Thursday, 30 April 2009

So, I Guess That's That

As I said in this post, for years I have been soaking in a morass of shoddy prose, poorly researched science and arts stories, trivia so trivial it doesn't even deserve to be called trivia, and mean-spirited, transparently biased opinion from nasty men and women with empathy deficits so bad that I'm surprised they're not serial killers. And now, I am released.

Though my escape from this quicksand-pit of faux-knowledge has its downside (a very big downside, obviously), it also has a big upside too. I never have to read the Sunday Express ever again, or endure Peter Hitchens' deranged honking (though his 29th April ode to America was unexpectedly touching, despite some madness breaking out here and there), or stare goggle-eyed with disbelief at Christopher Booker's conspiracy theories. Even though I'm kinda curious to see who will win the gilded shit-crown belonging to the one-true Glenda Slagg (formerly owned by Lynda Lee-Potter), I'm done with Carole Malone and Allison Pearson, who can contradict themselves every week for the rest of time, for all I care. I'll also never get to find out if Sam Wollaston ever joins a writing class to jazz up the dreariest "funny" prose in England.

So now it's goodbye Richard Littlejohn, you blustering homosexuality-obsessed buffoon. Au revoir Julie "Mrs. Tony Parsons" Burchill, with your Martian logic and your reflexive/risible contrarian streak. Farewell Kelvin Mackenzie, you absurd curio from another age. Auf wiedersehen Garry Bushell, and all of your adamant - and unconvincing - denials of bigotry, not to mention your shitty, shitty jokes. Arrivederci Deborah Ross, you solipsistic word-fountain. No tears at our separation, Charles Moore, you inconsequential rattle-throwing windbag (looking forward to reading your missives from jail after your licence-fee martyrdom goes horribly wrong).

Don't let the door hit you in the ass, Amanda Platell, you repellent, small-minded phony/failure. So long Crazy Liz Jones and your equally awful ex-husband Nirpal Dhaliwal, and extra goodbyes to your attention-seeking, column-filling "feud", which allowed Fleet Street's assembled hacks to tongue-bathe themselves for a month or so. Never darken my door again Lowri Turner, responsible for some of the worst journalism in world history.

Take care out there, Catherine Townsend, tawdry fantasist sex columnist extraordinaire. Your increasingly outrageous sexual escapades have been sorely missed. Live long and don't prosper, Martin Kettle, you laughably biased Blairite. Don't try to get in touch, Rod Liddle, for I shall not miss you, nor your swinging-dick public image.

Adios Jon "Gunty" Gaunt. I shall not miss your ill-informed ravings, your attempts to become a cross between Jeremy Kyle, Rush Limbaugh, and a disembodied, yapping mouth connected to a bucket full of rattlesnake venom, plutonium, dark matter, pondscum, and dogshit. Get out of my life, Melanie Phillips, and take your defensive, ignorant, and belligerent worldview with you. And Simon Heffer? Forgive me for betraying my coarse manner in this way, but please go fuck your fucking self, you berserk oompa-loompa. It would be greatly appreciated by me and the rest of us here in the 21st century, who are enjoying modernity and don't need your screaming ab-dabs from the past. Thanks in advance.

Naturally, there were sapphires gleaming in the Everest-sized shitpile. I'll still be buying the Saturday Guardian, so I'll get to read Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column, as well as The Brooker's Monday columns and Screen Burn (once he's finished justifying the licence fee with Newswipe, that is). Matthew Norman's nuclear-level sarcasm will keep me warm, as long as he doesn't leave the increasingly poor Independent (well done Roger Alton, you wrecked another newspaper). Every Friday I will check to see what's going on in the brains of Peter Bradshaw (5 stars for In The Loop! Good work, my son) and Nigel Andrews (Two stars? WTF?). I shall keep an eye on Sarah Dempster, who, eve since her tenure at the Scotsman, has been slowly been building a reputation for wit and passion that shames her colleague Wollaston.

I'm not sure I'll be able to keep reading George Monbiot's weekly column, simply because I'm already going to be feeling low and though he's a terrific journalist he can really ruin your day. There's a very very good chance I'll keep up with the magnificent Caitlin Moran, still the only journalist who can talk about celebrity culture without making me want to kill myself by dropping 300,000 copies of Top Santé onto my own head (though kudos also go to the highly entertaining Marina Hyde). I was also fond of Jeremy Clarkson's Sunday Times columns, but that might have been because they were an oasis of vibrant writing in the middle of an Arrakis-sized desert of nothing; outside that arena they might not stand up to scrutiny.

I might once have thought he was utterly without merit, but I've grown to enjoy Johann Hari's column; his recent piece on Dubai was chilling, essential reading. I'm also in two minds about Nick Cohen, whose slide into David-Aaronovitch-territory masks the fact that he can still be a fascinating, passionate writer. The same goes for Robert Fisk, whose rage can be intoxicating if you're not careful. Though I never really realised it at the time, I've enjoyed many columns by Deborah Orr, who has quietly been a sane voice in the Indie. Now that he has been (foolishly) let go by the Telegraph and (wisely) snapped up by the Guardian, I look forward to reading more by Sam Leith, who was the only reason to read that dreary Middle England rag.

