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Sunday 14 January 2007

Too bright for the Brotherhood

ONE of the major pleasures of my life is observing arrogant, clever people who think they are cleverer than they are, being bested by those they sneer at.

That's one of my intellectual (as opposed to all the other) justifications for watching Big Brother: here, in microcosm, handily on one's TV screen, one can see the moral knee-capping of the self-consciously superior, as in the outside world, the chattering classes are crying: "How can he/she put himself/herself through such a ghastly experience with such moronic oafs?"

In 2005 there was Germaine Greer. Now Professor Greer is not short onself-confidence; it embarrasses her not a whit that she has made a great deal of money from doing innumerable about-turns on her fierce opinions (promiscuity to celibacy; man-crazy to lesbian; anti-children to frustrated would-be mother; opponent of sexual exploitation whose last book was a prurient look at adolescent male beauty and so on and on).

Yet her hypocrisy and double-standards and gargantuan appetite for publicity have not toppled her from her feminist pedestal.

Greer wrote in 2001 that watching Big Brother was "about as dignified as looking through the keyhole in your teenage child's bedroom door".

To be hooked was depraved: "People who like watching torture will tune in regularly to see a table dancer, an air steward, a hairdresser, a medical rep and a website designer (inter alia) struggling with the contradictions inherent in having simultaneously to bond with and to betray perfect strangers."

So naturally - for the stated reason of making money for her charity - she agreed to participate in 2005, along with an underwear model, a drug-taking dancer, a little-known pop-singer and Sylvester Stallone's ex-wife.

"Germaine Greer is on Celebrity Big Brother," wrote a heartbroken Guardian journalist. "Nothing is allowed to mean anything any more."

She lasted four days before walking out, griping about the lack of hygiene in the house, the failure of the women to show her respect - and best of all, from this shameless exhibitionist - the discovery that her fellow housemates had "publicity-seeking agendas".

She was really enraged by what she saw as the supine refusal of the housemates to revolt under her leadership, against Big Brother's bullying by staging a naked protest.

Clever Fools

Moronic Oafs 1

In 2006 the equally publicity mad MP George Galloway, erstwhile sycophant of Saddam Hussein - for the stated reason of winning recruits for his party, Respect - joined the house, along with a rapper, a transvestite, the lachrymose disgraced comedian Michael Barrymore and an ex-lover of Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Galloway caused consternation in his party, and particularly among his many Muslim supporters, by dancing in a red Lycra leotard and pretending to be a cat licking cream from the hand of a voluptuous actress.

More seriously, for him, his belief that he would convert the young to his own brand of political fanaticism hit the ropes as his housemates saw the bully and misogynist behind his smooth facade, and stood up to him in argument and won.

As the novelist Howard Jacobson put it: "Michael Barrymore cleaned him up, a boy bandsman called Preston cleaned him up - reader, Chantelle cleaned him up! What US senators could not do, what the English educated classes could not do, an unknown model from Essex with a silly laugh, whose only ideology is orange lipstick, and who thinks Brussels might be the capital of France, could."

Clever Fools

Moronic Oafs 2

Unlike the brilliant talkers Greer and Galloway, who have contributed nothing of permanent value to the world, Ken Russell has a great talent which he has used worthily: think Women in Love, The Devils, Tommy and - not least - those wonderful TV films about Elgar and Delius and Mahler.

However, like them he is an exhibitionist who, at 79, was fed up with being ignored. A commentator once said of him that he was the sort of film-maker "who could turn a home movie about a two-headed cherub's fifth birthday into a romp through Sodom and Gomorrah", so some of the commentariat had high hopes that he would do something creative to the Big Brother housemates.

The Michael Jackson sibling, the Bollywood star, the pop-singer and the WAG were among those who had never heard of him, but they were kind, forgiving him his ear-splitting snoring, calling him 'Uncle Ken' and running around waiting on him.

He left because of a row with Jade Goody, who became famous in the 2002 Big Brother for being ugly and ignorant.

Now rich and OK-looking, but still ignorant, like many of the alleged moronic oafs she is smart and commonsensical and compassionate.

Russell left when she rightly accused him of failing to show respect and consideration for other contestants.

Clever Fools

Moronic Oafs 3

It's time to bring on Michael D Higgins.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards