Saturday, March 13, 2010

Surely the tip of the iceberg

"You just mocked our party. That was political agitation. Surely the tip of the iceberg. I'm going to report this to the minister's office."

Seven years on, it’s gone well beyond the original wound, and we’re at the stage where many folk twist the knife in their own scar to keep it bleeding.
David Aaronovitch (for me, that column will keep on giving, although not perhaps as Dave intended).

I blame Mike Power. If he hadn't tweeted this, I wouldn't have known that John Rentoul was on twitter and hence would not have seen

Germans subsidise Blair-hating movie

As I don't entirely trust url shortening sites (how do they make money? why should they continue to exist?) that link goes to Germans subsidise Blair-hating movie which links to Rentoul's "friend Julie's" blog post How Germany's taxpayers paid for Harris' settlement with Blair.

"Oh, I like a good financial scandal," you say, rubbing cupidinous hands with glee. ('Cupidinous hands' - have you tried decaffeinated? And I don't trust you with glee, you said it didn't contain any calories, remember? - Ed.) How much was this subsidy? €200.000,00 or about £130K. I think the IMDb explains this largesse rather well here: 'The Ghost Writer' was filmed in Berlin, Germany, Sylt, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, and Usedom, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany. I think the German taxpayer will have made more that €200K back in taxes, and benefits not paid to extras, minor actors, and film crew - all of whom work intermittently. Never mind the stimulus to the economy in accommodation, catering, etc, and German film making is probably enhanced by the opportunity for lighting men, assistant directors, etc to work with a master craftsman like Polanski. Yes, he's a rapist, and he should have spent time in prison for that, but The Pianist was utterly brilliant. Besides, this is art which takes place beyond good and evil, and people who probe books and films for political subtexts are despicable philistines.

Finally, I can't speak for the film, which I haven't seen yet, but "Blair-hating" may be a misinterpretation. Robert Harris interviewed by the Guardian (via Harris's Wikipedia entry).

Rentoul calls 'The Ghost Writer'[1]:

A film directed by a man facing extradition to face sentence, about a man whose guilt exists only in the minds of the haters.

To which I really want to add, "Adapted from a book by a former BBC journalist and Observer political editor, who has met Blair and studied him closely" but that would ruin the innuendo.

Who is twisting the knife here? Harris and Polanski - or the self-pitying Julia and John? (Why oh why can't I find Pete Townshend's splendid song about Tony Parsons and Julie Burchill, "Jools and Jim", on YouTube?) And who are the "haters" - those who think Blair is culpable or those calling everyone they don't like "Shortists and jihadists"?

Sorry for ranting, but this really annoyed me last night and I'm still annoyed this morning. I saw The Shaughraun at the National Theatre in the 80s - ie under Thatcher - when it starred Stephen Rea. The story is about clever Fenians and bumbling policemen; the baddie, a police informer, dies at the end. "Rea was married to former Provisional Irish Republican Army member and hunger striker Dolours Price from 1983 to 2003." Oh, I don't think there was anything 'political' in that. Taps nose. The British taxpayer subsidised that, and quite right too. New Labour aren't just like the Tories, they're more the Stasi every day.

[1] Added later, for clarity. I don't think it was clear who said that before.


Blogger Larry Teabag said...

Does tool actually think that the adjective "Blair-hating" carries the same moral weight as "woman-hating" or "Jew-hating"? Or indeed any moral weight at all? Someone needs to explain to him the difference between a generalised bigotry against a large group of people, and concluding that a particular bloke is a bit of a cock, after 13 yeas of exposure to his antics.

3/13/2010 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I remember that when somebody made a similar comparison regarding dislike of actors, Private Eye thought it so over-the-top they started a column, Luvvies, which continues to this day. I wonder if....

3/13/2010 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger John B said...

I actually had to read this post twice to make sense of it, simply because (per Larry's comment), I automatically read "Blair-hating" in the same way I'd read "paedo-hating" or "Stalin-hating" - just as an obvious statement of truth.

(maybe I should read more Neil Clark pieces about Stalin...)

3/13/2010 02:24:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I just remembered why the National chose the late 80s to revive 'The Shaughraun' - that was the time of the 'oxygen of publicity' and the ban on broadcasting Sinn Fein representatives' voices. The IRA were in many well utterly repellent bastards, but the Thatcher government found a way to make them sympathetic for the theatre-going, Guardian-reading middle-classes. So, maybe the 'worse than the Tories' bit was over the top.

Now we've established that you three hate Blair (or at least that Larry and John do), are you Shortists or jihadis?

3/13/2010 05:03:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I'm not very happy with the way I set out my argument, so here it is, slightly more cooly.

