Misery Mummy: Allison Pearson shows how columnists assume we are all as dysfunctional and desperate as them

And we're expected to see these strange folk as our betters?

If you’re lucky enough to still have your mother around or to have a mother who you get on well with, how often do you call her? I’m very lucky to have a mum and dad who, most of the time, I get on very well with. It’s part of being from a small family — I am one point in a triangle — and we generally talk to each other at least a couple of times a week on the phone. My parents are good people and I’m lucky to have them.

Contrast that with the slice of abject oddness presented at the start of Allison Pearson’s latest despatch from her fevered ego which lives high above the earth in a geostationary orbit, confused and angry with the rest of humanity for acting in ways which it cannot comprehend or approve of, wishing not-so-secretly that it could ascend to the dictator’s seat and ‘fix’ the whole mess in its image. She suggests essentially that her son will only calls her if he’s moping or needs money. Right…

Pearson is a fundamentalist. She writes crazed columns which strike out in all directions, raging at the government one week, at young people the next, and sometimes just at herself. There must always be someone to blame, there must always be something or someone to shout about. In this week’s case, it’s her current hobby horse — asserting that the pandemic is not as bad as the government says and that there’s really no need to have all this fuss about it.

I’m not going to write extensively about Pearsons’s Covid fuckery here or even her ridiculous and ironically named Planet Normal podcast. Instead, I want to talk about the weird hallucinogenic drug that is column writing. Placed on a perch for years and sometimes decades columnists grow increasingly odder, required to have opinions on everything when the average person would rightly shrug at half the topics.

It is the columnist drug that causes these writers to grow ever more fond of culture war controversies. These confected outrages make it easy to bash out 800 words of reheated invective and often provide several columns worth of outrage — the initial column, the follow-up about being trolled on social media about the first column, and the ‘needless to say I had the laugh last’ finale in which they claim that some ‘climbdown’ is as a result of their powerful words.

The columnist drug is what led Giles Coren to write the most Uncle Disgusting column of all time — a sexualised hymnal to his young daughter as a holiday companion — a text which, had it been published on a WordPress blog and not in the pages of the Times, would have got his hard drive checked faster than you can say, “But Gary Glitter wrote some good songs, actually.”

Similarly, the columnist drug has led Toby Young to write such gems as why no one came to his stag do, why his wife is the reason he doesn’t try to have sex with underage girls, a weird thing that was basically Boris Johnson fan fiction, and a whole host of other columns that reveal him to be one of the strangest and most worrying men at work in the British or any other media.

Among this gang of galumphing creatures, Allison Pearson lives near the top of the pile. She is a person willing, like her Daily Mail version Sarah Vine, to embarrass her own children for commissions. She lies with impunity — creating sources from nowhere — and sprays snobbishness and contempt almost constantly. She is a well-paid reactionary and, like Coren needed his hard drive checked, she would be on a Prevent programme watch list if she were not a well-paid, well-connected white lady penning her screeds not on forums but in the comment pages of The Daily Telegraph.

Next time you’re angry with the words of a columnist, just comfort yourself with this: Their brains are boiling soup.

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