The Subtweet & Unsackable: Giles Coren’s preposterous privilege means he can drink forever in the last chance saloon...
Giles Coren benefits from chummy media silence but he still doesn't need to wait for death to find out what most of the world thinks of him.
I thought seriously about whether to write this edition.1
Giles Coren adores the attention his “look mother, I’ve just shit myself” antics draw. However, I couldn’t shake the implications of his most recent disgusting comments in a long history of disgusting comments.
If you want to save yourself the unpleasant but necessary accounting that follows, read this beautifully expressed obituary of Dawn instead.
Giles Coren has a tried and tested method for avoiding the fallout that comes after he says something appalling in his column or on Twitter. He just disappears. He’s the Keyser Söze of shitheads.
Once the storm has dissipated he sneaks back acting as if nothing happened, safe in the knowledge that his friends in the media and his employers at The Times, Times Radio and the BBC will act as though they are wearing blinkers specifically designed to block out his arrant arseholery.
Any regular person in a normal job would have found themselves tossed out of the last chance saloon years ago if they did just one of the many awful things he has done. But Coren nods to the landlord as he saunters in, takes up his familiar spot at the bar, and starts honking on, certain that he will never be thrown out for even a day, let alone barred for good.
The journalist and writer Dawn Foster died last week. She was just 34. The news of her passing led to wave after wave of tributes to a bold, brave, and distinctly bullshit-free person. Dawn was incredibly kind, spoke up for voices that are often ignored, but also never shied away from saying sharp things, even if that upset people in her own industry.
Dawn’s reporting on Grenfell Tower won her a regular column in the Guardian’s opinion pages, in addition to the regular column she had in the paper’s Society section. Two days after the fire, she wrote in the Guardian:
‘The issue certain people have with tower blocks is not safety, but the fact that poor people live in them, that they exist at all.’ She knew this because, possibly uniquely among anyone reporting on the fire for national media, she herself had grown up in one.
… she articulated the needs and wishes of people who can’t afford not to hope, and she aimed with everything she wrote to give people — herself included — something to hope for.
Clearly, that couldn’t be allowed to happen. In mid-2019, I noticed that she hadn’t been in the paper for a while and assumed she was ill, so I texted her to see how she was.
‘Sacked,’ she replied, typically to the point. It emerged that she had written a piece, about Labour’s then-deputy leader Tom Watson, that had so upset the paper’s gatekeepers that they decided she couldn’t be kept on.
When I did put forward the Tom Watson article I was very surprised that they did actually say yes… it was edited, all fine. And then I just got an email that said, ‘Just so you know, won’t be renewing your contract but you’re perfectly welcome to send in any ideas you have in the future and we’ll take a look at them’. I was like, ‘Fine by me, perfectly happy not to have to constantly send in articles every week and have them constantly turned down because you want to give the ideas to somebody more right-wing.’
Later, I was told that somebody else had spoken to Tom and he was unhappy. A different journalist had sent Tom a text message that he had become annoyed at and he had complained to the editor about that text message and also my article.
So, that’s good fun. I wasn’t too unhappy knowing I’d managed to annoy him.
Now we come to someone else Dawn managed to annoy — Giles Coren — and his ham-fisted, crown prince of gammon subtweets about her. The first version which was tweeted at 13:15 on 20 July 2021 read:
When someone dies who has trolled you on Twitter, saying vile and hurtful things about you and your family, is it okay to be like, “I’m sorry for the people who loved you, and any human death diminishes me, but can you fuck off on to hell now where you belong”?
That was deleted and replaced with a second more ‘mild’ version at 14:16 on the same day:
When someone dies who has trolled you on Twitter, saying vile and hurtful things about you and your family, is it okay to be like, “I’m sorry for the people who loved you, and any human death diminishes me, but,
HA HA HA HA HA HA”?
In case Coren isn’t clear after receiving hundreds of tweets on this topic, the answer is: No, it’s not okay. It is possible to keep some thoughts within the fetid soup of your malicious mind rather than allowing them to spill out into the world.
