The London chatterati

In The Guardian on 12 October 2013, Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, responded to the outrage at his paper’s article by Geoffrey Levy on Ed Milliband’s father, dismissing the criticism as so much froth and steam from the London chatterati. It made me think about chattering again, and why it’s so contemptible for papers like Dacre’s – and how it is different from the Mail’s online ‘sidebar of shame’. Turning for enlightenment, as ever, to Erasmus, I wonder if the idea, already commonplace in the sixteenth century, that chattering and gossip is practised compulsively by servants and women, making it both servile and effeminate, is still in operation here. Chatter has no substance, it is pure frivolity. Men should be ashamed of being associated with the chattering habit, a silly, effeminate tradition worthy only of overpaid, over-pampered London journalists, miles away from the Mail’s readers, ‘hard-working Britons’ with no time to chat. Chattering is the opposite of doing: it is distracting nonsense, and it is representative of only a tiny, privileged section of the population, who have lost contact with ‘the real world’. Like women and servants in the sixteenth century, the journalists of the chatterati have no real power. They make up for this by making a lot of noise.

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