Angus Take House

Worst Take of the Week: Free Brett Kavanaugh vs Labour Conference Paranoia

Some spicy, spicy takes this week.

by Angus Harrison
28 September 2018, 1:42pm

Photo: Xinhua / Alamy Stock Photo

Welcome to Angus Take House – a weekly column in which I will be pitting two of the wildest takes the world's great thinkers have rustled up against each other. This is your one-stop shop for the meatiest verdicts and saltiest angles on the world's happenings. Go and grab a napkin – these juicy hot takes are fresh from the griddle.

TAKE 1:

What's the story? Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was the subject of a hearing, which featured an emotional testimony from one of the women who has accused him of sexually assaulting her – allegations he aggressively denied.
Reasonable Take: Sort of tricky to see how Brett comes back from this one tbh.
Chicken Supreme: This is an attack against white men everywhere!

If, like me, you live in the UK or somewhere other than the thriving bed of intrigue that is the United States of America, you might have missed the Brett Kavanaugh affair that came to a dramatic head this week.

To quickly recap: Donald Trump nominated an attorney called Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Following that, three women came forward accusing Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting them, with a further two anonymous testimonies surfacing later (one of which has since been recanted). In order for the Senate to vote on whether or not his nomination should be approved, a hearing was held in which one of his accusers, Dr Christine Blasey Ford, recounted her experience. Kavanaugh then launched into an extraordinary defence of himself, eventually responding, when asked if "in the eyes of God" her accusations were true, that: "They are not accurate as to me." Which, I don’t know, sounds sort of shifty.

Anyway, the good news is that America, and the world, has handled the situation with the sensitivity it deserves, affording the hearing the respect it truly deserves. Psych! Obviously America’s right have gone completely off-the-rails with lurid counter-accusations, conspiracy theories and flagrant insults against Dr Ford. Veteran far-right shit-talker Ann Coulter kicked things off, with a typically read-it-and-weep tweet claiming that "The only gang rape is the one happening to Brett Kavanaugh." Author Kevin Jackson stepped this up (down?) a notch by outright calling Kavanaugh's accusers "lyin' skanks" in a Twitter rant; a zinger that cost him his contributor job at Fox News. If your take is too spicy for Fox News, perhaps it's time to take your foot off the pedal? Idk.

Elsewhere, comedian Michael Ian Black tweeted that while Kavanaugh might have assaulted people, he could still be a "helluva good guy". Even the New York Times got involved, with less of a take and more of a terrible editorial decision, when in the middle of the hearing they tweeted a poll asking their readers to judge whether their readers found Dr Ford’s testimony credible, much in the way you might ask Twitter which Godfather film is the best, or what the "correct" way to make a cup of tea is.

However, the top prize this week goes to Conservative activist Tim Montgomerie, who tweeted his scorcher of a summary that "For a lot of ppl on here , Justice Kavanaugh’s sin appears to be that he's a white man." For those who don’t know, Tim Montgomerie is… well, I'm not really sure what he is. Just one of those edgy, snarky Tory blokes who exist enough on the outside of the Conservative party to get away with spouting nasty things about safe spaces to a following of internet-dwelling retirees in the Home Counties.

This particular howler came in response to many people online suggesting that Kavanaugh's incredulity at his behaviour being called into question was indicative of a certain type of white, male indignation that refuses to be challenged. At this stage, it's hard to tell whether Montgomerie and his ilk are wilfully ignoring what people are actually saying, or if the words "white" and "male" send them into such a defensive tailspin they can no longer understand what's actually being said. Either way, what a way to put a cherry on a creamy week of absurd and foul responses to a terrible situation. I think this column might be giving me heart problems. Stay tuned.

TAKE 2:

What’s the story? The Labour Party conference was this week! And alongside it, left-wing festival of ideas The World Transformed.
Reasonable Take: A big week for people who really care about the Labour Party. And a couple of speeches worth noting for those who don’t care as much.
Red Mullet: Bit cultish, isn't it? Swivel-eyed loons everywhere, eh? Momentum are a bit spooky, aren't they? Bit nutty? Yeah? Bit bonkers, isn't it? Sort of ghoulish, the whole thing, really, don’t you think? Sort of, untethered and spinning away from reality, isn’t it? Look, that person has the word Corbyn on a T-shirt. Did someone say Hezbollah? Bit, I don’t know, unnerving, isn’t it? Don’t you agree? Don’t you think? Don’t you agree?

It was the Labour Party conference this week, which meant hordes of journalists descending on Liverpool to deliver their Big Verdicts on the state of the party that is currently angling itself as a government in waiting. Plenty of this attention was focused on the keynote speech from party leader Jeremy Corbyn, but as much energy went into the now three-year-old trope of casting Labour activists and members – and those affiliated with campaign organisation Momentum – as part of a shadowy cult. In searching for dark and sinister intentions, journalists have come away with pieces that don't reflect the direction of policy, but instead hang on the most bizarre comments they overheard in fringe meetings, or saw written on isolated placards.

Marina Hyde at the Guardian wrote a funny but oddly paranoid piece centred on "Momentum robots running amok", painting party activists as legions of malfunctioning droids barking uncontrollably about the deep state. She took great pains to stress how many times she heard talk of conspiracy against Corbyn among fringe groups, before electing to paint Corybn's plans for media reform as a Trump-esque "familiar attack on the failing fake news media". There's no doubt that much of the most maddening behaviour is there in places, but you've got to ask what the ultimate benefit of painting grassroots activists as children of the corn in such broad brush-strokes really is? Who is it for? Beyond a sniggering cabal of other journalists and commentators who consider themselves arbiters of Sensible Politics.

The best attempt at presenting the Labour conference as Owen Jonestown, though, came from the Independent, who were so intent on finding intrigue they turned on not the location of conference, but a nearby bar. Enjoy:

The epicentre, in the city’s Baltic Triangle district, was located next to a large Peaky Blinders-themed bar and restaurant. Why you’d pick a site next to a tribute to a series that descends into farcical power struggles and paranoia, featuring Jewish stereotypes, Russians and the IRA for a Labour-related event in today’s climate, I don’t know. I can only assume it was arranged by someone who doesn’t get the British sense of irony.

Yes, that's right. Labour really should have seen the unfortunate parallels between the party's ongoing problems and popular Birmingham-set television series Peaky Blinders. The Indy goes on to describe in detail a minor fracas between party members, describing a four-year-old child stamping on a "Hate Brexit" placard as a "wonderful visual metaphor" for the party’s position. Meaning, Labour’s position on Brexit… squashed? I’m not with it. Labour is taking the "stood on by a child" approach? In the end, the piece falls back on the old reliable of vaguely criticising the Labour leader for being popular with his supporters, describing Corbyn walking across a stage as having entered "like The Rock to a leftist Wrestlemania". A reference as biting as it is current.

Finally, the big man Rod Liddle came to the rescue with the wildest take of the lot, claiming during an excoriating rant on Question Time that the conference lanyards were sponsored by Hamas. They were actually sponsored by campaigning union USDAW, but hey, everyone makes mistakes. It would be funny if he hadn’t got a round of applause for saying it on live television. Look, no doubt if you go to the Labour conference, or the World Transformed, you’re going to run into a lot of people with "out there" ideas and convictions that come across as over-the-top, to say the least. But sadly, at this stage, the fact that fringe arguments and strange theories about location decisions are the best journalists can muster, it's not just the Momentum droogs looking conspiratorial.

PRIME CUT: Nobody is ever going to top that Ann Coulter tweet. I quit.

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