Intellectuals have long expressed concern about the media’s potential for diminishing the quality of our culture. We should be more concerned by the ability of a ‘sound bite’ to diminish the quality of our political debate.
An election is looming – thankfully – and the quality of main stream media coverage has deteriorated sharply, driven by the press releases of the main contenders.
We are invited to discuss whether David Cameron has been air-brushed or not, ala the archetypal Cosmopolitan article.It is not his wrinkles, acne, boils, pustules, or hairy ears that we will be electing, but his fiscal and social priorities, yet we are steered in the direction of his appearance.
We are invited to view the latest episode of Aliens – is Gordon ‘ my children aren’t props, they’re people’ Brown human or not? Piers Morgan, his old friend, is given the scoop opportunity to show that Gordon is human, yeah, he has emotions, watch him cry, watch his wife cry, (and a tip of the Raccoon tail to Will Sturgeon’s perfect sound bite ‘tears for Piers’) and then press the red interactive button to vote him out of the house. It’s not whether he can cry over his dead child that we should be electing, but whether he reduces us to tears or not with his policies.
Alistair Campbell is wheeled out of rehab onto the Marr show, not to discuss the influence of the spinmeisters on political debate, which could have been relevant, but to display his emotions at being accused of having ‘sexed up’ the evidence that has sent so many men to the graves. Yeah, he stopped talking for a full minute and the media are submerged in a paroxysm of delight as they discuss the reason why the great communicator might have shut up for a full minute.
Let it all hang out emotion everywhere – yet little serious coverage of the announcement that there will be a March budget – beyond the fear mongering ‘Rich will bear the cost’; who else do they imagine could put back into the economy the money that ‘escaped’ into the hands of – the rich? It is beyond infantile reporting, its is scandalous dereliction of duty on the part of the media. They are happily reducing this election to the level of an episode of the Jeremy Kyle show.
Ministers now refer to ‘white enclaves‘ in a phrases that reeks of fear that perhaps there are some small isolated patches of Britain that think beyond sound bites and cartoon style reporting that all is well and Nanny will protect you from the big band wolves out there. The desire of those ‘enclaves’ to retain something of their existing way of life is seen as ‘extremeism’ and in need of £12 million pounds worth of ‘re-education’.
In other areas, Ministers are keen to engage with ‘community leaders’, in the white enclaves they only want to re-educate. Yet 12 long, almost unendurable, years ago, those ‘enclaves’ were the bed rock of Labour support.
The much heralded television debate between the main contenders is discussed in terms of who is demanding that their best profile be side lit, how many cheer leaders they can pack the audience with to boo and cheer as directed. Will they employ a warm up artiste to put the audience in a suitable frame of mind?
The right to vote is discussed in terms of making it easier to vote – not by giving us the real facts that would enable informed choice, but by giving us a fancy button on our computers, so that it needn’t take too much effort on our part. The learning disabled are to be encouraged to vote – by means of someone showing them how to put a cross on the ballot peper, not by someone educating them as to the difference in political beliefs. Postal votes are available for your community leader to collect your vote – you don’t even need to walk down to the polling station.
Does anybody doubt that if Katie ‘Jordon’ Price was on the ballot paper, she would be Prime Minister by the end of the week? If all that counts is being able to cry on Piers Morgan, no wrinkles and the ability to keep your name, and other assets, in the mind of the most intellectually challenged for as long as it takes to press a button on your computer, I’ll put my money on Katie.