1. Art funding shouldn't be political. A film directed by a really great director (as Polanski is), adapted from a well-received book, and starring Ewan McGregor is a perfectly legitimate arts project. Having a Polanski film made in Berlin only adds to the city's cultural heritage, perhaps in a small way, but 200K isn't much money to a city like Berlin either.

2. Governments offer incentives in grants, tax breaks, etc to industry generally to stimulate the economy. Attracting talent like Polanski and McGregor is good for the German film industry (film crews get to work with a real master, from whom they may learn skills which they in turn pass on), film technicians, actors, etc find work, saving benefits; a film crew needs a lot of accommodation, equipment hire, transport, all of which is taxed in VAT, so that's money going back to the tax office; that 200K probably went straight back into the German economy, a good thing right now. The German taxpayers weren't robbed, even if you look at things only like an accountant; in fact, I think they did rather well.

3. Polanski is a Holocaust survivor; AFAIK, he has not made a film in Germany before. Since I mentioned wounds earlier, this is actually rather a nice gesture and may represent healing on both sides. Good, yes?
3 a OK it's nice for him to make a film in Berlin, but couldn't he have made a different film? No. A director is much better a choosing good material for a film than a political commentator.

4. Was there really any more to Rentoul's post than sneering at Polanski (who I admit is not an attractive figure) and calling those of us who, to quote Larry, "conclud[ed] that [Blair] is a bit of a cock" "Shortists and jihadis"? There are quite a lot of people (Sunny Hundal is one) who supported the Afghan invasion and the war on al-Qaeda - who are anti-jihadists, if you will - who didn't support Iraq. And "Shortists"? I'm no fan of Oliver Kamm or Martins Bright or Amis, but come on. (Got that one out of the way. Sorry readers. Amis pere said much worse, until he realised that his son would never be allowed on roller coasters unaccompanied by an adult. And, besides, I am a fan of Keats.) If one is going to be an "-ist" in the sense of 'follower' rather than 'discriminates against' shouldn't the name before the '-ism' (insert 'j' joke here) actually lead? I think the anti-Iraq invasion march happened before Ms Short made up her mind before changing it again. Nice try, but no yellowcake uranium.

3/13/2010 08:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

Rentool's post is more evidence for the idea that much/most of decentist belief has been imported wholly from the US, without much thought to how different the UK is. The urge to examine movies on their political correctness is one that keeps cropping up in rightwing blogs and wanktanks there; for evdence see Roy Edroso's blog, who has great fun pointing out examples.

3/14/2010 10:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd entirely agree about these ideas being American right-wing ideas, which the Decents think they can just transplant wholesale into British political discourse and culture. (Decents really don't have much knowledge of their own country, do they).

Perhaps I shouldn't say this, but it does remind me of a lot of 70's Trot and marxist thought in which Russia was, for some reason or other, seen as the blueprint - bad and good - by which all other situations and cultures had to be judged and defined.

When you read publications by Conservative Future and The Henry Jackson Society you almost expect to run across places where they haven't even bothered to substitute the word America for Britain.

3/14/2010 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

"Trot and Marxist thought"?

3/14/2010 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apologies. Above anonymous was by johnf.

3/14/2010 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Re: the clip at the top of the post, did anybody else think the director had been watching this?

The "when you're in a hole stop digging" comment after Rentoul's stupid column is entirely apt (and admirably short) but the thing about courtiers is - and obviously this also applies to Aaro - you never have to do that. You're there to dig, on somebody else's behalf (and not in the way that Eli Wallach did for Clint Eastwood, either).

When you're on the side of power, you don't ever have to change your opinions. This, as an aside, is one of the reasons why, though leftwingers often turn into rightwingers, the opposite process almost never* occurs.

[* except for very youthful rightwingers who become leftists at university, I suppose.]

3/14/2010 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

"you almost expect to run across places where they haven't even bothered to substitute the word America for Britain."

One of the classics for this has been the sustained attack on affirmative action in the UK, despite the fact there is no such policy.

By the way Nick's column this week has been replaced by an advert for Ian Mcewan.

3/14/2010 01:44:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Nick in that review uses 'green' like he uses the word 'feminist' - ie 'woman i happen to agree with', and 'person writing about the environment i happen to agree with'

the ICA scene in McEwan's new novel sounds utterly woeful. And i do still find it weird how Nick has arbitrarily decided that a refusal to play party games organised by an islamophobe, ie Martin Amis, makes you a 'relativist'. looks like mcewan agrees. why is anyone still interested in mcewan, anyway? not a single half-decent piece of writing since the overrated atonement...

3/14/2010 03:08:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home