Archive for ‘Standpoint’

April 2, 2015

The future of news: Death by clickbait


From Standpoint April 2015


If you want to see the future of online news and entertainment, look at the Mail and see a future neither the Mail nor its enemies want.

If Labour is not in power after the general election, you will hear many leftists blaming the Mail for their defeat. For more than a century, they say, it has pumped out thuggish attacks against every prominent liberal and leftist, and injected its particular venom—a paranoid poison—into wider debate. To its conservative readers, by contrast, the Mail is their shield against a world that would ignore their wishes, take their money and laugh at their convictions.

But it won’t be either a thug or a shield for much longer.

March 28, 2015

Political correctness devours its own children

Women Against Pornography

From Standpoint Magazine April 2015

FOR YEARS a few of us have warned that modern “liberals” would live to regret abandoning the principle that you should only censor speech when it incited violence. We would enjoy our vindication if the unravelling of progressive assumptions was not so extraordinarily menacing.

Political correctness is eating itself. It is abandoning its children, and declaring them illegitimate. It is shouting down activists who once subscribed to its doctrines and turning its guns on its own. Women are suffering the most, as they always do. “Radical feminist” is now an insult on many campuses. Fall into that pariah category, and your opponents will ban you if they can and scream you down if they cannot.

It is tempting to say “serves you right” or “I told you so” to the feminists on the receiving end of the new intolerance. But you will not understand how Western societies have become so tongue-tied and hypocritical unless you understand the human desires behind the feminists’ original urge to suppress, which now lie behind their enemies’ desire to suppress them.

March 16, 2015

Liberals who won’t face radical Islam must now face the consequences

Day Two - UKIP Holds Its Annual Party ConferenceStandpoint January 2015

The state intervenes when the principles of a liberal society collapse. Usually it blunders in. Invariably it destroys basic freedoms. No one except the most blinkered supporters of authoritarian government can predict with confidence that its “crackdowns” and “emergency measures” will make our lives better or safer. But there you are. When supposedly good and responsible people fail to police themselves, the government will summon the real police to do the job for them.

For years, a dizzying gulf has stretched between the principles most good and responsible liberals say they hold — beliefs in reasoned argument, democracy, and equal rights for women, gays and people of all colours and creeds — and their practical failure to oppose radical Islam. A few of us tried to persuade them to mean what they say and behave accordingly. Some of us have stayed on the Left. Others have given up on what looks an irredeemably compromised movement and attacked liberal-left orthodoxy from the right. I will not pretend that any of us have had a great deal of success.

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light,” said Max Planck, “but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

I thought that liberal values would only creep forward at the Planckian pace of “one funeral at a time”, and we would have to wait for the current generation of liberal-leftists to die out before we saw progress. I forgot that outsiders can impose changes insiders refuse to contemplate.

March 16, 2015

Russell Brand: Still an idiot



Standpoint December 2014

“Are you turning into neo-conservatives?” a friend asked after I and other leftish critics had hammered Russell Brand’s new book, Revolution. With evident relish, he went on, you have laid into a celebrity who for all his garrulous follies is against plutocrats, media corporations and the degradation of the environment. You say you are left-wing, but like the original neo-cons or the type of “leftist” Rupert Murdoch is so fond of employing, you only ever offer comfort to the Right.

He asked a fair question to which the simple answer is that a bad book is a bad book whatever the politics of its author, and the honest reviewer must say so. Revolution (Century, £20) is an exceptionally bad book, one of the worst I have ever read. I doubt anyone who is not paid to review it can reach the end without skimming large sections, and many will throw it away. Brand is a raging narcissist, who treated as brilliant whatever thoughts entered his cloudy mind while he underwent a recovery programme from drink and drug addiction. His egomania is such he thinks he can transform the world because he transformed himself when he kicked heroin.

March 16, 2015

Revolt of the TV Eunuchs

Channel 4 NewsStandpoint September 2014

Critics,” said Brendan Behan, “are like eunuchs in a harem: they know how it’s done, they’ve seen it done every day, but they’re unable to do it themselves.” The same applies to broadcasters.
Imagine how they feel as they watch their interviewees. Their working lives have trained them to purr out a soundbite and spit out a putdown better than their guests can ever do. They are the finest players of the TV news game, but like a referee at a football match, they must remain neutral. Why? The viewers know a Jon Snow, Andrew Marr or John Simpson better than they know nearly all of their guests. Yet while the politicians and pressure groups can prattle at will, presenters must bite their tongues. Dusty regulations from the 20th century stop them using “the advantage of regular appearances to promote their [own] views”.
Perhaps the newsroom celebrities wonder how their obituaries will read. “He did his job so well no one knew what he thought,” people will say — not much of an epitaph in an age when self-expression is the highest virtue.

