The strange death of subtlety. Forgive my unsubtle wordplay, but two recent laments at the strange-but-true obsolescence of *subtlety* appeared in the press recently.
Forget subtlety, nuance or shades of grey. Your opinions must be black, white, or squeezed into 140 character soundbites. You. will. take. sides.
Douglas Murray’s Spectator article was titled: “Kevin Myers’ eager critics should feel ashamed of themselves.”
I have to ask myself, was I an eager critic? I suppose I was in a way. But then again, I wasn’t.
I agree with 99% of Douglas’s argument. Kevin Myers shouldn’t have been ‘written off’, either as an antisemite or a ‘Holocaust denier’ for all the reasons that are set out in the piece. Sacking him was unfair, considering the bile that so many others with far fewer redeeming qualities have been able to get away with recently. I mean much more ill-intended stuff. But in the current climate NOT sacking him would have looked almost as bad. What can you do?
Maybe being socially ostracised is just collateral damage; the fall-out from recent events. He may merely have been a scapegoat, an example, a warning to others; beware.
However, where Myers has been given a little too much of the benefit of the doubt by Douglas is in his generous reading of those crass innuendos about Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz as “a joke along the lines of ‘They’re no fools, these Jews’.
“The point I imagine Myers was trying to make would appear, if anything, to have been somewhat philo-Semitic.”
That is stretching it a bit. I mean, as if!
Anything can be made to sound straightforward or deeply sarky, according to delivery and context. But in print - nah. Risky and show-offy, as Douglas himself willingly admits. It was an ill-judged throwaway, and if not antisemitic in itself, it pandered to antisemites. And in his subtle and nuanced defence of Myers, so, in some ways, does Douglas. Some of the below-the-line comments testify to that.
The other article is a more straightforward lament about the demise of subtlety. It’s by Caitlin Moran, who concludes that “there’s little to be gained in making a nuanced point in what is basically a medieval marketplace.”
While making the broader point that civilisation is functioning a-okay, despite the conspiracy theories that have been ushered in by social media in what she sees as “The Golden Age of Paranoia”, Ms. Moran also addresses the fallout from the revelations about BBC salaries. With less subtlety than the thrust of her article would intimate, she expresses her contempt for critics of the BBC.
“But what surprised me, […]was the sheer number of people, from the left and the right, who were convinced the BBC was a wholly corrupt news organisation, devoted to perverting the truth and screwing the public.”
Oh noes! How can that be??
Is it not deeply ironic that the author of this Tweet concerns herself about the strange death of subtlety?
The BBC likes their 'bad boys’. Perhaps we’ll soon be watching Kevin Myers reviewing the newspapers and being controversial on the panel of Question Time or on the Daily Politics.
Anyway, I like subtlety. It will be back.