Definitions

Wheen

Francis Wheen

Francis James Baird Wheen (born 22 January 1957) is a British journalist, writer and broadcaster.

Early life

Wheen was educated at Copthorne Prep School, Harrow School and Royal Holloway College, University of London. At Harrow he was a contemporary of Mark Thatcher who has been a recurring subject of his journalism. He is a member of the 'soap' side of the Wheen family, whose family business was the long-established "Wheen & Sons", soap-makers, as was revealed in the gossip column of the Daily Mail on 26 March 2007. He was married to the writer Joan Smith between 1985 and 1993.

Writing

He is the author of several books including a biography of Karl Marx, which won the Isaac Deutscher prize. A column for The Guardian ran for several years. He writes for Private Eye and is the magazine's deputy editor. His collected journalism – Hoo-hahs and Passing Frenzies won him the George Orwell Prize in 2003. He has also been a regular columnist for the London Evening Standard.

Broadcasting work

Wheen broadcasts regularly (mainly on BBC Radio 4) and is a regular panellist on The News Quiz, in which he often referred to the fact that he resembles the former Tory party leader Iain Duncan Smith. He is also one of the more frequently recruited guests for Have I Got News For You.

Wheen wrote a docudrama, The Lavender List, for BBC Four on the final period of Harold Wilson's premiership, concentrating on his relationship with Marcia Williams, which was first screened in March 2006. It starred Kenneth Cranham as former Prime Minister Wilson and Gina McKee as Williams. In April 2007 the BBC paid £75,000 to Williams (Baroness Falkender) in an out-of-court settlement over claims made in the programme.

Political views

Francis Wheen is a signatory to the Euston Manifesto and a close friend of Christopher Hitchens. In late-2005 Wheen was co-author, with journalist David Aaronovitch and blogger Oliver Kamm, of a complaint to The Guardian after it published a correction and apology for an interview with Noam Chomsky by Emma Brockes. Chomsky complained that the article suggested he denied the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. The writer Diana Johnstone also complained about references to her in the interview. The Guardian's then readers' editor Ian Mayes found that this had misrepresented Chomsky's position, and his judgement was upheld in May 2006 by an external ombudsman, John Willis. In his report for the Guardian, Willis detailed his reasons for rejecting the argument.

Criticisms

Wheen has been dubbed "the Rottweiller of Decency" for his alleged habit of attacking people who displease the so-called 'decent' left associated with the Euston Manifesto. He was accused of hypocrisy when in Private Eye he vehemently attacked a review by Johann Hari of the pro-war book 'What's Left' by Nick Cohen, impugning Hari's journalistic standards, without declaring that he is a close personal friend of Cohen's and thanked at length in the book under discussion. Critics charged that this is the sort of unethical behaviour that Wheen condemns so often in others. A letter in Private Eye later argued that the magazine, via Wheen's writings, "attacks honest journalists just because they criticise you and your mates."

References

Partial bibliography

  • The Sixties (1982) ISBN 0-7126-0018-3
  • Television: A History (1984) ISBN 0-7126-0929-6
  • Battle for London (1985) ISBN 0-7453-0054-5
  • Tom Driberg: His Life and Indiscretions (1990) ISBN 0-7011-3143-8
  • The Chatto Book of Cats (Chatto Anthologies) Francis Wheen, editor, John O'Connor, illustrator (1993) ISBN 0-7011-4005-4
  • Lord Gnome's Literary Companion (1994) ISBN 1-85984-945-8
  • Karl Marx (1999) ISBN 1-85702-637-3
  • Who Was Dr. Charlotte Bach? (2002) ISBN 1-904095-39-9
  • Hoo-hahs and Passing Frenzies: Collected Journalism, 1991-2001 (2002) ISBN 1-903809-42-8 (mainly consisting of columns written for The Guardian)
  • The Irresistible Con: The Bizarre Life of a Fraudulent Genius (2004) ISBN 1-904095-74-7
  • Shooting Out the Lights (2004) ISBN 0-00-714943-3
  • How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World (2004) ISBN 0-00-714096-7; in the USA and Canada: Idiot Proof: A Short History of Modern Delusions (2004) ISBN 1-58648-247-5

External links

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