Thursday, 19 February 2009

Balloons, arses, and Facebook - those pressing Mail issues in full

I've been a bit quiet this week, but sadly not because the press have been behaving themselves impeccably. If anything there's just been too much trash to write about, and it's been hard going trying to follow the papers, all of whom seem to be publishing one 'this Jade Goody obsession is degrading and symptomatic of our failed society' opinion piece for every five 'See the latest Jade Goody cancer pics and a detailed itinerary of literally everything she's going to do in the rest of her short life!' stories. This is probably best demonstrated by this Mail story, which helpfully combines the two kinds of article, being a sober 'what have we become?' lament which nevertheless reprints 15 pictures of Goody in various states of distress, so you can simultaneously satisfy both your moral righteousness and your secret tragedy-porn-loving prurience. It's kind of like watching Jeremy Kyle in that respect.

It's fair to say the Mail hasn't exactly been covering itself in glory this week. Here are a few other examples of the kind of quality middlebrow journalism you may have missed:

Libraries put Bible on top shelf in a sop to Muslims. A dramatic story indeed, until you realise it just means they've moved ALL the religious texts to the top shelf because apparently the Koran shouldn't be placed below other books. So, all the religious texts are getting treated equally, you can still get the Bible, and we can all get on with our lives, right? Well, no: "This means that Christian works, which also have immense historical and literary value, will be kept out of the reach and sight of many readers". If only libraries could employ people who would help you find and retrieve's a pipe dream, I know.

Apparently the Mail's concern for short-arse Christians being possibly briefly inconvenienced in a library is an entirely serious one, whereas a policy which affects the majority in no way at all but benefits blind people is obviously ridiculous PC drivel. This confusing manifesto is laid out in BBC newsreaders told to read out ALL phone numbers... so blind people are not offended, which huffs and sneers at the long-running and entirely sensible BBC (oh, right) policy of reading out phone numbers on TV so that blind people can know what they are (this seems to have been translated into 'so that blind people don't get offended' by the Mail). The Mail quotes an 'insider' who runs with the 'offensiveness' idea and assumes this is because blind people are offended by any and all references to sight, spiralling off into a mad world of his own creation where you can't even use the word 'look':

'This is political correctness gone mad.

'All the BBC's bigname presenters received this email from Peter Horrocks saying that whenever they refer to an on screen phone number or email address they should no longer say, 'You can see the number on the screen now', because it might offend blind people - and could even be illegal.

'But where does it end? Does that mean presenters will be banned from saying: 'If you don't want to know the football scores look away from the screen now', because that could be just as offensive. It's insanity.'
More indignation can be found in £62,000 payout for gay airport guard after woman colleague wobbled her breasts at him. £62k to look at jiggling titties?!?! MADNESS! Except, as you'll already know, it was a tad more serious than that. Once you plough on through the article you eventually realise that this seems to have been a serious and prolonged case of sexual harrassment which involved both physical invasions of privacy and her calling him 'batty boy', and which he only complained about when she began falsely accusing him of harrassment.

If that bores you, how about this tale of health and safety gone MAD: Tesco bars girl for carrying a balloon because 'it's a health and safety risk'. The first eleven paragraphs of this are devoted to the mother's furious telling of the story, before Tesco finally get a chance, right at the end, to explain their entirely fucking sensible reason for not allowing the kid to bring her helium balloon into the shop:

A Tesco spokesman said: 'A restaurant near the store was handing out helium balloons. A number of children had come into the store and released them inadvertently or on purpose.

'Unfortunately they were getting trapped on the ceiling and blocking the sprinkler system, and they are pretty difficult to retrieve. The managers decided to use their discretion.

'There is not a set policy on helium balloons at the store – it's just common sense really.'
I suppose 'Tesco store gets bored of sending its workers up to the bloody ceiling to repeatedly retrieve balloons' wouldn't have been as much fun as a headline.

