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Random thoughts and musings.

Everything that was wrong about the Olympic Closing Ceremony

I’ll not be the first, or the last to blog a few quick thoughts. This article (Hat tip: @FelixRatBastard) sums it up quite brilliantly.

Ultimately, my problem was simple.  The reason the Opening Ceremony was so brilliant was that it was about the Britain that I recognise, the Britain which is multi-cultural, proud, self-deprecating, inventive, full of history.  It showcased the things that the nation has done to change the world, and continues to do so.  And it did so in a self-deprecating manner, with a lack of the usual London/UK cliches.

The following 16 days provided fantastic entertainment, drama and emotion.  There were fantastic role models and in a single hour on a Saturday night, we had Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah all succeeding aided by a surging tide of noise and positive national pride.  As someone on Twitter so astutely noted “This is something on a Saturday Night telly that I actually want to watch”.  We had a break from the remorseless march of superficiality, stupidity and attention-seeking of a TOWIE, X-Factor or The Voice and watched real British people work hard to get to their goals.

The Closing Ceremony broke all that.  Where the track and field had been graced by true stars, it was now being used by vacant supermodels who turned up and… well, posed.  Where Mo Farah had done laps towards gold medal glory, trucks and Rolls Royces disgorged One Direction and Jessie J.  Where the 4 x 100m USA and Jamaican teams had worked years towards world records, we now had five women who hate each other singing a 16 year old song purely for the money.  Where the Opening Ceremony had featured a silent plea from millions of Britons that there would be no Del Boy falling through a bar, we had Del Boy Batman and Robin instead.  Where the Opening Ceremony featured a sweet multi-cultural love story between two young kids, its closing counterpart featured a song from a film that was released 33 years ago, sung by a man who seemed confused by having foreigners around him.  Instead of a simple subversion and celebration of Rowan Atkinson and “Chariots of Fire”, we got Russell Brand miming to “I Am The Walrus”.

(As an aside, how much fucking Beatles was in the show?  The bus, I Am The Walrus, Lennon, Imagine, Magical Mystery Tour… pretty sure I’m missing a couple of references, too.)

It was, in short, everything that was bad about media-driven modern Britain.  Past glories, confusion at strange people, superficiality, looks and miming above effort and talent.  When was George Michael last relevant?  It promised Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Kate Bush – and delivered none of them.  The best bit was the singalong to Freddie Mercury – which if I remember correctly, dates from 1986.  You kept watching because occasionally something good happened – Elbow with their own brand of crowd pleasing melancholy, Annie Lennox being as mad as a box of frogs, Fatboy Slim miming to somebody elses records.

For a Games which were tagged “Inspire a Generation”, we got the Who, Madness and John Lennon.  Those guys don’t have any relevancy to this current generation, because they were out of date for my generation, and I’m nearly forty!  It was bland, packaged, slick , soulless product reasserting its authority over the wonderful things we have produced.  It showed British music stuck somewhere in the mid-1990s.  Or more precisely, stuck right here. It featured people using the occasion to sell their new single or current West End Show, forget about the things you have seen, consume, citizen, consume!

There was an bitter sweet irony, that the Closing Ceremony should feature the very type of people that the previous two and a bit weeks had tried to sweep away.  The bland and the beige and the spray-tanned orange trying desperately to reassert their money grabbing grip on our popular culture.  I can only hope they don’t succeed.

Edit: The linked article says much the same as this, but better.

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Quick thought on Twitter trolling

The interesting thing about that prick who got arrested for throwing Twitter abuse at Tom Daley is that we’ve got a entire generation who are brought up unaware, shielded even, from the consequences of their actions. Then we put in their hands something that allows them to broadcast instantly, in real time, to millions of people.

So when they make a mistake, they either get away with it, or they get hit with the equivalent of a twenty ton truck. No middle ground. All or nothing.

That doesn’t sound too clever to me.

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Who is Walther Tröger?

