On December 17th, 2013, The Guardian newspaper published an article by Kevin Rawlinson, a man with sunglasses and beliefs, in which Rawlinson (the aforementioned) describes part of the previous night’s episode of Newsnight, a night-based news programme. Rawlinson (the waged man) summarises a drug-based Newsnight debate between Peter Hitchens, the puritanical drug-loathing, war-loathing, death penalty supporting Mail on Sunday columnist, Baroness Meacher, someone, and Matthew Perry, the actor who played Chandler in the television programme Friends.
Rawlinson’s subtitle, in its vulgar, inexcusable singularity, appears below.
Friends star calls British columnist ‘Santa’.
At some point – consider this carefully – Kevin Rawlinson looked down and saw that he had written that sentence. ‘I have written that’ he thought, correctly. ‘Kevin Rawlinson is me and I have written those words’ he thought, verbatim. ‘Friends star calls British journalist ‘Santa” – Rawlinson thought to himself, (verbatim). He, Kevin (Rawlinson), lay down his paid journalist’s pen, or pushed away his paid journalist’s keyboard, and cast his no doubt sun-protected eyes over the words (his own paid journalist’s words) ‘Friends star calls British columnist Santa’ (‘Those are words I have written’ he thought, accurately) – and did nothing. ‘No further action, Kevin Rawlinson thought, ‘is required. It is finished.’ Kevin Rawlinson thought, consciously imitating Jesus Christ. ‘What I have written I have written.’ The nineteenth chapter of John’s Gospel was no doubt in the forefront of Kevin Rawlinson’s mind as he, full of his own necessity, thought the words of Jesus Christ and Pontius Pilate to himself, having written, read, re-read, and passed on to a Guardian editor an article subtitled: ‘Friends star calls British columnist “Santa”‘
I am not going to tell you what to do with this massively true information, I am just going to tell you it is enormously existent. It is worth hours of consideration.
Later on in the article Rawlinson (Kevin) rephrases the sentence, in what one must assume is a desperate, failed attempt to restore peace to the screaming, ignored lobes of his brain. ‘At one point’ Rawlinson writes, building up readerly tension. ‘At one point’ singled from the oceans of eternity.
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from not towards; at the still point, there the dance is, (Kevin Rawlinson thinks, knowing himself to be a cosmic dance-warlord)
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint— (‘I am a Saint’ Rawlinson thinks)
Here the past and future
Are conquered, and reconciled, (‘This applies to Matthew Perry’ Rawlinson thinks)
‘At one point’ Rawlinson writes, ‘Perry referred to the Mail on Sunday columnist as “Santa”‘. Kevin ‘I am a Saint’ Rawlinson, the freelance reporter (presumably fluent in English), either typed or hand-wrote this sentence. It was sent to the Guardian newspaper – a newspaper known for guarding – a newspaper that has some claim (…) to respectability, who published it – published it – in a reckless orgiastic plunge – without editorial comment, or violent readerly protest. No one was sacked, no one defenestrated. Nothing happened.
Piers Eady, who shares names with an even less famous actor, writing for The Mirror, wrote the following sentence:
‘The star [Matthew ‘Chandler’ Perry compared to a heavenly body by Piers Eady here], who has taken the argument for specialist courts all the way to the White House, referred to Mail on Sunday columnist Mr Hitchens as ‘Santa’.’
The ‘Radio Times Staff’ (a hooded congregation of elves) put this sentence up for publication:
Invited to the BBC current affairs show to discuss the validity of drugs courts, Perry was soon enraged by Hitchens’s hypothesis of the “fantasy of addiction”, calling the author’s ideas “as ludicrous as saying Peter Pan is real” – and later referring to Hitchens as “Santa”.
The Express published these words from Kirsty Mccormack:
‘Perry, at one point, referred to the jounalist [her typo] as ‘Santa”
Jenn Selby, in her Independent column, tried to communicate, to her immense credit, the surrealism of ‘watching Chandler Bing furiously debating drug policy with outspoken columnist Peter Hitchens on Newsnight‘. What Selby failed to note, however, was the offensive lunacy in the sentence so common to us now:
‘Later on, Perry angrily referred to Hitchens as “Santa”‘
I reproduce these snippets, as you may have guessed, with an embittered breast. I do not choke (I am chocking on rage) on rage because what these journalists are saying is false. I acknowledge the profoundly upsetting truth of all these articles. I am drowning in my own tears reading them, blubbering like a fool, precisely because they are true. Their accuracy is precisely what moves me.
