19 March 2007

Tory inspiration

Sometimes life can be quite baffling.

Using a lead provided by Shades of Grey, I have pieced together the following interesting timeline. It relates to the Orange incident from last August, which readers may recall. Although I was vaguely aware of the hoo-ha, I was on holiday, and not as in focus on the blogosphere as I am now, so didn’t gather the full details at the time.

I simply present the data and let readers make of it what they will.

March 06 – Simon Heffer, along with a number of other writers, is sent a sample of Mediocracy with an invitation to comment. He doesn’t reply.

May 06 – On the recommendations of the book’s distributor and one of the book’s puffers, a colleague at Oxford Forum contacts Heffer at the Telegraph with a view to F.T. writing an article on the subject of the forthcoming book. She manages to speak to Heffer’s PA, who makes fobbing-off noises.

early June 06 – Heffer is invited to the launch party for Mediocracy at the Oxford & Cambridge Club in London with Guest of Honour Frederick Forsyth. He doesn't reply.

mid-June 06 – Review copies of the book are sent to British broadsheets and highbrow magazines, including the Telegraph and the Spectator.

4 July 06 – Mediocracy is published. The book is in part a “Devil’s Dictionary” of cultural terminology, focusing in particular on leftist-inspired distortion of words and concepts as employed in academia, politics and the arts.

26 July 06 – Heffer writes an article for the Telegraph in which he bemoans the need for someone to “write a book on the language of the Third Way, outlining the abuse of words (and with it the abuse of truth) that this administration has either implemented or condoned.”

2 August 06 – Claiming to be inspired by Heffer’s article, Tory supporter Inigo Wilson posts his “Lefty Lexicon” at ConservativeHome.com. Some of the entries are remarkably similar to those in Mediocracy.

17 August 06 – Inigo Wilson is suspended by his employer Orange. Not for lack of originality, but for the alleged “racism” of his definitions of “Islamophobia” and "Palestinian" (entries for which there are no parallels in Mediocracy).

Incidentally, neither the Telegraph nor the Spectator has reviewed the book, nor (as far as I'm aware) otherwise mentioned it. Ditto ConservativeHome.com, though at one stage last year a review was promised.


Paul said...

Hmmm. I'm not completely sure "The Lefty Lexicon" is a simple case of plagiarism: the comparisons in the PDF file on Celia's site aren't exactly damning. Also, it's worth mentioning that before I'd ever heard of Mediocracy, I'd dashed off quite a few Lefty-Lexicon-type definitions myself, in e-mails to friends: I could have conceivably expanded these into a brief blog posting for a laugh --- redefinitions are a comic staple, after all (I've received numerous forwarded e-mails with titles along the lines of "The Estate-Agent's Dictionary" and "The Male/Female Translator").

Subject matter aside, your book is quite different in nature from Wilson's posting. The entries in Mediocracy are forensic dissections of postmodern Newspeak and are backed up with examples: the definitions in "The Lefty Lexicon" are really just off-the-cuff sarcasm, though they do make a serious point.

The lesson I drew from the Orange episode was that had you gone out and landed yourself a high-flying government job before publishing Mediocracy, your subsequent sacking would have brought the book to the attention of a much wider audience. And getting hired with the express purpose of getting fired would've been great fun! ;)

Who knows? "Mediocracy" could itself have become an entry in the OED!

Fabian Tassano said...

You note I didn’t use the p-word. And I agree there have been anti-PC lexicons around for some time. But I did find the correspondence between the two sets of terms chosen a bit odd. Particularly “consultation” which I've not seen anyone else satirise.

Whatever the origins of Lefty Lexicon, the fact remains that Heffer, the Telegraph and at least one of the people associated with ConservativeHome were aware of the book. And have done nothing to help get it a hearing, but did generate or endorse material which it’s hard to believe wasn’t at least triggered by seeing or hearing about the book.

I look forward to someone using the m-word in the press. I get the feeling, however, that it arouses resistance among highbrow commentators. Perhaps it sounds too politically incorrect? Sadly, I can’t claim credit for it - I believe the first writer to use it may have been H J Eysenck.

Paul said...

Really? Eysenck? That seals its fate.

Incidentally, I was surprised that none of the comments in DK's thread about Frank Ellis (which you linked in your post the other day) made reference to Eysenck's treatment as a heretic.

But then history did all take place in the last five minutes...

CarnackiUK said...

The same ground as 'The Lefty Lexicon' was previously covered in 'The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook' by Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf back in 1992...