Monday, March 26, 2012

The New Yorker reluctantly makes it official: the Daily Mail is not quite as evil as North London claims. Damn!

When I thought of writing this piece about a profile of the Daily Mail which has just appeared in The New Yorker, the phrase ‘the man you love to hate’ kept occurring to me which I could then adapt to ‘the newspaper you love to hate’. But being a nosy sort, I googled the phrase to see to whom it was applied and came up with the names of German film director Erich von Stroheim and South London wrestler Mick McManus. I should imagine that the phrase was first applied to von Stroheim, courtesy of a studio press office, and McManus, or his manager, adopted it as being far too good to be wasted. All that by way of a rather unnecessary preamble. Now onto the Mail and its profile by one Lauren Collins in The New Yorker.

When all is said and done about the only honest conclusion one can make about the piece is that it is distinctly odd. I might be wrong on this, but I’ve always assumed The New Yorker is generally read – avidly in some case, I should think – by folk who like to think of themselves as a tad brighter than the hoi polloi and most certainly more enlightened, not to say liberal. Whether fairly or not, I’ve often got the impression that your average New Yorker reader is, well, just a little up him or herself, and although they have more than a great deal of sympathy for the dispossessed of this world, they most certainly wouldn’t be seen dead socialising with them. Being of a liberal, quite possibly left-liberal turn of mind, they most certainly would not approve of the Mail, its readers and its assumed politics, and reading the piece by Ms Collins I got the distinct impression that she was itching to disapprove. But she never quite manages to do so. Why not?

The Mail and its web sister the Mail Online are a modern success story. According to circulation figures released by the ABC, all the circulation of all British nationals is falling, in some cases dramatically, not to say embarrassingly, but the Mail – damn its eyes – is, ahem, doing rather less badly than the rest. And bien pensant folk hate, hate, hate the fact. I am not, and would never, suggest that the fact that the Mail is holding its own has anything to do with the worth of its assumed politics, but it has a great deal to do with the popularity of the paper: whereas fewer and fewer people are prepared to part with £1 to buy the Independent or the Daily Telegraph or £1.20 to buy the Guardian or The Times, the number who will gladly part with 55p to get their own copy of the Mail is, again ahem, holding up rather well. Ah, you cry, but it’s half the price of the ‘serious newspapers’. Well, yes it is, and so what? The Express is also half the price of the ‘serious’ newspapers and its circulation is plummeting.

The New Yorker’s Ms Collins must have spent quite a few days in our offices and, given the potted history of the paper and its current editor Paul Dacre, she obviously did her homework. She was even invited to sit in on conferences (and, according to Private Eye, those attending were warned to be on their best behaviour and to eschew the kind of coarse language which is the lingua franca of most newspaper offices I have worked in) and her piece is the kind of workmanlike and rather long feature article we have come to expect from a Yankee hack working at the serious end of her
“Well (sniff) one doesn’t really want to condone such popularism and Lord it is such an awful rag, but well (sniff) one is, one must admit, obliged to be fair (sniff), though more’s the pity”

industry. And I’ll repeat: while reading it I got the impression, time and again, that she was just dying to let fly, to be outraged, to be disgusted, yet she never quite managed it. It could, of course, be because she had no reason to. Ms Collins touched on the Mail’s alleged institutional racism but, in the event, she was again obliged to pull her punches. And I suspect that this was because for an allegedly racist organisation, the Mail employs a great number of folk whose origins, or that of their parents and grandparents, lie in Asia, Africa and the West Indies. More to the point, they are not kept hidden away in cupboards: anyone walking on any floor and in any department – for some reason particularly in the IT department will spot them very, very easily and with no effort at all.

Well, if the paper is not racist, it can be charged with being trivial. And that it most certainly is: the print edition, but even more so the online edition, brims with what at my most charitable I can only describe as celebrity crap and bollocks. But the fact is that that is what the punters rather like to read, that and that the world is going to hell in a handcart. In the unlikely event that the saintly Guardian decided to start printing just as much celebrity crap and bollocks, we would all witness is harsh decline in circulation being reversed. Can the Mail be condemned for providing – this is me speaking, not the paper – morons with the kind of fodder morons relish? Not in my world they can’t. And, as it turns out, not in Ms Collins’s world either. But read the piece for yourself and make your own mind up. Incidentally, don't ever

