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Rebekah – the speculation continues…

June 25th, 2014 Comments off

Sorry, more about Rebekah B…

When I left News International at Wapping in 1991, a young woman 11 years my junior was just starting her career there. Maybe we passed on the stairs? She most certainly would have been the one going up!

Rebekah Wade, as she was then, the “flame-haired temptress” in the joke cliché beloved of British satirists, was not a journalist but a secretary. In the law, medicine, other professions, an unqualified person cannot take on the role of the practitioner. But journalism is one of the few fields where a person can literally work their way up from sweeping the floor or running errands – it happened a lot in the 20th century and is still possible today. It’s a good thing, but does undermine the claims many of us, including me, would like to make for journalism being regarded as a profession.

But Rebekah Wade/Kemp/Brooks’s talents cannot be classified in a traditional way – other than that of the courtesan, the wildly successful female enchantress of men of power.

For the unusual thing about Brooks, it appears, is that she has succeeded with charm and grit, and seduced [not, of course, in the physical sense] all those around her from mogul Rupert Murdoch to former PM’s wife Sarah Brown.

The moment when Murdoch, having flown to London because of the Milly Dowler hacking scandal, was asked his priority and replied “This one”, indicating Brooks, has become one of the most famous, extraordinary and puzzling, aspects of the whole business.

Descriptions of her effect on powerful people echo comments on Bill Clinton, in that the beam of her gaze seemed to indicate that the person she was meeting was the most fascinating, important, and possibly sexy, individual in the world. However, this effect seemed only to be deployed on VIPs, and not, as a politician would have to, on ordinary plebs.

Brooks’ image to the world consisted of her sex-flag of hair and As the 2012 Vanity Fair profile of her by Suzanna Andrews described it, a “Mona Lisa smile…as if she knows something she’s not telling.”

While social media erupted with astonishment at Brooks’s acquittal on all phone-hacking conspiracy charges on June 24, even Nick Davies of The Guardian told the BBC’s Newsnight that “I sat in the court room for nearly eight weeks, and I would have acquitted her”.

Brooks seems able to enchant just about everyone – no doubt it is all very studied, yet comes across as completely natural. Otherwise savvy operators such as David Cameron, Tony Blair and Piers Morgan would see right through her with their fake-detecting antenna, right?

Removing my tongue from my cheek, it’s only left to list Lily Langtry, mistress of the Prince of Wales and loads of other toffs 100 years ago; Mathilde Kschessinskaya, who did much the same sort of thing in Russia; Madame Pompadour or even, er, Wendi Deng? But these ladies played a role chiefly as sexual partner and fascinator, whereas Brooks was – and may well be again – a figure of power and achievement on male terms. She was the archetypal irresistible female, but with her hands on the lever at the most important media group in Britain – or not, as her not guilty verdict seems to suggest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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So what will we do between 55 and 70?

June 3rd, 2014 Comments off

Retirement age is being pushed back in countries all over the world, with the latest being the Australian government’s plan to make 70 the life-point when the old-age pension begins.

There’s no doubt people are living longer, with the average span now being in the mid-80s for both men and women, in the west.

And many people would be happy to remain in the labour force, and earning a reasonable income, till their late 60s.

But colliding with this scenario, and not being addressed anywhere by governments, is the problem of what to do with these older workers, in a world where looking for a job over 50 is like the famous needle-in-a-haystack quest.

Evidence is everywhere: in Britain, the 2013 Commission on Older Women report found that a government programme to get people into work had a 28 per cent poorer result for the 55-64 cohort than the under 55s.

[The recession was particularly unkind to older women, with a 41 per cent rise in unemployment among the 50-64 age group between 2010 and 2013. In the population as a whole, the rise was just one per cent.]

Read more…

50% turnout? Politics needs more ‘Hell and Maria’ types

May 28th, 2014 Comments off

POINTLESS is an enjoyable early evening quiz show on BBC One. In it guests aim to decide which answer to a question would have had zero correct answers out there in the real world.

It’s hosted by Alexander Armstrong, with the wonderful, bespectacled Richard Osman as his sidekick. And last week there was a fascinating fact which appealed to me particularly. It was that Calvin Coolidge’s vice president on the 1924 ticket, Charles Dawes, was the same man who wrote the music for the hit song “All in the Game” in the 1950s. (“Many a tear has to fall, But it’s all, In the game…”.)

And to top his achievements, Charlie won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925. He was, according to the Nobel website, known as “Hell and Maria” Charlie.

Now there’s a multitasker/polymath par excellence, which leaves one musing via the cliché “They don’t make ‘em like that any more.” At least, not in our dull western democracies, where high office seems reserved for the superhumanly bland, setting aside an Obama or two.

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Longform journalism is dead! You read it here first

May 20th, 2014 Comments off

Longform shmongform. If you’re emulating Marcel Proust, don’t do it online.

“Why do you spend so much time reading those long boring articles in the New Yorker?” my husband inquired sniffily, before resuming his enjoyment of Neatorama.

Why indeed, I ask myself – well, not when it’s an instructive account of Berlin’s hipp-est clubs , as in a few issues back, or Lizzie Widdicombe’s fascinating “The End of Food” in the May 12 issue.

But sometimes you (that is, I) find the finger sneaking forward to scroll down – and there’s more – and more- and more – and for heavens’ sake, I have a life to live! Part of which includes reading all the other interesting stuff on the internet, and keeping up with the latest viral rabbits-eating-raspberries genre.

Another quote: “Longform is dead,” proclaimed the slender, sensitive, journalism graduate by my side as we quaffed institutional wine and celebrated the surprisingly good magazine which he and his peers had produced as a final-year assignment.

The magazine was both on paper and online – there was more content online, but the editor, my companion, assured me that it didn’t run on and on like Beowulf. “Always loved reading,” he said, “but I’ve realized there’s no point in putting long articles on my own website. It’s all about music, and I can see from the views and hits that people will watch the video, but just about nobody reads the equivalent article.” Read more…

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Privacy is just a construct – really?

May 9th, 2014 Comments off

OMG, leave privacy alone! Without it we are nothing. Angela’s view…

I’m a private kind of gal, somewhat shell-shocked by the public nature of the digital world, so the issue of privacy is a big one for me on two levels.

Firstly, there’s the platform privacy question: how much does Facebook/Google/the NSA know about you and your personal preferences, and what are they doing with that knowledge?

Second, the moral, philosophical value of privacy, the integrity of the individual in what used to be called their souls – what happens to that in an all-on, all-out-there, 24-hour society?

[And the usual qualifier that in talking about the digital society, we are talking about one-third of mankind, not the 4 billion or so who don’t have the internet.]

Privacy is no longer a social norm, Mark Zuckerberg told a techie conference several years ago, and he’s been followed by many parrots since.

Read more…

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