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Posts Tagged ‘Britain’

Rule by poorly-educated is looming

July 12th, 2016 Comments off

Gove tells Islam that nobody wants to hear from experts

Gove tells Islam that nobody wants to hear from experts

God, or Allah, might still be in his heaven, but all is definitely not right with the world. Brexit! A woman prime minister takes over from the rarely flappable David Cameron in Britain; in Ireland, the leader who just hauled himself onto the beach of high office after months of negotiation to form a government is now under challenge; in the US, the prospect of President Trump cannot be discounted; and a highly-paid TV presenter, Chris Evans of Top Gear, falls on his sword because of low ratings.

What the hell is going on? As the aforementioned Trump would say, punctuating each word with a shake of his raised hand, index finger pointing up.

Well, I have a theory, and again it has been indicated by that Great Pointer, the Man with the Golden Hair, DJ Trump. Some months ago, during his unforeseen barn-storming of the Republican primary circuit, Trump declared at a rally that “I love the poorly-educated”. Rapturous cheers met this of course, even though it seems odd that people would cheer to hear themselves described as dim. But that seems to be part of the Trump shtick, and there’s a certain amount of evidence that poor education was also a predictor of voting for Leave in the British EU referendum. Read more…

Corbyn’s in the frame – so watch out

October 1st, 2015 Comments off

PETER MANDELSON didn’t like the question.

It was 2010, and he’d come to Dublin to plug a book, and consented to a public interview at the concert hall.

“Lord Mandelson, do you think conviction politics have come to an end in Britain?”

A fair enough question from the audience, but touching a deeper and more serious place than the interview – a fluffy thing featuring probing posers such as “do you like wearing the ermine cloak of a Lord?” – which preceded question time.

Snarling ever so slightly, the Prince of Darkness dismissed the idea as tedious and irrelevant.

And now, there’s Jeremy Corbyn!

I strive to be heard above all the sniggering and horrified intakes of breath. A man of priniciple, someone who has stuck to the hard road of old-fashioned socialism, who has kept the red flag flying in his heart: not really one of the political class of the 21st century, is he?

Since Corbyn crushed the other identikit centrist candidates for leadership of the British Labour Party on September 12, there have been all sorts of agitated ripples from that mighty stone being chucked in the pool.

The heirs to the shameful legacy of Tony Blair – just so you know where I’m coming from – in Labour are only now coming out of goldfish mode and recovering the powers of speech.

The Tories, somehow not perceiving that this is probably actually a good thing for them, are having multiple orgasms of horror/delight. The Spectator magazine has been particularly entertaining in this regard, as columnists and contributors from both right and left line up to choke on their porridge and explain that this is The Worst Thing That Has Ever Happened in British politics.

Okay, so Corbyn is a humourless old trout, but it is as refreshing, as bracing, as a shower in a mountain waterfall, to see one of his ilk centre-stage in mainstream politics. Read more…

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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.

Read more…

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Assange and Wikileaks – reflection

November 28th, 2013 Comments off

This is a paper I wrote last year, and have belatedly decided it’s not half bad – though of course will be updating for lectures this winter...

THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS has a number of angles. One is the theme of free speech/power to the people; one is of the ‘little guy’ who takes on the global establishment and leaves it red-faced and determined to get revenge; one is the privacy or privileged nature of certain communications – or whether that never exists at all.

For people in the news media, one interpretation is that their role is undermined, even made redundant, by the Wikileaks phenomenon. At its core, Julian Assange’s project does away with mediation – the material goes straight from initiator to the public, so there is  no ‘mediation’ (filtering, editing, selecting) and so no role for media.

Wikileaks has blown open journalistic procedure. Yet it has also highlighted the need for professional journalistic practice, in selecting, editing, and presenting important information so it is of use to the public (which, it could be argued, the undifferentiated dumping of thousands and thousands of government messages can never achieve). In its first global coup, the release of the State Department cables in late 2010, Wikileaks could not have achieved the amount of coverage and controversy if it had not partnered with leading newspapers across the globe, whose senior journalists combed through the cables and selected the material which was most important and made the best stories.

Read more…

Bah, humbug, that Olympic opening ceremony was a mess

October 8th, 2012 No comments

Why I’m the curmudgeon over Danny Boyle’s Olympic distract-a-rama

 

It’s the internet, stoopid. And the crumbling of our brains. That, I’ve realised, is why I’m the blight at every enthusiastic mass-praising of Danny Boyle’s Olympics opening ceremony.

“Wasn’t it marvellous!” Brit-crowds crow. The gang was still burbling about it when I was in London last week. Mass adoration always irritates me. Unless I am the recipient.

But the lemming-like rush to declare it was such a fabulous event made me think of Leni Riefenstahl or Cecil B. De Mille and those grandiose cinematic extravaganzas which were calculated to make the poor schmuck in the cheap seats drop his popcorn.

Well, it was technically astonishing, and an awful lot went on. Then you’d expect at least those qualities for your £27 million.

However it was all over the place, and to my mind failed to fulfil three key requirements: was it a good piece of entertainment for the people in the Olympic Stadium?

Was it lucid and compelling for the vast television audience?

Did it act as an introduction to the great sporting event it was to usher in?

Taking the last first, the spectacular obviously meant to knock people’s socks off and be the memorable part of the evening. But the Olympics is about talented and dedicated athletes, not about directorial ego.

Was it lucid for a television audience? Probably more so than for the punters in the arena, who could only see bits and didn’t have the long-lens benefit of the cyber- and TV viewers.

But it was still very bitty – ooh, there’s Kenneth Branagh, now forget about him because the grass is all disappearing, there’s Tim Berners-Lee who invented the World Wide Web, now there are people on hospital beds and lots of dancing and finally, finally, it stops. It was a mass of ideas and half-ideas stuck together with verve, chutzpah and lots of money.

Had the theme been Berners-Lee’s incalculable gift to society (he’s a Brit after all) and that alone, it would have been clear, clean, and obviously afforded all sorts of spin-offs. You can get anything on the Internet, and a brilliant creative person like Danny Boyle could have chosen from a myriad possibilities. Choice, however, was not the keynote of the night, but rather a philosophy of throw everything in. And that does, in fact, mirror the effect of the internet on our lives, but no clear line was drawn between Berners-Lee’s fleeting appearance and the rest of the show. No, the ambition was bigger than that.

As Charlotte Higgins wrote in The Guardian, “it was bewildering enough, at times, to its domestic audience; abroad it must frequently have been plain incomprehensible.” (Although she went on to explain that it made sense to the British, saving for some stuffy Tories.)

It sounds a bit like the disdain for dreary old ‘facts’ that is being displayed by the Republican presidential campaign in the US. Lord, why should anyone be able to understand this fiesta? That would be commonplace and predictable.

The Olympics opening ceremony ritual has gotten out of hand, with the Greeks and the Chinese much to blame for their ludicrous shows that went on way too long and cost way too much. Maybe Rio will calm things down a little. Maybe.

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