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A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

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So, why do the government want to ban fox hunting? It’s clearly not an animal cruelty issue, because battery chicken farming would be much higher up that agenda. So, public demand then? Apparently not:


BBC NEWS | UK | Put NHS before hunting, poll says

2% of the population think the ban is a priority? Clearly not mass public demand then. Surely it couldn’t be that an urban-dominated government is making a petty attack on the rural communities that usually vote for their opposition?

Heaven forbid.

For those not keeping count, one is a caretaker who has been found very guilty of two appalling child murders, while the other is a man who revolutionised pop music two decades ago, but who has been haunted in recent years by allegations about his sanity and sexual preferences. The reason these two are playing on my mind is not the nature of their crimes, proven or alleged, but the reaction to them. Jackson, for example, is being treated as if he’s been found guilty, instead of just charged. One of the fundamental precepts of our justice system is that he is innocent until proved guilty.

Huntley, on the other hand, is guilty and thus is busy being introduced to the very well-deserved life sentence a judge has given him for Christmas. That’s not enough for the tabloids, though, oh no. They want him hung. Or, better, they want a headline declaring that his mother wants him hung. (Yes, they got it. No, I’m not linking it. I don’t even want to given them the measly hits they’d get from this blog.) They also want a witch-hunt of all the people who are responsible for letting Huntley get away with it. Quite who they are is proving to be a little problematic, given that the only three people in the house at the time of the crime were the murderer and his young victims. However, the papers have settled on the police and social service for failing to spot that Huntley had a history of being accused, and even charged, with sexual assaults and violence. “Something must be done,” say the papers, “the government must act.”

There are two problems with this. The first is that Huntley wasn’t actually found guilty of any of these crimes. With marvellous, stereoscopic hindsight we can see that he may well have been, but, well, remember that “innocent until proven guilty”? That said, in a rare burst of both realism and pragmatism (politicians are usually better at the latter than the former), legislation already exists to prevent people with this sort of history getting jobs near children. It just happens that the Police have been rather shoddy in following the procedures laid down in that legislation. Easy to deal with.

The problem is that sending HUntley away for the rest of his life and chastising some police officers just doesn’t feel like enough to certain sections of the British public. They want blood. They have an Old Testament “eye for an eye” impulse, rather than a New Testament “turn the other cheek” instinct. Our tabloid editors have worked out that pandering to that instinct, and fanning the flames of mob outrage, gets them sales.

The most important reason we have a formal court system is that mob vengeance is no way to dispense justice in a society that aspire to being civilised. It’s a reaction to the truism that individual people are intelligent, but huge groups of people are very, very dim indeed. The more our tabloid editors pander to the worst instincts of society reacting en masse to horrific events, the more likely it is that our politicians will enshrine that reaction in law. As Roy Hattersley was saying on Radio 4 yesterday, most of the wost legislation he has seen has come from that knee-jerk legislative reaction to appease the mob.

The real tragedy of all this is that the real problem behind these events gets lost in the tabloid headlines. The difficult issues that society as a whole needs to address aren’t easily reduced to a five word headline, and so are ignored. If Jackson is found guilty, I’d like to see him in a secure mental care institution, not a prison. I’d also expect to see the more considered heads in society giving some serious thought to the deleterious effects our insatiable appetite for celebrity have on those individuals who fulfil that need, especially those who are sacrificed on the altar of mass-media as children, like Jackson. Quite honestly, all I think we’ll see is a combination of the normal gloating over a celebrity brought low and headlines along the lines of “Paedo Prevent Wacko Jacko”.

The Media section of The Guardian carries an interesting story on the shake-up within BBC News in light of the Gilligan “Sexed-up dossier” story: MediaGuardian.co.uk | Special reports | BBC tightens rules on single-source stories

The two key points are these:

  1. All single-source stories will only be broadcast after being carefully scripted.
  2. That senior journalists are to have their freelance writing careers abruptly ended, and will be paid financial compensation for this. Lesser ranking hacks may still write for other media, but will have their articles approved by BBC managers first.

The first point seems like a good call. I’m less convinced about the second. TV and radio news are surprisingly shallow media. They only allow a fraction of the words carried by any of the daily papers. When a state-funded broadcaster curtails the ability of its most prominent and respected journalists to write for other media it, in effect, deprives us of a conduit for hearing their more detailed analysis and reporting.

The obvious solution is simple: get these guys writing for BBC Online instead, rather than just reproducing the gist of the broadcasts in text. They still get to write more than they do at the moment, BBC managers retain a veto and the public get the writing for free.

There’s an article in today’s Independent that trumpets a new MP3 player that has a colour screen and the ability to play movie files as an iPod killer. Apparently we’re all going to get bored of our iPods because they only play music. Just like, indeed, we got bored of our Walkmans over the years. Oh, hang on, we didn’t. I don’t think the “video iPod” is a flyer, simply because people like listening to music on the go, but just don’t watch TV in the same way. If you look in most gadget shops, you can buy personal TVs, small enough to carry around with you. When did you last see someone using one in public?

The problem with gadget freaks is that they are more excited by the technology than the use that the technology gets put to. And then, idiots like the journalist behind this article make the manufacturers think they can actually make money on bits of kit like this. They’re not going to, of course, The reason that the iPod is so successful is not the fact that it’s a cool piece of technology, it’s because its a cool and easy way to listen to 1,000s of songs whenever you want. If an iPod killer does come along, it’ll be something that does the same thing, is nearly as cool and easy to use and is hugely cheaper. It won’t be a clone that plays movies. Do you have any idea where you’d get movies to put on the device? No, I don’t either. Do you have any idea how you’d get, say, a DVD onto the device? No, I don’t either. The iPod is a simple solution which provides something people want – the ability to carry their music collection with them – while these video equivalents are merely a technology in desperate search of an application.

The newspaper known to many as the Daily Hate, to everyone as the Daily Mail and to the hordes of middle England as “my paper”, is finally taking the leap online:

MediaGuardian.co.uk | Press&publishing | Daily Mail finally embraces the internet

Finally, people all over the world will be able to experience the spiritual home of middle England, those right-wingers who remain ever so slightly suspicious of those funny smelling people from abroad.

I have lived in the same flat for the last eight years of my life, and I have always been pleased by the fact that Lewisham Council stops its streetlight Christmas decorations just across the road from my block. Alas, no longer. Now the lights are lit I can no longer hide from the fact that there are jolly Christmas lights outside my flat. They glare festively through the hall window from nightfall (around 4pm these days) through to the following morning. There’s nothing for it. Lorna and I are going to have to get fairly lights, trees, tinsel, the whole nine yards.

Let’s get festive.