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May 18, 2013



I think there's an exception for 'mere vulgar abuse'; it isn't libellous to just insult someone. No, the interesting thing is that the judge will have to decide whether 'Feldman called anti-EU Tory activists loons' is the sort of statement that would tend to damage Feldman in the eyes of right thinking members of the public. I would argue not. Certainly I think rather well of him for saying so.


When did swivel-eyed loons take over from cream-faced loons and is this a reflection on the change over from agricultural modes of productions to industrial?

nick s

Lord Feldman

No relation to Marty, then?

Chris Brooke

"Second time as panto" is much better than my earlier version, not just because of the provincial element, but also because of the extent to which the whole row is boiling down to a traditional pantomimetical exchange:

"You said they were swivel-eyed loons!"
"Oh no I didn't."

Repeat ad nauseam.


Alternative title: "Loondom swings like a pendulum do"


When did swivel-eyed loons take over from cream-faced loons

Probably the TV age. Swivelling eyes, IIRC, are particularly noticeable on TV, which tends to overdarken dark areas like eye sockets and overbrighten bright areas like the whites of eyes (the phrase "gamma curve" has popped into my head here but I don't know exactly what it means so I will leave that to someone who knows more about cameras than me).

So if someone moves their eyes around to look at things rather than (as well trained professional media people do) their heads, it's very obvious on TV because the whites really pop. And if someone not media trained is being particularly emotional in front of a TV camera, their eyes will be wide open (due to emotion) and their eyeballs will be very visibly swivelling around in their eyesockets.

Comparison: all those rather unpleasant references in early 20th century novels to "Negroes", etc, with "rolling eyes". Eye movements presumably are much more noticeable even to the naked eye if your skin's darker, because the contrast is greater.


also, (Lord) Christopher Monckton, who was big in UKIP back in the day, has hyperthyroidism, which gives him bulging eyes.

Richard J

Doing a quick search on Factiva at work on this is interesting - there's an occasional outcrop of 'swivel-eyed' in the 80s, but it's always with reference to bodyguards/heavies surrounding politicians (Farrakhan, Bush, etc.) and clearly the analogy is for wary watchfulness.

The first time it gets used in the modern sense is, unsurprisingly, Australia - the Sun Herald on 15 July 1990 starts off a diary piece with

"YOU'D have to be a swivel-eyed fruitcake not to agree that there is probably only one decent ball thrown in Sydney every year. It has nothing to do with elliptical pigskin, willow or any other form of sporting endeavour either. We're talking heavy-duty partying here. The Cointreau Ball is a knees-up of Wagnerian proportions where the preparations, rumours, hopes, fears, aspirations and desires (is that putting too fine a point on it?) of 250 people come together for about six hours of quality roistering. "


As much as I'd like to appropriate this for the Teahadists here in the States, it just won't work...

The main problem is the complexity of "swivel" as a word and concept. Despite embracing the "swivliest" political positions (Government Hands-OFF MY MEDICAID!), the word just won't stick as a slur here.

Besides, they're under great stress right-now, what with the ongoing IRS vendetta, it just wouldn't be sporting.

Just seeing the term in UK headlines, made me double-check the calendar to see if August and Silly Season were underway.


Some of the accounts suggest that (non-Lord) Christopher Monckton is still head of policy for UKIP and was in that Edinburgh pub last week. When I knew him 40 years ago he did not have swivel eyes but otherwise gave a strong impression of being a loon.


dsquared: not any more he doesn't! Wiki: "In the BBC documentary, "Meet the Sceptics" (2011), Monckton said he had cured himself of Graves' disease an auto-immune disease thought to have been triggered either by a one-time virus or bacterial infection, and said he was researching a "broad-spectrum cure" for infectious diseases.[69] UKIP's CV for Monckton claims that his methods have produced cures for multiple sclerosis, influenza, and herpes, as well as reducing the viral load of an HIV patient,[68] but on Australian radio, Monckton refrained from claiming any cures."


As I understand it, Marty Feldman's eyes were as they were because of an operation and not because of Graves' disease.


So, to summarise the dramatis personae:

Unnamed Tory activists, John Redwood et al: swivel-eyed loons

Marty Feldman: definitely swivel-eyed, but not a loon

Lord Feldman: neither swivel-eyed nor a loon, but works with people who are both

Chris Brooke: not a loon, presumably not swivel-eyed, but has an extensive list of people who are purportedly loons, swivel-eyed, or both

Lord Monckton: definitely a loon, possibly swivel-eyed now,definitely has a history of eye-swivelling


(non-Lord) Christopher Monckton

He definitely is a Lord - he's the 3rd Viscount of Brenchley. What he isn't is a member of the House of Lords, despite frequently claiming to be one.

Chris Brooke

Chris Brooke: not a loon, presumably not swivel-eyed, but has an extensive list of people who are purportedly loons, swivel-eyed, or both.

Possibly swivel-eyed, in fact. When I was a child, I used to trot off to a clinic each year for an eye test, as I think there was concern that my eyes were shooting off in different directions, and that might contribute to a rapid deterioration in my vision as I got older (or something like that, anyway). But when I was about 14 or so, they decided things were fine, and I never went back. But I think my eyes probably do swivel from time to time (and even though opticians tell me I'm seeing fine out of my right eye, I never really believe them).

More importantly: happy birthday Jamie!


He is a Lord, but he isn't Lord Christopher Monckton, I think that means. He's Lord Monckton. He presumably used to be Lord Christopher Monckton before he acceded to the title.


Actually, no, wait out. He's not Lord Monckton or Lord Christopher Monckton, if he's Lord anything it's Lord Brenchley.

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