An essay on education, language and class

baboon2004

Darned cockwombles.
That's a lovely article, really well written. An exceptionally important subject too, as many people will stop at nothing to insist that class snobbery doesn't exist, and doesn't pervade almost every social interaction. And the quote from K-Punk is such a good one too - I clearly remember reading that article at the time, and I rarely clearly remember those things that I've read.

To hone in on one part of the article - I felt so angry at the way Russell Brand was treated at the time that his book came out. Firstly, I'd actually read the book, seemingly unlike most who criticised it, and there was more truth contained in there than the majority of cultural commentaries I read on a daily basis. You don't need an MA from SOAS to understand the fundamental things that are wrong with the world we live in. Secondly and critically, he showed himself able to critique his own discriminatory attitudes (particularly around misogyny), something that his detractors universally failed to do. Thirdly, since when has having a significant ego been a sin? Especially when one is self-aware enough to know it, and to speculate on the origins of the issue - that shows a level of self-interrogation again unknown to most of those who criticised him. (Fourthly, Paxman is an appalling privileged conservative masquerading as an objective interviewer in the time-honoured BBC tradition -see Laura Kuenssberg for the latest manifestation. Can't stand him.)

Great job, and I will keep an eye on your blog!
 

richwill

Member
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. It occurred to me subsequently that 'essay' was a bit of a grand term for the piece, but still. The point you make about Brand's willingnwss to learn is a good one, K-punk also brougt up that comment that he made in the subsequent interview wih Mehdi Hasan about his grandmother being a racist and not knowing it. He's quick to learn and to apply his nw knowledge so I don't think he's by any means finished. Mind you if he comes out with any more bollocks about vaccines he'll lose my affinity, that was definitely a low point.
 

Mr. Tea

"can't soundclash" according to a VERY HARD MAN
Yep, good essay and you make some valuable points, but - aargh, Russell Brand! Where did I read recently that "Stephen Fry is a stupid person's idea of what clever people are like"? I think there's much the same sort of deal going on with Brand, although perhaps for a younger and notionally hipper audience. But I still don't really get the attraction of a middle-aged man who talks like a Victorian toddler that's swallowed a thesaurus. I don't think class per se has that much to do with this - at any rate, if a boy at the schools I attended had habitually spoken like Brand, I fear he'd have found himself on the receiving end of a solidly working-class drubbing for talking like a poncy know-all bummer. Though I guess you touch on this with that mention of inverse snobbery.

This is complicated by the fact that Brand clearly is pretty smart, which is what made it so galling when he advised young people not to vote. (I know he's since reversed himself on this, which is good, but that doesn't stop it being a stupid thing to say in the first place. The quote from him in your essay is lucid and intelligent, so perhaps he's had a change of heart generally.)

I'm kind of torn on Paxman, as while he is unarguably a massively overbearing pompous arse, the only thing I regularly watch on TV these days is University Challenge, to which his personality is eminently suited.
 

baboon2004

Darned cockwombles.
Agreed 100% on Stephen Fry. Brand does that Victorian act for the cameras - fwiw I found him intolerably annoying when I first watched him (probably on Big Brother or something) - but his book contains some excellent, clear writing. In a world where people are allowed to get away with writing reams of incoherent and conservative bullshit just because they know how to present themselves as 'intelligent' to an audience that is only interested in having its prejudices confirmed, I think simple truths about the world are not to be sniffed at.

The anti-voting message was a misstep, but given that millions of people routinely vote to completely fuck themselves and their economic interests, he had the message half-right. Obviously he should have prefaced it with "If you plan to vote Conservative or Ukip....."

Yeah, you're right about University Challenge - Paxman is an asset there. I just wish it's all he did.

Edit: on the subject of University Challenge, this guy has the best/most unsettling question-answering manner I've ever seen http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/new...agull-university-challenge-cambridge-12811078 . Could definitely see him in a Cronenberg film.
 
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Mr. Tea

"can't soundclash" according to a VERY HARD MAN
The anti-voting message was a misstep, but given that millions of people routinely vote to completely fuck themselves and their economic interests, he had the message half-right. Obviously he should have prefaced it with "If you plan to vote Conservative or Ukip....."

But that's just the point - most people who like Brand or think he has anything worthwhile to say are never going to vote Tory anyway, so dissuading such people from voting at all can only harm progressive politics.

Edit: on the subject of University Challenge, this guy has the best/most unsettling question-answering manner I've ever seen http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/new...agull-university-challenge-cambridge-12811078 . Could definitely see him in a Cronenberg film.

I FUCKING LOVE MONKMAN! Real star of the series. I also love Seagull (!) and the white - in fact, ginger - guy named Chaudri. There've been some real stunners too (no pervo) and one woman who has the same name as my girlfriend, causing the latter to yell "THAT BITCH STOLE MY NAME!" every time the contestant was introduced. [Although I've just looked her up and it seems we'd misheard her first name. Woops.]

Monkman excelled himself with some Biblical quotes on one show, prompting Paxo to tell him he'd have made a superb Revivalist preacher. I loved that.
 
