Monday, April 26, 2010

Shouting at the Television

Over the years I've gradually managed to wean myself off of my bad habit of arguing with the TV. One of the advantages of living by yourself is that you can shout abuse at people on television out loud, without anybody thinking that you are a nutter. There was a time when I'd argue with anything or anyone on the box. It was quite exhilarating, really. When Late Review was on BBC2 on a Thursday, I'd regularly come home from the pub and argue with Germaine Greer, I'd also frequently disagree with football pundits and sometimes have stand up rows with party political broadcasts. It all came to a head several years ago, when I was watching Top of the Pops, (which dates it a bit), one Friday night. I can't even remember which act was performing - probably some awful dance music outfit - but I suddenly heard myself loudly declaring "They call that music?" to an empty room. Now, the fact that I was posing a question to a non-existent audience was disturbing enough, but what really bothered me was the fact that I had just uttered the self same phrase that my father had come out with whilst watching Sweet on Top of the Pops back in 1972. It was a shocking moment of self-revelation for me - just as Glam Rock had presented my father with a Rubicon of youth culture he could never cross, so I had finally been forced to face the limits of my youth by a piece of crappy dance music. In that split second, not only did I fear that I was turning into my father, but I also had to accept that I no longer understood youth culture. My own youth was finally over.

However, this weekend, my youth, or at least my predilection for shouting at the TV, briefly returned. It actually started, not with shouting, but laughter. An item on the news sent me into a fit of uncontrollable laughter, and left me, once again, reflecting that truth really is stranger than fiction. The report in question concerned the leaking of a Foreign Office memo which floated various ideas for activities the Pope could perform on his upcoming visit to the UK. Quite brilliantly, these included opening an abortion clinic, endorsing a brand of condoms and presiding over a gay wedding. Sadly, the civil servant concerned has been reprimanded and demoted. A travesty, this is the kind of 'blue sky thinking' we need more of in the public sector. Really, I'm so jealous tat I didn't come up with these ideas - they'd have made a fine basis for a story over in The Sleaze. Indeed, right here and now, I'd like to offer this individual a job writing for us - there's no money on offer, obviously, but he would have the satisfaction of seeing his work published to a more appreciative audience.

But my laughter was short-lived as, only minutes later in the same news broadcast, I found myself shouting "Why don't you just go and suck your Tory pal Cameron's cock, you tosspot?" at Richard Branson. Now, whilst my dislike for Branson is no secret, I've never before felt moved to heckle him, either in person, or virtually. I'm not quite sure exactly what set me off this time, but I suspect it was his obvious attempt to exploit the flight disruption caused by the recent volcanic eruptions in Iceland, to make political capital during the election campaign by criticising the government. According to the bearded tit, the government had completely overreacted by grounding all flights for days due to the safety threat posed by volcanic ash. The long and the short of it was that he wasn't happy at having to pay compensation to customers and, like all capitalists when the going gets tough, wanted a hand out of public money. OK, I know that the flight ban caused disruption on a scale not seen since Luciano Pavarotti's cremation sent clouds of ash several miles into the air over the Mediterranean, but the fact of the matter is that aircraft manufacturers and airlines (including Branson's) have steadfastly refused to finance tests to establish the effects of volcanic ash on aircraft engines, on the grounds that the threat posed was so unlikely it wasn't worth the expense. Consequently, when faced with a massive volcanic eruption, aviation authorities across Europe had, in the absence of any data or risk assessments, no choice other than ground all flights until they were able to conduct tests to obtain the data required. Which means, of course, that the likes of Branson have no one but themselves to blame for this fiasco, making his crocodile tears highly offensive. Ultimately, I suppose it moved me to anger because it so clearly illustrated that, when it comes down to it, multinational corporations will always put profit ahead of public safety. Surely that's something worth shouting at the telly about?



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