Walther Tröger is an 83 year old German with arthritis. He was an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee. In 1972, he was part of the negotiating team that tried to free the Israeli athletes who had been kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists during the Munich Games. He reportedly offered himself as a hostage in exchange for saving the life of those athletes. He has dedicated his life to sporting causes, and worked hard under difficult circumstances.

Still don’t know who he is?

This guy.

Recognise him now?

This guy, whose arthritic arm meant, if you were stuck in a certain 70 year distant mindset looks “a bit like a Nazi salute, hur hurrr”. This guy, who was – like so many dignitaries around him – was greeting his own countries competitors as they walked into the Olympic Stadium.

And we had to take the piss, because, he’s German, he waved, and therefore must be ripe for being called a Nazi.

I despair sometimes, I really do. Notice Camilla and Boris Johnson looking on and laughing. This has been explained away by them supposedly laughing at the Germans Olympic uniforms (which were, in fact, hideous) but even if they were, that is no excuse. They should be polite.

It surprises me how many people were out of touch. David Cameron watched a celebration of the NHS he is so desperate to wreck. Jeremy Hunt watching clips and music from a BBC that he would dearly love to sell off to please his puppet masters at News Corp. Ed Miliband had to watch a celebration of the Jarrow Marchers, the Suffragette movement, the things that gave birth to a Labour Party unrecognisable under his leadership. Mitt Romney, who said “England [sic] is just a small island that doesn’t make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy” and then had to sit there and watch an entire segment celebrating Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented something that changed the world more than anyone else and then gave it away for free. NBC are under a hail of criticism for not knowing who TBL was, not allowing their country to watch the ceremony live and then being arrogant enough to cut out an entire segment honouring those who had died because “it wasn’t relevant to our audience”. The Daily Mail has run not one, but two hugely offensive articles. One complaining about the multi-cultural aspect of the ceremony which was so shamefully racist that even they decided to delete it, and another calling a competitor “some bitch from Holland”.

Never have the people in charge looked further away from the citizens they purport to speak for. And never have we looked so powerless to do anything about it.

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14 year old me just died and went to heaven.

Am I dreaming? Kevin Smith hosting a Q&A about Buckaroo Banzai? With Peter Weller and John Lithgow?

To try and describe The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension is to try and catch fog, or nail jelly to a wall. It is a genre-bending film, a sci-fi comedy comic book satire, the cultest of cult movies. If you have seen it and you love it, you have a friend in me for life. If you haven’t seen it, you’ll be like a hell of a lot of people. Buckaroo Banzai is proof that Earl Mac Rauch and W.D Richter were doing Joss Whedon before Joss Whedon was. And I mean that in a good way.

As one guy says at the Q&A. “It is said that only a thousand people saw The Velvet Underground live, but everyone of those thousand people started a band.  And I think that Buckaroo Banzai had the same effect on creative types.  Anyone who saw that movie and had it burrow into our heads, we went out and created stuff.”

Too true, my friend, too true.

Ah hell, look, have a (cheesy, but not bad) fan-made trailer.

And the catchiest end credit music ever.

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Nothing happened yesterday

Yesterday was a pretty momentous day.  Not that, if you read some of the newspapers, you would actually know it.

First off, the probable discovery of the Higgs boson was announced by CERN in Switzerland.  This is a major, major bit of news, as it not only furthers our knowledge of how the Universe works, but also vindicates the best part of 60 years of scientific theory.  To put the possibilities of this discovery into perspective, about 110 years ago, no-one had identified an electron, despite it being the major force behind electricity, thermal conductivity and magnetism.  The Higgs is possibly more important than that, as it is the glue that holds everything else together.

Also yesterday, Bob Diamond, disgraced ex-Chief Executive of Barclays appeared before a Parliamentary Select Committee to answer questions about the conduct of his bank.  Barclays has – with several other banks to follow – been fined for manipulating the LIBOR rate, which could potentially affect just about everybody in the UK.  This was a very rare case of one of the self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe (and not in a Higgs boson sense) to be dragged and required to answer for their conduct.

So, two huge stories.  One concerning the actions of the past which leaves a good part of the world in a financial mess, the other a good news story about Awesome Science.  And just how do the front pages of our newspapers look this morning?

