Angus Take House

The Worst Hot Take of the Week: the 'Muslim Problem' Vs 'Taylor Swift's Grope Trial'

Welcome to Angus Take House, a column which, yes, absolutely started life as a pun.
18 August 2017, 10:37am
Taylor Swift photo by Eva Rinaldi, via

Welcome to Angus Take House – a weekly column in which I will be pitting two of the wildest takes the UK's journalists 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? Liam Fox and Philip Hammond have finally agreed that the UK will leave the EU in March of 2019.

Reasonable take: Oh shit, so we are definitely going ahead with this.

Flame-grilled Nazi take: This seems as good a time as any to vocalise some pretty radical ideas I've got about Muslims.

You'd think, in a week where a Labour MP literally resigned because of a hot-take, we'd be leading with that, but actually The Sun coughed up something far more egregious than Sarah Champion's serving.

Trevor Kavanagh's piece begins innocuously enough, celebrating the fact that – apparently – the British public overwhelmingly want a hard Brexit: "People might be confused about how to untie the knot but they want a clean, clear divorce." Same shit, different bearded white man.

Sadly, in the space of a few paragraphs, he ratchets the middle England ennui up to 11, calling for closed borders and protection against the "one unspoken fear", which, "gagged by political correctness", unites us all: Islam. Seriously, the switch from "Come on, Phil, deliver Brexit!" to "Muslims out" is so sudden, it's terrifying. As a piece of writing, it reads quite a lot like a pre-arrest public meltdown.

From here on it gets pretty ugly. There's talk of "Pakistani perverts", "so-called refugees" and, just to give it the nostalgic glow of nationalists gone-by, a reference to the "Muslim problem" – a phrase which, until Wednesday morning, was capitalised and italicised. Plenty of people have pointed out the dangerous similarities between this turn of phrase and the use of "The Jewish Problem" by actual Hitler. The Sun is now facing an investigation after Jewish and Muslim organisations in Britain issued a joint complaint to the press regulator.

There's definitely a "Blokes of Brexit" spectrum. At the milder end, you've got the real part-timers – the sort of guys who only make it to a couple of RAF airshows a year, and mostly just complain about vegans. Further again and you move into the conspiratorial territory, where you start hearing mentions of an "EU army" and talk of contaminated eggs. Trevor sits firmly at the darkest end of the scale. You can practically smell the Doombar on his breath.

TAKE #2:

What's the story? Taylor Swift won a court case against a Denver DJ who she accused of putting his hand up her skirt in 2013.

Reasonable take: I am glad Taylor Swift won her court case against a gropey man from Denver.

Medium rare male feminist take: Being groped makes Taylor Swift woke! Right? Ladies?

This is just a very confused take. Very confused indeed. The sticky sauce has congealed. The marinade has well and truly pickled.

Ben Beaumont's central gist, writing for the Guardian, is this: "In taking on the case, Swift has made a truly universal political statement" – the logic following that, in being groped and then going through an arduous court case, she has experienced some kind of awakening.

He's right to point out that Taylor Swift has been criticised plenty of times in the past for not using her considerable platform to speak out on issues of social or political importance, and that her brand of feminism has been considered by many to be little more than performative. Yet by suggesting that the trial has moved her feminism "from the stage to the floor" is a very strange way to interpret the legal proceedings, treating the assault as though it's a useful PR tool.

He goes on to offer the incredibly dubious take within a take: "A more modulated argument is that the groping case, as with the response to Kanye West, shows that Swift only engages with social issues when they're routed directly through her own life – that she responds to sexism only when she can best leverage social capital from it – i.e. when the story is entirely about her."

Basically, this one makes a pretty good case for why men are not always best placed to write about women's issues. Which is why I stick to finger-licking steak puns, eh lads.

Prime cut: No contest this week. Misguided male feminism loses every time up against Trevor Kavanagh – the type of guy who goes from 0 to Final Solution in under six paragraphs. We'll be picking the gristly remains of that one out of our teeth for weeks.

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