American politics&British politics&Global politics10 Aug 2006 01:20 pm

Yeah, I'm hotlinking from the BBC. Don't fret, they can afford the bandwidth. I am forced to pay them handsomely every year.

“Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.”
– Joseph Goebbels

“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.”
– Joseph Goebbels

“Once a government resorts to terror against its own population to get what it wants, it must keep using terror against its own population to get what it wants. A government that terrorises its own people can never stop. If such a government ever lets the fear subside and rational thought return to the populace, that government is finished.”
– Michael Rivero

“It also gives us a very special, secret pleasure to see how unaware the people around us are of what is really happening to them.”
– Adolf Hitler

Self06 Aug 2006 08:31 pm

It’s been awful quiet round here, hasn’t it?

Sorry about that.

Hope you’re all having a marvellous time in all your different parts of the world. I hope I’ll be able to pop in and say hello over the next few days.

Right then… what have I missed?

*tumbleweed*

The art of blog07 May 2006 10:34 pm

Happy new beginnings to Red, who will be missed.

If you were a reader of Red’s excellent blog, you will understand why its closure is a melancholy moment. But all good things must come to an end. Blogworld’s loss is the real world’s gain.

Red, thanks for all your pithy posts and thoughtful comments. And thanks also for sharing your sharp insights on more personal matters. You remain Blogworld’s Most Perceptive Citizen, no contest. Consider yourself garlanded.

Consider yourself emailed as well, but I promise not to stalk you further. My Asbo’s terms are fairly specific about that sort of thing, you’ll be pleased to hear.*

I would finish this post with something about Tony Blair, but I’m honestly at a loss as to how to begin. Where is there left to go when satire has been superseded by reality? The Urban Fox Den may be in the process of eating itself.

Next post: The Hollyoaks cast’s top 10 vodka cocktails. Possibly.

* Oh dear, now I’m wheeling out the tired old Asbo jokes… This blog is officially knitted. Feel free to remove me from your sidebars, people, it’s going downhill all the way.

News media03 May 2006 10:54 pm

NewspaperThe mainstream media are still whipping themselves into a froth about bloggers.

In an article titled Media holds its own in trust poll, the BBC interprets the answers given to a preposterously-worded survey of the type mentioned in the post below.

Unsurprisingly, the article only reaches conclusions which suit its host website’s purposes. In fact, a whopping 39% of voters replied that they do not trust the big media. That statistic, naturally, is glossed over.

“More people around the world trust the media than trust their governments”, the article cries. And: “Overall levels of trust in the media have risen in the past four years, the poll suggests.”

Weirdly: “In the US, 67% said they trusted the government compared with 59% prepared to put their trust in the media.” Six of one and half a dozen of the other, I suppose… But I’m getting off the point. (Bloggers and their digressions, eh? In my day a journalist had discipline. You had 200 words and 10 minutes to write them, and god help you if… etc)

Here are the slippery words the BBC writes about blogs:

“Blogs are among the online sources that people are consulting, although few place ultimate trust in their content: 25% said they trusted blogs, with almost the same number (23%) distrusting them.”

In other words, only 23% of people say they don’t trust blogs at all compared with 25% who definitely do. Presumably this means that the remaining 52% said they always did, usually did, sometimes did, or don’t read blogs at all. In other words, it’s possible that the majority of people who regularly read blogs said they find their chosen sources credible. You’d be forgiven for reading the emphasis the other way round, as that is clearly the intention behind this eely use of language.

Finally, the BBC insists: “The most trusted media outlets around the world were large global news organisations such as the BBC or CNN.”

Elsewhere, the BBC’s own WeMedia blog adds quotes from Helen Boaden warning of the much-mentioned blog subjectivity problem: “Witness accounts do not necessary give you an objective factual picture. They give you the truth as I see it,” she said. … “The role of journalism is to sift facts and give you a truthful and factual picture.” So there is such a thing as objectivity after all, and it comes bundled with your press card? Please. A child could dismantle this nonsense.

