Life after death

Those who believe in life after death will feel vindicated. They’ll also feel reassured that life everlasting doesn’t have to be strictly celestial.

José Antonio, age 33

Apparently, a man may die and still continue to age normally, pursuing his life’s work, gathering accolades, attracting criticism and – if The Times is to be believed – even sitting for portraits.

Such as the portrait accompanying today’s article on yet another disinterment and reburial of José Antonio Primo de Rivera in Spain. The portrait showed a fiftyish man in a general’s uniform bedecked with the requisite sash and medals.

In 1933 José Antonio founded the Falange, a nationalist party later allied with Franco during the Civil War. In 1936 he was hastily arrested, tried and executed by the government of Largo Caballero. Caballero’s nickname was ‘Spanish Lenin’, which should leave you in no doubt about his government’s political affiliation.

Franco certainly had no such doubts and acted accordingly. He took charge of the nationalist, anti-communist revolt… and, well, you know the rest. But every violent political movement requires its martyrs, and José Antonio did nicely.

When Franco became Il Caudillo, he had a spectacular basilica built in the Valley of the Fallen, and that’s where José Antonio was interred in 1959. In 1975 Franco’s tomb joined José Antonio’s in what became a national shrine.

Actually, though he endorsed the revolt when it broke out, José Antonio did all he could to stop the ensuing civil war. But his endorsement was enough for the ‘Spanish Lenin’ to have him executed, before the coup turned into a full-blown war.

Yet here’s the thing: José Antonio was 33 at the time of his death. Hence it took me, in round numbers, a nanosecond to know that the portrait in The Times couldn’t possibly have shown that nationalist martyr, as the caption underneath claimed.

Another nanosecond, and I knew that shown there wasn’t José Antonio, but his father, Gen. Miguel Primo de Rivera, dictator of Spain in the 1920s. If I knew it, how come the paper’s editors and subeditors didn’t?  

Now we all – even I, incredible as it may sound – make mistakes. So, let him who is without sin… and all that.

Some mistakes are caused by negligence, others by that last port the night before, still others by simple ignorance. One way or another, a newspaper published to the feverish beat of deadline drums is bound to contain the odd typo or error.

Yet there are errors and errors, as there is ignorance and ignorance. In this case, whoever ran that picture with that caption had clearly never heard of either Primo de Rivera.

In the unlikely event he had, it was probably next to the word ‘fascist’, and to today’s lot all fascists look alike. The only good one is a dead one – unless it’s José Antonio and Franco. They remain bad even when dead.

I mentioned the odd error as an unavoidable adjunct to newspaper publishing. However, such good-natured permissiveness doesn’t extend to the profusion of errors in today’s papers, including such venerable ones as The Times.

One would have had to take a magnifying glass to the same newspaper of 100 years ago to find an error or even a typo. These days it takes the aforementioned time unit of a nanosecond to spot numerous typos, factual errors and instances of the English language mercilessly mauled.

Anyone who has ever had to deal with today’s papers and publishers knows that editorial standards are slipping at an ever-accelerating speed. We also know that this downward trajectory has a reliable explanation: a massive influx of semi-literate youngsters into the profession.

Most of them, by the way, are women, which observation shouldn’t be taken as a manifestation of misogyny. Women can make excellent writers or editors, and in fact I’ve known quite a few. However, it’s statistically unlikely they’d far outdo men in producing such overachievers.

The normal split would be 50-50 with, say, a five per cent margin of error either way. Hence the current domination of women on editorial staffs suggests that the normal split doesn’t apply.  What does apply is a positive, which is to say woke, recruitment policy, with women hired simply to boost the paper’s credibility in places like Notting Hill, Camden and Islington.

Never mind the editorial standards, feel the feminism — such is the implicit refrain. Girls raised to the journalistic Olympus in that fashion are short of education, but long on both ideological fervour and unbridled ambition fuelled by a sense of entitlement.

Not for them the meticulous labour of checking facts and English grammar. They don’t want to do any sub-editing. They want to share their insights with the world, and today’s papers oblige by fast-tracking them to positions of editors and staff writers. The result is for all to see: badly argued, sloppily written articles showing no involvement by sub-editors, a function that’s rapidly becoming extinct.

This is illustrated by both the error in today’s article and its hasty correction. Just as Penelope was trying, unsuccessfully, to make me write a comment to the editor, someone else did. José Antonio regained his real appearance and stopped aging after death.

But the text wasn’t touched, which is unfortunate. The Socialist government of Spain, says the article, converted “the controversial monument to a civil site that would no longer exalt the victors of the civil war”.

Actually, it never did. Those who bothered to visit the basilica saw the inscription there, stating it was dedicated to all victims of the Civil War, both victors and losers. And José Antonio was shot before the war even started, a tragedy he had tried to prevent.

3 thoughts on “Life after death”

  1. Editorial standards are slipping and have slipped, agreed. And contributors are not immune: see “too” where “to” was intended in your own piece. But I wonder about the underlying causation: educational slippage or employment of females? Or something else?

  2. I think all pages of most newspapers these days must be regarded as opinion pages. Never let facts interfere with a good emotional outburst!

    We have often lamented here the deplorable standards maintained by various newspapers (anyone still call them broadsheets?) and magazines. I think my favorite is still the baseball story picked up by USA Today stating that the Oakland A’s had a new amphibious pitcher. Ambidextrous, amphibious, all the same to the uneducated masses.

  3. Imagine what would have happened if two black men had been mistaken for each other in the same way. The Times would have issued an apology, the apology would have been deemed insufficient, and rival newspapers for days on end would have recorded demands from assorted celebrities that the culprit be identified and punished for his odious racism. The culprit would then have been identified and sacked. He and his family would have had their lives ruined.

    But the two people who were mistaken for each other happened not to be black, so who cares?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.