I am choking right now (ragefully) because these journalists are oblivious to the crisis at hand. The entire human inheritance is at stake. Each one of these journalists refuses – plain refuses – to acknowledge that the entire history of the human race is at risk after Perry’s comments. I abhor these journalists for their failure to raise a militia, to call every able bodied man to stand beside them on the battlements as the bloodthirsty armies of surreality – screaming the words ‘Peter Hitchens is Santa’ – advance on the Jerusalem we have inherited from our four bears. I abhor their blatant disinterest in the only great human tradition there ever was, the only accomplishment we squalid mammals can call our own – sanity. I abhor their silence in the face of this dangerous wrathful threat to the finest thing we will ever have, or ever lose.
No paid journalist should tolerate a reality whose silliness doesn’t live up to the lofty, serious, sensible name of reality. No journalist should allow even the slightest tear in the Bayeux Tapestry of sensibleness to be unrepaired. Journalism, in its purest form, is the stern maintenance of ordinariness as our four bears conceived it – the breastplate of the immortal soul. Normalness, as our four bears taught us, and we have forgotten, is the only means of inferring eternity, and cosmological consistency from the everyday; it is a means of securing solidarity between the past and the present, and the present and the future. ‘Existence still exists, and we exist in it.’ Newspaper readers used to say to themselves, after every sentence. This was the axiom on which our free press was founded, and which has been the mainstay of all its guiding lights. Our four bears gave us the greatest gift anyone has ever been given and we are tarnishing it in the name of laziness.
When Matthew Perry says things like ‘Santa’, live on air, the sane symphonies of Haydn, the sane novels of Thackeray, may as well not exist. When men like Matthew Perry are allowed to say things like ‘Santa’ on the British airwaves, to the silence of the British press, life begins to look like a very good argument that existence does not exist – and if it does it isn’t worth preserving. Matthew Perry represents a travesty of logic too huge to go without bloodshed in the gallons.
The duty of every newspaper is to make readers come away bearing in their hearts that consistent Thames-like spirit of our four bears ‘Anything at all is still out there.’ They should think. ‘The fish are still in the sea and the stars are still in the sky. Prevailing prevails.’
I am not ignorant enough to insist that the world can be kept in perfect normalness. I believe in original sin; the earth’s muscles contract against all kinds of perfection. But when the world is strange – as it will be from time to time – it is the journalists place to say ‘Now then. Stop this.’ Thus restoring the world we inhabit to a precious, sensible eternity.
Matthew Perry is a blatant anti-eternalist, whose patent disrespect for all things haughty and consistent is clear in his gait, his eating habits (I assume), and the shape of his lips. He is a member of a cataclysmic doom-cult, inseminated in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and shipped to the British Isles bringing spiritual disease and famine. This gang of rogues characterises itself with a vigorous denial that time, of any description, made up of causes and effects, is relevant to human conduct. Not merely is tradition irrelevant, to them, but actively sieged, plundered, pillaged, raped out of being and into a doughy Technicolour un-state. Matthew Perry, of Friends, has done more to discourage people with eternity, and endear them to the doughy void, than perhaps any human being in history.
This is not a ridiculous thing to say.
In present day America, all laws, all traditions, all roles and responsibilities are made up on the spur of the moment. I know because I have been. There are no old buildings. No one speaks English with the remotest consistency. Words as stupid as ‘Santa’ and ‘democracy’ are issued forth at the drop of a hat.
For any accurate description of Perry’s conduct on Newsnight, this cultural context needed be established. I could go on establishing this context, but recognise there is a faint possibility that I will stray into hyperbole or, even worse, mild untruth.
I shall give some context to the matter at hand.
The debate between Petrer Hitchens, Baroness Meacher, and Matthew Perry was a disgusting and terrible blow to British media, universally acknowledged as such and wept over in some circles as much as Vlad the Impaler’s horrible impalings. It was horrible, disgusting television worthy of Vlad the Impaler’s Wallachia and no other kingdom. It was not merely poo from a broadcasting standpoint, but bad and tragic. It told of a morally deprived culture, with culturally deprived morals, and, one might go as far to say, badness.
