Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Unexplained Mysteries

This post is adapted from a piece I wrote for a Perthshire Writers' Critique Night. They don't do blood-'n'-guts politics, so it's a wee bit gentler and (gasp) more even-handed than the norm.  It was even gentler before I adapted it! Anyhow, enjoy, and I'll be back with teeth fully bared in the next day or so.
Life is festooned with unexplained mysteries.  
For example, the irresistible attraction of soup stains to my pullover, even when I’m drinking the stuff from a cup through a straw.  My wife’s ability to ask me a question to which every conceivable answer is incriminating.  The fact that ostensibly sane people still watch Celebrity Big Brother.  My habit of ordering liqueur coffee in restaurants, knowing fine that (1) it indicates beyond question that I’m already blootered, and (2) I’m rarely at my best ransacking the medicine cabinet for Paracetamol at 4 am.
News reporting, nowadays fuelled by social media like petrol chucked on a barbecue, only amplifies the sense of mystery.  This week our faces were soundly slapped by the news that the richest 1% on the planet are now as wealthy as the other 99%, and the combined assets of precisely 80 fat cats match those of the poorest 3.5 billion. I don’t wish to be a miserable old cynic, but if you believe this is purely the result of talent and hard work, you must be a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Gullibility.
But here’s the mystery.  Why do we persist in electing governments that are, at best, complicit in bringing this state of affairs about?  Or is it that the politicians we elect start out honest and idealistic, only to find themselves confronted in a dark alley by a mysterious stranger stroking a white cat and offering untold riches if they co-operate, and a motorcade trip past a book depository if they don’t?
And, as we respond to the carnage in Paris with placards proclaiming “Je suis Charlie” in the name of freedom of speech (for which, mysteriously, each has his own private definition), why aren’t we considerably more enraged that our high heid yins are busy leaning on Google and Facebook so that they can listen in on us more effectively?  One might conclude that a bunch of Charlies is exactly what we’re being taken for.
Meanwhile, the BBC, though happy to allow us to expend our anger on Cadbury’s mucking about with the Creme Egg, or a cost-conscious mum invoicing a five-year-old kid for not showing up to her son’s party, remains completely ineffective at holding our leaders to account.  That’s not unexpected, given the organisation’s embrace of snivelling mendacity in the independence referendum. Nor is it particularly mysterious, since interviewers know that asking the powers-that-be, or powers soon-to-be, awkward questions won’t help their line manager earn his MBE, and, anyway, there’s little need when the Government writes such informative press releases.
However, the real mystery arose just today, namely how the BBC thought it could hold an event with the Twitter hashtag #BBCDemocracyDay without being washed away in a tidal wave of irony.  This, from one of the broadcasters with the effrontery to label certain political groupings “main parties” and exclude the rest from their televised pre-election debates! 
In the interests of preventing a peaceful writers’ meeting from degenerating into a “stairheid rammy”, I must stress that I’m not particularly pushing the SNP’s interests here.  As the party with the third-largest membership on these islands, they certainly have a cast-iron case to be beelin’, but at least – rubbishy consolation as it is  - Nicola Sturgeon’s desire to dig her tartan stilettoes into her counterparts will have free-ish rein on BBC Scotland.  But the Greens have been treated disgracefully, for no better reason than that UKIP, and particularly pint-wielding, blokeish charlatan Farage, offers the juicy prospect of controversy and headline-grabbing gaffes.
Mind you, as we all contemplate the unfettered joy of a General Election campaign dragging on for four months, democracy itself is something of an unexplained mystery. With the Labour spin machine in full cry, powered by Keir Hardie rotating in his crypt, Murphy & Co are all set to take the credit for any policy you can imagine, just as long as someone else thinks of it first.  But it’s what happens as a result of our vote that’s most mysterious, with the threat of a hideous series of unintended consequences hanging around like an unflushable floater in a toilet bowl.
Depending on whom you believe, a vote for the SNP is a vote for the Tories, a vote for UKIP is a vote for Labour, and a vote for either Labour or Tory risks bringing the two parties together in the “national government” Coalition From Hell.  At least everyone is agreed on one point: a vote for the Lib Dems is the equivalent of setting fire to your ballot paper and dancing around it naked until men in white coats come to sedate you.
But, in the end, the most inexplicable of this week’s news events is one where the medium itself has become the story. Suddenly, and it would seem spontaneously, the super soaraway Sun is ending a 40-year tradition of sordid, complacent British misogyny by doing away with Page 3.
The mystery is:  where on earth can that raddled old reprobate Rupert Murdoch possibly have found a conscience?

Update 21/01/15:  Hmmph! Was ever a blog overtaken by events as spectacularly as this, with the broadcasters now edging back towards fairness on the TV debates and scrofulous git Murdoch smirking about how he's fooled us all?  There will be revenge.....


  1. want a laugh

    Ric Bailey, the corporation’s chief political adviser 16/01/2015

    “To put it simply, we believe that the electorate and licence fee payers are best served by giving the parties which demonstrate clear evidence of substantial electoral support more coverage (and indeed more scrutiny) in an election period than those who do not.”

  2. update

    obviously bbc couldn't face being made a laughing stock
    I welcome climb down on inviting others

  3. I like the idea of a mysterious man with a white cat stealthily corrupting our new and idealistic MPs. Sadly I think the reailty is the ancient human instinct to conform - 'Everyone else is doing it, why shouldn't I?'

    1. Which is why it is important that as large a contingent of SNP MPs should as possible in order to form a separate clique to which they can conform.

  4. According to the BBC (Radio 4) the greatest threat to democracy is apathy and populist parties. Now the definition of populist is "of the ordinary people" so presumably the BBC thinks that elitists should rule. Just look at how many of them fit that mould - especially those with PPE degrees from Oxbridge.