Tag Archives: BBC

Plan-A

Ok so

Silly season is upon us. The Olympics is over and the press & media are flailing around like a thresh in a barn clutching for husks and straws of news to throw about.

At this time of year things are normally pretty desperate, but now more so than ever. Last year there were riots to report. Just last week we had wall to wall coverage of the world’s biggest sporting event. Now there is a bleary-eyed collective press hangover as families go on holiday and the news grinds slowly to a halt. Sure there’s Syria (but that’s foreign stuff stupid) and a few other *actual* stories for the media to feed on, but where’s the FILLER? The pap that you put between news and sport.

At this time of year the press are generally at a loss. It’s a great time to put out press releases. Churnalism reaches new highs in the month of August. You could probably put out a press release about a giant mouse in your garden eating all your carrots and they’d be sending the paps round before you could say glis glis.

Yes that’s right. Sheep. Text messages!

That’s why A-levels day is such a special occasion. It gives the media something to focus their efforts on. All those people who spent the last 2 weeks in Olympic park living it up get dispatched to schools around the country in search of bouncy young girls.

And that’s the other thing about A-level day. It seems that for one day and one day only the press seem to collectively engage in the dubious practice of ogling at young girls (ahem, except the Daily Mail which runs its sidebar of shame all year round). To be honest this is nothing short of sinister. Last year the FT ran a piece on how the media thirst for images of pretty pubescent girls was so established that schools were actively trying to market their best looking girls for the press to come and take pictures in order to help school PR. The exploitation gave rise to a blog, SexyAlevels which poked fun at the whole practice (now closed but living on via twitter)

This morning the biggest shock for me was seeing BBC Breakfast interviewing a BOY about his results. It was so out of kilter I thought I’d passed into another dimension where we lived in a matriarchy or something.

Not just one boy, but TWO. Has the BBC been taken over by FEMINISTS?

But the lone boy interview will always be the exception. Today the media start girls off on a lifetime of objectification and exploitation in our society by trying to squeeze in as many shots of them giggling, whooping and bouncing around in delight as they open their results.

Watch out for pictures like this. You won’t be able to avoid them

Maybe they’ll throw in some tears, y’know , for the people in their audience who like to see girls crying. Then tomorrow, like it never happened, the press will be all straight-faced again. As though they never willingly sent out legions of camera crews and photographers to schools with the explicit aim of gathering and publishing images of 6th form girls! A convenient and collective amnesia where regular journos go back to raising their eyebrows at the Daily Mail sidebar of shame and make ‘tut tut’ noises.

There’s another annoying news agenda that seems to go out on A-level day too. Suddenly the media love to read out letters, texts and emails from Joe Public about how graft is the key to success. You know the one’s those generic missives that get repeated like a mantra on every news and radio channel after every A-level skit.

“Troy Michaels has texted in. He says ‘I got all D’s at A level and failed to get into University. Now I’m a billionaire playboy with a wife, mistress and yacht. And I got it all through hard work'”

“Billy Balls says ‘I failed everything, even my mental health check up, so I had to work in a factory. Now I own half of Westminster and it was all down to good honest graft'”

It strikes me as odd that these get rolled out with such vigour, but they perpetuate the myth that the society wants to perpetuate, that it is somehow meritocratic. It’s not kids! For every success story they hold up like a cardboard cutout there are thousands more who will spend a lifetime working their fingers to the bone without ever rising above a relatively low-level of income.

This man is a great success story. He is the son of a Barrister and attended one of the countries leading independent boarding schools in Buckingham

Hard work doesn’t equal success and we do not live in a meritocracy. Privilege, position, networking, education, luck. All these things and more are components of “success” (as defined by society). Good looks probably help too, just ask all the girls getting their picture taken today!

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The final countdown

Ok. So. Today’s important. Right?

I know it’s important cos the sound of bells was ringing all around me as I got ready to go to work. I felt like a regular Quasimodo throwing myself around the house screeching and wailing. I looked out the window for the hordes of zombies or enemy tanks. Could Germany really be invading again? On such a lovely day?

