Robin Brown

Journo. Editor. Tutor. Dour northerner.

Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Everyone wants to be the Huffington Post

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News that the Huffington Post – the current Death Star of journalism for reasons outlined here – is now generating twelvety billion impressions a day has obviously enervated the UK’s newspapers.

Well, the online versions of them anyway. The Daily Mail adapted first – and is a recognisably different beast form the print version. Put simply, it has a lot of tits down the iconic right-hand sidebar that virtually stick your fingers to the mouse – metaphorically and, quite possibly, literally depending on the photo.

The Mail Online also writes what might be the first ever article it’s ever done virtually every time it mentions a topic. So, for example, if I were to write an article on the Mail – in the style of the Mail Online – I’d go into how the long the website has been live, how many redesigns it’s had, what it’s raison de’tre is and any recent newsworthy items relating to it. Let’s say, um, Jan Moir’s vile columns or Twitter poll karma. Basically you can expect to read a mini Wikipedia entry about the topic on every different article; like a pen picture for the stupid.

I expect that, combined with lots of other tics, this is an SEO exercise – as the entire site is, really. 3.2 million articles can’t hurt, mind.

The reason for this image will be revealed later on

The Mail also a internet dog-whistler – even going to the trouble recently of winding up its own audience with a ‘lefties are more clever than righties’ article – and it borrows a trick from its print self in stoking up people’s irrational fears and disgust.

The Mail and the Huffington Post have been duking it out for some time for traffic. Other papers have their own versions: The Telegraph has a frothing twat by the name of Jams Delingpole whose only purpose is to wind people up. The Guardian has an entire section devoted to that purpose in the shape of Comment Is Free. The Indy writes millions upon millions of ‘top ten’ articles – it’s almost pitiful.

But I’ve noticed something else in the last few weeks that I did not notice before – something I can only put down to the clear success off The Huffington Post. Namely, idiotic galleries designed to keep users clicking through dozens of pages, getting trillions of eyeballs on display ads and ensuring they’re shared on Facebook and Twitter.

Is Cheryl back with Ashley?

Today the Torygraph has dozens of images of Steve Coogan’s various alter egos – something that amounts to 24 press stills assembled with approximately ten minutes’ effort writing captions. Last week the Grauniad had a load of photos of dogs swimming underwater, for crying out loud.

Somewhere else the Grauniad is following the Huffington Post is into the free resource market. I say ‘free resource market’. What I really mean is ‘using bloggers and media professionals who can’t find employment to churn out high-quality work for no money’. At least the Guardian asks – the HuffPo gets its free labour to take stuff from the web, rehash it vaguely and throw a link back to the source, buried among a million ads and calls-to-action.

I find this fairly egregious, but symptomatic of where the web is heading. Shorter attention spans, sites wielding their Page Ranks like weapons of mass destruction and a brainless mix of celebrity flesh and diverting pictures.

In celebration of the New Journalism, here’s a top ten of internet facepalms I’ve collected from around the internet that other people have taken the time to mock up.

Faceplams are an internet meme popularised by an image of Star Trek: The Next Generation actor Patrick Stewart holding his head in hands. They are meant to typify frustration or disbelief at the behaviour of others (my own genuine facepalm is above).

Star Trek: The Next Generation is a US TV network show that was broadcast between 1987-1994, starring Patrick Stewart. Patrick Stewart is a Shakespearean actor known for his bald head. Baldness implies partial or complete lack of hair. Stewart had a famous public with roly-poly funnyman James Corden at an awards ceremony in 2010.

Written by Robin Brown

February 27th, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Office working is not remotely working

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This is the absolute last word on office work and sums up everything I have to say on the subject.

It’s by Jason Fried, the founder of 37 Signals, which makes various nifty little ‘how to work together’ programmes that I sometimes use. He has a remarkable name but I’m even more impressed by his views on the tyranny of the office.

I wish everyone who worked in an office would watch this.

Written by Robin Brown

January 5th, 2012 at 8:39 pm

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Privacy is for paedos

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I’ve watched the hackgate/NewsCorp/Leveson circus with a fascinated mixture of horror, revulsion and amusement. It’s been something of a car crash spectacle, only onlookers didn’t hack the phones belonging to the relatives of those expiring in the inferno, stick a camera into the faces of dying people or hound the relatives of the dead afterwards.