Matthew Perry was, in 2013, trying to salvage his mostly empty, transient career – and life – by ‘speaking out’ about addiction. In large part due to his funds, and the personal traits Perry has in common with Chandler, Perry’s utter unsuitableness for, and worthlessness in, this calling was not challenged. Perry, like many celebrities, was using his celebrity status as a platform to say absolutely nothing at all, at great length, with a total absence of self-awareness, dignity or shame. Perry, at this point in his ‘campaigns’, had managed to gain a reception at the White House, as Piers ‘unfamous Mirror writer’ Eady pointed out. What ‘unfamous’ Eady didn’t point out, in his incredibly unfamous Mirror article, was that Perry accomplished this without knowing what addiction was, or – like most professional nobodies – how to pretend he knew what it was.
The addiction website cleanslate.org published an article on December 20th which summarises the flaws of the man Matthew Perry better than I can.
The recent debate between Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing from “Friends”) and Peter Hitchens about the nature of addiction and alcoholism on BBC’s Newsnight was utterly painful and sad to watch… all Perry could do was sling mud; appeal to authority; and, while smugly dismissing Hitchens’s opinions, do absolutely nothing to back up his own assertions… [the article goes on to clearly outline Perry’s arguments, thus ending them. The article peaks with this passage:] He’s simply spouting dogma for which there is no evidence. The sad part is that Perry turned his Malibu home into some sort of rehab; travels the world lobbying for coerced treatment for this allergy [Perry called addiction an allergy during the debate]; and has now gone on a serious debate show on television armed with ZERO evidence to back up this claim. It’s plain silly.
I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who is interested in this three year old Newsnight debate between Matthew Perry, Peter Hitchens and Baroness Meacher, and the specific flaws of Perry’s argument. It covers the whole dung-circus as well as anyone can. I don’t intend to compete with it.
My problem, dear reader, is not the squalidness of the debate itself (a consummately squalid debate), as the specific instance, occurring around 10:40 on Newsnight‘s YouTube upload, when Matthew Perry calls Peter Hitchens ‘Santa’.
Father Christmas, to be clear about this, is a mythological figure who arrives on the birth of Christ to shower gifts upon the children of earth via flying sleigh. He does this for no reason at all, and is universally beloved. Santa does not exist.
The mistake Perry makes, I think quite early in the debate, is that Peter Hitchens, by virtue of his flawed arguments, does not exist. Peter Hitchens has never done anything in his life, been alive, been anywhere or been known by anyone. It is not that Santa makes terrible arguments. In all debates Santa has taken part in – drug policy debates being no exception – his arguments are entirely sound. Very little about Peter Hitchens resembles Santa, the figure, but Perry is liable confuse the two because, in Matthew Perry’s worldview, people who disagree with him aren’t really people. They are not even slabs of atoms. They are the imaginary vacuums Perry assumes they believe in. The non-existence of both Peter Hitchens and Santa makes them equals in Perry’s mind. ‘Not merely do Peter Hitchens’ arguments rely on non-existent material’ – Perry thinks to himself – ‘but he, himself, is not in front of me. His arguments are wrong, therefore he is not real, therefore he is Chris Cringle.’
In Jessica Elgot’s article for the Huffington post on the 23rd of January 2014, in which she mostly just posts excepts from Peter Hitchens’ article of the 21st of December (I’d call her bafflingly late if I had no sense of shame), she posts a picture of Matthew Perry with the caption ‘Well, Santa…’ Drawing our minds, as readers, back to the moment when Perry said just that:
The actual tone of Perry’s statement is represented perfectly there. Just in case the tone of voice isn’t getting across in text, Perry said this – ‘Well, Santa…’ – as if he was about to go on to make a mortifying argument, one from which Peter Hitchens could not recover.
The ellipse conveys exactly the tone of what he did do. Matthew Perry followed up ‘Well, Santa’ with absolutely silence and nothingness. ‘Well, Santa’ was the be all and end off of Perry’s point. No more could be added. It was the absolute apex of Perry’s mental travail. The ellipse communicates the feeling of emptiness inherent in English verse after Milton – the feeling that nothing further can be done. Matthew Perry, possible stunned by his own words (I would be) staggers, takes a moment to reflect, like Milton in Books XI and XII of Paradise Lost, and leaves the tradition behind him forced to fight for the crumbs under his table.
