Monday, 19 March 2012

Bryan Appleyard: The Adequacy Delusion

I've got a problem. It's been bothering me some weeks now.Perhaps you can help me. It's all to do with an encounter with journalist Bryan Appleyard on Twitter.

The God Bores/

See, Bryan wrote this article on New Statesman's website. The article- 'The God Wars'- was of that popular and comment-generating kind, basically: 'Dawkins and his cultish acolytes of the millitant secularist apocalypse just don't get it, do they? They're actually a religion! See what I did there?' Y'know the tune: a scared and slavish mentality convinced of its own scandalous irreverance, like a sheep in chocolate lingerie.

Amongst this crowd, Appleyard's piece stands out for being entirely cannibalistic. Or perhaps tinned spam might be a better comparison- it takes the spiciest chunks of all similar articles preceeding it, compresses them, and yet somehow conspires to be quite flavourless. Like every 'Secular apocalypse' article it lurched into unconcious self-parody (the best kind!), with such, erm, imposing prose as-

'The third leg of Neo-atheism is Darwinism, the AK-47 of Neo-atheist shock troops.'

It shouldn't have to be stressed that using the term 'Darwinism' instead of 'evolution' earns you 10 dumbass points on your fucknut club card.

A brief aside.../

To be fair to Appleyard, he did manage to gather a swathe of New Atheism's 'victims' for a conflab in some media-land bistro or other. Picture all the people you've ever dumped discussing you around a table and you've an idea of the general tenor of this derriere-a-derriere. This consortium of the maltreated contained trustfund philosopher Alain De Botton, who, along with profound observations like-

'(explaining religion scientifically) is as bizarre as launching a scientific investigation into the truth of
Anna Karenina' (We call them literature essays, Alain)

he also 'finds Dawkins a psychologically troubling figure.'

Classy. Alain De Botton, you'll recall, informed one New York Times reviewer-

'I will hate you to the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make.'

Truly, De Botton is the Seneca of our age. In the sense that he's a hypocrite who doesn't practice the values he hopes to inspire in others. And a tit.

Alright, Jim, the opener of this blog was a tactically obvious reader-hook but then you blew it on typical webtheist snark. Get to the twatting point already.../

PZ Myers took Appleyard's arse to town on Twitter, as is Myer's want. A fellow New Statesman journo, Helen Lewis, told Appleyard that he must have really irked Myers with that bit in the article about his 'limited' prose style. Appleyard replied along the lines of 'a light touch' being the best revenge.

Right: no more Mr Lurker! Time to hit these smug bastards, methinks (and Bryan Appleyard is the kind of person who'd bloody use the word 'methinks')! I decided to throw a 140 character beer glass into this eccumenical bar brawl-

Taste my metaphor, Bryan! I thought that'd be the last of it, given Appo had enough on his twitter-plate, but no! Imagine my surprise when he replied-

To which I fired back-

He didn't reply.


For a while, it was like I'd drained him of smug. I was a self-regard vampire, if you will. But it didn't last.
Doubt sank in. How could he not understand? Was it because I'd forgot to put a space between the words 'his' and 'opponents' and he'd thought I'd meant hippopotamus? Or maybe the analogy was shoddy or plain wrong. I worry about this sort of thing in my daily life. I say things and friends and colleagues smile but their eyes are texting 'WTF'? Am I on some other wavelength to most- dickhead FM, say?

But HOW? Surely what I said is comprehensible, given a second's thought? Let's run through this- I say PZ Myers is hitting below the belt, 'below the belt' is a boxing reference, Bryan Appleyard- as Myer's 'boxing opponent'- has his shorts over his face= Bryan Appleyard's reasoning blinds him and his arguments are rubbish. Where's the weak link here? Where's the pothole?

Wait a minute... maybe his reply was a witty put down that I'm too dumb to get! Maybe he and Alain De Botton et al are sat in that same restaurant as I write this, chuckling over their brioche and latte. Maybe Baroness Warsi and Rev Giles Frasier are there too; under the table and noshing him off. Oh God... (As Dawkins might say upon walking in on this)

Appleyard went to Cambridge, for pity's sake! He's written for the Times Literary Supplement and Vanity Fair. I'd be lucky to write for Mayfair. He's a titan. I'm a midget with bad knees and gout. He simply HAS to be whipping my ass in front of everyone on Twitter who cares to gawp. Surely?

Unless... unless Britain's establishment commentariat are nought but a bunch of well-connected oldboys who's minds conspire, somehow, to be utterly empty yet full of shit.

But that's impossible, isn't it? What do you reckon?


  1. Neo Athiest shock troops? Do we get unifroms and guns? I think I might like that.
    Where'd this myth of 'militant' athiesm come from anyway? When was the last time Dawkins called upon us to go blow up a mosque, or demanded doctors refuse treatment to those who dabble with the enemy on Sunday? Maybe I should go into business selling icons of Saint Hitchens, I could use the money...
    Should they ever need to replace Appleyard, they just need to poach Littlejohn from the Mail and furnish him with a thesaurus and a wine cellar.

    1. I'll suggest it to him next time I'm on Twitter.

      I think there might be some mileage in creating a 'badly-informed anti-new-atheist article drinking game'. You know- shot of whisky for 'millitant secularism', 2 shots for 'Dawkin's acolytes' etc. Mind you,you'd never get to the final paragraph. Which is probably a good thing.

  2. UPDATE: Mr Appleyard has recently been bitten on the colon by a Tapir. Our thoughts are with his family (and Tapir's generally).