Hate, Actually...

Why is it that the British only seem able to solve a crisis through the emotion of hate?

Last year the MPs expenses scandal meant politicians were the hate figures of choice. Today it is the turn of Rebekah Brooks. But wait a minute --surely we should also hate the police officers and the nurses who have sold information to News of the World, presumably as a result of their hatred of celebrities who have more money than them?

We should definitely hate David Cameron; first for not holding an inquiry and then when he does for not holding the kind of inquiry we wanted in the first place.

Of course we all hate Rupert Murdoch, and have hated any arse-licking politician who has ever spoken to him like Brown or Blair or Cameron --although we hated Kinnock and Brown when Murdoch's empire told us to.

Yes, hate works. Let's not forget, either, that for years it was hate that made the News of the World go round.

Every week you can buy a copy of said newspaper which provides you with detailed instructions on who to hate and why and how much. Hate is the very essence upon which a publication such as the News of the World thrives: how to hate MPs because they are only in it for the money, how to hate celebrities because they are successful, how to hate your neighbours because they probably have more sex than you.

The News of the World has taught us to be creatures in its own image.

But shouldn't we resist this barrage of hate?

How about compassion instead? We should feel compassion for those 7/7 victims whose phones were hacked; compassion for the Dowler family who have been through so much. Admiration and compassion for the family of Joanna Yeates and her boyfriend who, in their moment of tragedy, squared up to the tabloid media and stopped the hate campaign against wrongly accused Christopher Jeffries. Their compassion in a moment of anguish should be our model.

We should feel admiration for Hugh Grant, whose eloquent arguments in debate with Paul McMullan, former features editor at News of the World, on BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday are a shining example to those of us who care about the future of media.

We should feel admiration, too, for the Guardian journalists who broke the story in the first place.

Of course, there are no excuses for the behaviour of the News of the World and other tabloids in the past. But surely we should pause for thought before simply replicating the same sort of feeding frenzy in reverse. Certainly, the truth must be outed -- but let's do it calmy, and show due consideration and respect to those victims who have been trampled underfoot and who might not wish to have the whole painful mess dragged up again.

Jonathan Powell writes in the New Machiavelli that governments tend to quickly launch inquiries in order to sate a public outcry, only to find that such inquiries eat up resource and rarely pleases anyone at the end -- the Bloody Sunday inquiry being a rare exception.

So let's show the media how it should be done: cool, calm, factual. But not hate -- definitely not hate. Hate will turn us into a nation that reads drivel like the News of the World and believes that this dreadful mess can be solved with a quick inquiry.

Getty
Show Hide image

The dog at the end of the lead may be small, but in fact what I’m walking is a hound of love

There is a new, hairy face in the Hovel.

There is a new, hairy face in the Hovel. I seem to have become a temporary co-owner of an enthusiastic Chorkie. A Chorkie, in case you’re not quite up to speed with your canine crossbreeds, is a mixture of a chihuahua and a Yorkshire Terrier, and while my friend K— busies herself elsewhere I am looking after this hound.

This falls squarely into the category of Things I Never Thought I’d Do. I’m a cat person, taking my cue from their idleness, cruelty and beauty. Dogs, with their loyalty, their enthusiasm and their barking, are all a little too much for me, even after the first drink of the day. But the dog is here, and I am in loco parentis, and it is up to me to make sure that she is looked after and entertained, and that there is no repetition of the unfortunate accident that occurred outside my housemate’s room, and which needed several tissues and a little poo baggie to make good.

As it is, the dog thinks I am the bee’s knees. To give you an idea of how beeskneesian it finds me, it is licking my feet as I write. “All right,” I feel like saying to her, “you don’t have to go that far.”

But it’s quite nice to be worshipped like this, I have decided. She has also fallen in love with the Hovel, and literally writhes with delight at the stinky cushions on the sofa. Named after Trude Fleischmann, the lesbian erotic photographer of the Twenties, Thirties and Forties, she has decided, with admirable open-mindedness, that I am the Leader of the Pack. When I take the lead, K— gets a little vexed.

“She’s walking on a loose lead, with you,” K— says. “She never does that when I’m walking her.” I don’t even know what that means, until I have a think and work it out.

“She’s also walking to heel with you,” K— adds, and once again I have to join a couple of mental dots before the mists part. It would appear that when it comes to dogs, I have a natural competence and authority, qualities I had never, not even in my most deranged flights of self-love, considered myself to possess in any measurable quantity at all.

And golly, does having a dog change the relationship the British urban flâneur has with the rest of society. The British, especially those living south of Watford, and above all those in London, do not recognise other people’s existence unless they want to buy something off them or stop them standing on the left of the sodding escalator, you idiot. This all changes when you have a dog with you. You are now fair game for any dog-fancier to come up to you and ask the most personal questions about the dog’s history and genealogy. They don’t even have to have a dog of their own; but if you do, you are obliged by law to stop and exchange dog facts.

My knowledge of dog facts is scant, extending not much further beyond them having a leg at each corner and chasing squirrels, so I leave the talking to K—, who, being a friendly sort who could probably talk dog all day long if pressed, is quite happy to do that. I look meanwhile in a kind of blank wonder at whichever brand of dog we’ve just encountered, and marvel not only at the incredible diversity of dog that abounds in the world, but at a realisation that had hitherto escaped me: almost half of London seems to have one.

And here’s the really interesting thing. When I have the leash, the city looks at me another way. And, specifically, the young women of the city. Having reached the age when one ceases to be visible to any member of the opposite sex under 30, I find, all of a sudden, that I exist again. Women of improbable beauty look at Trude, who looks far more Yorkie than chihuahua, apart from when she does that thing with the ears, and then look at me, and smile unguardedly and unironically, signalling to me that they have decided I am a Good Thing and would, were their schedules not preventing them, like to chat and get to know me and the dog a bit better.

I wonder at first if I am imagining this. I mention it to K—.

“Oh yes,” she says, “it’s a thing. My friend P-J regularly borrows her when he wants to get laid. He reckons he’s had about 12 shags thanks to her in the last six months. The problems only arise when they come back again and notice the dog isn’t there.”

I do the maths. Twelve in six months! That’s one a fortnight. An idea begins to form in my mind. I suppose you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out what it is. But no. I couldn’t. Could I?

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism