Yasmin’s Alibi Blown

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown made a big thing about a Tory MP making an inappropriate tweet about "punching her in the throat". Less well known is that last month she wanted to bang a "post-femminist"'s head against a wall. Oh, dear. What a fake

Something missing from the picture?
Andrew Gibson
On 24 June 2014 15:09

Criticisms by the right of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown are mis-directed. We tend to criticise her absurd views, elevating her to Britain’s Pottiest Pundit. We should focus instead on her dreadful standard of writing 

Yasmin was in the news again recently for an unfortunate tweet made about her by Michael Fabricant MP: “I could never appear on a discussion prog with @y_alibhai I would either end up with a brain haemorrhage or by punching her in the throat.”

Fabricant has subsequently apologised, and rightly so. The apology is clearly sincere. But the tweet was never a threat of violence. It was clearly in a conditional tense, as in: “If I went to that party I would throttle the host.”

The point being, “…and so I won’t attend and I won’t throttle him”.

Yasmin is well aware of this distinction. For example, on 25th May this year she said of writer Sally Wainwright:

“Wainwright used to be a feminist and now is “a post-feminist”, as if feminism was a short sojourn, soon forgotten in the chase for fame and fortune. It makes me want to bang her head against a wall, metaphorically of course.”

(Emphasis added).

To be fair, that article was on the subject of violence on TV. But that’s the point: context matters. Nobody thought Fabricant really wanted to hit Yasmin.

Context and a sense of proportion are not qualities you will find in Yasmin’s columns. What you will find is a Manichean mindset where anyone who disagrees with Yasmin is evil, bought or both. You will find cherry picked surveys.

And you will find an incredible capacity to read people’s mind (she detects racism often). Yet, while constantly assuming her own anti-racism credentials, she has a remarkable capacity to make sweeping generalisations herself, as we shall see.

In a recent article, Yasmin was bemoaning excess consumption of alcohol at a concert. But it is not the drunks who annoy her most.

“(The venue managers) are as guilty of encouraging and facilitating a dangerous habit as were cigarette manufacturers in previous decades… (Also) the Tories have refused to introduce minimum prices for wine, beer and lager. The drinks industry has politicians as well as academics in its large pockets.”

Little time then for the notion that perhaps the Tories simply believe in freedom and the view that people might learn from their mistakes.

In the same article she “does a Polly”, seeking authority from a cherry-picked survey:

“Our NHS is phenomenal. In spite of increasing pressures and endless griping, it was, last week, declared the best health service in the world by a Washington-based foundation. But the inebriated may well bring down this treasured institution.”

With Yasmin, surveys are rarely critiqued: they are on message or they are off the radar. Yasmin does not use words to convey precise meaning; she uses them mainly to convey her anger.

Before musing on banging Wainwright’s head against the wall, for example, Alibhai-Brown had introduced the drama series under review:

“…this series is touching, technically brilliant, gritty and believable.”

Yasmin throws down words she has heard others use without giving any sense of connection to those words. What does “gritty” mean, beyond “starring northerners”? In what way was it technically brilliant?

There’s the rub. Alibhai-Brown has little to say, but a burning desire to say it. For example, earlier this year she wrote on the important question of under-five childhood deaths. It is an important subject and she does a service by keeping it in the political spotlight. But she simply does not have the dexterity to handle such a weighty subject.

First there is her typical “You probably aren’t allowed to say this anymore” pub bore riff:

“I know it’s a Bank Holiday and you want to relax with a glass of beer or Pimms. Please forgive this intrusion. You may get angry, feel upset, ashamed, inchoately guilty. I hope you do.” 

Then there is her sweeping condemnation of the bulk of the population who, she fancies, do not share her especial compassion:

“But with these deaths, happening silently, mainly in poor and troubled households, few give a damn.” 

That will be news to the many millions of Brits who give their donations, volunteer time or give their careers to child welfare. Continuing, she is most disgusted with those who presume to disagree with her on abortion law:

“Pro-lifers want to save foetuses, but seem to have no interest in saving the very young.”


“No interest”?

Yasmin should get a discount on her TV license: she sees everything in black and white.

The most irritating aspect of Alibhai-Brown’s writing is her inability to sustain a relevant narrative. In the same article for example, and apropos of nothing, like a two-year-old playing with a picture book (“duck”, “apple”, “monster”) she blathers:

During the 2008 (sic) election Cameron promised that he would make ours the best, the most nurturing and the safest country in the world for children. Four years later, we are here…Last week new rules were imposed which will make job-seekers turn up to job centres every day or take up unpaid community service… By the time this Cabinet has finished with its immoral austerity programme, the poor will be worse off than those put into Victorian workhouses.

From childhood deaths to Tories (them again) sending people to places worse than the workhouse. Quite some journey in one article.  

Fundamentally, I wonder, does angry Yasmin like Britain? Depends which sentence you read. From the same article, and consecutively:

Alcohol and drug abuse is spread through every layer of society. (Note: Britain sucks.)

It is a wonder to me that our people still make claims about being the best in the world. (Note: The British are delusional or arrogant.)

Britain is extraordinary in many ways and I could not live anywhere else.  (Note: Aha! – Britain is best place in the world to live.)

But we know that the inequality gap is widening, that the tax and welfare system are being corrupted for political reasons, … that depression and other mental illnesses are reaching epidemic levels and now, that British children are dying in their thousands. You still quiver with patriotism? Well then all is truly lost. (Note: Britain is morally doomed. Doomed!)

To borrow from Capote, Alibhai-Brown doesn’t “write”, she types, and she does so in a world devoid of nuance. And for that, Fabricant’s apology notwithstanding, she really has no excuse.

Andrew Gibson is a regular contributor to The Commentator

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