Explaining the media with three demons: Mike Graham, Rod Liddle, and Jordan Peterson

The devils are all here, but luckily they're also big babies.

Recently I stumbled across Ralph McQuarrie’s original concept art for Jabba the Hutt…

… and came to a startling realisation. Industrial Light & Magic did not simply discard the design in favour of the more familiar slug-like monster we know. Instead, they continued developing the character and secretly deployed the animatronic into the real world as a test of its believability. It went rogue and became….

‘Iron’ Mike Graham, the talkRADIO presenter, who spends every waking moment searching for people to bully despite looking like he himself is slowly melting. Suddenly his inhuman rants made sense; he’s the Terminator but covered not with high-tech skin but the rancid offcuts from a butcher shop that went bust due to poor hygiene standards.

Yesterday, Graham — desperate for the attention he mistakes for love — turned his rage on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, with a rant that was unhinged by even his bargain-basement low standards. Backed with the dramatic music his producers insist on playing in a desperate attempt at gravitas, he argued that Harry, Meghan and their toddler son Archie should be stripped of British citizenship for the incredible crime of… doing things the tabloids don’t like:

“… the Palace is definitely at war with the Duke and Duchess of Netflix. That’s right, those upstart Californians — Haz and Megs — have dropped themselves right in the brown stuff by kicking off with Oprah Winfrey in the big tell-all interview, while leaving behind them a trail of destruction at Kensington Place, amid claims of bullying, freeloading, and wearing jewellery gifted to them from despots from around the world.

This morning, things have gone from bad to worse, as US TV network CBS has issued a clip of Meghan Markle claiming that the Royal Family — and by that she means the Queen, ladies and gentleman — [he puts on a whiny American accent] ‘told falsehoods about us’… nobody cares, Ms Markle, nobody gives a stuff what you think, nobody gives a damn that [that accent again] ‘falsehoods were told about you’ — what do you mean? Falsehoods were told like how you were a nice person? Falsehoods were told about how good the wedding was and how nice it was that taxpayers paid for it?

I mean, seriously, are we in High School? Are we in an episode of Beverley Hills 90210? I’ve got a poll for you this morning because I’m sick to death with this pair of freeloading wallies: I say not only do we strip them from the Royal Family, not only do we take away all Royal connections, not only do we tell them ‘no thanks, don’t bother coming back to the UK’, we strip them right now, today, of British citizenship…

… surely this kind of attack on our most treasured tradition must mean that Haz and Megs are not only no longer members of the Royal Family but no longer members of this great nation of ours — the United Kingdom. And don’t give me any cobblers about how Meghan isn’t actually a citizen. She’s married to a member of the Royal Family therefore she could be a British citizen if she wanted to be. I say, ‘No chance! Don’t let them. And they can take little Archie with them too, he can’t be a British citizen either!” … see how you like them falsehoods, sweetheart.

In a way, you’ve got to admire the craft that Industrial Light & Magic put into the Mike Graham animatronic — in one unhinged monologue, he manages to be misogynistic, racist, xenophobic and wrong in about five different ways. That’s an incredible feat of idiocy.

Of course, Graham’s rant is designed to do one thing: Get people talking about it and that’s why talkRADIO pushed the poll out onto Twitter. Despite the voting turning decisively against Graham once it was picked up by people beyond those deluded souls who listen to his show for fun, he’s still claiming it as a win:

One of the downsides of the ILM tech inside the Mike Graham animatronic is that he’s only programmed to argue in bad faith. He knows that suggesting that Harry and Meghan be banned from the UK and stripped of citizenship rights — an idea that’s in his head since the disgusting decision not to try Shamima Begum in the British courts — is more than “a question” but he exists purely to troll and to stir up his fellow slugs in their one-sided ‘war on woke’.

Graham is paid by talkRADIO to be a professional bully. His guests are usually right-wing talking heads like Brendan O’Neill with whom he nods and agrees or spokespeople who are lured on then shouted down. Anyone who argues with Graham is subjected to his Twitter Twat signal which calls his followers to descend on them with abuse. Meanwhile, Graham plays both the victim (“castigated”!) and the troll (“What shall we do tomorrow?”).

Graham is a manifestation of the tabloid media’s raging unconstrained id. He doesn’t care what he says or does as long as it gets a reaction — praise from his reactionary followers and scorn from ‘the woke’ who he attacks daily, for money.

