by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash
The musical British invasion of the 60s and 70s brought us the Beatles, the Stones, Herman's Hermits, the Dave Clark Five, the Searchers and other great bands, who made us realize anew that American music was the greatest popular music ever, as these imports sold back to us and reminded us of our best blues and Tin Pan Alley traditions.
The journalistic British invasion of the 80s and 90s brought us Tina Brown, Christopher Hitchens, Niall Ferguson and Rupert Murdoch — assholes all, who have lowered the intellectual tone of American journalism and brought us cheap sensationalism and provocation for the sake of provocation and nothing else.
One reason we Americans are so easily blinded by these assholes is simply their accents: Americans have always thought that the British accent denotes great intelligence. I mean, Shakespeare in a British accent sounds more elegant than played in American accents, doesn't it — despite the fact that the accent of Shakespeare's own time was probably closer to American than Brit.
The other reason is that, because of a British liberal arts education, which is superior to its US counterpart, these folks can display remarkable erudition. Unlike most American journalists, they've actually read a lot — enough to impress us Americans anyway.
The third reason is their intellectual smugness. We take this as a sign of their intellectual superiority, but it's nothing but an infuriatingly annoying British smug shallow high-table confidence that the Oxbridge snobs have used to condescend to us and intimidate us for ages.
The British have undoubtedly gained by the good riddance of these assholes to the US, but their gain is our loss. Let's see how deep this loss goes, by taking these assholes in turn.
1. Asshole Tina Brown. This lass edited The Tatler in Britain, where she refined her lifetime mission of producing shallow sucking-up-to-celebrities shit for snotnoses. She was then imported to the USA to run Vanity Fair, and turned this People Magazine for snotnoses into a great success, owing to an amazing number of heretofore undiscovered shallow snotnoses in America. Then she went on to edit The New Yorker, and in one fell swoop managed to traduce the tradition of an erstwhile intellectually rigorous magazine down to the level of Vanity Fair or even People Magazine. Before she came on board, one could easily spend 40 minutes reading The New Yorker. After her, it took a mere ten minutes to get through its trashy writing (Christ, this was the magazine who once upon a time had Pauline Kael as their movie reviewer; now they review any old Hollywood crap). After mucking about with the Weinsteins on the extremely shallow and short-lived sucking-up-to-celebrities-shit Talk Magazine, Tina Brown then, thank God, safely sidelined herself to her internet changeling, The Daily Beast, a perfect reflection of her shitty shallow taste, being a kind of poor man's Huffington Post (which has now also swallowed Newsweek). Of course she also wrote a book about Princess Di.
2. Asshole Christopher Hitchens. This dude came to The Nation and quickly established a tradition of high-minded leftist writing. Then came 9/11, and along with the entire US nation, he lost his moral compass. Because the Aytollah Khomeini had told all Muslims to please kill his pal Salman Rushdie, and because he was familiar with Muslim fundamentalists like the Taliban (“fascism with an Islamic face”), Hitchens became an apologist for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and their neocon wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And this is a guy who revered George Orwell, and wrote a good book about him; wish that he had Orwell's moral acuity.
3. Asshole Niall Ferguson. This historian dude, whose historical thought gave him the amazing insight that the British Empire has been the main civilizing force in human history, got so excited by the Bush/Cheney wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, that he decided the American Empire could be the next great civilizing force in human history. Recently he penned a whack job on Obama in Newsweek, run by Tina Brown, that was so flawed on actual facts (really pathetic coming from a Harvard professor) that James Fallows, a fellow Harvard dude, apologized on behalf of his alumni for Ferguson's intellectual charlatanism. Tina Brown plus Niall Ferguson — a perfect storm of British assholism.
4. Asshole Rupert Murdoch. What can one say about this pernicious individual, who with Fox News has tore an immense asshole in the innocent body of American journalism? I've said it all before, when I called him America's own Goebbels (read about it here).
When you feel yourself prone to cower before British erudition, smugness or their precious accent, consider this corrective: look how American comedians created the ultimate satire on British rock star pretension: This Is Spinal Tap, the final proof that Americans are smarter than Brits.
Weirdly enough, there's one Brit pundit import who changed for the better. Andrew Sullivan edited The New Republic at a very young age, and subsequently, very untrue to form, turned into a journalistic asset. He was one of the first in the field to make blogging a respectable field for punditry with his The Daily Dish, and as a gay Republican and Obama supporter, he may be the only sane Republican left in America.
On the other hand, there's Martin Amis. This modish, verbosity-sodden novelist and opinionist, who in his extensive oeuvre has not penned a single book as funny or as insightful as those from his pater, Kingsley Amis, has recently moved from Hampstead, London to Brooklyn, New York.
Heaven help us. With this latest British asshole in our midst, the invasion of assholes who blind us Americans with their accents, erudition and smugness, continues apace.
Who's next? Tony Blair? Hey, Tina dahlink, why don't you import him to blind us with a weekly column?
(Afternote: I have a book out, self-published at the moment, based on my many provocative posts to 3QD. It's called The Real Obama: Progressive Tiger or Wall Street Poodle? You'll never have more fun reading about politics. Only $12 — order a copy here: lulu.com/product/paperback/the-real-obama-progressive-tiger-or-wall-street-poodle/18939747)