Courtesy of frontpagestoday.co.ukCourtesy of frontpagestoday.co.uk

Courtesy of frontpagestoday.co.uk

Courtesy of frontpagestoday.co.uk

For what its worth, The Mirror has the bank story but not the Higgs, the I and the Independent have the Higgs and the banks, the Guardian has just the Higgs, the Times has both.  The Telegraph has a small story about the banks and a caption about the Higgs.  Full lot

Five papers mention (not even have text, but mention) the Higgs, five have the Bob Diamond story.  Exactly the same number who have… a photo of Kate Middleton at the tennis.

Remember this the next time journalists and editors cry out that what they do is present what is happening in the world.

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NTK – its back! (Sort of,)

I think I plugged this, but if you were a geeky type in the late 90s/early 2000s you had to have had a sub to NTK, the sarcastic, spiteful and terribly British email about all things on the Internet. Every Friday, the weekend would unofficially start when a newsletter full of stuff, wit and links arrived in your inbox. If you were particularly obsessed, you had a NTK t-shirt.

I had two.

It died, or to use its own parlance… FALCO!-ed (named after the award given to any internet company that went before its time, just like the Austrian techno-rap artiste) in 2007, having been a bit sporadic for a while before then.  But it was fun and ace and cool and “the memoryyyyy remaaaaaaaaiiins”.

Anyway, in a Minimal Viable Celebration, they’ve started emailing NTK again – the old NTK, just exactly 15 years on.  This is the new old Anno NTK posing such questions as will Apache 1.2 catch on? What about the new Internet Explorer 4.0? Does the new Radiohead album “Kid A” refers to the James Bulger defendants?

A trip back in time when people were trying to figure out what this here Internet thingy was actually for.  Read more from one of the original writers here or subscribe via the old fashioned “email” here. And in just under a years time, the first mention of a thing…  and can anyone remember what happened to it… called “Google”.

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Gawd save The Queen

Well, the weekend of the Queens Diamond Jubilee is over.  There have been tours, flotillas, concerts, dinners, street parties and much hip-hip hooraying.

Now, the idea that you have an unelected monarchy in charge of a First World country in the 21st Century is pretty archaic.  A lot, the vast majority in fact, of my various social networking feeds have been filled with Republican sentiment, grumbling and moaning about the cost, and so on.  To be honest, I got a bit tired of it.  Suffice to say, if there was a choice of starting over without a King or Queen, then that is the choice I would go for.  But that is an ideal world case, and this is not an ideal world.  So as far as I am concerned, if we have to have a Royal Family, then I think we’ve got one of the best there is.

Lets put a few myths to bed.  A lot of the Republican stuff is largely theoretical.  We are citizens and not subjects, and have been since 1981.  The Queen is a titular Head of State but is told what to do by Parliament.  She has the theoretical right not to sign any Bill into law, but if she did so, she and the rest of the Royal Family would be out on their gilded ears. She is a billionaireness, with a property, art and jewel portfolio that she can’t sell.  She has a life of wealth and privilege that she was born into but can never give up.  She has to share dinner tables and pleasant small talk with dictators because the Parliament of the day, whatever the hue, is either trying to sell them something or get something from them on the cheap.  And woe betide her if she says something politically incorrect like “Can you stop torturing your own people, please.”

Hell, even the celebration of her Diamond Jubilee is effectively saying “well done, 60 years since your dad died.  60 years since you were prevented from saying what you want and doing what you want.  Oh and 60 years of everyone watching you like a hawk.”  She had to turn up to watch Sir Elton John despite her 90 year old husband being in hospitalised.  Most of us would have sacked that one off, to be honest.

It is not as if the directly elected alternatives are much cop.  The Queen never got us to join in illegal wars, attacked our civil liberties with a hacksaw or corruptly tried to sell off our media to Australians.  When she stays over at a friends, she doesn’t claim it on expenses.  (Friends don’t charge friends for overnight stays, but MPs and Party Chairmen do.)

