Two minutes of Questions and Answers last night. And it happened to be Ian Paisley junior pontificating (yes, that's a slightly inappropriate verb to use with him) about the death of Saddam Hussein. He was coming to some point about the dictator that I didn't wait around to hear. The bit I heard was his wanting to qualify it by condemning the manner of his death.
The day after the mobile phone footage of Saddam's hanging came available (and we heard for the first time the hoodlum haunts from the goons in that dark dank hanging chamber) Christopher Hitchens wrote an amazing piece in the online magazine, Slate, that was the last word on the hanging.
Hitchens has been way off beam on Iraq and has persisted in the face of the overwhelming evidence against his argument.
But here his account was impeccable, especially the observation that the only person who retained any shred of dignity in that awful place was the tyrant.
Of course, us humans being hard-wired as we are, it is inevitable that others would draw the same conclusions using more or less the same words. But the Hitchens observation gave a neat demonstration of how quickly everything moves nowadays.
Take the phrase: Nobody has a monopoly on suffering. Somebody coined that in the North once upon a time. Freshly minted it was an effective arguing point. But over a period of a year or two, it spread out among the population, and after a while evereybody was using it. By that time, any profundity the phrase had had been hacked out of it.
Paisley junior repeated the Hitchens line on Q and A last night and with faux basso profundo gravity reeled out the "only person with dignity" line. How quickly things move! Hardly a week after Hitchens first wrote the words, they had already become hopelessly cliched.