March 13, 2014
January 9, 2014
From Radio 4’s Today programme of 8th January(2:48:30 mark here) an item on journalists kidnapped in the Syrian conflict and this telling observation from Italian journalist Domenico Quirico, held hostage there for 152 days last year:
“The Syrian Revolution is dead. The revolutionaries are dead. In their place are jihadists and criminals out to profit from the fight.”
It reminded me of a comment I read some years ago, in an interview with a former paramilitary, reflecting on the Troubles in Northern Ireland. By the end, he observed, political idealism in the province was a mere sideshow. It had become a matter of turf war; gangsterism, plain and simple.
And in the case of Syria, let’s not forget, Britain was just a heartbeat away from becoming militarily involved in this amoral mess, thanks to politicians all too happy to talk war as long as it’s other people’s kids who do the dying.
Maybe there’s a good interview to be had between Domenico Quirico and Michael Gove…
January 3, 2014
An early candidate for Biggest So-What? Headline of Year. Compared to his other psychological problems, I’d say Ian Brady’s encounter with dementia is page five news at best.
So we may never know where the last undiscovered victim is buried? I’ve feared that was a given for some time. Perpetuating a secret that has tantalised a nation also perpetuates this wretched man’s macabre celebrity and I sense that he would regard taking that secret to the grave as the playing of his final ace.
We can only live in the forlorn hope that he forgets himself so much, he spills the beans regardless.
September 1, 2013
Two central players in last week’s Parliamentary debate on Syria.
1) Prime Minister David Cameron wants to take the military option but does what he should and puts the proposal to Parliament, which happens to reject it. A number of his own MPs, who presumably see what Mr Cameron chooses not to when they ponder the fruits of our ‘involvement’ in Iraq and Afghanistan, vote with their conscience.
2) Education Minister Michael Gove, upon learning of their stance, it is claimed, regresses into childhood and would appear to demonstrate that democracy and conscience count as nothing in his eyes against blind loyalty to the Conservative Party. If such claims are true, it is with this glorified lout that we entrust our children’s schooling:
“Michael Gove was so furious with Tory MPs for voting down intervention he had to be restrained by colleagues, it was claimed last night.
The Education Secretary, a staunch backer of military action in Syria, shouted ‘you’re a disgrace’ at those MPs who opposed the Government in the tense vote last night.
Scottish National MP Angus Robertson said Mr Gove carried on yelling ‘disgrace, disgrace, disgrace’ at Tory and Liberal Democrat rebels in stunning scenes in the House of Commons around 11pm last night.” – Daily Mail
Which of the two does the Press focus upon? The Prime Minister. Out are wheeled the tired old clichés about ‘humiliation’, by the same tired old hacks who would have doubtless hammered him for snubbing democratic process, had he decided to avoid debate and simply committed British military support to the USA.
Yet again, I am reminded of the late Robin Cook’s laser accuracy in naming the media as being just as responsible for the lamentable shallowness of modern British politics as the politicians themselves.
Someone was indeed humiliated in the House last week. While I am no fan of our Prime Minister, it most certainly wasn’t him.
And a special mention, while on the subject of Politicians Making Fools of Themselves, of the USA’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, whom just a day after Britain refused to do the ‘special relationship’ waltz with its would-be American masters, pointedly described France as the United States’ “oldest ally”.
Many Brits may have wondered if this snub was just childish petulance. Those who have overheard what the average American actually thinks of the French will know it for a fact.
August 21, 2013
An anthology of the late American sportswriter Jim Murray was my holiday reading and he is turning out to be one of the few things in life that lives up to the hype. His mastery of wry observation and sense of the ridiculous denotes the best kind of sports journalist – he or she who never loses sight of the fact that games are but part of life’s bigger picture.
Did anyone quibble, for example, that the column he devoted to his wistfulness at having to abandon his home by the Pacific for one nearer his LA office, had little to do with sport? I doubt it, so beautiful a lament was it for irretrievable youth.
Then there is this piece on organised children’s baseball (and I hope the publishers will excuse me excerpting just one of the book’s many articles) – a gently withering denunciation of those who insist on making life far harder than it need be, merely to justify their salary.
You will either be appalled that social meddling by do-gooders is far older than you realised, or else inspired that it fared just as badly when colliding with common sense 40 years ago as it does today…
Click each image to enlarge it.
August 4, 2013
I’m sure MPs at least, will be delighted with the Independent‘s recent leader column purporting to send those naughty Christians to their room without any supper.
It used to be left to the Right Honourable Members to reveal their breathtaking ignorance of the Christian faith by trotting out the patronising old canard about the Church of England sticking to preaching the Gospel and leaving politics to the politicians; you know, the experts…
Now the media are doing their job for them.