The financial argument is a tricky one, with both sides brandishing costs and facts.  My own opinion is that it is a draw – expenditure on the Civil List is balanced by income from tourism and Britains increased stature in the world.  I’ve travelled a fair bit and the one thing that foreign people think of when you ask them about Britain is the Queen and the Royals.  And they like them.  A lot.  Sure, we had Empire but right now, the most popular British person in the entire world is an 86 year old lady who smiles and waves a lot.  Not far behind are her eldest grandson and his perky wife.  Even Harry is quite likeable, if only for seeming to have inherited Philips most endearing characteristic – the vague feeling that at any moment he is going to do something jaw-droppingly inappropriate.

It isn’t a perfect setup – the various Knights of the Royal Garter this and Pageant Master that look very silly and outdated.  But then, so does Director of Strategic Acquisitions or Vice President (Photocopiers) EMEA or some other management speak.  Tradition is a supertanker of a thing, it doesn’t get turned around quickly and the alternatives aren’t much better.

I quite like the fact that we had a bunch of canal boats, Robbie Williams and Shirley Bassey.  We celebrated with paper plates and cups of tea and beer.  The weather on Sunday was horrible, dank, drizzly, grey – the British Bank Holiday at its most typical.

Because other countries celebrate with military displays.  Planes, several thousand troops marching by a balcony in front of tanks and missiles, large scale organised displays of love for a Glorious Leader who has his photograph 35 foot high on billboards.  We had some bunting and a commemorative mug or two and too many gone middle aged women who had had too much booze.

It wasn’t all perfect – the obsequiousness of the BBC was absolutely vomit inducing. (And the coverage was, by BBC standards, quite amateurish, including Huw Edwards talking and the end credits displaying over the final fireworks.) The concert was about as middle class and middle of the road you could get.  But Madness on the top of Buckingham Palace was great, Annie Lennox is still magnificent and doesn’t look a day older than her 80s/90s heyday and whatever it cost, the sight of a 64 year old Grace Jones singing Slave To The Rhythm while hula-hooping was worth the cost alone.

I just think that the Monarchy is a very British compromise.  I quite like that, really.  It doesn’t matter, it gives us something to grumble about or laugh at, and every so often we do something where we go “well, that was alright I suppose”.  We’ve got something that the rest of the world love, and what a number of them wish they had.  It is a popular national pastime to do ourselves down – not in a “aw, shucks” kind of immodest modesty, but to really put ourselves down and we shouldn’t.  We have a metric ton of stuff to moan about, so why not actually enjoy something good for a change.  The eyes of the world were on us and we did a pretty good job.

And in this spirit, it might be a link to the Mail Online, but if you can’t be proud of the Red Arrows and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, then what can you be proud of?

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Sekrit Project X

I’ve kept this quiet for nearly four years now, and this post has gone through a thousand revisions in my head in that time.  But I’ve been keeping something from a lot of people and it is time to ‘fess up.

I’ve been told enough times over my life that I’m a pretty smart guy but the truth is, I don’t have any qualifications past the eight GCSEs I got when I was at school.  For a lot of reasons, I never went on to further education, or to University.  To be honest, I’d have made a bad student – I was always was one of those who would exasperate the teacher by doing just enough to come near the top of the class despite never really putting the effort in. Not that I was lazy, I would always be reading some book or other, spending time in libraries pouring over encyclopaedias or maps.  I was just so bored with sitting there listening to a teacher droning on about stuff that seemed, to my mind, either staggeringly obvious or totally uninteresting.  I couldn’t wait to get out into the world and do stuff.  So I walked out of high school with eight GCSEs, got a job (via the notorious YTS) which got me a day a week at Burnley College, but I ended up skipping half of the classes due to feeling patronised and quit after less than a year to go full time.

