Poor Tam Cowan. The comedian – and, by all appearances, total knob – is the latest to fall victim to “the liberal elite” aka “the baying mob” aka “the media firing squad” aka [insert your own not-at-all hysterical synonym for ‘people who don’t agree with total knobs’]. Other victims include the Daily Mail, Page Three, smacking and private schools, those great British institutions which are constantly under attack from smug, privileged, obscenely powerful people who just don’t know the common man (at least, not in the way Boris Johnson or Paul Dacre do).
Cowan is in trouble – or, to use the words of Kevin McKenna, accused of “crimes against humanity” — because he wrote a pathetic, sexist little rant about women’s football. Because of this he is facing “a lynch mob” or, to use a slightly less tasteless expression from McKenna’s defence, facing one of the liberal elite’s regular “executions”. That’s a bit extreme, isn’t it? I mean, yes, he’s written a steaming pile of crap but surely he doesn’t deserve to die for it? Come on, metropolitan chattering classes, have a heart!
Thankfully I’ve checked again and he’s not really going to die. This is his actual punishment:
Cowan was forced into making an abject 800-word apology in the Daily Record 48 hours later. […] The BBC in Scotland immediately suspended him from his weekly Saturday football show. The Sunday Herald deemed the tale worthy of its splash and a laughably po-faced leader called on the national state broadcaster to sack him.
I know, I know, 800 words! And calls – calls! – to sack him when no one actually had any intention of sacking him! How awful! How truly, truly awful! Although – let’s be honest – nothing comparable to an actual lynching. Way to pick those metaphors, Mr McKenna!
To be honest, I don’t think Tam Cowan is all that upset about facing sanctions for being a knob. If, in the absence of any genuine foes, you’ve decided to “bait the forces of political correctness” you’d probably be delighted when people bite. Obviously this is pure conjecture, mind, but then McKenna indulges in the same by accusing those attacking Cowan of not being “as offended […] as they purported to be”. It’s an interesting reading of things, given that he’s already defined the man he’s set out to defend as a professional troll. Being a nasty, offensive human being is apparently fine providing it’s based on self-interest rather than genuine prejudice (although it’s not clear how these two differ); on the other hand, responding to nastiness is indefensible for precisely the same reasons (how dare people attack sexism! It’s only part of life’s rich tapestry!).
Anyhow, the thing I’m wondering is, why the histrionics? Why can’t smug, boorish sexists ever take criticism in the light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek way in which it’s intended? Sure, there are real consequences — writing 800 words if you’re a sexist, losing your job, your bodily autonomy, possibly your life if you’re a victim of sexism — but really, it’s all a laugh. Honestly, women might look a bit grumpy when they hear the latest sexist “joke” but deep down they’re pissing themselves (it’s the real reason we need Tena Lady. Sod all to do with childbirth and pelvic floors but entirely to do with how utterly hilarious we find the female condition).
I say all this and of course I’m part of the “liberal elite”. I went to Oxford and Cambridge and I think thoughts that could be classed as lefty and feminist. Thus McKenna has my number:
These people inhabit a world in which they attend £100-a-head cultural awareness weekends where people make their own cardigans and (lamentably) their own poetry.
Similarly, Dacre knows just what I’m like:
The metropolitan classes, of course, despise our readers with their dreams (mostly unfulfilled) of a decent education and health service they can trust, their belief in the family, patriotism, self-reliance, and their over-riding suspicion of the state and the People Who Know Best.
It’s spooky, isn’t it? It’s like I don’t really hate sexism, shit politics and rubbish newspapers after. I just love making cardis and hate my mum!
And yet something just doesn’t sit right. As a privileged person I don’t want to make inappropriate arguments about how inclusive feminism and left-wing politics are. People who didn’t spend nine years bumbling around Oxbridge can make those arguments instead. But having chosen to spend so much time amongst ex-public school, self-styled intellectual types, I have to say I‘m pretty convinced that lefty, liberal, feminist values are anathema to the elite. I have never encountered more people who wholeheartedly espouse the values of the Sun and the Daily Mail than in the junior and middle common rooms of Oxford and Cambridge.
Of course, they don’t think they do. Like Dacre, they believe the Mail only speaks for the oiks, the useful idiots, and feign to read it with amused detachment. With their beliefs in essential gender differences, Ayn Rand libertarianism and genetic bell curves, they think they’re cleverer than all that. When they do defend the Mail it’s in the name of “freedom” (let the little people have their fun). They’re not prejudiced themselves. They believe in “the British sense of fair play” (and it has to be British). I’m making sweeping generalisations, yes, but isn’t that what everyone’s doing now? And to be honest, I think mine are more based in reality.
The “liberal elite” stand accused, often rightly, of being hypocritical for not allowing others to speak. It’s that paradox whereby if anyone’s listening to you, to a certain degree you’re no longer speaking for those who don’t have a voice anyhow. But just how seriously should anyone take it when those who wish to speak in their place are the hyper-privileged, seeking to hide behind “the common man” (always a white, heterosexual, working-class man) to defend their white, heterosexual, upper-class bullying? It’s such a pathetically weak tactic. It shows that any argument based on principles and values has already been lost. But they keep on shouting, loudly, and they keep on claiming victimhood through rhetorical hyperbole. Lynch mobs, executions, firing squads etc. etc. Such a far-fetched use of language and yet it’s others who are accused of being shrill and hysterical. Never mind. If not being a complete shit is now considered being part of an elite “baying mob” then count me in.