Four perspectives on a delusion: GB News, Giles Coren, Janice Turner and John Lewis advert rage in the Exploding Plastic Invective

Reading the British press is like being trapped in a snow globe with sociopaths

Previously | Remember Foster's Law: A new method for dealing with Giles Coren


Reading the British newspapers every morning — as I do as part of my continuing campaign of professional masochism — can be like waking up inside a snowglobe where it’s always winter, the whims of Rupert Murdoch and Lord Rothermere make the weather, and columnists claim they wrap themselves up in the thick furs of ideology purely of their own accord.

The residents of the snow globe comment on the world beyond it but the curve of the glass has a distorting effect and all kinds of insanity are offered up as examples of common sense.

That’s what I’m looking at today; four perspectives on that delusion: Giles Coren pretending he’s ever come remotely close to being ‘cancelled’, GB News’ boss assuring the world he is not mad and that you should not print that he’s mad in your newspaper, Janice Turner finding another way to blame Jeremy Corbyn, and a Telegraph columnist raging at renters because of a John Lewis advert.

Consider the preceding paragraph as sufficient warning of what follows.

I’ve discussed Giles Coren’s back catalogue of appalling articles (as well as grim outbursts beyond the pages of The Times and Sunday Times) in this newsletter several times before, notably in the wake of his gleeful response to the death of Dawn Foster at just 34.

Coren has not apologised1 for laughing at Dawn’s tragically early death nor has he faced any sanction from his employers, whose old response was to batten down the hatches and close comments on his pieces for a time. It’s merely the latest in a long line of things that would get you or I fired from a job but which Coren can seemingly do with impunity.

It’s a mirror world version of Friends with Coren as the star and featuring the one where he fantasised about killing and then fucking a neighbour’s child for playing the drums, the one where he baselessly accusing another journalist of being a paedophile and threatened to stab them, the one where he wrote a racist screed against Polish people, the one where he called going away with his then-three-year-old daughter “the sexiest holiday [he’d] ever had” and its sequel the one where he berated his then-four-year-old son as “a fat little bastard” (that one had a sequel of its own — the one where he writes in grim, misogynistic detail about the boy’s circumcision).

And, like a bad sitcom that has gone on for a few seasons too many, Coren long ago reached the point where he relies on being self-referential. Hence today’s column, the one where he pretends he’s threatened with ‘cancellation’. Under the headline Done The Times, now I need to do the crimes and balanced on the flimsy premise that he might turn to burglary after an insurance company’s press release claimed burglars can bring in £70,000 a year, he writes:

… as a middle-aged, middle-class, white, heterosexual, cis-gender, public school-educated British male of small “c” conservative bent, I have had to accept that my days in the media are numbered. I may well hold on for a while to the columns and TV shows that I already have, but nobody is going to be offering me any new and exciting opportunities now, when there are so many important cultural, gender and lifestyle quotas to be filled by more diverse candidates.

And I’ll never get a book published again because of that time, years ago, when I said that thing, and that other thing, and the thing before that. And that’s all fine with me. The period of ascendancy for my sort is over and there is no point sitting around crying about it. We’ve just got to get on.

If it were actually true that Coren — who boasts elsewhere in the piece about his three columns, podcast, radio programme, and BBC TV shows — was under any threat of losing those deals, he wouldn’t be joking about the prospect but raging, raging, raging against the dying of the limelight.

Coren can chuckle about “when [he] said that thing and that other thing and the thing before that” because, as I’ve written before, he’s been drinking in the last chance saloon for so long that he knows all the bar-staff by name and is greeted with his usual every time he slopes in.

He ends the column by pushing the conceit even further, hooting:

… I say again, with things the way are, as the Oxford-educated scion of a famous family, with no skills, a long history of scandalous utterance and only a passing acquaintance with the truth, I am fit, in the job market of 2021, only to be a burglar. Or prime minister, of course. But one has to draw the line somewhere.

He can laugh because he knows that the truth of Britain in 2021 is that while they whine endlessly about the threat of cancellation and the ‘scourge’ of diversity, the Giles Corens of this world are still a protected class. He laughed — publicly and unrepentantly — at the death of a young woman and the most he suffered was some graffiti on his front wall and the brief closure of his comment section. He can pretend to be a threatened species because he knows he’s one of the most pampered animals in the whole zoo.

