On the same morning, BBC political correspondent Chris Mason stood between a TV camera and the Palace of Westminster to opine on his specialty: Britain’s looming deadline to leave the European Union. It is a hot topic this week, as Prime Minister Theresa May races to shore up political support for her last-minute withdrawal plan, lest the country depart Europe in economic chaos.
“So where are we in all of this Brexit process?” Mason asked, and answered moments later: “To be quite honest, looking at things right now, I haven’t got the foggiest idea what is going to happen in the coming weeks. ”
He looked at the camera and waved a hand in the air.
“Is the prime minister going to get a deal with the E.U.?" he asked. “Dunno!”
“Is she going to be able to get it through the Commons? Don’t know about that, either, " he said, blowing an audible puff of air.
“I think you might as well get Mr. Blobby back on to offer his analysis,” Mason concluded, “because, frankly, I suspect his is now as good as mine. ”
Mr. Blobby is a polka-dot TV character who mostly runs around smashing things and shouting “Blobby! ”
And Mason — once his morning spot hit the Internet — became a media hero.
“Every time a U.S. colleague asks for the latest on Brexit I’m going to show them @ChrisMasonBBC’s honest and unimprovable analysis,” declared NBC News editor Alastair Jamieson, speaking for many.
Where pundits had been trying and failing for months to project order on the lurching complexities of the Brexit process, Mason had simply and courageously given up, ceding the intellectual high ground to a costumed monster with a one-word vocabulary.
“A journalist brave enough to say he hasn’t the foggiest idea where Brexit is going to go,” wrote journalist Brett Debritz. “We need honest uncertainty more than dishonest partisan punditry from clueless commentators. ”
In truth, there was a bit more to it than that. Mason has been copiously reporting on Brexit for more than a year (He boasts on his LinkedIn page of co-hosting “the UK’s 209th most popular podcast, Brexitcast.”
His puff of surrender on Monday was not so much a dismissal of the subject’s importance as a confession of limits on his ability to say anything useful about it. “People like me are paid, aren’t we, to have insight and foresight and hindsight about these things, and to be able to project where we’re going to go,” as he put it on TV that morning.
That said — now that Mason has discovered a viral market for on-air humility, he seems happy to corner it.
“They have to get something nailed down in the next 24 hours,” he said on a follow-up segment. “Is that possible, yes? Is it likely? Well —.”
Mason threw his hands up and blew through his lips, producing a sound like a horse snort.
“I like the way your updates have just resorted to noises now, rather than words,” the anchor said.