Seeing the likes of Brooks and the Murdochs get some measure of comeuppance has been vaguely satisfying, but I don’t think a lot will change. One lot of dodgy newsroom execs will get the boot; another load, steeped in the dubious cultures of modern national newsrooms, will take their place.

The new I'm A Celebrity cast lines up at the Leveson Inquiry

What may happen is that the ridiculous Press Complaints Commission might finally shuffle off to a Soho restaurant for good, in that it should be clear to even the most swivel-eyed hack that it’s permanently fucked; rather like a semi-senile octogenarian business type constantly befuddled by what his avaricious minions are up to behind his back.

The revelations over what families such as the Dowlers and McCanns were put through should cause everyone who calls himself a journalist to cringe with the awfulness of it all. The press has been out of control for much of the last decade; each jaw-dropping anecdote about hacking, blagging or other criminal behaviour another black mark against an industry capable of so much good.

Yesterday at the Leveson inquiry absolutely blew that away though, with the testimony of Paul McMullan, a man who has only existed previously in cartoonish representations of the most archetypally amoral journalist going. McMullan virtually admitted, without shame, that he had broken the law in many and varied ways more times than he could remember – and went on to explain that absolutely anything that sold newspapers was justified.

I’d suggest that the combination of massive, extra-legal power, backed up by lorry-loads of available cash – essentially the tools of tabloid journalists over the last ten years – coupled with the belief that virtually any behaviour, and any story, is justifiable is a pretty worrying proposition.

McMullan didn’t seem to think so. “Privacy is for paedos,” he averred, tucking his press card into a hatband, scowling at a Muslim and knocking one out to a page three picture of Lucy Pinder’s tits. `

“Circulation defines what is the public interest,” he continued, lighting up a fag, breaking wind and slurping on a pint of warm beer. “I don’t see it’s the job of anyone else to force the public to read this or that.”

The public interest. Have three words ever been so misused to justify such scandalous behaviour? To a new generation of hacks and hackettes, this new definition of “the public interest” happens to dovetail with “what newspapers want to publish”. Jon Venables’ new identity; Kate McCann’s private diaries; Charlotte Church’s norks – public interest.

These things cannot possibly be in any recognised definition of “the public interest”; the only “interest” involved here is self-interest. Over the last 40 years journalists have started to fantasise a bizarre superhero role for themselves, where they bring down druglords, bent politicans and have become crusaders for free speech and the Great British Public.

In some ways they have – and the right of the press to muddy what constitutes legal and illegal conduct in the pursuit of uncovering corruption, mass illegality and behaviour inimical to civil society has been, unofficially, enshrined.

McMullan just about stopped short of admitting to – but happily defended – a wide spectrum of illegal activities, such as cultivating contacts with police, being involved in high-speed car chases, entering private buildings under false pretences, theft, telephone hacking and using private detectives to ‘blag’ information.

Many of these activities fall into a kind of grey area in the PCC’s codes of practice – and statutory law. The Guardian only managed to bring down Jonathan Aitken – one of the greatest instances of investigative journalism in our country’s history – by faking a letter from the House of Commons. Illegal? Unethical? Perhaps – but there’s a peculiar ‘ends justify the means’ aspect to journalism in this country.

In some instances they do. Most of the great political scoops of the tabloid era will have been broken with some assistance from legally dubious methods. If that work exposes corruption, illegality or double standards of those in public life then I can see a justification.

But somehow “the public interest” has been extended to actors, sportspeople, musicians, reality TV types – even the families of those in the public eye; basically anyone famous enough to arguably be of interest to people who buy newspapers. Tabloids tell us they’re the guardians of truth and honesty and give us tawdry sex-and-drugs splashes concerning people like Joe Calzaghe and Kate Middleton’s uncle; the News of the World wasn’t known as the News of the Screws for nothing.

McMullan’s only apparent regret was that he once discovered Denholm Elliot’s daughter – homeless, drug-addicted and working as a prostitute – took her to his flat, reeled of some grimy topless photos of her and splashed her sad wreck of a life all over the weekend papers. A couple of years later she killed herself. Public interest, right?

Some journos and editors cannot tell the difference any more between who’s a legitimate target and who isn’t. And their behaviour risks legislation, in response, that will make it harder for journalists to investigate legitimate targets.

