Monday, 2 April 2012

David Cameron: a pasty short of a picnic.

As soon as a political discussion turns to a “well they’re all just stupid aren’t they?” type of remark, I know I’ve won. The consensus that all politicians are sleazy liars, trying to pocket votes no matter what it takes, offends me.

I truly believe that anyone who goes into politics – no matter what party they’re favouring – must do so because they care about the society they live in and want to make a difference, even though in some cases they do get it terribly wrong.

I also like to believe that the political branch of ‘The Media’ owes it to the public to report accurately and truthfully regarding the important issues surrounding current affairs. Let me just reiterate that: the IMPORTANT issues.

Sadly, every so often my idealism is shattered into a million little pieces when something silly, insignificant and entirely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things is suddenly launched onto the front pages of tabloids and broadsheets alike and the public becomes convinced that they are consuming “political news”.

The pasty debacle has been the talk of the tweeters for days as the prime minister found himself in a hole and just kept digging. Satirists and commentators were preparing to mock his alleged passion for the Cornish pasty even before it transpired that the location at which he “recently” bought his last pasty had actually closed down in 2007, making his love for this British snack a very civilised twice-a-decade habit.

So now we’re being asked to ignore policies and ideologies in favour of acting skills as the main issue in politics is who does and who doesn’t “enjoy a hot pasty”, with Ed Miliband feigning drools over (hot, we hope) sausage rolls shortly after Cameron’s faux pas.

Whilst the white men in suits are busy attempting to out-pasty each other (West Cornwall Pasty Company is for posh boys – the Labour kids are slumming it in Greggs), there are real political issues plaguing the country and waiting to get solved.

If this kind of nonsense leaves you feeling as disenchanted as it does me, I’ll let you in on my antidote this week. A radio interview with the new leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood, made me think that perhaps there is the odd politician out there who is more interested in the issues than how much she can mimic a clich├ęd working class lifestyle.

English party leaders could definitely stand to take a page out of the Wood book. From what I’ve been reading lately she seems like a defender of true socialism, an eco-minded strong woman who campaigns for equality but doesn’t use her gender as a weapon.

The intricacies of her policies may have to be discussed in a different post, but let me leave you with an anecdote in an attempt to lift the political morale: In 2004, Leanne Wood made a footnote in the history books when she was ordered out of the chamber during an assembly for referring to the Queen as ‘Mrs Windsor’. She further refused to withdraw her comment, saying that she intended no disrespect. "I don't recognise the Queen, I called her that because that's her name." A woman after my own heart.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The curious tale of the three little pigs, the big bad wolf, and the nature of modern journalism

The Guardian's '3 Pigs' has become a viral sensation. No one worth their weight in tweets could have missed it and Facebook is sharing the link like there's no tomorrow.

What is it about this video that we find so poignant? In just 121 seconds this video manages to touch on almost every issue surrounding British culture at the moment. The transformation of the way news is delivered and spread, the public's distrust in traditional news mediums, the nation's desperate desire to blame the government for the tragedies in society and, of course, our insatiable desire for controversy.

This classic fable has been turned into a media whirlwind as people from all around the country post 140 character opinions on a complex story and spark civil disobedience – and ultimately riots - calling for those who are truly responsible to take the blame for the desperate actions of those who have been left with nowhere to turn.

The Guardian made the video as part of a campaign promoting a partnership between the traditional media outlets and the citizen journalists and bloggers who contribute to the new form of interactive journalism. This is a concept which has always been embraced by the Guardian, whilst other media organisations seek to limit the interactivity of their publications with paywalls and disparities between the print and online versions.

The way in which this video has spread is better evidence than the content of the video itself to support the Guardian's vision. Journalism is no longer about consumers and publications, it is about an interaction and link between people from all parts of the world to create a free and uncensored press.

The three little pigs may not have benefited from a suspicious blogger investigating further into the case, and neither did the politicians who had to answer to the public outcry, but an open journalistic environment has one beneficiary – democracy. This is why I want to be a journalist, and it is why I couldn't think of a better time to do so.

Friday, 17 February 2012

My disappearance from the internet world explained

Much to the disappointment of some of the men in my life, any interest in dystopian literature was eroded after I came to the conclusion that no one will ever do it better than Orwell and watching otherwise talented writers try is a somewhat painful experience.

My relationship with technology is ambiguous, to say the least. “It's complicated”, as Facebook would have me characterise it. The desperate desire to be a part of every new advance is crippling, both financially and in terms of the time I've wasted creating blogs, profiles, accounts, downloading apps and reading tutorials.

But the connection which individuals can have with the rest of the world in the 21st Century is unparalleled by anything imaginable in a age. Unfortunately, the pitfalls of this tangled web of so-called interaction have become apparent to me of late.

I was told that the way to get “into” journalism was simple(ish): post interesting links on Twitter, get as many followers as possible on your blog and make sure that when you turn up to networking events people recognise your name. I did all of these things and it got me nowhere.

Two disturbing events led me to lose interest in using the internet to mix the personal with the professional. The first seed of doubt was planted in my mind when I was turned down from a job based on some of the more opinionated political views expressed on my blog. More specifically:

“...despite being extremely impressed by your writing skills and experience, after reading some of your submitted samples we feel that your style and topics of choice are not in line with those of the ideal candidate.”

Not long after this confusing rejection, I acquired a Twitter-stalker. I don't mean one of those annoying users who incessantly @reply to everything you say in the hope of gaining more followers. I'm referring to someone who scrolled so far through every piece of information publicly available about me that he knew the in-depth details of my personal life and eventually turned up at my place of work demanding I speak to him.

Clearly there are safeguards which I ignored. Perhaps I should have remembered the words spoken to me by my mother when I created my first MSN account at 13: “What's the point? Surely you can talk to your friends in person and I don't see why you'd want to talk to strangers. Isn't it dangerous?”

The success of Twitter has been in completely eroding the seedy connotations of chat-rooms of the late 1990s. People speak of their 'Twitter-friends' without embarrassment as people whom they have a true relationship with, despite living on opposite sides of the world and it's not strange or desperate, it's enlightened and tech-savvy.

Well, I got scared and yes, perhaps slightly paranoid. So I stopped posting on social networking sites and blogs and deleted most of the apps on my phone. I convinced myself that I was gaining nothing from it and that instant gratification was not worth the potential downfalls. I was wrong.

I am the kind of person that this medium was created for. Somewhat socially introvert yet with a passion for voicing controversial opinions and being able to discuss them intelligently. If this costs me a job or two in the future, I guess I can live with that – but I will definitely be deleting all GPS-based networks.

This is me back, people. Rejoice or recoil, at your will.