A week ago, a friend of mine, a retired journalist now living in France, stayed with me for a couple of nights, kipping down on my living room sofa-bed. He arrived on Sunday, and on Monday he journeyed forth at midday, to have lunch, with a big gaggle of his old journo pals. The lunch was quite liquid and very prolonged. Although I should add that when he got back to my place around midnight he behaved impeccably, his only slight infringement of good manners being a tendency toward repetition.
All of which got me a-googling the phenomenon of Lunchtime O’Booze, that being the soubriquet that was bestowed upon journalists of a certain vintage by Private Eye. The words explain themselves.
This caused me to encounter some bang-up-to-date observations about the Lunchtime O’Booze generation of journos, and the disdain with which they are now often treated, in a piece entitled In Defence of Lunchtime O’Booze, by John Dale.
In characteristic journo style (from which I dare say I could learn) Dale gets straight to his point:
Alcohol is a truth drug. Reporters use it as the weapon of choice to breach the carapace of lies erected by prime ministers, politicians, police and anyone else tempted to become tinpot Hitlers.
With drink you don’t hack with a keyboard. You hack with the clink of a glass and then download your personal malware and intellectual trojans directly into someone else’s brain.
Occasionally you get inside their heart as well, which is a cruel bonus. Alcohol, when applied by good reporters, brings the powerful and the pompous crashing to earth, face down in the gutter right in front of the paps shooting for posterity at 40 frames a second.
Next morning the prototype tyrant wakes up a nicer, gentler human being. …
And now for the bang-up-to-date bit:
… So, for me, the most alarming feature of the Leveson Inquiry was that it turned anti-alcohol, as if coveting the pulpit at a temperance meeting.
Any moment I expected Leveson to raise a placard saying: ‘Lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine.’
Leveson’s point is that the Police should beware getting too pally with journos, and especially of drinking with them too much. But Dale’s point is that although the Police would be wise to shun alcohol, journos who do the same are missing a big trick. Journos taking it in turns to tell Leveson that they abjure the demon drink should instead, says Dale, be willing to stand up, as best they can, and defend alcohol as a vital tool of their trade.
Dale follows with a character sketch of one Noel Botham, with a photo of Botham holding a drink and involving a drink-lubricated interview:
He raises his glass, giving it a tilt as if it were a journalistic rapier. …
A youthful 72, Botham is relevant because he is a lifelong bon viveur who has used his taste for the high life to pursue a form of free-range journalism which is the antithesis of that promoted by most Leveson witnesses, the reborn PCC and various journo professors. He’s the last cavalier in a world of roundheads. He symbolises free range against the battery farms of Canary Wharf and other media plantations.
But drink has not now stopped working its truthful magic, despite what Dale says. Botham is not actually the “last cavalier” by any means.
Guido Fawkes is often talked about as a challenge to traditional journalism. But when it comes to drinking and as a result learning stuff, Guido is no challenge to regular journalistic ways. He is booze and business as usual.