Wednesday, April 22, 2009

today : so so so scandalous

Here's what I don't believe. That all politicians are self-serving, superfluous vermin. Of course, some of them are.

But some journalists are, as are some welders, some cheese-makers, some zookeepers, some everythings.

But to look at the press recently, you would think that our current government is morally bankrupt.
There is, of course, no perspective involved when people announce this conclusion again and again. The fact is,there has been little abnormal or unexpected in the Blair/Brown government. In fact the number of people caught in financial/sexual scandals and botched cover-ups has been
remarkably low.

The thing is - giving a brown envelope of hush money to the madame of a brothel, whilst proclaiming outrage at the country's moral decline is worthy of comment. Having a husband who once watched a cable TV porn film whilst not passing moral judgement on other peoples' sexual behaviour is not.

Similarly, is anyone surprised that political advisers might shoot the breeze making up smears about their opponents. even if I accept that Damian McBride was serious and not just having a private joke (which I don't really accept, given that there is no evidence of it), is there any shock involved?

The sight of tabloid journalists and editors jumping desperately on the bandwagon of mock outrage is funny and unedifying. How terrible is it when you are smeared?
Ask Robert Murrat, or anyone who has been trapped in the tabloid sights and shot down for fun and profit.

Each and every minor incident is blown up out of all proportion. MP behaviour consequently is
like those massively magnified pictures of bed bugs or fleas. They look scary until we realise that they are microscopic and harmless.

The accumulation of all this : the 'scandal' of MPs expenses, the ridiculous focus on every questionable aspect of politicians' behaviour is to create a mythic truth. An accepted wisdom that all politicians are self-serving vermin.

Like much of what's passed off as news these days the story feeds itself. Questions are asked..."Send us a text, call up if you have something to say about this scandalous behaviour". Suddenly what the media thinks becomes what the public thinks.

That section of the press that operates by preying on peoples' bitterness and sense of failed inadequacy kicks into action. 'They' are doing better than you and it must be
by cheating. (see also immigrants sponging off our welfare, teachers sitting with their feet up whilst everyone else is at work, celebrities overpaid for having no talent)

Another fine example of this is the policing of the G20 protests. One policeman pushed Ian Tomlinson to the ground and by dint of awful luck it looks like it might have led to his death. One policeman hit someone with a baton, one other used his shield as a weapon.

All of these incidents look pretty appalling and, of course, should be properly dealt with.. But that's three out of several hundred or even thousand police. There is no focus at all on the successful, non-violent cops, who were seemingly in the the vast majority.

And the spin machine - eager to turn the page, draw a line and avoid negative stories lasting for more more news cycles then absolutely necessary - responds.. Action is taken. Reviews are announced. Rules are changed. Legislation is proposed. Anything to make it go away.

Real scandals are rare. We should beware the media created variety.

Monday, April 13, 2009

today : my easter message to the world

One of these is good and should be encouraged. The other one bad and people should really stop doing it. I'll leave you, the world, to work out which is which.

And by the way, if you follow a church that tells you that condoms are a mortal sin, whilst you, your family and your people are dying of AIDS, perhaps it might be time to consider whether your church really does have your best interests at heart, given that they might be putting dogma before your survival. Just a thought.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

today : still wired

Now the secret's out and everyone is declaring The Wire as the greatest TV show ever made (TM) it's hard to review it. If you agree with the evangelists then you are just going along with all the critical tossers who jump on any bandwagon. If you disagree then it appears wilfully contrary.

The truth is that over 5 seasons the Wire was superb. This was mainly because it used the TV format properly, realising that everything doesn't need to be explained and tied up by the end of an episode (this is the reason that I donlt like CSI - there is far too much basic explanation for audiences that don't/can't pay attention), and that effectively they are telling a 60 hour story, rather than 60 hour long stories.

This is why people are evoking Dickens, in that The Wire is quite happy to switch through a tremendous amount of characters and places to build up a multi-facted and complex portrait of a city. It's a pretty lazy comparison (maybe Ulysses is a closer model), although the writing does follow the rules of the novel rather than the rules of TV. The writers are also happy to spend hardly any time at all explaining things that have already been shown, or recapping things on the assumption that people have the attention span of a fruit fly.

This does not mean that The Wire is without flaws. Seaon 5, for example, was pretty odd plotwise and only the goodwill from watching the previous 4 seasons allowed me to forgive the bizarre contrivance of McNulty's 'scheme', or the fact that we were suddenly introduced to the staff of the paper and not given enough time to get to know them.

However, it is a measure of quality that there were no episodes that were bad, or plot turns that were fatal to the over-all effect. How many episodes of the Sopranos were forgettable or unwatchable? I can think of maybe three out of 150 or so West Wings that were poor or indulgent.

today : The Visitor

Like lots of Brits I am very excited about having one of America's most prominent people visiting our country. Katie Couric is obviously here to cover the G20 but is welcome to drop in on my house if she can fit me in her schedule.