Monday 16 September 2019

Declan Lynch: 'Piers, come to Ireland to see what liberals have really done'

Cartoon by Jim Cogan
Cartoon by Jim Cogan
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

He was clearly proud of it, was Piers Morgan, this line of his in an interview which had got millions of "views", under the heading: ''The left have become unbearable.''

"I seem to have struck a chord," he tweeted, deeply satisfied that he and his far-right host Ben Shapiro, of Breitbart fame, had nailed "the PC culture" and "snowflakery" and how "liberals have become utterly, pathetically illiberal".

So we'll stop it just there, to make a couple of observations: first, though the heading said that ''The left have become unbearable'', Morgan clearly must mean the cultural left, because of course economically and politically, several of the formerly great democracies have now gone so far to the right they may eventually be meeting the left at the other end.

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As for the bits about PC culture and snowflakery and liberals being illiberal, I would suggest that about 15 years ago it became unacceptable for any journalist to put forward these views as if they were interesting or clever or original - unacceptable not in the sense that these views should be somehow disallowed, but morally and intellectually unacceptable in the sense that so many other hacks had already pounded out those desperate blatherings so many times, you'd be embarrassed as a fellow human being even to read someone else writing them, let alone to write them yourself.

Yet Morgan is still at it, another of these hacks, these terrible, terrible hacks.

Hackery, indeed, has done much to create the current omnishambles - Morgan's hackery is no more shameless than that of Boris Johnson or Michael Gove. But even before those spectacularly shameless hacks were hacking their way to glory, the road to hack heaven was packed with columnists bellyaching about liberals being, in fact, illiberal.

A feeling of peace would descend upon them, as they whipped that one out again, admiring themselves for the Wildean reversal which they are about to lay on the reader for the 197th time: liberals, you see, should be liberal… but you know what? They're not liberal at all!

And so in 2019, Piers Morgan, the former tabloid hack, the hack who would give instructions to other hacks on how to hack, is still doing the old PC-gone-mad bit, and the snowflake bit, and the liberals being illiberal bit.

And not only is he not prostrate with shame, he is proud - though he seems to have some small awareness that it is not, in fact, the left which is entirely shaping our destinies at this time, when he argues that "populism is rising because people are fed up with PC culture". So they are "gravitating to forceful personalities".

Interestingly, he goes on to describe the liberals telling everyone how to live, as being "fascist". He does not see the "forceful personalities" as being fascist, though his mate Trump was about to indulge in an actual anti-Semitic trope - they always get there eventually, the forceful personalities.

But Morgan sees himself as a liberal type - which is also wrong. He is a hack, so he was loving the pure hackery of "this environment where everyone is offended by everything", this culture that is leading us to disaster.

And with Shapiro sitting there loving it, Morgan identified one of the main disasters that has been landed on us, by the liberal "fascists" - thanks to them, you can't get a proper awards ceremony any more.

"If you said a joke 10 years ago that offended somebody, you can never host the Oscars. So now there's no host for anything. The Emmys now just said they're not gonna host either. So hosts have gone.

"And soon every award winner will go, because everyone's human and they're all flawed - so no one can win awards any more. So then no hosts, no stars. Then no one can make any movies because we're all flawed. So no actors, so suddenly, where are we? The liberals get what they want, which is a humourless void…"

Now I don't know if Morgan has ever actually seen a movie, but on the whole, it is probably better that they have been made by "liberals" than by the lads from Breitbart.

The awards ceremonies though… he might not be totally wrong about that one.

"Hosts have gone," he mourns, and for him this seems to have all the tragic resonance of the fall of Constantinople.

"And soon every award winner will go," he adds, presenting us with a vision of imminent catastrophe which reminds us that he is half-Irish, and perhaps given to our unusual forms of melancholia.

We can help him here though, because culturally Ireland is now one of the most liberal countries in the world. And how is that working out?

Well… it's OK isn't it?

I mean, the old conservative traditions in Ireland required things like the incarceration and torture of poor and unwanted children. Under the illiberal liberalism which Morgan sees as fascistic, we may have to re-imagine a few awards ceremonies.

