Shock jocks and jaundiced journalists – those who just say something to court attention – are not serious figures. They do not realise that words can have repercussions or that some malleable, moronic misanthrope may even act on them. They are shallow people who seek, and may get, an instant reaction but leave nothing for posterity.
Unfortunately, many of these figures are supposed right-wingers whose ludicrous pronouncements discredit the bona fide conservative. I agree with Peter Hitchens that these boorish people behave in a way that Lefties like to imagine right-wingers behaving. By this I mean that we are perceived as self-absorbed, xenophobic, materialistic and indifferent to drowning migrants. Genuine conservative values – a protestant work ethic, a natural distrust of over-regulation and big government, a belief in family values and individual acts of charity – are all overlooked because we have been (ill) defined by others. And to an extent that has been the case for the past 20 years.
The danger for right-wingers comes not so much from The Guardian, which most people recognise as existing in a time warp, but from idiots who purport to speak on our behalf. By displaying a kind of bumptious arrogance they help to make the views of decent conservatives off-putting. It’s also very easy to discredit your opponent by attributing views to him that are so extreme as to be offensive. So, perhaps some of these people, saying grotesque things, are actually Lefties in disguise. If the Conservatives lose the election, it will be because the “nasty” label was resurrected successfully against them.
Then there’s the other kind of idiot media figure who has no sensible views about anything at all, no ideology and real opinions of his or her own. These are people for whom words are just hand grenades, dispersed randomly. Many years ago I worked on a local English-language newspaper in Portugal. A columnist wrote a piece repeatedly urging readers to shoot pensioners dead – in a bid to stem overcrowding. I never even read her piece to the end. Such people should never be so flattered as to be named. And I have genuinely forgotten the name of the alleged journalist concerned. When each progressively more shocking statement is too obviously a bid to win a ratings war, I stop reading.
On radio, a kind of (gentler) forerunner of the aforementioned shock jock was Brian Hayes who did a London phone-in on LBC between 1976 and 1990. Hayes had a tendency to demolish the diffident caller who couldn’t articulate himself instantly. Yet he was also highly articulate and intelligent. Unfortunately, Hayes ushered in a couple of other much less distinguished clones on LBC – hosts who were just plain rude and devoid of any other redeeming qualities. I can no longer remember their names but I do remember Hayes, which I guess says something about the mediocrity of his imitators but also his quality.
I suspect that the current generation of shock jocks will also vanish in a few years’ time. Meanwhile, we should beware the twits in Tory clothing