December 29, 2008

A “Guardianista” is, in the English variant of our common language, someone who ascribes to the general viewpoints of The Guardian newspaper. It’s more than just reading it (as I do) or writing for it (as I occasionally do, they use me as their rhetorically bomb throwing rightist occasionally), it’s really buying into that pinko leftie mindset where everything America does is wrong, where individualism (unless by oneself or one’s children) is to be rejected in favour of collectivism, where private schooling (unless of one’s own children, for they are indeed different) is an anathema and of course taxes should be higher and all would be happy knitting tofu flavoured yurts while singing Kum Bah Ya if only the State forced them to. Middle class hypocrites in other words.

Not a mindset that many of us are likely to fall into then. But two who very much have have made the news this past week. The first was Harold Pinter who made the headlines by dying. His plays, which earned him the Nobel for Literature (I wouldn’t know, philistine that I am) are said to be excellent. His political views were rather less so: he supported the Kurds against Saddam because Saddam was at that time supported by the U.S. He then supported Milosevic and the Serbs because, despite their ethnic cleansings and murders, their enemies were supported by Uncle Sam. Being for those who are against the U.S. is a rather childish, if common, political stance. However, one thing that endears him to many Englishmen was his attitude to cricket. About soccer (football to us) one manager once said that of course it wasn’t a matter of life and death, it was far more important than that. To the cricket aficionado this betrays a definite lack of proportion. Here is how, for example, the Times Literary Supplement (TLS) announced Pinter’s Nobel:

The award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Harold Pinter is notable for being the first Nobel to have been won by a member of the TLS cricket team.

Or The Independent announcing his death

Samuel Beckett is the only Nobel winner to appear in Wisden but Harold Pinter”€“dismissed for 78 on Christmas Eve”€“is surely the only Nobel winner with a cricket webpage.

Or Pinter himself on cricket:

He once famously described the game the ‘greatest thing that God created on earth’ which was better than sex.

Well, it is true that the senior version of the game lasts five days but it’s perhaps not exactly the comment that one’s wife would want one to make. We can go back to (rightly) excoriating Pinter’s politics once the body is buried but this tale has tickled me for years.

The death of Simon Gray lets me reprise a favourite story. He was a close friend of Harold Pinter, a great cricket lover. Once Pinter wrote a poem about his hero Len Hutton. It read, in its entirety “I saw Hutton in his prime / Another time, another time.” He sent it to several of his friends.

Soon afterwards Pinter and Gray were at the same dinner party and Pinter asked what he thought of the poem. “I don’t know, Harold,” said Gray. “I’m afraid I haven’t finished it yet.

As to Alan Rusbridger, the Editor of The Guardian itself, I think we can be a little ruder, his body not currently lying cooling between death and burial. He turns up in the New York Review of Books talking about how horrible UK libel law is. While this is true his complaint is about how he and the paper were sued for libel by Tesco’s, a supermarket they had accused of trying to dodge a billion or so in corporate taxation. It was pretty obvious, even to mere blog writers and commenters, that the journalists had made a complete mess of their investigation. But the really hilarious thing was that when the tax scheme was finally worked through, it wasn’t corporation tax that was being dealt with at all, rather, Stamp Duty (think sales tax on property). The hilarity coming when it was revealed that The Guardian itself was making use of exactly the same sorts of structure in order to avoid exactly the same tax on its own activities.

Oddly, Rusbridger doesn’t mention that in the NYRB, but then that isn’t really all that unusual for people from that paper. The writers regularly decry those who attempt to minimise inheritance tax, perhaps by placing assets into trust for the future. They prefer not to mention that The Guardian is owned by a trust set up to minimise inheritance tax by placing assets beyond the taxman’s reach. They decry companies that don’t pay their “fair share” by using tax planning but don’t mention that The Guardian itself does the same.

As I said at the top, middle class hypocrites most of them. This interview with Rusbridger really just hammers the point home.

So when you see something like “The Guardian says” that….well, whatever, I wouldn’t sweat it too much. No one over here pays all that much attention to them either. Unless it’s about cricket of course.


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