Anyway, fast forward 12 years or so.  I’m  working, but beginning to notice the need for a degree on job applications.  Hmm… don’t have one.  Then I become a contractor, self-employed, self-reliant.  The degree thing is beginning to be a bit of an itch, if only to prove to myself that I’m capable of it.  My other half brings home a BSc Computer Science syllabus from Manchester University – I leaf through it and realise I can do about three quarters of it without breaking sweat.  The idea of doing a degree seems attractive, but again, I know I would get about two years into it and get bored.

Fast forward again, to just about four years ago.  My other half sends me a link, a company called Laureate Education.  They offer Masters degrees through the University of Liverpool and one of them is in IT.  It looks interesting and more importantly, challenging.  The itch to prove to myself that I’m good enough is getting worse.  I’m not going to give up work to do it, but the course is designed for people who are working, in that it is part-time, completely online.   I agree to enquire for more information, thinking the lack of A-levels or degree would mean it was unlikely i would be accepted.  I have a good chat with Laureate, who agree that the lack of formal qualifications is offset by 15 years of actually doing relevant work, and with the help of my employer (who wrote a supporting letter) I was formally accepted to study for a Master of Science in Information Technology.

The course is split into eight modules, plus a Dissertation.  Each class of students could be from anywhere in the world and we would gather online via forums.  The tutor would be anywhere in the world as well (in reality, I would usually be the only one from the UK).  I would get work on a Thursday, need to answer two Discussion Questions by Sunday, then contribute to the discussions with the other students and complete an assignment by the Wednesday.  Repeat for eight weeks, so basically each module was about two hours a day for 56 days straight with no breaks, no rest and no chance to miss deadlines.  Intense, especially when all you want to do after working all day is just sit and watch the telly.

Even when I was in Ireland I would be working on this – it helped focus and not worry about my other half back home.  It can’t have been much fun, our time together was limited as it was even before I had to spend a lot of it head down in research.  I’ve kept it quiet from most people because… well, I kind of figured it would be better than way.  Those for whom we had to visit for social stuff, they know because we couldn’t hide it from them.  But I’ve had to effectively disappear for long periods of time to get this stuff done.  It will also explain why C and I would just head off somewhere, just to get some space and time and not have much of a social life otherwise.

Why am I telling you all this now?  Because I need your help.  I have to come clean because I am doing a survey for my Dissertation.  It is on Social Networking and Privacy.  I need people to answer some questions. It will take about 15 minutes of your time.  If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, please take the survey.  It is anonymous anyway.  Also spread the word to friends and colleagues.  I really do need as many responses as possible.

I hope to make it and earn an MSc.  At least I’ll have given it a shot and learned a lot in the process.

The survey is here at http://bit.ly/mikesmscsurvey.

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Twenty years ago today…

This happened.

I was working at Microcheck, a small company in Trawden dealing with motor insurance for clients.  My boss, Mark, was a Claret and we had travelled to many games in that memorable season.  The Clarets travelled for the game in York and the tailback must have started in Colne.  It was crazy, as 7,500 people headed to Bootham Crescent for the match, hoping to see the Clarets get the one point needed for promotion, or the three points to become only the second club to win all four divisions of the League

Burnley fans took over three sides of the ground.  You could see the party atmosphere forming, an evening of jubiliation and relief even though not a single ball had been kicked.  In the traffic jam, I remember a Mexican Wave passing down the lines of traffic.  One van full of fans got out for a roadside pee on against the rear wheel of a Transit, some bloke running sideways trying to hit the wheel with piss as it moved forward in the jam. More Mexican Waves in the queues to enter the ground and then once inside, it was utterly packed.  And when John Francis scored the injury time winner, mayhem was unleashed.

A pitch invasion started early.  There was no fence in front of where we were – only a short policewoman assigned crowd control. I know she was short because I was barely five and a half foot at the time and I was taller than her.  She held us back when the goal went in.  A minute later, the final whistle and we once again streamed onto the pitch.  I ran by her, as she squeaked “Stay back, stay back! Ah, fuck it, just watch yerselves.”

