Thursday, April 29, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
I recently started another blog (yes, I know...) to cover all of my work stuff. It has me pimping various things I've done, and thoughts about comedy and writing. The political / funny / imaginary things will remain here.
If you'd like to read the other why not go over to the site and click on Blog. I'd love to see you there.
Metaphorically. If I go to the site and it is actually just a picture of you I wouldn't love that. Iwouldn't love that at all.
Sticks and stones...
Last week, Andrew Neill (who looks ever more like two testicles wrestling over a tumour in an unhappy scrotum) interviewed Chris Mounsey of the often-wrong but always entertaining Devil's Kitchen blog, in his capacity as leader of the Libertarian Party UK (LPUK).
This has had a couple of results. First, it has enabled me to stop wondering what DK looked like (my earlier speculations are in this post here). Second, it has revealed an oddly puritan tendency in certain other bloggers.
Whilst it's clear from the clip above that Chris was not prepared for the kind of interview that was conducted (perhaps he was labouring under the misapprehension that the BBC would use their four minutes with the smaller parties to try to find out a little of what their policies were, or to attack the philisophical underpinnings of them), I have to admit to being quite baffled by the glee some people seem to be taking in the episode.
I suppose some of this is the sort of smug grin we're all allowed when we see one right-wing cunt monstering another. Except I can't help feeling that using the license fee to sponsor one hideous, authoritarian, Thatcherite grotesque putting a less-hideous, non-authoritarian puppy in its place is not necessarily the sort of thing we should be applauding.
The most worrying strand, to my mind, is that this exposed the author of Devil's Kitchen as a 'nasty person' and showed up his revelling in perverse scatological pornography as being outside acceptable thought. Which would be fine if those people expressed any of the same concerns about Hunter S Thompson, H.L. Mencken, Martin Rowson, Steve Bell, Mark Twain*, Jonathan Swift, Tom Paine, Charlie Brooker, or James Gillray.
There is a long history of utterly unjustified invective, full of imagery that is patently repougnant to normal minds. But it is some of our best political writing, it shows is some essential truths.
Yes, being on the receiving end of invective, and invective, can be painful (I was in Tonightly, I know how vicious some Internet forums can be), especially if it is undeserved (ah...). However, bile, vitriol, anger, well-worded invective, inveighing against what we see to be evil, these are vital parts of our political culture. If we dilute our imagery until it is all acceptable to a consensus of reasonable-minded people then we are condemning it to sterility.
Ah yes, but he is leading a political party, he should be prepared to answer for what he has said, the argument runs, and that is not one I should disagree with. When Hunter Thompson ran for Sheriff of Aspen County (admittedly his most famous invective was yet to come in Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail '72 and the political journalism after that) he refused to apologise for anything he had said in print. Instead, he revelled in it, and only didn't win because the Republicans all (apart from 150 of them) switched their votes to the Democratic candidate to keep him out. And his manifesto included changing the name of Aspen to Fat City and ripping up the city streets and replacing them with turf.
Chris Mounsey was almost criminally stupid in not being better prepared to stand up for what he had said, either by defining it as valid comment, or satire, or concentrating on the substance of what he had said. More worryingly, this appeared to be the first time that it had occurred to him that things he types might be hurtful to the people they were typed about. Indeed, he seemed embarrassed into apologising. Chris Mounsey didn't look bad because he was too nasty, but because he was too nice, too unprepared to continue saying outrageous things in the face of someone upset by them.
Maybe that's one of the problems. DK occasionally feels like it's vitriol-by-numbers, that it's not motivated by true rage because if it was, he wouldn't hesitate to say it to their faces. At its best it is a howl of excoriation; at its worst: a clumsy collection of right-wing venom stapled together for attention.
The Devil is not a writer or creator of offensive imagery on a par with any of those listed above. Of course, he's also part-time. He has a tendency to reach for the easiest and most tired of offensive cliches, and rarely takes the time to construct an image that is apt and shocking and delightful precisely because we haven't seen it before, preferring tired torysphere usages like 'monocular cunt Gordon Brown'. When he does, however, it's worth waiting for. That's why (along with Justin McKeating, Unity, and Anton Vowl) he's one of the few UK political bloggers whose posts I always try to read.
I've done live television a few times, and the moment that the floor manager counts you in both moves bowels and emblankens minds. I'm prepared to believe that Chris was prepared to give a fluent and convincing account of the policies and beliefs of the LPUK. The fact remains that he wasn't given a chance.
We absolutely have a right to know what those who would try to lead us have written in the past. We should be prepared to allow them to complete a sentence in response. It's also important to establish what they are planning to do, what they think, and why. I agree entirely with the commenter on one site who said that it made no sense for Andrew Neil to introduce part of the show looking at smaller parties, and then to spend a third of the interview mocking their being a small party, no matter what one thinks of them.
Do I think the question shouldn't have been asked? No. Do I think it should have been the subject of most of the interview? No. Do I think Chris should have been able to answer questions about it succinctly? Definitely.
As a result of this interview and the publicity it received, Chris has decided to change the way in which he blogs. In his post about this he makes it very clear that the fact that his boss phoned him to express concern about his blogging did not amount to any pressure being put on him to stop blogging in the way he did. Although he did.
Which is an interesting argument for a vulgar libertarian to make because, presumably, there would be nothing wrong with an employer dismissing an employee for blogging something they didn't like. Or marrying someone they didn't like. Or wearing something they didn't like. That is entirely the province of the employer. And, presumably, talented people who want to write, marry, or wear whatever they like will find other, less-restrictive places to work. Unless, of course, they also happen to like their jobs.
So, Chris is at pains to point out that it is his choice to curtail his blogging. It is his choice, and our loss; because, agree with him or not, he wrote some very funny, very horrible things. The Devil is dead. Long live some other cunt.
* On Jane Austen: "Every time I read Pride And Prejudice I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone."