Sunday, August 10, 2008

The shorter Giles Coren: "Polly is a cunt"

Thank you to all of the many, many commenters and correspondants who pointed your humble Devil towards this beautiful excoriation of that sordid, raddled, old whore, Toynbee, by Giles Coren.
It's lucky we have The Guardian to get to the nub of things for us with its unique blend of snobbery, bitterness, jealousy and thwarted ambition, cobbled together with the tawdry and risible clichés its readers have thrilled to for years.

Dave and Polly begin with a trip to the 20th floor of Canary Wharf, only to find it “marbled”. Is it really, Dave? Is it, Polly? Or do you just need to write “marbled” to ram home your clunky, 1970s them-and-us dichotomy? Because two sentences later the same exact spot is suddenly “a gilded new town in the sky”. Ooh, gilded and marbled. How rich these people must be.

Polly and Dave chat for a while to some bankers and lawyers (hawk, spit) and discover that the fiends “utterly misjudged the magnitude of their privilege” and “put themselves inside a golden enclave”. Marbled, gilded, and golden. Dave and Polly are good. They should do bathrooms.

“They could scarcely deny they had money,” write Dave and Polly, as if any decent human being would. And then they tell us that they, Dave and Polly, are not so much angry as disappointed: “What we had hoped for was more awareness, some recognition that their position needed explaining and even justification.” You really hoped for that, Polly? Really, Dave? Then you're even stupider than you come across on paper.

And they get stupider. And more bitter. And more teacherly and smug. “As a group [the rich people] were less intelligent,” they crow, “less intellectually inquisitive, less knowledgeable and, despite their good schools, less broadly educated than high-flyers in other professions.” But we knew that. City lawyers and bankers have always been thick. They work inhuman hours at pointless jobs for their capitalist slave-masters and die young without really knowing their wives, their children or themselves. It's a horrible life. And they are given a lot of money to make up for it. What are you telling us, Polly? That they'd be happier living naked on a heath and eating dormice? We know that. They know that. Nobody cares. Shut up.

Do go and read the rest, because it's quite, quite delightful. As the poor little Greek boy exhorts...
Arise, Giles Coren; honorary swearblogger and Polly-Basher First Class.

Quite so. In fact, so beautiful is it that, despite the lack of actual swearing, I feel that the piece is so good—and Polly is such an odious and thus deserving target—that it deserves an award.

A few years ago, I inaugurated such an award, and the last one was awarded over a year ago...
The Bloody Devil Award is for people who fisk objects of public derision but who also pepper the post with gratuitous but intensely satisfying insults.

So yes: arise Giles Coren, honorary swearblogger, Polly-Basher First Class and winner of Bloody Devil #17...

UPDATE: Iain Dale picks up on this, and maintains that, personally, Polly isn't too bad.
I've enjoyed a few jousts with Polly in my time, and most of you will be relived to hear that I can think of nothing I have ever agreed with her about. Personally I like her.

So, I left this comment over there (initially answering this comment).
"Also: her analysis of the state sees it as a camel train moving forward where the object is to stop people falling behind, not necessarily have everyone overtaking the leader.

Even the most swivel-eyed, small state, Freidman loons among you can see some merit in that view?"

Actually, to clarify (and I've heard her outline this in person), the object is to stop those who are behind falling so far back that the train splits into two: at this point, Polly maintains, you have a broken society.

The trouble is that Polly's solution is to slow down those at the front, not to speed up those at the back. And were one to take Polly's solution on board, of course, the train would take far longer to reach its objective (whatever that objective may be).

I too have met Polly, on a number of occasions (she didn't know who I was, of course), and I find her entirely charmless. Further, since I know the ideas that she holds, I can no more personally like her than I could like Stalin; she is a terrible and, yes, evil woman, for she advocates nothing less than the enslavement of all people by the state (apart from those, like her, who are both rich enough to buy their way out and influential enough to be allowed to do so).

I have said it before and I'll say it again: beware those who advocate a large state because they are always those who expect to be in charge of it.

I think that's clear enough...


Old BE said...

It is a brilliant piece.

Anonymous said...

A well-deserved award. I must add that blog to my regular reading list.

Anonymous said...


I hope you gave one of those awards to this blog:

Devil's Kitchen said...

I never did, although Factchecking Pollyanna is a very sadly missed resource. Still, I keep hearing rumours of a return, in one form or another...


Bishop Brennan said...


Thanks for linking to this - I would have missed a wonderful fisking of a truly nasty piece of work. Brilliant stuff, and an award well-deserved.


TheFatBigot said...

The problem with the splitting train argument is that it assumes a splitting of the train can be avoided and is irreversible once it has happened.

For those in the very rear of goat class the train split ages ago and they are stuck in a siding in the middle of nowhere. Those with no qualifications, no energy, no drive to improve their lot are already establish siding-dwellers. Even adding a few quid to their giro will make no difference. Their position is the result of (i) their up-bringing, (ii) the willingness of the State to give them money come what may and (iii) their own choice about how they want to live.

They cannot change (i) or (ii) but they can change (iii) and some do, much to their credit. Hats off to them. It is a Herculean task, they must run out of the stationary carriage, mount an old bogey and pump the handle until they get within jumping distance of the rear of the train.

Meanwhile the train moves on and the vast majority will always be in economy/second/standard class (whatever it is called these days). Some will have their preferred window seat facing front, others will be faced backwards and not like it, others will not give a stuff where they sit provided they can complete their journey without someone vomiting in their lap or the ticket inspector coming round every five minutes demanding that they justify their existence in the carriage.

Some, indeed, will move from standard class to the comfy seats at the front. Others will buy a ticket for first class even though their parents were standard class passengers and some will inherit daddy's golden ticket entitling them to free first class train travel for life.

You can confiscate all first class tickets if you want to and replace the first class carriage with another standard class carriage, but it makes absolutely no difference to those adrift in the sidings, it does not allow the heroic chaps on the bogey to rejoin the train any faster and it does not change anything for those who were, are and always will be in standard class.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps polly has had a stroke caused by flying to Tuscany every few days maybe a surgical stocking placed over her face and neck secured with a piece of barbed wire would help.

Anonymous said...

You may not agree with PT but at least people pay her to write. God this blog is shit. I bet Coren couldn't give a fuck that he's got one of your shit awards, what makes you think anyone gives a fuck? You'd be calling him a cunt if he said something you didn't agree with, unless you want to suck his cock (and it looks like you do from reading your blog).

Give up soon.

Anonymous said...

"at least people pay her to write."

Well, not really. She writes for the Grauniad, so it's not the market that has determined that her writing is worth paying for. It's a paper sustained by a combination of a charitable trust, flogging off its stake in Auto Trader to the private equity titans she so despises and taxpayers' money for all those sodding public sector job ads.

No newspaper that actually relied on circulation and advertising revenues would pay for her ranting.

Anonymous said...

"God this blog is shit."

Bugger off then (no pun intended!)

Anonymous said...

"what makes you think anyone gives a fuck?"

There speaks the true voice of the Guardian reader, someone who recognises that no one really gives a fuck in leftyland. Oh sure, Polly and friends say they care, (indeed they tell their readers so every day, more or less) but in the end, they don't really. Not when they can get so much money and live a different life to the plebs.

After all, socialism means never having to say you're sorry for getting it all so wrong.

But in fairness I can see your anger: Polly was well and truly exposed by Mr Coren and everyone who reads her ridiculous newspaper or buys her book and swallows her flawed ideas has well and truly been taken in. It's hard to accept that, isn't it, Mr Anonymous?

Anonymous said...

the litter liner only sells 356,350 copies (ABC January 08 – June 08)
pretty poor really,must admit I wouldn't buy it unless you put a gun to my head.
meanwhile the Daily Mail sells 2,231,120 copies.

Trixy said...

The caravan analogy which the Tories have now decided to endorse...

I can't stand Polly and, like the Devil having met her (in fact on one occasion getting him a ticket because both she and TEBAF were there) I know that she is as bad as she comes across in her writing.

And I could never respect nor trust someone who looks like an explosion in an Oxfam shop.

Anonymous said...

I invite you to look at it like this: Polly is falling back on the oldest of Labour strategies - class war.

Labour and its waxed monkeys now have no argument to make beyond "ARGH! TOFF! HIM RICH! HIM GOT MONEY! FUCKAN TOFF! ME HAET TOFF!".

Read Polly's article and recall the young men in their top hats at the recent byelection. Labour has given up even the pretence that they have a vision for the country. They've stopped saying "Vote Labour because we'll do X". Now they say "Vote Labour because you hate those rich bastards as much as we do".

I hope the Liberal Democrats are looking forward to their new job as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition after the next election.

Anonymous said...

Y A-B is long overdue for the same treatment.

Anonymous said...

DK said: "beware those who advocate a large state because they are always those who expect to be in charge of it."

That is exactly my experience of these people. Excellently summed up, DK.

Toynbee's camel train analogy falls over when the monkeys leading the camels go off in the wrong direction (as they frequently do, whatever their political beliefs). That is why it essential not to have a monolithic camel train.

Anonymous said...

I had an en-suite bathroom at Oxford. Marvellous, it was.

Anonymous said...

Why a "camel train"? Why not a wagon-train, a usage devised by the hardy and self-reliant American pioneers? There, everyone was not only expected to keep up with the wagons heading West into unknown territory, but they were also expected to contribute to the welfare of the train as a whole. The sick, the injured, the pregnant, the nursing were carried along by the energy and self-reliance of the train without breaking stride.

Odd that Polly should come up with a desert/camel analogy ... It certainly tells us where her heart is.

Anonymous said...

In fact, the more I think about Toynbee's strange analogy, the weirder it becomes.

The wagon trains of the American West are part of our own history because they were organised and driven by our own people - the British and the Irish. Their boldness and grit paid off and they went on to build the largest economy the world had ever known, and the only superpower in human history that has no imperial ambitions.

Why on earth would Toynbee choose, instead, an analogy with illiterate, unambitious desert nomads who are living the same life they lived in the Stone Age? Is she saying this is what she wants for Britain's children? Passivity?

I sense a deliberate choice in the Toynbee analogy, and I sense it is toxic.

Anonymous said...

BTW, did you know that the United Nations has declared flights to and from Tuscany carbonly neutral?

Anonymous said...

Ma Dale's problem is that he is thick. Thats acceptable except when you try to appear smarter than you are - a credibilty gap emerges and you get found out.

His blog suffers from lack of attention. Its days are numbered. He is piggy backing on others for content. Doesnt work.

Anonymous said...

In addition to Daley's comment, you can see Ian is being careful to not make any waves in order to grease his way to the top... DK whilst I doubt you'll get anywhere wit politics, purely because quality is a disability, I really fucking hope you do.

NHS Fail Wail

I think that we can all agree that the UK's response to coronavirus has been somewhat lacking. In fact, many people asserted that our de...