Other than those examples, it's a lucky escape. I surely won't miss the transparent campaign against the BBC by News International's roster of worthless junk pamphlets, or the woeful research in the Observer, or the Independent's slide into even more irrelevance than it had already been sliding into. Even better, no more exposure to the most inept newspapers in the world, by which I of course mean the Northern and Shell disasters, the Express and the Star, which pollute the soul more completely than being employed as an assassin by Dick Cheney. Best of all, I can wave goodbye to the Mail and the Mail on Sunday, publications so evil and mendacious that reading them daily is like enduring serialisations of The Turner Diaries and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. With swastika-shaped bells on.

So I can at least rejoice as I fly, like an eagle, out of the lovely old building that has been my workplace for ten years, safe in the knowledge that I don't have to put up with that shit any more. Long ago I had already begun to realise that I was not reading the credible opinions of hyper-educated denizens of Brainworld, but in fact was enduring the puddle-shallow witterings of a bunch of overworked shlubs whose hectic output was such that they would never be able to keep an eye on their views from week to week, meaning we, the readers, were never sure exactly what their consistent beliefs were. As a result, we could never trust a thing they wrote.

That's before we get to the piss-poor science reporting (as regularly exposed by my new hero Goldacre), or the generally shoddy practices of many journalists, editors, and proprietors, as revealed by Nick Davies in his superb book Flat Earth News. When I started reading newspapers for a living, I thought I was going to learn a lot about the world, and I did, but only because I was coming at it from such a position of ignorance. If I have learned anything truly substantive since those first few years, it's because I was intrigued by a subject and endeavoured to find out about it on my own time. Midway through the decade, I realised that trying to educate myself using newspapers was futile.

And so I turn my back on the British press, but not without singling out my other favourite pieces of the past few weeks, written by journalists not included in my Hall of Fame above. I was particularly pleased by Gaby Wood's article about In Treatment, bemoaning the fact that the UK has yet to pick up this wonderful series. As an In Treatment addict, I fully understand her frustration. When it eventually arrives on TV, please don't be put off watching it by the absurd protestations of former ITV director of TV Simon Shaps, whose howl of rage at how unfair it was that no one in the UK media press was willing to compare Lost in Austen and Whitechapel with The Sopranos made me simultaneously enraged and amused recently. In Treatment is the best performed, best written, best directed show on TV right now. It would be a crime to miss it.

Also pleasing was this Times blog post that dared to suggest that gaming is not necessarily as bad for kids as studies suggest, if by "suggest" you mean "are often distorted by lazy journalists who understand that scaremongering plays into prejudices and sells papers". It's rare that games are treated with any kind of respect, and articles are often written by journalists who know nothing about gaming, so this article from The Independent on Guitar Hero and Rock Band was hugely appreciated. Except for the odd lapse into hand-holding, it's a fun little piece with a lot of interesting little snippets from programmers and developers, not to mention fans and the obligatory critic. As I fear I will spend my next few days obsessively playing both games in order to drown out the dissonance in my brain at my new situation, it acts as a nice bridge between the two states. Let's just hope that second state is an improvement over the first.


Masticator said...

I don't know if this is a publication you covered in the course of your former employment, but have you seen the Evening Standard’s frankly unbelievable “Sorry” advertising campaign?You know, I think the staff might be somewhat pleased to have escaped the clutches of Associated Newspapers. I’m interested to find out if Alexander Lebedev and Geordie Greig can turn it into a decent paper. They seem to have stopped persecuting Ken Livingstone, at least.

Admiral Neck said...

I did indeed have to read it, and quite enjoyed it. Other than the Guardian, it's the only paper I will buy to read for "pleasure" (not quite the right word). This new direction is worrying in one instance; does this mean they will be nicer to TFL? Public transport in London has been in a piss-poor state for decades, and often it seemed only the Standard noticed. Being positive is one thing, but ignoring the real problems would be a terrible move. I doubt any Londoners who suffer on London trains or buses would disagree.

Calling off the Red Ken attack dogs is amusing. I wonder how the hapless Andrew "Single-Source" Gilligan feels about that. He took great pleasure in monstering our former mayor.

Admiral Neck said...

Anyway, they should be apologizing for employing so many vacuous Sloane columnists. Gormless Polly Fillers, the lot of them. They should get rid of at least one of them and replace it with a column from the perspective of the nerd community. Just sayin'...

Masticator said...

Public transport in London has been in a piss-poor state for decadesIncorrect. It is in fact awesome!The Standard has been total dogshit for years as far as I am concerned. I am far from convinced that the Tatler man will improve it to any great extent – or indeed that any improvement will see it fight back against the freesheets – but it cannot possibly be worse than it was under Veronica Wadley, when it was shrill, reactionary and snobbish.