At last, the bottom line: “What many in the news business want to hear is how to make money from this brave new world of blogs, podcasts and citizen journalism.” Well, hold the front page. Oh wait, you already did.

You see, an enormous fuss is being made about “citizen journalism” by the mainstream media lately. We understand why this is: large corporations stand to lose advertising revenue if they lose readers/viewers/consumers. The BBC stands to lose its charter if it loses audience share. Corporations are noticing a downward slide already. This makes shareholders and moguls unhappy. Boo hoo.

So the large media outlets decide to channel their collective energy into an imaginary ‘bloggers vs mainstream journalists’ duel. Such editorial directives come from the very top, from managing directors and proprietors rather than journalists. A journalist can only ever dance to the beat of the paymaster’s drum. Of course, this is one of the ways in which DIY publishers have the edge over professionals.

Et voila: the mainstream media dedicate whole columns to a hollow “objectivity” debate, making sure they never once mention the impossibility of any multinational corporation being objective. They drop snide comments about the “mess” and “credibility issues” of self-published journalism, even in articles about unconnected subjects. They devote vast amounts of time and money trying to work out how best to exploit this tide, and how to avoid being dragged under by it. Look out for it and you’ll be astonished how often the subject of blogs is mentioned.

What all this means is simple. They are really, really worried.

Enjoy your anti-corporate power, “citizen journalists”. It’s time the moneymakers stopped shaping our realities to suit their minority interests. We musn’t let them buy their way out of this one.

News media27 Apr 2006 06:03 pm

Olden days journos The BBC and Reuters are conducting a joint e-survey on “the role that the media plays in fostering trust in an increasingly connected society”. It can be found on the BBC World page with the title “Media e-survey – Do you trust the media? Vote now” and opens in its own pop-up window.

Here’s how it starts:

Question 1 of 8
Who do you trust the most to work in the best interests of society?
* National government
* National media
* Religious leaders
* Business leaders
* Showbiz personalities

Now call me pernickety, but doesn’t every one of those groups work in its own interests first – the pursuit of capital, power, ego or all three – whether or not that action conflicts with the interests of wider society? Do they honestly expect this sort of loaded question to slip past unnoticed?

I never made it to question 2.

Pop culture&Self19 Apr 2006 10:07 pm

This is what happens when you attempt to make a list of a few of the most significant/most heard records in your life, like Leah and Swiss. Fifteen minutes later and you start to realise it could go on for ever… and you start alphabetising for kicks… and what’s worse is they don’t even have several of the most important titles (no Smiths debut album! for pity’s sake!), leading to all manner of frustrations and expletives. I’ll stick to the politics in future.

In the meantime, why not make your own? There’s no actual point to it but it’s a pleasant way to spend a coffee break.

Welcome to a brief snapshot of my muddled brain, with plenty of glaring omissions. It’s not entirely representative of the whole, but what the jiminy. Your Mileage May Vary. I make no apologies for the Britney content.

Create your own Music List @ HotFreeLayouts if you can be bovvered. Oh go on, you may as well.

British politics&Random life&Self17 Apr 2006 10:22 pm

Burmese marionetteA couple of people have been slightly perturbed that I vanished without notice. Sorry about that. Here are a few things I should’ve said yesterday but was too tired to remember:

1. Before my blogbreak, I suffered an extremely painful shoulder/back muscle injury which made even lifting a cup of tea with my right arm impossible, let alone typing. I was advised by my doctor to “STOP working at the computer! IMMEDIATELY! Or risk permanent damage!”, which is pretty unequivocal as advice goes. So after this episode, I felt it wise not to linger on the PC writing an explanatory pre-break blog post.

2. Some of the blogs I was reading regularly seem to have vanished, or possibly moved. If a blog has changed URL and I haven’t been told, I’ll assume this is the desired state of affairs and won’t go a-chasin’.

