Sunday, March 11, 2007

Which twin has the loony?

The two Sunday "heavies". Two articles, both tag-lined Comment. Compare and contrast:

The non-fictional drama of David Cameron's week has been provided by the unsexy and unsmart but all- too-real character of Patrick Mercer. It was with a call to his mobile that the Tory leader sacked his spokesman on home affairs from the front bench. The MP for Newark had to be fired after he'd suggested that a lot of black soldiers were 'idle and useless' and being called 'nigger' and 'black bastard' was just part of 'the way it is in the army'.

Is he a racist? He says not. His colleagues say not. More significantly, some black soldiers who served with Colonel Mercer say they don't regard him as a racist either. What we can say for definite is that he is an industrial-grade idiot. He was plain wrong to suggest that black soldiers should put up with being racially abused as par for the course in the army. He sounded just ludicrous when he claimed that soldiers with red hair were more likely to suffer from abuse than members of ethnic minorities. He displayed fully saturated stupidity by suggesting there's no difference between being called a 'ginger bastard' and being called a 'black bastard'. There are no known organisations dedicated to inciting hatred against people with red hair.

These were not just a few off-the-cuff remarks tricked out of him or wrenched from context by an ambushing reporter. They were volunteered in an interview and at length. After he had been sacked, he said: 'I very much regret the interpretation that has been put on my comments.' That, I'm afraid, shows that Mr Mercer still can't see what he got wrong. It was the comments themselves that he should have been regretting.


Can someone tell me what it was that Patrick Mercer MP said which was either racist or offensive? I’ve been mulling it over for 48 hours and I’m still clueless. The Tory homeland security spokesman, a former army colonel, was sacked last week for having said that in the forces, squaddies have been heard to refer to colleagues from ethnic minorities as “black bastards”, just as they might call obese colleagues “fat bastards”. He also said that he’d come across plenty of idle, useless soldiers from ethnic minorities who used racial prejudice as a means of excusing their uselessness.

For this, David Cameron sacked him and sections of the liberal media were gripped by paroxysms of outrage. Why? Did Cameron hitherto believe that army squaddies addressed each other as if in attendance at a Guardian editorial meeting? And Mercer did not say that he approved of their racism; indeed, he said that when he was a serving officer he came down very hard on it. So in what possible sense was this racist?

Similarly, does Cameron have evidence that Mercer was incorrect in his assertion that a tiny minority of black army recruits used the excuse of racial prejudice to explain away ineptitude? Of course not. A man is sacked for explaining, with candour, what he’d observed during his time serving this country as a soldier. Sacked by a man whose effortless dog-sled ascent to political power has involved nothing more hazardous than the occasional Notting Hill dinner party where the chablis wasn’t adequately chilled.

Now, says Malcolm to the elves-on-parade, which is the Sunday Times, and which is the Observer? Which is Rod Liddle and which is Andrew Rawnsley? Which is decent and liberal and which is trite and tripe? For once, a general agreement.

That wasn't a hard one, was it? "No", from the assembled and generally-relieved elvery.

Now, says Malcolm, let's not hear exculpation that Liddle is not as "serious" as Rawnsley, that one is delivering the political heavy-hitting, and one is merely light-weight and "witty". Liddle, after all, was the former editor of BBC Radio 4's Today. He was not "asked to resign" because of the Gilligan cock-up, though it he was who brought Gilligan and his ilk into the orbit of the programme. He was asked to go because his journalism (in particular, suggesting that the fox-hunting mentality was loathsome, and Tory support thereof would rebound) was felt to compromise the Beeb's position. Liddle did, however, go on to defend Gilligan (Liddle, by then, had his leg-over at The Spectator), though not in front of the Hutton Enquiry.

As if to emphasise just this point, Liddle points out his personal connection to Mercer:
Mercer is a mate — I once employed him as a defence correspondent on the Today programme.
So Malcolm asks once again, what is the standing, the use, the position of the Sunday Times in all this? Are we seeing the "disinterested" Times being cranked [sic] up to be a UK press version of Fox News:
(for an example last Friday:)
The Dems are fighting with each other over how to lose in Iraq quickly enough.
and the New York Post?
(for today's example:)
When the U.S. media isn't ignoring Latin America, it's feeding us leftist lies that play into the hands of bigots on both sides of the political aisle.
A passing wind: Is Murdoch grooming Liddle (and Liddle aiming) to be Anne Coulter in drag? Sphere: Related Content

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