Thursday, 8 February 2007

Parachronistic Piffle

I’ve always fancied that if one is to draw conclusions from history, one ought at least to make the effort to get the very basics right. What a shame it is, then, that our bold journalists — who are ever eager to turn their pens to almost anything, even should they know almost nothing — are rarely bothered by such concerns! A specimen:
The Scots have always been fiercely independent. Ask the Romans. While they rolled their franchise out across Asia and middle Europe, they never quite managed to tame the Scots. Not even the Romans, with their military brilliance, smart, coordinated uniforms and innovative tortoise fighting strategy, could extend their sphere of influence much beyond Selkirk. And if you’ve been to Selkirk, you’d understand why. So fearful were they of the Scots that they had a chap called Hadrian build a wall to keep us out. I ask the Geordies and Mancs to review their historical ‘hardness’ in the light of such compelling evidence — the peoples of Newcastle and Manchester were conquered and to this day remain wall-free. [1]
It staggers me that someone could be paid to write such piffle. If the author had made the slightest effort to understand that neither Scotland, nor England, nor Manchester, nor Newcastle existed at the time of the Roman invasion of Britain, and that the Scots and the Anglo-Saxons came to Britain in significant numbers only after the Romans had left, then perhaps he would have been aided in his journalistic efforts. No doubt we all have our blind-spots of ignorance, and we all make mistakes, but is it too much to ask that a journalist make at least some effort to know something about which he writes, instead of boldly spreading his ignorance? And is it too much to ask that the editors of our “quality” newspapers be discriminating enough to exclude that which would not have found its way into a school-magazine a hundred years ago? I suspect it is.

[1] Hardeep Singh Kohli, “Forget the boost for Scotland – it’s the English who would really benefit from a disbanded Union”, Comment is Free (The Guardian’s weblog), 8th February 2007.

7 comments:

dearieme said...

He later opines "a Union decided by a king will be undone by the people". That'll be King Anne, then?

Kirk Elder said...

Sir, I believe it is too much to ask. However, I am intrigued by the notion of an "innovative tortoise fighting strategy". Perhaps the BBC could broadcast this instead of darts.

dearieme said...

Somewhere about the house I have a copy of my first school magazine article, about red and grey squirrels. (It was remarkable what one could learn from cards that came in tea packets. Two different cards, mind - this was research, not plagiarism.)
You don't suppose that this could be a route to a handy income in retirement?

Dr Samuel Johnson, A.M. said...

Mr Deogolwulf, no good comes of reading the Grauniad, as my late friend T. P. Fuller tried to tell you. My own school magazine (which I once had the honour of co-editing) was a good deal more interesting than the average broadsheet of today. The advertisements, such as they were, extolled the virtues of working for Barclay's Bank or the purchase of one's school blazer from a certain draper in the town. We had linocuts of various subjects, as: a sleeping tabby cat, a dilapidated boot, an abstract of jagged lines entitled "Chaos" (or something of the sort); a sister slightly disproportioned. We printed doom-laden poems, an essay on the French Revolution (adumbrating a similar exercise here, which almost ensued in 1968), the cricket and rugby and hockey results, news of old boys who had died in West Africa, and the like -- all perfectly literate and closely proofed, in Baskerville 10 point with headings in Perpetua 14 pt. I doubt whether today's children could even understand such a publication, never mind produce it.

Mr Elder, in case you're not being ironic, the testudo of the Roman army was a manoeuvre in which closed ranks used their shields to form a carapace against the impact of arrows, spears, &c.

james higham said...

Superb post. The 'mis' or 'entire lack of' reading of documented history is pernicious and galling in the extreme. "Them's the times we live in" unfortunately. Excuse the overuse of the inverted commas.

Deogolwulf said...

Mr Elder: "Perhaps the BBC could broadcast this ["innovative tortoise fighting strategy"] instead of darts."

It would, of course, have to involve celebrities or fat ladies from Leeds.

Dearieme: "You don't suppose that this could be a route to a handy income in retirement?"

You could be on to a winner there.

Dr Johnson, I shall try to give up reading the Grauniad, though if Dearieme gets his tea-card submissions published, I shall have to read.

Mr Higham: "The 'mis' or 'entire lack of' reading of documented history is pernicious and galling in the extreme."

Indeed so.

ted harvey said...

Dear me , dear Dr, much good generally comes from reading the Grauniad (despite its collapse into the Metro London mindset; a betrayal of it regional roots).

The patience of you all is required on the author of the piece on Scotland and England. He ain't no journalist, although he is probably trying to be that as well.

Hardeep is a third rate 'comedian' who has been lurking around the Scottish scene for a few years. Having managed to garner a bob or two from that, he has been recently striving hard to establish himself as 'a personality' hence this article.

So; not to be taken seriously. Mind you, when you read the English neurosis underlying the comments following the article, you can’t help feeling he was onto something.