Elaine Crory talks about Kevin ‘My Arse’ Myers, his work and how it isn’t out of place with the likes of Katie Hopkins or Piers Morgan.
There doesn’t seem to be a great deal to add to the story of Kevin Myers’s sudden demise. It has been headline news everywhere since the world woke up – literally and figuratively – to his blatantly anti-Semitic comments last Sunday. The Times summarily fired him and apologised for publishing the offending piece, and the great and good of Britain were horrified by the bigoted views of an export from this island for the second time in as many months. They were blissfully unaware of Myers until this point, apparently, and now they wondered at length how something so awful had slipped through the editorial nets to begin with.
Those of us across Ireland didn’t need to wonder. This is and has always been Myers’s schtick; he’s a broadsheet Katie Hopkins, a slightly more articulate Piers Morgan. He repeatedly called the children of unmarried mother’s “bastards”, despises Muslims, immigrants, the poor and Irish speakers, he once declared that the sum of Africa’s contribution to the world was AIDS. Back in 2009 he denied the Holocaust, surely far worse than offensive stereotypes about Jews and money. He wasn’t fired then, in fact he has since been contracted to work at a different paper for a higher fee. Former colleague Kevin Lynch writes of his experience copy editing Myers’s work as a dreaded task during which actual editing was effectively not allowed. Myers was a law unto himself, untouchable. He wasn’t subject to journalistic standards because he wasn’t a journalist, his work was purely personal and usually full of disdain and bile; basically designed to provoke shock and to sell copies.
“This is the heart of the issue. Myers is not an anomaly, he belongs in the pantheon of peers alongside Hopkins, Morgan, Jeremy Kyle et al., experts at whipping up public scorn. They may all go about it differently but they exist to wink and nudge at the audience “aren’t those people just awful degenerates? Not like you!””
So this goes far beyond the editor who oversaw the publication of this particular piece. This goes to journalism generally, and particularly Irish journalism in this instance. Myers must be, I imagine, quite shocked at the way this has blown up; he’s gotten away with everything else he’s said. Moreover, on the back of that output he’s been poached from publication after publication with pay rises every time. Surely this is what the public want? Obviously, until now he has continued to enjoy a sweet pay deal and an unassailable position in the Irish media because he works hard and is charismatic and never gets pregnant. Unlike the group of people Myers seems to despise above (or below?) all others; women.
This latest incident wasn’t intended as a piece about how Jews are money-grubbing, remember. That particular offensive trope was merely a means to Myers’s ends. It was meant to be about how women are lazy, boring baby-making machines who deserve to be paid less than men – in fact, his reason for mentioning Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz’s religious background in the first place was to account for how on earth they managed to be well paid given their ownership of notoriously lazy women’s bodies and famously boring women’s personalities. The “bastards” incident was aimed not just at the children he was labelling but at those children’s mothers who he claimed were deliberately having multiple children in order to luxuriate in the state’s generosity while doing nothing. Because, while of course while women will try to argue otherwise, we all know that raising children is not work. Don’t we, lads? At least, not the way “they” do it, right?
And yet, although outraged newspaper columns may mention that Myers’s comments were sexist, the outrage focuses steadily on the anti-Semitism because that crosses the Rubicon into the territory of hate speech. It’s telling that the apology issued by the paper was only for the offense caused by the anti-Semitic comments. “Bastard” is a pretty strong word to use, and it’s that word that elicits the gasps, not the actual argument behind it about lazy selfish young women. That’s just a legitimate point of view on a social issue, right? “Oh come on, he’s only saying what we’re all thinking.”
This is the heart of the issue. Myers is not an anomaly, he belongs in the pantheon of peers alongside Hopkins, Morgan, Jeremy Kyle et al., experts at whipping up public scorn. They may all go about it differently but they exist to wink and nudge at the audience “aren’t those people just awful degenerates? Not like you!” Sometimes one of them goes too far, such as yesterday or when Hopkins evoked the final solution as a means to tackle terrorism. But the hate they spew daily is not fringe rantings. They would stop pretty quickly if national television channels, newspapers and radio stations stopped giving them a platform, or if we all boycotted their hate with our wallets.
No fear of that happening, though. The poor, immigrants and women remain apparently legitimate targets for these kinds of people because the bigoted opinions that motivate those kinds of attacks strike a chord with far too many. While society has now accepted that anti-Semitism is wrong and dangerous, we’re simply not there yet where misogyny is concerned, despite it being an epidemic that kills, maims and scars lives daily. We can’t put all the blame for this on Myers or his employers, we all need to look in the mirror and call hate by its name.