Tuesday, 5 January 2016

First book of the year - and it's a leftfield one

Spoiler - It's a Piers Morgan book

Shooting Straight: Guns, Gays, God, and…

The tagline to this book reads - "Guns, Gays, God and George Clooney"

This was a present, I need to stress that right? I unwrapped this on Christmas day and thought - wuh?

But turns out that the gifter knew more about me than I thought - it was a compelling read, in a way, and repulsive too.

Morgan comes across exactly as you'd expect. There is somtheing amphibious or even mollusc-like about Morgan. His rampant ego, his superciliousness, the fact that he was the editor of the News of the World, the company he keeps. He's a huge fan of the royals, and Trump (except I wonder what he'd think about him now - the book was written in 2013) and literally fawns over Murdoch.

And for the first half of the book this was the car-crash entertainment of reading about him in his own words. He thinks he's being self-depreciating but it's not even vaguely funny (apparently Yanks don't get his weird English humour... well it's not just Yanks really) and not in the realms of humble brag, since there is a lot of just plain old-style playground bragging in there too. The book has naff all to do with George Clooney by the way, he's just one of the many names Piers feels he needs to say are his friends. It impresses me as much as a cab driver saying "I had that bloke from Eastenders in my cab once" - interviewing people is his job. He gets to go to parties where the rich and famous hang out, of course he's going to meet celebrities.

It's about him taking over from Larry King on CNN and written in 2010-2013, it'd be interesting to see how things have changed in the last couple of years I think.

When building his team at CNN some of King's people don't want to work with him - which is understandable.

"I suspected the hand of Wendy Walker, Larry's long-time producer, and erupted in anger in an email to Jonathan (his manager).

'Right,' I wrote. 'Fuck them. Let's go to war. Wendy and her coterie have wasted enough of our time.'
'I think you "Replied All", so they'll get the message loud and clear,' he wrote back."

There is a "Oh God I didn't" but no thought as to how hurtful that could have been...

There's a section on the phone hacking scandal, and how Rebekah Brooks is such a wonderful person unfairly treated, how in fact the whole tabloid industry is unfairly treated. Then he watches as Murdoch, who he absolutely gushes over, is giving evidence -

"... a protestor ran forward and tried to hit him with a custard pie. Rupert's young wife, Wendi, sprang from her chair and punched the guy. It was a magnificently quick, gutsy reaction. I was still laughing about it an hour later... "

There are also some interesting insights into the way the establishment has co-opted the 4th estate, which should hold them to account, not cosy up to them.

This bit on Gordon Brown especially -

"Gordon Brown is in LA to make some speeches, so Celia (Morgan's wife) and I had dinner with him and his wife Sarah tonight.

'Where are you watching the football match tomorrow?' he asked as the bill arrived. Arsenal, the team I've supported since I was a boy, were playing a big match.
'My place, want to join me?'
'That would be great'"

And so he does - I know Brown is no longer PM at that point, but isn't it a bit weird to be so friendly with a journalist? This is also what's wrong with Cameron having Coulson as his communications guy and being such good friends with Brooks. It's insidious.

A later episode, he just can't help brag about Prime Ministers he's met and talked to, is to do with the Queen. His gushing praise is so smarmy it is truly nauseous. However irritating it is to this republican to be told that anyone against the royal marriage (William and Kate) didn't understand the true meaning of royalty (spit) that's not the telling part:

"But if you ask me what the queen's most important 'point' is, I would say it's the weekly meeting she has with her prime minister.
I spoke to three of them - Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown - about these encounters ... [They each go on to praise the Queen's wisdom, experience and intelligence. Brown said she'd "never hesitate to challenge me on something if she didn't agree"]
I suspect a lot more British government policy is decided over a cup of tea in those meetings than in any cabinet meeting."

And there, in a nutshell, is a major problem with the monarchy. They have a huge influence on policy. In private. With no accountability. Just because they were born to it. But this is no place for a republican rant!

But then there are signs of a turning point - there are a few mass shootings that he's sort of vaguely aware of and baffled by the average American's reaction to. But then his daughter is born and there is the Sandy Hook school shooting and suddenly he's all over gun control like a randy dog on a visitor's leg. With as much subtlety and as welcome.

But! He actually makes good points and puts them across intelligently (in this writing - I can't really attest to how it came across on the show, this is in his own words after all) and persists in pushing for gun control on his show, despite, to some extent (the method, not the cause itself), it being against the wishes of his editor and manager.

I mean, he continues to hustle for ratings, he continues to name drop and brag (it sounds like he was all over Clinton like a rash, one caught in embarrassing circumstances too) but he does stick to his guns (pun intended) on the issue. It's nice to see someone being principled, but on Morgan it's a little weird. But good on him.

Sadly it kind of fizzles out - there is no crowning moment (he tries for that for an award he wins from an anti-gun organisation) but the book just kind of stops. The show was cancelled in 2014 - I'd have liked Morgan to write about it start to finish - but then he didn't know in 2013 that it'd be cancelled (probably) although ratings were plummeting and possibly the gun control stuff was his downfall?

As far as the prose goes, Morgan, being a former journo, can write good copy and it's a very easy read.










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