Sunday, March 12, 2006

The flat-pack columnist

If I were in the habit of taking prefabricated themes from a small number of blogs and reconstructing small variations on them week after week in three different publications, I doubt I'd have the chutzpah to write the following:

A passing respect for your mother tongue is enough to make you wince when Dan Brown takes a chainsaw to the old girl and slices her into clich├ęs and easy-to-assemble sentences. Why millions of people have bought the literary equivalent of an Ikea flatpack is a riddle beyond Brown's power to solve. It is a page-turner, to be fair, with a mystery that pushes you past the arthritic dialogue of the stock characters.

And who would those stock characters be? Surely not the Islington "left" intelligensia enthusing about Gilbert and George Galloway in between lines of coke? The Archbish perhaps? He now seems to have a walk-on part in every Nick column, and is at it again in this one too. Indeed Nick is promising us more:

While we wait for the predictable consequences, this column will have a new feature: What the Archbishop of Canterbury Won't Discuss.

In the section on Darfur (page 17 in the instructions, where did I put that allen key?) there are worrying signs that Nick is morphing into a clone of Anthony Browne of the Times:

We cannot bolt the gates of Fortress Europe and pretend the crisis has nothing to do with us. We ought to have learned by now that the people smugglers will bring in asylum seekers and, with them, new racial tensions.

A seal of Dacre?


Blogger Matthew said...


This 'new feature' on the Archbishop of Canterbury is some way from his 'It's so easy to attack Christians' piece of two weeks' ago, isn't it?

I think before the year is out Nick might denounce the views he expressed in the first paragraph of an article by the time he gets to the end of it.

3/12/2006 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschetta Boy said...

the Darfur bit is wrong, btw: it is possible to exaggerate the importance of the UNHCR decision and Nick has done it. The really important decisions going on in Sudan at present involve security, not humanitarian aid.

Matthew's thesis that Nick is happy to mock the Archbishop but scared of saying anything nasty about Muslims could be confirmed in two weeks btw, when the Arab Union holds its annual summit in Khartoum.

3/12/2006 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger YKTMX said...


'Asylum seekers' cause 'racial tension', do they?

Yes, forget the BNP, racist immigration policies and 'moral panic' headlines in the Sun and the Mail - they're not to blame.

It's Africans fleeing genocide that're to blame.

Nick's a fat mess.

3/12/2006 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I wouldn't perhaps put it that strongly, but certainly it's strange to write a column about how wrong it is to indulge in easy attacks on christians and then attack possibly the leading Christian in Britain in every column.

It's pure Decency, though, isn't it? What matters in Sudan is not what is going on, but what the liberal left, here personified by the Archbishop of Canterbury (again somewhat at odds with the Gilbert and George column), has been saying. And that is similarly the most important thing over condoms and HIV, rather than the Pope's policy, an issue I can't remember Nick ever mentioning before (and which he probably overstates).

3/12/2006 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger Backword Dave said...

I *think* Nick's argument in *that* sentence is: If we don't get serious in Sudan, and start knocking heads together, there will be hordes of asylum seekers arriving on our shores. And it's better that we deal with the problem there rather than offer the inferior alternative of moving thousands of miles to a hostile country. But somehow, he's got himself mixed up, and seems to be blaming "people smugglers" and "asylum seekers". I hope the rest of the Decents have something to say about Nick's choice of words: especially the juxtaposition of "asylum seekers" and "racial tensions." H'sP often links to NC (anyone have any idea how often?) as does Norm. That they haven't so far may show tacit disapproval. Then again ...

Erk! Blogger wouldn't let me comment and I just checked Kammo. He cites NC with approval. Not that bit to be sure, but two paragraphs on. As he likes it to be known that he's a careful reader, that seems strangely clumsy.

BTW, is there some running in-joke, where Nick intentionally gets the names of books wrong? Is it to fool search engines? Or is he just sloppy?

3/12/2006 06:28:00 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

It's just that he's a bad and lazy writer these days, I'd say. That first paragraph in particular would shame the polemicist in the Bromsgrove Standard.

Oliver Kamm's approving cite is really just repaying the favour. The "hypocrisy of the Anglican church" theme is a straight lift from Kamm in the first place, as I said in the other thread.

3/12/2006 06:45:00 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

Btw, on the basis of the Falun Gong post on Harry's Place today, I would like to place an early bet on next week finally being the week when Nick gets round to his "the left's silence on China" article.

3/12/2006 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I think we've discovered Nick doesn't write his own headlines, so you wonder what he did to the sub-editors to deserve:

Dan Brown has been called many things, but never 'my hero'. Until now

3/12/2006 07:06:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Indeed on his own site it is

The Freedom to be Stupid

3/12/2006 09:28:00 PM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

But on both the Obs site and his own, the 3rd item is titled

"Invasion of the Story Snatchers"

Are reptilian humanoids stealing stories from HP Sauce and placing them in the national press?

3/13/2006 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger Sonic said...

HP (aka little green soccerballs)

Make it short, make it snappy, make it up.

3/13/2006 11:05:00 PM  

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