There are some suitably boring things in the world: other people’s dreams; articles on how social media is “ruining communication”; the grey sodden mush of dirty ice left after an underwhelming snowfall.
One of these boring things – placed below baseball and just above receipts in my mental list – is the reactionary-yet-clearly-quite-status-quo columnist, Rod Liddle. A man infamous for assaulting his pregnant girlfriend, for writing an article on Harriet Harman beginning “So – Harriet Harman, then. Would you? I mean after a few beers obviously, not while you were sober,” and just being quite racist. Suffice to say, he’s as insipidly dull and conventionally offensive as your run-of-the-mill Clarkson or Hopkins.
A tactic of the right, when faced with a lack of copy on a Monday morning, is to delve into the left, pick an argument that’s going down, and just rattle off some insults in that direction – insults better at exposing the writer’s deep-seated insecurities than landing a verbal punch. Like a resented dying relative who no one really listens to but refuses to be ignored, Rod Liddle’s piece this week, “I should feel sorry for Tim Lott. I don’t,” is a petulant, ad hominem attack on Lott’s most recent article for the Guardian about being considered right-wing by left-wingers.
The offending article awkwardly seems to have alienated Lott from both the left and the right. It reeked of whiney white dude angst, as Lott refuses to accept the shifting focuses of left-wing thought – such as those towards intersectionality, safe spaces, and not being a total arsehole to people. Lott and Liddle share similar attributes, thinking the left is partly full of mindless softies with no desire to “question”, or that espousing conservative views that have existed for hundreds of years is somehow “radical” and “interesting.” Except Lott has significantly less abhorrent views, and also doesn’t want to be right wing.
Disclaimer: I know Tim Lott. Quite well. Okay, so he was quite instrumental in my creation. As my father. But don’t let this make you think I can’t critique him as a writer. There is a line, early on in James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, in which the protagonist says “…I was undergoing with my father what the very young undergo with their elders: I was beginning to judge him. And the very harshness of this judgment, which broke my heart, revealed…how much I had loved him, how that love, along with my innocence, was dying.” Which is a pretty intense way of saying ‘my dad was a bit of a dick when I was younger so now when I read his articles I can acknowledge they’re problematic without feeling conflicted by feelings of loyalty or love or happiness.’ What fun.
I see how wrong Lott is. I do. But Liddle’s technique of sitting on the side lines of the left/right divide, pointing and spitting, is an example of where a publication should put more effort into diversifying its content, because how much aimless white man drivel can we really be expected to read these days? The crux of the argument seems to stem from Liddle getting a bit hurt that someone used the term ‘Right-Wing’ pejoratively.
The tone of the defensive, petulant child persists throughout the piece, as Liddle smugly attempts to give his two cents in a battle that he just simply wasn’t invited to. It’s unclear what exactly Liddle is getting at other than a) verbalising an uninteresting qualm with another journalist and b) exposing a clear intellectual chip-on-his-shoulder, with the lexicon of an over-enthusiastic GCSE English student (“anathema,” “shibboleth,” “inchoate”).
Liddle, and other self-proclaimed saviours of the Church of Free Speech, need to stop constructing content in reaction to the left fighting amongst themselves. Yeah, I think Lott’s wrong, but if we, the left, weren’t disagreeing about something, then we’d just be falling into that exact trap of never interrogating our own thoughts. Either, we’re all just clones patting ourselves on the back for knowing what ‘cis’ means, or, we’re infighting and fragmented. The fact that Liddle is continually throwing contradictory punches is testament to the vacuousness of his complaints.
Proving that some not-particularly-lefty lefties aren’t right-wing either is hardly the basis for deconstructing an entire ideological system. Or writing a think-piece.
Go back to being a sexist for your outdated magazine, Rod, no one wants you here.