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The anti-Leveson backlash begins!

March 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Lord Justice LevesonWell, it was only a matter of time.

The tedious, long-running, press-bashing, minor-celeb tufty hunt that is the Leveson Inquiry has finally wrought a backlash.

And leading the charge are the lefty-libertarians at spiked, which has launched The Counter-Leveson Inquiry.

In his article announcing the launch, spiked editor (and Telegraph blogger) Brendan O’Neill notes that ones re-opening the inquiry on Monday, Lord Leveson mention he found ‘publicly expressed concerns’ about the inquiry ‘troubling’.

O’Neill comments:

The most remarkable thing about Leveson’s admission to feeling troubled by public criticisms is that, sadly, there has been very little public criticism of his showtrial of the tabloids. You could count on one hand, or at a stretch two hands, the number of journalists and politicians who have dared to question the right of one judge to marshal celebrities and coppers to the cause of redefining the ethics of the press.

Quite so. There has been the usual drooling over the attacks on the Murdoch tabloids by the more totalitarian-inclined of our “liberal” lickspittle media – The Guardian, The Independent, the BBC etc – but the rest of the mainstream media has generally cowered in the corner, with only the Mail‘s Paul Dacre putting up any semblance of a fight in what is really a kangaroo court.

And it is a kangaroo court. Witnesses line up and grab their allotted 15 minutes of fame – or, the case of faded celebrities and failed politicians, to grab another 15 minutes of celebrity – making whatever allegations fits their agenda of vengeance, outrage, paranoia and shamelessness. There is no forensic cross-examination of these allegations such as would occur in a court of law, either criminal, where the criteria is beyond reasonable count, or civil, where the criteria is the balance of probabilities.

Instead, they are met with gentle questions eliciting their feelings, impressions and thoughts more appropriate for a student counselling session than a formal, quasi-judicial inquiry. For many of the witnesses, this is true nirvana: not only do have a spotlight of a softer, more flattering hue cast upon them, they get a free ego-massage thrown in too.

One troubling aspect of the Levenson inquiry that O’Neill doesn’t comment on in his article – strangely, since it’s one of his hobby-horses – is that by almost solely attacking the tabloids, this is really just another extended prole-bash. The tabloids cater for a sizeable readership who loves celeb gossip; some of the tabs catered to this demand by nefarious means, by illicit phone-hacking or paying cops for tip-offs of celeb shenanigans etc. Of that there’s no doubt.

But hang on: during the Leveson recess, we had the unedifying sight of the usual suspects – the aforementioned Guardian, Independent, BBC etc – drooling over “hacked” documents “proving” that the right-wing US Heartland Institute, which takes a robust anti-man-made global warming line, along with many other activities, was plotting to use the untold millions it gets from Big Oil to foil pro-climate changee scientists by “dissuading teachers from teaching science”.

The fact the central “strategy” document was a crudely cobbled-together fake and that the genuine documents – which were blandly routine meeting reports that hardly showed Heartland wallowing around in Big Oil bucks like Scrooge McDuck – had been obtained by fraud by pro-climate change activist, Peter Gleick, who has since confessed to the phishing, though not to the faking.

That they had tacitly supported and thereby endorsed illegal activities because it suited their news agenda in this instance did not seem to faze then usual suspects. Indeed, the Guardian even ran an extraordinary piece by The Ethics of Climate Change author James Garvey in which he said:

Was Gleick right to lie to expose Heartland and maybe stop it from causing further delay to action on climate change? If his lie has good effects overall – if those who take Heartland’s money to push scepticism are dismissed as shills, if donors pull funding after being exposed in the press – then perhaps on balance he did the right thing. It could go the other way too – maybe he’s undermined confidence in climate scientists. It depends on how this plays out.

So: the ends justifies the means, eh? But only if it’s the Guardian’s ends, it would seem. It certainly doesn’t apply to those filthy red-tops’ ends. Some may call that moral relativism. I call it rank hypocrisy.

But don’t expect such high-minded shenanigans to get even a mention at Leveson. It’s the tabloids which are in the firing line, and while it’s them, the usual suspects will happily cheer the inquiry on.

But O’Neill is surely right to note that whether they are active cheerleaders or cowering curs, mainstream journalists are oblivious to the bonfire which is being built under their feet:

It is alarming that, in a country where the poet John Milton demanded freedom of the press more than 350 years ago, and where many other writers and activists subsequently fought tooth-and-catapult to expel state forces from the worlds of writing and publishing, so many should now acquiesce to an inquiry which gives a judge and his chums the power to tell the media what its morals should be.

O’Neill ends his call to arms with another fiery quote from Milton which I urge you to check out for yourself. Because whatever you might think of their views on other topics (which I myself have a love/hate relationship with), on this issue, the spiked gang is definitely on the side of the angels.

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Movies will eat themselves

March 2, 2012 1 comment
Telegraph story about the making of Psycho movie

Dear Lord, why are they doing this?

Listen to this: they are making a movie about the making of a movie.

In this case, the movie concerned is Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock’s pioneering slasher classic from 1960. Scarlett Johansson is to play Janet Leigh, who starred as the short-lived Marion Caine, Anthony Hopkins is to play Hitch and Helen Mirren is to play his wife and collaborator, Alma. It has not yet been announced who will play Mother’s corpse, though the role could give Sean Penn’s flagging career a much-needed lift.

This raises the question: Dear Lord, why?

Anyone who has spent any time on a film set as an observer knows that film-making is a mind-numbingly tedious experience for those not directly involved. Even the making of a three-minute pop video – just the shooting of which often takes up to a week or more – is hardly filled with the jump-cut, flashy excitement that ends up on MTV or Viva.

The Telegraph quotes Variety magazine as saying the makers of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho think they’re on to something “because it will concentrate on a specific untold story in the life of the director”.*

Yeah, right. What would that “specific untold story” be, do you think? Maybe that Hitch didn’t actually direct Psycho, or any of the other films bearing his name, but they were all really directed by the Earl of Oxford, or Walt Disney or even the painter Francis Bacon.

Might it have something more to do with the self-absorbed navel-gazing of some of the more conceited Hollywood types (and there are plenty of those) who think movie-goers are as fascinated with the tedious black arts of film production as film-makers are themselves?

With luck, the renowned “Curse of Psycho” will strike this production as surely as it struck Gus Van Sant with his vanity project, the doomed frame-by-frame remake of Psycho in 1998.

Further upcoming movies:

Evelyn Waugh and the Writing of Brideshead Revisited

Jack Vettriano and the Painting of The Singing Waiter

Phillipe Starck and the Designing of His Unusable Lemon Squeezer

* Actually, I couldn’t find that quote on the linked Variety story, so perhaps the Telegraph that bit up.