Let's all agree to confine Hitler to the bunker for a while
RADIO:Whatever the programme, there is always room for discussion on the Nazis
One of the best-known adages of the internet age is Godwin’s law, which observes that the more an online discussion grows the greater the inevitability of someone making a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler.
Less well known – largely because it has just been formulated for this column – is the corollary that the longer a talk-radio show continues the greater the certainty that an item will involve Nazis or Hitler.
Be the programme weightily topical, as with Today With Pat Kenny (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), or congenitally irreverent, like Moncrieff (Newstalk, weekdays), there is always room for discussion of the subject. Kenny appears to have an annual spot for biographers of Hitler, while Sean Moncrieff regularly takes a more skewed look at the subject, most recently carrying an item about a man who almost ran over the Nazi leader.
So when, on Monday, Matt Cooper told listeners of The Last Word (Today FM, weekdays) that “many of us remain fascinated by Adolf Hitler” he was merely stating the obvious. As Cooper spoke to Laurence Rees, author of yet another biography of the dictator – who had, predictably, already been interviewed by Kenny last month – he gamely sought a new angle on his well-worn subject, focusing on the “dark charisma” highlighted by his guest’s book. But it added little other than a psychological sheen to the familiar story of Hitler’s rise.
Cooper was reduced to asking unanswerable questions about whether Hitler regretted his actions, though he eschewed making the easy comparison between the crash that facilitated the regime and today’s economic woes. But with more pressing issues worthy of analysis – Cooper covered the awful story of Savita Halappanavar thoroughly and thoughtfully on Wednesday – it is surely time for a moratorium on all things Nazi. At the very least the likes of tsarist Russia or Maoist China are due a lash.
Moncrieff, meanwhile, underlined his penchant for right-wing monsters by speaking to the liberal-baiting Daily Mail columnist Peter Hitchens about his latest broadside on Britain’s descent into lily-livered degeneracy. Sure enough, Hitchens bemoaned the pervasiveness of drugs, arguing that the causes lay in the British political establishment’s capitulation to permissive attitudes. More surprising was the quietly compelling way in which he made his argument.
Hitchens drew on government archives, legal precedent and personal anecdote to make the point that far from losing the war on drugs, the British establishment had never even fought it. He also had insightful views on how the “century of the self” kick-started by Freud had dovetailed with postwar social changes to produce what he saw as a culture of instant gratification.
Hitchens offered little persuasive evidence that more robust law enforcement reduced drug consumption and never addressed the wider issues of deprivation and alienation that fuel such addictions. But it was a stimulating item that showed off a contrarian intelligence quixotically set against the grain of public discourse.
For all the offbeat topics covered by Moncrieff’s show, such counterintuitive items are what make it distinctive. His interviews with contentious characters do not always overturn expectations, however, as when he spoke to the Independent Senator Rónán Mullen in the light of the Halappanavar case. A high-profile anti-abortion campaigner, Mullen said he didn’t want to make any judgments while the precise facts of Halappanavar’s death remained unclear, though he believed the main issue was one of “diagnosis and management of infection”.
Still, he seemed certain on one matter. “It would be wrong to say that this tragic case happened because we have no legislation on the X case. That’s a whole other debate,” he said.
“Well, we don’t know that, because we don’t know what the reasons were,” replied Moncrieff, with admirable logic.
The presenter offered no personal opinions but ensured Mullen could not pretend the tragedy had nothing to do with the issue of abortion in Ireland. Mullen seemed not so much to fight his corner as to dodge an emotive, and increasingly unwinnable, debate. Disappointing but, in the terrible circumstances, unsurprising.
Moment of the Week A pain in the Butt
Montrose bosses wondering whether Ryan Tubridy (2FM, weekdays) can attract a wider audience got a clue on Wednesday as he joshed with a caller about her supposedly outdated taste for the singer Beverly Craven. “Charles Stewart Parnell was a great fan,” he chuckled. “It gave him a pain in the Isaac Butt.” Puns about 19th-century Irish parliamentary leaders reinforce Tubridy’s young-fogey image but hardly appeal to a youth demographic.