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A naive twat writes: why can’t there be more political consensus? And something ugly might be stirring in China, though exactly what is anyone’s guess

A few years ago, I did something which to many of my friends seemed quite inexplicable and which even I must admit was out of character. But if I outline why I did it and what took me to the point of doing it, it might, perhaps, make a little more sense.
I am not, for a variety of reasons what can for the sake of simplicity be call ‘a joiner’. I like to plough my own furrow and loathe following the party line on anything. But about ten years ago I signed up with the Conservative Party, although it is only fair to me that I should add that 14 months later I signed down again, that is I wrote to the branch vice-chairman informing him that I would not be renewing my annual subscription, thank you and goodbye.
My reasoning at the time was simple: Blair was about to help to invade Iraq, which I was wholly against, and he was anyway proving to be the nine bob note I had long suspected him of being. It is easy these days to claim that one spotted what a self-serving, shifty cunt he was and is early on, but I thought so even before the 1997 election which brought New Labour to power. Being, ten years ago, the father of a six-year-old and a two-year-old and — ahem — having matured a little more in my old age (I had just turned 52), I took more seriously the direction the country was going in and what was happening. But I was reluctant to be just another pub bore, sounding off about ‘that bastard Blair’ or ‘that idiot Duncan Smith’ before getting another round in. There are enough pub bores around, sounding off in every language under the sun, to populate the world twice over, and I did not want to be just another one. So I thought to myself that the time had come to put up or shut up, to become politically active or to resign myself to being just another of the sheep. But I also knew that no one can do anything on his or her own in the way of politics and that, my ‘non-joining’ mentality notwithstanding I would have to throw my lot in with one of the three main political parties. Ah, but which one? I fell in with the Tories by a process of elimination. I asked myself with whom did I disagree least, and the answer was the Conservative Party.
I am not ‘a Tory’ and I have never been ‘a Tory’ and I hope to God I never shall be ‘a Tory’, and from the off I felt like a fish out of water. But that, I told myself, was a sacrifice I would have to make. I did become active: I stood for the local council and thoroughly enjoyed the campaigning, I did more than my fair share of licking envelopes, I organised a ‘fund-raising event’, I attended a party conference in Blackpool (although to be fair I did that because I was curious to see what such conferences are like and as Blackpool once played such a significant part in the British psyche, I wanted to visit the place). I even managed to get myself onto the Conservative Party list of approved parliamentary candidates and put myself forward to be the local Tory candidate.  And I put up with the discomfort of being regarded by most of the other branch members as something of a pinko. And the truth is that in their political terms I am ‘something of a pinko’.
What struck me from the off and what disappointed me right from the start was that no one, not one of the members I came into contact with or for some reason or other spent time with seemed to be interested in ‘politics’. Not one. For many it was more a social club. For a few, those who were active, it was ‘to do with politics’, but their efforts in that regard almost wholly consisted of trying to raise funds in some way or another. Politics themselves (itself? I’ve always wondered) just didn’t come into it, but it was for the politics that I first swallowed my pride, overcame my reservations and signed up. Another sacrifice was having to put up with people saying, when I had put forward my view, ‘well, you would say that — you’re a Tory’. No, dear heart, I would tell them, I’m not saying it because I’m ‘a Tory’ but because it’s what I believe. Then there was the discomfort with having to keep my mouth shut when in the company of hangers and floggers and swallowing the sarcastic comment I was just itching to make. And after 14 months I had had enough. I was simply wasting my time. But I didn’t want my membership to dribble away: it was important to me that I should do the thing properly. So I wrote to the vice-chairman (a retired rear-admiral and a nice guy) telling him I would no be renewing my membership and why. It meant, and means, that I am back at square one, of course, itching to be politically active but not having the wherewithal to do much, but that, I’ve decided is the lesser of the two evils.

. . .

More to come...

. . .

Meanwhile, after an unexpected invitation to lunch at Rick Stein’s seafood restaurant in Padstow, no supper but a glass or three of red wine, all followed by a pretty aimless trawl through the net in search of nothing in particular, I have come across rather odd reports of an ‘attempted coup’ in Beijing. What is being reported, but for one reason or another can no longer be substantiated, is that there as a ‘movement of tanks’ in an around Beijing (and I am itching still to spell it Peking, but I understand the British PC police will have my guts for garters if I even consider doing so), followed by ‘reports of gunfire’. The Washington Post has carried a report as had the Daily Mail (‘The Trumpet of The Truth’ as guardianistas like to call it), but what is going on – if anything – is your gues as well as mine. Apparently, and my ‘apparently’ must of necessity be more speculative than any previously used ‘apparently’a power struggle has started. I can’t actually tell you between whom, but I can say that it is at present being presented as a struggle between those who want a return to the purer values of Mao and those who are keener on business. It seems a chap called Bo Xilai was sacked in these past few days. The Mail bills him as an ‘anti-corruption official’, but at this point think was should hold fire on sanctifying the chap as there are also claims that his ‘anti-courruption’ zeal was rather limited to his habit of rounding up his ‘corrupt’ political opponents. Mr Bo is said to have close ties with the ‘nationalistic military’ whatever that means. As ever it would seems in all things Oriental, ‘inscrutable’ is the word we are all obliged to use when describing, or trying to describe, what is going on, so perhaps my sagest advice here might be to ignore every word I have just written. If, of course, things are beginning to go tits up in China, that is not very encouraging news for the rest of the world in as far as something like 99pc of what is produced in the world is made there. On the other hand this must surely be very good news indeed for the commentariat as whatever they claim is going on there is utterly unverifiable and thus whatever they say cannot be proved wrong.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How one of Britains's most noble redtops/prominent gutter newspapers (delete as appropriate) is slowly going to the dogs at the hands of one Sly Bailey

In the whacky world of newspapers which I inhabit and which I trust I shall be able to inhabit for the next two years and eight months (of which, as the Mail like to put it, more later), the career of one Sly Bailey must be one of the whackiest. If her abilities are to be judged by her performance as chief executive of Trinity Mirror, she has less talent than a one-legged tap dancer. But surely, you might be asking, she could not have risen to the dizzy heights in which she now exists unless she had some kind of ability? That’s the £64,000 question. In the past few weeks I have come across three facts about La Bailey which, put together, do make curious reading:

Last Sunday, Peter Preston, an ex-Guardian editor and – except for one unfortunate incident when he shopped a source, the great no-no for hacks – one of the great and good of the London liberal left, wrote a piece in The Observer defending our Sly. The lady had not only been awarding herself – or allowing herself to be awarded ‘renumeration packages’ exceeding £1.5 million, she did so while profits in the group she leads fell by 40pc to just £74 million. For a media organisation that is a truly appalling figure. She blames all sorts for the fall, but the question has to be asked why Trinity Mirror is doing so badly when other print media groups are not doing so badly? They are all, after all, facing the same ‘adverse conditions’ or whatever euphemism is the currently trendy one to use. Certainly there will be variations in how they go about doing business which ensure that one group is doing better than another, but it is those very ‘various ways of doing business’ which are the point: if Sly Bailey isn’t coming up with any which are as effective as those the opposition is pursuing, I think it is reasonably to wonder whether she is any good at her job and whether she deserves and ever-increasing ‘remuneration package’.

Preston’s piece would seem to be a response from a chap called Roy Greenslade, a former red-top deputy editor but now a professor of applied cliché or something in some university media department or other (University of Southwark?) who reports the City equivalent of ‘the natives are getting restless’ – shareholder unease. Well, I’d be uneasy, too, if the business I part-owned was reporting repeated falls in profits while the man, in this case, woman put in place to ensure the profits rise rather than fall was not only apparently useless at her job but was paying herself ever-greater wads of dosh.

Most people in the business will have heard the name Sly Bailey (her given name is Sylvia and Sly is just a pet name, though an extremely unfortunate one, it has to be said) and most people in the business will be familiar with her tactic to try to re-float a sinking ship: sack staff to cut the wage bill. Why this ploy is attempted again and again is beyond me because it never, but never, ever, works. Staff are sacked, the ‘product’ gets shoddy, sales go down, more action is needed so more staff are sacked, the products gets shoddier, sales go down even more, more action is needed, and the whole sorry routine is repeated until there is no more ‘product’ to sell, the poor bloody infantry are cast off as just so much baggage while the senior officer class move elsewhere, probably to fuck up some other entrerprise.

One ruse Ms Bailey is attempting to bring down the bills and stave of the evil day when the Mirror goes down the tubes is by raiding the Trinity Mirror pension fund to pay off debts in the U.S. Quite apart from the dubious ethics of the move – newspapers and ethics, now there’s a comic partnership – Mirror proprietors – or rather one of them – have form on matters pension fund. Good ole’s Captain Bob aka Robert Maxwell, about the crookedest nine bob note to haunt Fleet Street for many a year – and there is a long list of characters to choose from – also raided the Mirror pension fund when his web of grandiose and bent deals finally began to unravel. So naturally when the words ‘Mirror’, ‘pensions’ and ‘fund’ are used in the same sentence alarm bells ring loudly from Kensington to Cheapside. Well, Sly is doing it again, which is why just under half of the big investors in Trinity Mirror are wondering just how healthy the company is.

. . .

At the top right of The Guardian’s comment website page is a piccy of some Victorian-looking gent whose name is given as C.P. Scott. Left-liberals revere the man, a former Guardian editor, and often quote, as the website does, his noble pronouncement that  ‘comment is free, but facts are sacred’. Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. Sounds grand, of course, and what right does a cynical bullshitter like me have to query such a noble sentiment? Well, let me give an example by way of trying to explain that when all is said and done, Scott’s thesis is just more vacuous nonsense which, rather like candyfloss, melts in the mouth in a moment with no discernible aftertaste except a sickly sweetness. Take for example ‘freedom fighter’ and ‘terrorist’, or, if you like and are feeling in a particularly pernickety mood ‘terrorist’ and freedom fighter’. Who would be foolish enough to claim as a fact that any individual is the one but not the other? For whatever you choose to insist upon, as sure as eggs is eggs someone will pop up and insist that the opposite is.

I would give another example if I could think of one, but I can’t, so that one will have to do, but you will already have taken my point: facts simply aren’t the copper-bottomed certainties we pretend they are. Is the Pope a bastard (whoever he is)? Well, yes, and that’s a fact if you are an enthusiastic Orangeman. Is Israel more or less a fascist state behaving intolerably towards and oppressed minority? Most certainly, and that’s a fact if you are your average Guardian reader. No, she’s not if — as far as I am concerned — you try a little harder to understand the ineffably complex history of the Middle East and the genesis of the state of Israel. So, here’s a plea: let’s have a little less of the ‘facts are sacred’ bull. They should be, of course, but they rarely, if ever, are.

. . .

If you are a sentimental old hack (which I hope to goodness I am not) the ongoing decline of The Mirror, once known as the Daily Mirror, is sad, sad, sad. In it’s heyday, the late Thirties, the war years and the Fifties, it was a force to be reckoned with. But by the Sixties it and its staff had been corrupted by very generous expense accounts and the paper had become a flabby version of its former self. Furthermore, the world of which it was once the mouthpiece had changed. Between the world wars it still made sense to talk of a ‘working class’ and ‘working class values’ and ‘working class culture’, the Andy Capp world view. It was the world of ‘factory fortnights’ and workingmen’s clubs, when the Labour Party consisted of real socialist rather, as it does today, with vaguely left-of-centre politocrats who regard politics as just another career.

By the Sixties the Mirror, or the Daily Mirror as it still was, was loathed by men such as my father (he told me in all seriousness after Harold Wilson was first elected in 1964 that Britain ‘would be communist within six months’) but its days were numbered. Yes, it was still a successful paper which sold well and made oodles of dosh, but it was by then going through the motions. It was no longer the Daily Mirror, it was playing at being the Daily Mirror. Then, but the early Seventies when The Sun was launched by Rupert Murdoch the decline started. It’s always a bad sign when a newspaper has several proprietors within just a few years but the Mirror did. At one point it was being run by some guy who had cut his business teeth running a building society and knew as much about newspapers as I do about nuclear physics.

A real irony is that the Mirror was first established by Alfred Harmsworth, later known as Lord Northcliffe, in 1903 as a paper for ‘gentlewomen’ and was a nice genteel middle-class paper owned and run by Harmsworth’s brother Lord Rothermere until he sold his controlling interest in 1931 and the new editor took it in a left-wing direction. (The word tabloid gained its modern meaning after Northcliffe told someone that he wanted his new paper, the Daily Mirror, to go down as easily ‘as a tabloid’. This was a reference to a particular kind of headache tablet called a ‘tabloid’ by the guy selling it which he insisted was easier to swallow than conventional tablets. Bet you never knew that, although thinking about it, I might well have written that before in some earlier entry.)

After the chappie who was quite possibly a whizz at running building societies but hopeless at publishing newspapers, the Mirror fell into the hands of the infamous Robert Maxwell (who was, in fact, really called Jan Hoch and originally from Czechoslovakia). And once he had nearly wrecked it it passed into the hands of the Trinity group (I think) and the decline is almost complete. Something similar— a once great newspaper collapsing in on itself on itself and becoming an embarrassing verision of it former proud self — is also happening to the Daily Express which is now owned and run on a shoestring by a pornographer. But that’s another story, it is now way after midnight, I am tired, so if you want to know more along those lines, count me out.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

We all had a youth and mine was The Kinks. But even they can do nothing for the PIGS, and the Baader-Meinhof gang throw up a disturbing fact (if it’s true)

We all had our fave bands when we were still in our salad days and life was a roller-coaster ride which seemed beautiful and perfect one minute, dull and dreary the next. In those days 25 was old, 30 was ancient and - as I now know for certain - anyone over 40 was invisible or dead. We were all, each and every one of us, unique, except that, oddly, no one else seemed to realise it. That was in those moments when life was beautiful. When the following moment life was nothing but abject misery of a kind surely no one else had experienced before, ever, I would put on one of my favourite tracks by one of my favourite bands. It was I’m Not Like Everybody Else by The Kinks, and I listened to it again and again and again.

In those long off days The Kinks and The Beatles were my bands, and although in time I went off both, to this day their early stuff is still for me magical. And had I been asked to choose between the two, I would, without hesitation, have plumped for The Kinks as my favourite. The first ‘LP’ I owned was on the long defunct Marble Arch label, one of as far as I can tell several thousand Kinks compilation albums (and it is the sheer number of Kinks compilation albums available which sparked this particular blog entry.) On that album there were around ten songs, and each one was gold: Set Me Free, Where Have All The Good Times Gone, Till The End Of The Day, Tired Of Waiting, A Well-Respected Man, All Day And All Of The Night, Don’t You Fret and You Really Got Me Going (plus a couple of others I can’t remember off-hand): pure gold.

This period came immediately after the first Kinks period when they played R&B (not the R&B now known as R&B, but the R&B then known as R&B if you get my drift) and played debs parties and hunt balls. It was followed by the Sunny Afternoon Years. The first single I ever bought was Dandy, and then I bought the LP Face To Face, which I thought was also gold. I liked the guitar sound. I’ve always been a sucker for guitar sounds, everything from The Kinks Dave Davies to Jo Pass, John Scofield, Dave Fiuczynski, Jimi Hendrix, George Benson, Jeff Beck and any number of other guitarists - give me a guitar band any day, although grunge does fuck all for me, as does heavy metal. Then there was Ray Davies’ voice: most certainly not sweet, but he managed to project all the cynicism, irony and occasional venom I felt, but he could also hold a tune, rather like Donald Fagen and Bob Dylan can despite their somewhat unorthodox voices. The harmonies he and his brother Dave came out with were sublime, in my view far, far better than anything The Beatles or The Beach Boys could produce. Just listen to the harmonies on Waterloo Sunset. And the songs: they were not just funny, but could be very sad, poignant (Little Miss Queen Of Darkness), telling, lyrical (Autumn Almanac), scathing (Plastic Man) and honest.

The last album I went for in a big way was Muswell Hillbillies (Skin And Bone, Demon Alcohol), before they took off - or, I suppose, Ray Davies took off in a direction I didn’t really want to follow them in, for example Schoolboys In Disgrace. I could never see the point of it all.

But it is the compilations which to this day astound me. Ray Davies is undoubtedly and extraordinarily prolific songwriter, but there must be tens if not hundreds of compilations which all, more or less, contain the same songs. I like to think that they had a good business manager who ensure that they get a fair whack of the royalties, but I suspect and rather fear that rights to the songs were sold of early on and someone else is trousering all the moolah from those compilation albums. More’s the pity.

I had another brush with The Kinks when they got their third or fourth wind in the Eighties, but I only bought one album and I can’t even remember what it was called. But nothing, but nothing could top that early stuff (Beautiful Delilah, Long Tall Shorty) and I listen to it to this day.

. . .

Despite Ray Davies’s unfortunate flirtation with a rather theatrical theme, as far as I can see The Kinks never committed the cardinal sin of taking themselves seriously as ‘artists’. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t put their soul and whole being into their work, but there came a point, as far as I am concerned a very shameful point, when rock and pop became respectable, which killed off much of it for me. It became ‘art’ and was treated as ‘art’ by any number of fuckwits writing for the Guardian. Why must everything be intellectualised in that way. John Lennon fell for it, as did Paul McCartney. I don’t think the Rolling Stones did, but then they disappeared up another cul-de-sac, becoming increasingly ordinary despite all the PR hype as ‘the greatest rock ’n roll band in the world. Says who? Well, says their record labels marketing department, and there were plenty of impressionable young idiots to swallow that line. The general standard of guitar playing has improved 1000pc, so that your average pub band plays ten times better than many of the pop professionals (though not necessarily the jazz guitarists of the time, who were, however, being comprehensively ignored by the whole Sixties’s pop phenomenon).

My next fave band was Steely Dan who I ignored for quite a while for the very silly reason that they were cool. I was the left-field type (or thought of myself as the left-field type) who scorned what was ‘cool’ and thought himself even cooler for doing so. Then one day in 1976 I disvovered in, of all places, a bargain bin in a newsagents in Ebbw Vale, where I was working as a reporter, Aja by Steely Dan. It cost a song and had me hooked. I bought all the previous LPs one by one and Gaucho when it came out, followed by Donald Fagen’s first solo album, Nightfly. After that they gave up the ghost for many years. They finally got back together to write songs and came out with Two Against Nature and Everything Must Go, both of which I like, but ... But they, too, now give the impression of taking themselves a little too seriously and I just can’t stomach that.

Then came Prince, but he, too, eventually went off the boil and, sad to say, if you have heard one Prince funk workout of recent times, you have heard quite a few of them. Oh well.

Now to listen to a few more early Kinks tracks. The magic is still there.

. . .

I’ve have stopped ballsing on about the euro and the EU, though not because I am bored. It’s just that the collapse of the euro seems not such a racing certainty that there seems little point to bang on about it. Remember, according to the chap from The Slog (John Ward or Anthony Ward, I can’t quite work out which) March 23 is the day to look out for. But it could all go tits up tomorrow or it might limp on for another six months. The more I consider the whole shambles - Brussels insisting the Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland should starve their people in pursuit of what most now realise was an utterly inconceived project - the more I realise that the one difference between you and me and the idiots who decided to go into politics is that, in some odd way, are a sandwich short of a picnic. I don’t doubt that many of them are quite clever, but I also know that there are even more quite clever people out there to whom it never occurs to go into politics. But I am also quite certain that there is a greater proportion of mediocrities pursuing their destiny in politics than in the secular world. You have probably heard it quoted before, not least quite possibly here, but someone perceptively observed once that ‘politics is Hollywood for ugly people’. And Lord is the euro crisis proving him right.

. . .

I saw a very good film on BBC iPlayer the other night which threw up a very frightening statistic. It was called The Baader Meinhof Complex (Der Baader Meinhor Komplex), directed by Uli Edel, and it traced the evolution and development of the gang. I have no idea how accurate the film was in its depiction of the various characters, but if it was accurate, Christ what a bizarre bunch they were. Andreas Baader came across as nothing but a charming, psychopathic, narcissistic idiot without a political thought in his bones who basically got off on the excitement of it all. Ulrike Meinhof had rather more intellectual

backbone but quite how she could make the transition from thoroughly disaffected leftie hack to part of a murderous gang is also bizarre. Gudrun Ensslin came over as a rather hysterical retarded adolescent and Brigitte Mohnhaupt seems to have been yet another psychopath.

All of them seem to have come from middle-class backgrounds and, except for one or two characters who escaped from youth centres, they did not seem to want much (want as in need). There has been and always will be any number of disaffected youth who flirt with the extreme left for a while, but few will make the transition to actually killing people and, furthermore, spend a great deal of time justifying it intellectually.

As I say, I have no way of know just how accurate the film was, or whether it was in some way skewed - the police rank and file didn’t get much of a sympathetic portrayal, although a character played by Bruno Ganz who was apparently top man on the police anti-terrorist side of things did show some intelligence in that he argued that in order to combat the gang, one had to understand what made them tick. But the frightening statistic was that unbelievably amid all the mayhem and murder a reputed one in four of Germans questioned confessed to having some sympathy with the gang. Now that is frightening. Incidentally, there is a very good piece about the film by Christopher Hitchens for Vanity Fair which you can find here.

