Journalists are generally the daftest of people - only a few honourable exceptions - insofar as their very ordinariness of opinion is soon forced to the surface by dint of deadline, overwork: aka, crawling to the editor. 2009 was a vintage year for journalistic stupidity, and this being the season of goodwill, it is only right that it falls to Madame Arcati to shovel out the awards.
Madame Arcati's Stupidest Journalist Award of 2009
AA Gill, The Sunday Times
Congratulations to Adrian, who writes about half of his paper - effortlessly churning out thousands of meringue words each week to precipitate modest facial tics in his indolent readers. He excelled himself in October with his admission in his restaurant review that he had shot dead a baboon during a Tanzanian safari. He confessed that he wanted to see what it was like to kill a primate. He was of course stirring it: jadedness has spread like a rot through his prose turns, his challenge is to keep himself interested; but who cares?
Gill is a troubled soul, he is to be pitied. In the latest Vanity Fair he writes prettily of stalking rutting stags in his tweeds in Scotland, and describes a condition called "crag-fast" that afflicts mountain climbers when they "dare to go no farther and can't manage to go back." He adds: "Crag-fast precisely encompasses so much of my own life." The poor poppet is immobile, paralysed by the success of meringue-churning. Perhaps killing the baboon was a self-administered attempt at shock therapy. Plainly it failed.
Jan Moir, Daily Mail
October, too, proved to be a treacherous month for one of the paper's columnists. Jan Moir blundered into the swirling wake of Shephen Gately's death with her bald claim that his homosexuality was somehow the cause of his passing: "Once again, under the carapace of glittering, hedonistic celebrity, the ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see," she wrote. What she means is that gay civil partnerships are unnatural and injurious to physical and moral health. Tell that to the Mail's editor Paul Dacre: he did after all attend the wedding of Guy Black and Mark Bolland.
James Delingpole, Telegraph blogger/hack and right-wing clown
Anyone who saw Toby Young's TV drama When Boris Met Dave - all about David Cameron, Boris Johnson and their Oxford friends - will have glimpsed the Delingpole creature: a Stonehenge-toothed, grinning, dislocated fool gagging to join the Bullingdon Club to consummate his Brideshead delusions. In June Madame Arcati herself published his "private" witterings on Facebook where he invited people to name a Muslim peer who had got his or her job on merit. Nothing is private on Facebook. We were plainly meant to think that Muslim peers were the beneficiaries of meritless preferment. Oh dear. Never mind. It's only what the Tory Boys think behind closed doors at the Spectator and Telegraph. Hence his continued employment at these media.
Germaine Greer, The Guardian
A personal pain this because Germaine is one of my goddesses. But alas she got too clever this year in a piece on mistranslating Proust. She kicked off her November piece with this: "If you have read all of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, you should be very worried about yourself. As Proust very well knew, reading his work for as long as it takes is temps perdu, time wasted, time that would be better spent visiting a demented relative ... " Yet by the end of her article, in which she reveals a time-wasting yet scholarly understanding of Proust's work, she concludes "But when all is said and done, [the] Scott Moncrieff [translation] remains the pleasanter read." So, should Germaine be very worried about herself?
Andrew Neil, The Spectator
Neil is wrong on just about everything and I would defend his right to be so. His antics this year had something to do with his magazine's foolish decision to host the UK premiere of the Aids-denialist film House of Numbers - an event cancelled after Madame Arcati and several other media protested. In years past, as editor of The Sunday Times, Neil pushed his peculiar fantasy that HIV doesn't cause Aids, with pieces by the oddball celibate Neville Hodgkinson. His problem is his idea of rationalism: he looks for 100% scientific proof (same on global warming) when the debate (on Aids and the environment) is about interpretation of data - and commonsense. Neil has always lacked the latter.
Carole Malone, News of the World
It was Madame Arcati who first noted Malone's over-use of the word "hell" to emphasise her uninterrupted sense of outrage for which she is paid handsomely. She gave hell a rest for a while afterwards but a few hells have crept back into her weekly diatribes lately. Wrong on just about everything, she impressed the Arcati jury with this piece of clairvoyance in May on the now global superstar Susan Boyle: "What matters is that Susan Boyle is on the road to hell ... No one is actually saying what the REAL problem is. But we all know don't we?" [nudge, nudge] "We also know that in the name of ratings, TV bosses have thrust a brain-damaged woman who was starved of oxygen at birth, a woman who has learning difficulties and who locals call Susie Simple ... " Oh dear, I think Carole is suggesting Subo is best put down.
Mario Lavandeira, Perez Hilton blog
Mario at least gave us the biggest laugh of the year when he went boo-hooing all over the place after Polo Molina, the manager of the Black Eyed Peas, allegedly bopped him one for some insulting remarks. Last I heard Mario's now suing Molina for $25,000. Perez Hilton has been printing paparazzi sleb pics of lady fannies and spunk-daubed gay male suspects for a few years now: you'd think he might have heard of that little word - karma?
Chrissy Iley, her blog
One of the UK's most prolific hackettes has a promo website - and she's on this list because she reveals little taste in colour. If her presumed hope is that she wants to be read, why has her "live" blog got white text on a sickly pale pink background? One can only read it with the use of the highlight. Her CV is no better: white words set on the scene of a dropped trifle as imagined by Michelangelo. Since I have a strict rule against highlight illumination, I can only guess at her tumultuous days and boasted career glories. (Btw, a blog can hardly be called "live" if it's updated only once a season)
Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
Letts' persona is that of a clever (t)wit. As Hopi Sen puts it: "Mr Letts works for the most powerful newspaper in Britain and his targets are those among the enemies of that paper who lack verbal dexterity, education, class, or are in some other way unfashionable or unpopular. Mr Letts posesses [sic] felicity with a word processor, but his choice of targets tells us that the heart that beats beneath Letts’ betweeded chest is the craven organ of a forelock tugging lackey." A masterly appraisal.
Bryony Gordon, Telegraph
This is hard because the darling has been nice to Madame Arcati in the past even if only because I gave her colleague Celia Walden a hard time for a while. Bryony's heart is not really in her work - I think she should take up nursing; her Cava-fuelled tweets are a revelation - and I suppose my favourite piece of hers this year was the one on a bunch of German clairvoyants and how they'd got all "140 of their predictions [for 2009] wrong." BUT ... "They did get one thing right – the death of Michael Jackson," she writes, unimpressed. Not a bad guess! Later, she reveals she visited "for work, obviously" a tarot reader called Kevin - but alas, because she can't shuffle cards Bryony tells us she left the deck untouched in Kev's momentary absence. No surprise then when she got a crap reading. Doh! She needs lessons in the scientific approach from Andrew Neil.
(Australia's worst hacks)