The second tweet was subsequently deleted just like the first and Coren retreated into his familiar tactical silence. Meanwhile, various equally vacuous talking heads suggested that he was simply exercising free speech, pointed to celebrations over the death of Margaret Thatcher2, and ferreted around in Dawn’s tweets to find some justification for his words.
But look through Dawn’s tweets in good faith and you’ll find what Coren called ‘trolling’ boils down to a number of occasions when she corrected him — including when he defended a sexual harasser — and a single tweet from 2018 which reads:
Giles Coren: a prime example of how the ‘if I’ve heard of yer da, I don’t need to hear from you’ rule holds for almost every man bar Jesus.
Giles Coren waited almost three years and until Dawn was no longer around before he launched his counter-attack; the petulant nepotism princeling’s Pearl Harbour.
Coren was educated at The Hall School in Hampstead and Westminster School before going up to Keble College, Oxford where he studied English. Dawn was born in Belfast and grew up in Newport. She attended Caerleon Comprehensive School and Bassaleg High School before going to Warwick University to study English on a scholarship.
There are many men with Coren’s background — public school then Oxford — in the British media. There’s a despicably small number of people with backgrounds anything like Dawn’s. Giles Coren, whose father Alan was a renowned comedian and journalist, plays the media on the easiest level possible. Dawn, who achieved so much in the appallingly short number of years given to her, played it on one of the hardest possible settings.
I last saw Dawn in person on 24 April 2019 at the funeral of our mutual friend Lyra McKee, another brilliant journalist denied the years she deserved. We sat in the pub afterwards talking about Lyra and gossiping about the media. It feels unreal to think that both Lyra and Dawn are gone. They were both too vital, too passionate, too burdened with further stories to tell to just not be here anymore.
Giles Coren’s silence about his subtweets is matched by omerta from his bosses and colleagues. Jim Waterson, The Guardian’s Media Editor — whose partner, the former HuffPost UK editor Jess Brammar is currently under sustained and undeserved attack from the right-wing press — asked News UK about Coren’s tweets and reports that the company has “no comment”.
Before finally receiving the ‘no comment’ comment, Waterson tweeted:
Five hours since I asked News UK if they had any comment on Times journalist and Times Radio host tweeting this, deleting his tweet, then deciding to do it again with a different phrasing. No response as yet. Obviously scrutiny of tweets is a priority for UK media.
The Times has published three articles about Jess Brammar’s tweets so far.
Since we are on the subject of tweets and ‘vile trolling’ thanks to Giles Coren. Let’s consider some of his greatest shits in that area:
In September 2018, Coren became involved in a back and forth with The Guardian’s Michael White. Quote-tweeting a message which included White, Coren wrote:
Anyone know who this old cunt is? He looks like the top half of Davros.
“This old cunt” knew your dad, Giles. Clever, funny man. What went wrong?
To which Coren replied with a string of libellous tweets falsely accusing White of being an abuser of children:
My dad said you fiddle with kids. Is that true?
He’s dead so you can’t sue him. But he did suggest you put your fingers in knickers without asking. In this new age, you may have to answer for this. Of course, you could always not invoke dead men to insult their children. But then you’re a mean old cunt, aren’t you? So you do.
White, enjoying the abundant room on the high ground, replied calmly:
Anyone can read what happened here between us and work it out for themselves. Time for you to go to bed, I sense. Sleep well, wake up a better person.
But Coren was not done. He continued:
You fucking bastard. I am going to find you and I am going to beat you TO A FUCKING PULP.
You are fucking disgusting. You am [sic] going to come to your home tomorrow and fucking stab you you piece of shot. [sic]
See what happens when Coren, who notoriously sent a rude and abusive note to The Times’ sub-editors when he believed his precious copy had been mangled, is without their professional attentions? What a total piece of shot.
