Charlie Brooker — A Little Bit of Politics

Interesting article from Charlie Brooker on his attitude to drugs and their reporting. It’s quite a good example of his style, which I saw critiqued a little unfairly in the Radio Times recently which said he tended to go after obvious targets and then pull his punches but that, sadly, he was about the best around at what he did.

What tends to be disappointing about Brooker is that while he sometimes seems to be on the brink of concluding something very idiosyncratic, his conclusions always seem to return to re-inforce the type of liberal orthodoxy that has atrophied in the values of his audience of Guardian readers for about the last 30 years (the big irony is they still see themselves as daring and progressive when, in fact, they now really represent the forces of inertia and conservatism). Maybe Brooker really shares these views — exemplified, for example, in the flawed logic that sees alcohol equated as an inherently more dangerous drug than many prohibited substances. (Of course it can be but most people don’t misuse it.) Yet even if he has leanings this way then his points would still be better made if he didn’t back so timidly away from questioning so many sacred cows — it’s almost like he has a little Ben Elton of the nauseous 80s sparking suit vintage (not the current sell-out Queen musical writer) barking inside his conscience.

Brooker seems pathologically scared of making general points that might offend these ingrained prejudices even when his real strength — his surreal self-deprecation — demolishes brutally many pompous,New Labour sensibilities. In this article he humorously describes his less-than-satisfactory experiences taking banned drugs and makes some very good points about the questionable motivations of the many people who still glorify a completely irrelevant and anachronistic 60s counter-culture (if it ever existed): ‘I don’t want to get out of my head: that’s where I live’.

All great stuff but then he diverts into safer territory by making an analogy about delusion peddled in newspapers which seems calculated to play to the Guardian reader gallery. Of course then his predictable targets are the tabloids who print pictures of Lady Ga Ga (though plenty supposed quality papers do too). It would be nice for a change if he took on the sort of mood-altering newspapers that print a diet of self-mythologising cant  which re-inforces the moral smugness of their readership — fulfilling similar fundamental psychological needs in the same sort of manner as those who are just satisfied by seeing whether Lady Ga Ga’s managed to keep her knockers from falling out of her dress today.

The Day Today Comes to Haiti

I’ve found watching the news coverage of the Haiti earthquake and its aftermath to be quite unsettling. George Alagiah and company stand at the airport anchoring the whole news programme repeatedly telling us how food, fuel and water are in terribly short supply and that people are dying because of the shortages. Would that be the sort of food, fuel and water that news anchors and their attendant crews are consuming? And would space on the flights out to Haiti be better filled with aid than with the size of TV crew required to present the whole bulletin remotely.

By all means send reporters out to show the scale of the problem but it seems completely unnecessary for the news to be presented from the disaster area — morally dubious in its prurience.

This co-incided with the first episode of Charlie Brooker’s new series of Newswipe  on BBC4. I’m generally a great fan of Brooker, though I occasionally find his rants too grating when he drops the self-deprecation and gets too high on his moral horse. In this episode he exposed the irrational faddishness of the editorial decisions made on television news and the pack mentality that seems to have infected news decision making since the advent of 24 hour news channels. There really isn’t much logic in the importance placed on stories — if it fits a particular narrative it gets coverage. It’s not much different from superstition in the middle ages.

Truth often ends up imitating fiction and our news media seems to resemble the ludicrous parodies that Chris Morris produced in the 90s — ‘The Day Today’ and ‘Brass Eye’ (the special of which I have on DVD as it’s not very likely to be repeated).