly trying for that elusive second wind as a voice of Serious Comment. Morris is probably terrified of ending up the same way.

Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2007, 05:12:02 PM »
Must try harder, Chris Morris.

A slipshod article. I wish he would have explained why he thinks Hitchens is 'obviously daft'. Morris: "They rail against muslims." On the contrary, the gin-soaked Hitch makes well-founded criticism of Islam's doctrines, but never suggests all allah's followers are 'one and the same, every last one, a detestable lamentable lot', so to say.

But I guess the simplistic right-on diktat decrees that Morris must promulgate understanding of the ethnic discrimination/employment inopportunity/state disinterest/cultural displacement reasons for bellicose waywardness amongst a limited number of muslims in the western countries, to the exclusion of cogent censure of aspects of their own minority customs and religion's failings. A pity he couldn't have concluded BOTH outlooks - that faults lie with the establishment (and the media looking to the worst in a minority grouping) AND with the religion itself (and not just some 'extreme' perversion thereof).


If Chris Morris had called Christopher Hitchens out on his rather dubious backing of Gulf War 2 (a distinct topic from the previous topic of secular/religious disharmony), I'd be rather more amenable to that (even if Morris' expounding on such weighty matters comes off as a rather light-headed). But alas, no.



(C.M.'s forthcoming martyr bombers project should be interesting to contrast with his piece of opinion writing here.)

Mob Bunkhaus

  • depressing & poisonous black cloud
Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2007, 05:20:44 PM »
Is "simplistic right-on diktat" this year's "political correctness gone mad"?

Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2007, 05:23:02 PM »
Do you think it'll catch on?

Shoulders?-Stomach!

  • Are we human? Or are we toilet
    • http://jackanderton.jamendo.net/
Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2007, 05:52:39 PM »
No, it sounds like a German fountain pen.

Ambient Sheep

  • I give up.
Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #13 on: November 26, 2007, 11:58:19 AM »
Did anyone grab the page before AltoCumulus' post was "Deleted by moderator"?  I wonder what it said, as I've seen some pretty strong stuff let through in the past.


EDIT: Ah, a later poster (LONDONE) has quoted at least some of it:

Quote from: Altocumulus
Or are you a scumbag middle-class multiculturalist who lives somewhere very white and has no idea how mass Muslim immigration into British cities has destroyed the lives of the white and black British working classes?

Must have been more than that though.  Partly because that's not terribly bannable, and partly because of the "Or are you...".
« Last Edit: November 26, 2007, 01:54:38 PM by Ambient Sheep »

Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #14 on: November 26, 2007, 12:26:03 PM »
Amis has never used buzzwords - the impetus of his writing career has been the "war against cliche", which often means coining new words/terms if the existing ones have been drained of meaning/effect by repetition.

This often means that he sounds ridiculous these days, but in his prime (see Money, London Fields, mid/late 80s), it makes for exciting, brilliantly satirical reading, which at times sounds very like what Chris Morris was doing with language a few years later.

Borboski

  • Ole ole ole ole!
    • http://www.last.fm/user/borboski/
Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #15 on: November 26, 2007, 09:02:34 PM »
Terrible article.

The most depressing thing about this Amis-racist? debacle is that the comments were made ages ago.  And yet every rent-a-gob is trying to get some copy in the Guardian, Observor or Independent.  They have nothing interesting to say...

I bet he doesn't like Hitchens because he doesn't feel as clever as him.  Probably persuaded by his arguments but feels guilty for it.

chand

  • "like Louise Mensch but with a sexy beard"
    • https://twitter.com/RopesToInfinity
Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #16 on: November 26, 2007, 09:39:30 PM »
Terrible article.

Yes, if only he could come up with as well-argued and evidence-back a point as:

Quote
I bet he doesn't like Hitchens because he doesn't feel as clever as him.  Probably persuaded by his arguments but feels guilty for it.

I heard he's got a small willy as well.

Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #17 on: November 28, 2007, 03:54:21 PM »
To me Morris' article is a relief.  Would you want him taking the stance of Amis?  Enfant terrible?  That applies more to Amis in this case than Morris.  Amis making one last splash now that his new teeth have yellowed.  At least what Morris is arguing for makes sense.  Also, the suicide bomber script.  I can't imagine how this will look as a movie (please that it is).  Is there any word on when that might begin production?

Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #18 on: November 28, 2007, 04:08:55 PM »
i thought this was surprisingly good, and i've never previously had much time for morris in print. i'm slightly looking forward to his terrorism project now, as his previous comments on it led me to expect a pretty dull, snide, suicide-bombers-just-want-to-get-laid kind of affair. but if he's going so far as to interview ex-mujahideen during his research, i guess he's engaging with the material pretty seriously.

Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #19 on: November 28, 2007, 04:14:28 PM »
He's supposedly even learning Arabic!!

Clint Hollow

  • in the shadowed canyon of buildings
Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #20 on: November 28, 2007, 04:19:24 PM »
Also, the suicide bomber script.  I can't imagine how this will look as a movie (please that it is). 

Are you saying that it's now going to be a film instead of a series?

Borboski

  • Ole ole ole ole!
    • http://www.last.fm/user/borboski/
Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #21 on: November 28, 2007, 04:26:22 PM »
To me Morris' article is a relief.  Would you want him taking the stance of Amis?  Enfant terrible?

It'd certainly be braver.

Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #22 on: November 28, 2007, 04:31:38 PM »
being brave doesn't make you right. (see: suicide bombers)

Borboski

  • Ole ole ole ole!
    • http://www.last.fm/user/borboski/
Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #23 on: November 28, 2007, 04:59:05 PM »
I'm just saying... I wonder what his suicide bomber thing will be like, but something which stared face-on into the "scream-boys" of Pakistan, something that baited the reactionaries, would be interesting.  I doubt it's going to be that at all... because I don't think on this basis Chris Morris knows a thing about reactionary Islam.

You know, on the one hand you have Theo Van Gogh, on the other hand you have Rory Bremner saying "mnnner isn't GWB stoooopid".

I didn't really like that Jesus the Opera thing by Stewart Lee, but at least it wasn't afraid to court controversy.  Chris Morris simply has nothing to add on this topic - his views aren't informed or intelligent enough to add to some months old quotes from Amis, who was then misquoted, nor is there much comic potential in the content of what Hitchens and Amis have to say (I suggest there probably is in the way they say it).

Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #24 on: November 28, 2007, 05:14:00 PM »
...on this basis Chris Morris knows a thing about reactionary Islam... his views aren't informed or intelligent enough to add to some months old quotes from Amis...

I think he's probably just as informed as you are - he just draws different conclusions.

Notlob

  • psycho, mama
Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #25 on: November 28, 2007, 10:01:25 PM »
He's supposedly even learning Arabic!!

Where'd you hear that, laddie?

Borboski

  • Ole ole ole ole!
    • http://www.last.fm/user/borboski/
Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #26 on: November 28, 2007, 11:55:17 PM »
I think he's probably just as informed as you are - he just draws different conclusions.

That's not my point - my point is I'm certain he's less well-informed than Hitchens and that his essay doesn't really argue anything, it's just a moan about "some people".  And there's reams of this shite in the Guardian, so many essays about something Amis said ages ago, via him being misquoted about four months ago.

And for someone who presumably takes a little bit of pride in his work having... what... a certain sharpness... Morris turns up to add his little wee tuppence to a pointless tiny media wibble - after the event!  Which for me is a disappointment.

Borboski

  • Ole ole ole ole!
    • http://www.last.fm/user/borboski/
Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #27 on: November 28, 2007, 11:59:38 PM »
To claim Martin Amis as the new Abu Hamza is frankly, so absurd, as to be beyond comment.  This man is totally silly.

It's the sound of a man frothing because he doesn't have any answers.

micanio

  • Fuck them all...
Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #28 on: November 29, 2007, 12:02:34 AM »
That's not my point - my point is I'm certain he's less well-informed than Hitchens and that his essay doesn't really argue anything, it's just a moan about "some people".  And there's reams of this shite in the Guardian, so many essays about something Amis said ages ago, via him being misquoted about four months ago.

And for someone who presumably takes a little bit of pride in his work having... what... a certain sharpness... Morris turns up to add his little wee tuppence to a pointless tiny media wibble - after the event!  Which for me is a disappointment.

According to a number of people in the comments, Amis wasn't misquoted or taken out of context. Can you post what he wrote originally and how he was misquoted? Not being funny, just would like to see is all.


Re: Chris Morrris article - The absurd world of Martin Amis
« Reply #29 on: November 29, 2007, 06:29:22 AM »
I'm certain he's less well-informed than Hitchens...

Not all of us rate Hitchens and his 'information' as highly as you do, of course. Again, I think it's not really a matter of who objectively knows more, just whom you choose to believe.