THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Alan Brazil has another book out. Taylor Parkes is not impressed

These are frightening times. With politics now driven by personality not policy, and the media fixated on folk devils rather than facts, it can be hard to make sense of the world.

Enter TalkSport. The radio success story of the past decade, its secret has been to isolate the core thrill of sport – submission of the intellect to aggression and raw emotion. For most of us, this is an escape; for TalkSport it’s a philosophy, applied not just to sport but to current affairs. TalkSport does not inform, it reassures: you can understand the world without thinking too hard. The problems are simple, the answers are simple (and usually brutal), and anyone who thinks otherwise lacks “common sense”.

The upshot is that a man who refers to the Japanese as “Nips” on live radio is now sharing his philosophy in print. Reading Both Barrels From Brazil is (ironically enough) a sobering experience – armed only with half-facts and non-facts gleaned from the tabloids, Alan puts the world to rights with that special self-assurance that comes only with utter boneheadedness. It’s Clarkson without the wit, Littlejohn without the subtlety. It’s the longest minicab journey of your life.

Alan drives through east London: “Asian people are happiest living with those of their own culture without having to adapt to the traditional British way of life... why don’t we stop pretending that ‘integration’ works and that the vast majority of us are happy with it?” Spotting a “Staff Wanted” sign at a pub, he muses on why there are still unemployed people: “Five million deadbeats who contribute absolutely nothing to the economy... those who don’t apply for these vacancies use the system to get themselves slotted into convenient categories such as ‘disabled’, because they’ve managed to convince some overworked doctor they are suffering from depression... the vacancies created by the idle staying in bed are filled up by the wave of immigrants.”

It’s not Alan’s right-wing politics that stand out, so much as his aggressive ignorance: not only does he not have a clue what he’s talking about, he’s deeply distrustful of anyone who does. A true bar-room philosopher, Alan resents “so-called experts” more than anyone, because somehow they never seem to agree with him. Clearly, they must have no “common sense”.

Of course, Alan’s alternative ideas are as hilarious as they are appalling. He argues that Scottish football fans could “sort out the nightmare of Iraq”. He thinks the head of a pharmaceutical company should run the NHS. Either that, or the bloke who started Specsavers (I’m not making this up). He advocates further privatisation of the Health Service – and considers the MRSA problem a point in favour. He “doesn’t know” whether climate change is man-made, having heard “compelling arguments from all sides” (science having gone the same way as politics in the tabloid media), but is sure Gordon Brown “decided it’s all man’s fault because it suited his purpose” – ie to tax people who drive and fly as much as Brazil. So instead, the country should be run by Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair. What could possibly go wrong?

The ample shadow of ghostwriter Mike “Porky” Parry, TalkSport supremo, looms large. Indeed, he sometimes seems to be writing an auto­biography when Alan’s not looking. We get a chapter on Parry’s recent heart problems, and many heroic tales of derring-do, such as the time Mike was nearly killed in an Irish pub in the East End of Glasgow during an England v Ireland rugby international, for singing Land of Hope and Glory and shouting: “It’s not Dublin that pays your social security.” Or the time Parry and Brazil were thrown out of a Chinese restaurant because the proprietors were offended by a joke Mike told about “a Chinese philosopher who can’t pronounce his words”. You can see why anyone would be proud to share these stories – but I’m not sure of the relevance. It’s helpful, though, to understand the man.

Because it is Parry who is responsible for all this. There have always been clueless, mean-spirited loudmouths and preposterous blowhards, but it took Parry’s evil genius to gather them in one place and market the results so brilliantly, to the point where TalkSport’s competitors can’t compete without hiring presenters like Nick Ferrari to further insult asylum seekers and organised labour.

Perhaps the problem with the government and media is not, as Alan insists, “political correctness”, but the way they’ve allowed politics to fall into disuse. The result is not happy consensus, where no one asks questions and spin can take care of every­thing – it’s people left vulnerable to easy answers, rabble-rousing and hateful bull­shit. TalkSport was not the first to understand that, for right-wing populists seeking out the angry and the disenfranchised, football grounds are a good place to start.

From WSC 252 February 2008

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