Friday, 9 December 2011

Cameron and the EU

So today, David Cameron has vetoed an agreement in the EU, and is being accused of having "blocked the treaty". In short, my view is that  he did exactly what he had to.

His enemies now scent blood, however. Nick Robinson, of the scrupulously impartial BBC (twas a joke, people) conducted an interview that was simply an attack on the Prime Minister - an attempt to imply that he has shafted the country.

Robinson will perhaps repeat some guff about this being a very serious issue, and needing to grill the prime minister. In actual fact, this has often been the excuse used by him and his colleagues. The BBC need to remember that they are not the party of opposition. Their impartiality credo, if they believe it at all, means standing aloof from party politics and giving both views - once again they are only giving one view. Anyone can see the difference in attitude in their interviews with the PM and the leader of the opposition.

But it is not just party politics the Beeb are playing. Their agenda has been pro-euro, pro-EU for as long as I can remember. Peter Oborne thinks it was true in the 70s for the referendum and decisions that were being made then. It is certainly true now.

Of course Ed Milliband is saying the prime minister got it all wrong. I do understand - believe me - that the opposition exists to provide criticism. But it should be a valid criticism - and I am not sure I know what Milliband would have done differently - does anybody? What would he have done? In essence Milliband is exactly like Cameron was in opposition - an opportunist making the right noises. But it's annoying at such a difficult time for the country - this is rather like joining in another country's aggressive diplomacy against the UK to score political points.

We shall see what Mr Johnson and IDS do next. Cameron must explain clearly (not his strong point I know) what the problems were with the Merkozy proposals

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Nick Cohen, the "women monsterers", and the story of Neil Lyndon

Journalist Nick Cohen has written a blog post entitled "A regiment of women monsterers" on the the Spectator magazine website. Now I find this title to be appalling (and rather disturbing) written English, on the whole, but that's not my main point here.

The "woman monsterers" he is talking about are the commenters and journalists who, he says, hurl verbal abuse at female journalists online and in print.

The example recipients of this behaviour that he lists include Polly Toynbee, Melanie Philips, and Laurie Penny. (I could add that Jan Moir has received some abuse online, which does provide another example)

Now I have seen some criticism of Toynbee, mainly calling her a "champagne socialist" for talking about socialist issues when she has a villa in Tuscany, and there is some dislike of Philips, mainly as an outspoken writer for the Daily Mail, a paper vilified by the liberal left in the UK.

Laurie Penny has certainly been on the wrong end of a lot of criticism, and many jibes of immaturity and self-absorbtion. On the other hand she is someone who gets very excited about revolution, calls Conservatives "hordes of drooling poshos", and can be rather sharp tongued about the male of the species.

Cohen's article does echo what some feminist writers said a month or so ago. My view then has not changed, online debate is very tough on everyone, there is no conspiracy to "silence women" as some implied back then. We'd need to look a bit more carefully into the evidence before jumping to that conclusion. This is one of the difficulties with any debate involving gender at the moment. People with a political agenda one way or another will state their conclusions as established fact before doing any sober analysis, then attempt to shout down anyone who disagrees with them.

If you are in doubt about whether we do need to look again at evidence for Cohen's conclusions, indeed if you have read his article at all, I would strongly suggest you read the story of Neil Lyndon (here and on wiki)

Lyndon wrote a piece in the Sunday Times 20 years ago, mildly criticising feminism. Efforts were apparently made by female journalists to block publication of his piece. The response in the next week's paper was revealing (quoting from the Guardian link above):

"Looking back at the cuttings, there was not much discussion of the content of his writings, rather it was the size of penis, his ability to attract women and the fragrance of his breath that were called into question. One adjective was so routinely applied to him, you began to wonder if it was part of his name: the Inadequate Neil Lyndon"

The abuse didn't stop there, including physical attacks, further insults and work drying up for him, when he wrote a book on the subject. Lyndon must have been very tough to come through what happened next..

Cohen concludes his tirade literary tour-de-force with the following:

"The cases of Penny, Toynbee and Phillips show the hollow-eyed masturbators on the comment threads are not alone. Journalists are more than willing to encourage them."

Now some people might be a touch surprised to find our heroic defender against "vicious denunciations" ( a quote from the article) going on to describe the denunciators as "hollow-eyed masturbators on the comment threads", but I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation.

Please, if you have read Nick Cohen's piece in the Spectator, read the above links too...