Hit & Run: They're no experts, but...

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The Independent Online

Why would Gordon Brown think it sensible to comment on England's Ashes victory while keeping shtum about the Lockerbie bomber? Or to call Simon Cowell to check on the post-BGT health of Susan Boyle in the midst of the MPs' expenses scandal? Probably because an eager aide had told him it was a good idea, or perhaps because reality television and sport are just two of the national conversational topics that everyone, expert or not, feels qualified to weigh in on. But the fact that the PM should stoop to add his tuppence worth is also symptomatic of the rise of the inexpert commentariat. Today, celebrities, politicians and pretty much anyone else in the public eye can comment on any subject and have their opinion given the reverence usually reserved for specialists.

The internet has made noisy non-experts of us all, as bloggers, microbloggers or commentators. But it's the already-famous who can shout the loudest about their pet obsessions. Twitter is how we discovered, for example, that Lily Allen had a bit of a thing for medium-fast bowler Graham Onions, which led to her being interviewed by Aggers on Test Match Special, a strange, giggly affair, though not without a certain chemistry. Still, a pop starlet talking cricket? And on Radio 4?

Meanwhile, Gwyneth Paltrow used her celebrity to start a lifestyle blog, Goop, which despite the initial derision has become a hit, turning the actress into a cookery tutor, fashion guru, childcare counsellor and nutritionist. Alesha Dixon, the singer and former winner of Strictly Come Dancing, has replaced ballroom-dancing expert Arlene Phillips in the judge's chair, despite knowing little of the discipline beyond the show itself.

Talk radio is as guilty of promoting the inexpert commentariat as are younger forms of media. When Michael Jackson died, Five Live's Richard Bacon turned to Quentin Willson, ex-presenter of Top Gear, for his thoughts on the King of Pop's demise. A fortnight ago, as the row about the NHS and American healthcare erupted, Bacon was interviewing Sarah, Duchess of York, who has spent a lot of time living in America herself. He solicited her thoughts on the subject. To her credit, she admitted her ignorance of the debate, and Bacon was forced to move on. But then if, like the BBC, you have 59 radio stations with dead air to fill, not to mention a giant website and myriad TV news outlets, you're bound to run out of real experts eventually. Tim Walker

Anna Wintour, queen of light entertainment

"We must not let in daylight upon magic", the essayist Walter Bagehot said of the monarchy, but it is a maxim that apparently doesn't apply to the ice queen of fashion. For as Anna Wintour, the notoriously reserved editor of US Vogue, has thrown open the drapes and exposed herself to the public gaze this week by appearing on The Late Show with David Letterman, so her frosty demeanour has at last begun to melt.

To the sound of the CBS Orchestra playing Madonna's "Vogue", Wintour arrived on set hiding behind her trademark Chanel sunglasses but then, after pressing cheeks with the host, she removed them and placed them on Letterman's desk. Perched before the chat show king in a black-and-white Carolina Herrera dress, she then demonstrated a nice line in self-deprecation, acknowledging there was truth in a colleague's claim that she was "not always warm and cuddly". And when Letterman stood on its spine the 840-page edition of Vogue that is the subject of the new film The September Issue and the magazine fell down with a thud, just as Wintour was talking of the "challenging time" facing her industry, she teased the host "Whoops!... Did you arrange that?"

Her first appearance on the show gave her the chance to promote not only the film but her Fashion's Night Out global charity fundraiser. Even gossip website Gawker, which had been itching to see Wintour humiliated, admitted that "she actually came off looking good". Ian Burrell

Keep calm, girls. Medallion Man is back

It wasn't the pictures of Sarkozy holding in his stomach on a beach in Egypt that startled devotees of the male form. It's the fact that he still wears a medallion, 25 years after the Medallion Man look, from Cardiff to Carmel, marked out the wearer as a conceited wally. On recent holidays Vladimir Putin has also sported an objet d'art between his hairless moobs. And if we look to those paragons of masculinity, athletes, what do we find? Wallace Spearmon always runs with a medallion (or chain) in his mouth; Cristiano Ronaldo is another fan of the dangling circlet. What is it about men and medallions? Does it make you feel you've got your umbilical cord back? Or that you've got a substitute nipple hanging round your neck? Yeesh. John Walsh

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