A chap is entitled to his style
Saturday, July 27, 2019
I try not to be provoked by ill-judged political outbursts by my friends on social media. Life’s too short to fix everything someone gets wrong on the internet. Or so my wife tells me. Today, for example, I almost wasted an hour of my life responding to attacks on Jacob Rees-Mogg on my personal Facebook page. This was from friends (one of whom is an English journalist in Russia) commenting on this article in The Independent about the style guide JRM issued to his parliamentary staff, which was leaked to ITN.
My journalist friend said it reminded him of the forlorn attempts of the Académie Française to hold back changes in the French language. One of his friends essayed a witticism by posting this image
Fair enough, that’s a mildly amusing comic exaggeration but JRM, while not a libertarian, is very much a small state man. Unlike his authoritarian opponents in both his party and others, he wants fewer rules and less state interference with personal choices. It’s ridiculous to compare an office memo to the control-freakery of the Académie Française. He’s not laying down the law, just giving stylistic guidance to his employees. Write to him in your preferred style and they’ll now politely respond to you in his. Where’s the story here?
Yet class-obsessed (though disproportionately posh) journalists have apparently spent hours counting how many times Hansard features JRM using expressions he’s asked his staff to avoid. I understand they’re bored of Brexit. Aren’t we all? But if a free press has value (and I think it does) this strikes me as a poor example of it.
JRM is eccentric. He’s different. He adds to the rich and varied warp and weave of our wonderful society. He very much enhances its cultural diversity, in fact. But as his politics don’t suit the media hive mind, look how intolerant of “difference” journalists truly are. One extra space behind a full stop and he’s a dangerous reactionary!
Let me try to match my friend in Moscow in the field of OTT analogies. It reminds me of how the gentlemen of the press piled in behind Carl Beech when he falsely accused many Tories (and one — Jewish — Labourite) of sexual abuse and even murder. Never mind the facts, never mind the effects on the people concerned and their families. There’s the hated “other” in our sights. Attack!
So much for the kinder, gentler politics the Magic Grandpa promised
These of course are the very same journalists who first systematically ignored and then, when the story broke, downplayed statutory rapes by the thousand so as not to criticise cultural difference in England’s poorer towns. These are the same journalists so carefully weighing the pros and cons of the Jessica Yaniv story in Canada (or in the case of Canadian media so carefully ignoring it). Such courage! Such independence of thought! What was that old rhyme again?
You cannot hope
to bribe or twist,
thank God! the
But, seeing what
the man will do
no occasion to.
There. I haven’t wasted that hour. I’ve made a blog post from it. Now shall I send my friend in Moscow a link to it on Facebook ....?
Welcome to my blog and thanks for your contribution. With utter respect for yours, we don’t need to *agree* to disagree as we plainly already do. I certainly disagree on your right to speak for “the plebs”. I’m one too and not all of us are as snobbish as you. You write in your style. JRM will write in his. The guidance is only for use in letters drafted by staff to be sent in his name. I used to expect my staff to respect my style when drafting my letters for me.
I note that the society-wide style guide of political correctness imposed by leftist politicians on us all has met with no such critique in the media. This rather supports my theory that there is nothing to see here but knee-jerk class-hatred of a quaintly old-fashioned kind.
Posted by: Tom | Monday, August 05, 2019 at 08:23 PM
Tom, may I offer a rebuff?
I am glad that you agree that a man is entitled to his style, but so are all of us, to criticise journalists and people on a ‘personal’ facebook page is to shift capability for the responsibility of what one good self whatever one posts. Clearly, if one posts on facebook one is of course asking for reactions and comments of all kinds.
Mr Rees-Mogg Esq., is not out to reduce the number of rules, he is in fact increasing them. I see nothing wrong with his punctuation rules, within reason, but I do see a potential danger with lexical guides. Banning words like: “hopefully”, “very”, “due to” and “equal”, as well as “yourself”, “ongoing” and “unacceptable” smacks of double speak. His aim, perhaps, is to encourage his staff to appear to be more erudite, however banning words like: “lot”, “got” and “I am pleased to learn” do push me into thinking that he is in fact aiming to encourage his staff to speak a certain kind of jargon, such as that used by lawyers which is more or less unintelligible by the rest of us. What on earth is wrong with the phrase: ‘no longer fit for purpose’?, and who does the man think he is to decide?
These guides are recommendations for use by Mr Rees-Mogg Esq’s staff. As such they are not intended to be used by MPs, so theoretically they do not mean an awful lot. However one has to bear in mind that we are talking about the leader of the House of Commons. Like it or not, his guides will have an influence on how the House of Commons operates as a whole. Any members of any organisation, when vying for position and power, which people do by default, particularly within one grouping or party, has to comply with whatever house rules there may be, particularly when trying to impress. Clearly MPs should be able to write, and hopefully (ouch, I have been electrified by a minor JRM pop-up smiling at me on my computer screen) speak grammatically, but not all MPs have come from an academic background to enable them to do so, and insisting that they should do in fact opens opens up the ground for classism. In fact we are witnessing a break down on RP with the acceptance of regionalism. To argue otherwise is in fact to be counter-libertarian in my opinion. If one analyses the speeches of MPs in any common debate one will find an abundance of all of these phrases. Our American friends… well… better not said. This is a can of worms. Punctuation, yes, with care and common sense, but choice of words, hmm, very risky.
I personally take great offence in Mr Rees-Mogg Esq insisting on the use of imperial measurements. This is a completely insensitive directive, presumptive to the extreme, almost aimed to stir up reaction at a time when a very large part of this country is in fact experiencing serious doubts as to whether their ‘leave’ votes were in fact correct, and whether Brexit is a good thing or not in the first place.
Yes, the man is a colourful character, like his boss. Not lacking in confidence one could say. One could be nasty and use the word clown, although that may be banned soon. However may I speak for the plebs here as I feel myself to be one of them — we look at the appointment of such people with utter disdain, disgust and depression. This is not a circus, this is our government. Actually, we are actually pretty frightened by all of this.
With utter respect for your good self, can we agree to disagree?
Posted by: John Harrison | Thursday, August 01, 2019 at 02:05 PM
I like her way of thinking too. She's younger than me but in some ways far more mature.
Posted by: Tom | Sunday, July 28, 2019 at 02:39 AM
I like your wifes way of thinking ;-) I have a similar way of thinking. We can't fix all the ills of the world.
Except on occasions when we know we have to make a stance against the status quo. A stance that just might have the chance of achieving a change.
Posted by: CherryPie | Sunday, July 28, 2019 at 02:37 AM