Sunday 13 June 2010

There's gratitude for you

The Press Gazette quotes Boris Johnson:
"They [the press] are regulated by a Press Complaints Commission whose luminaries include the editor of the Daily Mail."
He means Paul Dacre:
"I'm sure that he is a fine fellow in many ways but I think it's a bit like putting the regulation of door-to-door salesmen in the hands of Boston Strangler."
Dacre is Editor in Chief of Associated Newspapers which, at the time of the London Mayoral election in 2008, wholly owned the London Evening Standard. For much of the noughties the Standard gained a reputation for being tough on Ken Livingstone, Johnson's Labour rival. Is something affecting Johnson's memory?

Roy Greenslade points out: "Dacre is chairman of the editors' code committee, which has no say in the day-to-day running of the PCC. Its membership does not overlap with that of the commission itself."

Off topic, but last January spin doctor Alastair Campbell relayed a theory of a psychologist friend that Dacre is secretly in love with him.

Saturday 5 June 2010

Neil Clark's Cumbrian sojourn

Neil Clark has no doubt about the murders in Cumbria. "In fact, much can be done to explain it", he rather clumsily writes.

The three incidents over the last quarter century (Hungerford, Dunblane and now Cumbria) Clark sees, in a crude determinist analysis, as being caused by the "Americanisation" of our economy. By drawing on our knowledge of similar incidents in the States he can build on his rather flimsy domestic evidence. According to a criminologist at the LSE cited inter alia by Clark "the egotistic culture of a 'market society' has ushered in a new barbarism."

Curiously Clark misses a trick, the old communist bloc appears from this list at Wikipedia to have been free of spree or serial killers - until the Soviet regime was in the process of disintegration. Usually he leaps to the defence of the old Soviet bloc. Quite possibly he thinks the execution of opponents by governments of the left is a good thing. He advocated such barbarism only last month:
[Gordon] Brown's greatest mistake was to underestimate just how leftwards public opinion had shifted on economic matters during the financial crisis. In 2008-9, people didn't just want speeches denouncing bankers' bonuses, they wanted to see bankers hanging from lamp-posts.
Having gloried in imaginary violent acts in the past, Clark continues with his rather pat analysis:
By encouraging us to be selfish and ultra-competitive, neo-liberalism destroys social cohesion. Other people are seen as threats and rivals, and not as potential comrades.
This from someone who has advocated lynchings. But David Wilson in the Daily Mail of all places, has a more credible explanation: "All three killing sprees took place in small, outwardly friendly communities with a strong spirit of neighbourliness." Still largely maintaining the "social cohesion" Clark thinks existed in "the 1940s, 50s, 60s, or 70s" then. He ends with a plea:
[U]nless we adopt a more humane economic system, one which encourages co-operation and not competition, such bloodbaths are only likely to become more common.
"Co-operation" and "humane" economics on Neil Clark's terms?

Friday 4 June 2010

Paul Johnson entertains

You may guess where this is going a long time before reaching the end.

The Daily Mail has been printing extracts from the latest volume of memoirs by the journalist Paul Johnson, who twenty or thirty years ago had a very high profile as a Thatcherite and moralist. Of one of his Oxford contemporaries over sixty years ago, Johnson writes:
[Kenneth] Tynan was not homosexual, as many surmised. Far from it. He was keen on girls - very keen - but his interest was spanking and caning. He told me: 'You'd be surprised how many girls are willing to be spanked.'
He told me he regularly got a journal called the Spanking Times, and liked to open it up and read it during a train journey. 'How the other passengers stare, especially the women.'"
Johnson never confesses to his shared sexual taste, but goes on anyway:
The trouble was he lacked any religious impulse whatsoever, and felt he had no need of spiritual and moral guidance.
All he had in life was the make-believe of the London theatre and the Hollywood movie. Its stars were his angels, good and bad. When I think of him, I shiver, slightly.
But what "moral guidance" has Johnson's Catholicism given him? The urge to be write hypocritically perhaps. In May 1998, the Daily Express exposed Johnson's eleven year extra-marital affair with Gloria Stewart, of which Stewart said at the time:
"Paul loved to be spanked and it was a big part of our relationship. I had to tell him he was a very naughty boy."
Christopher Hitchens took the opportunity to detail Johnson's secret history at some length.

The other two extracts of Johnson's memoir, published by the Mail, are here and here.

Thursday 3 June 2010

The Exodus incident of 1947

The often excellent blog of Adam Curtis on the BBC site has this on the boarding by the British of the Haganah (Israeli defence force) ship SS Exodus which was delivering supplies to Palestine, then blockaded by the Attlee government.

Any passing anthropologists out there should read this slightly earlier posting by Curtis on Afghanistan and the potential for the discipline to be misused.