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Media Watch

In response to Melanie Phillips: The importance of obsessiveness

To whomever has lived in the cave (or does not possess a twitter account). There is an ongoing feud between Sunny Hundal and Melanie Phillips, the former pointing out glaring holes in latter’s recent articles and the latter claiming that the former is ‘obsessive’ for doing so. This is a blog defending obsessiveness.

Melanie Phillips wields the word ‘obsessive’ with the intention to provoke harm.  It is designed to paint the picture of someone who is anal, who is an outcast, in short, someone who is alone in their beliefs. It is a word derived from a world where obsessiveness is frowned upon. It is a use of the word to evoke the the dramatic fall of a character on stage, screen or page.

While obsessiveness may not be seen as a virtue in all walks of life in journalism it is a virtue, it is what drives research, spearheads campaigns, calls for change. It is this very obsession that creates experts. Here is a very mundane example, as illogical and unconnected to my life as it may be I am an avid Liverpool FC fan, I follow every transfer rumour, every fixture, every result. Does that make me obsessive? Probably. However let us consider the consequences of this obsession. I can bore my friends (and irritate those of them who support Man Utd) with stories and statistics and while this not have a great influence on how the world turns, it provides an ample point. Obsession breeds knowledge. Obsession is also necessary to drag issues kicking and screaming into the public consciousness. Looking at the phone hacking scandal and the ‘obsessive’ nature in which it was pursued by a happy few confirms this.

I have previously blogged about Melanie Phillips rhetoric and once again this saga reveals the very weakness in her writing. It is the failure to recognise the antithesis of her words that most irks me. If Sunny Hundal is ‘obsessive’ that what does imply about Melanie Phillips? Does it grant her a laissez faire attitude towards life? No, of course not, her very profession requires obsessiveness. In fact she is indulging in the carnal pleasure of obsession in responding to Sunny’s rebuttals. Without her own obsession the feud wouldn’t happen. It is the old adage, it takes two to tango.

Obsessiveness is merely a word that provides the catalyst for political debate. It should not be thrown around intentionally and irresponsibly as an attempt to dilute, diffuse or smear such debate.



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