No. It’s the Olympics. The fucking Olympics. A 2 week sporting event. Held in London. 30 miles from my home. That is what they were for.

Personally I can’t wait for the Olympics to start. Never mind that events started days ago. Nothing “really” starts until we have a pointlessly choreographed display of National vanity that wouldn’t be amiss in North Korea. Nothing starts til we have a condescending homage to a national health service that our national government is actively seeking to destroy.

I can’t put up the Olympic rings because I’ll probably get hung for it. So here’s an image the Olympic organisers couldn’t manage themselves

I’m gonna really enjoy the next few weeks. The spectacle, the sports, the crowded public transport. I’m going to relish every second like it’s bullet time. Not least because the ringing of the bells today marked the beginning of the end. The end of all the fucking media hype we’ve had to wash our faces in daily with no respite.

You see. The London Olympics actually started 7 years ago when we won the dubious honour of hosting them. Never mind Beijing and the glorious display of vanity that China treated us to. I remember all through the Beijing Olympics you could never go more than a minute of commentary without some frothing news anchor dribbling out platitudes and speculation of how London would compare. Even during the closing ceremony in Beijing, which hit home like a Matthew Bourne performance on acid, the talk was all about the ‘iconic’ red bus as Boris Johnson shambled around looking like a crumpled insurance salesman cadging the credit for an event his predecessor had won. Since then things have only intensified.

So yeah. Today marks the end of 7 years of the press and media collectively building to a national orgasm. By the end of tonight’s ceremony there will be pundits everywhere letting out a collective scream/groan/shout. Then we might be able to get on with things.

Think I’m joking. Over the last year not a single fucking day has gone by without an Olympic story in the press. Papers have been COUNTING DOWN the days on their front pages. Not from 5 days. Or 10. For an ENTIRE YEAR. “135 days to go to the Olympics” shouted from the front page as if I could give a fuck.

It got worse very quickly. I remember switching the telly on in May (yes. May. 2 months ago). The BBC had a whole crew out live reporting the arrival of the flame. They were providing vapid commentary of the helicopter’s movements as it carried the flame to our shore. They were vox popping the idiots who turned out to watch it arrive at some god forsaken hour. “You’re going to see the Olympic torch how does it feel”. Never mind that we have an ongoing insurgency and massacres in Syria. The news still found time to report the progress of the Olympic torch as it staggered around the country. Daily fucking updates on where a glorified zippo was hanging out on a 15 minute loop.

The Guardian have started offering a button for people to view the news “without” the Olympics. Nice but why do that now they’ve started? Now they’re relevant. Less so over the last 6 months. Probably because the Guardian loved the hype as well, especially gleefully poking shambolicisms like LOCOG’s branding guidelines and the G4S debacle. And these are “actual”  stories. They don’t include all the pap about what Bolt had for breakfast or who the latest ‘Team GB’ member is to sit in a photo booth advertising their Adidas shirt.

This is just a bit of whackiness. It is NOT – REPEAT NOT – a cynical advertising and publicity stunt.

So finally, the Olympics can begin. We can see people reporting on actual fucking events rather than speculating endlessly about what ‘might’ happen. Those Olympic correspondents who were appointed years ago can finally do their job instead of trying to crowbar an Olympic angle into everything.

And then the collective hysteria can die. We can look forward to a September when the news is truly a spent force. All the budget they blew in August will come back to haunt them. Olympics correspondents will become homeless, begging in the street for news chunks. After a collective national love-in we’ll all suddenly suffer massive hangovers as the realisation that we’re all skint and our economy is tanking kicks in again. Perhaps we should thank the Olympics for a bit of respite.

The end of all things

Ok so. Last night was billed as the second biggest football event in the sporting calendar.

The culmination of two years of qualifiers, group stages, knockouts. On top of that there was history in the making as well. Spain could lift an unprecedented third major football trophy in a row.

This was it. The big one. How would a television heavyweight like the BBC cover this? Bearing in mind that only a week before they’d drowned us in footage of Gazza’s tears in a rabble-rousing montage of hyperbolic knee jerk inducing imagery so strong that it even had my dog barking along to God Save the Queen like a humble citizen.

The final itself didn’t disappoint. Even the neutral was swayed by the way that Spain’s tika taka approach ripped through the Italians. Four goals. Super Mario getting emotional. What a game!

Well. Unless you’re the BBC.

You see, it seems that the BBC think the tournament came to an end last week when England crashed out. Despite the fact that the vast majority of Europe and the world aren’t actually English, the Beeb didn’t give the impression that they gave a flying toss about this game and the pomp and ceremony that surrounded it.

Like sulky kids who want to take the ball home cos they’re not deployed up front they decided that the final of the European cup was barely worthy of their attention.

Let’s start with the magnificent pre-match closing ceremony. A chance for the hosting nations to shine and show the world that they really can throw a party. Forget the early skirmishes between fans, Ukraine & Poland want you to know they did a good job in their no expense spared appeal to the world.

Well. To most of the world. The Beeb decided all that gubbins was wayyyyy less interesting than Lineker, Shearer, Hansen et al indulging in a quick round of dull-as-dishwater pre-match analysis where they talked about subjects as inciteful as Spain’s playing style, the genius of Pirlo/Iniesta and the volatility of Balotelli.

If you wanted to watch the culmination of enough spending on entertainment by Poland & the Ukraine to rescue Greece (for an hour) then you had to do it through that precious resource known as the red button. Otherwise you just got to hear Alan Shearer telling us that Spain were a good team.

Want to see this or see what Alan Hansen is wearing?

Then there was the game itself. Blimey what a game eh? Enough to get anyone excited. European finals. Spain rampant. The world cup awaits? I figure the only person watching who wasn’t excited was the ever-depressing presence of co-commentator Mark Lawrensen, who appeared to spend the entire game moaning about players making too much of being tackled and wondering why Liverpool ever sold Alonso. At one point I thought I heard him swear and I wondered about all the kids who stayed up late to watch the final as accompanied by his depressing dirge.

That was when things got weird. Cos the BBC must have thought of that. They only fucking had a red button offering CBBC commentary for kids. In a bid to escape Lawro’s suicide-watch banter I switched up immediately.

The result was a three-way-amphetamine-pumped-see-saw between unwitting genius, absolute banality and a nihilisitc absence of anything that had me laughing, cringing and wondering where the respect for the tournament had disappeared to in equal measure.

The CBBC presenters weren’t so much commentating, but having a conversation about football generally. But not a conversation you have in seasoned opinionated pub talk terms. A conversation you might have with someone who wants to know what football is but no-one knows in the conversation. So you just end up asking each other stupid questions until someone is brave enough to change the subject or physically kill the other two.

They barely noticed when Torres scored as they were having an argument about how to explain the offside rule. It was like listening to three twenty-year old Alan Partridges on student radio go at it. In fact my listening was greatly enhanced by imagining them as wearing Alan Partridge masks.

This image haunts my dreams now

Suddenly the football genuinely didn’t matter. It had been superseded by a farce that wouldn’t have looked amiss in The Thick of It. At one point a CBBC commentator pointed to the prophetic powers of a watcher who had texted in to say “Spain should win because Paella and Nachos are better than Pasta and Pizza” there then ensued a small debate about whether Nachos were Spanish. At some point Spain scored again but it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered any more. The football was an afterthought. Farce was the true winner and society as we know it is approaching a spectacular climax of irrelevance.

The contempt shown by the media for any tournament when England crash out is encouraging though. Roll on the Olympics when we can hopefully expect to see the red button offering up the cast of in the night garden making excitable noises during coverage of the opening and closing ceremonies.

Anything’s got to be better than Sebastien Coe!

Ashes to Ashes

Ok so. What happened again last night?

Oh yeah. Our national team put in a piss-poor knockout display, held on for penalties, which they lost and the nation groaned a sigh of collective disappointment while a few mouth breathers decided to have a bit of a fight.

