Thursday, October 24, 2013

Here’s a case for making out why we’re in the Golden Age Of Bullshit. Or how it is all-too-easy for us to kid ourselves.

There was a void in my life. Damages had finished, and I needed to fill the void. Ray Donovan did so for a week or two, but that has only been through on series, and as I had the week off with very little to do except nothing at my own slow pace, I watched an episode, and sometimes two, a day. When it finished (and the finale was good, but gets an A- rather than an A+), the void beckoned again.

Then I recalled a series which I had read about several times while proof-reading the TV pages. The paper trails several programmes from all channels as ‘highlights’, though given that all-too-often a programme might be something as scintillating and attractive as a ‘a month in the life of a council dog warden’ dragged out over five or six episodes, you might guess why I rarely, if ever, bother with terrestrial TV these days and prefer to watch series on the net. (If you think my, admittedly fictional, example is a tad exaggerated, I can assure you it isn’t: quite recently one channel had a six-part series on the working life of a town planner, its tribulations and difficulties. There are wall-to-wall fucking cookery programmes – ‘making a jus can get no tougher. This is cooking for the big boys’, that kind of crap.)

The series was an HBO production called The Newsroom. Well, I thought, I’ll give it a whirl. But, dear reader, a whirl is all I gave it, and all I shall be giving it. It is from the stable of Aaron ‘The West Wing’ Sorkin, and it shows. The dialogue is superficially smart, but in fact pretty damn awful. Folk don’t talk like folk, but as folk would talk in an Aaron Sorkin TV series. I gave up on The West Wing pretty damn quickly as I got fed up with all the smart one-liners everyone had, the hip speak, the innumerable two-second conversations the characters had with each other while walking past each other quickly in corridors. Oh, and the oh-so-liberal attitidues. I thought it was bollocks.

The Newsroom got and will continue to get equally short shrift from me. I saw about 20 minutes before I turned off and went looking for some drying paint to observe as likely to be rather more entertaining. The first episode begins with a TV anchorman ‘losing it’ and coming out with a long rant about how the good ole’ US of A just isn’t the marvellous, superb country it once was. Here is that speech.


I didn’t actually retch, but it was a damn close thing. The world’s greatest artists? Cared about neighbours? Would that be Cuba? And take good note of the piano tinkling away in the background.And although I went on to watch another ten minutes of that episode, I knew The Newsroom and I were not a match made in Heaven.

This speech should have warned me. But then came the theme music and that, dear reader, was all the proof I needed that The Newsroom would be thoroughly and slickly dishonest cack. Here it is.

There are only two points to be made here:

1 Nothing good can come of a series with them music as seriously schmaltzy as this.

2 Strings are always - always - a no-no. I can never take strings seriously, and nor should anyone else.

After sitting through that theme music, I sat through another ten minutes, but that was my lot. No more The Newsroom for me now or ever. And please forgive the rather abrupt ‘fade out’.

. . .

That speech was the killer. It is one so grossly dishonest, so utterly misleading about the US that the Sorkin should be prosecuted. Certainly, the Yanks aren’t the only ones to hark back sentimentally to a spurious golden age. Many Brits are still firmly convinced that the British Empire was wholly a force for good whose one purpose was to bring civilisation to those parts of the world which were still going through a dark age. But whereas Britain has finally and firmly got all that shite out of its system, the US still has a long, long way to go. I don’t doubt that when assorted liberals in the US tuned into the first episode of The Newsroom and heard the anchorman’s speech, they thought to themselves - with a manly sigh if they were men, with concealed tear if they were women - ‘he’s right, you know, what has happened to our dear, dear old country. The only problem is that there never as a US golden age when the New World’s prime and almost sole objective was to bring peace, stability, order and humanity to the world.

I shall restrict myself to a few examples, but there are many. Far from the Civil War being about ‘emancipating the black man’ as if still fondly claimed, it was about the Northern States consolidating their hold on power. And a great many bastards in the North made great fortunes out of the Civil War. For many of the North’s businessmen, the ‘unfairness’ of slavery had absolutely nothing to do with inhumanity to blacks, and everything to do with the fact that landowners in the southern states who worked slaves were getting labour from free, gratis, buckshee, while they were obliged to pay their workers a wage, however small and pitiful.

After the Civil War, far from being freed, as innumerable young US kids are proudly informed, the fortunes of the blacks got worse if that could be possible. None got their land and their mule. Certainly, they were no longer slaves in name, but they were still slaves in fact. Just listen to Billie Holiday’s rendering of the song Strange Fruit to remind yourselves just how liberated blacks were in the 100 years following the end of the Civil War. Then there’s the odd matter of the American/Spanish war.

Ostensibly this was to help colonies rid themselves of the Spanish yoke. In practice it was just a takeover from one old colonial power by a newer colonial power, with a sharp eye on creating markets for its goods. Or how about the little matter of the extermination of the Native Americans by the good, freedom-loving white folk? For scale, if not in execution, it rivals the genocide of the Jews by the Nazis.

All three are examples of why the TV anchorman’s liberal cri de coeur for a return to the good, ole’ honest US was 24-carat bullshit. Incidentally, the above is in no way intended to make out that the US’s enemies are any better. To keep things simple, just regard it as a warning to be very wary of anything wit such schmaltzy, syrupy them music.

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