Johann Hari : Not Bananas, Just Drugged

Johann Hari has an article today in the Indy arguing that since Gordon Brown is going to lose the election anyway, he might as well go down with all guns blazing. Liberated from the need or indeed possibility of winning an election, he can swing madly to the left. Hari reckons Gordon should apologise for Iraq to the Iraqis and in doing so shame the Americans. Then Gordon should put up tax rates to 60%, price big family cars off the road, and as a finale, fly in Iraqi refugees from Syrian and Jordanian camps. Hari advocates all this political Hari kari for Gordon with the cheerful words “If you are going to lose, Gordon, lose with style”.

Gordon will no doubt be chuffed to bits with the, errrm, sensible advice Johann offers. This follows on from Hari’s article last Thursday; Why bananas are a parable for our times, in which we learnt about the CIA’s use of the banana to fight communism. On Sunday Hari wrote an article entitled;Are GM bananas the answer? Apparently if genetically modified they will overcome “the current bananapocalypse” caused by mega-corporations because “we have to muddle through now as best we can, trying to keep six billion people alive.”

Guido is a teensy weensy bit concerned and called Hari to ask – “Are you on drugs?” It turns out that he was but he is alright now. He was necking Modafinil earlier this month, a stimulant cognitive enhancer that is a “wakefulness promoting agent” used to treat narcolepsy, depression, schizophrenia and fatigue related conditions.

We touched on Xanax use – which he pops before hopping on a flight – Guido suggested that based on his own experience some drugs seem positively subtle at first but manifest themselves in ways not immediately recognisable by the user, but easily identified by others. No, no, no says Hari, with Modafinil he “was just able to glide into a state of deep, cool, effortless concentration.”

“It was as if I had opened a window in my brain and all the stuffy air had seeped out, to be replaced by a calm breeze… The next morning I woke up and felt immediately alert. Normally it takes a coffee and an hour to kick-start my brain; today I’m ready to go from the second I rise. And it continues like this for five days: I inhale books and exhale articles effortlessly…”

Not at all bananas…

The Guardianista Class

guardian logo

Ever wonder why it is that the Guardianistas are against grammar schools? A co-conspirator points out that this post keeps getting mysteriously deleted from the Guardian’s CiF comments:

Editor Alan Rusbridger (Cranleigh); political editor Patrick Wintour (Westminster); leader writer Madeleine Bunting (Queen Mary’s, Yorkshire); policy editor Jonathan Freedland (University College School); columnist Polly Toynbee (Badminton); executive editor Ian Katz (University College School); security affairs editor Richard Norton Taylor (King’s School, Canterbury); arts editor-in-chief Clare Margetson (Marlborough College); literary editor Clare Armitstead (Bedales); public services editor David Brindle (Bablake); city editor Julia Finch (King’s High, Warwick).; environment editor John Vidal (St Bees); fashion editor Jess Cartner-Morley (City of london School for Girls); G3 editor Janine Gibson (Walthamstow Hall); northern editor Martin Wainwright (Shreswbury); and industrial editor David Gow (St Peter’s, York).

If only Guido had had the advantages they did…

UPDATE : A school chum draws attention to Seumas Milne who is an Old Wykehamist (Winchester College) and at Balliol, Oxford, another mentions the Observer’s Andrew Rawnsley – Rugby School and Cambridge University.

The Sheep With The Wool Pulled Over Her Eyes


Janet Daley’s stunning insights into the character of Gordon Brown in her Daily Telegraph column last year caused disquiet with many on the right because she is seen to be of the right. She firmly bought into Gordon’s project, thinking that he would be intellectually firm in the face of the shallow flim-flammery of Cameron.

She wrote immediately after the Glasgow terror attack:

Mr Brown made a terse and perfectly judged statement. For all its brevity, it conveyed the essential message of calm resolution and national unity: “I know that the British people will stand together, united, resolute and strong.” This was High Seriousness delivered in the old-fashioned way, with spare wartime urgency and without sentimentality.

He even became to her a great, non-neurotic TV performer:

Again, yesterday, in his interview with Andrew Marr, Mr Brown did not put a foot wrong … Interestingly, these were the first television appearances I have seen in which there was no sign of his peculiar nervous mannerism of rolling his tongue inside his mouth that is so beloved by satirists. Has he been trained out of it, or has he been transformed by his role and the state of national emergency? Either way, its absence helps to remove the impression of neuroticism that would not have inspired public confidence.

So no more laughing at Gordon the Great. The next month in August 2007 she contrasted Brown’s biblical strength to the effete Dave. Gordon had, in Janet’s view, the strength to withstand the trials of power:

First the terror attacks, then the floods, now the pestilence. Gordon Brown seems to be undergoing the trials of Job. But in this case, it is not so much his faith that is being tested as the country’s in him. And, my goodness, isn’t he rising to the challenge?

Once again he has appeared on our television screens within hours of terrible news, not just to assure us that he personally is taking charge of the foot and mouth crisis but to thank the authorities in affected communities for their cooperation and competence – to make it clear, in other words, that he is in command but also deeply respectful of people on the ground who must deal with the problems over which they have singular expertise.

Wow! Will this guy ever put a foot wrong?

Gee, Janet, who knows? Your psephological predictions suggested not: What the voters will look for is not a leader who bangs on about how things look, but one who can cope with reality.

Reality struck Janet hard in September :

Can Gordon pull it back? This week is the true beginning of the Brown era, as opposed to the fag end of the previous one. With the Queen’s Speech and the first Brownite legislative programme we should get the answer to the political question of the moment: was the New Brown a figment of our imagination, the most transitory illusion ever to capture the imagination of the Commentariat, or was there really something there worth grasping?

