Geoff Boycott was once explaining his theory on how to deal with the West Indies all-out pace assault. Don't let yourself get flustered or try and force a run, just stand up said Geoff. Batsmen wearing helmets and chest protectors won’t get hurt, and the Windies will be faced with the prospect of banging the ball in time after time for no benefit whatsoever. I don’t know how well this works in cricket, but I think it’s good advice for Conservative interviewees.
What brought this to mind was Newsnight’s alleged interview with Ann Coulter last night. Actually, the mere fact of Newsnight featuring Ann Coulter, in and of itself, was enough to have me checking I was in the right universe, but fortunately Paxman cleared up any doubts by adopting such a whiny, truculent attitude that it could only have been ‘our’ BBC.
Start with the intro. Yes, mention Coulter’s two most controversial comments, but mentioning them alone is like doing a profile of Ozzy Osbourne that notes he bit the head off a bat and was once convicted of burglary, without mentioning anything else.
Similarly, yes, her views on Darwinism are pretty whacked, but how about crystal healing, toxin scrubs and rebirthing ceremonies ? Aren’t they pretty weird ? What chance of Paxman starting an interview with Cherie by talking about them ? I think with five books and hundreds of columns, we’re able to judge if weird views about the primordial soup are all there is to Coulter (Clue: No!) ?
More to the point, Paxman’s follow-up was despicable, asking her if she believed life was created in six days. Huh ? In so far as alleged ‘intelligent design’ advocates are not necessarily biblical fundamentalists, that question revealed either stunning ignorance or a blatant attempt to misrepresent what Coulter actually said. For the record, in so far as fundamentalists take the Bible literally, they support intelligent design, but that doesn’t work the other way round. ‘Intelligent design’ fans aren’t even necessarily averse to evolution, they just think that instead of it involving random mutation filtered by natural selection, it involves some bloke with a beard saying ‘ah, asteroid time!’. Considering the BBC can find endless distinctions between Islamic extremists and the ‘vast majority of peaceful Muslims’, trying to lump ID fans in with folks who think there really was a Noah’s Ark is pretty poor.
Anyway, what’s with questions like ‘Do you honestly believe that ?’. Has Paxman ever posed that question to Martin McGuiness, George Galloway or any Islamic fundamentalist ? Has he ever referred to their views as ‘so extreme, so absurd’, or asked them ‘if it gets any better’ ? No – it’s only when he’s faced with an actual Conservative that he feels the need to feign shock at their views. An unapologetic Conservative ? Who’d have thunk it ?
Then there’s an old favourite coming back: the ‘ban on embryonic stem cell research’. Really ? Answer: No. The ‘ban’ simply means that Federal funds can’t be spent on this research. You can research to your hearts content using anyone else’s money. Individual states can even spend public money on it – the Governator for one has done this in Kalifornia, thereby allowing the Left to trumpet this as a schism in the American Right. So, I guess even Paxman doesn’t watch his show.
Ditto, Paxman had another - ahem! -slip of the tongue when he claimed Coulter attacked the 9-11 widows. What, all of them ? Or just the four of them who chose to leverage their loss into careers as political activists, pushing the Democrat line even on issues completely unrelated to Sep 11 (unless there were any gay marriages performed in the twin towers).
The most ludicrous statement was Paxman claiming there can’t be a Liberal media because the author of America’s No 1 book was on most of the main TV channels. Well, yes, but as Coulter herself has pointed out approximately 1 million times, she’s permitted on the shows only after a long intro to let people know she’s an EXTREME RIGHT WINGER. Meanwhile, smug Liberal snobs like Paxman are presented as objective journalists and analysts, even while they produce sneering commentary about Coulter ‘arguing, if that’s the right word’
As was revealed when Paxman tried to pose a question Coulter had already answered, he clearly doesn’t feel that there’s anything to learn from listening to actual Conservatives. The more Paxman deployed his trademark range of smears, the more you became aware that Coulter could have started reading from the telephone directory and it would have made no difference. The sole take-home message of the whole thing was ‘we hatessss her’.
But here’s the thing: Coutler rolled straight over him. Paxman’s whole reputation as a tough interviewer was built around his weird schtick as the product of a raging affair between Lord Snotty and a Valley Girl. His idea of a sophisticated argument is asking ‘Really ?’ in a silly voice. Suddenly, he was up against someone who wasn’t intimidated by his ability to garner applause from his fellow Liberal luvies, and his gameplan fell apart. While Coulter made actual points, Paxman was reduced to asking questions on the level of 'why do you smell so bad' ?
See, that’s it, right there. OK, so not every Conservative is Ann Coulter, but the lesson still holds. Simply by standing up and ignoring Paxman’s absurd sneers, Coulter was able to make her points and leave the ‘hard man of British interviewing’ flapping about. To use a Coulterism, once he realised the rabbit had a gun too, he sank like a stone.
Still, the Left will get there revenge eventually. It might take a few decades, but once Coulter is too old to answer back, they’ll be able to make a nice play in which she’s torn apart by a BBC interviewer. Still, maybe we ought to let the Left have their little fantasies ? After all, we have reality.