03 May 2011

Roger Cohen: a man who rarely misses an opportunity to miss a point

A person is rarely a master of his associative thinking. At least I am not in control of my own wild and willful one.

Why is that each time I see the picture of Roger Cohen, the venerable columnist of the New York Times, I am always thinking about this image*:

After some soul searching, I think that I may have traced an answer: just like the illustrious garden gnome, Roger Cohen pops up all over the globe. With one difference, though: unlike our gnome, Mr Cohen doesn't just observe the locals and quietly move to another location. He analyses the surrounding reality and doesn't hide his opinions and his predictions - both are published and distributed using one of the more formidable platforms of free and unfettered progressive journalism. The problem is that, again unlike the gnome (who is always choosing silence and has never been wrong yet), Mr Cohen is too frequently and too publicly missing the point.

Wherever there is turmoil, wherever the world waits for the outcome of the struggle, you can be assured that Mr Cohen will appear, report, rejoice, analyze and at the end come out with a succinct article (or five) that will glorify the strife, hail its progress and come to a totally wrong conclusion. Turkey (Islam is the youngest of the world's major religions. Its accommodation to modernity is a virulent [sic!] work in progress.)... Iran ("flawed but vibrant democracy")... Egypt ("Islamic parties can run thriving economies and democracies like Turkey’s" - brilliant, seeing the slow but sure descent of Turkey into Islamism and watching the almost assured ascension of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt)... these are only the relatively recent** examples of the man's willful blindness. The problem is that blindness, when it gets an exposure and support like Cohen's does, stops being his private business and becomes an ongoing deceit of the readers.

Recently Roger Cohen provided another proof of his consistent blindness in his missive titled The Goldstone Chronicles. In this one he doesn't hide his displeasure by Goldstone's timid attempt to recover some of his tarnished image by retreating from a libelous charge of deliberate/intentional killing of civilians during Cast Lead operation. Cohen's tone is amazing. Even knowing that his references to his own Jewish roots usually serve as a prelude to another anti-Israeli rant, his unhappiness with demise of this libel is mind boggling. For a single moment Cohen doesn't allow that Goldstone may have spoken the truth as he sees it. The following quote is a typical part of the whole:
In short there is a mystery here. Goldstone has moved but the evidence has not, really. That raises the issue of whether the jurist buckled under pressure so unrelenting it almost got him barred from his grandson’s bar mitzvah in South Africa. Is this more a matter of judicial cojones than coherence?
Of course, calling Golstone partial about-face "a mystery" is easier than to change one's mind. And Mr Cohen's mind on Israel was set a long time ago and quite firmly. Of course, there is no need to rehash the fact that there never was any evidence of intentional targeting of civilians to start with. Of course, it would be typical of Mr Cohen to state (ostensibly as a hypothesis, apparently under advise of NYT legal dept) that Goldstone buckled under pressure and to mention the famous bar mitzvah, only to add later "I don’t know. I asked Goldstone."

As for judicial cojones: I have to give it to Mr Cohen: his own cojones must be huge. A man that makes all the wrong points so tirelessly, so consistently, for so long and so publicly must carry the said cojones in a wheelbarrow, to be sure.

And, to finish this post: I intended to make up a fake title or a fake quote from a future imaginary article Mr Cohen will write on Bin Laden demise. No need, the real article with a real quote is thoughtfully provided:
Osama Bin Laden is dead — and so is an old Middle East. That they died together is fortuitous and apt. Bin Laden lived to propel history backward to the reestablishment of a Muslim caliphate. He died a marginal figure to the transformation fast-forwarding the Arab world toward pluralism and self-expression.
What can I say?


(*) The image is of a garden gnome, of course, from the superb French movie Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain (Amélie outside of France, I believe) with the delicious Audrey Tautou. If you haven't seen it yet, stop reading this post, for crying out loud, and go rent it!

(**) Many more by Soccer Dad here.

Cross-posted on Yourish.com


Pisa said...

At least he's not a deather:

I'n sitting now in a cafe on Lilienblum and the barternder just said, regarding OBL, that he doesn't believe anything because he doesn't believe whatever the americans say. Creepy. Well, this is Tel Aviv, things are supposed to get creepy here once in a while :)

As for associative thinking, Roger Cohen reminds me of the old trick of sticking a needle through a balloon without popping it. The balloon is, of course, mr Cohen's head, and the needle represents the naked, sad, and poignant reality, which mr Cohen manages to ignore so brilliantly.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

He he... yes, deathers are not completely unexpected. I am already enjoying the advent of deathers.

As for Mr. Cohen - yes, I've given a pledge several times to ignore him, but... well, he is irresistible ;)

Dick Stanley said...

Deathers? Brilliant. Ridiculing your detractors is always smart policy. Nothing to see here, folks, unless, of course, you're retarded.

Dick Stanley said...

Almost smart bartender. Rather than totally dismissive, he should be skeptical.

Rebecca said...

Dick Stanley - why be skeptical? Do you think the US could get away with faking bin Laden's death? It appears that the White House is considering releasing the photo of bin Laden's dead body, to stop the further development of ridiculous rumors that bin Laden wasn't actually killed.

David said...


Thank you. I am humbled.

This is brilliant:
"A man that makes all the wrong points so tirelessly, so consistently, for so long and so publicly must carry the said cojones in a wheelbarrow, to be sure."

Dick Stanley said...

How do you know the rumors are ridiculous? How do you know they didn't screw up and kill the wrong guy? Do you always accept the government's word? Or only when you like the messager and the message?

SnoopyTheGoon said...

THanks, David, while I have some reservations about that brilliance thing, it's nice to hear a good word ;)