Here at The Writing House, as you might well expect, we love putting pen to paper. More in keeping with the modern world, perhaps, we also adore composing words and sentences on a keyboard. There’s something quite magical about the written word, even in such a supposedly prosaic context as leaving a note overnight in an empty bottle to request an extra pint from the milkman (what can you mean, you don’t get your milk that way?).
But there’s one element of writing that has resolutely refused to reveal its appeal. It’s not for lack of effort, be assured, because not all that long ago one member of our team laboured long and hard over the task of putting together a number of academic essays while mistakenly training for another profession.
Dead easy, he thought, as do so many, seemingly. Thousands of laboured words later, however, he saw it rather differently.
In essence, he put it down to the need for constant referencing. It’s not appropriate in the academic context to research a topic, collect your thoughts and then have your own say. Instead you have to prove you’ve read dozens of treatises with constant citations, weigh the arguments therein and then present a considered conclusion that – if you’re lucky – pushes back the frontiers of global thinking on your favourite subject. Very sorry, but it’s all as dry and arid as the Sahara.
Perhaps in all honesty he simply couldn’t take it seriously, in which case it’s a good job his troubles comfortably predated the fuss over the professor who pulled off a magnificent hoax on academic journals. Peter Boghossian, an assistant professor of philosophy at a university in America, and two others concocted 20 deliberately absurd spoof academic papers, seven of which, unbelievably, were published.
Need a hint of just how ridiculous they were? Well, here’s one title in all its grandeur – ‘Our Struggle is my Struggle: Solidarity feminism as an intersectional reply to neoliberal and choice feminism’. This, hilariously, was nothing other than a rewrite of a chapter of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, with feminist buzzwords worked in.
Now the point of this is not to poke fun at academics. We mean no offence – countless earnest and worthy souls on campuses across the globe have done so much to deepen our understanding of the world and deserve lots of credit. But really, what a farce. And it’s hardly the first time that this apparent unquestioning rush to publish has been exposed so gloriously.
And this story gets even better, because Dr Boghossian now faces the sack from his role at Portland State University (above) in Oregon for supposedly not seeking ethical approvals. He also faces a charge relating to the falsification of data.
More power to him, we say. A British publisher accused him of an ‘elaborate, complex hoax which broke all accepted norms of scholarly communication’. Or rather ‘not playing ball’, to the ordinary Joes laughing their socks off in the world beyond academia.
So, perhaps unnecessarily given the above, here’s a disclaimer. Here at The Writing House we don’t offer academic writing. We really wouldn’t anyway, because academic writing submitted by students should of course be all their own work. And anyway, our colleague who tangled with academic writing has warned us off it in such dramatic style that we really don’t feel we’re missing out.
Some things just don’t seem conceivable, such as hearing someone say, ‘Well, wasn’t Brexit such a simple process in the end?’ or, ‘Yes, do take my Porsche for a spin, old chap’. But now the moment has arrived… to announce that Jeremy Clarkson is quite correct.
For most people it appears to be a case of hate him or loathe him – and the thing is, he probably wouldn’t particularly mind either way. It’s all grist to the mill for a controversial individual who enjoys the limelight and positively relishes putting people’s noses out of joint, figuratively speaking, of course. And clearly there is a sufficient number of people out there who respond to his overgrown laddish appeal.
So it will have surprised no one to hear that our Jeremy had his say on the gender of the new host (definitely not hostess in these modern days) of Question Time. With Fiona Bruce (above) adding a political role to her genial presence on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow, that most comforting of Sunday night TV shows, and also her newsreading, women are certainly beginning to make inroads into reversing the decades of casual sexism that have bedevilled our nation in so many ways, not least in the employment world.
Only JC didn’t quite put it like that, preferring to announce that ‘anyone with a scrotum’ simply no longer has a chance at the Beeb. But yes, let’s face it: his comments were bang on the money.
Nick Robinson, thought to have been the only male candidate to succeed David Dimbleby, was said by Clarkson to have wasted his petrol in travelling to an audition. Robinson, who could doubtless see what was coming, will at least have justified his outlay in terms of having shown willing to his bosses – and credit to him for that.
Just imagine the outcry if the person to follow Dimbleby did actually have a scrotum. The BBC, which even at the best times serves as a popular public punchbag, would have been castigated across the globe for supposedly sticking to the ‘stale, pale male’ scenario. Who can remotely blame high-ups at Broadcasting House for wanting to avoid such flak at all costs?
So, Bruce it is. Emily Maitlis, Kirsty Wark and other women sought the job, but I’d say Fiona’s warmth tipped the balance. Now all she has to do is show she has the heft for heavyweight political debate – and by all accounts she got off to a solid start.
Clarkson seemed resigned to the march of women, graciously acknowledging that it was high time to redress the balance, and as a result – astonishingly – he went up in my estimation.
Shame, therefore, that he immediately undid all that good work with a horribly wooden performance as the new host of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. On that showing, oh for the days of the bonhomie of Chris Tarrant, who made the quiz show his own with avuncular repartee that certainly did not seem forced.
Clarkson seemed simply to go through the motions. Even an ill-advised dig at supposedly tight-fisted Scots – with a Scotswoman in the hotseat – was qualified quickly by a reference to his own Yorkshire roots. Come back, Mr Tarrant, all is forgiven.
What were the producers thinking in plumping for Clarkson? Come to think of it, was there any real rationale behind restoring the show to our screens beyond rehashing an old formula for cheap primetime TV?