Gary Gibbon, Channel 4 News political editor, posting at 10 a.m. this morning, concluded with this:
By the way, it was the New York Times, watching British politicians creeping out of their bunkers and daring to challenge Murdoch, who coined the phrase “British spring” for the current events.
Which is fair comment
Except that Gibbon should not claim credit credit for noting the term. More properly, Torcuil Crichton, the Westminster Editor of the (Scottish) Daily Record, had the same thought a day earlier, and seems to be about the first twitching in the local media. He gave a full hat-tip where is is properly due:
David Carr, observing the spreading phone hacking scandal from 30,000 feet, writes: “In truth, a kind of British Spring is under way, now that the News Corporation’s tidy system of punishment and reward has crumbled. Members of Parliament, no longer fearful of retribution in Mr. Murdoch’s tabloids, are speaking their minds and giving voice to the anger of their constituents.
Meanwhile, social media has roamed wild and free across the story, punching a hole in the tiny clubhouse that had been running the country. Democracy, aided by sunlight, has broken out in Britain.“
Ah, but as Malcolm was pointing out elsewhere, Scotland is that
far, far away country about which we know very little. That, presumably, is why the leaky nature of Dunfermline Hospital, and the later prurient interest by Dr Andrew Jamieson have gone largely unnoticed in these southern climes.
Which is as recursive a reference as one could get, a hypertextual Ouroboros, so we have two of them heading this post.
Aforesaid David Carr used that bit, punctuated as a single paragraph, to conclude a useful survey of the state-of-play over Murdoch. That appeared on the Media and Advertising page of the Sunday edition of the New York Times. That suggests it hit the key-board on Saturday.
Even if the reason for Crichton re-generating that as two separate sentence-paragraph is because mere Brits cannot cope with run-ons, there remain a couple more oddities:
- where did the 30,000 feet view-point intrude?
- why did über-Konservativ Andrew Sullivan, former Piglet and editor of The New Republic , moreover stalwart blogger for The Spectator — perhaps there’s a clue — find Carr’s effort the most absurdly sanctimonious take on the whole affair? [In Malcolm's view Cranmer's post, as recorded previously, takes priority by many a league.]
Springing over the -gate
The “British spring” metaphor can be dredged back to its origin, which is datable precisely to January 5th, 1968. Alexander Dubček replaced Antonín Novotný as First Secretary of the Czech Communist Party on that date, and his reforms were being implemented until the night of August 20th-21st, when two thousand Soviet Bloc tanks, and twenty thousand troops occupied the country. A seven-month long spring.
The Brezhnev invasion of Czechoslavakia provided another British political metaphor. Harold Wilson addressed a put-down to Hughie Scanlon of the AUEW: “Get your tanks off my lawn“. The lawn in question was Chequers (right). The pity is that it’s taken this unconscionable interim for Murdoch to be given the same advice.
Since then we have had several “springs”, most recently the “Arab spring” (which started on 18th December 2010 and, supposedly, continues to the present). Far form being “Arab”, most of the successes — and even they are questionable — have been in North Africa.
At least, though, the metaphor is not as tired as the rival “Hackgate”. The Watergate break-in of 1972 took a precise name from the Watergate building in Washington DC. Since when the -gate suffix has became so hackneyed it requires a whole Oxford English Dictionary heading of its own. A quick Malcolmian scan of that produced:
Dallasgate; Volgagate; Koreagate; Whitehallgate (the Jeremy Thorpe business); Irangate; Billygate; Floodgate; Totegate; Motorgate; Lancegate; Muldergate; Cartergate; Stalkergate (the RUC); Oilgate; Cattlegate …
Yawn! … you get the picture.