No surprises there. I’ve been feeling that hollow exhalation for years now. Despite my best intentions I still have a modicum of support for the national team. I have no idea why. It’s like smoking, a poisonous and vile compulsion towards self harm. To be honest I’ve cut down on the supporting habit pretty heavily. From the flag-wearing, shirt-sporting, pub-singing posterboy of 16 years ago I’ve managed to bring it down to the ‘watch it on the telly at home in a fug of apathy’ level.

My withdrawal from the England habit doesn’t stem from our failures though. Only an idiot stops supporting a team because they fail. The sort of idiot who doesn’t ‘get’ the idea of supporting. Winners don’t need support. Losers do. Supporting winners all the time is just basking in other people’s glory, which is a bit like stalking them.

No. I struggle to support our national team cos the players and a lot of the fans aren’t very nice people. And because the press & media are so fixated on falsely raising our hopes that the weight of excessive expectation is something of a national pastime.

Take last night for example. Did anyone watch that montage the Beeb ran before kick off? It was like a clip from the finals of x-factor. A series of emotional shorts set to a tub-thumping soundtrack designed to elicit nothing more than expectation, excitement and the secret feeling that we could do it. So much for the national press talking about lower expectations. The minute we lucked out against Ukraine by virtue of a disallowed goal people were already looking to a tasty repeat of the 96 semi against Germany (which we also lost on penalties).

Never mind that we couldn’t beat France in our first game, who Spain comfortably defeated without a striker… Where there’s a national press there’s hope. Except Lawro. If he’d provided the soundtrack to the England warm up montage perhaps the country would be waking up today feeling euphoric that we made it to penalties without conceding 10 goals. Personally I’m secretly relieved. If this is the media with low expectations then imagine what they’d be like if they won? God it would be unbearable. As would seeing John Terry holding the trophy aloft, so let’s be thankful for silver linings.

The timing is perfect anyway, we shift the national weight of expectation onto Murray at Wimbledon. And that should keep us going til the fucking Olympics, which we’ve spent the last fucking year counting down the fucking days to!!!

Year in review

Gah.

Whoever designed these calendars – with all their national holidays and bizarre chronological fumblings let themselves and the western world down with this one didn’t they. I mean. December is just plain wrong as a month… But now? Now is the dark time. The eye in the storm.

You start off all hyped up. With Christmas party after Christmas party. Rolling like a punchdrunk boxer from one pointless round of boozy shame to the next. Waking up each morning riven with nausea, fear and the gut wrenching guilt that every office party brings. Wondering whether you’ll even live to see the next year or whether your merciful liver and heart will do you a favour and just give up. Then you’re thrust into a maelstrom of Christmas panic. Gift shopping, overspending. Buying enough food to give an army gout. Sitting on the floor of department stores weeping, still drunk from the night before wondering if this overpriced piece of novelty plastic is really what your loved ones need to have.

Then it arrives. And you spend a few days doing nothing but cooking, eating, drinking, wearing a smile like armour as you graciously open your own novelty plastic, or socks, or jumpers, or soap, or whatever. Throwing out the well-practiced “thank yous” before settling down to stuff yourself with fat and guilt and booze to take away the ache of how much all of this actually cost and how much of it will go to waste.

Then it’s over. Whatever endorphin rush you might have had. The faint lustre you felt when you opened a gift you really wanted or sank down a stone heavier in a fug of gin and sugar to enjoy the Christmas special of some awful celebrity television show or other. Well it’s all gone. Christmas has spat you out the other side. Suddenly you are Free. FREE to actually get on with your life and try to ease the memory gently away by looking FORWARD – at the brave new world to come.

Did I really watch this or was it just a terrible dream?

Well. That’s how it should be. Christmas should be this cathartic blow out. Getting all the old demons to have a party in your brane then BANG you expel them like some sort of wine-soaked exorcist leaving you clean, shaking and newborn for the new year.

