17 December 2013

Celebrity Comment

There is a class of celebrity commentators who write for newspapers (print and online) who seem to be hired for their ability to get things wrong and thereby generate attention and further comment. I am thinking of people such as Melanie Phillips, Peter Hitchens, and Polly Toynbee. (Yes - I'm aware that Melanie Phillips has recently 'moved on', but she pioneered this phenomenon.) And these people all have one thing in common. They put forward their views on a regularly paid weekly basis - but they never engage in the debate which ensues.

Readers of these newspapers point out the mistakes in their articles, refute their views, and underscore the lack of evidence or logic in their arguments. But they ignore all this feedback and simply write another equally fatuous article the following week, which is just as full of holes, inaccuracies, mistakes, and prejudice as the week before.

There is a growing suspicion that newspapers are deliberately following this policy of promoting half-baked and ill-informed 'journalism' because it generates controversy and thereby brings viewers to these pages. The viewers are what advertisers want to see - and the newspapers are kept alive only by the advertising revenue they generate.

It is worth keeping in mind that all national daily newspapers lose money, and are subsidised either by rich owners (Lord Rothsmere, the Barclay brothers) or off-shore tax status (the Guardian).

Today, Polly Toynbee is defending the indefensible: the right of people to have as many children as they wish, even when they cannot afford to keep them. Responses in Comment is Free demolished her argument within minutes, prompting these two responses:
30 comments in and Polly Toynbee is getting a right thrashing already, I almost feel sorry for you, ... If anything, your argument illustrates completely the disconnect between London chattering classes and the rest of the country. Any chance you'll appear below the line sometime and answer some of the comments against you?
She won t be up and about yet? Polly earns over £100,000 a year for this stuff - no research needed, just politicking at its worst. But it gets loads of comments so keeps the Guardian and its advertisers happy.

This week the Guardian has already published an article by the Slovenian 'philosopher' Slavoj Zizek on the cultural significance of the fake signer-for-the-deaf at Nelson Mandela's funeral celebrations. This was nothing more than a summary of what had appeared in newspapers over the previous few days - the man was a fake and worse, his signing was gibberish - but Zizek's precis was dressed up as if some profound wisdom was on offer.

Today there's a piece of blatant self promotion from someone in Australia who claims to be an 'artist' with lots of viewings on YouTube for her video - which features her performance piece entitled 'Vaginal Knitting'. To quote the appalling Richard Littlejohn (another of this clan) 'You couldn't make it up'.

1 comment:

Skipper said...

Nice to see you back on line. I'm less critical of Polly T as mostly I think her articles are well researched- I know you disagree but I have read her impressive books as well as her articles and she is a good researcher on social policy.
But she should respond to comment at least some of the time and you could be right that this represents a 'house policy' for comment on columns.