In taking advantage of the grey areas of what’s excusable as part of political and economic journalism – by exporting those cloak-and-dagger methods to tittle-tattle – they’ve probably made it easier for governments to muzzle the kind of journalists who exposed Jonathan Aitken, Robert Maxwell, Jeffrey Archer, Conrad Black and expenses-fiddling politicians.

That they can’t see it themselves, apart from a few notable exceptions, is worrying. They genuinely believe they have the right to do what they want in the pursuit of a story. That extends to deleting messages on Milly Dowler’s phone, causing her family to believe she was still alive when she was dead; and printing Kate McCann’s grief-filled private diaries, before going on to suggest the McCanns had sold their daughter for cash without a shred of evidence.

The hacking and the dubious provenance of the diaries – almost certainly both illegal – sold papers, runs the McMullan defence, therefore they were fair game. His testimony, while amusing, should do little to convince the general population that tabloid hacks aren’t the absolute scum of the Earth.

How did any of it support his view that the PCC does a good job, the press should remain free and that journos are sympathetic characters who are working in the “the public interest”? Not one jot; in fact his testimony was so batshit that there was apparently some discussion that it should be ignored completely.

Justice Leveson, currently overseeing what amounts to the most fascinating chat show ever broadcast, says that a free press represents “an essential check on all aspects of public life”. Certainly it does, but it’s become clear from the parade of celebs, tits, paedos, grief-mongering, jingoism and shrill hyperbole in many of the tabloids that it’s simply not fulfilling that role any more.

Nick Davies – whose horribly depressing book Flat Earth News is a must for any journos and has been circulated among every journo, by every journo, I know – says that it’s “incredibly difficult” to know where the public interest lies. That difficulty has become a cloak to protect dodgy journalists and covers a multitude of sins.

“[A]ny failure within the media affects all of us,” says Leveson. “At the heart of this inquiry, therefore, may be one simple question — who guards the guardians?”

That should send shock waves rippling through the media – and particularly the PCC. But they only have themselves to blame. For too long the cowboy journalists have bent rules designed to help the press expose wrongdoing in order to shaft anyone who enters into the same definition of “public interest” to which Paul McMullan subcribes.

“A balance must be struck between the freedom of the press and the rights of individuals to be treated fairly,” said Leveson. That the balance is hopelessly skewed is fairly clear from the first few days of the inquiry; that Leveson will feel compelled to act, given some of his statements thus far, seems equally clear.

How has this been allowed to happen? Because successive governments enter a Faustian pact with media moguls and their lackeys such as Murdoch, Brooks, Lord Rothermere, the Barclay Brothers, Paul Dacre and Richard Desmond – bestowing favours and turning blind eyes to the worst excesses.

The end result is a situation where the Prime Minister is best chums with two people described at the Leveson inquiry as “the scum of journalism”, complicit in a system that has the power to bring down politicians – or destroy any public figure – almost at a whim.

I wonder if Leveson has changed his mobile passcode.

Written by Robin Brown

December 1st, 2011 at 12:59 am

Posted in Journalism,Media,People

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Is Piers Morgan a twat?

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I don’t follow Piers Morgan on Twitter because he’s a self-important blowhard hiding behind the pretence of being a simple wind-up merchant.

He’s like Wimbledon in the 80s but without the hardness. He’s like an internet warrior who’s been offered his own TV show. He’s not even a twat; he’s just a tit.

But he turns up with tiresome regularity on my Twitter feed, usually when people are RTing some tedious banter between him and Alan Sugar. More often the word ‘twat’ is associated’.

So, I got to wondering, just how often does Piers Morgan get called a twat on Twitter?

The answer, as far as I can work out, is once every 20 minutes or so. But don’t take my word for it, have a look below in this embedded Hootsuite search feed.

NB. This should refresh every ten minutes so think of it as a live insight into the world’s view of Piers. You might need to install Flash if you can’t see it.



Written by Robin Brown

June 2nd, 2011 at 11:53 am

Posted in Media,People

Tagged with , ,

The fickle world of the influencer list

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It’s been a funny old week for me in the online world. First MotorTorque, which I curate, was named the 25th best Twitter influencer in the UK automotive industry, then AdTurds was named in the top 200 ad/marketing/PR blogs (Clarkson-like pause)… in the world.

