I’m feeling a bit ambivalent about AA Gill’s revelation that he shot a monkey on holiday for the sheer hell of it.
Included in Gill’s restaurant review for the Sunday Times was a sizeable chunk of the text given over to how he ‘blew its lungs out’ in an effort to see what it would be like to kill something, or kill ‘a close relative’.
I’m uncertain as to what Gill thought he would learn from this experience, though to wind back a bit I do think his first principle is an interesting one.
A charitable reading of his column might suggest that Gill is dubious about how we’re inured to violence both real and fictionalised these days, through the news and shoot-em-up films.
The way that modern life shields us from the reality of death is a common theme in newspaper columns these days too – and I think it’s an issue worth exploring.
But to go from this to shooting a baboon is like worrying what we can do about sexual crimes and then raping someone in an attempt to acquire a greater understanding of the issue.
Anyway, I suspect all the predictable attention on Twitter will only serve to provide Gill a satisfied feeling of validation. Rather like Clarkson he’s a superbly entertaining writer who frames his various chunterings on the world in a column ostensibly concerning cars in Jezza’s case and food in AA’s case.
But both marry their talent to a tiresome iconoclasm that rails against civil society and accepted mores, serving to provide a thrill of the taboo for conservative readers and an object of anger for others.
Media and public alike lap up this kind of mould-breaking, which often skirts taste, decency and – for want of a better word – political correctness. It’s a well-established routine, and well-practicsed by the likes of Clarkson, Gill and Julie Burchill.
Some might say that Gill has misjudged his act this time. I don’t think he’ll see it that way, in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if he went and shot a primate in the knowledge that he would attract exactly this sort of response.
I’ve indicated before that I believe newspapers, with an online audience in mind, are deliberately courting this sort of controversy and I don’t expect this will be the last outrage of its kind.
Twitter has duly gone into attack mode, but I think to raise Gill’s idiocy to the ranks of Jan Moir’s nasty Gately column is a mistake.
This latest episode also raises the prospect of a semi-regular apoplexy of the week on Twitter, where the right-on fraternity go bonkers over any perceived slight, act of stupidity or ideological movement that captures the imagination of Twitter’s lefty groupmind.
It’s not an attractive prospect because I’m not sure the Twitter fraternity, acting as one, can really discern between what’s worth mobilising over and what’s worth writing off as an attention-seeking publicity stunt.
• UPDATE: Jon Henley has written an article over at The Grauniad that follows on from some of the stuff in this post and uses some quotes from me. See The power of tweets