But Christmas can’t let go that easily can it. It leaves its clammy claws in your flesh and it’s alcohol soaked tongue in your mouth a few days longer. Like a desolate ex who has to hack your Facebook account one last time before the restraining order finally takes them away from you.

Instead of a fresh start the calendar throws up this limbo. The dead zone between the overwhelming consumption of the Christmas bank holidays and the fresh austerity of the New Year. If you’re one of the lucky ones you’ll aimlessly roll yourself out of bed and crawl downstairs in whatever clothes you fell asleep in to perch yourself on a sofa and consume your weight in leftover fat or salt based snacks drinking beer, wine, spirits, chlorine or anything. Mindlessly wallowing in television repeats of everything that Christmas threw at you when it was actually happening. The less lucky go to work. A few days of solitude in a half-empty office killing time and counting down the minutes until they can vacate their desks and run back in the miserable cold without arousing too much suspicion.

But secretly the unlucky ones are the lucky ones. That frosty air they suffer on their commute? That’s real air. The FRESH stuff – from “outdoors” a place they probably barely saw except when piling in and out of cars to see family or friends. That thing they’re doing with their legs? That’s “walking” – something some people might have forgotten as they looked down at their bloated appendages on boxing day wondering through a gin-drenched fug what the pointy bits of flesh and bone were actually for. Getting out and about can be part of the rehabilitation of Christmas. And best of all it saves you from the god-awful dirge that the news tries to dish up into your lap like recycled sewage during the limbo days.

When bear sightings and traffic roadworks are the highlights of a year you know there's trouble

That’s right. I’m talking about the endless “year in review” programs and articles that the press and media hide behind to disguise the fact that they actually have nothing left to offer us for the year. All the glitz and glamour they had before December 25th is faded. Newsrooms everywhere are on a skeleton staff, churning out sweet nothings because, lets face it, there isn’t much to report when Corporate PR offices stop throwing out press releases and a large part of the world sits on the sofa for days on end. Yesterday the BBC were reporting from a recycling centre to crowbar in a story about post-Christmas waste disposal – I’m even sure I heard something about Goats being herded on a motorway.

Instead the news tries to bury us in nostalgia. Remind the mouth-breathing public with its goldfish memory and fickle imaginings what it was that made them so angry or interested in the world around them a few months ago. Long forgotten montages are thrust back at us with some hangdog anchor droning on at how “great” it was when there was a royal wedding or how marvellous a job we did in invading Libya and killing Gaddafi (and a few thousand civilians) – conveniently rewriting bits and pieces here and there, like the fact that we were only supposed to get involved in the civil war of a sovereign state to safeguard civilian lives.

LOOK you need pictures here to actually REMEMBER what happened

It’s a cheap trick – but fuck it – without a boxing Day Tsunami to capture the world’s imagination there’s nothing more the media can do than dredge up stuff that should have been long-forgotten. And it can’t do any harm can it? I mean. The past is the past. All the news has to do when it reports these dull-as-dishwater years in review is just run an endless loop of shit that has already happened and hope that a general public, dulled by alcohol and saturated fat will lap it up. In a way it’s almost an exercise in branewashing. If you end your year with a review of what you think is important then the bovine oafs weakened by Decembers exertions and struggling to find meaning in these scant days before the financial chill of January will remember your opinion and maybe take that as theirs going forward.

The good news then is that sometimes the press do get it wrong. Spectacularly wrong. Perhaps wrong enough to rouse people from their slumber and actually express an opinion of their own. The safety of regurgitating old copy or footage and accompanying it with commentary that was probably subbed as far back as October to fill up the column inches and airwaves now gets called into question. Especially when you see mistakes as monumental as the BBC’s when they reported “Faces of the year 2011 – the women” yesterday. Even a newsjaded cretinous cynic like myself was mouth agape in a mixture of rage and hysterical laughter when I saw the weight of the clanger being dropped by a press room so obviously full of festive opiates.