That’s all quite heartening especially as AdTurds is little more than a hobby that I do virtually nothing promote (although I’ll no doubt be bumped off the latter next month, when 455 Soho-based bloggers submit their own websites to Brand Republic).

But, really, what do these lists tell us? Very little for my money. The Twitter auto industry list was compiled using Klout (a Twitter metric I have little faith in) and used some other UK auto industry-specific peer group list I didn’t know existed.

Those not on the latter didn’t find their way onto the list – and a fair few people rather took their bats home. Understandably to some extent; the list had Automotive PR (list compiled by… Automotive PR) at the top and featured a knowledgeable, friendly guy who does not work in the car industry in the top ten.

While it was an interesting experiment I’m not sure what we learned from it, beyond the thin skins of some journos. The last word on the whole affair, which somewhat dominated auto journo gossip last week, was this brilliant Downfall skit by Sam Burnett.

On the second front there’s an explanation of a more thorough methodology behind the Brand Republic 200 that appears, at first glance, much more comprehensive. However, some of the blogs that have been included haven’t been updated for a year. One has not been updated for over three years. Quite how they got through the filters I don’t know.

People compiling lists like this always add plenty of caveats to them. They’re not about quality or personal favourites and no list is comprehensive. Still, they’re likely to cop a lot of flack – from people not named in the list or unhappy with results or those who simply don’t think the numbers stack up; both lists I’ve recently featured in have qualified on both counts.

So, what’s in it for the compilers? Plenty of free, cheap publicity – at least 50 or 200 retweets or Facebook shares from those in the list and more from those wanting in – and an opportunity to style onesself as an industry expert. Cheap and easy copy…

And what of those named in these lists? Well, they’re a nice little ego boost but not much more besides in my opinion. MotorTorque gained a few Twitter followers and AdTurds had a very small increase in traffic – an inbound link here and there is always good too – but appearances on these lists amounts to little more to flattery.

Having said all of that I’ll be fuming next month when I’m not placed. Such is the fickle world of the influencer list.

Written by Robin Brown

May 18th, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Full list of BBC websites to close

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The following BBC sub-sites and directories are due to close as part of Erik Huggers review:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/almonds

http://www.bbc.co.uk/anal-play

http://www.bbc.co.uk/archers-goon

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbc

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbc-fucking-three

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbc-radio-vatican

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bingo

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bobby-george

http://www.bbc.co.uk/carpet-tiles

http://www.bbc.co.uk/cleopatra-comin-atcha

http://www.bbc.co.uk/crumbs

http://www.bbc.co.uk/davros

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dance-the-fandango

http://www.bbc.co.uk/Deoxyribonucleic-acid

http://www.bbc.co.uk/desktop-anneka-rice

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dry-cleaners-liverpool

http://www.bbc.co.uk/douglas-adams-letters-to-richard-dawkins

http://www.bbc.co.uk/election-1974-the-second-one

http://www.bbc.co.uk/erectile-dysfunction

http://www.bbc.co.uk/fiona-bruce-holiday-snaps

http://www.bbc.co.uk/jean-jacques-burnel

http://www.bbc.co.uk/jenna-jameson

http://www.bbc.co.uk/lol-badgers

http://www.bbc.co.uk/murray-gold-organ

http://www.bbc.co.uk/negro-spirituals

http://www.bbc.co.uk/oh-for-fucks-sake-whats-this-one-for?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/penguins-(biscuits)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/penguins-(bird-things)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/probic-vent

http://www.bbc.co.uk/silurians

http://www.bbc.co.uk/taint-what-you-do-its-the-way-that-you-do-it

http://www.bbc.co.uk/that-dick-off-606

http://www.bbc.co.uk/toxteth-tabernacle

http://www.bbc.co.uk/volkswagen-golf

http://www.bbc.co.uk/x-ray

http://www.bbc.co.uk/zzzzzzzzzz

While this may seem rather silly and come across as fairly scathing of the BBC, I think the broadcaster does a remarkable job and wish it a long and healthy life.

But the list of BBC websites to be closed makes it clear that there’s a bizarre lack of direction to a lot of the BBC’s online resources and overall strategy.

Why else would there be top-level directories for /thesummerofbritishfilm, whatever that is, or /abolition?

What are /tvmoments? Was a season on what it’s like to be white in Britain worth the url bbc.co.uk/white?

And there are some peculiar wide-ranging sub-directories like /chinesefoodmadeeasy and /zombies and /britain that smack of the land-grab instincts of the BBC’s digital empire.

