Saturday, 18 September 2010

Big plate of crazy

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

My dear stepfather likes sending me little cuttings in the post. Today, one arrived guaranteed to send my blood pressure soaring. (I think he cleverly does this for medical reasons; I have hysterically low blood pressure.) In The Telegraph, Janet Daley has been complaining about a new wave of European anti-Americanism. As convincing evidence of this she offers 'the BBC's derisive treatment of the Tea Party movement'.

I have looked all over the BBC website and can find no evidence of this. (This appears to be a typical example of rather low-key Tea Party reporting.) I can't see the evidence for the anti-American bias in grumpy old Europe, either. I wonder where Ms Daley gets it from. In the latest Pew polls, from June, US favourability is at 73% in France, 65% in Britain, and 63% in Germany. This compares to the low forties and fifties of the Bush years. I know that bashing you with statistics can be rather tiring on a Saturday, but I can't resist giving you these amazing numbers. On the 'Will Do the Right Thing in World Affairs' question, George Bush in 2008 scored 13% in France, 14% in Germany, and 16% in Britain. Barack Obama in 2010 scores 87%, 90% and 84% respectively.

Let us just pause and contemplate that for a moment. It is so astonishing that I had to read the survey three times to make sure I got it right. (You too can gaze in wonder at the full thing here.)

Why would a reputable columnist in a reputable broadsheet write something that is based on no verifiable fact? The polling evidence, actual empirical proofs, present the exact opposite of what Ms Daley is saying. It is not just contentious, it is wrong. She may have political reasons for presenting this oddly incorrect narrative, but I think most of all she is falling into a category error. It is instructive that she cites the Tea Party when she talks of the cross old Europeans hating America. It is exactly the same argument the Right used when they accused people who did not like George W Bush of not liking America. I would make the exact opposite argument. It was precisely because I loved America that I was so sad to see it have a leader of such dubious qualities. Criticising a president does not mean you hate a country; they are two quite discrete attitudes.

In the same way, I find the Tea Party dispiriting, because I think America deserves better. Here is Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party's newest darling, recently elected as the Republican candidate for Senate from the great state of Delaware:

'But let me tell you something! They — homosexuals’ special rights groups - can get away with so much more than nobody else can. They’re getting away with nudity! They’re getting away with lasciviousness! They’re getting away with perversion! They’re getting away with blasphemy!' (Oh, oh, those naked, blaspheming homos.)

Or try this:

'Now too many people are blindly accepting evolution as fact. But when you get down to the hard evidence, it’s merely a theory. Well, creationism, in essence, is believing that the world began as the Bible in Genesis says, that God created the Earth in six days, six 24-hour periods. And there is just as much, if not more, evidence supporting that.' (Put that on your science agenda, you Godless heathens.)

Or this:

'During the primary, I heard the audible voice of God. He said, ‘Credibility.’ It wasn’t a thought in my head. I thought it meant I was going to win. But after the primary, I got credibility.' (For some reason, I find the thought of God booming 'Credibility' oddly funny. It doesn't exactly have the power and poetry of the King James Bible.)

Or this:

'We took the bible and prayer out of public schools, and now we’re having weekly shootings practically.' (A truly magnificent example of cause and effect.)

I shall not go on. It starts to feel like a cheap shot. If you want to see the collected wit and wisdom of Ms O'Donnell, you may find it here. I'm just saying that this is the woman the Tea Party currently loves only second to Mrs Palin, and she does not necessarily represent the most glorious side of a great nation. What is also odd is that commentators like Janet Daley are always banging on about freedom of speech, and the awful chilling effect of political correctness, which is all the fault of those pesky liberal fundamentalists, who want to exercise thought control over the citizenry. Yet, if someone should criticise the Tea Party, they are being anti-American. I don't know. Perhaps she is making a little joke.

After all that, the least you deserve are some soothing pictures:

A little autumnal tree:


Heathery heather:


I can't resist another shot of the sedum:


The magical bark of the salix:


Oh, did I say bark?



There. All better now. Have a wonderful weekend.


  1. Janet Daley is clearly a bit bonkers. Ms O'Donnell on the other hand is totally mad. Neither are good for one's well-being. Plenty of rational beings however find it hard to understand that dislike of Tea Party types and/or right wing Christian fundamentalists/neo-cons doesn't also mean you are anti-American. I once got in to a huge row with someone at an otherwise polite and generally erudite bookclub on this exact topic.

    I love the way your garden flowers about 2 weeks behind mine!

  2. Columnists stuff and editorial should come bordered with a big yellow and black striped box, saying 'Caution - the following is not in fact news and has little or no relationship to facts.'

    Unless it's by Ben Goldacre or George Monbiot, in which case it is probably better evidenced than a peer reviewed journal article.

    Actually, can we put that box around the entire Daily Fail, with the subheading 'We hate gays and are still a wee bit Nazi'?

  3. Betty M - excellent comment. Isn't the Scottish flowering season interesting? In the spring, our blossom and bulbs can be up to six weeks behind the south.

    Glory - so agree. It does make me feel a bit naive, though, because I keep thinking in my hopeful way: should not a FACT come into it somewhere? Clearly not.


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