The burglar analogy is right but not for the reasons that Giles Coren thinks; he’s been stealing a living for decades, burgling the trophy cabinet of his father’s credibility and achievements. He’s under the misapprehension that pointing to nepotism will make it disappear, just as he thinks nodding to all the horrific things he’s said and done is a substitute for real self-awareness.

A similar toxic mix of arrogance and self-awareness is present in GB News boss Angelos Frangopoulos — possessor of the British media’s most enjoyable name to say — who has given an interview to The Daily Telegraph’s Business section in which he pretends he’s not angry about Andrew Nei and certainly not worried about Rupert Murdoch’s upcoming Piers Morgan-fronted TV channel.

Heavily-indulged by The Telegraph’s Ben Woods, Frangopoulos points to automated cameras in the GB News studio and claims:

The reason why this technology is important is because this is not a TV station. This is a modern media business that has digital at the heart and soul of everything that it is. GB News is a digital business with a TV channel attached to it. 

I agree GB News isn’t a TV station but not in the way Frangopoulos imagines; it is a tick in the arse of modern media, a comment section gone fully sentient, a flat-roof pub’s clientele given access to millions of pounds in ideologically inspired venture capital cash and the means to broadcast directly into the minds of the nation’s most red-faced audience.

Described by Woods as though he’s the subject of any celebrity profile (“In blue jeans, open-necked white shirt and black Prada glasses…) Frangopoulos shrugs off the channel’s ongoing technical disasters, terrible viewing figures, staff departures and embarrassing content.

The whole aim of the piece is to counter-punch against former GB News chairman, lead host, and Ronseal-lacquered human bin bag Andrew Neil, and to get in ahead of Murdoch’s TalkTV, which Frangopoulos claims “is a validation of our business.” The tone is the Dril tweet “im not mad. please dont put in the newspaper that i got mad.” repeated over and over like a mantra.

This week on Frangopoulos’ not-at-all right-wing channel, former Muttley to Guido Fawkes’ perpetually thirsty drink driving enthusiast Tom Harwood delivered a monologue criticising The Daily Mirror for critically covering the news that Boris Johnson had gone on holiday again, presumably serving as a showreel for inclusion in his future job application to the Conservative Party…

… and Dan Wootton shouted at the McPlant burger, trying to replicate Piers Morgan’s great success with screaming at Greggs vegan sausage rolls:

“It’s so dry,” Wootton shouted, accidentally reviewing his own show.

Back at The Daily Telegraph, Judith Woods took a similar approach to Wootton, managing to become enraged about an advert. The spot for John Lewis insurance which features a boy in a dress causing a great deal of property damage to his family home as he sashays through the place is a follow on from an earlier ad by the brand (2015’s “Tiny Dancer”), in which a girl’s twirling routine through the house causes similar chaos.

But for people endlessly on the hunt for wokery — and particularly the dread hand of the “trans lobby” (who they seem to imagine as all-powerful) — the advert is more than an advert, it’s an obscenity, a slap around the chops, a purloined mother’s stiletto stamping on a human face forever. While it led to many unhinged responses on Twitter and elsewhere (and forced John Lewis to issue a statement explaining that the ad is about “children having fun”), Woods keeps up the Telegraph tradition by penning the most unhinged.

Beneath the eye-poppingly angry headline Why the new John Lewis advert is everything that’s wrong with modern Britain, she writes:

Has anyone else seen that astonishing new advert for Ritalin2? Oh sorry, I mean that commercial for John Lewis home insurance?

You know, the one where the little boy trashes the house to a Stevie Nicks soundtrack and we’re supposed to think it’s cute because he’s wearing his mum’s frock and lipstick?

To paraphrase a rival retailer: this isn’t just an ad for insurance, this is a terrifying snapshot of all that’s wrong with Britain right now. For a start, what in the name of millennials was John Lewis thinking?

Presumably the storyboard was dreamed up by Generation Rent, who have no idea – no concept – of how much blood, sweat and toil grown-ups put into buying a house and making it nice. 

Ah yes, not only is this advert no doubt the work of the transes or their supine collaborators but it’s “presumably [been] dreamed up by Generation Rent” who rather than being forced into renting because of a broken housing system and the overweening greed of earlier generations absolutely adore living in cramped, expensive, cold and often unsafe conditions because they are not grown-ups.

