Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Melanie Phillips should try yoga
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The Independent Online

Is there anyone out there with the time, the care and the professional skills to help my friend Melanie Phillips, uber right-wing ranter-in-chief at the Daily Mail? I'm not sure exactly what she needs (anger management classes seem almost too obvious) but unless Mad Mel learns to calm herself soon, there's no knowing where all the fury will lead.

Interviewed by Jackie Ashley about her new book, the catchily titled Londonistan: How The Mealy-Mouthed, Bleeding Heart, Woolly Minded Liberal Elite, in Collusion with Assorted Other Forces of Moral Degradation, Delivered us into Bin Laden's Grasp (Frothing Foment Press, £15.99), the old girl is in a frightful semi-paranoid bate from start to finish. She even managed to fire off a preemptive email of complaint to the paper's editor before Jackie got home to husband Andrew Marr's oily sprig of unwashed hair.

What particularly upsets me is Mel's response when Jackie meekly posits that there's something faintly bonkers about her claim that current levels of anti-Semitism are redolent of Weimar Germany in the 1930s. At once, Mel compares this suggestion to the tactic of dismissing enemies as insane so cunningly used by Stalin.

Well, call me Uncle Joe and sing me a Georgian folk song, but what other way of looking at it can there possibly be? I yield to no man in my admiration for Mel's trenchant prose and her absolute righteous certainty that she has the answers to all the most intractable social and geopolitical problems. But sometimes a little humility is nice too.

For years, Mel has banged on about the link between the MMR triple jab and autism potentially being the greatest public health scandal since BSE. If she still refuses to acknowledge that every major clinical study ever conducted has absolutely disproved this, it will be intriguing to see whether she's called as an inexpert witness if Dr Andrew Wakefield faces his General Medical Council misconduct hearing over the flawed research that led, with help from Mel and other supporters in the press, to the worrying explosion in cases of measles.

In the meantime, I beg Melanie to learn meditation, yoga or some other technique for finding inner calm. This constant hysterical raging cannot be good for the health.

Someone else who might consider an apology is Radio 5 Live's football commentator Alan Green. A fortnight ago this grandmaster of bombast was relentlessly spluttering that Alex Ferguson was absolutely right about Wayne Rooney, and that we must all forget about him playing any part in the World Cup. He wasn't the only one to swallow and regurgitate Sir Alex's spin (plenty of print journalists fell for it too) but he was the loudest and most cocksure, and an admission of this on air would be welcome.

Incidentally, last week's reporting about digital TV viewers using their red button to ditch John Motson's commentaries in favour of Mr Green's failed to mention a third alternative. Anyone reminded by the Sophie-esque choice between those two of the drunken dinner party game in which you have to decide whether, with your life at stake, you would rather couple with Charles Clarke or Chris Moyles is advised that the coverage on Eurosport, although tending towards the basic, is refreshingly free of cobblers and self-regard.

Speaking of Mr Moyles, the self-styled saviour of Radio 1, how convincing it is to hear the BBC threaten him with the boot if he continues his potty-mouthed ways on air. Mr Moyles, whose most recent attempt to establish himself in the Reithian tradition involved referring to women as "dirty whores" (something Alvar Liddell routinely used to do, of course, when reading the Home Service news in his tuxedo), has hugely increased his audience for the station's breakfast show. In an age when BBC executives are so blazé about ratings, and so averse to this kind of free publicity, the threat of firing him carries the tone of absolute sincerity.

Meanwhile, the Sun continues to flail about for a consistent line on bad language. Last week Kelvin MacKenzie filled his column with bollocks (re Bollocks to Blair T-shirts), the word appearing without asterices four times in one item. However, elsewhere the title continues to style those spherical objects featured daily on page three as "t*ts". The problem, I suspect, is the paper's lack of a reader's editor to adjudicate on such matters. There are rumours that Rebekah Wade has been waving her chequebook at The Guardian's Ian Mayes, but these have yet to be confirmed.

The Sun also provides our quote of the week. It comes from a report about a pet-shop worker bitten by a 9ft king cobra, and saved when the shop manager flagged down a patrol car that rushed him to the nearest A&E. As reporter John Coles put it, "A police spokesman revealed: 'The officer used his initiative and took the victim to hospital. Staff said this helped save his life'."

Hats off to John for teasing that revelation from the spokesman, and helmets thrown high to the copper for showing such initiative. In the old days, of course, a constable such as Simon Heffer's late father, who pounded the Southend beat, would have rushed a desperately ill snakebite victim to the nearest sweet shop for a Sherbet Fountain, so perhaps things are looking up.

Sorry to miss the Allergy Awards held on Friday in Kensington, and sponsored by Allergy Magazine "("the only monthly newsstand magazine for people with allergies"). Touch of hayfever.

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