He defends his bullying act by claiming that he’s just looking out for the ‘good people’ of Great Britain and defending them against the iconoclastic left that wants to drag down their statues and burn their Union Flags. It’s horse shit; all Mike Graham cares about is Mike Graham. Patriotism, ‘the flag’, and tradition are all just things he can wrap himself in to justify his bile-flecked rants.

While Graham was using Twitter as a stick to poke his ‘enemies’ yesterday, the second of our three demons — Rod Liddle — was being discussed for a piece he wrote 18 years ago, that still sits on The Guardian site like untreated toxic waste. It was dug up again, still glowing with ill-intent, by the excellent Tom Usher:

In the piece, Liddle — who is a columnist for The Spectator and Sunday Times even now, wrote:

I wanted to look at some pictures of child pornography from the internet this week and then tell you all about them, but I couldn't because my stupid modem broke down. I'm not sure how the law or, for that matter, society will view my failure. The intent, clearly, was there. In mitigation, I suppose I could say I was planning to do it all on your behalf and would gain no pleasure from the operation myself. That's what I could say. In which case perhaps the policemen should turn up at your house instead.

Imagine the modem had worked exactly as the smug, acne-ridden computer salesman had assured me it would. Could I have told the police, and later the courts, that my motives were in the glorious traditions of Woodward and Bernstein, James Cameron and Donal MacIntyre - ie, serious campaigning investigative journalism? Would they have scoured the bedroom floor for incriminating evidence to disprove my plea of mitigation?

And why, exactly, is it a plea of mitigation in the first place? Why is it any less exploitative of the unfortunate children concerned for me to download pictures of them and write about it, in a harrumphing fashion, for this newspaper? Does it hurt them any more or any less than if I had simply downloaded the pictures for my own gratification? I would be, in my own fashion, gaining from the experience and - worse, you might argue - gaining remuneratively.

…. How absurd the law is. But at least it is an appropriate reflection of our collective neurosis and confusion about paedophilia generally. The one laudable and necessary aim - to protect children from abuse - has become warped by our consuming, obsessive hatred for those who find children sexually attractive. There is no causal link between viewing child porn and abusing children. And even if there were, it would not be sufficient, within the philosophy of our judicial system, to simply assume that an unpleasant penchant for the former presupposes guilt of the latter.

How much police time is tied up in Operation Ore, the police investigation which has so far uncovered the names of 7,000 people who have visited child-porn websites? And how many children will be protected from abuse as a result of the prosecutions? No matter how vile we may consider the sexual predilections of paedophiles, we should not be in the business of putting people in prison for simply looking at things. The law should be above the blind, howling, rage of Rebekah Wade's moronic vigilantes. But there is the whiff of Salem about it all.

One hook for the piece was Pete Townsend. Townsend was then under-investigation for allegedly visiting a site containing images of child sexual abuse. He famously said he had accessed the site as research for a book and in 2012, he wrote in his autobiography, Who I Am, that he had used his credit card to prove that British banks were complicit in illegal activity.

Townsend was given a caution in 2003 and placed on the sex offenders register for five years, but the investigative reporter Duncan Campbell later discovered that police had no evidence that Townsend had accessed a website involving children and found nothing incriminating on his personal computer.

The second was the ongoing ‘naming and shaming’ campaign by The News of the World, then edited by Rebekah Wade (now Brooks). While the paper’s naming of sex offenders did not result in the persecution of a paediatrician as the urban myth now has it, there was a major controversy about The News of the World — a paper not adverse to sexualising very young women — setting itself and its readers up as vigilantes.

Regardless of this context, Liddle’s arguments are disgusting. He frames punishing people for seeking out, viewing, and often collecting images of child sexual abuse as “putting people in prison for simply looking at things” and compares the jailing of people who consume child sexual abuse images to the Salem Witch Trials. The opening paragraphs — grossly expressed satire — are bad but it’s the serious heart of the article that’s really grim. Liddle outright denies that people looking at images of abuse contribute to the perpetuation of that abuse.

Liddle’s modus operandi has continued to be deliberately unpleasant. In August 2009, he wrote about Harriet Harman, then deputy leader of the Labour Party, “So — Harriet Harman, then. Would you? I mean after a few beers obviously, not while you were sober?” Liddle claimed it was ‘parody’.

In November 2009, again for The Spectator, he began an article on the stoning to death of a 20-year-old woman in Somalia with the line, “a quick update on what the Muslim savages are up to”. He then sarcastically added: “Incidentally, many Somalis have come to Britain as immigrants recently, where they are widely admired for their strong work ethic, respect for law and keen, piercing intelligence.” Liddle doesn’t own a dog whistle; he uses a klaxon.