The “Generation Rent” section is almost the perfect Telegraph paragraph, made to engender both smugness and rage in the readership: “My house is lovely! And now John Lewis wants to send a cross-dressing, poorly-disciplined child of the renter class here to smash everything up.”

Writing remember about a 1-minute TV ad, Woods wails:

The end result was unbelievably stressful, upsetting and – to use the snowflake vernacular – triggering.

Because no child ever messed up their parents’ house before or, for that matter, dressed up in their mother’s clothes or used her makeup. For a paper obsessed with how ‘weak’ millennials and zoomers are, The Daily Telegraph seems to play host to a remarkable number of melting snowflakes.

Like Coren believing pointing to his history of grim comments absolves him of any consequences for it, Woods preempts criticism by baking it into her column:

Sorry, son, oversized leopard-print heels are no excuse under law, and certainly not under domestic legislation in my house.

Look as a swathe of social media erupts. That’s transphobic!

Listen as another swathe responds. That’s not transphobic – see his aggressive display of toxic masculinity!

Hark, here’s another. How dare I judge this character? I don’t even know his/her/them/their pronouns!

Oh, and that quip about Ritalin. It’s no joking matter! In fact, it probably constitutes a hate crime. I ought to be reported, cancelled forthwith and with force. Whatever. Go troll somebody who gives a proverbial.

She invents a choir of critics to scream at and then boasts that she is tough enough to take them all on. Oh, and the millennial kids she’s screaming at for “not being grown-ups”? The oldest of them are turning 40 this year. It’s high time The Daily Telegraph created a new enemy.

Janice Turner — who cannot write a column without turning it around to the topic of trans people or Jeremy Corbyn — has the same problem.

In a column (“Corbyn’s legacy is still poisoning Labour”) likely filed before the killing of Sir David Amess, but updated with a topical insert ahead of publication, she plays the guilt by association game with Corbyn and the cases of the MPs Claudia Webbe (convicted for harassment), Fiona Onasanya (found guilty of perverting the course of justice), and Jared O’Mara (accused of fraudulent expense claims) as well as a drug offence committed by the son of a fourth Labour MP Kate Osamor.

While mentioning MPs of other parties who’ve been convicted of crimes (the Lib Dems’ Chris Huhne and Tories Charlie Elphicke and Chris Davies), Turner claims that “a disproportionate number of incidents occurred in Labour under a short stint of hard-left rule.” No mention of Phil Woolas who lost his seat after falsely suggesting that a rival candidate was courting Muslim extremists and narrowly avoided a criminal case, nor of Eric Joyce — partner of her colleague India Knight — who was arrested five times during his last five years as an MP and was convicted last year of possessing images of child sexual abuse.

But, of course, Woolas’ behaviour occurred under Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband was Labour leader when Joyce was rampaging through the Commons.

Where Turner’s column takes a… uh… turn for the truly grotesque though is the parenthetical added after yesterday’s horrific news:

Meanwhile Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, proudly proclaims Tories are “scum”. (How chilling such dehumanisation of political opponents sounds after Sir David Amess’s death.)

If Turner wants to link strong rhetoric with violent actions perhaps we can have a chat about her colleague Melanie Philips, whose columns were quoted in the manifesto of Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik. And will she be fine with taking some of the blame if her decision to connect Rayner’s rhetoric to a violent crime — while an investigation is ongoing — leads to threats or worse directed at the Labour MP?

Several commenters beneath Turner’s piece compare Jeremy Corbyn to Lavrentiy Beria, the notoriously sadistic, mass-murdering rapist who led the NKVD under Stalin. Does she or The Times think that’s the kind of rational, reasonable debate they claim to favour?

The Left cannot use rhetoric without being linked to the worst crimes of people who are responsible for their own actions while the columnists of the Right can target individuals, laugh at people’s deaths, and pick and choose their facts with total impunity. Inside the snow globe, the flurries are still falling but the chill is not evenly distributed.

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1

Some people considered his self-pitying column ‘Schools are back but I want a new term, too’ (Sept 3, 2021) to effectively be an apology, but that required Magic Eye levels of squinting and the line “I want a chance to put behind me all the damn stupid things I said and did over the last 12 months,” is not remotely close to an apology to Dawn’s family and friends.

2

Just a casual bit of ableism there.