Friday, 5 March 2010

The more things change...

Having taken a fairly lengthy sabbatical from writing this blog, and indeed reading the papers, for a while, I thought I'd dive back in this week and have a look at what progress has been made in the world of journalism since the beginning of the year, while I've been sleeping and playing video games and trying not to read things that make me want to cave my own head in with a desk drawer. What I read all seems disturbingly, or maybe comfortingly, familiar.

Of course, it should be no surprise that Richard Littlejohn is still, for want of a better word, an arse. Today's column finds him predictably dancing a wee jig on Michael Foot's grave, calling him a coward and sneeringly referring to Foot's asthma as 'alleged asthma'. He follows this with a 'hilarious' imaginary conversation between two people from 'the real world', which concludes that real people in the real world don't give a toss about Lord Ashcroft's apparent £127m of avoided tax, and are instead more concerned about MANDELSON, BIG GAY PETER MANDELSON, LOOK OVER THERE AT WHAT LABOUR ARE DOING. Never being one to shy away from the important issues, Littlejohn then moves on to talking about how Ashley Cole's beard makes him look like a terrorist. No, really.

Elsewhere in the Mail we get reminded about the terrifying nature of our willies and front bottoms in yet another outraged article about the communist plot to ruden up our kids' fragile minds with dastardly sex education. The headline of this one describes the "Parents' anger" (plural), but it soon becomes apparent that the article hinges on literally one complaint by one mother about a sexy cartoon sex video the authorities sexily tried to sexify her 7-year-old daughter with. The parent, one Mrs Bullivant, sets herself up as an expert in psychology:
There is no educational or psychological benefit or need for children of this age to have full knowledge of what sexual intercourse actually entails
...which she may well be, for all I know. Still, the complaints of a single parent about a video which, according to the obligatory stapled-on official response at the end of the article, has been around for ten years, seem a somewhat flimsy basis for an entire story. Anyone would think the Mail was full of nannying conservative busybodies desperate to shield their kids from being educated about anything that might seem rude!

Still, at least the writer did attempt to disguise their agenda by tying it to a bit of factual information that, if you squint a bit, could almost be considered newsworthy. Not something that troubles writers at the somewhat lower-rent Daily Express, where I stumbled upon this curious piece about Anthea Turner by a writer named Elisa Roche. This piece is currently the fourth most important story on the Express' website, above the interest rate freeze, the Lord Ashcroft thing, and that boring story about the British child kidnapped in Pakistan. Anyway, this piece is one of the most bizarre I can remember reading. I urge you to read it in full (it's not very long), and when you've finished, tell me where the a) news, or b) comment is. It's essentially a potted biography of Anthea Turner's career which gives you the impression that she's no longer making as much money as she used to. This may not come as a surprise to you; it didn't to me, because I used to see her on the telly a lot, and now...not so much. It reads like a section from an Anthea Turner Wikipedia entry, written by someone with too much time on their hands and not deleted or tidied up yet because no-one bothered to read all the way through it.

What confuses me about this article isn't so much its absolutely staggering pointlessness (finding superfluous Daily Express articles is not a task that requires training and dedication, given that the paper loves to plug Desmond's OK! magazine by giving news space to fellating vapid celebrities), but the fact that it doesn't attempt to disguise its absolute absence of worth by orbiting loosely around a recent Turner-related news story. "But there are none!" I pretend to hear you cry! Well, quite. So why this? Did Roche wake up late, realise she had barely any time to file any copy, and then spin some kind of big celebrity wheel which told her to write some witless nonsense about Anthea fucking Turner? I mean, I know it's Friday (which is why I'm writing this rather than doing the work I get paid for), but seriously, have some standards! It's an unwritten law of journalism that you bloody well tack your hollow celebrity witterings onto some kind of nominally newsworthy happening that involves them, even if it's just a new picture of them on a red carpet or looking a bit fat. Elisa Roche, you have flouted these rules and left me dazed and confused. I don't know what to believe in any more.

Nor of course, does my old favourite Andrew Brown over in The Guardian, who in his guise as Chief Wet Blanket Of Spirituality has penned another inconclusive article about religion which is sort of sceptical but also sort of credulous. Brown's articles seem forever pitched at the sort of people that consider themselves agnostics or nice atheists, but who would really like some kind of interesting proof of god's existence to come out, if only so they could slightly impress their friends at a dinner party with a quasi-spiritual tale that begins "Well, actually, I'm an agnostic atheist but I did read an interesting piece in The Guardian the other day...". In this piece, Brown tells the tale of some religious folks who like to make cups of tea for god, only for him to mysteriously not drink it. The ever-sensitive Brown resists the urge to be mean about them, and instead concludes his piece by quoting someone quite mealy-mouthed saying something a bit enigmatic, from atop a particularly broad fence.

So, yeah, I'm back, and fuck-all has changed. The Daily Star, lost for headlines without a current reality TV series to run angry "It's a fix!" front pages about, settles for some bollocks about Madeleine McCann. The Sun, meanwhile, is a sucker for stories about how prisons are basically holiday camps, and therefore is particularly incensed that Jon Venables ate a burger (with chips, mind you) when he should be eating humble pie on a bed of soil.
Fearful Venables is being given 24-hour protection inside jail as he gorges on burgers and chips in his cell.
We can only hope and pray that it was a Tesco Value burger and not one of those more expensive lamb and mint burgers. A source with no apparent sense of self-awareness said;
"The level of protection he has is incredible. It's like he is some kind of celebrity."
Ah, sometimes the satire just writes itself.


  1. Thanks, man.

    Yeah, someone suggested to me it might be related to that story, which I hadn't heard. It's just that it's not mentioned at all. Indeed, the whole article reads in this really odd way, like it's a really basic first draft that she intends to come back and finish later.