Tuesday 28 May 2013

Rod Liddle and the Economics of the Commentariat

Apologies for the gratuitous Liddle shot. His latest piece in The Spectator is mercifully brief, although its short paragraphs condense the "iconoclastic" racism and anti-Islam bile we've come to expect. It's pointless trying to take down the piece through reasoned argument because Rod is now well and truly hitched himself to the bandwagon of professional controversialists. So let's take a scalpel - a figurative one, sadly - to Liddle and the company of metropolitan misanthropes he keeps.

Rod, alongside his contemporaries Dan Hodges, Mel Phillips, and Brendan O'Neill all hail from some fuzzy left background and have assiduously carved niches for themselves in the paid-for commentariat. Mel, who is probably the most honest of the lot because she really believes the bile spilling from the end of her pen, is the hard right's equivalent of the Socialist Worker reading, dangly-earringed brown cardigan brigade. But with fewer social skills and a severe reason deficiency.

Brendan is a hack of the very worst sort. No opinion is too extreme, no position is too absurd. It would be controversy for controversy's sake if cash and media exposure didn't follow. Unfortunately for "Brother" O'Neill, as a "cadre" of the Organisation-Formerly-Known-as-the-Revolutionary-Communist-Party the cynical game he's playing can be seen a mile off.  Even the dogs in the street know that he's not to be taken seriously, and it would be better for all concerned if he was ignored for the political pipsqueak he is.

And lastly, there is Danny Boy, the self-styled Blairite scion of the Labour establishment. A man so blinkered by his animus to Ed Miliband that he can barely disguise the mancrush he has on David Cameron nor his not-so-secret desire for a Tory victory in 2015. If I was a jaded sort, I might think his writing "about Labour with tribal loyalty" is so much Telegraph spin to boost the "authenticity" of his voice.

While a pretty poisonous clutch of miserablists all told, I wouldn't consider them racist. Dan and Brendan, definitely not. Mel, well, she has written plenty of things that could certainly be construed that way but as awful as they are, but she just about stays on the right side of the line. But Rodders is a different kettle of fish. There are only so many situations available for former liberals and lefties as they migrate to the lucrative uphills of remunerated bigotry. And though Rod has been on his journey for a while, he's taken his own sweet time. I blame his penchant for footy forums. But the market for anti-Islam rants is a crowded one, so how to stand out among the swivel-eyed and hard-of-thinking? Well, why not dance pack and forth across the line. And so, of last week's appalling murder in Woolwich, he writes "two black savages hacked a man to death while shouting Allahu Akbar; that’s really all you need to know, isn’t it?"

"Black savages". What a classy fella. He has, of course, "apologised". But forgive me if I don't think it's all that sincere.

Rodders is not a stupid man. He knows exactly what he's doing because he's getting paid for it. Unfortunately, while a period of silence on his part would be very welcome it isn't going to happen. The political economy of the opinion-forming industry creates and revolves around figures that generate interest and outrage. It is this that drives traffic, sales and advertising revenue. Rod is a "somebody" in this world. He has profile, and it more than pays the bills. But because the rewards are much greater than the effort put in, should a deeply-buried nugget of decency turn Rod from the dark side Darth Vader-stylee; someone else would readily step into his rotten, stinking shoes.

It's not so much a problem of Rod's dinner party racism, but with the whole economy of media commentary.


Anonymous said...

I live in the same area that Rod Liddle was bought up in - Teesside - and which he often references for street cred - (although he lived in the leafy Middlesbrough suburb of Nunthorpe) I have heard one or two times that his dad, who worked for British Rail, was an active local member of the NF in the early 1970's. If so, this may explain some things.

Phil said...

Perhaps. But people can break with their political socialisation. I know I did.

Thing is, I don't really think he is racist. He knows it's stupid and dumb. But he gets the moneys so he lays on the "controversy".