I knew there might be a secularist backlash when new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, showed early promise that he could be streets ahead of his predecessor when it came to being in touch with life beyond the cathedral cloisters.
I heard him handle with great aplomb an interrogation about the Wonga embarrassment, the highlight of which was interviewer John Humphrys‘ inability (or refusal) to see that this admittedly hilarious, if inadvertent, gaffe was fixable and posed no fatal threat to Welby’s proposals to provide hard-up people with a better alternative to payday loan firms and their eye-watering interest rates.
The Independent‘s nauseating arrogance and double-speak that same day, mind, makes Humphrys look the very model of perception.
Nick Baines has beautifully eviscerated the person responsible for it on his blog, so I merely pick over the carcass:
- I defy even the their greatest critic to read the four Gospels and not see a Man as engaged with the world around Him as He was with the world He claimed is to come, whether you see Him as deluded or not
- If Christianity was indeed a ship sailing nowhere and all about just hiding yourself away and mulling over scripture without ever putting it to work in the world around us, I suspect its membership past and present would be on a par with that of the Tufty Club.
- “His efforts to…make the Church relevant…” Ah, so even you acknowledge that his approach has something going for it.
- “[They] have no business in mainstream politics…” Everyone has business in mainstream politics. This is a democracy, where everyone gets at least a say, not some oligarchy where the only opinions that matter come from a self-regarding elite in Westminster and the media. How many times, I wonder, have Independent commentators lamented the woeful turn-out at elections, and cried out for more ‘engagement’? Just not Christian engagement, apparently.
- And once again, in a leader on this theme, no mention of the secular hypocrisy at the heart of it. Politicians want the Church of England to stay out of politics, while politicians continue to have a say in whom the Church appoints as its bishops. When it comes to clamouring for the separation of Church and State, atheists may be surprised at just how many Anglicans are egging them on.
- “This is no swipe at religion”. This is like Ron Jeremy holding a postage stamp over his manhood in the hope that he’s covered himself. Of course it’s a swipe at religion. How old do you think your average reader is? Six? You think religion’s stupid, its practitioners belong in a soundproofed cell whose key has gone missing and you only wish you could say so in a national newspaper. You know what? So do I. Your transparent sincerity, at least, I could respect.
- Justin Welby pleases both left and right with clever Wonga comments (blogs.spectator.co.uk)
- The Separation of Church and State (politicsfromthemiddle.com)
- British government asks church to take over thousands of state schools (religionnews.com)
- On the Claim that Separation Strengthens Religion (clrforum.org)
- Does “Separation of Church and State” mean “Separation of God and Government?” (christianlibertynews.wordpress.com)
- Wonga-bashing won’t save the Church of England (oup.com)
- The Archbishop, loansharks, and the media (khanya.wordpress.com)
- Archbishop of Canterbury, Wonga and Credit Unions (jochamberlain.wordpress.com)
March 25, 2013
“I was saddened to read in your Readers’ View page recently of the decision to cancel this year’s Elm Fete on the grounds of onerous Health & Safety paperwork and escalating insurance premiums.
Sadly, this is no one-off. More and more, these days, I hear of people forced to ditch plans to organise a public event or club because the toll taken in terms of paperwork and money is simply too high. I have every sympathy with the Fete organisers but a growing concern about the way in which social life in this country is being stifled by an unholy trinity of insurance firms, Health & Safety mandarins and litigation lawyers who have sadly dropped all pretence of being a cut above their sue-happy American counterparts.
If the H&S people could produce evidence of the carnage caused by summer fetes down the years of course, this would go some way towards allaying my misgivings. It may be that they have filing cabinets full to bursting of tales of slipped discs caused by frantic apple-bobbing, or of innocent people mown down by friendly fire at the coconut shy. Somehow, I doubt it.
What on earth would our ancestors make of us? At a time when our society is less and less about community and more and more about the individual, we cannot even put a village fete on without our plans being effectively thwarted by an alliance of lawyers, paranoid insurers and salaried busybodies.
Am I the only one to see the irony of a country that strives to be healthier and safer, only to die of boredom?“
January 30, 2013
It was no great surprise to hear Lance Armstrong dissemble, even as he purported to come clean.
Rather more disturbing was the reaction from New Statesman, which described the cyclist’s coming clean on drugs as a revelation that he was “merely human,” before columnist Nicky Woolf spoke of him “simply admitting to cheating” and threw out this chilling apologia:
“Yes, Armstrong started a charity by selling a narrative of sporting prowess that turned out not to be genuine. But he did genuinely overcome cancer to get there; moreover, Livestrong does and always did good work. What’s honestly better – to tell the truth, and not save other lives, or lie to start a successful charity?”
