Nick Cohen (born 1961) is an English journalist, author and political commentator. He is a columnist for The Observer, a blogger for The Spectator and TV critic for Standpoint magazine. He has written for the London Evening Standard and the New Statesman.
Born in Stockport and raised in Manchester, Cohen studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University before entering journalism. Cohen has written five books: Cruel Britannia: Reports on the Sinister and the Preposterous (1999), a collection of his journalism; Pretty Straight Guys (2003), a highly critical account of the New Labour project; What's Left? (2007), which he describes as the story of how the liberal left of the 20th century came to support the far-right of the 21st; and Waiting for the Etonians: Reports from the Sickbed of Liberal England (2009). His most recent book, You Can't Read this Book, was published by HarperCollins in 2012 and deals with censorship. The Orwell Prize for political writing shortlisted What's Left? in 2008.
Born in Stockport, but raised in Manchester, Cohen was educated at Altrincham Grammar School for Boys and Hertford College, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). He began his career at the Sutton Coldfield News, before moving to The Birmingham Post, later becoming a well-known journalist writing for The Observer and The Independent.
He was an advocate of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and a critic of the Stop the War Coalition. In 2006, he was a leading signatory to the Euston Manifesto, which proposed "a new political alignment", in which the left opposes terrorism and anti-Americanism. An opponent of what he has termed the "tyrannophile left", Cohen has criticised individuals such as Andrew Murray and George Galloway, while expressing his admiration for the opposition movements in countries such as Belarus. Cohen is an atheist. In August 2014, Cohen was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.
What's Left?: How the Left Lost Its Way
In his controversial 2007 book What's Left?: How the Left Lost Its Way, Cohen argues many leftists are blinded by instinctive anti-Americanism, with their opposition to imperialism leading them to defend brutal dictatorships and terrorist movements. He focuses on several foreign policy issues: the Bosnian genocide in the 1990s, the Iraq War in 2003, and the broader war on terror, including Israel's conflicts with Hamas and Hezbollah, to argue that many socialists and liberals have misplaced priorities, condemning American and Israeli policies but ignoring the crimes of autocratic regimes.
In Chapter 1, "an Iraqi Solzhenitsyn", Cohen discusses his friendship with exiled Iraqi dissidents in the 1980s, including trade unionists and Kurdish human rights activists, as well as architect and writer Kanan Makiya. He then argues that the British left, in adopting an anti-war position in 2003, effectively betrayed these dissidents by opposing the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Criticizing the massive anti-war rallies in the weeks before the invasion, he writes: "On February 15, 2003 a million liberal-minded people marched … to protest the overthrow of a fascist regime."
Chapters 4 and 5, "Academic scribblers and a defunct economist" and "Boys on the edge of the gang" discuss the Left's reaction to Serbian atrocities against Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s. He details how scholars like Noam Chomsky, along with the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), allegedly denied the existence of concentration camps and the Srebrenica massacre. He also discusses the Living Marxism trial, in which survivors of Trnopolje concentration camp testified against Living Marxism magazine, which had published an article claiming photographs of the camp were fabricated. The far left's alleged defence of Milosevic, Cohen writes, was not a product of Islamophobia but of instinctive anti-Americanism; once the US bombed Serb forces in 1995, the far left set out to claim the intervention had been unjustified: "The ignoble and inevitable terminus of the reasoning of Chomsky and his comrades was denial. It had to be. The Yugoslav equivalents of the gas chambers of Auschwitz were Srebrenica and the pictures of wild-eyed starving men at Trnopolje. Both had to be denied if the project of blackening the belated intervention in the Balkans was to stand a chance of succeeding.". Chapter 9, "Kill us, we deserve it", criticises how many leftists reacted to 9/11, arguing the atrocity was motivated by anger at American foreign policy, rather than by the violent ideology of al Qaeda. By dismissing the attacks as a response to American misdeeds, Cohen argues that leftists failed to acknowledge the threat of al Qaeda's own hateful narrative.
- "Nick Cohen". presseurop.eu. Retrieved 13 January 2013.
- Cruel Britannia: Reports on the Sinister and the Preposterous – Nick Cohen – Google Books. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
- Pretty Straight Guys. books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
- What's Left?: How the Left Lost Its Way. books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
- "Biography", nickcohen.net.
- Cohen, Nick. "Waiting for the Etonians: Reports from the Sickbed of Liberal England by Nick Cohen". Harpercollins.com.au. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
- "You Can't Read This Book : Nick Cohen". HarperCollins. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
- "Shortlist 2008", The Orwell Prize
- Nick Cohen Waiting for the Etonians, p. 23
- Personal View (14 January 2003). "The Left betrays the Iraqi people by opposing war". Telegraph. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
- Nick Cohen (16 February 2003). "Nick Cohen: The Left isn't listening". Guardian. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
- Nick Cohen "Strange bedfellows", New Statesman, 7 April 2003
- "The Euston Manifesto". eustonmanifesto.org. 11 September 2001. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
- Nick Cohen "The Pope's unholy alliance with the dictator", The Observer, 16 January 2011
- Nick Cohen "Following Mosley's East End footsteps", The Observer, 17 April 2005
- Nick Cohen "Hatred is turning me into a Jew", The Jewish Chronicle, 12 February 2009
- "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories | Politics". theguardian.com. 2014-08-07. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
- What's Left?: How the Left Lost Its Way. Harper Perennial. 2007. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
- 'Law without Order', New Statesman 2004, 'Waiting for the Etonians' p.99
- Cohen, Nick (2000). Cruel Britannia: Reports on the Sinister and the Preposterous. Verso Books. ISBN 1-85984-288-7
- Cohen, Nick (2003). Pretty Straight Guys. paperback edition: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-22004-5
- Cohen, Nick (2007). What's Left?: How Liberals Lost Their Way. Fourth Estate. ISBN 0-00-722969-0
- Cohen, Nick (2009). Waiting for the Etonians: Reports from the Sickbed of Liberal England. Fourth Estate. ISBN 0-00-730892-2
- Cohen, Nick (2012). You Can't Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom. Fourth Estate. ISBN 978-0007308903
- Nick Cohen's website
- Shire Network News podcast interview Nick Cohen is interviewed by Tom Paine 3 July 2007