I noted with some amusement on Friday last that whilst Peter Rhodes, columnist in the Express & Star, continued his tradition of shamelessly handcrafting a column out of crap jokes, recycled tidbits from the middlebrow tabloids and sub-Littlejohn shock sludge, he also chucked in a fat old urban myth.
Whilst there’s nothing unusual in the tired hack repurposing stuff he gathers from the zeitgeist, this seems to be a nadir, even for him. Any regular reader who’s at least partially sentient will spot on a regular basis stuff trawled from circular emails, Facebook and even Radio Four – Peter’s recounting of a 25 year old American political in-joke is just plain rubbish.
The tale recounted in his column of 25th February, that of the political spinning of the hung outlaw has been floating around the internet in multiple forms for a decade, after a variant first appeared in a 1986 genealogy book. Retooled to suit whoever the political bogeyman of the day may be, it’s a hairy old shaggy dog that’s cocked it’s leg against politicians as diverse as Hilary Clinton, Tipper Gore, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and even Australia’s Kevin Rudd.
The venerable old yarn has been debunked far and wide – by the excellent Snopes site, by Truthorfiction and a whole host of others. What narks me about this is that, presumably, Mr. Rhodes is paid good money to cut and paste this tired old cobblers daily. Whilst it wouldn’t normally bother me, from a journalist so scathing about others, in particular the public sector, this looks like a wanton lack of effort at best, and a casual disregard for the intellect of his readership on the other.
Yes, Peter, a huge percentage of your readership no longer have to coerce passing intellectuals to read your column aloud to them, and you aren’t the only bloke in the village with a radio tuned to Auntie Beeb. That’s why we know when you regurgitate junk email and old Alan Coren anti-Waitrose one liners. We can spot when you’ve been sent stuff off Facebook. Hell, we even remember old Gerry Anderson columns, and how funny they used to be. Oh, for those days!
The Peter Rhodes column can often be funny and occasionally has something engaging to say. We know it’s written specifically to enrage the readership into filling the adjacent letters page, or at least plugging the gaps that would otherwise exist in it between the regular missives from the Black Country’s care-in-the-community cast of crypto fascists, obsessives and political apologists. We understand the game, but it’s getting rather boring now that we’ve all got the internet.
Please stop insulting our intelligence. It’s bad enough having to read the same news story three times in the same edition, without getting deja vu over the op-ed, too…