3. After watching the first two seasons on DVD, I have become terribly enamoured of Buffy & co. I always knew it would happen if I let it, and now it has. Damn Whedon and his Midas touch.

4. If I’d been here, I would have been writing about the government’s Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, which defies all satire. It is truly the last gasp of freedom as we know it. Brits, please visit this site, or do some independent research, and arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. And let’s see if we can stop these lunatics before it’s too late.

Seasonal16 Apr 2006 08:49 pm

Happy Easter, poppets! Hope you’re all having a great one. I’ll be round to see you just as soon as I can.

By the way, I haven’t forgotten about the spring gift about 20 of you will be receiving soon, so hang in there… I’m tardy but I’m no amnesiac.

Here’s to spring!

British politics22 Mar 2006 10:39 pm

Gordon Brown has allocated an extra one billion pounds to the UK’s defence budget for next year.

You’ll have to scroll down almost to the bottom of the linked page, as this news is buried as low as possible. It’s overshadowed by far more important stuff like national spending on sport and the price of beer.

£200,000,000 of the £1,000,000,000 defence budget increase is allocated to “international peacekeeping”, apparently.

How we laughed.

Arts&British politics&Global politics&Pop culture20 Mar 2006 09:55 pm

Hugo in mask I saw the film V for Vendetta today. I read the graphic novel yesterday.

Shoot me down, purists, but I thought the film was better.

**WARNING: CONTAINS LOTS OF SPOILERS**

If you read it in the 80s, you’ll no doubt be bleating in protest already, but I stand by my view. The original is a great and thought-provoking read, to be sure, but it is very much of its time. You don’t write a screenplay to be faithful to someone else’s vision. You write a screenplay to make a film as good as it can be. And the changes to the story made in the Wachowskis’ script were all sensible ones.

The concept of the personified central computer system ‘Fate’ might have been Orwellian and futuristic in the 80s but would have seemed dated twenty years on. The addition of references like a media-led avian flu panic only added to the sense of “Hold on a second, isn’t that a bit like… now?” The decision to swap the Old Bailey and the Houses of Parliament bombing order around was excellent. Much better sense of crescendo, visually. The decision to send V off in the tube decked in roses was brilliant. Cinematic gold, in fact.

I could’ve probably done without the thwarted Evey/V love theme, but it certainly didn’t detract from the story. The fact that Evey didn’t become V in the end was a slight shame, but the theme of continuation and tradition was still there in the dead characters’ reappearance in the masked crowd at the end. If I want, I can still harbour the idea that it was Valerie all along, despite the evidence of Hugo Weaving’s manly form.

By the end, I was thinking “This has got to be the most subversive blockbuster ever released”. And “Do ‘they’ realise what is in this film?” And “Couldn’t this be a highly polished recruiting tool for radical anarchy*?”

[*I’m not suggesting anarchy itself is a violent system, it isn’t. Send me none of your polite hate mail, dear anarchists.]

I mean, think about it. In Blair’s mean-spirited language, it certainly glamourises terrorism. It openly declares that violence is a moral and appropriate response to oppression. It shows that chaos and precarity are inevitable if state power is to be opposed, and should be embraced. It illustrates how the corporate media is the tool of the corporate-dominated state and how the mass media’s non-advertising content exists to distract and instruct according to the interests of its paymasters. (Which may account for the fact that the film has received a stack of “Oh it’s all boring and complicated, don’t bother with it” type reviews from mainstream media. Interesting.)

V for Vendetta So all in all, I’m rather blown away by it. I’d been led to believe that it would be a pale imitation of the anarchic original, when in fact the power of its 21st century impact surpassed it. I should’ve known those Wachowskis wouldn’t let me down.

Now: (i) how long do you think it’ll be before V masks/wigs are available in costume shops, and (ii) do you think the anti-demonstration legislation covering 1 km around Parliament (The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005) extends to people walking through Westminster in fancy dress?

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