Thursday, 31 January 2013

'Balancing Acts' revisited

This morning I read a comment piece by Martin Kettle in the Guardian, in praise (a little overstated, in my view) of the present Home Secretary’s accomplishments to date. I then gritted my teeth and scrolled through some of the readers’ Comments. They weren’t, altogether, so bad. But one of the bad ones – who tried to contend that the Guardian has no sane and cogent writers on its books, just Kettle on the right of Labour and Polly Toynbee on the left, balancing/cancelling one another by their commensurate wrongness – reminded me of someone... yes, the late muckraker Alexander Cockburn, who wrote the following in the Nation on October 27 1984, having thrown aside his New York Times in despair at the Reaganaut fervour of William Safire followed so hard upon by the dead liberal hand of Anthony Lewis:

This is what Op-Ed intellectual discourse has got us into. So long as you can strike some sort of ‘balance’ it doesn’t matter that on one end of the seesaw sits a man saying things that in a rational world would have him held by doctors for observation...

So I didn’t agree with that Guardian Commenter, see – just as I didn’t agree much with Alexander Cockburn, at least in the later years. And yet the conviction they had in common seemed to rise up again like a rank odour when I saw the guest list for tonight’s BBC Question Time, onto which the show's entertaining bookers had shoehorned – alongside the now customary comedian – the Guardian’s Zoe Williams and the Telegraph’s James Delingpole. Christ alive. And you wonder why you never hear a decent argument on that show? Evidently they make it incoherent on purpose. And presumably people still watch. I don’t think I can manage that now, not after Harry Enfield’s rightly praised parody, which took out the show’s middle stump with a fairly straight and medium-paced delivery.

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