It's interesting to see in these kind of stories, which issues the Mail determines 'petty' and which are worthy of paragraphs upon paragraphs of outrage. Are you blind and think it would be useful if TV presenters read out phone numbers rather than just showing them on screen? Cry me a fucking river, you ponce! What would Churchill say?! Getting sexually harrassed at work? Man the fuck up, buddy! Child not allowed to take a helium balloon into a shop because it's becoming an increasing pain in the arse for staff? You have our deepest sympathy, madam, and your complaints are thoroughly valid and ought to form the entire basis for a story. As a general rule, a minor non-event (moving books from one shelf to another) becomes a national scandal if either 'political correctness' or 'health and safety' can be deduced as the reasoning behind the tiny decision.

But what of the Mail's serious side, its thoughtful columnists? Last Sunday, Peter Hitchens came out with a breathtaking torrent of shite, even by his standards. To summarise:
1) people who joke about drugs should 'go to Hell'.
2) Peter Hitchens hasn't seen the movie 'Slumdog Millionaire', but someone else has seen half of it, and that's good enough for Hitchens to write a whole part of his column explaining why it's a travesty.
3) people who listen to music in the street are 'unreachable zombies', whose heads are 'full of angry noise'. He's not even complaining about being able to hear your iPod here, just the mere insolence of people listening to music instead of enjoying the glorious sounds of hundreds of strangers' inane chatter. This kind of complaint bugs me; I hate the idea that while I'm enjoying a nice bit of music as a brief respite from the incredible tedium of my five hours of daily commuting time, some Hitchens-esque cunt is sitting in silent judgement, despite knowing nothing about me or the various incredible things I listen to because I'm so massively more awesome than him.
4) Charles Darwin was a 'flunked parson and failed doctor' (actual quote!), and people really should get over this whole 'evolution' thing; until someone can show Hitchens a velociraptor actually physically evolving into Rafael Nadal, then there's simply not enough evidence to go on and all theories are basically as valid as one another (yeah, even the really stupid ones), so Darwinists should stop running their fat mouths about it.

The sad part is that none of the above even come close to being the worst thing in the paper this week. That honour surely has to go to How using Facebook could raise your risk of cancer, in which the Mail's headline writer seems to be trying to drive satirists out of business by coming up with a title so mind-bendingly, hilariously over-the-top that if someone had offered it as a parody of a Mail headline on 'Mock The Week' you'd have thought it was a bit clumsy and crass. The substance of the story, such as it is, is that some guy reckons that being on the internet is worse for your health than actually going out to meet people in real life (IRL for you non-n00bs). As you clamber back onto your seat from the shock of that revelation, you might pause briefly to wonder if that's really a fair accusation to aim at a website whose entire function seems to be dedicated to arranging actual real-life meet-ups. But then again, you might just think the whole thing isn't worth bothering with, and I have some sympathy with that view.

Luckily for fans of REAL journalism, the Mail isn't all manufactured outrage, blowhard columnists and crap scare stories; it also deals with the latest breaking stories in relation to hot celebrity tits'n'ass. I for one would like to salute the Mail for keeping me bang up-to-date with developments like Kelly Brook wearing skin-tight hotpants, Girls Aloud showing off their bums and legs, Katy Perry wearing a basque, Daisy Lowe pretending to kiss another girl for a photoshoot, Peaches Geldof taking her top off on a beach, among many, many others. There was once a time, shortly after the death of Princess Diana, that serious, quality papers like the Mail pondered introspectively on the role of the paparazzi, and solemnly promised to in future only intrude on the privacy of celebrities where it was fully justified by the 'public interest' defence. Luckily for sexually repressed Mail readers who feel uncomfortable searching for actual porn on the internet, the definition of what constitutes a public interest has since expanded sufficiently to allow the Mail to base stories around photos of pert 20-year-olds' wet arses rising suggestively out of the water:

The Mail, there, your family values paper.

1 comment:

  1. No real comment to make on the piece above, just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying your blog and your fantastically caustic and well-informed writing. More please : )