Saturday, 21 May 2011

This is the way the blog ends: not with a bang but a whimper

Regular visitors (both of you) may have noticed that this blog has been a little quiet of late. I’ve been busy with my actual job (the one that pays the bills) and have also been seeing a bit of the world, so haven’t really had time to keep it updated. And that’s part of the reason I’ve decided to take a break from this blogging thing for a while. I’m going to carry on tweeting (@PrimlyStable) as it takes much less time and effort, and I like the immediacy and interactivity of it all. But I no longer have the time or effort to devote to keeping the blog going with anything approaching regularity.

It’s been a fun year or so, and I’d like to think that I’ve provided some entertaining and thought-provoking articles. One post even managed to bring in 12,000 readers on one day , which would be considered a decent-sized crowd at a League Two football match (although that was mostly down to getting RT'd by the mighty Ben Goldacre).

High points included getting the PCC to rule that Richard Littlejohn was a liar and getting the Department for Communities and Local Government to admit that Eric Pickles’ claims about councils banning Christmas were not based on anything more than a tabloid urban myth.

But these were simultaneously low points, too. The PCC refused to uphold the complaint against Littlejohn because, astonishingly, they said he lied so often his readers wouldn’t assume he was telling the truth about anything, and that lying was actually just a rhetorical device.

And despite repeated letters and complaints (most of which I didn’t publish here) DCLG refused to retract Pickles’ claims and the minister himself keeps tweeting cheerfully away about openness and transparency and how Labour used to make things up just to get headlines.

So that’s the main reason I’m giving up. I’m sick of getting angry about what journalist and politicians say, pointing out the errors and nothing ever changing. I’m sick of the omerta-like code among the national press that prevents them ever criticising each other for fear of having their own dirty washing aired in public. I’m sick of the fact that a man can get paid hundreds of thousands of pounds a year for writing that prostitutes deserve to be murdered and that a woman hasn’t really been raped if she wasn’t violently beaten up by a stranger in the process.

In the words of Chris TT - who really deserves to be known as a supremely talented singer-songwriter rather than just that guy who started that #iamspartacus thing - “the Daily Mail readers have defeated me”. Why should I spend hours carefully researching the facts behind a story so that a thousand or so people can read it when hundreds of thousands of people, millions even, have already read the Mail’s version and decided that it’s true?

We live in an age where truth is defined by Wikipedia, and where any online argument can be won by providing a link to a story that supports your point of view, regardless of whether that story has any basis in truth whatsoever.

Newspapers demand an end to injunctions so they can delight in publishing sordid details of a footballer’s private life, claiming they must be able to report such information as part of their fundamental right to free speech, their divine mission to bring the truth to the people of Britain. Yet day after day after day the same newspapers publish lies – not opinions I disagree with, not even just wild distortions of the facts, but outright lies.

The same newspapers that insist that self-regulation works and that any attempt to restrict what they publish is unacceptable spent the whole of last Christmas smearing the name of an innocent man who had never even been charged with any crime, let alone convicted. In their rush to get “the truth” about him to the public, they went out of their way to print claims that he was a liar, a pervert, a lunatic, a man obsessed with death.

And once one paper starts behaving in such a way, the rest have to join in for fear of being left behind, of missing out on the story. Tony Blair was widely mocked when he accused the media of behaving like a pack of feral beasts, but I fail to see what was wrong with what he said. Accuracy no longer matters in journalism, only getting their first or at the very least churning out what your rivals have already published so that nobody can accuse you of missing the story.

So what if you’ve accused an innocent man of being a suspected paedophile? So what if you’ve accused a missing child’s parents of murdering her? Everyone will forget about it in a few weeks and you can move on to the next sucker. And in the meantime you can publish an outraged story about a woman who made a false allegation of rape, because isn’t it awful that this poor man has had his name dragged through the mud and shouldn’t she really be sent to prison for doing such a terrible thing?

It’s just the tabloids that are guilty of the pack mentality. Has anyone ever actually learned anything from an interview on the Today programme, apart from the fact that John Humphreys likes the sound of his own voice? Over on Newsnight Paxman has become a parody of himself – fuck finding out the truth, Brand Paxo depends on him sneering at his guests, interrupting, arguing, never actually interviewing them. And waiting in the wings are an army of wannabe Paxmans, all thinking that the pinnacle of journalistic achievement involves asking Michael Howard the same question 3,000 times, all thinking that they’re terribly clever because they know that the first rule of interviewing a politician is to ask yourself “why is this bastard lying to me”, even if he’s not.

Sigh. I’ve just poured all this out in one go. Ijust re-read it and it's a bit ranty. I was going to edit it to make it scan better or make a bit of sense but figured I’d leave it as at it is. Sorry about that.

Thanks for all the nice comments, re-tweets, and general lovelyness over the past 12 months. It all helps me remember that not everyone in the world is a Mail-reading arse.

AND FINALLY... There’s no particular reason why you should be interested in my opinion, but if you are here are 10 simple rules to live by:

  • Visit TabloidWatch, 5CC and Minority Thought on a regular basis. They do what I do, but more often, better, funnier and with less swearing.

  • If a headline has a question in it, the answer is almost certainly “no”.

  • Pineapple juice with psyllium husk helps you lose weight but lacks nutritional value.

  • Admit it, Mad Men jumped the shark around about the time of the lawnmower accident.

  • The phrase “jumped the shark” jumped the shark long before I started using it.

  • Cold weather in northern Europe in the winter is not evidence that global warming is a myth.

  • Never read the Wikipedia entry for “notable alumni” from your secondary school, unless you want to feel like a miserable failure.

  • Edward Is Deadward by Emmy The Great really should be in your record collection (or on your iPod). Her continued lack of international superstardom baffles me, especially at a time when Mumford and Sons are touring stadiums.

  • Dan & Dan’s Daily Mail Song is simultaneously the funniest and most depressing thing on YouTube.

  • Don’t believe what you read in the paper. Any paper. Ever.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Littlejohn in "predictable" shock

On Monday afternoon I was pottering around on the internet, having a look at the various reactions to the death of Osama bin Laden, and tweeted this little prediction:

Littlejohn's first post-OBL column appears today. I could go on about the way he equates a mass-murdering terrorist living near a military academy in Pakistan with some non-mass-murdering non-terrorists building a mosque near a military academy in England, but I figured it would be more fun to cut to the chase:
"From what we can gather, there was no British involvement in this operation, which is probably just as well. Judging by the rules of engagement now imposed on our armed forces, if we’d tracked down Bin Laden we’d have had to read him his human rights, assign him a Legal Aid lawyer, cook him a religiously appropriate dinner and hand out nicotine patches to any of his lieutenants trying to give up smoking and suffering withdrawal symptoms."
Does Richard 'Cloaca' Littlejohn have a single original thought in his tiny little mind? How much, exactly, is the Mail paying him to either recycle his old columns and books or spew out cliches as predictable as this?