BY ALEXIA JAMES
You’ve heard of A.C Grayling, right?
Plato, Socrates, Descartes, Grayling?
Ring any bells?
Well done you at the back of the class! A.C Grayling is the Peckham-dwelling University of Sussex graduate with 30 books under his belt on philosophy, biography, the history of ideas, human rights and ethics. For several years, Anthony Clifford Grayling was a columnist for The Guardian (yup, his kids go to boarding school) and presented the BBC World Service series ‘Exchanges at the Frontier’ on science and society.
As he’s a publicity moth, you’ll likely have seen Grayling occasionally popping his mop of white hair up on Discovery Channel as a talking head whenever a question of deep philosophical importance requires a scratch of the chin and a ponder. Such haircuts tick the boxes for Mr & Mrs Average sitting on their couch in Alabama and chomping pretzels watching dumbed-down shows about The Amazing Universe – folks who have seen enough episodes of The Simpsons to associate brains with mops of Einsteinian white hair.
Grayling resigned from Birkbeck in June 2011 to found and become the first master of the New College of the Humanities, an independent undergraduate college in London, which he uses as a platform to write moaning letters to the Government about Article 50 on behalf of “most of its students”.
If you use Twitter, you might know A.C Grayling better as one of the top ten Remoaners. In the same bracket as Anna Soubry, Ian Dunt and Jolyon Maugham in their apparent determination to talk Britain down and latch onto any bad news stories associated with Brexit.
Some choice examples of Grayling’s respect for the will of the British People are:
Grayling considers himself a political guru for Britain, eminently qualified to dictate Britain’s course into a new era:
Of course, in the real world Grayling is just a philosopher. He’s not a politician nor an expert on Government, so he often tweets himself into hypocritical waters and comes a cropper on basic technicalities:
Here, Grayling talks about a British “constitution” (of course, no British constitution exists). Simultaneously, without realising it, Grayling accepts that Article 50 is not even required to exit Europe, as Parliament is sovereign anyway so can just pull out.
After studying Grayling’s timeline and learning a bit about him, I decided I should read Grayling’s books, as, however much of a bore you think he is with his remoaning, he was awarded a CBE for services to Philosophy in the 2017 New Year’s honours, so surely his genius lies in the realm of Philosophy, right?
I winced my way through Among the Dead Cities: Was the Allied Bombing of Civilians in WWII a Necessity or a Crime? (2006) and I somehow managed to complete The God Argument (2014). I must say I rather enjoyed Grayling’s Wittgenstein (1988).
I was left with the feeling that Grayling is more comfortable as a commentator on dead philosophers rather than as a philosopher himself.
I admit that I felt pity for Grayling in every word of his writing knowing his family background and the horrors he went through in early adulthood: when Grayling was 19 years old, his elder sister Jennifer was murdered in Johannesburg. She had been born with brain damage, and after brain surgery to alleviate it at the age of 20 had experienced personality problems that led to emotional difficulties and a premature marriage. She was found dead in a river shortly after the marriage; she had been stabbed. When her parents went to identify her, her mother—already ill—had a heart attack and died.
I asked a celebrated philosopher at Oxford University – who happens to be a football fanatic – to place AC Grayling in a league table of famous philosophers both living and dead. His reply “Spartan South” had some resonance after what I’d read of Grayling’s works. Let’s face it, just as Joey Barton’s no Messi, Grayling’s definitely no Nietzsche.
When I asked the same philosopher to place Grayling in a league table of living and respected administrators from within the world of Philosophy his reply was “Sky Bet Championship”, which, for those who do not follow Wendyball, is verging on Premiership status.
Certainly, Grayling’s New College of the Humanities (NCH) (its legal name is Tertiary Education Services Ltd) is real enough – it runs its own degree programmes, modelled on American liberal arts college courses where students study a major and a minor subject; courses which are validated by Southampton Solent University (currently running at 115th in the UK league table). If Sir Partha Dasgupta and Richard Dawkins are prepared to tutor there, NCH is not some visa-grabbing bypass like you find on the streets of East Ham or Washwood Heath.
Of course, such a college as NCH could benefit massively from European education and research grants. Is this why Grayling is such a Remoaner?
I think not.
Against the backcloth of all the evidence I gleaned, I came to the conclusion that Grayling is a chancer and, whilst not ever suggesting that Brexit is a wise move, he’s merely doing a Dunt.
Grayling’s an opportunist who has seen a space within the British political conversation, which he knows 48% of the population has sympathies for. The annoyance his tweets and articles create in the other 52%, he calculates, he can ride into household name territory on the back of now that the British population is suddenly interested in politics after the referendum vote.
By becoming a household name, Grayling can drag his New College of the Humanities and his lacklustre oeuvres into a place of public cognisance – all will recognise him by his purposefully silly hair. And thereby Grayling’s life’s work shall be done – whatever he lacks for in philosophising he will have founded a lasting legacy in NCH and the history books may even take note of his resistance to Brexit.
So, let History also note this: the worst Remoaners seem all to be of the same ilk. Calculating chancers who have plumped for the biggest PR myth of them all: there’s no such thing as bad publicity. If Katie Hopkins can do it, why can’t we?
Grayling’s remoaning is mere channel to market. One day I suspect he may even admit it; even philosophise about it. The fact that I have even had this article published will make AC Grayling’s annoying smirk, and silvery mane, just grow.