Every now and then a book will land in your lap that under normal circumstances and for a variety of reasons, it would never ever have been your choice of read. A book that grips the reader from the first paragraph, engages them throughout, absorbing their curiosity and enhancing their excitement in their quest to discover its secrets, informative and adding much to their delight. An intriguing digest.
This book certainly isn’t one of those! In fact, by page 4 the reader is pondering where is the journalism? And by page 7 realising that Meyer’s professionalism as a journalist had evaporated into a cloud of narcissism and you are being splattered in an outpouring of his intensive anglophilic political thoughts and his life’s experiences or rather ramblings of those.
At this point and after another induced yawn, you quietly begin to contemplate closing it, placing it on a top shelf out of arms reach and appropriately and most suitably, filing it under ‘drivel’. A most apt repose for such a publication.
Now, armed with hindsight’s wisdom, I fortunately had never ever read anything by Meyers and I am never ever likely to after this. I recognised Meyers from my fleeting memories of his very public and globally reported fall from grace to which I took little interest in and even less in his polarised vindication.
Those who currently find themselves labelled anti-Semitic or as a holocaust deniers usually turn out to be the opposite and Meyers is certainly no holocaust denier. Those terms these days being so loosely bandied about and applied willy-nilly have greatly devalued their potency and relevance.
What I believed he simply attempted to demonstrate was that the Nazi’s having realised that mass shootings were no longer cost effective and that by moving such actions to an industrial scale would resolve the issue. Hence the gas chambers and crematoriums. Therefore Holocaust should not be used to cover the whole of the genocide as millions died by other means prior to this. Certainly no denial of what we have come to understand as the holocaust or as having happened.
As for the other public indictments, be they misogyny or whatever else, deeply offensive or not, I can honestly say that I have no idea if they have substance or not and I am not remotely interested if they do. On saying that I nevertheless persevered and sat down to read his endogenous tome.
The implied theme of the book is to impart to the reader, Meyers professional and personal experiences as a journalist reporting on various conflicts, both personal and around the globe over the last 40 years.
A preconceived notion of a narrative of the Fisk / Cockburn quality is quickly diluted to that of the anti-Assad reports generated by The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group which is based in Coventry ... and as it turns out is a preconceived gross optimistic mistake!
What we get is mostly an obnoxious and somewhat arrogant discourse on the conflicts within Meyer’s life. His sexual exploits and meanderings and the improper and unethical reporting of those of former colleagues and associates, laid bare, bluntly, boorishly and crudely exhibited. A life spent mostly righting the savage and brutal injustices inflicted upon the British Empire and mainly upon her loyal subjects dwelling in Ireland, planted and concealed as Irish citizens.
By an Ireland of extremely neurotic, homicidal, manic and demented religious psychotics (of the Vatican kind) but mostly Irish republicans of all hues.
Every now and then an actual global conflict anecdote manages to slip in to the narrative but these too soon diverge in to a realm where reality, improbability, and at times inconceivability, both current and historical, cross-over as does much of his personal conflicts. The death of a young girl in Beirut being a kind of Schindler’s List moment! Schindler’s child wearing a red coat while Meyer’s child wore a purple dress.
And this is the problem with Meyer’s narrative, reality and what we seek to be true become so entwined it is difficult to disassociate one from the other and the reader is left wondering on the plausibility. Lacking the skill of the craftsman and unable to weave, historical facts are hacked in to his invective narrative to buttress his claims and give them substance. Reducing the academic value of the book to that of sociopathic gossip’s prattle.
Myers has done to journalism what Nazism did to socialism. Accolades for his work he may have received but for their work, so did Jeffrey, Bungle, George and Zippy.
His brand of narcissism makes Trump and Johnson look bland, modest and unassuming and takes narcissism to a level otherwise unknown.
As for his fall from grace – petulant child, innocent or not, for the world to turn on you so quickly and ferociously, illustrates how much you are despised.
‘Thank God for that!’ – my words on reaching the last page.
Kevin Myers, 2020, Burning Heresies: A Memoir of a Life in Conflict, 1979-2020. Merrion Press. ISBN-13 : 978-1785372612