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Riots – blame digital isolation

August 10th, 2011 Comments off

By Angela Long

Rapper Reveal, a dapper gent with a small geometric tuft of beard, has an interesting theory about the British riots. The kids, he says, are merely aping the behaviour they’ve seen in adults all their lives – naked pursuit of stuff, shiny fashion stuff, material goods.

It’s a sour twist on the triumph of capitalism.

Me, I blame the internet. Digital platforms, that’s what’s done it. And I do have a serious point here, not just referring to the well-publicised use of the closed Blackberry messaging system for the rioters to arrange their next ‘spectacular’.

As a cyberpsychologist, I’ve been interested for some years in how the internet is changing our lives at a deeper level than the obvious one of convenience. Some of it’s good, some is bad, but mostly the jury is still out on how a life revolving around digital platforms differs from previous modes of existence. And as all the emphasis has been on how to use the internet as a commercial tool – and for the media, how to make it pay – other bigger concerns have been ignored.

Look at the young people who’ve been out torching police cars, vandalising properties, stealing, casually and with impunity, from shops. A lot of them are 16 and under – perhaps not as many as the hysterical adult reaction suggests, but still a lot. These are the ‘digital natives’ – a term of disputed validity, but loosely referring to the generation which has grown up with the internet, and has no memory of life before the virtual world dominated. Laptops, screens, mobile phones, tablets – no novelty in any of it to these kids, nothing strange. And their world’s especially been formed on mobiles and smartphones. Read more…

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A history of ethics – or not

July 20th, 2011 Comments off

Angela Long used to see Rupert Murdoch shuffling around Wapping in his home-knitted jumpers. That was before ethics went to hell in his newspapers (and his latest wife smartened up his attire). But this is serious…it’s about society and democracy

Bliss was it to be alive in that ….afternoon in July, sitting in front of the telly, pot of tea, watching something I never, ever, thought we’d see: Rupert Murdoch in the dock.
That was really the biggest shock of the day, an afternoon of changeable weather in London, with one miniature storm in the Wilson Committee Room when a small-time blogger attempted to smear a fake cream-pie on the aged Murdoch’s face.
But that Murdoch, the anti-Christ, for so long, according to a sizeable constituency, the Dark Lord of media misbehaviour, was being held to account – it was amazing.
The reality of the proceedings themselves hardly lived up to that fundamental fact. Some members of the British parliament’s select committee on media, sports and culture distinguished themselves, notably Labour MP Tom Watson. Read more…

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Murdoch historic hearing marred by custard-pie stunt

July 19th, 2011 Comments off

July 19, 2011

Angela Long watched in amazement as Rupert Murdoch sat meekly at a table and let British MPs grill him about how he runs – or not – his media empire

‘Jonnie Marbles’, as he calls himself, hijacked the Murdoch hearings, towards their end, in the House of Commons. But it was only momentary, and one irony is that there is now no News of the World to buy his story.
The man in the checked shirt who tweets as Marbles waited till late in the three-hour session, then lunged at Rupert Murdoch with a ‘pie’ containing shaving cream. A number of people, notably Murdoch’s wife Wendi Deng, leapt immediately to restrain him.
People had queued for eight hours to see the only show in town. Thousands of people who have only vaguely heard of Commons Committees were on the spot in London or at the screen of their TV or laptop, watching a spectacle worthy of the Roman Colosseum: the most powerful media magnate in the world, with his son and heir, being grilled by a hostile group of politicians.
Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch faced their accusers – and former captors, in their power to embarrass politicians – in the Wilson room at the House of Commons. Behind James sat a phalanx of lawyers, while Rupert had Wendi Deng, his third wife, inches away.
“This is the most humble day of my life,” Murdoch senior declared at the start of proceedings. And that’s why the crowds were there, some of them gathered still with placards reading ‘Smash Murdoch’s Evil Empire’ and ‘He’s Got to Go’.
The Twitter joke, and pic, was the resemblance to Mr Burns and Smithers of The Simpsons. And at first it did seem to have qualities of caricature, with Rupert Murdoch answering in monosyllables, unable to hear questions, or leaving long silences before he spoke. Was this a piece of theatre, with a befuddled elderly man-character set to fend questions in one way, while the youthful business-school graduate parroted “Sorry, that was before my time/I have no knowledge/I am not aware.” Read more…

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NewsCorp abandons BSkyB bid – for now

July 14th, 2011 Comments off

Angela Long is getting punch-drunk with all the big moves in the hacking/Murdoch/BSkyB saga

Jeff Randall, immensely likeable business journalist on Sky News, was as usual giving it large. ‘I’ve seen some pretty big mea culpas in my time, but this is the biggest of them all.’
Randall was speaking last Thursday, after the astonishing news that Rupert Murdoch (for don’t think anyone but he called the shot) was closing The News of the World in the wake of a mounting, disgraceful scandal around mobile-phone hacking.
But now, we have an enormous cherry on the top of that sensational cake, as News Corporation announces it is withdrawing its bid to take over all of BSkyB, and hence have total control of Sky News.
This time last week the resiling from the bid would have had jaws on the floor all over the worlds of commerce and media. Today, it is just a logical step, as the Murdochs and News Corp are on the run from a massive and heartfelt tide of public anger.
Like me, Jeff Randall worked for The Sunday Times some 20 years ago at Fortress Wapping. In those dear distant days, the height of rascally or unethical behaviour by the bad boys at Wapping, The Sun and the NOTW, was the headline ‘Gotcha’ on page one of The Sun when the Argentine battleship the Belgrano was sunk during the Falklands War (with the loss of hundreds of lives).Gotcha p1
Tut tut. But the editor at the time, Kelvin Mackenzie, was hugely proud of the headline and it became iconic, summing up the cheeky disregard for propriety that the British redtops personified. Read more…

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MPs rejoice at lifting yoke of Murdoch

July 13th, 2011 Comments off

Angela Long on the Commons debate about News Corp and BSkyB

The mice are roaring. A subject people is standing up to its oppressor.

There’s all-party agreement in the British parliament, at last out in the open, that the Murdoch press is a Bad Thing. Today [Wednesday 13th] the House of Commons will stand solid behind a motion introduced by Labour leader, Ed Miliband. This motion declares that News Corp is not a fit and proper organisation to have a major role in the journalism enjoyed by the British public.

And there must be more than a few MPs delighted that, at last, they are out from the yoke of Murdoch and News International, of having to curry favour with the newspaper publisher behind sales of around 36 million copies a week, and about 40 million readers.

That’s about two-thirds of the British population, and a lot of people to influence when voting time comes around. ‘”It’s The Sun wot won it,” crowed the tabloid daily back in 1992, when John Major’s Tories unexpectedly won a general election. Tony Blair famously flew halfway around the world (to Queensland, Australia) to lick the boots of Old Man Murdoch in the mid-nineties. And once The Sun declared that Gordon Brown was a busted flush, in a front-page splash, the last prime minister’s days were clearly numbered.

“We have let one man have far too great a sway over our national life,” Labour MP Chris Bryant told Parliament in London last week. “Murdoch is not resident here, does not pay tax here. No other country would allow one man to garner four national newspapers, the second largest broadcaster, a monopoly on sports rights and first-view movies.”

Great days indeed, for the role of the media in keeping politicians and the system honest. Read more…

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