After telling Hitchens for minutes and minutes that his beliefs are absurd, baseless, fatuous scores of sheer gunk, Perry draws from the deepest well of his soul and conceives the mortifying, world-effacing blow of ‘Well, Santa…’ which duly sinks all other recesses of Perry’s mind into a dark age.
Look at his eyes as he realises what he has accomplished, as he realises he is holding a straight flush (they are playing chess). Look at him defying expectations: not going on, as we all expect, to call Hitchens a child: ‘An ignorant child: in your beliefs, like a child who believes in Santa.’ Perry does not do this. No, no, no. Matthew Perry calls Peter Hitchens – please don’t desensitise yourself to this – Santa Claus. Santa himself. You, sir, Mt. Hitchens, are Santa Claus, he means, and says, addressing Peter Hitchens. You are, in no uncertain terms, him. ‘I have just called you Santa Claus sir, because, under the circumstances, I believe you are the very man. You, sir,’ Perry says ‘Peter Hitchens, the man sitting opposite me are, are – mark, ARE -Santa Claus. ‘Well, Santa…’ The belief in his voice is tangible and horrifying.
Perhaps some readers will find the language of this article too extreme to be warranted by a three year old Newsnight debate between Matthew Perry, Baroness Meacher, and Peter Hitchens. For these readers, I have written a dramatic aside, from the point of view of Perry during the months of gruelling preparation he went through to be ready for the debate of his career.
‘I so outclass my rival intellectually as to warrant serious argument needless.’ Perry reasons. ‘I shall therefore mockingly jibe him for his comical similarities with Father Christmas. What an allusion! Worthy of the great mock epics of the 18th century. What allusion in Alexander Pope’s collected works could be more appropriate though, and thus biting? The comparison is so apt,’ Perry says, aloud, on his ranch, ‘so apt I shan’t need to follow it up with anything. No words. No speech of any kind will be needed after this destructive comment has been delivered. An ellipse will do me fine. The sheer Hogarthian likeness to be painted shall so reduce my referee to laughter, and my opponent to quivering jelly, as to deem expostulation a gratuity.
‘Who does Peter Hitchens make one think of,’ Perry thinks, earlier in the day. ‘Christopher Hitchens? No! Puritan church leader and controversialist Richard Baxter? No! Then he glances as the merry red cloaked image of Chris Cringle already blessing us with his smile in October. Could it be, he thinks. Could a comparison so apt be sprung upon me in this, my hour of need? I shall reserve this comparison – this utterly faultless comparison – for a critical point in the debate.’ Perry thinks. ‘I shall unleash it like the Atom bomb on the Japanese, my least favourite race.’ (Matthew Perry definitely said this) ‘Whatever the content of our discussion before this point, however the thrusts and parries of our intellectual dual fall, Hitchens will have absolutely no retort to this most devastating of comments, and all newspapers will deem me victorious.
‘Santa,’ thinks Perry. ‘What figure but Santa could commend punitive measures against drug addicts in a manner so like Peter Hitchens? What figure but Santa could have written a book detailing the British establishment’s failure to impute meaningful drug laws as closely as Peter Hitchens, excluding Peter Hitchens himself? Santa is the perfect means of addressing Peter Hitchens without saying ‘Peter Hitchens’ or ‘Mr. Hitchens’. I shall refer to him as it offhandedly, in that manner in which one might say ‘Well, Mr. Hitchens…’ Then I shall add nothing. Santa is so like Peter Hitchens, in ways so huge that it is hard to fathom the comparison never having been made before, that I will wait for a large national TV appearance to spring the news on the world’s ears.’
As much as this drama veers into speculation, Perry’s logic must, at one point, in order for the ensuing events to take place the way they did, have run like this:
I disagree with this man. Ergo, he is Father Christmas.
This thought exactly, for however brief a period, must have passed through Matthew Perry’s mind.
Peter Hitchens, immediately after the comment, charged Matthew Perry with treating the subject of drugs with ‘immense levity’, but ‘immense levity’ doesn’t begin to sum up the weirdness of Matthew Perry’s response to Peter Hitchens, and the weirdness of the responses of all those present.
I have already outlined the lack of a journalistic outcry, but that does not begin to account for the conduct of those who were in the room.
