Saturday, 5 August 2017

Defending the Indefensible


















If you are a mainstream journalist with a mainstream gig, racism can kill your career. Or, to be a stickler for accuracy, certain kinds of racism. You carve a living out of attacking Muslims and you're probably okay. You have to limit your racism to matters of culture to prosper because showing your discomfiture with non-white skin tones, or trading in crude racial stereotypes is beyond the horizon of racist plausible deniability. I mention this because the case of Kevin Myers, formerly of the Sunday Times, did cross that line. And he, at least for the purpose of knocking out a post, interests me. Not just because the paper went ahead and printed his anti-semitic outburst unedited (the British edition redacted the racism but kept the 1970s sexism), not just because they happily employed Myers for years, despite holocaust denial, writing hateful rubbish about single mums and saying Africa's only contribution to the world is AIDS. No, what amazes me is how some people are prepared to defend him.

Ben Lowry of The Newsletter has gone in to bat for Myers, arguing his dismissal amounts to a "silencing". This silencing involves a BBC interview and mates like Ben talking up his virtues. Whatever. Ben thinks Myers is a fine columnist and denies his denial of the holocaust, spinning his quibbling over the number of dead can ever be "a well written exposition of the danger in turning historical events into political dogma”. Getting the big one out the way, he has no trouble soft soaping Myers' comments about Jewish BBC presenters as a complement, of "admiring their chutzpah".

In truth, I'm not that familiar with Myers oeuvre but when five minutes with a search engine shows up the right wing fare found in the pages of the Daily Mail and elsewhere. This bilge, a ceaseless barrage of punching downwards and playing up to prejudice is treated here as a blunt, barrelling style that carries all before it. His pieces "fizz with brilliance", and "on occasion his whole thread became hard to follow, but that is often the way with great minds." Please. Therefore we should therefore be patient with Myers and understand his view the world through the prism of Ireland, which is the weirdest euphemism I've encountered for prejudice thus far. We should give Myers another chance because he was an early critic of Islamists, attacked the naivete of anti-war protesters, polemicised against the "left’s thuggish crusade against water charges", and has a go at the "feminazis". Do remember, this is supposed to be a defence of a "great mind". If none of these are to your political tastes, he did at least campaign for the recognition of Irish Catholic volunteers from the Republic in the war against Hitler. That's okay then, one moment of decency versus a filing cabinet jammed with bad faith and ignorant ravings makes everything alright.

Ben finishes by hoping Myers sets up a blog or writes a book. He's welcome to try, but in a crowded market where right wingers have prominence because of their sinecures in the press, what room for another Rod Liddle, Melanie Phillips, or Douglas Murray? Any rant about the left or the feminists or the Muslims sounds much like another. And so, with a bit of luck, Myers will disappear down the swanny.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for our Ben. You see, contrarian bigotry doesn't just happen. It is sought after and cultivated. An editorial team has to sit there and think "yes, we want someone writing hit pieces on the most vulnerable and powerless". For Ben however, this is less a cynical exercise in snagging market share. He typifies a layer of senior journalism who doesn't see anything wrong in this kind of politics, let alone giving it a mass audience. The soft soaping is so desperate, his admiration for Myers so embarrassing it borders on fellatio. The problem then isn't so much the superstar pinheads who make a living from treading on others, but the people that enable them. Words set down by a poison pen are not the responsibility of the author alone. Ben reminds us that editorial offices have a great deal to answer for too.

4 comments:

Mathias Alexander said...

How much is he being paid?
Is the reported figure for his pay accurate?
How many people read the paper he writes in?
Are the reported readership figures accurate?

Mark Livingston said...

"... it borders on fellatio." Steady on, old chap.

Anonymous said...


", what amazes me is how some people are prepared to defend him."

I'm quite willing to stand up for him... he has every right to behave like the total dipshit he is...Just as the rest of us have every right to put him in the stocks for a week or so and pelt the slimy so and so with rotten fruit, veg, with maybe some eggs well past their use by date.

Ed said...

'One of the best columnists in the British Isles' tells you most of what you need to know about why the Newsletter would rush to defend Myers. He forms part of a coterie of Irish media pundits who spend all their time railing against the sins of Irish nationalism and will never be short of admirers among unionists and British conservatives as a result. Ruth Dudley Edwards, who came out to bat for him as well, is another one. They spent most of the 90s telling us all that the peace process was an IRA conspiracy, everyone had been duped by the Provos and it was only a matter of time before they started their war again. Completely, crushingly wrong about every detail and every nuance of Northern Irish politics for the last 25 years (if not longer), but never short of a platform in Dublin, Belfast or London.

And the 'as seen from Ireland' line is the greatest load of tripe: for as long as I can remember, people of every class, race and gender in Ireland have been calling him out as a bigoted fool. It caught fire this time because his article was for a British-based newspaper and got picked up on social media in Britain; that's the only reason he made a half-assed apology. Myers used this line himself, claiming that as an Irish person he was naturally less sensitive to anti-semitism (he was born in Leicester BTW). What a chancer.