December 13, 2005

The Brighton blight

For the twenty-fifth anniversary of John Lennon's assassination, last week, the Guardian interviewed a number of celebs to ask, unoriginally, where they were when they heard the news. Among these select few was Julie Burchill, who distinguished herself - in the same way one might distinguish oneself by wetting oneself in public and then shouting about it - with the following encomium to the murdered singer:
I don't remember where I was but I was really pleased he was dead, as he was a wife-beater, gay-basher, anti-Semite and all-round bully-boy.
We live in an age where it is frequently considered meritorious to be unpleasant in a calculated, boorish kind of way. An age of talk radio, of Simon Cowell, of Dragon's Den, of nasty contrarian journalists among whom Julie Burchill is among the nastiest. One should, I suppose, get used to this - it is not, one imagines, going to go away - but there is also a virtue in not getting used to it, in maintaining one's ability to be outraged every time, just as one should be outraged every time one sees young people sleeping in shop doorways or rich men complaining that their employees receive pensions that enable them to feel secure.

You have to keep reminding yourself, this is not right, this is not necessary: you have to keep reminding yourself, this is not human. Because once you become inured to it, inured to crassness, inured to ignorance, inured to contempt for your fellow human beings, then in an important way you deny that it matters. For what you do not notice, does not matter. What you are not hurt by, does not matter. What you are not outraged by, cannot be that outrageous.

It's true, of course, that provocaeurs exist in order to provoke: someone like Burchill is an empty vessel who can be filled only with our reactions. Leave them, they're not worth it, speaks the voice of reason. But the voice of reason is too quiet a voice. What enables outrages to happen is not just their commission but their reception: the cynic and the crass may enjoy your outrage, but indifference would be worse. You cannot, perhaps, shout down a loudmouth but nor can you you can smother them with silence. Qui tacet consentit: silence implies consent. When we stay silent, they proceed.

The likes of Julie Burchill create nothing because they care for nothing - save themselves. What, when the likes of Julie Burchill die, will they leave behind - save what they have accumulated? What will there to be said of them when they are dead? I read another piece this week, on the same model, eight celebs all saying what they thought of Bach. It looked just like the earlier piece and for a moment I confused the two: I started looking for Julie Burchill and even after I realised my mistake, I found myself wondering what she would have to say about the man and his demise. It is too easy to imagine.
Bloody German. God-botherer. Too many kids. Sucked up to all those royals. I'm glad the bastard's dead.


At December 13, 2005 11:18 pm, Blogger AngusF said...

I’m slightly intrigued by Julie Burchill especially when I hear her: her girly voice and her articulacy. I don’t automatically believe what she says but I’ll willingly consider it. Maybe I’ll disagree but at least I’ll have thought and attempted to gain some perspective. So: I’m not inured, I’m enlivened.

At December 14, 2005 10:21 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

and also, to be fair, John Lennon was a bit of a twat.

At December 14, 2005 7:43 pm, Blogger edjog said...

Julie Birchill, on why people either love or hate her:
"I think the majority of people are totally indifferent to me, which doesn't bother me at all. I have never craved the approval of strangers, or anyone come to that."

From the same page, signing off:
"I'm sorry to have answered so few questions, but I have been effectively consumed by the love of my people. I KNEW this would happen.

I'll be back - I love you all,


To be fair, anon, i prefer my twats with a bit more angst, even if they're off on a mad one, the fact that they're feeling it gives me some hope that they may have something to say which i can learn from.

At December 17, 2005 5:09 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, heaven forbid someone should say what they think, rather than what they should think.

At December 19, 2005 9:09 pm, Anonymous edt said...

I like your Shirley Williams anology, in short she did'nt leave the job, it left her. It happened to me just over 12 months ago. No matter how hard I tried developing new clients I couldnt compensate for the erratic income stream, as a freelance lighting cameraman here in New Zealand's relatively tiny market. At the same time my mother had a stroke. For the mean time I take care of her on a care-benefit. More rewarding in some ways, though I do miss an enjoyable career. Fate will deal you a happier hand i'm sure. I have enjoyed reading your posts since I found your blog mid year. Keep up the great writing. Merry Christmas. Regards from edt in New Zealand.

At December 22, 2005 2:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something for Julie Burchill:

"aut tace aut loquere meliora silentio"

What would she make of Vergil? Bloody imperialist who thought everything was like Arcadia?


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