You'll know I'm no fan of Rod Liddle. I'm not really much of a fan of the Independent nowadays either, though I still read it from time to time. So which is worse? There's only one to find out... make Liddle the editor!
Incredibly, that's what a real human being has thought up as a viable idea to actually happen. Really.
Roy Greenslade has a good post up today about the shockwaves that the possibility of Liddle turning up and editing the Indy has created:
High-profile writers and editors are privately expressing grave concern about the decision by the editor-in-chief, Simon Kelner, to appoint Liddle. They believe his views run counter to the paper's ethos and, in the words of one critic, it will prove to "a recipe for commercial disaster."
Not just commercial disaster, though, I'd wager - disaster for that newspaper in particular, and disastrous for the press in general. We've already got half a dozen or so "Climate change is bollocks, isn't it, of course you can't say anything nowadays for fear of upsetting minorities, and the PC liberal elite, who run everything, are ruining our country" newspapers; it's hard to imagine how Liddle would do anything than create another one.
There's an ever-growing Facebook group, now with 1,588 members at the time of writing, to try and stave off the threat of Liddle becoming editor and dragging the Indy into the toilet, which I think is an excellent idea. Paul over at Though Cowards Flinch is a bit more sceptical than me about that and hopes the NUJ will ride to the rescue - well I'd love to imagine they might, but I think the chances are remote. Still, a few days ago no-one would have thought that anyone in the world could have possibly considered Rod Liddle to be anything other than a miserably bad columnist who occasionally says things that are racist and whose blog entry about Marcus Brigstocke marked a new low water mark in his once-mediocre career.
There is another possibility, though, and it's one that I've considered for a while. Liddle might just be writing for his target market at the Spectator. He knows the kind of shit the readers there expect - ill-thought-out but provocative polemic about how liberals are all bastards and how it's actually the white people who are the good guys, and everyone in Bongobongoland is savage scum, written with enough conviction, if not evidence, to create a stir. You're faced with a choice if you're a writer like Liddle - you can write about what you want for buttons and a hearty "well done" every now and then; or you can abandon everything you believe in, all those principles you hold dear, and dive into the cesspit in order to keep the money coming in. I dare say he makes a decent enough living by dancing along the racism tightrope at the Spectator - who cares whether he believes in it or not? It's certainly effective, even if I find it blood-vomitingly offensive.
So there's a possibility that the liberal-left are worrying too much about Liddle. He may not be a borderline racist with keyboard-in-the-face stupid views about a great deal of things; he may simply be a canny journalist who knows exactly what his readership want from him - in the case of the Spectator, I think he's got them fairly well nailed down. It may be that ability to anticipate the demands of his readership that could lead to him being a great success at the Indy, you see.
All right, obviously not - of course not - but I thought I'd throw it out there anyway. I think the reason he's being picked is that someone, somewhere thinks he will be the kind of provocative, attention-grabbing editor who can turn up on the kind of TV programmes who need someone to make Quentin Letts not look so appalling and idiotic; he can generate publicity for the paper and attract people to it, people who might not otherwise be interested in the Independent and who might think that he'll bring a bit of fun to it. It's wrong, and it's doomed, if that's the strategy, but that's all I can think of.
Liddle gets the last laugh in all this, of course. He gets to chuckle about the people setting up Facebook groups, knowing that quite a lot of print dinosaurs are still lumberingly suspicious of anything electronic and wouldn't know social media if it came and bit them on the eyeball. He gets to arrive in his job with a pre-packaged controversy helping him get noticed. And, most of all, he gets the job. That said, I still think his presence as a national newspaper editor is another nail in the coffin of the dead-tree press. And I can't find myself thinking that's a good thing.
See also: Sarah Ditum at Liberal Conspiracy