In typically cowardly fashion, Coren wrote about accusing White of being a paedophile in a column published in December 2019. Of course, he didn’t name White. Instead, he whipped up his own distorted version of their interaction, using the platform afforded him by The Times to get revenge:
… I, myself, quite recently called someone a paedophile on Twitter without for a moment believing the man to be one. He had just left me with no option but so to accuse him.
He was an influential journalist, much older than me, formerly a senior executive on a national broadsheet newspaper, who had been abusing me in print for years, always in relation to my family, always insinuating that everything I am and do has been made possible by nepotism alone.
I say, “for years”. In truth, this famous political editor and TV pundit bravely waited for my father to die before he began his campaign of abuse. But as soon as Alan Coren (who perhaps once slighted the man professionally?) was safely in the ground, this widely fêted hero of the left began his campaign of hate, with a newspaper article asserting that I had had sexual relations with Ruth Kelly, then the transport secretary, a woman of devout Catholic belief. In so doing, he referred to me as “the hereditary humorist” — especially unpleasant as the father from whom I had “inherited” this job had died of cancer just the week before. I was shown the story at his funeral, by a smirking colleague of my abuser.
Shortly after that piece appeared, Bartholomew’s Notes blog looked into Coren’s claim that White had made insinuations about him and Ruth Kelly. It, like so many things Coren has written, was a distortion:
White, as a newspaper diarist, had made several teasing comments suggesting that Coren owes his position in public life to the fact that his father Alan Coren was famous, and this seems to have hit a nerve. Giles Coren framed this as “a man I’d never met, full of rage that I have work at all, blaming it all on my increasingly long dead father”. Coren also referred to
a newspaper article asserting that I had had sexual relations with Ruth Kelly, then the transport secretary, a woman of devout Catholic belief.
However, when I checked the source I found the following:
Someone else tells me that Ruth Kelly went out with Giles Coren, the youthful hereditary humourist, when they were both pupils at Westminster School…
There is no “assertion” here, and “sexual relations” in Coren’s version is obviously meant to imply an adult sexually consummated affair rather than teenage dating. Such a deliberate distortion indicates we should regard his claims of mistreatment with caution.
Three years before he falsely accused Michael White of being a child abuser, Coren wrote one of the most vomit-inducing articles ever to grace the pages of a major newspaper.
In Giles and Kitty go to Antigua, an account of his trip to a £2,553 a week Caribbean resort with his then-three-year-old daughter, he wrote:
I sit and stare at her, like the dippiest lover, not talking, transfixed by her beauty. Unable quite to drink it all in. Missing heartbeats at the way she gazes out at the sea through her long, curling lashes while slurping Coke through her pursed, plump little lips.
And doing this I realise how being on holiday with my tiny daughter is the most insanely romantic holiday, in some ways even the sexiest holiday, that I’ve ever had.
I laugh at everything she says. I hold her hand wherever we go. I want everyone to look at this beautiful creature I have all to myself. And because she is only three, they do, and are not revolted.
I love all her outfits. And I get to choose them (up to a point). I suncream her whole body with glee. It doesn’t take long (except when she giggles and runs and I rugby-tackle her but lose her in the greasiness, like trying to bring down an oiled piglet). And then she does my back.
If Coren were say an estate agent and posted both violent threats on his Twitter account and at best bizarre descriptions of his toddler daughter, he’d likely have ended up on the front page of The Sun with the copy heavily implying his home and hard drives should be searched.
And it’s not as though his gloating at Dawn’s death, the weirdness about his daughter, or the violent threats towards Michael White are aberrations. As I’ve detailed in previous editions of this newsletter (A short history of wankers: As a Times obituary celebrates a drunken, misogynist 'icon', Giles Coren keeps up the tradition..., Nov 29, 2020, and Mr Disgusting speaks: Giles Coren hates his readers and the feeling should be mutual, Jan 21, 2021), disgusting outbursts are a habit and a hobby for him.
