Uniformity of opinion as expressed by the press is a telltale sign of a totalitarian state.
A discreet signal from high above, and suddenly all papers begin to sing in unison. The general political bend of the paper doesn’t matter: they all have the same marching orders and they all follow them religiously.
Britain is like any other totalitarian country, at least as far as the press coverage of UKIP is concerned. Papers whose loyalty is pledged not to certain principles but to certain parties are united. UKIP is an ideological irritant to Labour and electoral threat to the Tories – that’s all our hacks need to know.
When it comes to, say, The Guardian and The Independent, one considers the source and realises that such canine devotion to the master, in this instance an ideological one, is par for the course.
But anyone who expects The Telegraph to be conservative, which is to say intelligent, will soon be frustrated. The odd article here or there notwithstanding, the paper has lost whatever philosophical backbone it ever had. That has been replaced by party loyalty: The Torygraph would campaign for a bull terrier if he sported a blue rosette on his collar.
Conversely, when the paper smells a threat to the Tories’ electoral chances, it cries havoc and lets slip the dogs of war. This brings me to the vituperative and, which is worse, feeble-minded attack Alice Arnold launched the other day against the UKIP parliamentary candidate Roger Helmer.
I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Mr Helmer, but he sounds like the kind of man who speaks his mind, which comes close to being a disqualifying characteristic in our political life.
Most people who always say what they think run the risk of offending someone, and a few pronouncements attributed to Mr Helmer, specifically those on Catholic priests, are offensive even to thick-skinned me.
But those Miss Arnold sees in the sights of her popgun seem to be unassailable either factually or morally.
Here are the verbal daggers that wounded her delicate sensibility: “At the risk of offending the politically correct, I will argue that homosexual behaviour is abnormal and undesirable.”
To argue against this statement one has to demonstrate that such behaviour is perfectly normal and desirable. But that’s simply not the case even if we disregard for a moment the religious, moral and social traditions of the West.
At a purely practical level the best such behaviour can aspire to is being tolerable. Considering that only between one and two percent of us are homosexual, it isn’t normal; and considering its non-reproductive nature, it isn’t desirable.
To her credit, Miss Arnold didn’t even attempt to maintain the pretence of journalistic objectivity, although out of girlish modesty she didn’t cite her own interest in the matter. Allow me to correct this oversight: she lives in a civil ‘partnership’ with the sports presenter Clare Balding.
Her indignation is thus humanly understandable, if not unquestionably laudable. But simply saying ‘As a lesbian I hate anyone who says anything at all against homosexuality’, does not an article make. This genre requires an argument, and that’s where Miss Arnold falls flat.
In fact, she doesn’t seem to know what an argument is, if this attempt at one is anything to go by: “I have just applied my ‘substitute-the-word-homosexual-for-black-or-disabled’ test to see if it is in any way acceptable. Guess what? It’s not.”
This non sequitur brings into question the author’s IQ. It’s absolutely true that being either black or disabled is neither abnormal nor undesirable. But from this it doesn’t follow that being homosexual is both desirable and normal.
In other words this substitution proves nothing other than Miss Arnold’s idiocy – and poor command of English (it should have been ‘substitute-the-words-black-or-disabled-for-homosexual’, not vice versa).
The word ‘homosexual’ could be replaced with an infinity of words, each of which would make Mr Helmer’s statement nonsensical. How about ‘redheads’? ‘Fat bastards?’ ‘Cyclists’? ‘Bus conductors?’ All of those would render the original statement meaningless. None would invalidate it.
Miss Arnold is deaf to such elementary logic. That’s why she used that demonstration of her own mental inadequacy as the starting point of a long string of hysterical epithets aimed not only at Mr Helmer but also at the party he represents.
These she presaged with the remark that she wouldn’t want to attack UKIP because “the target is simply too big and too easy”. Then she proceeded to do just that, unsportingly shooting arrows at a putative sitting duck.
Alas, given the rhetorical weapons at her disposal, Miss Arnold wouldn’t be able to hit a target as big as Buck House. And if the target is so easy, how come the combined efforts of considerably cleverer propagandists have so far failed to stem the UKIP tide?
At the risk of sounding a misogynist, homophobic, Holocaust- and global-warming-denying, sexist, politically wrong, child-abusing, raping fascist, I really don’t think Miss Arnold should bother her pretty little head about subjects on which she can’t sound coherent.
Just go home, love, have a nice cup of tea – and say hello to Clare for me, will you? And by the way, you know what totalitarian means, don’t you?