Matthew Norman's Media Diary: Simon Heffer's guide to sexism
Monday 08 September 2008
A cross the entire range of the media orchestra, is there any more mellifluous a sound than the string-em-up section squealing about the vindictive brutality of the liberal left? I don't believe there is, judging by the symphony of synthetic outrage playing either side of the Atlantic about Sarah Palin. "There are few sights more bloodcurdling than the liberal pack in full cry," writes the Telegraph's Janet Daley – still wearing that dead animal as a hat in the byline photo. "The viciousness of the attacks ..." and so forth. Nimbly manoeuvring to fill the gap left vacant by Andrea Dworkin's demise, Janet sees the wicked hand of sexism in a fairly muted examination of someone who may soon be an aortal aneurism from leading the free world on one giant moose hunt in Iran.
Meanwhile, Janet's colleague Simon Heffer sniffs out not only sexism here but another sin that has always been anathema to the Telegraph's egalitarian soul. "Mrs Palin has been the target of sexist and class-based sneering," he regrets. The aggressive male feminist can be an off-putting character, to be honest, but Simon's attack on class-based disdain is spot on. Those who remember how careful he and his Telegraph chums were to avoid sneering at John Major for the garden gnome-making family business and the Teasmade by the bed will be especially impressed. All we need now is for someone to discover that Trig has a lesbian childminder, and next week Richard Littlejohn will be rebuking the liberal left media about the evils of homophobia.
For a slightly more masterly examination of this area, I commend a segment from Jon Stewart's nightly show in which he juxtaposes the thoughts from such beauties as Karl Rove and Bill O'Reilly, adding footage of Sarah herself dismissing Hillary's complaints as "whining". You'll find this gleaming gem on the Huffington Post, and it's not to be missed.
Also marching to the feminist banner is my favourite columnist. "She's a real gutsy, good-looking woman," writes Jon Gaunt, "who is truly the epitome of the feminist dream." Ah but she is, though, isn't she? Anti-abortion even in rape cases, anti stronger legislation for equal pay ... she's bang in the middle of the feminist mainstream. "And for the record," he concludes, "if I wasn't married, yes I would." It's an enchanting image, but on balance I'm not sure she'd reciprocate. Gaunty's just that bit too metrosexual, you suspect, with all this anti-sexism whining. Certainly there's nothing remotely Niles Crane about that husband with the snowmobile.
Where rupert Murdoch stands on Palin it is too soon to tell, but such a bleeding heart liberal has the old geezer become that I can't see him sharing Gaunty's lust. In his new Vanity Fair interview he expresses dislike for the hard right, centring on Fox News, so it will be a relief to the likes of Mr O'Reilly that it's never been Rupert's way to impose his world view on employees, as Rebekah Wade was telling a parliamentary committee not so long ago. As for the revelation that he has taken to dyeing his hair an alarming shade of aubergine, the Frasier episode that comes to mind here is the one where Martin Crane, in an optimistic crack at lopping off a couple of decades, has his hair dye melt as he sits by a roaring fire and leaves a hideous, indelible chestnut stain on a white chair. No that there's anything intrinsically amusing about elderly men fighting the ravages of time, of course, even if they are a ringer for Davros regardless of the colour of their hair.
A joy to see Alastair Campbell getting out and about. Last week he was all over the BBC like a syphilitic rash, one minute wheeled on to Newsnight to tell Charles Clarke to shut it, the next presenting a eulogy to Belgian lyricist and singer Jacques Brel on Radio 4. I am aware that not every BBC staffer is thrilled when it pops a few bob in the direction of the man who tried to destroy it, but in a godless world this turning of the other cheek never fails to move me.
I'm saddened by a Daily Mail attack on James Naughtie. In both news story and leader, the paper savages Jim for downplaying Sarah P's barnstormer the other night, contrasting this with his great reverence for Obama. I won't have it. Admittedly Jim was slightly dismissive of Mrs Palin's rather brilliant speech, but let's cut him some slack. He's still the Today programme's top man when it comes to bird song, and there's no need for the Mail incessantly to remind us of that pre-election slip a few years ago when he referred to the Government as "we". Please, please, please can we all move on?
An unsettling spat rumbles on, finally, between Trevor McDonald and the late Reginald Bosanquet. A self confessed "binge drinker" himself (if you regard a bottle of wine after work as a binge and not an aperitif), Trevor's recollection of Reggie being dragged out of the bar just before a bulletin is derided by former colleagues who say that, for all his fabled thirst, he was a true pro. Trevor – stone cold sober, alas, when describing the homecoming John McCarthy's plane as travelling in "a lovely, lovely arc" – says his comments "regrettably would appear to have been taken out of context". Who knew the argot of the faux-apologetic footballer who's been caught telling a paper he wants to go to Spain had infiltrated the infinitely challenging world of reading out loud?
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