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craner

Beast of Burden
I think the Fry quote is mine, if not, somebody stole it from me. I was an early, pre-Twitter Fry hater. I used to feel so alone on this point back in the day. It's largely people mistaking a phenomenal memory for critical faculties. QI was the perfect dumping ground for him in that sense.
 

craner

Beast of Burden
It's an interesting case of a big brain being useless. There's a clip somewhere of Fry "interviewing" Christopher Hitchens on the subject of religion at the Hay Festival. A classic mismatch in many ways. Two men with incredible recall but one who could use that to construct interesting and provocative arguments and another who could only use it to come up with banal platitudes. One was very intelligent, the other one wasn't. It was a wasted afternoon for Hitch.
 

craner

Beast of Burden
Not only is he not that smart, he's not even very funny. Also: he is a bad writer. His "memoirs" are worthless vanity publications, complete trash. The Cult of Fry totally mystifies me.
 

craner

Beast of Burden
Back to the point, I think George Steiner's writing on the German language and Nazism is a crucial touchstone here.
 

craner

Beast of Burden
Also, in a broader sense Renzo de Felice on the cultural politics of Italian Fascism and George Mosse on pan-Fascist aesthetics all feed into how language is used for and by ideology. Gramsci, Marx and Engels are worth mining for this, too.
 

baboon2004

Darned cockwombles.
But that's just the point - most people who like Brand or think he has anything worthwhile to say are never going to vote Tory anyway, so dissuading such people from voting at all can only harm progressive politics.

I FUCKING LOVE MONKMAN! Real star of the series. I also love Seagull (!) and the white - in fact, ginger - guy named Chaudri. There've been some real stunners too (no pervo) and one woman who has the same name as my girlfriend, causing the latter to yell "THAT BITCH STOLE MY NAME!" every time the contestant was introduced. [Although I've just looked her up and it seems we'd misheard her first name. Woops.]

Monkman excelled himself with some Biblical quotes on one show, prompting Paxo to tell him he'd have made a superb Revivalist preacher. I loved that.

Y'see, I'm not so sure that's true. I would think that Brand-as-showbiz-icon could easily appeal to people who voted Tory or Ukip - why not (as K-Punk said, a lot of people who criticise Brand are middle class leftists who privilege their class affiliations over their supposed political affiliations - he's a figure who resists easy categorisation of his appeal)? While I agree that dissuading people from voting is not great, then I think that media exposure for famous working class people who have both mass showbiz appeal and progressive views is super important for an ailing left, at a time where so often the mainstream left is persuasively seen/caricatured as 'middle class people talking down to working class people'.

Monkman is a don. Seagull too, he has a great manner. Not sure I know who Chaudri is.

Pervo.
 
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baboon2004

Darned cockwombles.
It's an interesting case of a big brain being useless. There's a clip somewhere of Fry "interviewing" Christopher Hitchens on the subject of religion at the Hay Festival. A classic mismatch in many ways. Two men with incredible recall but one who could use that to construct interesting and provocative arguments and another who could only use it to come up with banal platitudes. One was very intelligent, the other one wasn't. It was a wasted afternoon for Hitch.

What do you make of Hitchens' book on Clinton? I thought it was a fantastic hatchet job, and persuasive in its vision of a politics driven by appalling self-absorption rather than any coherent moral and/or strategic code.
 
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craner

Beast of Burden
It's a good book, Baboon. One of his great "pamphlets" from the 90s, alongside The Trial of Henry Kissinger and The Missionary Position (which he had wanted to title 'Holy Cow'). The best book ever published in the name of Hitchens, though, was For the Sake of Argument, the Verso collection of 90s essays that really displayed the art of essay writing at a peak.
 

Mr. Tea

"can't soundclash" according to a VERY HARD MAN
Y'see, I'm not so sure that's true. I would think that Brand-as-showbiz-icon could easily appeal to people who voted Tory or Ukip - why not (as K-Punk said, a lot of people who criticise Brand are middle class leftists who privilege their class affiliations over their supposed political affiliations - he's a figure who resists easy categorisation of his appeal)? While I agree that dissuading people from voting is not great, then I think that media exposure for famous working class people who have both mass showbiz appeal and progressive views is super important for an ailing left, at a time where so often the mainstream left is persuasively seen/caricatured as 'middle class people talking down to working class people'.

I can see Brand fans voting UKIP much more easily than I can see them voting Tory, tbh - I think his tramp-like appearance, flamboyant mannerisms and well-known history of addiction and womanizing are unlikely to appeal to working- and lower-middle-class conservatives, regardless of what he has to say about politics. (Not necessarily the case with posh Tories, of course, for whom a predilection for smack, rentboys and Nazi cosplay practically comes with the territory - but they'd probably just think him a frightful oik with ideas above his station.) The whole non-voting thing makes me think of the sort of person who thinks an absolute cynicism towards all, or nearly all, politicians and parties constitutes political astuteness; the attitude of "they're all as bad as each other"/"they're all just wankers". Who voted Leave just because it's what David Cameron didn't want. Who is thinking of giving Corbyn a chance because of some cutesy Thug Life .gifs he's seen on the 'Sassy Socialist Memes' Facebook page, but could just as easily be drawn to Farage because "at least he speaks his mind". And let's not forget the 'anti-establishment' votes that Trump picked up from frustrated Sanders fans.

Monkman is a don. Seagull too, he has a great manner. Not sure I know who Chaudri is.

Chaudhri is one of Monkman's teammates. I just like the fact that he's about as white as it gets yet has a surname more usually found in India/Bangladesh.


Yeah, and?
 
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Mr. Tea

"can't soundclash" according to a VERY HARD MAN
But back to politics and language: Orwell is surely the original don of this topic, although that's perhaps too obvious a suggestion to be worth mentioning. Craner, you got any links to specific pieces by the writers you mentioned? Or are you talking more about, like, *gulp* whole books?
 
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