This is chiming in with the chorus way too late, but I’ve been chewing on this for a while. Why Rod Liddle should not become editor of the Independent.
Apparently Lebedev has said that if he buys the Indy, he will make Rod Liddle editor. There’s a campaign to boycott the Indy if this happens. I support this wholeheartedly, although, to be honest, I seldom buy the Indy, since it shows up at the office, and when I do buy it, it’s at a discount on the campus shop. I can’t say I’ll refuse to read it, since I read a lot of newspapers, but if it changes it will no longer be my favourite newspaper to read for non-research purposes. Take that as a threat, you Russian, you!
I don’t read much of Liddle. A while back when we accidentally subscribed to the Spectator (long story), I used to read him and Toby Young sometimes. I freely admit that I have read more comment about him in the last three weeks than I have of his actual output. However, this is a blog, so lack of research should not prevent me from having an opinion, so here’s my opinion: Rod Liddle should not be appointed editor for the following reasons:
1) He’s too famous. I realise that Britain does have something of a tendency to make celebrities of their journalists, but I don’t believe this is a good thing for the newspaper. Editing a paper, especially a serious and intellectual one like the Indy is (or should be), requires someone who cares more about the news than about themselves as editor. Editing a paper in difficulties, as the Indy is, needs someone who will make it their first and only priority, who will be there every day, who will read it and nurture it and their staff, who cannot be anything other than demoralised at this point. Maybe Liddle would abandon all his other ventures, give up his columns and his other activities and be in the office every day. I hope so, but I suspect not. It’s clear that Lebedev thinks that one way to make people notice the Indy is to appoint someone famous as its editor, generate a bit of PR. I can see that argument, in the short term, but in the longer term, I don’t think this would work, especially not for a paper like the Independent.
2) He’s either a twit or a racist (or both). Either, as he claims, he is too stupid to pick a decent password for his membership in an online community, and too thick to work out how to delete posts or change his password once he figured out that someone was impersonating him, or those posts are genuinely his. If it is the former, then anyone hiring him needs to take a close look at his supposed skills and qualifications – he is clearly not fit for employment in the modern world, and especially not at a media company that has a substantial online presence. What’s he going to do, pick ‘liddle’ as his staff password and allow his email address to be hacked by disgruntled staff who then proceed to send rude messages to all the advertisers under his name? If he did make those posts, then he clearly holds some repugnant opinions. He may claim that the racist content of his columns is intended as a wind-up, that he’s playing devil’s advocate for the sake of argument and debate (more on that below), but that argument is pretty weak when it comes to posts made on a discussion board using a pseudonym. There is no way he can claim his participation on the Milwall supporters’ board is anything other than a leisure activity for him: he’s an ardent fan of the club, so if he were playing a game and spreading vile comments around for the sake of some social experiment, why is he shitting in his own back yard, as it were? In any case, his bylined columns display much of the same opinions – the point about the Milwall posts is not that they are offensive (after all, they are anonymous, and he is entitled to hold all sorts of opinions repulsive or not), but that they put the lie to any claim that his columns in a similar vein are only ‘for show’, or playing some kind of postmodernist relativistic game of devil’s advocate, since he evinces the same opinions behind closed doors, for free.
3) He’s one of the ‘wanker boys’. We don’t need more ‘wanker boys’ in position to influence opinion and policy in this country. Wanker boys are grown men who behave like fourteen-year-old boys and are proud of it. Ross and Brand are wanker boys – phoning up an old man and saying “ha ha, I saw your granddaughter’s tits” is classic wanker boy behaviour. So is opining that a highly-accomplished female athlete must be willing to perform all sorts of perverted acts in order to get a boyfriend because she isn’t the right kind of attractive. Comedians are often wanker boys, and while I find it offensive and unfunny, it’s kind of par for the industry. The issue is when this kind of attitude is permitted and aggrandised in other areas. Rod Liddle is not a comedian, he’s supposedly a journalist, but he seems to think that it is relevant or meaningful to judge the performance of a senior government minister on whether or not he would sleep with her. That’s the level of his engagement with serious issues: how drunk would you have to be to fuck her? Aside from the offensiveness of the whole concept (and I am seriously tempted to make a comment here about how physically repulsive Liddle himself appears to be – even in his byline pic – and how likely it is that any woman with a brain would even consider getting within ten feet of the man, but that would be validating the tack of his argument – that appearance is at all relevant when discussing politics, or journalism, or anything important), is this the best he can do? He can’t think of anything else to say, or write about, than his own dick? That is essentially the problem with wanker boys – they are incapable of engaging with anything beyond themselves or their desires, and that makes them useless as participants in civil society.
Leave Rod Liddle to his column, and his girlfriends, and his fan club of born-again suburbanites, and hire a real journalist to run the Indy. Someone with a brain who is not afraid to show it. There must be one or two intelligent, articulate and thoughtful British journalists left, surely?