Baroness Meacher and Jeremy Paxman both laugh. Reader, they laugh. They laugh at Matthew Perry’s comment. For its appropriateness? for its witty guile? we may never know. Jeremy Paxman went to Cambridge to study English. English words were the principal object of his study for years. Fast Forward to 2013 and Matthew Perry’s ‘Santa’ not only fails to depress him, but elicits a little chuckle. Paxman chuckles (I have watched it numerous times) and leans toward Hitchens, gleefully, as Meacher leans towards Perry. Have any dingier chuckles and leans been captured with taxpayers payings? Perhaps. I am loath to drag my brain through such sludge. The reduction of decorated, Cambridge educated Engliahmenandwomen to such depravity is enough to fill my mind with poisonous frogs.
I pause the video at 10:41 in disbelief, between ‘Santa’ and the laugh, then resume it after a few seconds to hear the laugh. I am terrified. This reminds me of reading Dante, I think. I now have proof that a sensible man, who studied the use of English words at one of the most prestigious Universities in the world, can be debased to lunacy.
I cannot guarantee I wouldn’t have laughed too. I have laughed at Matthew Perry’s delivery several times on the TV show Friends. I think he is easily the best performer of the jokes that the 48289467657890398-strong committee who wrote Friends were most successful in. His delivery of ‘Santa’ is straight out of Friends. It’s profound, unadulterated worthlessness as a sentence is neither here nor there. It is pure Chandler. It sounds exactly like the kind of line the 48289467657890398 Friends writers would filter from infinite similar lines. Its living proof that there is a Devil in all of us.
Listen to the long ‘Uuuum’ Perry issues after saying Santa. It is obscured by the laughter, but clearly pronounced, full of purpose, full of zen. Just listen to that. That is the sound of a man who has just compared Peter Hitchens to Chirs Chringle for reasons no one could, or ever will, understand. This is the confirmation that Matthew Perry’s untruth passeth understanding, that he can and is willing to contain unGenesis in his syllables. This murderous ‘Uuuum’ is the confirmation of Matthew Perry’s Dao-influenced surrealist wrath against mankind, specifically me. Matthew Perry knows that I am the only journalist who is on to him. He knows I am the only journalist (the only brilliant one at any rate) who understands what Perry is up to when he delivers ‘Uuuum.’ as a standalone statement, with a beginning a middle and an end, a full stop and a capital letter. I feel the full force of this non-verbal fist aimed at anyone who objects to the madness of ‘Well, Santa…’ I feel the full sliminess of this middle finger to those who believe ‘Well, Santa…’ just doesn’t cut it, as any kind of statement to make about Peter Hitches – at all. What the second and third movements of Shostakovich’s sixth symphony are to the first movement, Uuuum is to ‘Well, Santa…’ and I, the only journalist ready to apply the structure of Shostakovich’s sixth symphony to the activities of Matthew Perry, am feeling the full indignity of it.
What a fearful adage! What a monstrous lump! Veterans say the horrifying screech of a V2 rocket wasn’t nearly as horrifying as the silence that followed it. The silence signified that it was about to drop on your head. This is exactly my reaction to the ‘Uuuum’ after ‘Well, Santa’: agonised suspense. Where the V2 goes bang however, Mr. Perry goes ‘Uh’ and we remain in suspense forever. That V2 rocket remains over our heads, about to fall. It has been there for three years. We have heard the screech, we have heard it peter out, and now we await the bang for eternity.
When the day comes (and come it must) when all footage of Matthew Perry is destroyed in a spontaneous series of riots across the Perry-aware globe, I am going to head a splinter group devoted to the preservation of this footage.
It teaches us things about our age no film or book has managed to teach us in generations.
I am going to close with a quote from Peter Hitchens’ Mail on Sunday article.
‘Later, in the same vein, he called me ‘Santa’, suggesting that I believe in Father Christmas.
This of course is the reasonable way to explain Perry’s actions away. Some of you may find my blindness to this explanation infuriating. There is still a strong part of me though – as there should be a part of you – that whispers ‘what if’. ‘What if, just maybe – Matthew Perry meant precisely what he said.’ That Peter Hitchens IS the red cloaked, white bearded bringer of Christmas joy. What if exactly this – nothing less – was meant, and the full force of British journalism failed to respond. The question plagued me so fearfully that I was forced (metaphorically, but also at rusty knife point) to write this article.
Deeply Academic Sources