Sunday, 24 April 2011

A new Guardian hack for me to complain about

Simon Garfield

Here are some gems. Firstly from his (awful) piece on Sir Clive Sinclair:

"Sinclair, who is not an especially tall man, has always been a great one for the smallness of things."

"..colour games such as Jet Set Willy became the second major activity in teenage bedrooms"

Then he gives us a quoted snippet of the conversation - it doesn't seem to be going too well. In fact it appears Sir Clive wishes the meeting would come to a speedy conclusion. And I can't imagine why!

The lack of substance in the article would suggest that the encounter was indeed short :) Though that impression may be due to the general inadequacy of the work that went into the piece, I couldn't say.

Here's a quote from  his review of a book called "Listening to Britain", an account of some Government snooping on it's own people to get an idea of national morale.

"How genuine was the daily fear of invasion, how imaginative our fantasies, and how widespread our bigoted views of foreigners"

I don't know how well Garfield knows his history, about the camps specifically set up to torture and exterminate mind-boggling numbers of human beings, the nauseating experiments and brutality that we know went on in them. I wonder how imaginative our fantasies were, then, before we became the enlightened 21st century anti-patriots we are now.

Laudable though his distrust of spying governments is, Garfield wants - for his own reasons - to portray Britain's wartime spirit as "a rather tremulous and febrile blethering, more Dad's Army stumbling than unwavering Churchillian resolve". Now I rather like stories of Churchillian resolve, so I admit to being initially biased, but Garfield only sees proof of what he wants to see, and rather self-confidently - Guardian style.

He gives very few actual examples of xenophobia. I don't dispute them. Such attitudes were in abundance in advance of WW1 as well, and Niall Fergusson argues, I believe*, that the actual German threat (in terms of plans to invade) to Britain was negligible at that time. 

So similar attitudes were to be found in 1940 (but more threat of invasion). But I wonder what our journalist-hero expects to find, in a time of extreme fear and distrust. Imaginations run wild - and yet Garfield thinks one or two stories of fears of parachuting nuns are proof of our national xenophobia, at a time when whole populations were being wiped out; a few years after the Nanjing massacre**; not long after a long and bloody war with Germany, watching their military machine rise again...Surprisingly, some xenophobic comments emerged. To a certain type of journalist this is big news.

Such writers constantly harp on about British "xenophobia" - wherever they can find it - ignoring everything else. They love stories of arrogant British toffs, feckless decision makers, military operations that went wrong etcetc. In short, they are learning nothing, just linking everything they read to a story they have already outlined in their heads - a sure way to mental stagnation.  

* I'm getting facts from Wikipedia on this occasion :)

** I mention this to put stories of our own prejudice at the time into context

No comments:

Post a Comment