It was a night that gave fresh impetus to the club, having survived the Orient Game four years earlier, this was the moment when the club finally managed to get itself into gear and begin the climb up through the Divisions.  I hate the idea that a club is “too big for its Division”, having long believed that until you accept the reality of your situation, you will continue to fall.  Ask Leeds, Manchester City, either Sheffield club.  Burnley had done the same thing until the day when it could have gone out of existence.  Since that moment, it accepted that history, a big stadium and big crowds didn’t give you any additional points in the League table.

Things could have stalled – nearly did in fact – but that season the club and fans got fresh impetus.  Two years later we were in Division 1 (or the old Two) having beaten Stockport in a playoff final.  But that was too far, too fast and the club dropped down after only one season.  Only in 2000, under the helm of Stan Ternent and chairman Barry Kilby did the Clarets make it into the second tier of English football.  And there they have stayed, aside from one season in the money pit that is the Premier League.  Clarets have punched above their weight, watching teams like Leeds, Nottingham Forest, Leicester, Sheffields United and Wednesday and all manner of so-called bigger clubs swing up and down past them.

Kilby today stepped down as Chairman to concentrate on his own personal fight against cancer.  I wish him all the best.  He brought a quiet dignity to the role of Chairman, never getting too down, never getting too carried away.  Burnley were hanging by a thread when he took over, and he leaves the club debt free and safe for a few years at least.  Every other club in the League would want a Chairman like him, a fan who funded his team but didn’t jeopardise its future.

But I’ve just looked at the clock.  As I type, at this exact moment, precisely two decades ago, I was dancing and smiling and jumping and crying in the middle of a football pitch in York.  I remember it like it was yesterday, and I always will.

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Brick, Leveson and trolls

Nastassja Kinski

Not Samantha Brick, yesterday

You’ve got to hand it to the Mail Online, with the story of Samantha Brick they have truly surpassed themselves.  Writing in the paper Brick complained that

‘There are downsides to looking this pretty. Women hate me for being beautiful’.

The entire piece is a mixture of smug superiority and putdowns for fellow women, illustrated by pictures of Brick who – and this isn’t going to be a surprise – ain’t all that and a bucket of spuds.  Sure, she hasn’t been hit in the face several times by the ugly stick but we’re not talking the new Nastassja Kinski here.

Predictably, Twitter went all ballistic over it.  The page hits went up, Samantha Brick and Mail Online got trending.  There were spoof pieces in Vice and The Guardian.  The Mail Online and Brick followed it up, not least with a second piece entitled “I wrote a piece where I come across as a narcissistic self-absorbed bitch, why is the Internet calling me a narcissistic self-absorbed bitch?”  (Possibly not its real title.)  Everybody wins, the Mail gets hits, Twitter gets to indulge in a mobbing and Brick neatly positions herself as the perfect Mail columnist – that elusive mix of being hopelessly self-absorbed, a hater of your own gender and most vitally, at least three-quarters of the way to utterly batshit insane.

(It is an oddity that the most hate-filled pieces in the Daily Heil are written by women.  Liz Jones, Jan Moir, Allison Pearson and now Samantha Brick.  A thousand spiteful, nasty, vicious words get the most hits and the most revenue.  It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase Cash Cow.)

The approach of the Mail Online is highly successful – it recently passed the New York Times in becoming the most visited newspaper site in the world.  There is a rather good article by Lauren Collins in the NYT about the newspaper and the website.   Basically, rather than relying on concepts such as journalism, the Mail Online got to be number one via the method of trolling, putting up any number of car crash WTF articles, misleading headlines, unfounded scare stories and pictures of half nekkid women. A hit counter raised to the status of a Demi-God, fed a daily sacrifice of hate pieces, WTF opinion, outright lies and all helped by the right hand sidebar of shame, row upon row of pictures of women without many clothes on, either admiring them for looking good or castigating them for looking less than angelic.

We are not gonna die. You know why? Because we are so… very… pretty. We are just too pretty for God to let us die. Huh? Look at that chiseled jaw!

