Monday 7 August 2017

RIP Subtlety

The strange death of subtlety.  Forgive my unsubtle wordplay, but two recent laments at the strange-but-true obsolescence of *subtlety* appeared in the press recently. 

Forget subtlety, nuance or shades of grey. Your opinions must be black, white, or squeezed into 140 character soundbites. You. will. take. sides.

Douglas Murray’s Spectator article  was titled: “Kevin Myers’ eager critics should feel ashamed of themselves.” 
I have to ask myself, was I an eager critic? I suppose I was in a way. But then again, I wasn’t. 
I agree with 99% of Douglas’s argument.  Kevin Myers shouldn’t have been ‘written off’, either as an antisemite or a ‘Holocaust denier’ for all the reasons that are set out in the piece.  Sacking him was unfair, considering the bile that so many others with far fewer redeeming qualities have been able to get away with recently. I mean much more ill-intended stuff. But in the current climate NOT sacking him would have looked almost as bad. What can you do? 

Maybe being socially ostracised is just collateral damage; the fall-out from recent events. He may merely have been a scapegoat, an example, a warning to others; beware.

However, where Myers has been given a little too much of the benefit of the doubt by Douglas is in his generous reading of those crass innuendos about Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz as “a joke along the lines of ‘They’re no fools, these Jews’. 
“The point I imagine Myers was trying to make would appear, if anything, to have been somewhat philo-Semitic.” 
That is stretching it a bit. I mean, as if! 
Anything can be made to sound straightforward or deeply sarky, according to delivery and context. But in print - nah. Risky and show-offy, as Douglas himself willingly admits. It was an ill-judged throwaway, and if not antisemitic in itself, it pandered to antisemites. And in his subtle and nuanced defence of Myers, so, in some ways, does Douglas. Some of the below-the-line comments testify to that.

Subtlety, RIP.

The other article is a more straightforward lament about the demise of subtlety. It’s by Caitlin Moran,  who concludes that “there’s little to be gained in making a nuanced point in what is basically a medieval marketplace.”

While making the broader point that civilisation is functioning a-okay, despite the conspiracy theories that have been ushered in by social media in what she sees as “The Golden Age of Paranoia”, Ms. Moran also addresses the fallout from the revelations about BBC salaries.  With less subtlety than the thrust of her article would intimate, she expresses her contempt for critics of the BBC.
“But what surprised me, […]was the sheer number of people, from the left and the right, who were convinced the BBC was a wholly corrupt news organisation, devoted to perverting the truth and screwing the public.”

Oh noes! How can that be??

Is it not deeply ironic that the author of this Tweet concerns herself about the strange death of subtlety?

The BBC likes their 'bad boys’. Perhaps we’ll soon be watching Kevin Myers reviewing the newspapers and being controversial on the panel of Question Time or on the Daily Politics.

Anyway, I like subtlety. It will be back.


  1. I'm sure most Jews (and Scots) take a pride (can I use that word) in being thought careful with money.
    Perhaps you are catching the 'see offence everywhere' disease too?
    The trouble with the written word is that the reader can't see the 'tongue in cheek' of the writer and the writer can't see the furrowed brow of the reader. Speaking one-to-one we continously adapt what we say depending on the reaction of the listener.
    Reading 'between the lines' has always been something that has been done at the reader's risk, now the writer is expected to anticipate the reaction to things that they didn't write too. It becomes easier not to write anything at all, which is exactly what the post modern facists want.

    1. I agree. To suggest Jews, Scots and upper middle class people are "careful with money" not really an insult...It's suggesting they are serious people who look at life seriously and value family as a way of building social permanence. Equally, I don't think to say some people "live only for the moment" is an insult - whether they be Caribbean, Irish or working class. There's a lot to be said for living in the moment.

      These are stereotypes (meaning individuals may vary hugely from the type) but they are not free floating lies...they tend to relate to some observable facts.

  2. The 140 character limit on twitter has removed any scope for shades of opinion. It's all or nothing full on all the time.

    1. I don't agree. Not a Twitter user myself but you can deploy it to link to much more detailed work - essays, videos, charts and so on. The character limit is a bit like the headline and para headings in a newspaper.

    2. Yes, that's the idea, but the reality is that the headline is the message - the more sensational, controversial and eye-catching the better. Your average follower might not bother to look any further.

  3. Yes, unfortunately Twitter personifies the age of the soundbite.

    As for Caitlin Moran, I don't have access to Times Online so as far as I know her article might have been a moment of rare insight. The tweet seems more typical, but after all she is the archetypal forty-year-old, fourteen-year-old.

  4. Maybe if Kevin affects a radical hair do... and self describes in new and interesting ways, whilst engaging potty marf to eleven?

  5. I don’t think you were being too eager a critic of Myers and by extension Murray, Sue. This kind of stereotyping can be harmless. How often have I heard Yorkshiremen relishing in it? But the whole Jews and money thing is different. Not only is it simply incorrect, but for centuries it has been the starting point for so much conspiracy based anti-Semitism.

  6. Caitlin Moran is extremely rich and therefore has every right to be as unsubtle as she likes with regard to referencing female pudenda because she is a major shareholder in Modern Feminism Inc (a very profitable globalist media property). Such privilege is not extended to the plebs of course.

  7. Myers said: “I note that two of the best-paid women presenters in the BBC — Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz, with whose, no doubt, sterling work I am tragically unacquainted — are Jewish. Good for them.”

    Righteo. Out of 95 names in the BBC’s list of high earners, only about three are ‘known’ Jews. That’s Winkleman, Feltz and Simon Schama.

    Winkleman, is the highest paid woman, but she’s 8th on the list. Feltz is 10 places lower (below Alex Jones and same level as Fiona Bruce and Tess Daley)

    So why would anyone think “being Jewish” has any bearing on their over-generous pay?

    Even so, let’s say that coming 8th and 18th out of 95 on the list “whilst being Jewish” is significant, (never mind the other 92 non-Jews) because, as Myers says: “Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price “ then, let’s ask ourselves if there is there anything derogatory in this observation.

    Was Kevin Myers simply admiring these ladies’ financial acumen, as some claim? Or do the words: “with whose, no doubt, sterling work I am tragically unacquainted” imply that he hadn’t heard of them so they’re probably rubbish? Perhaps Kevin Myers is so inherently sarcastic that even his most innocuous remarks appear to mock? Perhaps he genuinely didn’t realise he was skating ever so close to an antisemitic trope.

    I’m sure the Scots and the Jews would take pride in ‘being thought careful with money’ if that’s all it was. For one thing Scots are thought of as ‘tight’ albeit in an affectionate type of way. It’s a running joke.
    Jews? look it up.


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