Making eloquent mischief: Mencken, Murdoch and Dannythefink

Do you ever reach the end of the week gasping to read something counter-intuitive, counter to the trend or just mischevously subversive? I do. Writing stuff which takes you places that you don’t expect to go is one of journalism’s contributions to making better sense of the world and stuff.

Here are the pieces I read this week and which made me sit up.

  • Michael Dirda’s review of H L Mencken’s “Prejudices” in this week’s Times Literary Supplement, which, like all the best reviews contains a satisfying selection of pungent quotations from the great American journalist. Mencken could not see a piece of inflated conventional wisdom without immediately fashioning a sharp phrase to puncture it.
  • The debate has swirled round the media world for the past three months over the News Corp bid to own all of Sky TV and which threatens to go on swirling for a few more months has been a dispiriting one to experience. Not because the chattering-class consensus that the bid is a step too far is wrong: I’ve explained here why I think a proper media plurality regime would prevent this (even if the case for blocking the bid looks shaky under current law). The depressing aspect has been the unreflective herd behaviour of most media pundits. But not all. These thoughts were prompted by reading William Shawcross on Murdoch this week in Standpoint magazine. And if you’re looking to have your prejudices tested on this issue, there are even better pieces by Simon Jenkins and Jack Shafer.
  • A column by Daniel Finkelstein in The Times complaining about the careless use of the phrase “squeezed middle”, as in middle class. Come to that he was bashing the careless use of the phrase “middle class”. Finkelstein is a rare columnist interested not only in ideas but also in numbers, measurement and numeracy. (This piece is only accessible with payment and this blog will now adopt the Twitter shortening for that: £)

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