Much debate over the weekend about comments by Owen Barder, a DFID civil servant on his blog. The Mail on Sunday decides to make a meal of his ‘astonishing website outburst… which compares President George Bush to Hitler.’ But we shouldn’t get carried away here: it’s the Mail, after all.
Owen has made a single schoolboy error. Like it or not, there are certain banned words in the English language… and ‘Hitler’ is one of them. Any time you use the word, expect it to generate blind fury, completely ignoring the merits (or otherwise) of your argument. That aside, there’s no story here… it’s just typical Mail bluster, which we shouldn’t take too seriously. Outspoken? Good, we need more of that. Sexually explicit? Hardly, based on the passages the Mail has seen fit to quote.
Tim Worstall does a great job of tearing the Mail piece to pieces: with lengthy justification, he describes it as ‘a mixture of gross distortions, garbled (and wrongly attributed) quotes and in general a hit job.’ Says it all. It’ll be interesting to see Owen’s perspective (when his blog comes up again), and any official response from DFID. I’m sure their press office will be seething… but since a large part of DFID’s role is campaigning, this attention may secretly be welcomed.