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Keep Calm and Womble On

December 15, 2011 Leave a comment

The Leveson hearing continues to Bore On for Britain, with live coverage on both BBC News 24 and Sky News, for heaven’s sake. As if anyone apart from Guido Fawkes and the usual politico-journo junkie suspects are really interested in watching minute-by-minute coverage from that sweaty oak-panelled room in the Royal Courts of Justice, where the testimony can hardly be heard above the ticking of the lawyers’ taximeters.

I’ve taken up watching Russia Today and Al-Jazeera to get my afternoon’s news fix. At least you get an idea that something important is happening outside in the real world.

It’s not as though we haven’t been here before. Whatever Leveson decides, we know what’s going to happen. Indeed, I’ve tried to interest Laurence Rees in a blockbuster TV series, tentatively titled The Calcutt Committee: A Lesson From History, but so far he’s not answered a single one of my emails. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t bring Nazis into it in a meaningful way.

Still, it’s good to see Fleet Street’s Finest have got their heads down and are still digging up the Stories That Really Matter:

W T Stead, eat yer heart out. Now this is a scoop!

Full story here.

The fourth plinth: Surely the place for Rupert

July 8, 2011 Leave a comment
Rupert Murdoch

Still wrong-footing them, after all these years: Rupert Murdoch

For some years, I’ve argued that the vacant fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square should be occupied by a statue of a great man, Joseph Bazalgette, the Victorian civil engineer who single-mindedly cleared central London of its slums, created the embankments and Battersea (and other) parks and rid London of the great pestilence of cholera forever. The capital still relies on his sewers today. And they still work.

But increasingly, I’ve come to the conclusion – a difficult one for a New Zealander – that the honoured place should go to an Australian: Rupert Murdoch. For he is the only one who has carried the robust free speech traditions of Cobbett, Horne Tooke, Hazlett, Paine, Johnson and Coleridge into the 21st-century – and willingly paid for it, often to his cost – when the panty-waisted likes of  Rusbridger (minor), Toynbee, Thompson, Hari, Snow, Kelner et al stood around saying “oooh, let’s play nice!”, so politically correct they shit where they stand lest they befoul minority toilet bowls.

Don’t get me wrong: Murdoch has his faults. He really needs to see “man made” global warming for the expensive, anti-scientific scam it is, for instance. But on many matters – many of them important, such as freedom of speech – he is on the side of angels.

Joss Stone and shaping the 24/7 news agenda

June 15, 2011 Leave a comment
Joss Stone

Joss Stone: Arresting new single

Currently, both the BBC baby farm – sorry, BBC News – and Sky News are featuring heavily and tweeting louder than an evening chorus the news about blue-eyed soul singer Joss Stone and arrests surrounding an alleged “murder plot”. Both the BBC and Sky seem to rely heavily on that increasingly deranged and hysterical font of breaking “news”, the Daily Twittergraph. Even to the extent of  sharing the same phraseology and “spokespersons”.

Hmmm. Stone of course was the artist who attracted widespread opprobrium from the bien pesantry in the UK media in 2007 by affecting an American accent at the Brit awards. How dare she sound something like George Dubleya! Boo! Hiss! Gerrer orf!

But in these days of Hopey-Changey, that’s OK now, so it seems she has been rehabilitated by the North London chattering classes. Huzzah!

What none of these news reports thought fit to mention is that she has just this week released a new single, Somehow, taken from a new album, LP1, due for release on July 26. I’d have thought these facts might have relevance to the story. But obviously they were unaccountably not included in the original press release. Or, if they were, the journalists for some reason thought fit not to include them, despite finding a lot of other superfluous rubbish to include, including the telling details of  – to quote the BBC – “swords, plans of the singer’s home and” – a real gothic, Burke and Hare detail this – “a body bag”. Surely there was a phosphorescent-fire breathing hound somewhere in there? We are talking about Devon, after all.

Well, call me a cynic, but isn’t the coincidence of a singer coming back in from the media cold with a just-released single and an upcoming album, with a red-hot, hold-the-front-page story of possible kidnap and murder which might have been ripped straight from the pages of a Victorian penny dreadful enough to make even the Twittergraph’s fearless investigator of “quirky internet stories”, Andrew Hough, pause for thought? Maybe not.*

For the record, I enjoy Joss Stone’s singing. You can hear some tracks from the new album at her website. She sounds as good as ever.

Personally, I don’t give a monkey’s what she talks like at some arse-licking industry award show like the Brits. There, she could moo like a cow or honk like a flatulent goose for all I care. She certainly wouldn’t sound any worse than the journalists at the bleeding-edge of our shiny new 24/7 news cycle.

* UPDATE: Or maybe so. I notice at 1.16am this morning, the Telegraph website had taken down Hough’s original story, plus some other “related” stories.

Osama bin Laden dead – are we there yet? No. Show us the meat.

May 2, 2011 1 comment

The BBC's Katty Kite-kat despatches the news of Bin Laden's death in the approved Mark Thompson-fashion, without excessive bleached hair flicking

At the moment of writing, I’ve not looked at what any of the nationals are saying about today’s big news, but am merely flipping between BBC News 24 and Sky News 24. Both are breathlessly asking the same question: did Pakistan know? And if it didn’t know, what does that mean about US-Pakistan affairs? Was Pakistan sheltering the evil beardy be-turbanned one? Was the USA – under its touchy-feely, hopey-changey president Obama – actually acting as the hegemonist, imperialist, capitalist foe of old? I can hardly wait to read tomorrow’s Guardian to find out what I should think.

But then I don’t know what to think until we have that Heinrich Himmler/Che Guevera moment: show us the body. There’s an obvious, long-proven fake picture doing the rounds on the internet. There are (again internet) rumours that the US security forces took pictures (hardly unlikely, since pictures formed part of the evidence that proved he was who the US forces claim he was). And here is where photography comes into its own: a still picture is what we want, not a jerky, handheld, unfocussed, amateurish, camera-phone YouTube clip. We’re not after Karsh here, but give us something.

But to return to the Beeb and Sky’s frantic question – did Pakistan know – as an armchair student of history, may I offer two scenarios:

1) The Eichmann scenario. Pakistan did not know, the US planned and carried out a successful, surreptitious operation right under the noses of the Paki secret services, much as Mossad did under the Argy noses to snatch Adolf Eichmann and later try him for his war crimes in 1962.

2) The Cuban Missile scenario: JFK, through RFK and secret channels to the USSR, negotiates a way to take the world back from the brink of nuclear war, giving up missile bases in Turkey for the Russkies’ withdrawal from Castroville. Both huff and puff for the media, but the deal is stuck to.

Now there may be a third scenario I haven’t thought of, but, hey, I’m just going according to history and trying to learn from it. (Mind you, when you think about it, it’s those who do learn history who repeat it most often. Usually to baleful effect.)

But I know which the two above scenarios I tend toward. It’s just we won’t know whether I’m right until future announcements – perhaps in a several years when they come to light – regarding the US (and Nato) and Pakistan. But you read it here first.

PS: Why, on both the BBC and Sky News reports, did I not hear the word: “Wahhabi”? Why do I suspect I shall not see the word mentioned much in the nationals tomorrow? I suspect the Guardian shall leave me sadly wanting in this respect. So I won’t know what I should think.