In 2008, he called Polish immigrants ‘Polacks’ in The Times and told them that “if England is not the land of milk and honey it appeared to them three or four years ago, then, frankly they can clear off out of it.”
In 2010, he tweeted a rant about his neighbour’s child playing the drums, which read:
“Next door have brought their 12-year-old son a drum kit. For fuck’s sake! Do I kill him then burn it? Or do I fuck him, then kill him then burn it?” He followed that up with the ‘punchline’: “Child for sale, charred and partially fucked. Has own drum kit.”
In 2011, he used his Twitter feed to break a privacy injunction and ended up facing the prospect of criminal prosecution for contempt of court.
Arse on him like Vanessa Feltz and a full-frontal presentation at bath time that puts one in mind of a Gavin and Stacey-era James Corden or a well-waxed Christopher Biggins, all giggly on too much rosé.
He went on to write that he didn’t care what the boy grows up to be as long as he isn’t fat.
In 2018, his sockpuppet account on Twitter — written in broken English, named after a Polish character in his awful novel, and used to attack people who criticised him — was discovered by Vittles-creator Jonathan Nunn.
But time and time again, Coren is given another chance, without facing any sort of consequences for his actions. His employers at News UK not only give him the luxury of three columns in The Times and Sunday Times but have inflicted his machine gun mundanity on Times Radio’s minuscule and masochistic audience.
In his latest column, Coren took the piss out of both those indulgent editors and employers and his own long-suffering readers/listeners/viewers, writing:
I hate banging out column after column, whanging on about nothing on the radio for hours and talking codswallop from exotic locations on television, every bit as much as you hate operating on diseased livers, doing other people’s tax returns, teaching other people’s ignorant children, putting up scaffolding every day, or whatever you do, and every bit as much, it turns out, as the world’s second-richest man hates running Tesla.
Which is odd, because I’d have thought the money would help. The fact that I am paid quite well for this job is what keeps it this side of bearable. Makes me feel less of a mug for trawling through the newspapers every single morning of my life for stories I can bark my opinion about to total strangers, like some smelly headcase outside Morrisons.
Just as News UK has no comment on Coren, so his colleagues remain silent and the only other publications to have published pieces about him gloating over Dawn’s death are The National, The Daily Express (seeking an opportunity to attack the BBC) and The Daily Mirror (which basically had its story rewritten by The Express — they’re both owned by Reach).
While there’s every chance that Coren will turn the criticism he received for his snide subtweets into yet another column about ‘online trolls’, it’s even more likely that he’ll talk about other things and hope we forget. His pals in the press and media won’t utter a word of criticism about him and he’ll keep his cosy columnist job — the one that he hates so much — terrible Times Radio show and gig fronting patronising TV travel shows.
And those of us who are rightly calling for him to face consequences for once will be dismissed as “SJWs” and “cancel culture” advocates, because when someone, like Brammar for instance, says something mildly critical of Boris Johnson they deserve to have their Instagram stories trawled through by perpetually thirsty drink driving enthusiast Paul Staines.
But when Giles Coren jokes about killing and burning a child, threatens a fellow journalist with stabbing, or laughs at the untimely death of a brilliant young woman, well… that’s just banter, yeah?
Coren belongs in the strata of the media class that can be as cruel as it wants to anyone it wants without sanction but is entitled to turn its guns on anyone, however small their platform, who dares talk back to them.
Giles Coren is in the Subtweet & Unsackable again, sipping a pint and smiling to himself, certain beyond doubt that he can say whatever he wants to whoever he wants. The Times pays him handsomely to be that cruel and it’s terribly impolite of you to mention it.
If anyone thinks it’s distasteful of me to have put Giles Coren into a Hieronymus Bosch vision of hell, just tell them I was inspired by Giles’ past work. It’s just all just a big laugh, right?
An incredible false equivalence between a Prime Minister who destroyed whole communities and considered Augusto Pinochet a pal and a journalist who was occasionally salty to people who absolutely deserved it.