Caught between rage and mocking laughter at the idiocy of the beeb

That’s right. Not satisfied with deciding women weren’t good enough to even warrant being shortlisted for a pointless sporting accolade this year, the BBC decided to grind the noses of 50% of the world’s population further into the dirt with their women of the year list.

If you can’t see very well I can tell you that one of them is a Panda. That’s right. Not. A. Woman. A. Panda. But to me that is not the worst of it. In a year when women continue to struggle against male patriarchy there are a host of women who could step into the limelight as influential and crucial figures. But instead the focus is on people like “Pippa Middleton” famous for … erm… attending a wedding? or “Kelsey de Santis” who basically went to a ball with Justin Timberlake. Or the “Duchess of Alba” famous for looking a bit strange and marrying a toyboy.

The list is vapid and sickening in a year when we’ve seen Angela Merkel at the heart of European politics and Aung San Suu Kyi returning to politics after 15 years of house arrest in Burma. Instead of congratulating Christine Lagarde for heading the IMF the BBC decided to make Nafissatou Diallo a woman of the year simply because she accused the former head of the IMF of raping her. The Panda adds insult to injury but the real problem in this is that the BBC has decided that women need to be remembered for sex, marriage and their subjugation to men rather than for their actual achievements. Something that, thankfully, enough people have noticed is just plain wrong.

Grisly but gripping

Ok. So the news. Yeah? The thing I’m here to moan about?

Well I’m starting to think it doesn’t actually exist except as some sort of unobtainable ideal. A concept used to justify theoretical jousting. Like the way ‘perfect competition’ underpins the machinations of global capitalism and a ‘socialist utopia’ is the aim of well-intentioned left leaners like myself. These things don’t exist, except in the writing and theory of those who expound their system, but people still build stuff up around them anyway.

Here's a picture of Thomas More. The first Anarchist

The news is the same. It sits there on this high horse of dispassionate objective reporting which throws a thin veil over emotive string-pulling and dedicated editorial agendas.

Ok so I’m not saying anything new here am I? I mean this is largely the point of my blog? To rail against the inaccuracy and inability of the media to even attempt to stick to the values they uphold. But when you have an event like the M5 crash at the weekend you really only hope that the news can do its job unambiguously and actually report the facts.

So when I turn on the news to find out what’s going on why am I subjected to reportage that is so horrifically exploitative that I need to turn it off before I smash my telly into a heap of glass and metal?

You can see twisted metal all over the internet so instead I'll just put a picture of some kittens in cups

I didn’t dare switch sky on. The sky coptor would no doubt be out showing twisted wreckage with a sombre voice-over describing every injury with the morbid relish of a jackanory narrator in an abattoir (I’m thinking of Kenneth Brannagh’s running commentary to the Great War in colour). But the BBC was no better. In many ways it was worse. Reportage of this event. Which killed seven and injured fifty-one was akin to a dramatisation, or an episode of casualty. Hyberbole narrative interspersed with meaningless but emotionally charged vox pops and amateur footage shot on the mobile phones of passengers driving the other way is surely not the way to report am event as news. But that’s what they did.

You could taste the saliva of the reporter as he exclaimed the word ‘fireball’ over and over again. You could imagine tearful viewers all over the country aimlessly sympathising with eyewitness accounts of horror and heroism. Then there was the footage. Grainy images of flames and smoke and the audible ‘oh my gods’ of the person filming it. No doubt slowing down to gawp before pressing on to their destination with a story to tell their friends.

Whenever this happens there is a human angle. That human angle is the loss of life and injury. The sheer aggregate is surely enough. People should realise that seven deaths indicates a very bad crash. But the news only seems to want to press this home with individual accounts.

Vox pops are the dirtiest and laziest form of media journalism around. News reporters unable to garner intelligent insight from proper sources and insight will grab a few rentamouths and use them as buffer to fill the airwaves. As an exercise in journalism it’s probably diverting for political reporters to give a “street view” of events in parliament. It’s also acceptable to use in local news or human interest stories. Those people walking round town centres with a microphone asking what you think of the new one-way system? They don’t care what you think of the new one way system – they just want some “real” person to spout something listenable about it. That’s fine. That’s a vox pop! 

