Guido and Iain versus the world...
So I've just been reading the "Blogwars" stuff.
I suppose that being paid attention to is what appeals about blogging for most of us. Personally, I like typing away, putting ideas down in writing and having the freedom to think things through.
I've no great illusions of power, or of writing talent or so forth, but I do like it when people read what I have to say, or make compliments, or correct mistakes. I'd like to be really important in the world of commentary and opinion, but I'm not going to make any effort to make people pay attention to me. if I build it, they'll come, if it's not shit.
One thing I've noticed is that the authors of the massive political blogs that have sprung up recently are determined to use their blogs to make their names as media titans. (With the noticeable exception of Mike Smithson, though I'd rather have him and Andrea as pundits than most I can think of)
In Iain and Guido's blogs in particular there's a desperation to impose themselves on the world, to be paid attention to particularly, that is rather.. pathetic. Look at me, they constantly cry. See how I make the mighty media quail. See my own TV station. See my powers to set the news agenda. "Look on my blog, ye Polly, and despair", they cry from their two vast blogs.
Nothing wrong with that, just in the end it makes you a bit monotonous, (My blog on the other hand, is witty, intelligent and not at all longwinded and self absorbed. or badly punctuated). It's that fundamental dullness, which is my real stylistic compliant about Guido and Iain.
Iain's blog seems mostly to be about the greatness of Iain Dale and how exciting his latest book.TV.article.audience stats are, and Guido's targets are so boringly predictable (Labour MPs, people who are close to Labour MPs. Journalists who don't love Guido or know who he is) that it's not worth paying much attention to.
So I don't.
It's like Matt Drudge, during the Clinton scandal, I read matt Drudge every day. Now? I've got other sources of news I prefer. The same will happen here, eventually.
By 2009, I suspect Guido et al will seem so passe, darling. So I'm not going to get too excited by them. I'm glad others are helping with the process of making them passe, however.
Oh, and just to mention it...
If person A wrote a letter to a fascist organisation talking about shared direct action and then later decided to become a rumourmonger and gossip maven, that person would have to be a brain dead idiot not to realise threatening legal action against anyone who linked to those allegations would kill their credibility as a fun loving gossip king stone dead and put them in firmly in the "why did anyone ever listen to that dickhead" category. It might even make them passe.
The spirit of contrariness...
While expressing disbelief over the Nuclear decision made by a judge today (since when is it the role of judges to pontificate over what kind of consultation is good enough?) I expressed my long held belief that the problem with the British democracy was its ridiculous belief in the neutrality and good judgement of a band of mostly privately educated, self serving Judges, Civil Servants and so on, a belief that involves never questioning the competence or wisdom of a band of unelected, unaccountable besuited generalists whose aims in life involve knighthoods, chauffeur driven cars and total independence from any form of punishment for errors.
These undemocratic institutions have been the mainstay of Britain's century of decline yet remain entirely untouched or reformed. Power without responsibilty indeed. "These people have been holding Britain back for a century"
"We laugh at the French elite Ecoles for producing an out of touch governing class, and then we grovel at the feet of our own self selected masters"
I ranted. "Oh for the honest rapaciousness and democratic instincts of America where civil servants are chosen politically and judges are elected or appointed in a nakedly partisan process. No more of this hypocrisy of neutrality, this sham independence, this fake studious disinterest. Accountability for the men in wigs and bowlers. Let Labour appoint Labour, let Tory appoint Tory, and let us have an end to the cherished lie of non-partisan loftiness!""Oh, you're just being contrary"
said a friend, and indeed I was.
So today, I celebrate my contrariness. Here are some unpopular and unfashionable things I love, and you probably don't. You should though, you lemming-like fools.1. Country Music.
The real blue eyed soul. I'm talking about proper country as well as alt.country too, I'm no "it all started with Gram follower of last years fashion". No, whatever country is about it's songs about love and loss and longing and not feeling right by people who mean it. From Hank Williams to Todd Snider, Bob Wills to Lucinda Williams, the Carter family to the Dixie chick, Country music is music that makes life better. OK, I don't like Garth Brooks or line dancing much, but You think liking the Beatles means you have to like Huey Lewis and the News or Disco? Course not, idiot. If you don't like country you're a fool and a numbskull. 2. Having dinner with a smoker
So it kills you, eventually. Right. fair enough. but look at the benefits, you get to have dinner with someone who looks like this, which is worth putting up with any amount of glares from neighbouring diners.
Ah, well. I'll just have to live without this minor pleasure.
(Picture sourced from the disturbingly comprehensive "Female smoking celebrities" website. Despite my support for public smoking, this site felt very wrong indeed.)3. Violent computer games.
I think I've killed several thousand aliens, zombies, and just ordinary humans in my time. At the moment I'm playing the infamous "Bully" (which is actually about not being a bully, boo).
