Peter Rhodes on rhyming headlines, meaningless adverts and the modern scourge of offence archeology


A READER wonders why people have been arrested over the burning of a replica Grenfell Tower but nobody has been arrested over the burning of the real Grenfell Tower.

ONE of the tabloids used an image of the Welsh actress with the headline: “Has Catherine Zeta ever looked sweeter?” I was transported back nearly 50 years to my days with Old Charlie, one of my first editors. Old Charlie believed that all the best headlines rhymed. So when a reader told us how he watched burglars breaking into a shop, Charlie put up the headline: “Mr Drewitt saw ’em do it.” And when a car ran off the road and the driver suffered facial injuries, Charlie’s take on it was: “Car in ditch – bump on snitch.” I believe we had a complaint about that one.

SPEAKING on Today (Radio 4), columnist Toby Young described the modern practice of “offence archeology.” When somebody you disagree with is chosen for public office, you dig up everything they may have said or done, going back many years if necessary, to find any unguarded snippet or non-PC opinion which may scupper them. If you can get somebody else to denounce their views, so much the better. As Toby Young explained, the saintly Mahatma Gandhi himself has been condemned as a racist for some remarks he made in his youth. And that’s the issue – once the offence archeologists get busy, everybody is guilty.

THE Today programme discussion concerned the appointment of the controversial philosopher Roger Scruton as an unpaid housing adviser to the Government. A Guardian columnist, Dawn Foster, said some of Scruton’s past comments on homosexuality and date rape were “the intellectual equivalent of wetting himself for attention.” Whoa there, Ms Foster. What might the offence archeologists make of that choice of words? Incontinence affects millions of people, especially the elderly. It is deeply, gravely, hideously offensive to suggest that people wet themselves to gain attention. A full and sincere apology is needed and, it hardly needs adding, Dawn Foster must never be appointed to public office. Isn’t this fun?

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier says the EU is under attack from “populist forces” and there is “a Farage in every country.” And why might that be, old chum? Could it possibly be because the perfectly acceptable free-trade area of sovereign democracies morphed into a superstate which nobody voted for and only the federalist zealots wanted? You created a dream, Monsieur Barnier, without bothering to ask if anybody shared it.

MEANWHILE in the real world, a number of you sympathise with the reader who admitted he doesn’t only fail to understand some TV ads but doesn’t even know what the product is. So let us write a few TV ads of our own. All it takes is some profound and quite meaningless phrase, preferably spoken by a serious, deep-voiced American, followed by the name of the product. Her


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