The problem is that vox pops have grown now to straddle all the news, not just the trivial. So when we have a disaster as upsetting as multiple deaths in a motorway crash we cannot get through the event without an intensely personal angle being crowbarred in. Seven dead and fifty-one injured is just not considered to have enough impact. Journalists using the book of revelations as their source material for narrative to the accident still doesn’t drive it home. Nor do the horrific images of twisted metal and burning cars. The press need to make it personal. We need to hear people talking about WHAT THEY SAW and HOW THEY FELT.

Now if I’d been in an accident and seen lots of people injured and dying the last thing I’d want to do is relive it. Let alone relive it in a pre-recorded interview in the comfort of my own living room. Whenever you see a vox-pop like this try to imagine how it’s arranged. The journalist will approach a survivor and ask them for an interview. The survivor will agree (why?). The journalist will set a time and a place and send a camera crew round to ask some questions. Very cold, very dispassionate, nothing like the stated aim of a vox-pop. Even the stuff they pick up at the scene of an accident is usually just gawpers looking to get on camera. The same people you probably see in the background pulling faces, while reporters sombrely report the number of deaths.

For the print media human interest can become even more cynically delivered. The Daily Mail today ran a front page focussing on one person, in a coma, orphaned by the crash. Forget the seven deaths. Lets focus on one person and what she’s lost. A young lady. Just so we can get a picture of a pretty young lady (in a coma) on our front page. How very sensitive. To seek to give a “face” to an accident that claimed seven lives and then decide exactly what face that should be in terms of your core readership.

Shame on you Daily Mail (again)

Of course the “whys” of the accident seem to take second stage to the human angle. In the fallout people are asking if smoke from a local firework display caused the accident. Well maybe it did. Or maybe people were driving too fast and recklessly? Occam’s razor would hint more towards the latter. Our roads regularly have accidents caused by people driving faster than they should. But since the press are largely supportive of proposed legislation to raise (not lower) speed limits this sort of thing gets brushed under the carpet a little.

Blaming the firework display is much more expedient for now. Although the Daily Mail should be careful here. I can imagine the headlines next year – when the deaths and injuries are long forgotten “Elf and Safety Madness Cancels Charity Firework Display – Local display cancelled because of proximity to roads” – Think I’m joking? The Daily Mail ran an article earlier this year blaming school closures for a pupil dying after being struck by a falling branch – despite previously running a campaign railing against “elf and safety nazis” for advocating the pruning back of dangerous trees.

Media circus

Ok so. The trial of the century came to an end last night. The.trial.of.the.century.

Don’t believe me? Well all the news channels were zoned in with live blanket coverage, national broadsheets such as the Guardian were running a live blog of courtroom events all day and the hacks all had their fingers poised over the ‘submit’ button in the hope that they would be the first to report the news as it unfolded.

What was the trial of the century then? Have they finally brought Union Carbide to account for the atrocity that was Bhopal? Blair and Bush being brought to account for instigating Iraqi war crimes in the Hague?

No such luck. It seems that the trial of the century pertains to a tragedy on a much smaller scale. The circus in question was in the town of Perugia and it had everything from clowns to acrobats to lots more fucking clowns. A clown for every citizen of the small town.

That Meredith Kercher’s murder in Perugia is tragic is indisputable. Whether it deserves the sheer avalanche of attention it has attracted is highly questionable. In fact the only reasons that the British press & media, in their typically sickening intensity, are latching, limpet like, to this tragic event are:

1. The victim was British
2. The victim was seen as attractive.
3. One of the suspects is seen as attractive.

Throw in a bit of salacious speculation and an alliterative soundbyte like Foxy Knoxy and suddenly the world is on tenterhooks.

