Blogging a dead horse

Is a barrel of naked monkeys more fun than a barrel of hairy ones?

The News

When there was no Internet, we obsessed about catching the news broadcasts.

Once upon a time in our little house there would come the cry: “The News! The News!” And the entire household would rush to gather around the TV set to watch the six o’clock news and later on, if we were good boys and girls, the 9 O’clock news. Even upon waking, the radio would be switched on to broadcast the morning news bulletins, and at lunch time the 12 O’clock news would accompany our feeding. The news would consist of harbingers of erudition reporting parliamentary proceedings, foreign correspondence reports, industrial disputes, celebrity and aristocratic scandals, scientific breakthroughs, economic reports, crimes, cricket, football results and great British attempts on speed records. World beaters we were! And Fusion Power was just around the corner! Yes, even without the empire, we rocked!

Further to that, households in Britain had daily newspapers, often two large ones on Sunday - a posh one and the News of the Screws. Not only would the great British public have a national paper, but also a local weekly paper and an evening paper picked up to read on the train or bus on the way home from work. The papers would also have much more beyond the headline and meagre information written without style. There would be well honed articles, editorials, interviews, event coverage, satirical columns, and sometimes absurd columns like the Beachcomber column offering parodies of bad journalism with attention grabbing headlines like: “Sixty Horses Stuck In Chimney: report coming soon.” Little did the authors of Beachcomber realise that what was once a joke, would become standard practice.

The News was an institution that was part of our way of life. And better than that, all those newspapers were put to use. They were used to light your fires, to wrap up potato peelings and fish heads, to line drawers, paper over cracks in windows and roofs, and there was not a task that did not require laying newspapers upon the floor so that oil, paint, food, toe clippings, or iron filings would not damage the carpets. Fish and Chips were wrapped in them. Tramps were insulated with them. And muddy boots were cleaned with them.

The news was part of our culture. Facts did not exist. One could not check any with Google. It was assumed that all those correspondents and reporters were not merely making it all up. And if they were, commentators and editors would be tearing their work apart in great discussions and further investigations. Brains were trusted. Panoramas were constructed, and eminent men, sometimes even women, puffed on a pipe in deep thought and gave their perspective conceived after much unhurried personal experience of the subject in hand. Pubs would buzz to the chatter expressing whether it was all bollocks or not and often cross-referenced with local subversive rags handed out by angry young men in scarves and duffle coats. Comedians would make fun of the pompous, the out of touch, the ridiculously named hyphenated superannuated chinless wonders who considered it their birthright to be the font of truth. Authority and class bowed before journalistic thoroughness, sometimes, but always deferred to brilliance!

The News was as good as a novel, better than a film, and always important as it meant traffic jams could be avoided, trains delayed were no surprise, and jobs, homes, national security, south-westerlies over Cromerty, Everton and Arsenal drawing, and one’s possible rise from the ranks could be foretold. News was not just stuff that happened, it was what was happening, and proffered opportunity and demanded action, when one would ultimately discover how true it had been or whether you had been sold a lie. A lot was fix and propaganda, sleight of hand and bobbing and weaving, but everyone was capable of conversing and having opinions about it. A good argument about the capabilities of Germany’s football team, with references to the war, was just as likely to lead to informed outrage at the latest East German border atrocity, or the rumours that the Prime Minister was a KGB mole and the Mau Mau were decent chaps after all and fit to chair the commonwealth! Words were witty. Quotations were literate and petards were mortally coiled by the deftest of cockney, dourest of Glaswegian, drollest of Yorkshiremen, and fanciest la di daa Indian Immigrant with his collected works of PG Wodehouse cluttering up his briefcase. The pub, the club, the London Transport diesel engined forty seven horsepower omnibus resounded to the sound of men and women having more than just the weather to comment on. What was read and seen, and the way it was put, informed socialising, gave figures of speech, and made pundits of us all. And if among strangers of tongue-tying indeterminate class, the great highly informed British, or at least eruditely opinionated, public, hid behind a broadsheet proclaiming who they were and whether they were poser, tosser or worker.

And then came cable TV, the Sound Bite, News Channels, the Internet, Facebook, central heating and plastic sheeting, and some ruling by a faceless European bureaucracy that newspapers cannot be used for wrapping Fish and Chips, thus making them redundant, the Empire defunct and Great Britain’s scrotum shriveled.

Now nobody craves the news. Nobody talks, discusses, jokes, expounds, eulogizes, they merely like and re-post. They might dig deep into Google seeking the true facts, the horrifying facts, the alternative conspiratorial facts that they knew to be true all along! Bullet points, lists, snippets, factoids: a litany of faceless, ill expressed, information is amassed to alert some algorithm of which advertisement you might be susceptible to. This is a winner takes all challenge, one challenge at a time, until everyone gets bored and a new viral meme turns up. And so, what is this thing Kanye West? What has he done? Is he a drone? And, are the Kardashians actually a thing? Or are they fake news? Did a reality TV star really become President of the United States? Sounds iffy to me. I bet the moon landings were fake and the world is flat. And cats really control everything. You can tell because they look so smug. It is enough to make you angry, and in fact angry gets the likes! Crazy gets the likes! In yer face gets the likes! And the Likes can be purchased from a bunch of scrawny fag ash spattered Russians who will fake it all for you. It is enough to set your trousers on fire and bring Beachcomber’s Mr Justice Cocklecarrot out in a rash of hula hooped, sugar petticoated, Blue Hawaii, Red-bearded dwarf, high dudgeon!

Peering over one’s Pinz Nez, one looks at this world of re-tweetedness and tut tuts at the inadequacies of the younger generation that have been induced by the passage of the great tradition of News at Noshtime. The telly may not get as bad as a Sunday Songs of Praise but the world is poorer and crazier because its corporate masters are blinkered by misunderstood narrowly focussed data and up to their necks in gargantuan bonuses while axing workers and automating jobs. Did Dr. Germaine Greer really spread her alarmingly hairy fanny - both American and British meanings apply - for Oz Magazine while sporting a culturally misappropriated Afro, just so that puritanical worthiness could return in a worthless inarticulate format? No wonder Tracy Ermin cannot be bothered to make her bed. The woke critique of unwoke binary patriarchal narrative is all insubstantial slogan and no style!

Suffice to say that what you don’t know, you don’t miss and so calm yourself with the thought that my outburst is merely the rant of the cool generation finally throwing their hands up at a belated generation gap. The global post-second-world-war revolution, idiotic in much of its marvelous manifestation, has finally been overthrown. And all people of a certain age are left with, is the smug nod of the head as we acknowledge that the Millennials will rue the day when reality is totally virtual and they have no power to get real because language will be reduced to a bunch of emoji displayed on the peak of a digital cap and there will be no news at all, least of all fake news, because everywhere will be a safe zone and humans just a biological component of a digital network hacked to death by pre-teen data pirates in search of the green lizards that David Icke proclaims to be at the heart of the matrix. And as the BBC would say, that is the end of the world news.