In fairness, any self-respecting web ed would have been packing a traffic-heavy site like bbc.co.uk – that can wield enormous Page Rank – with top-level directories to hoover up traffic everywhere.

But that’s exactly what the BBC cannot afford to do – with hungry, worried commercial rivals looking jealously at the Beeb’s enormous online clout and crying foul.

While it’s sensible to rationalise these sprawling empires into a more straightforward navigational – and organisational – structure, the plans for BBC Online do not seem to recognise the value of some areas, and how they help fulfil the BBC remit, rather than detract from it.

Why, for example, should 6Music or Radio7 not have their own websites? And what’s wrong with the BBC having pages and sections for programmes it makes? Certainly they need to be correctly classified, but why give up web traffic for queries on BBC programmes to commercial rivals?

Why shouldn’t local sites use non-news content? Who else does (apart from SevenStreets in Liverpool, obv) beyond the piecemeal press-release based local newspapers? Why should the BBC generate 22 million external referrals a year? The BBC doesn’t advertise what’s on on ITV or Sky1 on its schedules.

Beyond the that, disposing of the Douglas Adams memorial h2g2 is sad. Certainly, it’s hard to see why the BBC should own it. But the BBC is a fairly bonkers organisation, why shouldn’t it? Little details like that are what makes the BBC the BBC – a (de facto) state organisation that engenders enormous trust and fondness among Brits.

The BBC certainly seems to have its problems, and it needs to be very careful of expanding into areas where it will clash directly with commercial rivals (that’s you, Lonely Planet). Then again, austerity and cuts for their own sake seem to be de rigeur these days.

Maybe the Beeb needs to look up bbc.co.uk/hairshirt.

Written by Robin Brown

January 25th, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Posted in Media

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Despite everything, I’ll miss Big Brother

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There was something quite affecting about the end of Big Brother, which came to end last night after ten years of often-engrossing TV.

Chief among these oddly affecting moments was the Big Brother funeral, which saw the final Ultimate Big Brother housemates saying their farewells to the show in a staged funeral administered by narrator Marcus Bentley.

Whatever you thought of Big Brother, there’s not that many programmes that would have the freedom, the wit or the sheer po-mo profile to stage a funeral for itself on that very programme.

And then there’s the retrospectives, with all the former housemates on. People you’d forgotten you’d ever known, like friends you are no longer friends with for one reason or another.

And, later, a video of a load of ex-housemates in a tableau while The Craig and Josie mimed along to Time To Say Goodbye.

It was a moment that made explicit what a unique television programme Big Brother was, and how much of a new niche it created on British TV. Because BB made normal people we’d never met our friends, and also gave them a weird kind of volatile fame that I suspect has finished many of them, where a few prospered.

In that degree it’s fair to say it did continue as some sort of social experiment, highlighted by the return of a lot of ex-housemates in the last few weeks. What has happened, and will happen in the future, to those people? What kid of life must it be to experience that flash of overwhelming fame, followed by years of trying to readjust to normal life?

I watched most of the series, from the first through to the sixth, at which point it was clearly on the wane with a lot of WAG-type tit-flashing girls and empty vessels of either sex. And the out-and-out freaks.

I didn’t watch seven, eight or nine; but enjoyed the tenth when I watched it and all of the celebratory stuff. Perhaps it wasn’t such exciting TV as it had been in the past, but it was able to keep going on reputation and nostalgia alone.

And I think this is why I felt rather sad last night, because when a TV landmark shuffled off our screens it reminds us of times past; not just on the show, but in our lives too.

I watched the programme in a number of different houses, with different partners and housemates and family. And discussed it with dozens. I watched it live during Nick’s Waterloo in season one, sat around my Mac at work with my mate Walton.

A few years later I was texting my mate Ben while working very late one night, speculating as to exactly what was going on during FIght Night.

It was extremely addictive, engaging television – and I’ve never been that impressed by the cultural snobbery often directed at it. It’s fascinating, because it’s other people – and other people are always interesting.

There was a lot of rubbish in there, and a lot of horrible stuff. But the fact that gay, black and transsexual people won Big Brother is pleasing. And there’s a lot of wit to the show, the Tree of Temptation an amusing case in point.

