Kathy Sheridan: Kevin Myers’s fall is a long time coming

The writer has been spewing evidence-free bile about women for decades

BBC presenter Vanessa Feltz has said she felt 'extremely upset by a Kevin Myers column in the Sunday Timeswhich suggested she and Claudia Winkleman earned high salaries because they were Jewish. Video courtesy: BBC Radio London

 

The most heartsinking suggestion about the Kevin Myers fiasco is that it took a foreigner to finally stand up to him. Myers’s defenders have – rightly – drawn attention to his erudite, ground-breaking military history lessons, the courageous stances on occasion, the sublimely-written eulogies to beloved friends.

Inconveniently, however, his real draw lay elsewhere. It was the much riskier jape of routinely conflating free speech with hate speech. To much of his fan base, the kind who insist on confusing “equal pay for equal work” with communism and/or shrieky feminists, he was the lone, fearless, un-PC voice, always happy to say the unsayable, usually laced with casual offence.

“One of my flaws is to deal with major issues in throwaway lines,” he conceded on RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke show yesterday. Some of us managed a wry smile at that one.

If some gloated over his comeuppance on Sunday – largely the result of global social media pressure – it was not because he had become a problem for the Brits instead of us, as some suggested. Or because a 70-year-old man had lost his livelihood. It was because this battle goes back a long way and is a dangerous one.

No decent man or woman can afford to shrug off the rank misogyny of last Sunday’s column

If a message, however dodgy, is hammered home relentlessly enough from an authoritative platform, it can change the course of history.

In the early 1990s, as a Brussels-based Daily Telegraph columnist, Boris Johnson almost single-handedly shaped the toxic British view of the European Union with his myths of straight bananas and standardised condom sizes, and lit the lie-strewn path to Brexit.

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump, by the simple repetition of “Lock her up” and “Build the wall”, persuaded voters to take him seriously but not literally. Evidence schmevidence. Johnson, Trump and ilk have prospered mightily on the back of lies, half-lies and dog-whistles.

Rank misogyny

This is why no decent man or woman can afford to shrug off the rank misogyny of last Sunday’s column, or those proudly un-PC voices that denigrate women as dull, mediocre, workshy wailers and shriekers, and men as the pitiful victims of feminazi justice.

All of 20 years ago, I challenged Kevin Myers in print, when he argued that the only reason a decent man was in jail was because of spiteful, whiny females.

In his view, three young American women had totally over-reacted when their guest, a powerful, 6ft 5in, 20-stone, insanely-intoxicated garda, rampaged through their house, gin bottle in one hand, glass water heater (eventually smashed against a wall) in the other, threatening to kill one woman, purposefully smearing his blood on another, tearing off their night clothes and forcing them to barricade themselves in a room.

It was doubly silly of them to bring charges, considering it took only a dozen gardaí to restrain him – after which he escaped overseas, before finally appearing in court, where his defence was based on his being abused as a child.

A tragic situation for sure, but who would you take to be the baddies in all this? The drunken, violent assailant – a male? His drunken companion who slept through it all – a male? The cousin – a male – who allegedly raped the defendant every day when the latter was only nine-years-old? The judge – a male – who sent the “time bomb” of a defendant to jail?

‘Vindictive feminism’

Nope. It was the wimmin. The only reason that garda ended up in jail, Myers argued furiously over two columns, was because of “a vindictive and politically correct feminism which reduces the world into stereotypes of male aggression and female victims . . . [It is] a frivolous and wholly unnecessary proof that our courts care about women, especially American women”.

No charges would have been brought, he asserted, “had the victims of [the garda’s] madness been Irish and male” (remember, the other male in the house at the time had been allowed to sleep on, unassaulted).

It’s doubtful if a female columnist would have got away with such targeted, evidence-free vitriol

Even though the garda had disclosed his childhood abuse to his family 10 years earlier and had spurned all offers of treatment, the women should not have reported him. What were they to do?

This, remember, was 20 years ago. The clear intention was to shoehorn women – any women – into a particular narrative of victimy, spiteful bitches. It was the kind of hateful, utterly unsubstantiated assertion that regularly reduced colleagues to howls of rage.

As an aside, it’s doubtful if a female columnist would have got away with such targeted, evidence-free vitriol.

There have been a lot of “throwaway lines” over the years, such as that old chestnut of his, repeated on Sunday, alleging the non-existence of brilliant female mathematicians. Try that one on Nasa or Bletchley Park historians.

As for “that greyback, testosterone-powered, hierarchy-climbing id” which apparently entitles the ambitious male to all the pie, and which “feminised and egalitarian-obsessed legislatures are increasingly trying to legislate against”, I give you the inevitable outcome: the mighty testosterone-powered greybacks of North Korea, the Philippines, Turkey, Russia, Poland, Egypt, Venezuela, the US . . . Can we have our money back when the first nuclear missile hits the US?

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