Christina Patterson: That's quite enough of a man who messes with your head

The Saturday Column
Click to follow

In the interests of transparency, and in relation to a certain man, and a certain website, and for the delectation of Independent readers, and also, perhaps the CIA, the Pentagon, and the Kremlin, I have decided to leak the contents of my head. This may, I'm afraid, mean ploughing through some boring bits, but the good news is that this is the first instalment in a series that will go on for ever and ever and ever.

When I first saw the man, or at least pictures of him, because I've never met him, though I'm sure he's dying to meet me, or will be after he's read this, I thought that he looked as though he'd been specially bred to star in the kind of TV dramas where upper-class Englishmen play cricket, or clutch teddy bears, or woo young girls who look very much like Helena Bonham Carter or Rosamund Pike. I also thought, because he was very pale, that perhaps he wasn't getting enough iron and that if I were his doctor, which I wouldn't be, because I'm a journalist, or if I were his mother, which I wouldn't be, because I'm not old enough, I would tell him he should eat some liver, even though I don't, because it's disgusting, but that he should do as I say and not as I do.

And then, when I heard him speak, on telly, and not in a restaurant, or over a post-coital breakfast in Sweden, I thought he had very neat, very nicely shaped lips for a man, or even for a woman, but that it was a shame that the words that came out of the lips weren't nearly as good as the lips themselves. The words, which I now can't remember, because I can't seem to remember anything these days, and even had to ask a colleague, who used to be a Moscow correspondent, what the Kremlin was called, which was a bit embarrassing, sounded rather pompous, to be honest, and I thought it was a shame that a man who still looked quite young, even though his hair was grey, but not always, because he sometimes dyed it, which I never think is a very good sign in a man, sounded so pompous so young. I also thought that those lovely lips never seemed to stretch into anything that you could call a smile, and that that, too, was rarely a very good sign.

When, in the summer, when I was thinking that it would be nice if the sun came out, which it didn't, he decided to put 70,000 documents about Afghanistan on his website. I thought that that was an awful lot of documents, and that someone should probably read them, but that it definitely wouldn't be me, and when someone did read them, or at least some of them, and wrote about them, I thought it was quite strange that someone who made a very big fuss about some soldiers under a lot of pressure in a war accidentally killing a couple of journalists, and who put a video of it on his website, which he called "Collateral Murder", should put the real names of the people in Afghanistan who had supplied the information on the website, particularly when he wasn't under a lot of pressure in a war. I thought that if you didn't like collateral damage it seemed strange to risk causing an awful lot of it, though I thought perhaps it was like me and the liver.

And when, a few weeks later, I heard that he had been charged, and then not charged, and now charged again, with sexual molestation, and rape, and that the charges concerned not one Swedish woman, but two, which seemed quite a lot of trouble for one trip to Sweden, which is a place where trouble is relatively rare, and that both charges had something to do with a condom, or rather the lack of a condom, I thought he sounded like one of those men who thought condoms were a good idea in theory, but not much fun in practice, which is a bit like the collateral damage and the liver. And then, when he blamed the charges on the Pentagon, and the CIA, I thought that that was the kind of thing that someone would say if they had something wrong with their head.

In the past week, which has felt more like a year, what with the snow, and the Wiki-storm of secrets, I've had so many thoughts about the website, and the man who founded it, and such clashing ones, that I've sometimes thought that there was something wrong with my head, too. I thought that it was funny to read what the diplomats thought of the world leaders, but that if I was a diplomat I wouldn't think it was funny, and also that the diplomats seemed, for the most part, to be quite sensible, and good with words, which the man who ran the website wasn't. I thought it was good that Putin and Berlusconi were shown, in the leaked documents, to be nasty and corrupt, though I thought we all knew already that they were nasty and corrupt, and I thought that the documents probably wouldn't make any difference to them, or the way they ran their countries, but that they might make life quite difficult for the sensible diplomats.

And when I heard that the man with the website, who has never run anything except a website, and has managed to fall out with some of the few colleagues he has, and describes other colleagues as "a confederacy of fools", and people who have given up their time to work for him as "not consequential people", had called for the resignation of the woman in charge of foreign policy for the world's only superpower, who has devoted her life to public service, and done it pretty damn well, understanding that if you want to make some things in the world better, you have to deal with some very difficult people, ideally without your thoughts about the people being spewed out to the entire world, what I thought was this:

I thought that power without accountability was dangerous, and that politicians are accountable to the people who elect them, and people who run websites aren't. I thought that people who are themselves very secretive probably shouldn't tell people who need to keep some things secret that they can't. And I wondered if the man with the website realised that what some people called "freedom of information" was quite likely to make people more paranoid. It was quite likely, in other words, to make people less free.

The (limited) power of positive thinking

When you play a sport, you're meant to shut your eyes and imagine running faster than anyone else, or leaping higher, or kicking further, or clutching a medal or a cup. When you do this, apparently, something happens in your muscles, or your brain, or your synapses, or your hormones, so that you do actually sometimes run faster, or leap higher, or kick further, than other people do, and so you do sometimes get to clutch that medal or cup. I think you probably also have to be quite fit. I think you probably can't just sit on your sofa and imagine running so fast that you get to clutch that medal if you only ever waddle to the fridge.

I also think that David Beckham is a lovely man, and very handsome, and very modest and very good at behaving as if he isn't one of the most famous people on the planet, even though he is, and I understand that imagining that he could run faster, or kick further, than other people did, may have made him run faster, or kick further, though not, perhaps, for quite a while, but I do think that someone should explain to him that while the techniques of sports psychology might be quite effective for sports, they don't really work when the things you're trying to control aren't your own muscles, but other people.

"This is our time" may not be the most sensible thing to say about an outcome that hasn't yet been decided, but thank the Lord, Fifa, a mafia state, and an alpha dog, it wasn't.

A modest proposal for hospitals and health

Congratulations to the Royal College of Physicians for unearthing, one might almost say leaking, a fascinating new discovery about human beings and illness. They sometimes, apparently, get ill at weekends. In the light of this, they make a radical suggestion. Consultants should sometimes work at weekends!

In my experience, which is really quite extensive, hospitals at weekends feel a little like Tehran will probably feel if the Saudis get their way with the Americans, or at least after the bombs have dropped and the fuss has died down. The nurses give the very strong impression that your continuing presence on a ward on a day when they could be at Bluewater is a violation of natural laws that must be punished.

The doctors look and sound as if they should be waving placards saying "These Men Have Eton our Future" or "Con-Dems put the 'N' in Cuts". It would, you can't help thinking, be jolly nice if hospitals could consider the possibility of doing something that shops, petrol stations, call centres and, of course, newspapers, manage all the time.