What is better, Mr Woolf, is to tell the truth and still save other lives, not least because a society that uses charity to legitimise wrongdoing is on a slippery slope indeed. Euthanasia? Hey, it would certainly free up some beds…
No, Lance Armstrong didn’t murder anybody but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t still heinous in his own way. He lied and lied again. He repeatedly hijacked a public platform for his own ends and, by all accounts, wasn’t exactly fussy whom he and his ‘people’ steamrollered whenever accusatory arrows rained down on his bubble.
This goes way beyond the occasional moral stumble envisaged by the term ‘merely human’. This was systemic: cold, callous and ruthless. Organised crime without the bullets.
And when Lance Armstrong is finished taking a long hard look at himself in the mirror, he might care to step aside so that one or two people at the New Statesman can do likewise. They set the bar between frailty and wickedness way too low.
January 16, 2013
Read some accounts of TV commentator Brent Musburger’s asides during last week’s National Championship game in American college football and it’s easy to get the impression of a sunken-faced old louche fumbling with himself in the commentary booth.
The normally balanced Yahoo Sports had the 73-year old TV broadcast veteran down as “slightly creepy“, after he did the strangest of things for a commentator and provided words to go with the pictures being broadcast (courtesy of his employer ESPN) of a section of the crowd that included Katherine Webb, the strikingly beautiful girlfriend of one of the game’s principal participants.
The Boston Globe denounced Musburger’s subsequent comments about Webb as “offensive ogling” and spoke of a “creepy adolescent dalliance”, before condemning Musburger’s remarks as “prurient, sexist, and just plain too weird for prime time TV, considering that he is a half-century older than Webb.”
And somebody please mop the fevered brow of Sue Carter, professor of journalism, at Michigan State University, who will clearly need some time to recover from this atrocity:
“It’s a major personal violation, and it’s so retrograde that it’s embarrassing. I think there’s a generational issue, but it’s incumbent on people practicing in these eras to keep up and this is not a norm.”
My word; how bad can this have been? Shoo the kids out of the room and brace yourself, this gets pretty squalid…
You’re just appalled right? But wait, there’s more. Those tireless newshounds at Yahoo! Sports want us to know that Musburger has form in this area. Steel yourself just one more time and behold this piece of unutterable sleaze from a football game in 2005…
All right, so I’m driving the sarcasm bus here but really… While I would normally dismiss this hysteria as par for the course for those Who Simply Must Be Outraged About Something, there is something runs deeper and more ominously here.
Personally, I can spot in a moment the distinction between celebrating beauty and overtly lusting after it. Had Musburger observed that he “could use a piece of that” or that “there was a gal who could make an old man happy”, all our toes would have curled. But he doesn’t; in fact he simply points out the presence of an attractive young women in a way that was laddish without being crude and then projects the consequences onto the appropriate age-group – the wannabe quarterbacks who would pursue their dream with renewed vigour or the next generation of undergraduates who might just have had their minds made up as to which college they attend.
And that Musburger gets hammered while a TV company – one of many that make crowd close-ups of the beautiful and famous a staple part of their coverage – gets a free pass, represents a common yet lame journalistic distortion: the individual is targeted because it makes for better impact.
Viewers of 20 or 30 years ago would wonder what all the fuss is about but then Musburger’s plight could simply be the inevitable fall-out of an age that has made sex something tawdry and sordid. From hook-up culture, through websites that broker affairs or one-night stands as commodities and on to comedians whose act would collapse were they made to keep it above the waist, the dirty smirk and nudge-nudge mindset predominates, dragging down to its level anyone who wanders into its crosshairs.
So a 73-year-old man pointing out an attractive young woman cannot just be taken at face value but is instead seen as some old pervert who’s throwing his hat into the ring and making a play. Extrapolate this idea and presumably everyone over 50 who might once have complimented good looks must now keep his thoughts to himself. Sexism bad but ageism just dandy. You know how grim a culture has become when even its attempts at moralising sound perverse.
Oh there are some creepy people come out of this tale all right but I don’t have Brent Musburger anywhere on my shortlist. I’m thinking of his hypocritical employers who saw fit to embarrass him with public censure. I’m thinking of journalists and sportstalk jocks so twisted they insist on finding darkness where none exists.
Those are the people in whose company I suspect I could only be for so long before I felt the need to take a shower.
December 12, 2012
‘Leveson warns journalistic standards could slip if bloggers not subject to law
[Lord Leveson] described bloggers and tweeters as an “electronic version of pub gossip” and said they acted differently to established journalists who have “a powerful reputation for accuracy”‘
Do you suppose this decrepit, urine-sodden, can’t-get-it-up-to-save-himself, mentally fuddled old codger has any idea of the hurt caused by stereotypical generalisations?
- Leveson All in a Muddle Down Under (order-order.com)
- Leveson looks at civil law and bloggers (bigpondnews.com)
- The Leveson inquiry is irrelevant to 21st-century journalism | Emily Bell (guardian.co.uk)