So, I’ll miss Big Brother. I’ll miss the housemates, I’ll miss Marcus Bentley’s absurd narration, I’ll even miss Davina McCall. I’ll miss the excitment of glimpsing the BB eye in ad breaks in the weeks preceding a new one, I’ll miss the first look at the new housemates, the daft interviews and the silly ritual of it all.

A great bit of television, and a real slice of TV history, has come to an end – having covered a good proportion of my adult life.

And as the final echoey voiceovers of the old houses played at the end of the show, it was hard not to think back across my own ten years of life, loves and evictions.

Written by Robin Brown

September 11th, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Is the media beyond parody? AOL reports spoof as news

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Just a quickie, to promote a site I find amusing – and to flag up something even more amusing resulting from it.

The News Grind is a satire site that I contribute the occasional bit of writing to if something catches my imagination.

Today the news that Kay Burley was descending on Newcastle to broadcast her appalling live reports from the vicinity of a freshly-dead corpse spoke to me, so I dashed something off in my lunch hour, emailed it to the ed and thought nothing more of it

Until a text arrived, telling me it had been picked up as a serious news report by AOL News on something called the Surge Desk, with a header pretty similar to the one I wrote.

AOL News bases a report on a spoof story on The News Grind

Fairly astonishing, in that mine is not an especially subtle satire at the best of times. But it would never occur to me that the header ‘Nation ‘can’t wait’ for Moat shoot-out’ might be taken for real.

Or that the suggestion that schools and businesses were closing so Brits could enjoy the rolling news coverage and resulting bloodbath together as a family could possibly be true.

Here’s how AOL saw it:

Forget the World Cup action between Uruguay and the Netherlands — people all across the United Kingdom are tuning their tellies to the news today in hopes of catching a glimpse of what promises to be a far bloodier confrontation between a fugitive and the officers he has promised to kill.

As officers and dogs move in, citizens from around the isle are anticipating a swift and gruesome conclusion to the national drama. Some are even clamoring for it, calling it the best live entertainment they’ve seen in some time.

News Grind paints a vivid picture of the mood:

“I can scarcely wait for the climax,” confirmed Elsie White, 77, as she raced back to her house after picking up some toffees and copies of today’s paper from a local newsagent featuring the blood-soaked face of a police officer allegedly shot by Moat.

“We haven’t had a live event like this to enjoy for quite some time and there’s only old ‘Doctors’ episodes on at this time of day.”

Families have been collecting children from schools and nurseries throughout the day so they could watch together, as expectations reached fever pitch that a violent firearms confrontation was imminent.

Over 800 schools have closed across the country as a result.

Even if that story didn’t ring any alarm bells, what about related news such as ‘Trainee builders must have PhD in Postmodernism’; ‘Heart attack ‘link’ with sheer unadulterated terror’ and ‘“Look at me, I’m a fat bastard,” says proud local man’?

A mistake anyone could have made? Perhaps, in these days of rolling news and slapping on content and the rush to be first with a report – the news grind, if you will.

But even that old chestnut about Americans and irony doesn’t wash – the US is the home of The Onion, the finest satire site in the world, after all.

Maybe it’s just a sign that, in these information-saturated days, even the news is beyond satire?

Written by Robin Brown

July 6th, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Posted in Journalism,Media

Tagged with , ,

Gordon Brown

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I’ve never been Gordon Brown’s greatest fan – I doubt he has one – and there are many in the country and Labour party who would agree with me, but I’ve always held an admiration for a politician who clearly got into politics for what I’d describe as the right reasons.

That’s something that’s not always clear of all politicians, and it doesn’t seem a given these days, following Tony Blair – a man who seemed to be running an office rather than a country and who seemed more driven by the need to do a thorough job, rather than ideology.

I’m as aware of Brown’s failings and foibles as anyone, but for the most part I don’t care. This man was running a country; he wasn’t a vicar.

Brown was awkward, said many. He never smiled, and when he did he looked funny. He was sometimes rude to people, he was dictatorial and insecure. So what?

Brown found himself on the receiving end of far more vicious treatment that even Neil Kinnock. Every day people were told to ridicule, fear and despise Gordon Brown.

And so people came to ridicule, fear and despise him. Not because of the housing bubble than he arguably helped create, silly ideas like ID cards or flawed experiments like PFI.

