Simon Carr: You can go too far in cursing

Now when Brown is accused of anything, it improves his reputation
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The Independent Online

In the Kabbala – or it might have been in a Dennis Wheatley novel quoting the Kabbala – there is the warning that curses have to find their mark otherwise they return to the curser. Life tells us that this assertion is true and useful, and the best argument against cursing there is.

We in the media are always cursing people. It's actually written into my employment contract. We send out evil thoughts, and sometimes they find their mark and create a victim of some public figure – an MP, a pop singer, a football player. It doesn't look very nice written like that, but there it is.

However, when the curse fails, the target rises up stronger than he or she was before. It's karma, or cosmic justice, or that thing Nietschze understood.

For instance, for two years, Gordon Brown's fortunes were sinking day by day under revelations, accusations, raillery, mockery. He couldn't do anything right. And then came his letter of condolence to the soldier's family. The Sun – and not only they – piled in, publishing page upon page of the most retributive scorn.

And from that very moment the prime minister's fortunes began to improve. Somehow, the curse missed the mark. Now, when he is accused of practically anything, his reputation improves. He's been bullied so much the accusations of bullying seem wet. He may dish it out but by Crikey he can take it.

Under this law, you wouldn't want to have spent six months telling him that he was "pathetic" and "a loser". Those curse-like sentiments may yet return to Cameron with a vengeance.

Something similar happened to Nick Griffin on his Question Time appearance. He was thoroughly vilified and yet he wasn't crushed. Goodness knows, it wasn't his performance that saved him. His enemies were diminished slightly more than he was by the appearance.

It may not be a cosmic law but a sense of fair play in the public. When media tormentors get above themselves – or ourselves – public opinion comes in on the side of the underdog, no matter how doglike he is. What are the "lessons to be learnt," as politicians say? It shows that good manners are a more powerful weapon than abuse.

At a media reception once, I saw the Queen smile gently at one of us and turn away without saying anything (her interlocutor had tried to prolong the conversation). Oh, how we winced, how we came away with the feeling our colleague had got above herself.

Also, if we moralists and accusers produce the full list of charges, with all the conclusions in capitals – the readers and consumers don't have anything to add. They aren't engaged. They pass on.

So, we need to be more devious. That is, much better mannered. With Nick Griffin, we should have said: "How interesting, Mr Griffin, tell the viewers more."

And to damage Gordon Brown ... but then why would you want to damage Gordon? He's come through the fire – he's tempered and new. Everyone admires Gordon now. (I'm trying to follow my own advice, and it isn't easy.)

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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