The following month, once again for The Spectator, Liddle used the case of two black music producers who had plotted to kill a woman to write:

The overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community. Of course, in return, we have rap music, goat curry and a far more vibrant and diverse understanding of cultures which were once alien to us. For which, many thanks.

Accused of racism — which it was — Liddle shrugged and said he was just having a debate about multiculturalism. In March 2010, the press regulator at that time, the Press Complaints Commission, upheld a complaint against Liddle making him the first journalist to be censured for the contents of a blog, because his claim about crime statistics was unfounded.

Also in 2010, when Liddle’s name was floated in connection with the editorship of The Independent, posts by him on a Millwall supporters forum hit the newspapers. After initially trying to blame the comments on rival fans logging into his account to embarrass him, Liddle admitted he had written the posts which included supportive comments about the BNP and a joke about not being able to smoke at Auschwitz. In June 2014, he said he didn’t regret the posts.

In November 2011, Liddle wrote a Spectator article that claimed the trial of two men accused — and later convicted — of murdering Stephen Lawrence would not be fair. His piece was referred to the Attorney General by the judge in the case for possible contempt of court. The Spectator was prosecuted for breaching reporting restrictions and the magazine plead guilty, paying a £3,000 fine, £2,000 in compensation to Stephen Lawrence’s parents, and £625 in costs.

It didn’t chasten Liddle whatsoever. In January 2012, he wrote in his Sun column that many people in the UK were “pretending to be disabled”. His commitment to racism in The Spectator continued too. A May 2013 blog post, later updated, referred to the killers of Lee Rigby as “two black savages”.

That same year, Liddle published a blog post about the death of Nelson Mandela, castigating the BBC coverage of his death as “excessive”. He wrote:

For Christ’s sake BBC, give it a bloody break for five minutes, will you?

It’s as if the poor bugger now has to bear your entire self-flagellating white post-colonial bien pensant guilt; look! Famous nice black man dies! Let’s re-run the entire history of South Africa.

But Liddle isn’t content with being a racist, he’s also a homophobe. In 2016, after the MP Crispin Blunt said during a parliamentary debate that he had used poppers, Liddle wrote:

I would have thought that the requirement for amyl nitrate to relax the sphincter muscle and lube to accommodate entry was God's way of telling you that what you're about to do is unnatural and perverse. Or your body's way of telling you – your call. So eeeeuw. ... Crispin and others can always use a jemmy instead.

In August 2018, he wrote in an article for… surprise surprise… The Spectator, supporting Boris Johnson, who was then Foreign Secretary, that “my own view is that there is not nearly enough Islamophobia within the Tory Party.” (That line was subsequently changed)

When Liddle appeared on Newsnight in July 2019, Emily Maitlis accused him — accurately I’d — of writing columns containing “consistent casual racism week after week” and asked if he would describe himself as a racist.

The BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit upheld complaints against Maitlis agreeing that she had been “persistent and personal” and that she “[left herself] open to the charge that she had failed to be even-handed”. Liddle’s Spectator colleague, the frozen-faced contrarian Douglas Murray, called the segment “more of a drive-by shooting than an interview.” What a pair of babies.

And on the topic of man-babies, we come to our final demon: Jordan Peterson. I’ll cover Peterson more thoroughly in a future edition but I wanted to highlight his response to an Atlantic article by Helen Lewis — withwhom he previously clashed in an interview for GQ — about his new book and much-publicised bout of ill health (who knew just eating meat was a bad idea?):

The hot salty tears of a man who has long hung out with the ‘facts don’t care about your feelings crowd’ are unquestionably hilarious, but his inability to face any critique of his work ties Peterson to our other two demons.

Graham, Liddle, and Peterson — which sounds like a particularly curséd firm of solicitors — are united by the same combination of a hectoring, bullying tone for others and a demand that they themselves be respected.

They are Cartmen — endlessly commanding the rest of us to “respect mah authority!” — while being persistently cruel to anyone they feel like attacking. Peterson expects to be treated gently after his terrible ill-health, Liddle couldn’t cope with harsh words from Emily Maitlis, and Graham has a bully pulpit but can’t handle Twitter shitposters giving him the same treatment.

Sadly, unlike demons, this trio are all over the public discourse without any need to summon them.


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