Almost a redemptive mea culpa.

The Commentariat collectively, Janet in particular, wrote in the summer of 2007 with all the considered judgement of a herd of sheep. They however would have you believe that they possess valuable insights and good judgement based on their intellect and access to the key players. They have opinions just like everyone, no better, no worse. They merely express them better than most. More often than not their access and close proximity to the subjects they write about clouds their judgement. Mostly their opinions are not worth the chip-wrapping they are written on…

Is That Legal in Scotland?

According to Andrew Alexander in today’s Daily Mail:

“The head of the Scottish Labour Party, Wendy Alexander, is married to Cabinet minister Douglas Alexander.”

The Profundity of the Punditry : Janet Daley


Still looking for examples of Janet Daley’s stunning insights into Gordon Brown from last year. Send any gems you have found to Guido.Fawkes@Order-Order.com

Incidentally the Telegraph today repeats the mistake that the Tories have not taken a seat from Labour in a by-election for “30 years”, a mistake also made by the Sunday Times yesterday. That error was compounded by the article claiming Margaret Thatcher’s constituency was Grantham. Mistakenly they refer back to the famous Ilford North by-election of 1978 which presaged the fall of Jim Callaghan’s government. In fact the Tories more recently gained Mitcham & Morden from Labour in a 1982 by-election, when Maggie was of course actually MP for Finchley.

Coming Next Week : Holding the Punditry to Account

The exasperated collective counter-attack by the establishment Commentariat on bloggers has inspired Guido to start a new regular feature. When the great and the good assembled at the RSA last Wednesday, shepherded by Julia Hobsbawm, John Lloyd (in absentia) and Matthew Taylor*, to bemoan their diminished status, they drew the battle-lines for a battle that should be joined and won for the blogosphere. The Commentariat desperately want to maintain their monopoly role as media gate-keepers, as the sub-edited filters of democracy and the monopoly producers of public commentary. Guido has said this before; in an age of near costless technological disintermediation “the news” is no longer what they say it is, we can make the news ourselves, unfiltered by the metropolitan media elite. Successful boutique news sources are proliferating. The media Goliaths now face an army of blogging DavidsA lot of what was said at the Editorial Intelligence event was plain ignorant, the conflation of blog writing with blog comment interaction in particular. It is true that the comments left here and on the Guardian’s CiF can be pretty vitriolic and profane, but they are genuinely reflective of what readers really think. Polly Toynbee hates the contradictory “barrage” of comments that follow her articles because she has an over-inflated view of the value of her analysis. Many of us only read her articles for the pleasure of seeing them torn to shreds in the comments that interactively follow. Polly is highly paid and successful because she is a provocative columnist, not because she is a better analyst of social affairs than Frank Field. That is a valuable hack talent she shares with Richard Littlejohn…

The fear and ignorance heard last Wednesday did not showcase the “Power of the Commentariat”, it highlighted their decline. They are weakened and rightly so, for they have time and time again failed to hold political power to account successfully. Proximity breeds compromise and the politico-media class has for example tolerated lying about expenses by politicians for decades and that toleration spread to tolerating spin, which is as often as not professional lying. Democracy is worse off because the Commentariat are compromised by being so embedded in the political class – or as Polly Toynbee explains “in sympathy with politicians”.

Laughably the Commentariat simultaneously fear and deride what they perjoratively term the “cult of the amateur”. The irony of this is not lost on Guido. The pundits of the unpopular press really need a re-think here, very few journalists earn as much as top bloggers. Guido can think of a few lone website owners who produce their content and make far more than most journalistsof the Dead Tree Press. They are also profit making publishers, unlike the Independent, Guardian and Telegraph.

This misplaced arrogance of the Commentariat deserves a research-based response. The writings of the Commentariat no longer just end up as fish and chip wrapping, their writing is accessible via the internet forever. So tomorrow, hopefully with the assistance of the wisdom of the blogging crowds, Guido will start putting the profundity of their punditry in context and under the microscope, starting with Janet Daley.

What did she, with all her intellectual authority, tell us about Gordon Brown last summer? Feel free to be profane…

*Matthew Taylor has complained bitterly about bloggers before. Contrast Taylor’s attitude to Rupert Murdoch’s attitude to the democratising of commentary. Overwhelmingly the Commentariat basically has a protectionist attitude, the increasing pluralism of news sources scares them because it devalues them. Shrewdly and counter-intuitively, Murdoch has an enabling attitude, expanding by freeing the market for commentary. He gets it.

Steve Richards: Fails Numeracy Test

The man who told us last week that if we were only as clever as him we would vote for Ken Livingstone, demonstrates his genius again this morning in the Indy.

So what, if anything, can Brown do to avoid a 1997 landslide in reverse? Currently, a fatal narrative is in place. It can be summarised in three words: “Brown is a disaster”.

Via Dizzy

Steve Richards : “Voters Aren’t As Clever As Me”

Apparently if only voters were as clever as the Indy’s Steve Richards they would vote as he tells them. If they don’t vote for Ken they will have failed Steve’s test. They will have failed themselves. They will be punishing themselves. There are windbags, there are really pompous windbags and then there is Steve Richards.

UPDATE : Da Fink is more polite, Shane Greer less so.



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Quote of the Day

Tory MP Nick Boles says what everyone thinks…

“There is a timidity and lack of ambition about Mrs May’s Government which means it constantly disappoints. Time to raise your game, Prime Minister.”

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