So it's Letterfrack and the Magdalene Laundries on the one hand. A few tweaks to the IFTAs on the other.

It's better now.

How to be a 'Tome Raider' like Gwyneth? Join the Wine club

Thatcher Wine is a name that was widely unknown until the other day, but which will probably soon become ubiquitous, like Marie Kondo.

He’s a lover and collector of books, is this Thatcher Wine, but he’s becoming famous as the Personal Book Curator hired by Gwyneth Paltrow to choose the books for her shelves.

I quote from a recent feature on the man in Town & Country magazine, which reports on the book trends that they are seeing now, in the homes of people like Gwyneth Paltrow: “Publishers like Taschen, Phaidon, and Rizzoli are making these gorgeous oversize books on art, design and architecture. I think people are collecting those as an alternative to looking at screens. The Stoic philosophers are having a moment now...”

Ah, the Stoic philosophers are having a moment now...

Wouldn’t it be great to be one of those people who can say with a straight face: “The Stoic philosophers are having a moment now.”

What they don’t say, is that the practice of rich people bringing in someone to organise their bookshelves is one of the oldest tricks in the book, as it were. And while Gwyneth Paltrow is herself an artist, who would have an aesthetic purpose in engaging the services of a curator, there are others who just want to give the impression that they read books, when of course they don’t.

I suppose everyone is aware that their bookshelves are saying something about themselves, but mostly what they are saying is that the owner has read these books — not so with Jay Gatsby, who in Fitzgerald’s masterpiece has a library full of books that have not been “cut”, meaning that the Great Gatsby does not read these books, they are only f

or show.

Anyone who spent time in the old library in Lillie’s Bordello will also be familiar with the concept of books essentially as a form of decoration, rather than one’s passageway into the life of

the mind.

And Flann O’Brien was all over this, with his Book Handling Service, inspired by a friend of his ,“a man of great wealth and vulgarity”, who had bought a library for his

new house.

O’Brien wrote: “Some savage faculty for observation told him that most respectable and estimable people usually had a lot of books in their houses…this is what set me thinking… Why should a wealthy person like this be put to the trouble of pretending to read at all? Why not a professional book-handler to go in and suitably maul his library for so-much per shelf?”

At the top of the O’Brien range you’d find the De Luxe Handling service: “Each volume to be mauled savagely, the spines of the smaller volumes to be damaged in a manner that will give the impression that they have been carried around in pockets, a passage in every volume to be underlined in red pencil with an exclamation or interrogation mark inserted in the margin opposite… not less than 30 volumes to be treated with old coffee, tea, porter or whiskey stains, and not less than five volumes to be inscribed with forged signatures of the authors.”

Over to you, Thatcher Wine.

Unlearned lessons on gambling

Whenever I talk to people about online gambling, usually they say something about young people on their phones.

In fact, that’s usually the first thing they say, that they have deep worries about their kids gambling in ways that kids could never gamble before. So you would think by now there’d be a lot of information on this, gathered by researchers in the various departments who are surely aware by now that something big is going on out there.

Yet the only one I’ve seen, has been done by my friend Tony O’Reilly (“Tony 10”) as part of his work in preventing gambling harm. In the schools he visited, he did a survey involving about 500 students in Transition Year, Fifth and Sixth Years.

Among the very interesting results was that 42pc of them stated they think gambling is a problem in schools; 47pc thought it was safe to gamble; 60pc said they’d never received guidance or education about gambling before Tony’s talk — and unhappily related to this is the fact that 55pc said that advertising prompted them to gamble.

“This one blows my mind,” says Barry Grant of Problem Gambling Ireland, as it exposes the corporate line that advertising is “only directed at adults”.

David Hickson, one of the few industry figures who has long advocated the need for legislation, feels that it calls for a much larger study, and that “the absence of regulation and proper research heightens the risk to which young people are potentially exposed”.

But it is probably not a great mystery why this much larger study does not exist. Though the result of such studies is usually to confirm what is already common knowledge, when some department eventually manages to put the numbers together, the next thing is that they might be expected to do something about it. Before it’s too late.

Or in this case, after it’s too late.

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