March 16, 2015

Pride: Turning pit closures into showstoppers

Pride film still


From Standpoint October 2104


A scene in Pride sent me back 30 years. A gay activist, Mark Ashton (played with intense conviction by Ben Schnetzer), decides to set up “Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners” from a Bloomsbury bookshop. “Who hates the miners?” he asks. “Thatcher, the police and the tabloid press — does that sound familiar?”

Hardly anyone supports him. A working-class gay from Durham wonders if those would be the same miners who beat him up every day for being queer. Ashton goes on to the streets, nevertheless, and shakes a bucket for donations. Passers-by insult him. He does not answer back in kind but shouts “Merry Christmas.”

I stood collecting on the streets for the miners in the winter of 1984, not on the streets of Bloomsbury but of Altrincham, which as one of the most conservative towns in the north of England, was not, on reflection, the best venue for a fraternal whip-round. To be fair, most shoppers politely ignored me or gave despairing looks. But a few turned nasty

July 3, 2014

Propaganda shouldn’t pay

As with Nye Bevan and Conservatives so with me and PR departments: “No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for press officers. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.” Or as the BBC’s economics editor Robert Peston put it in his recent Charles Wheeler lecture, “I have never been in any doubt that PRs are the enemy.”

Let me explain how they are the nearest thing to prostitutes you can find in public life.

Carry on reading

June 2, 2014

When journalism dies


For here is what no one understood: the web would indeed set people free. It would empower the masses and tear down hierarchies. But once the web had destroyed the old funding model for journalism, no one would take the place of the reporters who trudged along to crime scenes, meetings and court cases. It turned out that unless a news organisation trained people to do it, paid them to do it and ordered them to do it, no one would want to do a difficult and at times boring job for nothing.

Read the whole thing

December 20, 2013

How Hacked Off threatens the BBC

old man for all seasons 14838

The idea of freedom of speech is in a dangerously enfeebled condition in Britain. Hardly anyone understands why no editor has agreed to comply with the state’s attempt to regulate the press — a measure which takes us back, if not to the court of Henry VIII, then at least to the Stuarts and Presbyterians John Milton fought. “But the BBC is regulated,” people lecture me in a voice of irritated incomprehension. “It is not in the government pocket, or a propagandistic state broadcaster. On the contrary, it is impartial and far less propagandistic than half the newspapers and websites you are perversely seeking to defend.”

I try to tell them that the BBC keeps its independence because a forest of free institutions surrounds it. Allow the state to fell the trees and a cold wind will blow through the corporation. No one should doubt that the state is now sharpening its axe and running its finger along the blade. The celebrities and media studies academics at Hacked Off have pushed the politicians into illiberalism — not, I should add, that our leaders required much of a shove.

Read the whole thing

December 11, 2013

Britain’s culture war extremists are a threat to freedom

daily hate
The new web journalism allows you to discover what readers want by seeing how many hits an article attracts — and I wish it didn’t. I now know that if I want to impress my editor at the Observer — and what journalist does not want to impress his or her editor? — the easiest way to make my piece the most-read article on the Guardian and Observer’s comment site is to launch an attack on the Tory press in general and the Daily Mail in particular. The more vitriolic I am, the more filled with hate my prose becomes, the more, in short, that I write like the very tabloid journalists I am condemning, the more the readers will like it.

To make sure my piece is a success, I will imply or state outright that the Mail brainwashes its readers, reinforcing their sexism, racism, homophobia and contempt for the poor. When you assign that level of malevolent power to a newspaper the only logical conclusion is that it should be censored or banned. For how can you fight prejudice while allowing the propaganda that creates it to continue unchecked?

Equally if I were a columnist on the Mail or the Telegraph, I would tear into the BBC. I would say that it was a nest of moneyed hypocrites, whose managers spouted leftist opinions, while pocketing the taxes of hard-working licence-fee payers. The phrases “Hampstead liberal”, “fashionable views”, “poll tax licence fee”, “dumbed-down” and, above all, “bias” would dot my piece like parmesan shavings on pasta. ..

Carry on reading


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 37,968 other followers