I realise that the visits here have been dwindling recently, nowhere near the record high of twenty-two(!!!) in one day. I must thank all you stalwarts for visiting. I have also been informed that the previous post was full of errors, for which I must apologise, and blame the technology I am forced to use, and not a lack of sobriety. I am living in the 1960s.

I have been pressed to write more on current affairs. The News Of The World saga seems to be the biggest thing going right now. You can’t even read it, it’s a paper for the ignorant! This means that it is for most of Britain, hahaha. You will notice that I have done several things here:

  • I have called the British public ignorant louts and suggested that I am more educated and intelligent and informed and just better than them
  • You can no longer read The News Of The World
  • And I have referenced what is considered to be some an incredible album by an incredible band, merely for one individual’s enjoyment.
  The title is also quite clever too, and if you don’t think so you have obviously come to the wrong place.
  I’m not so sure what to think about all this. The internet doesn’t help me much, what with living in the olden days. The only other place I can read about the story is in a Murdoch newspaper, which takes all its stories on international affairs from other Murdoch newspapers (The Times, The Sunday Times, The Wall Street Journal). The stories in The Times seemed to focus on the poor old NoTW staff and how hard done by and innocent they are. Apparently the editor bought the staff drinks at a local pub! Hopefully they’ll just be transferred to The Sun, that was always more entertaining.
  The threat of regulation isn’t so good. Someone said something along the lines of  “would you rather a bad free press or a ‘good’ controlled one?”. Someone else said “This is simply a chance for the twittering classes to express their moral outrage and show at red tops and show their superiority”. There were an awful lot of us on Facebook celebrating the demise of the elderly paper. Reading The Times and The Guardian and The Telegraph is so much better, if only the poor people did as we did.
  But, as I’ve said, I know little about the whole affair, and I don’t particularly have any opinions. I doubt much will change. Murdoch’s still got Australia, and America’s biggest paper. The rest of what I think is summed up here, by Will Self in The Guardian. I completely agree with him. Everything he says is true. He is who I want to be. He has the words down. Mark Twain said  “Generally, the fewer the words that fully communicate or evoke the intended ideas and feelings, the more effective the communication.” but that doesn’t apply here. I wish I could speak down on people like Will.

If the events of the past week seem on the surface to be about systemic corruption in British public life then there is also an ulterior process at work. Strange as it may be to state this, the unholy triple alliance between media, the political class and the police may be characterised as a merely epiphenomenal imbroglio. It’s been widely noted that the News of the World, despite being Britain’s largest circulation newspaper, was nonetheless something of a loss leader for News International in an era when not just hard news but also the kind of malicious tittle-tattle that was its stock in trade has been speedily uploaded on to the web.

A tectonic shift is taking place in our culture, namely the transition from a print/broadcast era in which information, opinion and entertainment is transmitted down a pyramidal social structure, to a pro forma egalitarian web culture in which there is no longer the mediation of a class of editors and opinion-formers, but instead everyone swims about in a protoplasmic gloop of titillating supposition. Marshall McLuhan’s equation of the medium with the message has become a shibboleth to be lisped on a thousand thousand message boards, but less widely understood is that the “glocal” phenomenon of the web plus the internet has yet to crystallise into a definable medium – we live in an interregnum between cultural hegemonies, and in such times, as Marx observed of political interregnums, the strangest forms will arise.

I would argue that the emergence of reality television and the so-called “democratisation” of celebrity in the early 2000s is key to an understanding of how this interregnum is eating holes in the British social fabric. Underlying such programmes as Big Brother and the domination of TV schedules by talent shows featuring ordinary people, and other competitive formats that bowdlerise the abilities of people already in the public eye – Strictly This, I’m a That – lies the unspoken assumptions not only that anyone no matter how talentless can be famous – Warhol’s prophecy – but that even those who have talents can be forced to abandon them if they’re not fungible in the media marketplace. If you can make a living reading the news you must – must! – be able to ice dance, or else your news-reading is of no account.

These developments are the ructions in the informational crust resulting from the underlying tectonic shifts; and it is nowise unexpected that on this delusory levelled media playing field the following equation follows: if anyone can be a celebrity then anyone can be exposed. The hacking into the 7/7 victims’ phones, or the relatives of servicemen killed in Afghanistan, or even the phone of a murdered schoolgirl is only logical continuation of this process, it represented the final evolution of the print-based groupthink before it atomises into the flash-hatreds of the web.

The web – like any other emergent medium – is still inchoate. The claims of Mumsnet, Twitter etc to be intrinsically “democratic” forces for good that have helped to bring down evil empires in Tehran, across the Middle East and now in Wapping are wholly specious. We will remain in this interregnum only for as long as media organisations remain unable to make web-based content – whether editorial, entertainment or social media – generate genuinely self-sustaining revenue. When it does begin to do so new hierarchies will be erected very speedily to exploit it, and my suspicion is that these new hierarchies will look very much like the old.

As for the public appetite for prurient gossip – and in particular the appetite of the English, Wilde’s “nation of hypocrites” sans pareil – that remains greater than ever. Moreover, the web, by creating a sense of insulation from consequences in its users, allows for still more savage monstering. Just a casual glance at social networking threads exposes you to a bewildering array of digs, slights and innuendos. For now the exposures of the web are at the “villagey” level of the pogroms enacted during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, but once the new hierarchies emerge so will the old forms of media control and media scapegoating. The Chinese analogy isn’t facile – and has a further dimension: it’s often said of the Chinese Communist party that it has bribed its people with consumer goods in exchange for political conformity, arguably we here in the “liberal” west have been bribed with the cultural freedoms of unlimited malicious gossip, porn and other transgressive experiences in return for swallowing the bitter pill of economic neoliberalism with its ever widening gap between rich and poor.

In the last analysis, you don’t have to be a Marxist to grasp that at root, issues of media influence are good old-fashioned questions about who owns the means of production and dissemination – but it probably helps.

  I’ve not read the Charlie Brooker article, because he’s just not been the same since he’s been married. Happy people just aren’t as enjoyable. I read something else, however, where a British political journalist said “British political journalism is basically a club to which politicians and journalists both belong”. Now I don’t know what this means. You should tell me. That is what the comments are for.
 I have been accused of being a dirty great Labourite following the Glasonbury/Tory post, but this accusation was made by an aristo, so I don’t know if that’s actually a bad thing or not. I suppose if it means I’m into New Labour then it’s not meant to be a good thing.. I didn’t vote for Labour in the last election, so I’m not a Labourite I guess. I didn’t even vote Lib Dem! I am incredibly smug about this.
  I would make my next post about Google+, but I don’t know what it is, beyond this lovely little cartoon
so that is out the window. Maybe I’ll make it about how incredible Chavez is, or how Gaddafi deserves our entire, wholehearted, unwavering support. There are lots and lots of people out in support of him I hear. Winston Smith also loved his leader.
 Including someone else’s thoughts and opinions means this is the most I’ve “written” in quite some time, at least since I “did” my A-levels. Maybe I’ll write about that next time (what an adventure!); that and the fact that this blog is the springboard for my future journalistic and creative career. “you should do a blog if you are thinking about a journalistic future”. I’m just like everyone else, so why not eh. It would probably be funnier, though, to write about my brother’s first encounter with an evil witch woman that is not our mother.