I love to kill, shoot and chainsaw helpless people. Funnily enough, this makes me no more violent than playing pacman or tetris, in fact less so, because I'm crap and tetris and those close to me might be hit by a flying gameboy.
To close this chapter of Cantrary passions, I will say that Violent computer games are today's "Louie Louie"
, a phenomenom where the people get excited for no good reason and assign blame in all the wrong places as the aforemention Todd Snider tells us in the fantastic "Ballad of the Kingsmen
":"The Kingsmen came together in a garage,
They could hardly even play
But they practiced night and day pretty soon
They got to where they could really play that song Louie, Louie
So they saved up all the money from the shows
Went in to one of them studios and gave their version of the song a try
Now, I don't know the words to that song Louie, Louie
And I'm pretty sure the singer for the Kingsmen didn't know them either,
If he did know them he didn't get them right on the record
Cause on the record they sound jumbled in his jaw
It says, "Me think of me girl oh so constantly
Ahmayaaah makaaaah aahh ooohoooh aaaaah"
Well, that last part scared everybody from the PTA to the FBI
You see, the kids had been going kinda crazy lately
And it seemed like nobody could figure out why
So they decided to form a coalition,
Launch an investigation, you know for the children, they at least had to try
To figure out the words to Louie, Louie"
I'm just watching News 24, and seeing the astonishingly generous, human, forgiving and wise interview that the parents of Ruth Okechukwu, Ben and Pauline are giving.
To bear such horrific and pointless loss with such dignity and with such compassion requires almost unimanginable humanity and decency.
It’s the privilege, stupid.
First things first. Full disclosure. I’ve smoked dope. I would have been tempted to try acid, but no-one ever offered me any. Friends have offered me coke, but the drug made them so annoying I really didn’t want to join them in talking that much crap.
So I’m not that bothered whether David Cameron smoked dope or not. It seems to me that the worst thing for the Tories about this scandal is the repeated emphasis on David Cameron’s ultra-privileged lifestyle.
One of Team Cameron’s best tricks has been to present the Eton educated millionaire son of a millionaire as just a regular guy. Call it the Prince William effect. If attention focuses on Cameron at Eton, Cameron at Oxford, Cameron at CCO, he might seem more gilded youth than average joe. If I were a Cameron adviser I wouldn’t be bothered by drugs, I’d be worried about the Bullingdon.
Secondly, this coverage of Cameron made me realise how much I personally dislike him. His plump, shiny self satisfaction annoys. His accent grates with its posh smarmy smoothness. I know I’m chippy (a word the privileged use about the unwashed), but I really believe my gut reaction highlights a significant issue for Cameron.
In the Westminster, Whitehall and media world we’re all so used to dealing with self assured, privately educated graduates who’ve gone straight into a high flying career we forget how alien that experience is to almost everyone in the country. A plethora of Rees Moggs? Normal. Talking about your days at Marlborough? Totally expected. School at Westminster, then Oxford, the FT, then straight to parliament, and the back of a ministerial limo at 30? Part of everyday life.
Only in politics. OK, so elittes are well, elite. It's annoying, but it's to be expected. I'm not complaining (too much) about that.
No, my point is that the most successful political leaders can be as privileged as their elites compatriots, but they also have an instinctive understanding of the gap between the values and expectations of those wrapped up in high politics and those of everyday life and that understanding it shows in their policies.
Another way of putting this is that we need to recognise that the judgements of the media and political elites are not politically neutral. The things that are approved of by this small, privileged group reflect a whole set of shared assumptions about the world which are not always shared by the voters. The best politicians are able to break through these assumption and spot political opportunites the general politicall culture doesn't see.
One of Margaret Thatcher’s enduring political strengths (Which Labour entirely failed to understand) was the sense of striving, of an emphasis on hard work, on trying to make it, on respectability. This emphasis was clear in her battles to put home owning, share ownership and the end of the Trade Union dominance at the heart of the political agenda. These were battles she thought as much within the Conservative party as outside it.
Tony Blair, though almost as personally privileged as Cameron, added to this middle class sensibility with a public moral code of religion, respect, education and discipline, most visible in the Respect agenda, ASBO’s and on specialist schools. Again, a battle fought as much within the Labour party as outside it.
By contrast it’s instructive that David Cameron’s successes have been based on assuaging the sensibilities of the educated elites (The environment. Food miles. Chocolate oranges and revealing teenage clothes) while his political mis-steps have come when trying to engage with the sensibility of the aspiring middle and working classes. Hug-a-hoodie, Drugs legalisation.
The problem for Cameron isn’t that he was a teenage pot smoker, it’s that his political agenda is based on addressing the concerns of the privileged few who recently found conservatism unacceptable, not the aspiring many who found New Labour attractive.