The annual midwinter observance is upon us. I refer, of course, to Festivus – the "festival for the rest of us" created by the fiercely anti-religious Frank Costanza, the Christopher Hitchens of the sitcom Seinfeld. The appeal of its central rite, The Airing of the Grievances, speaks for itself. Yet this column seeks only the best in others, so let's begin with Kelvin Mackenzie. No article from 2011 delighted me like his Daily Mail blog of last week, headlined "Who Will Say Sorry To Rupert?" Oddly this wasn't a Kelvin mea culpa for picking a (superinjunction-related) fight with Jeremy Clarkson in front of a horrified Murdoch at a party last summer, days before he mysteriously vacated his Sun column.
The apology Kelvin sought was from The Guardian for reporting that the News of the World deleted Milly Dowler's messages. If this one error proves the genesis for a tabloid fightback, hurrah for that. Who could fail to see the injustice in a man convicted of picking pockets and aggravated rape remaining in prison after being cleared, on appeal, of picking pockets? God knows we need an elder statesman to protect the standards that Kelvin, as Sun editor, applied to his Hillsborough coverage and much besides. Anne Diamond recalled ringing him, after The Sun ignored her request to stay away from her baby son's funeral, to beg him not to use any pictures. He ran one all over the front page. In leading any insurgency against the Leveson tyranny, unquestioned moral authority must be king.
Proof that lists know no bounds
The mania for lists scales a new peak. The Simon Wiesenthal Center issues a press release: Top Ten Anti-Semitic Slurs of 2011, and try to say the following in Fluff Freeman's voice. Straight in at No 5 is Lars von Trier, with 'I understand Hitler'... He's not what you would call a good guy, but yeah ... I sympathise with him a little bit. Down to No 4 is John Galliano, with 'I love Hitler'. And so on, all the way to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas at No 1. All right? Not 'arf!
An aperitif I will always remember
Many have their own fond memories of Christopher Hitchens, and I wish mine went beyond a solitary meal in Blackpool during a distant Labour conference. How can you not instantly adore a man who, when asked about an aperitif, replies, "Thank you, yes. I'll have a sextuple Scotch and a bottle of red wine chaser"?
Happy Christmas, war is over
Hitchens's death has provoked a torrent of brilliant memorial writing, though the eye is also caught by Armchair Field Marshal the Lord (David) Aaronovitch in The Times. "Let me just say here that I'm not trying to warm my ragged arse by Hitchens's dying fire," writes Aarono, before dismissing any criticism of the Hitch's journey from Trot to Iraq war proselytiser as "a self-comforting lozenge the lazy intellectual Left sucks on to make its doubts and pain go away". We have two choices here. One is to congratulate David on press-ganging a corpse into his rearguard campaign to justify his own Iraq war cheerleading. The other, which I prefer, is to borrow a song title from another scandalously short-lived English emigré to the eastern US. Happy Christmas, Armchair Field Marshal, war is over!
Cope with a Leveson session Anne's way
By the way, a bit of advice for anyone called before Leveson in 2012 who fancies trying the old technique of de-terrorising authority figures by imagining them as small children. Talk to Anne Robinson. Long ago, when Anne's mother sent her to his lordship's father, a Liverpool shrink, for help with beating the booze, she spent the sessions staring at a snap of the little Leveson in short trousers.