Hands up who misses Rhetorically Speaking? I know I do. It was my favourite one-stop shop for all things batshit insane, a regular nailing-to-the-floor of the stupid, the wilfully ignorant, the misleading, the nasty and the unpleasant - particularly Mad Mel and Nadine Dorries.
Sadly, one of my favourite bloggers appears to have moved on to pastures new, but hopefully there will be a return one day. In the meantime, let's have a look at Mad Mel's latest.
If you were in any doubt - any doubt whatsoever - as to whether Phillips was a journalist or not, I think this paragraph is game, set and match proof.
as far as I can see, will mean that if a woman kills her husband she will get away with it whereas if a man kills his wife he will be convicted of murder.
How about THAT, Mr Fung? Sorry, I've gone all Barry Sheck again. But look, there it is, very simply put indeed. Look at the thought process that's gone into those words. "As far as I can see..." says Mel. How about "I've researched this article, and those things I'm not sure about I've spoken with an expert about, or a fellow journalist who has a greater insight into this matter. Luckily I work for a national newspaper so such a person is always just a phone call away in order for me to be accurate in what I say. I mean, I am getting paid thousands of pounds a year to write this, so I really should be the gold standard for accuracy." - no? No. No, 'as far as I can see' will do.
Forget research. Forget fact-checking. Forget any of that. Phillips appears to have read James Slack's article from the other day - and we know what a bastion of truthfulness and journalistic integrity he is - and taken it at face value.
Except that if she had been bothered to check - you know, actually do her job - she would have found out that what she sees in 'as far as I can see' is utter cock. But then that's the point of Mad Mel, in a way. She's not paid to research, investigate or be accurate about things - she's there to make knee-jerk judgments based on little more than her own prejudice and stupendously ignorant world-view. That's what people like, apparently.
I can see why. If by some horrible accident I became one of those people who reads the Mail and enjoys it, I'd want Littlejohn to tell me that Britain's going to the dogs because of PC fascists. I'd want Mad Mel to tell us that we're under attack from Muslims and liberals. I'd want Allison Pearson to write some shit slagging off another woman. That none of these things might actually be the truth wouldn't be the point - people do, after all, seek out things that reflect their own prejudices and reinforce their views. Why should Mel suddenly say "Oh hang on a minute, bit of a storm in a teacup, this isn't as bad as we'd thought..."? No no, that's not the point of her, is it.
Yes, there are lots of well-educated people who disagree with her - Harriet Harman, Baroness Scotland, Geoffrey Robertson QC and the solicitor who founded Justice for Women - and all of these people have a considerable amount of experience in practicing law, whilst Mel is but a meagre journalist who studied English at Oxford. But you, dear reader, would be forgetting Law of Melanie # 49: Just like with that MMR thing, if lots of well-qualified experts disagree with you, that simply means they’re all wrong.
That just about sums it up nicely, though I also enjoyed this comment from Cabalamat:
Melanie Phillips is an ignorant, contemptable waste of space who is ideologically opposed to rational thought...
Quite. I can understand the point of her - she's there to reassure you that your prejudices and fears aren't wrong; in fact they're even worse than you could have imagined! - but that doesn't mean that she's a journalist by any stretch of the imagination. She's no more intelligent or incisive than some pub bore who drones on and on about what's in the paper without ever reading much further than the headline. And that's fine. Until anyone starts taking her seriously.
Incidentally while we're on this subject, I must agree with Tom Evans, who pointed out in the comments on the other story that perhaps the reason why it was so easy to depict the new legislation as skewed towards a particular gender was because it had been presented that way by Harriet Harman. It is rather depressing that she couldn't bring herself to present it in an intelligent and balanced way, something which perhaps is down to fear of the tabloids - not that that's an excuse, mind you.
Even as it is, she's been crucified by the rabid right as some kind of Millie Tant evil defender of 'wimmin's rights' (I'll personally donate £50 to a women's refuge if that phrase appears in Littlejohn's column tomorrow). Had she couched the legislation in terms of 'partners' and 'spouses', would that have made any difference? Probably not - she'd still have been flayed to pieces. And yes of course, this legislation is reacting to stats which show certain types of crime are predominantly committed by men or women, but it doesn't hurt to express yourself clearly and accurately. As it is, the story has been predictably twisted by the tabs - because she gave them a bit of an open goal.