Saturday, May 17, 2014

Reverse Ferret

Reverse Ferret

UKIP Leader Nigel Farage got a right savaging for 20 minutes by James O'Brien on LBC yesterday, until his spin doctor intervened to get him off air. I wouldn't normally have heard this clip, (as I don't enjoy O'Brien's interview technique - I find him hectoring and too fond of his own voice and I don't care much for Farage's opinions on anything), but for the fact that O'Brien accuses Farage of "reverse feretting" over a promise to have his expenses independently audited – an offer Ukip made but Farage withdrew saying he would not be subject to a stricter audit than other MEPs. The phrase appeared in headlines on social media. It's at 18 min 30 sec in this video.


Hello! I thought, what on earth is "reverse feretting" when it's at home? I had to Google it!

It turns out to be media luvvy-speak for a volte-face on the editorial line on a certain issue. It's sufficiently specialised for the Guardian to feel the need to define it in this article from 2011:
"Reverse ferret" is, technically speaking, a term used in Fleet Street, just down the road, to describe the moment when an editor executes a startling editorial U-turn.
It even has its own Wikipedia entry:
Reverse ferret is a phrase used predominantly within the British media to describe a sudden reversal in an organisation's editorial line on a certain issue. Generally, this will involve no acknowledgement of the previous position.
The term originates from Kelvin MacKenzie's time at The Sun. His preferred description of the role of journalists when it came to public figures was to "stick a ferret up their trousers". This meant making their lives uncomfortable, and was based on the supposed northern stunt of ferret legging (where contestants compete to show who can endure a live ferret within their sealed trousers the longest). However, when it became clear that the tide of public opinion had turned against the paper's line, MacKenzie would burst from his office shouting "Reverse Ferret!" 
Now I know that background, I find it really rather colourful and I quite like it. Oddly though, Farage appeared to be quite familiar with the term which was somewhat surprising given his words at the start of the interview,
"This is the political class clubbing together using their mates in the media and doing anything they can to stop the UKIP charge." 
This is an irony that seems to have completely bypassed the testy Mr O'Brien in his nasty little media-luvvy bubble. How ironic!

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