‘venom disguised as humour’

From ‘Why does Jeremy Clarkson get me so angry?‘ by

‘Now, I’m not for a moment suggesting a writer bears responsibility for ways in which any wicked person might misunderstand his words. But I think it is also foolish to deny that people are propelled into action by a thousand spectral hands. If I discovered I had become the busty centrefold inside the door of the hate locker of a mass murderer, I would at the very least search my soul very deeply. Words matter. Words hurt. And the higher your profile, the bigger the responsibility not to pour venom into people’s ears. I think Clarkson consistently did that. He poured venom. Dangerously, he poured venom disguised as humour.’

‘Is Tony Abbott the most incompetent leader of any industrialised democracy?’

Great question, and it was reported just about everywhere. Interestingly, the original blog post by Joshua Kurlantzick was called ‘Tony Abbott Has To Go‘, and you should read the whole thing, but first let’s just all take a moment in our busy lives to appreciate some quotes from the original piece:

in less than two years as prime minister, Abbott has proven shockingly incompetent … so incapable of clear policy thinking, so unwilling to consult with even his own ministers and advisers, and so poor at communicating that he has to go.


Abbott’s policies have been all over the map, and the lack of coherence has often made the prime minister seem ill-informed and incapable of understanding complex policy issues.


… In addition, he appears to have one of the worst senses of public relations of any prime minister in recent Australian history. At major economic summits, he has embarrassed Australia with his coarse rhetoric.

And for bonus points, Mother Jones on Abbott: ‘One of the World’s Worst Climate Villains Could Soon Be Booted From Office‘.

On blogging?

I’m just leaving this here as something to think about when I’ve more time: Blogging is very much alive — we just call it something else now.

I’ve been posting on this site in a sorta-bloglike way since 1996 (and boy was I classy back then). I never really felt part of a wider blogosphere, particularly as more and more people I knew and read stopped blogging, but my posts were definitely part of wider conversations with friends and randoms. What now?



The world’s oldest toddler?

This piece by Deborah Orr absolutely skewers Clarkson.

It’s not enough for Jeremy Clarkson to say he’s not racist – he must act like it

The BBC has given Jeremy Clarkson a pass over accusations of racism. But will he now start to take responsibility for his own words and their meanings and ditch the martyr routine?
When you’re in the public eye, dealing in language, it is not enough to insist that you’re not a racist. You’ve also got to achieve a level of intellectual maturity that brings you to the understanding that racism isn’t funny, and that anti-racism isn’t funny either. Clarkson is in his mid-50s. He should have got there by now.
Clarkson styles himself as a libertarian, yet he shows contempt for his own autonomy by refusing to take responsibility for his own words – and mutterings – and their meanings. He invites others to do the job for him, because he’s too lazy and too arrogant to do it for himself. Then he insists that they are the problem, not him.
I can’t shake the mental image of Clarkson as a toddler, throwing his toys out of the pram and screaming “it’s not fair” when he has nothing left to play with.

Rise in peace, Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou on libraries:

“I always knew from that moment, from the time I found myself at home in that little segregated library in the South, all the way up until I walked up the steps of the New York City library, I always felt, in any town, if I can get to a library, I’ll be OK. It really helped me as a child, and that never left me. So I have a special place for every library, in my heart of hearts.”

“Information is so important, and it must be open,” she said. “Information helps you to see that you’re not alone. That there’s somebody in Mississippi and somebody in Tokyo who all have wept, who’ve all longed and lost, who’ve all been happy. So the library helps you to see, not only that you are not alone, but that you’re not really any different from everyone else. There may be details that are different, but a human being is a human being.”


And of course, “Still I Rise”.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Guardian: ‘Our media have become mass producers of distort’

I can’t believe I haven’t gotten around to blogging this (from April). I’ve got a few weeks where I’m not teaching or studying or doing freelance work or busy volunteering, or even, sometimes over the next few weeks, not even working, so expect a rash of catch-up posts. Anyway, onto the article… a lot of the same points could be made about blogs, but at least there’s a clear sense of ‘caveat emptor’. A very long time ago I used to expect that I could trust something I read in a newspaper.
Our media have become mass producers of distortion

“There never was a time when news media were perfect. Journalists have always worked with too little time and too little certainty; with interference from owners and governments; with laws that intimidate and inhibit the search for truth. But the evidence I found in researching my new book, Flat Earth News, suggests our tendency to recycle ignorance is far worse than it was.
I commissioned research from specialists at Cardiff University, who surveyed more than 2,000 UK news stories from the four quality dailies (Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Independent) and the Daily Mail. They found two striking things. First, when they tried to trace the origins of their “facts”, they discovered that only 12% of the stories were wholly composed of material researched by reporters. With 8% of the stories, they just couldn’t be sure. The remaining 80%, they found, were wholly, mainly or partially constructed from second-hand material, provided by news agencies and by the public relations industry. Second, when they looked for evidence that these “facts” had been thoroughly checked, they found this was happening in only 12% of the stories.
The implication of those two findings is truly alarming. Where once journalists were active gatherers of news, now they have generally become mere passive processors of unchecked, second-hand material, much of it contrived by PR to serve some political or commercial interest. Not journalists, but churnalists. An industry whose primary task is to filter out falsehood has become so vulnerable to manipulation that it is now involved in the mass production of falsehood, distortion and propaganda.
And the Cardiff researchers found one other key statistic that helps to explain why this has happened. For each of the 20 years from 1985, they dug out figures for the editorial staffing levels of all the Fleet Street publications and compared them with the amount of space they were filling. They discovered that the average Fleet Street journalist now is filling three times as much space as he or she was in 1985. In other words, as a crude average, they have only one-third of the time that they used to have to do their jobs. Generally, they don’t find their owns stories, or check their content, because they simply don’t have the time.
Add that to all of the traditional limits on journalists’ trying to find the truth, and you can see why the mass media generally are no longer a reliable source of information.”


(Apparently American politics is the new procrastination. Can you tell I’ve started back at uni? Expect more magazine covers at some point, probably when assignments are due). Anyway, onto my point…
Resurrecting The Ayers Attack: Palinizing As Campaign Strategy:

Palinizng a month out from Election Day is a dangerous game and risky game. It erroneously presumes that the electorate does not get insulted when politicians change the subject from how to benefit Americans to how to benefit their own candidacy. It also presumes that the electorate is just as gullible as it was in 2000 and 2004, where personality trumped policy as the driving force at the polls.
It’s a risky tactic. But risk has become common currency for the McCain campaign. Yet in fully embracing the twin Republican tactics of diversion and delay, the McCain campaign continues on the road of self-parody, blithely forging ahead, becoming increasingly irrelevant, muttering personal attacks and gibberish and hoping that such babbling is accepted as “leadership” by the American people. The entire strategy is so erratic and so transparently desperate that on that front, the McCain campaign would fare better if it simply read out of the phonebook from now until Election Day.

And then check out the blog that gave us the Sarah Palin Debate Flowchart.