And why whingeing about Leftie plots will do no good either
Bertholt Brecht’s parable play The Good Woman of Szechuan about doing bad in order to do good is as infuriating and effective today as it was when first it appeared (on a Zurich stage as it happens) in 1943. The prostitute Shen Teh gives shelter to three Gods. In gratitude, they give her enough money to open a shop to do good and not cheat. The customers take advantage of her. She takes in lodgers to help make ends meet, but they have helped her in the past and so she charges nothing. Ironically, the lodgers mock her for being naive…..
It goes on and on like this for four acts: the well-meaning going wrong, the hypocrisy of those who criticise being forever to the fore, and then eventually doing bad as a means of doing good. There are as many interpretations of the play as there have been productions, but Brecht was fundamentally a Marxist-cum-Stalinist who thought the ends always justify the means. My own feeling about the play (newly popular again among the younger Hard Left) is that so little of what we intend ever comes out the way we planned it anyway, one is best to try and do good all the time. We all fail, of course, but doing anything else turns into a nightmare web of serendipity.
The contemporary mores that have changed since Brecht’s play offer examples in their own right. Shen Teh’s ‘shop for doing good’ is a tobacconist, which the Left today would regard as something devilish beyond belief. And the Wimmins bollocks means that the play is these days referred to as ‘person’ not ‘woman’, inferring that Brecht’s misogyny insisted on the confused anti-hero being a woman.
Putting my fundamentally existentialist activism to one side for a minute, you either think it’s OK to do bad to get a good result, or you don’t. Johann Hari clearly thinks it is, but I’d imagine he loves going to see Brecht plays per se. Pilloried by the increasingly shrill sanctimony of the Maily Telegraph’s New Right, Hari’s behaviour is nevertheless no different to theirs during the first four months of the Hackgate scandal: they knew full well that there was a privacy invasion cover-up going on in Wapping, but wrote not a word about it until the silence became more suspicious than actually writing about the subject.
Now that the more liberal-to-Left media, and MPs – along with anti-Establishment bloggers – have undone the Aussie mogul who had been something of a hero for the Right (especially Jeff Randall, himself employed by both Newscorp and the Torygraph) the Telegraph is reverting to type bigtime. In the last eight days, Simon Hughes, Toby Young, Brendan O’Neill (from Spiked, of all places!) and now Janet Daley have written comment columns trying to defend the indefensible. See how the BBC relishes this, they observe. See how the Guardian jumps on Rupert’s grave in grisly triumph. See what good the Screws did during its lifetime, and how that BBC hack Robert Peston is really Newscorp’s mouthpiece, says Toby Young.
I’m sorry? Yes well you see, young Toby gets horribly confused at times: he’s a bit like Smiffy in the Bash Street Kids is Tobes: he makes a point in the headline, and then fleshes out another one entirely in the body copy. But in a way, he makes my point for me: Harold Wilson hated the BBC, as did Margaret Thatcher, Alistair Campbell, Gordon Brown, and the whole of Camerlot. Are we seeing a trend called ‘controlling politicos’ here?
Indeed, it is in my view the visceral hatred that Conservatism’s Right has of the BBC (as some kind of Communist cell) that has led to what I now believe will be David Cameron’s destruction. For had that irrational agenda to stuff the BBC at all costs not existed, the Knights of Camerlot would not have dreamt of putting a rotten den of thieves like Newscorp up as any kind of competitor to it.
The truth is that the Establishment hates the BBC – and that ‘E’ word encompasses Newscorp trougher Lord Manglesum every bit as much as Jeremy Punt – because it is independent. Yes for sure, the Beeb is pc and fluffy-biased; but in case all we wrinklies hadn’t noticed, so are the majority of people under 50. Yes it costs a lot of money; but in case all the Friedmanites hadn’t noticed, that’s because Newscorp has nicked most of its sport moneyspinners. Yes, the BBC leans socialist; but in case all of you Sky Sports devotees hadn’t noticed, the BBC is part of – and employs widely among – the Show Business luvvie nexus.
What else would you expect an independent national TV station to be? It reflects the Zeitgeist – nothing more, nothing less. James Delingpole hates it for being ‘Warmist’ and out of touch; except that not-very-sunny Jim hasn’t spotted that he’s the one in the minority, not the BBC’s viewers, when it comes to the global warming debate. (Doesn’t mean he’s wrong: just that he overstates his support, and the Beeb’s degree of alienation).
In trying to push Murdoch’s BSkyB takeover bid through, it could be argued that the Prime Minister thought he might be doing something a little bit bad to achieve something very good indeed. Well, not only would he have been wrong anyway in my view, his determination (and let’s be honest here, his self-confessed desire for support from Newscorp) has resulted in there now being, once again, no real competitor to the hated Corporation Pap. Which, by the way, is pap because Mandelson, Campbell, Blair and Brown all terrified the crap out of it during the Iraq War dossier and banking meltdown sagas. Lefties all, hmm? What?
Equally, in secretly recording Vince Cable (whose hatred of Murdoch now stands 100% vindicated) I’d imagine Holly Watt thought she was The Good Woman of The Barclays, breaking the rules in order to unmask a foul Commie masquerading as a LibDem fluffy. Well, she screwed that one up royally on my ‘you never know’ principle: as did Vinny himself of course, who did ‘biased bad’ to try and lance the Rupert boil, but then wound up letting loose a Culture Secretary who clearly wants Murdoch’s children….and if he can’t have that, then at least some ginger muff. It takes all sorts.
Does the Guardian have a broader agenda? Yes of course it does. I’m still banned from commenting there, having been declared an unperson for writing the truth about Gordon Brown two years ago. ‘Facts are Sacred’ intones C P Scott at the Grauniad’s Comment is Free blog section: but as is quite clear, anti-Left facts are less than sacred at Big G, and not much free speech is allowed from those outside Harman’s Barmy Army of muddle and men-hatred.
But as I’ve written before, you can’t defend a floating turd in a bath by pi**ing in that bath. The turd shouldn’t be there, period. Newscorp is a thoroughly bad organisation with a thoroughly bad aim: the maximisation of money and destruction of competition….at the expense of the law, personal privacy, and anything else that gets in its way. It behaves in precisely the same manner wherever it exists. If the Left has played a bigger role in getting rid of it, then it should be a matter of shame for the Right – not childish tantrums. Unmasking the full depravity of Murdoch’s organisation was a case of doing good and getting a good result. Criticising that merely demeans the critics.