No, people came to despise Brown because he didn’t look right. He was weak, they said, as if that means anything, He was ‘clinging to power’ – another baffling accusation at a sitting Prime Minister.

I suspect, if you were to ask people, they would be unable to tell you why they hated Brown so much. I doubt they know.

People seem to have been astonished to see a human being – clearly emotional – delivering a final, humble speech as PM with his wife and children.

Where was the stupid, lumbering bad-tempered brute? The power-hungry bully, intent on squatting in Number 10? The ‘one-eyed Scottish idiot’?

There, instead, was a man with quiet dignity, who spoke of his pride at serving his country and his dislike of the ceremony and prestige that went with it.

Gordon Brown’s main problem was to have been a Prime Minister in an age where society – spurred on by a hyperbolic media – cannot forgive human flaws in its PM.

I think, and I hope, history will be kinder to him.

Written by Robin Brown

May 11th, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Posted in Media,People

Tagged with ,

A very British coup

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I speak not of Gordon Brown’s parting shot in the 2010 election – his pledge to resign to facilitate a deal between the Liberal Democrats and Labour – but of the extraordinary reaction by the Tory press to the news today.

If Brown thought he had endured the worst the assembled frothing, tweeded, spluttering, luv-a-duck rent-a-mob of assembled gobshites and nutcases had to throw at him, he was wrong.

Throughout the last couple of weeks, and through various twists and turns, one thing has become clear. The assembled weight of the media has been thrown well and truly behind Cameron and the Tories to almost unimaginable proportions.

The Tory press today suggested that no less than a coup was being perpetrated right under the noses of British subjects, and appears to be calling for its own in return.

What else to make of the claims that Brown is perpetuating a ‘sordid’ coup; or that Clegg has behaved ‘treacherously’?

Yesterday, says the Mail, was a ‘squalid day for democracy’. Inside, Richard Littlejohn railed against ‘nothing less than an attempted coup’, a ‘cynical putsch’ and a ‘naked power grab’.

He went on to state that Brown might as well have ‘ordered the tanks to roll down Whitehall and train their guns on the meeting of the Parliamentary Conservative Party’.

If he pulls off a Lib-Lab coalition, ‘democracy as we have known it in Britain will be shattered – possibly beyond repair’.

Astonishingly, Littlejohn even dares to have a pop at the ‘desperate Labour propaganda sheets’, while taking a pot-shot at the ‘the State broadcaster, the BBC’ for broadcasting lies about the Conservative party, the true hallmark of all swivel-eyed columnists.

To my mind, all of this goes well beyond anything the Tory press has managed before. The sheer brass neck, the hypocrisy, and the deliberate ignorance of parliamentary process. The right-wing press seems to have lost its grasp of the facts at hand.

The electoral system that they all back has produced a hung parliament, the mess that is responsible for all this back-room chicanery, but they want to keep it. (Note to Kay Burley: People did not ‘vote for a hung parliament’).

Brown, constitutionally, has the first right to try and form government, but allowed Clegg and Cameron to have the first shot at it, despite the resulting power vacuum.

The Conservative Party did not win the election. Combined, the Labour-Lib Dem share of the vote dwarfs the Tory share of the vote. Combined, Lib-Lab seats would eclipse Tory seats.

British politics in the 20th century is littered with unelected Prime Ministers, mostly Tory, as would be the case under a new Labour leader in a progressive coalition.

This is how hung parliaments work, this is how our electoral system works, this is how the constitution works. This is how politics works.

I’m personally dubious that a Lib-Lab coalition is the right result to come out of this election, but I’m not clear on what is the right result. No-one, to my mind, has a mandate. There is no victor.

But a Lib-Lab coalition would be perfectly constitutional and perfectly reasonable. It would be no more of a coup than a minority Tory government or a Lib-Con coalition, which is to say that it would be none at all.

The irony is, in complaining about Brown’s final act constituting nothing more than a ‘coup’- with all the talk about ‘treachery’ and ‘sordid’ politicking – the right-wing press appears to be calling for nothing less itself.

In a more fractious political, social or economic landscape, the language and tone deployed by tabloid editors and columnists across London screaming for Brown’s head could be explosive – and horribly irresponsible.

As it is, despite all the promises that the markets would not tolerate a hung parliament and that people would be burned to death on the streets, subsequently proved to be baseless, the press just looks like a spoiled child denied its way.

Brown may be affording himself a smile.