. . .

Now here’s a strange thing: courtesy of this blog’s stats feature, I know that in the past 12 hours or so, readership has soared, and one entry in particular - this one – has been getting all the attentention. It can’t be the ongoing (as in going on and on and on) euro crisis involving Greece, because that has never before elicited must attention. That leave my mumblings on The Kinks, Steely Dan, Prince and The Beatles on the one hand and the Baader-Meinhof gang on the other. I have no way of know which it is, but my gut instinct is the Baader-Meinhof idiots. What does that prove? Well, I don’t know, except it would seem to indicate that we all still live bad boys and gals. The stats also indicated that many visitors actually stayed and read the entry rather than find it, take one glance, decided boring, and bugger off again. Odd.

. . .

Later that same day:
I now know why this particular entry has attracted an unprecedented number of visits. Mention of The Kinks was picked up by a Kinks fansite and its link was followed to this blog. So it wasn’t after all, as I initially expected, just a surge of interest from several thousand Baader-Meinhof wannabes with murder on their minds looking for a useful website to pick up a couple of tips (‘Disaffected? Spotty? Can’t cut it with the chicks? Want to be a psycho killer with political pretensions like wacky Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin? Here’s how. And don’t bother with cheap, inferior websites - we give you the real lowdown.’).

Incidentally, Anonymous (not, I think, the same Anonymous who has left an earlier comment) has left a comment (below) pointing out that ‘Ray Davies is God and undoubtedly far more important than Jesus Christ’ and ‘what the fuck make me think I am even allowed to speak His name?’

Friday, March 2, 2012

Why for this old fart tweet is still rather uncomfortably close to twit. But don’t worry, you young things, I know my place

For many years after Twitter came into being, I simply could not see the point of it. Tweeters, I thought, were simply irritating neophiles who would sup on shit if they were assured it was the latest, coolest thing to do. It wasn’t that I was behaving as your standard meldrew, hating whatever happened within 20 years of my birth. In fact, I didn’t hate it at all. It was that I simply couldn’t see the point of it. At it’s silliest it is just another PR tool to keep the client in the public eye. Or there is the angle of drumming business, with Robin Lustig trailing an interview with the Devil in tonight’s The World Tonight (he’s a keen tweeter) or Evan Davis twittering away about what this morning’s Today will be doing.

Most certainly there’s an element of neophilia, as evidenced by the disproportionate number of Guardianistas twittering to inform us of their most recent thought. But there is most certainly more to it than that, although for the life of me I can’t put my finger on it. The silliest thing is that I have had a Twitter account for the past few months and have tweeted now and again. But still can’t tell you what the point of tweeting is. And how daft is that? I do it but I don’t know why I do it. Unkind readers might suggest that I have lost the plot, and who might I be to deny it. If I have indeed lost the plot, I would most certainly, by definition, be the last to realise it.

It’s not that tweeting is simply a new technology. The fact that a great many people tweet - and here I really must stress that in the following analysis I am not including those press agents who tweet on their clients behalf - in an odd kind of way signifies a paradigm shift of some kind. It seems to indicate dimension in our conception of how we might relate to others. Now that sounds, or possibly sounds, rather grand, so let me bring it down to earth if possible. I suspect that essentially tweeting is not very new at all. What gives it the impression of novelty is the technology which makes it possible. That is to say if in years and decades and centuries gone by folk were able to proclaim their very opinion to the world, they would most certainly have done so. The difference is that they didn’t have the technology. That reminds me of what someone once said after the first transatlantic cable had been laid and Europe and America were able to communicate telegraphically. ‘Now,’ said someone portentously, ‘London can speak to New York.’ To which someone replied with what to me seems to be the obvious comment: ‘Yes, but does London have anything to say to New York?’

It’s rather the same as tweeting: it’s all find and dandy that we now have the means to trumpet our view and opinions to everyone on the planet with  access to a smartphone or a computer, but it doesn’t necessarily make those views and opinions any the more important or even interesting. Part of me is as yet unconvinced and suspects that it simply boils down to the fact that the larger the crowd able to make a noise, the greater the cacophony. I’ll be more impressed by technological advances such as Twitter and the epistemological shifts they are claimed to bring about when rather fewer people vote in X Factor polls than bother to turn up to cast their vote in national elections. We all have opinions, but unfortunately 99 per cent of us are also as thick as shit.