Friday, 23 January 2015

Dylan Sharpe's Ironic Justice

Like many opposed to The Sun's Page Three feature, I was part of the mad rush to dance on its' supposed grave on Wednesday. Then, when the tabloid pulled the rag out from under us all, I was smarting and bitter at their - non-existent - duplicity!
I was wrong, I'd committed a cardinal sin of journalism by making an assumption, a leap of faith without the evidence to back it up. Call it a valuable lesson, and hopefully all of the media commentators who made the same mistake will also come away wiser and more cynical.

What they didn't need is Dylan Sharpe's superior tweet to some of the most well-known journalists, as well as a sympathetic politician who sincerely hoped her campaign had made a difference.
Even Sharpe, in his apology - published on Buzzfeed oddly, not The Sun itself - acknowledges a pot-shot at Harriet Harman was unnecessary. "Guilty of gloating", he conceded.

In reality, he has done a fantastic job of Public Relations. Not only has The Sun pulled off one of the greatest bait-and-switch moves in journalism history, Sharpe has stoked the fires by taking to that great media battlefield and throwing oil on the inferno. There's no such thing as bad publicity!

I fully expect the entire operation has galvanized the legions of otherwise apathetic white van men, who feared for the loss of the morning totty, and whose brand loyalty can only improve with this swerve towards cancellation.
I expect the increased polarisation of discussion about Page Three online will keep The Sun riding high in press coverage and media discussion.
I believe that Sharpe's jibing swipe at his detractors eggs the argument on, creating a vortex of ardent conversation that this article itself is just one bubble of.

It all contributes to a major PR coup for Murdoch's flagship tabloid, back from the dead more than Vlad Dracula. What did interest me was Sharpe's closing wish...
So there it is. I continue to be told I’m a c*nt by people who know my name, my job and one tweet I sent. Guilty of gloating I most certainly am. Icarus has well and truly plummeted to earth. But I never meant to offend and I want to apologise to all those I @’ed in that tweet. It was supposed to be funny but clearly I misjudged that one. Now I see if Twitter can forgive as quickly as it can hate….
Really. A white male employee of a sexist British tabloid, asking for forgiveness from Twitter. If this isn't a delightfully ironic parallel to the entire concept of media self-regulation, of toothless press watchdogs forgiving one another their myriad sins, then I don't know what is.

I honestly can't tell if Sharpe is concealing another 'cheeky swipe' in his apology, fully acknowledging the hypocrisy of begging for mercy from Twitter for giving the MRAs and trolls exactly what they wanted. Compare his two days experience to what someone like Caroline Criado-Perez has endured for years, and try and accommodate how disingenuous it is.

Caroline's twitter feed included this retweet that I particularly like, and find very appropriate.
However, we must resist the urge to relish Sharpe's experience of mistreatment at the hands of Twitter. As tempting as it is for an evident supporter of patriarchy to suddenly be on the grim receiving end of that institution's crude online 'justice', we should not wish that punishment on anyone.

That punishment should not exist. Nobody, no-one at all should have to endure threats of harm, death, and violence online. We should condemn those who threaten Dylan Sharpe with all the fire and fervour we condemn those who threaten Criado-Perez, or Anita Sarkeesian, or Brianna Wu, or anyone else who has dared come out and state that women are treated as second-class citizens.

Nobody is a second-class citizen - and the last person who should be regarded as so is Dylan Sharpe. Even if it seems like he doesn't agree with the concept.


One closing thought - much of the debate about Page Three swirls around rendering the models as mere objects, objectification being a major plank of feminism, I believe. To counter that, Channel Four conducted a brilliant interview with author Germaine Greer, Harriet Harman MP, and model Chloe Goodman - you can watch it here.

I'd be curious to know what Nicole, 22 from Bournemouth thinks about the debate swirling around her decision - and it is hers - to appear on Page Three.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Armageddon Will Not Be Televised

There has been a flurry of online interest in the surfacing of the fabled 'doomsday' tape from the vaults of the Cable News Network.

Ted Turner, founder of the first dedicated news channel in the US, famously claimed on the launch of his channel in 1980, that
"We gonna go on air June 1, and we gonna stay on until the end of the world. When that time comes, we'll cover it, play 'Nearer, My God, to Thee,' and sign off."
Now, a former CNN intern has proven that this was indeed Turner's plan. Hunting through the famous news network's video archives, Michael Ballaban found the clip that is only to be played upon confirmation of the end of the world. Thankfully it isn't specified what form that confirmation will take.

Created during the 1980s, with the Cold War ever at risk of going hot, we shouldn't question the merit of creating an emergency broadcast for use in the likelihood of worldwide Armageddon. We might question the choice of music, which was rumoured to be the final song played by the band on RMS Titanic.

What is surprising is, well, the surprise this discovery is being met with. Perhaps, being British, I have a more phlegmatic attitude towards "We interrupt this broadcast...", as the BBC and the British Government's plans have long been well known. In 2005, the media was discussing recently declassified files detailing planned broadcasts should a nuclear attack on the United Kingdom be confirmed, drawn up as early as the immediate post-War period.

Such a broadcast was laconically referred to as the "four minute warning", so named for the brief period between confirmation of inbound missiles and their impact on target within England. This in fact was the maximum possible time for British-based detection systems, and it could have been even less time.
On confirmation, the Wartime Broadcasting Service would have been activated, overriding all existing BBC transmissions to inform in classical, RP tones, the grave news.

Delivered by familiar BBC Radio Four continuity announcer Peter Donaldson, part of the broadcast has been spliced, aptly enough, into the song Four Minute Warning by Radiohead. Peter also briefly discusses recording the automated warning on this clip from The Culture Show.

These painfully real-world examples are chilling, but far more people are familiar with the fictional portrayals of nuclear devastation in England. The leading example must be Threads, the BAFTA-award winning drama produced in 1984 and broadcast to record viewing numbers for the week.

Set within the northern English city of Sheffield, it explores the true reality of nuclear war on a very personal level, introducing us to characters and their lives which are unfortunately being led in the vicinity of a high-priority strike target. Below is an amateur trailer of this powerful and eye-opening show.

The following year, Threads was shown again on the fortieth anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. In conjunction was the first ever showing of The War Game, a documentary from the 1960s that had been banned by the BBC. Although they have never stated precisely why, the bleak nature of the psuedo-documentary style would no doubt have swung a great deal of opinion against the nuclear arms race.

The War Game does indeed make for disturbing viewing. To show it in the Eighties, when nuclear weapons had become even more powerful than the cruder atomic bombs of the post-War period that featured in the production, must have been even more disturbing.

Or perhaps people were numb to the dangers of nuclear warfare? Perhaps they'd become accustomed to the reality of annihilation, delivered so calmly by familiar BBC voices ever since the end of the Second World War?

This is why I regard the surprise and fascination surrounding the CNN tape with some bemusement. I don't doubt every network has such an ominous pre-recorded piece, for such a dire emergency. We've had ours for quite some time.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial
Taken by Aiden on November 24, 2006.