I’ve said before that everyone on the Mail Online, editors, journalists and commenters exists purely to troll each other.  The journalists troll the readers, the editors troll the journalists for better copy and the readers add their comments below the line.  And if you thought the writers were mini-Hitlers without the rational side, wait until you get to the commenters.
Not Samanthat Brick, either

Not Samantha Brick, either

The key thing that makes the site so successful is that everyone is trolling, while simultaneously thinking everyone else is being serious.  A virtuous circle without much virtue.  The ultimate goal is to ramp up the page hits, which keeps the revenue flowing from advertising.  Bit odd to have your revenue hanging on people stopping to see a car crash and mentally associating your brand with the worst excesses of journalism, but what do I know?

It operates on exactly the same level as the old Melissa/I Love You/Anna Kournikova viruses – where the user would be fooled into clicking a link which installed a virus/malware/porn onto their machine.  Obviously the Mail Online doesn’t download porn onto your machine, merely gives you the sidebar of shame of women with few clothes on.  The idea is the same, hook peoples eyeballs in and gather hits by pretty much any means possible.  To make it virtually impossible for you to get your way out of it and for you to pass on your outrage with a single click.
Twitter makes it so easy to do, as well.  One click, push or press and your Two Second Hate is retweeted to a hundred followers (in my case.  I’m rubbish at Twitter.)  If only 10% of those follow the link, you can see the exponential growth in hits.

This man judges whether a woman is attractive.

And here is the rub.  The Leveson enquiry into phone hacking has been going on for a while and has been spectacular entertainment.  Many people have queued up to say how they have had their lives ruined by the press.  Most of the people, Steve Coogan, Sienna Miller have been targeted simply because they do a job that means they are in the public eye.   The Press themselves, led by the Daily Mails’ Chief Cunt In Charge Paul Dacre (again, possibly not his real job title) have harrumphed and said a free Press is necessary to expose corruption in high places.  This argument has been taken up from the likes of Paul McMullan all the way down to Fleet Street Fox.

(Aside.  Fleet Street Fox is an anonymous blog written by a current national newspaper hack.  It is a great read and I thoroughly recommend you subscribe to her blog.  But she does have a massive blind spot when it comes to the ills of her profession, perhaps best illustrated when she appeared on Charlie Brookers Newswipe complaining about anonymity granted to footballers who were having affairs while being filmed in silhouette...)

Back to the free Press argument – I actually agree with it.  A free Press is essential in a democracy. Those in power should fear that their criminal misdeeds and patronage and favours are exposed.

If only that were the case.

What the Mail Online shows us, and the Samantha Brick episode puts a lovely little bow on, is that Fleet Street aren’t interested in all that journalism stuff.  It is all well and good saying you need to be left alone to expose skulduggery if you are in the business of exposing skulduggery.  And pointing at a footballer for sleeping around is not exposing skulduggery.  Neither is devoting acres of space to plugging Simon Cowells latest record deal or whatever the fuck vapid bint is filling the current heavily scripted “reality” show.  That isn’t journalism.  The sidebar of shame, featuring paparazzi snaps isn’t journalism.

Of course, a 64 page newspaper full of investigative journalism is going to be deathly dull and boring without a few bits of sugar and icing on top.  The thing is, most newspapers are all icing and no cake. I read The Guardian and even that can’t resist going downmarket – although always with a detached sense of superiority which at least pretends to be ironic.  And with the likes of Max Gogarty and Bidisha, it isn’t invulnerable to trolling the readership either.

Mail Online is the ultimate logical conclusion of where newspapers are at the moment.  Desperate for attention, missing the entire point of its existence and thinking completely short term.  It is a cynical exercise in manipulating everyone.  I actually admire its ruthlessness, there is a purity to its sense of purpose that you have to respect. But in the end, it is the website of someone slowly but surely self-immolating in the middle of the High Street.  “I’m popular, look at me, I’m popular” while not realising that the crowd at laughing at them, not with them.

So when Leveson reaches his conclusion and Fleet Street wails on about the curtailment of its freedom, remember what they are arguing to continue to be able to do.  It isn’t to investigate stories, to root out corruption or correct injustice, it is to keep paying the likes of Samantha Brick to provoke you into clicking for ad revenue.

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