Let’s face it. Every day people are murdered. If those three boxes hadn’t been ticked Meredith Kercher or, more importantly Amanda Knox, would have languished buried in 4-year-old chip paper and the fickle press with its even more fickle public would be none the wiser. Imagine how many tragic deaths we’ve scanned over on our morning commute and paid little or no attention to? Then imagine how many more deaths go barely reported in the press. Average looking victims with average looking people arrested for killing them. No sexual intrigue. No Foxy Knoxy. No reason to camp out in Perugia for 4 years covering every aspect from arrest to acquittal.

Even worse is the way the press have evolved their views with the story over time. Once upon a time Meredith Kercher was an innocent young girl exploited and murdered in some sex game-gone-wrong by “Foxy Knoxy” and some blokes who the press rarely mention (how often do we see the names of Rudy Guede and Raffaele Sollecito in relation to Amanda Knox’s).

For the press it was open and shut and there was a campaign of demonisation launched that was so single-minded that I was surprised that Amanda Knox didn’t turn out to be some satanic monster who drank human blood and dined on roast children. See that picture of Amanda laughing with a Vickers Gun? That was in the Mail that was. Among everyone else who had decided that “Foxy Knoxy” was an evil cold-blooded killer.

But 4 years later how the tide has turned. As Amanda Knox received her acquittal and wept, she did so with the backing of most of the british media. Many of whom in a display of collective amnesia had completely forgotten condemning her in the first place. Some even castigated the use of the “Foxy Knoxy” term as a slur on such a good girl

It's OK Amanda the British Press love you now

See this picture – it was published in the Mail in this article which is both jaw droppingly fawning and sickeningly hypocritical. Not just because the Mail were one of the papers that seemed to assume and pursue Knox as the guilty party 4 years ago, but, even last night, they were so taken with her guilt that they inadvertently published the stock story that they had prepared in case she was found guilty. A story that is even more profoundly wrong because it actually attributes SCENES and QUOTES to the speculated outcome that NEVER HAPPENED.

Epic Daily Fail

The mail weren’t the only offenders, although they were the worst. The Guardian, Sun among other were all so eager to press the button on “innocent or guilty” that they got in a fluster when the judge said she was guilty of the lesser charge of slander and made the wrong choice.The broadcasters were in a safer spot on that front… although the appalling translator for the BBC made a real meal out of delivering the verdict as hesitantly as anyone could. Maybe he didn’t want to get it wrong. Or maybe they just blew so much money on flying our reporters, producers, camera crews and”expert” analysts that they forgot to put something in the budget for the important bit that viewers might care about – the verdict, in English.

In the aftermath the tragedy has descended so far into farce that I’m surprised the news haven’t appointed some sort of jester to appear pulling faces and waving a stick every time the words “Foxy Knoxy” are mentioned. The Mail led with the uber cynical “Weeping Foxy is Freed To Make a Fortune” The Star Led with “Foxy Knoxy Walks Free” – in a day where there was actually some blessed fucking relief from X-Factor on the Red Top Front pages. Then Matthew Wright went and put his stupid mouth in his foot like he did years ago with the John Lesley thing by announcing that a topic for debate on his godawful show would be “Foxy Knoxy Would Ya” – a title so insensitively staged that I’m beginning to think that the man is a professional TV troll. (More on that here)

The problem with this is that the media’s sudden obsesson with Knox’s innocence is the same as their obsession with her guilt. Or their obsession generally with her. Kercher’s family rightfully noted that this case had long ago stopped being about Meredith Kercher. In fact the media focus on Knox has consumed everything else. The fact that the appeal rested on two pieces of contaminated evidence, which the defence used to undermine some 10,000 pages of other evidence and 11 eyewitness accounts is irrelevant. It was all about Amanda Knox looking innocent in court. Just as it was all about her when they found a picture of her pretending to shoot a machine gun 4 years ago. The press perceive Knox in binary terms. Evil-doer or wronged angel. The fact that the prosecutors want to appeal the appeal shows there to still be a weight of evidence against her.

After all, if Knox is truly innocent then surely the conviction of Randy Guede must come into question. Although the fact that he’s not a pretty english-speaking girl with a cheeky “sobriquet” may mean that he gets quite a lot less attention. Especially since he’s black as well.