Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Here we go again!

Thanks to some over-enthusiastic hammer-wielding as part of the Tavern refurbishment, I'm laid up with a bad back this evening while the Spouse is off to a party.

A resulting trawl through the evening news shows that Jeremy Clarkson has provoked yet another media storm, or rather that the Telegraph is doing its best to whip up a frenzy following his latest gaffe.
In a column for a tabloid newspaper, Clarkson mocked the sport of synchronised swimming as "Chinese women in hats, upside down, in a bit of water", adding: "You can see that sort of thing on Morecambe Beach. For free."
Crass? Definitely. Tasteless? Certainly. But is it really news? Was it necessary for the Telegraph journalists to scamper off in search of quotes from 'a Morecambe town councillor' and 'a member of the Chinese Lib Dems'?

Two predictable but gratifyingly quotable reactions later, a story is born, though, given Clarkson's form, it's debatable whether this one will run and run or fizzle out in a flutter of raised eyebrows and a yawn - not Clarkson again!

As Diane Abbott found out this week, the price of the Faustian pact of fame is eternal vigilance; every word you utter, type or text can be scrutinised and pulled apart in search of offence. Every lapse of taste, every error of judgement is writ large for the world to see.

It is, in a way, the intellectual equivalent of the magazines that gleefully highlight the cellulite and bulges of swimwear-clad celebrities for the delectation of the masses; Clarkson's fame makes him fair game for a high-profile article because his name guarantees column inches and ample cause for righteous indignation.

Clarkson's status as national enfant terrible means that a story like this falls firmly into the category of 'Dog Bites Man'. Surely the Telegraph can find something more interesting to offer its readers on a Saturday night.


  1. I think he does it on purpose for the excellent free publicity he gets

  2. "Surely the Telegraph can find something more interesting to offer its readers on a Saturday night."

    The perils of the 24/7/635 news cycle...

  3. About sixty years ago I was told by someone that synchronised swimming would one day be an Olympic sport. Oh, how we all laughed and laughed.

  4. Bucko, probably; after all, for every one of the Righteous, there are a dozen readers in touch with their inner 14-year-old sniggering away.

    Julia, is there life - or journalism - on Mars? Typo aside, good point!

    Demetrius - it was beach volleyball that really jumped the shark (actually, that's an idea for another aquatic event - or you could combine it with the synchronised ones...)

  5. Now as you might gather, I'm more intrigued by this reference to the innkeeper's daughter Polly behind the mask. As I'm not discerning, it might need to be spelt out. ;-)

  6. No mystery, JH; being a fan of Hogarth and 18th-century satire, I started commenting in 2008 as Polly Peachum, in homage to 'The Beggar's Opera'.

    I had some difficulty, however, persuading certain other bloggers to take me seriously - and the name Polly seems to elicit a knee-jerk response in some circles - so, in the best tradition of Opera, I donned the breeches and mask of the highwayman Macheath. Sad to say, I found my reception at some other blogs improved dramatically as a result.

    Some time later, a fellow-blogger persuaded me that, as the Tavern was up and running, I could be more honest with readers; the sidebar provides an explanation for the keen-eyed and baffled when I mention, for example, taking my driving test in a state of advanced pregnacy (I see Macheath as a neutral character but people can be rather old-fashioned).

    For the record, in my mis-spent left-wing youth I was the Women's Officer for my college Union - the past is indeed another country.