Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Image: PA Archive/PA Images)
Theatre critics, despite a free ticket, can mercilessly pan a production and still be invited to the next play or musical by the same outfit. Their right to review highly critically seems unchallengeable. But have you ever read a caustic review of a resort or hotel by a travel writer? Every place visited by critics of holiday destinations seems to be another paradise. Book reviewers can slag off a new novel without remorse, even though their copy is free from the publisher but every new car on the market, lent free to the motoring correspondent, is a rolling dream.
A few restaurant critics pay their own tab and can tell their readers the cuisine was awful but others get a free meal and yet still say the eatery serves junk. There is absolutely no sycophancy in food reviews. But there is plenty in fashion coverage. Rare indeed is the review of a new line that does not tell us this clashing assemblage of curtain material that no sane woman would ever dream of wearing is not the product of a rare and beautiful talent.
In TV "game" shows the sycophancy is ladled on with a trowel and is often seriously emetic. The poor mutt from outside showbiz is really there for ritual humiliation.
Years ago we had the stocks and pillory to do this. Nowadays we have the low-IQ TV quiz in which the carefully-selected numpties pose no threat to the luvvies in charge.