Tuesday, December 15, 2015


"Every man should aspire to having the courage to betray his party. Especially every opinion journalist", says Alex Massie, in response to complaints that the press aren't giving Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition a fair hearing.

It's a reasonable point and one that I happen to agree with.  Alex is certainly well-placed to make it, since he criticises the Tories at least as often as he does anyone else and he actually voted Labour last time out, because the SNP were going to win the seat.

Nonetheless, let's note that if having a go at Corbyn and McDonnell isn't just a day at the office and is actually courageous then truly, we live in an age of titans.  If scribbling snippy comments about the great colossus that is Stop The War is brave, then what lionhearted heroes walk unsuspected in our midst, their gallant deeds unrecognised by lesser men?

If you know any war veterans, you might now like to reconsider their supposed valour.  After all, as Alex notes, even leftish types who work for the Spectator are willing to ride forth to lance the Labour leadership through its fat black heart.

Compared with such daring, the mere act of e.g. charging a machine gun nest smacks of cowardice.

Snark aside though, this is yet another outing for a definition of "courage" that you'll only ever see deployed in reference to pundits.  You may recognise it from such great hits as

"Why, I thought it was very brave of Hitchens to appear on American television to say that President Bush is totally right about the war" or  

"Well, I think Melanie is quite courageous to say the things that she does in her Times column".

It's an odd kind of courage that essentially amounts to a willingness to offend your mates, especially when deliberately offending your mates in the correct way appears to be considerably more lucrative* than it would be to e.g. say things that might actually cost you your regular gig**.

Anyway, the main point of Alex's piece appears to be that all is fair in love and war, and that if Labour members didn't want to be faced with a hundred-foot-tall solid wall of wild-eyed hacks, rending their garments and screeching in fake terror every time their party's leader opens his mouth, then they probably shouldn't have elected the chair of Stop The War.  And it's a fair point, cogently made.

Nonetheless, I do have to point out that the Get-Corbyn campaign has been just a tad over-the-top; that none of the participants are risking so much as a terse finger-wagging from their editors, and that e.g. Boris Johnson's political career would be unlikely to survive similar treatment, at even a tenth of the intensity.

Hell, if any current cabinet member had to put up with a couple of months of the graphic daily molestation that was repeatedly pummelled into Nick Clegg, they'd be begging to be allowed to resign.

Anyway, I guess that the point I'm making here is that punditry is a job, and that pretty much everyone in the business spends their days shovelling coal for Satan just as furiously as you or I have to.

Some of them are sharper than others and some get more leeway but ultimately, it's a business.  And in this business, there's currently a lot more money to be made by screaming in horror at the opposition benches than there is in taking potshots at the Tories.

It isn't like political punditry can't be done honourably but for real, let's not kid ourselves that anyone is throwing themselves under an oncoming train here.

*I know the hacks hate it when people refer to the fact that they get paid to write articles, but there it is.  They do.  Really, there's no getting away from it. 

**The only pundit I can think of who's done this recently - Peter Oborne, who very publicly told his bosses at the Telegraph where to stick it, and rightly so.  And let's face it, most of the other pundits don't much like the guy. 

1 comment:

Luther Blissett said...

For reasons of sanity, I get my news filtered through people like you, Mr Rodent, so I think it's hilarious that pundits are apparently offended if you point out that they have their outrageous politically incorrect opinions at a regular time for money.

I would have thought that their weekly vigils for solidarity in the fresh air outside the Honduran or Turkish Embassies would have been doing them some good, but they seem a little stir crazy from the reports I read.

Still, I have a field report of some courageous journalism for us all to look at and admire, so don your pith helmet and follow me http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/apr/29/iain-duncan-smith-welfare.


I would have though working in a job where your boss regularly calls you a cunt in public would build up some resistance to the odd random stranger calling you one too, or even just disagreeing with you, but what do I know.

Anyway, I usually lurk around, but wanted to say thanks for the snark, and I hope you too, for Christmas get a special chair to stand on, while you gather your skirts up, or maybe if you've been extra good, a deluxe fainting couch.