Dumb, dumb, dumb it's the sound of Dan Hodges’ gun

The Mail on Sunday man continues to weirdly boast about his worst lockdown purchase... a gun. And it tells us a lot...

There are columnists that are bad. There are columnists that are wrong. And then there is Dan Hodges, a columnist of such badness and wrongness that I have come to believe that he is engaged in an Andy Kaufmanesque act of performance art. The son of Oscar winner and former MP, Glenda Jackson, also seems to be trying to cut the Tories so much slack that his mother finally gives him a clump so loud that it reverberates across the kitchens of London.

Hodges’ oeuvre is so awful and extensive, covering a period at The Daily Telegraph — where I crossed paths with him — as well as his current berth at The Mail on Sunday, that it could fill several emails. Therefore today’s edition is focused on one weird column and the continued muzzle flash from it. If it were an episode of Friends, it would be called The One Where Dan Hodges ‘Buys’ A Gun.

Dan will be delighted to know that I think the gun thing and the toilet paper thing are equally weird:

This time of the year is traditionally one for retrospectives, so it’s appropriate that the Hodges column that he’s hitched back into the spotlight was written during the first lockdown in April. You could argue that its feverish quality is the product of that sudden confinement but to connoisseurs of Hodges’ harebrained prose style, it’s par for the course: Dan Hodges writes like a man physically wrestling with his keyboard.

Here are the three oddest things from the ‘Danny’s Got A Gun’ article:

1. The gun

It was when I bought a gun that I knew Corona Madness had finally claimed me. I’d been speaking to a Government official who presented an increasingly apocalyptic vision of how the Covid-19 crisis could spiral out of control.

Panic-buying was just the start, they feared. Soon there would be looting, the police would be overwhelmed and the Army would have to be drafted in.

So I ordered a pistol on the internet. Not a real one, obviously. A replica. But I figured the average looter wouldn’t notice the difference.

This is a man who expects to be and is treated as a serious political analyst. Practically every weekend, he gets a whole page in The Mail on Sunday to offer up his considered assessment of politics in the UK. Little did we know that he was doing so topless, rocking back and forth, cradling a replica pistol and muttering quotes from Taxi Driver. In retrospect, it all suddenly makes sense.

2. Time travelling… in his own head

I’d seen the reports of increasing numbers of Covid-19 patients in their 50s being admitted to hospital, and started to contemplate the brutal triage system that would be introduced by a desperate NHS. 

So at night, as I went to sleep, I began to try to teach myself a new birth date – one that would place me in my 40s and give me a fighting chance… when the virus struck.

Again to anyone who is very familiar with the Hodges style of column writing, this deranged ramble will come as no surprise. For Dan Hodges, magical thinking is a professional necessity, so it makes sense that he applied it to his bizarre brain wanderings during lockdown, his head filled with visions of an apocalyptic Britain where his skillset — talking shit for money — was suddenly devalued.

3. Toilet paper Gollum

But the thing that tipped me closest to the edge was a packet of toilet paper.

A neighbour rang to ask if I knew of any local shops that might still have some in stock. As I spoke to her, I could literally see six new rolls glinting in their shiny packet.

Basic decency said I should offer to give her some. But I was transfixed, like Gollum eying his precious ring.

What if the panic-buying intensified? Why hadn’t she had the foresight to purchase her own rolls? This was my sacred toilet paper.

If you are reading this at breakfast time then I apologise for putting the vision of Dan Hodges’ precious ring in your head.

Imagine being someone who would tell a story about your weird hoarding instincts in your newspaper column and, at the same time, spend time on Twitter honking on about other people hoarding; if you can picture that, you too can be a columnist.

It’s only deep into the column that Hodges admits that the gun — a replica remember — never arrived and that his ‘lockdown madness’ passed…

That was me at the start of this crisis. The Blackheath Rambo – a fake fortysomething with a pistol, ready and willing to take down anyone who dared make a move against his prized hoard of Andrex.

Of course, the madness subsided. It proved impossible to maintain such a sense of jeopardy over a month of lockdown.

The gun never actually arrived – too many people had the same idea as me, and they sold out. The NHS ICU crisis didn’t materialise.

… but Hodges is a columnist and that is a madness that is far harder to shift. Of course, he will argue that the gun story, the ‘myyyyy precciousssss’ bog roll moment, and the weird birthdate thing were all simply humourous and self-deprecating elements in a wider argument. But 8 months later, he’s still going on about the gun.

And later in that April column, when he’d got the ‘jokes’ out of his system, he still put things in the most deranged manner possible. I wasn’t thrilled by the lockdown (or its sequel Lockdown 2: Unelectric Boogaloo) but, unlike the whining right-wing columnist class, I didn’t compare my ‘plight’ with imprisonment. It was the kind of collective effort these goombas usually go on about when they endlessly reference World War II, and with all their privileges they couldn’t handle it.

Here’s how Hodges’ described having to stay in his house marginally more than he usually does:

Each of us is incarcerated like a prisoner. Allowed out for one hour of exercise a day, before being reinterred for the other 23.

When we do go out, we are not people, but glorified computer guidance systems, constantly calculating the speed and trajectory of nearby pedestrians, cyclists or joggers who could deploy the lethal germ and seal our fate.

It’s terribly written; “Incarcerated like a prisoner” is a tautology (‘incarcerated’ means to be imprisoned), ‘reinterred’ is a ludicrously hyperbolic word choice and the idea that simply having to be more aware of who was around us had led us to become automatons is laughable. But that is Dan Hodges’ schtick — claiming to be a serious commentator while making unserious points in the silliest manner possible.

So while Danny doesn’t have a real gun — not even a replica — he is an absolute weapon. His column exists to push the paper’s line, however personally embarrassing that has to be for him, and he will contort himself into whatever shape is necessary to do that. If the demands of the current agenda contradict what he was saying last month or even last week, that doesn't really matter; Dan Hodges is cognitive dissonance made flesh and whatever he is saying at any given time is what he fervently believes in that moment.

If there were any justice in the world, Dan Hodges would be known as Gun Boy, just as Jolyon Maugham will never escape his role as Fox Killer, but the world is not just. For evidence to support that proposition, you need only note that Dan Hodges remains an extremely well-renumerated columnist with opinions considered important by people with real power. That’s even more terrifying than the thought of him with a gun.