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MITCH BENN: The jury is back on Piers Morgan

Piers Morgan with Donald Trump on Air Force One. Picture: Contributed - Credit: Archant

Piers Morgan is mistaken, we’re not jealous about his interview with Donald Trump, it’s cozying up with the president which worries us, writes Mitch Benn.

OK; I’m going to do something now which, I suspect, many of you may not entirely approve of. I’m going to give Piers Morgan the benefit of the doubt.

In recent days, I joined one of the less exclusive online club: those who Morgan has blocked on Twitter. This is an ever-expanding list and it comprises principally of those who have had the gall to criticise him in his approach to his interviews with Donald Trump.

The specific post which appears to have provoked Morgan into wielding the ban-hammer in my own case was a response to something he posted which may or may not have been directed at me; he said, and I quote (yeah, he’s blocked me, but I have my ways): ‘I’ve noticed that my most venomous & unhinged Trump-loathing trolls are invariably ‘comedians’ or ‘musicians’.’

It may just be solipsistic egomania on my part but that kind of felt like he was talking about me. Certainly I’ve been referred to as a ‘comedian’, in inverted commas, on many occasions. We all have. It’s practically a badge of honour for us comics to incur the wrath of someone famously lacking in humour, self-deprecating or otherwise, and have them come back at us by calling us a ‘comedian’ in sarcasm-quotes. Actually it’s usually ‘so-called comedian’ but I guess Morgan was being mindful of Twitter’s character limit. Putting ‘musician’ in snark-marks felt weird though. There’s always a degree of subjectivity involved in comedy, but I am a musician, whether Morgan or anyone else likes it or not.

I fixed upon his use of ‘Trump-loathing’, as if there’s something unreasonably flaky about feeling contempt for a man who’s not just a mendacious, racist con-artist and self-proclaimed sex pest, but currently endangering the future of the entire human race in a quest to further inflate his already at-bursting-point ego. So I replied: ‘I loathe fascists and their enablers; bite me.’ Boom. Blocked. I’ll get over it. In fact I already have.

I make no apology for using the F-word there, by the way; I realise that liberal bedwetters like myself have a regrettable tendency to hurl the word ‘fascism’ in the direction of anything right of centre that we don’t like, but whichever of the variant definitions of ‘fascism’ you subscribe to, they’re all happening right now in the USA. Dehumanisation and persecution of minorities to unite the majority through hate? Check. The absorption of the mechanism of state by a wealthy elite to re-purpose national institutions to enrich themselves? Check. Mandatory membership of paramilitary youth groups singing songs of praise to the Leader? Not yet, but give it six months.

I’d previously opined that the increasingly emetic bromance between Morgan and Trump isn’t really Morgan’s fault; it’s just the apotheosis of the tendency which has been corrupting television journalism for the last couple of decades; the obsession with ‘access’. That being admitted into the presence of the great and good is all that matters. The trouble is that it’s an entirely self-defeating process; ‘access’ means nothing if you have to squander it on flattery and obsequiousness in order to attain it. But, as I said, this isn’t Morgan’s fault. The fact that he’s such a smug petulant jerk whenever anyone challenges him on it online is his fault, however.

Like I said at the top, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. I think he’s genuinely mistaken about what everyone’s problem is. I think he actually believes, as his replies suggest, that we’re all jealous. Jealous that he got to go on Air Force One and we didn’t. Jealous that the president wants to talk to him and not us. That’s all it is; we couldn’t possibly have any sincere political or ethical objections, we’re just green with envy at how awesome it is to be Morgan.

Firstly there’s the point that being granted an audience with Trump does not make you the leading TV journalist of our time, quite the reverse: Trump only gives interviews to those who he knows won’t ask any awkward questions. Being granted an audience with him marks one out as an inadequate journalist (or excellent PR guy).

David Frost, on whom one suspects Morgan models himself, would come on all smiles and deference when interviewing the great and powerful, then, once his subject was at ease, steer the conversation into the difficult stuff so subtly that the bag would be open and the cat elsewhere before the interviewee knew what was happening. Morgan has the first part down.

But more importantly; Donald Trump is doing real damage. Not just to his own country, with his normalisation of hate and racism and his idiotic job-shredding trade tariffs, but to the stability of the whole world.

Morgan’s latest meeting with Trump took place just after he’d stomped his way through a disastrous NATO summit, leaving the future of the organisation in serious doubt.

And if anyone thought this was just incompetence on Trump’s part, watching him in Helsinki a few days later – when he couldn’t have been more obviously under the control of Vladimir Putin if the Russian president had had his hand up the back of Trump’s jacket while drinking a glass of water – made it clear, even, at last, to some Republicans, what’s actually going on here.

Normalising this man, unquestioningly platforming this man, cuddlifying this man; this furthers the cause of those who actually wish this country harm. It’s not just a TV show. It’s not journalism and it’s sure as hell not entertainment.

Still, at least Morgan got to go on Mr Trump’s aeroplane, so that was OK.

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