Saturday, September 30, 2023

Will the right-wing media eat its own enfants terrible?

I admit that I've probably watched the Lawrence Fox drama play out with a certain sense of wry amusement. Perhaps that's because I understand that, with actions, come consequences. And, if you don't want to accept the consequences, your options might not be terribly palatable.

That means that there are certain rules to be adhered to. For example, the right to free speech is balanced by an acceptance of the consequences of expressing them. If you really are a free speech warrior, then that's actually quite easy. Say something vile, be thought of as vile by a bunch of people, some of whom may have the ability to alter your life. You may conclude that the benefits of being vile outweigh the penalties.

Alternatively, you can restrain yourself from expressing some of the things that you might otherwise want to say, in order to protect the things you care for - wealth, family, loved ones.

But saying something stupid and unpleasant and then apologising in order to protect what you have means that you're not a free speech warrior, you're actually more than a little cowardly. You've suddenly realised that you don't fancy the consequences and would really like to wriggle off of the hook.

It tends to come to all of the (predominantly) right-wing media exponents of extreme positions in the end. There's a buzz to being paid to say things that most people wouldn't either have the nerve to say publicly or want to espouse in the first place. And our media pay well for those who rise to prominence. The catch is that there are plenty of people who hold, or are willing to express, opinions that are provocative or sensationalist, and thus to maintain your lucrative position, you have to push a little further all of the time until you reach the tipping point where your viewpoints aren't just edgy but widely accepted to be offensive.

And that's when your average media company usually decides that their brand is more important than your salary, and you get canned. They need the advertising revenue and, in a world where social media campaigns can very effectively persuade advertisers to look elsewhere, standing by an offensive columnist is just not worth it financially.

How to replace that buzz of attention is the next problem, and that means attracting attention by being even more "out there", shouting into the void. And yes, you can probably make a living, for a while, appealing to a smaller and smaller, albeit more fanatical, audience until you end up like Katie Hopkins (remember her?) - reduced to travelling the world being ever more childishly outrageous in search of the next cheque.

Alternatively, you can row back from your more outrĂ© positions and attempt to re-enter the mainstream of commentary. But does that mean that your original statements were made simply to earn money, and that you never believed them in the first place? And what does that say about you as a person, or about your integrity?

And, as the media cycle gets shorter and shorter, and as technology allows more and more people to express themselves and their opinions, the time taken to go from enfant terrible to friendless embarrassment reduces too, and the financial benefits shrink accordingly.

So, Lawrence, was it really worth it? Only you can tell...

Friday, September 29, 2023

Au revoir, Creeting St Peter…

The moving bears* have come and gone, the uncertainty of a number of months has ended, and Ros and I are slowly adjusting to our new urban lifestyle. Time, perhaps, to reflect a little.

I loved Creeting St Peter, which wasn’t entirely expected, I admit. As a “big city boy”, having grown up and spent the first forty-five years of my life in London’s zones 1-4, the move to a village of seventy or so houses and no public transport was an unlikely one, and I wouldn’t have done it at all if Ros hadn’t been in my life. But I took to it like a slightly urbane duck to water, joining the Parish Council and becoming a part of my village community.

I never did learn to drive though - a combination of fear (me, in charge of a metal box on wheels, you are kidding, aren’t you?) and prevarication - which did make me vulnerable to an increasingly erratic public transport system, and the lack of facilities meant that the idea of “popping out” for, say, a pint of milk, was only going to become more undesirable as I aged. And so, the conclusion that we were going to have to move to somewhere with “stuff” began to loom larger.

A combination of budget and availability pointed towards Ipswich, and we eventually found something that works. I won’t bore you with the process stuff - now that it’s over, I’m hoping that it will recede to a dusty corner of my memory never to be recovered - but better it were done while we’re both mentally sharp and physically able.

So, instead of a twenty-five minute walk across the fields and through Gateway 14 to Tesco, it’s two minutes to Sainsbury’s, five to one of two cinemas, or a theatre, and there’s public transport galore (at least by the standards of most of Suffolk). I’m even five minutes from my office…

As for my Parish Council responsibilities, I’m still eligible to serve until 2027 and, whilst I’d happily hand over the chair to a colleague, and stand down as a councillor so that someone actually resident can take my place, Council has made it clear that, at least for the time being, they’d rather like me to stay on. I’ve done so on the basis that, if they feel that I’ve outstayed my welcome, I’ll resign without hesitation - I’m not going to be precious about it.

And so, it's time to move onto a new phase in our life - new opportunities, new challenges - and see where we go from here. Let the adventure begin...

* Ah yes, the moving bears... Our grand-daughter has been learning about moving house from a book, and the moving company is staffed by bears. We rather liked that, and so it's stuck.