Hang on, there's been a hitch
The idea that we can disagree on issues of the day, and indeed on recent history, but keep our disagreement rooted in a common respect for facts, is still powerful enough this side of the North Atlantic for some in the media establishment to try and respect it, whatever the pressures and diversions of their profession. But one of their number has no problem stretching facts beyond the bounds of elasticity in order to satisfy his own vanity.
To no surprise at all, that one individual is the unfeasibly egotistical Peter Hitchens, contrarian supreme and specialist in the art of arguing in his spare time. Hitchens occasionally gets something wrong. But this weakness cannot possibly be conceded by The Great Man, and so, when Jonathan Portes of King’s College London corrected him, this was an affront to Hitchens’ omniscience which could not go unpunished.
Where Hitchens went wrong can be put directly: he got the date of UK accession to the Treaty of Rome - joining the EEC, as it then was - wrong. He claimed it was 1972; it was January 1973 (see HERE, HERE and HERE). Hitchens, though, decided he knew better. “For Jonni Portes … The day in January 1972 when Britain formally joined the Common Market (unlike Jonni, who was at nursery school that day, I watched it on TV)”.
Note the combination of appeal to authority, and patronising over-familiarity (“Jonni”). This, like Hitchens’ recall, didn’t work, as Portes fired back “That article literally says that membership ‘took effect on 1 January 1973’. As does the Parliamentary website, the Commission website, etc. We know you think your ‘opinion’ overrides actual, verifiable, objective facts. But you won't convince anyone”. And there was more.
“The hill on which [Peter Hitchens] has chosen to die on today is that - contrary to what the history books and the law say - the UK joined the EEC in 1972 rather than 1973. Because he says so. Time to stop giggling and do some work I think”. Cue the Tweeter known as Steve Analyst. “Article 1(1) of the Accession Treaty 1972 explicitly confers membership on the UK ‘hereby become members of the European Economic Community’, and Article 1(1) does not come into force until January 1st, 1973 as per Article (2)”. It’s still 1973.
So I pointed this out. By now, others would have said “sorry, my bad” and moved on. Not him. “Actually … there is an interesting argument over the significant moment, varying from the Parliamentary vote in 1971 to the coming into operation in 1973. I wouldn't quarrel with any of them. But Bloviating Jonni … told me that I was *wrong* to use 1972”.
Because accession happened in 1973. But Hitchens was, by now, off and running. “This epitomises .. Jonni’s problem, that he mistakes his opinion for fact and cannot disagree rationally, or accept that anyone else might make a judgement different form his on the same facts. Hence his frequent resort to dishonesty in debate”. Projection, much?
Peter Hitchens epitomises the sickness of our media class. Alternative facts, indeed.
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