Those on the libertarian right will not hear a word said against former Living Marxism stalwart Brendan O’Neill, now of Spiked, so named because it should have been long ago. His knee-jerk whataboutery is held in the highest regard by such people, especially as the targets of his writings are inevitably on the left, and can be painted as part of the mythical “liberal élite”. He is also incapable of doing basic fact checking.
So it was that O’Neill contributed “The anti-tabloid snobs are the real bigots” for the Spectator magazine’s Coffee House blog section. Yes, the received wisdom was that those who read tabloids were bigots, and it was actually the other lot! Note also that the term “snob”, another from the same nastiness library that spawned “luvvies”, is gratuitously inserted, just to make the target of his ire look worse.
O’Neill was discussing the aftermath of the Finsbury Park Mosque attack, and the thought that the attacker might have been influenced by the constant diet of Muslim bashing copy in papers like the Sun and Mail. He dutifully singled out Lily Allen for severely adverse comment, thus bringing his next commission from the Murdoch or Rothermere press closer to reality. And then he targeted Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson.
That is where O’Neill went badly wrong, not that you would know from the supreme arrogance of his screed: Rowson was denounced as “cartoonist-in-chief of the bitterest sections of the chattering class”. After the Daily Mail’s legendarily foul mouthed editor Paul Dacre had his meltdown, ranting uncontrollably at the Guardian for publishing Rowson’s cartoon, O’Neill sucked up to the Vagina Monologue, saying of his rant “It isn’t wrong”.
Thus the Spiked man’s next Northcliffe House payday draws ever closer. He confirmed his grovelling before the Rothermere press’ bully-boy in chief by adding “Rowson’s cartoon captured everything that is wrong with the post-Finsbury panic about the tabloids”. Moreover, it “defames everyday newspaper readers”. And there was more.
“It is outrageous to suggest that anyone else, be they Mail journalist or alt-right YouTuber, bears responsibility for the intentional wrongdoing of others. Worse, the implication that tabloid readers are on the cusp of ‘hysteria’, that they’re instructed from on high ‘how to think and feel’, is a rotten libel against the working people who read these papers”.
Rowson cartoon in the Mirror, from 2013. Five minutes' Googling
But enough. Those who know Martin Rowson’s work at all well will know that O’Neill has, by this point, put himself in what Spike Milligan would have called A Very Difficult Position. That is because Rowson is not just a contributor to the Guardian. His work also appears at a paper called the Daily Mirror. He is a Mirror contributor of 20 years’ standing.That, Brendan O’Neill, is one of those tabloids you just defended, read by those working people you claimed Rowson had defamed. Thus the elementary lack of research.
The problem writers have in trying to occupy the intellectual high ground, when they can’t be arsed doing the most basic of fact checks, is all too clear. Brendan O’Neill fills his screed with all manner of esoteric hipster asides. He alludes to literary greats of the past. And, for all I know, he ranks as high as any in Rome.
But underneath all the sneering braggadocio, he’s just another dopey meathead who can’t get his facts straight. But he uses lots of big words, so that’s all right, then.