Mark Versus

Blurring the line between self improvement and self punishment

Category: Opinion

My Tuppence on @HackneyAbbott

This is not a comment on the racial implications of Diane Abbott’s ‘divide and rule’ tweet. A lot of other people seem to be doing that and their comments are invariably agenda-ridden. What has infuriated me about this business is the business of context. As a clumsy example, the next, single sentence paragraph will be absurd, untrue and entirely contrary to my beliefs.

I hate black people and think they should all be shot.

If you wanted to quote only that sentence from this post you could. And the shallow, reactionary nature a lot of the internet would let that be the only thing they would take in on the subject.,

If the tweet is part of a wider conversation (as it is claimed) it should of course be taken a such. The current towards political point-scoring and calls for resignation, as opposed to addressing and having a (God-forbid contentious) debate on the issue is a time-wasting exercise that undermines the concept of government at its root. Those who deal in it should be ashamed of themselves, particularly when they themselves are in government. Your job is not to get/stay elected. Your job is to represent yourselves and the people having been so elected.

I hope that in the fullness of time those guilty of such clumsy manipulation will be outed as idiots before the impact of their idiocy is felt.

There are many people comfortable in saying that ‘Yes, Abbott should have been more judicious and not posted it in the first place.”. This is also a waste of time and serves only to blur both the original idea being expressed and the issue of the fuss that follows. It is not the responsibility of the writer, or poster or whomever to make sure that every single sentence, or post or tweet stand alone as an innocuous summary of the full argument being made. All they need be responsible for is the clarity of the argument and their own confidence to stand behind it. It is the responsibility of the reader and the subsequent user for how they choose to use it. If they misunderstand the point or, worse, are happy to corrupt the point then they should be judged.

The story does bring to mind the question of whether there is a separate requirement to explicitly direct a reader to context on Twitter. It takes place in conversations on Twitter in the form of the @ reply. Those tweets are linked and can be viewed as a thread. The # implies topic but is not entirely effective in ensuring context between connected tweets (though it could and should). Perhaps it is worth ensuring that a tweet that is a direct continuation of a former or part of a longer conversation begins or ends with ellipsis. That way there could be no doubt that the tweet cannot and should not be read without the former or the latter.

That way we can get down to the important business of being properly racist*. I welcome comments on this post.

*There used to be a punctuation mark denoting sarcasm. For now, take this footnote as the context.


Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead… Good

Rosencrantz and Guldenstern are DeadLast night I went with a friend to the theatre to see Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. It is currently playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

This is not a review of that production. There are plenty of them around. Here, Let me Google that for you. This is a summary of how the production made me feel.

I enjoy going to the theatre a lot. It can be any kind of theatre. I am not fussy. Except one type. It cannot and must not be bad theatre. ‘Hang on’, I hear you say, ‘You have just said you like all types of theatre’. This is very true. However I know enough about most theatrical styles to spot something underwritten, overwritten, underrehearsed, overacted and generally not up to scratch. I do not mean theatre that does not match my taste, but theatre that does not meet the standard I expect for my money.

And there seems to be a lot of it about. So much so that I was beginning to think that perhaps my expectations are unrealistic. I feared that my standards were so high that it is actually impossible to meet them, and I might have believed this was the case except that would involve crediting myself with a vision beyond the bounds of all existing performing arts which I can not, no matter how much I  may claim to. That is until last night’s outing.

Who cares if you understand the play? Who cares if you like it? Not me. It was just reassuring to see people doing their jobs incredibly well.

I am fully aware that this makes me sound entirely c%$!y * but in the spirit of giving myself enough rope to hang myself I am currently doing the following things:-

  1. Directing a play. I will post details when it is on so I may be judged.
  2. Writing said play. This is a new one for me so a shitting on is anticipated.
  3. Setting up an acting school. Because I am not moaning about it all for the fun of moaning about it.

Plenty opportunity to crash and burn on all of those things.

Go and see the show if you get a chance and reasonably priced tickets. It is, as a matter of personal taste, a phenomenally well written play and it is given great life in this run. And if something has blown you away let me know in the comments. 

* it’s hiding the word cunty. The title of this post doesn’t even bother to hide it.





How do I feel about all of this newspaper business?

newspapersI want very much to reconcile my feelings about the various revelations and scandals that have become the basis of the news over the last couple of weeks. I attempted to do so in a post that may yet see the light of day but is, for now, shelved. It is not fit for Publish because while composing it I have had to accept that we are at the beginning of a process that may unravel news media and print journalism in this country to a point that it will be unrecognisable as a relative of its former self.

This will not be because of public outrage at the hacking of Milly Dowler’s voicemail and it will not be because of the apocalyptic scope of the reach of Rupert Murdoch. It will certainly not be because the public are uncomfortable with how the politicians cosy up to the press and it will not be because policemen have taken bribes.

It will be because all of these things, deplorable, petrifying, inevitable and unacceptable as they are, exist as  part of the fabric of journalism in this country and across the world whether we like it or not. These current incidents are not outliers in the behavior of journalists and editors they are, as far as I can tell, the very norm. This is how they operate. But, to be honest, how without these methods can we really expect them to do the job to the standard that is required of them?

So far the accusations are directed very specifically in one direction, but I bet that it will not be long before details of similar occurrences across the other media outlets are made public. With the shit flinging that it likely to happen when all of these newspapers get backed into their corners I cannot imagine a single paper not looking like bogroll.

Does anyone think that the Independent has never paid a police officer for information? Has the Guardian never been courted by politicians for support? I could say that the price of freedom of the press is the odd hacked phone here and there but that would be crass and disrespectful to Milly Dowler’s family and to some of those others that have been victimised in this affair. What I would say is that a great deal of the product of this system, those broken stories by every paper that have upturned ignorance and unseated injustice, may not have been achieved without these methods, illegal or otherwise, and it has been the judgement of reporters and editors that such action is taken in the public interest that has made that possible.

And it is this issue of public interest that leaves me unable to reach a balance on the subject, because it is an incredible act of faith to leave this decision in the hands of those who stand to profit (in whatever fashion) from the story’s publication and it is clear that this judgement can often go askew. Journalists the world over have broken the law and done so with the highest moral standard and at great risk to their own lives. They have done so knowing that their actions are against the law. We have honoured them for it. In this case as we so far see it the law has been broken with no moral standard and with the sole goal of selling newspapers. People should be punished. But if we demonise the press and make it impossible for them to undertake, at risk and with courage, the pursuit of truth for the common good by forcing all papers to turn on each other in defense of their own skins we will have lost. And if the press is about to eat itself we should probably be worried that the media we are left with afterwards is fit for purpose.

Beyond these questions I am still mulling over, are the issues of corporate responsibilities and conflicts of interest and the screeching, hyperbolic, self-righteous mob that Twitter can become at times like these and how it can sometimes feel like the only sensible medium. I am myself guilty of it. On top of all of that there sits my own personal politics and opinions on the players involved to temper. Lots and lots of grey area. Like this page.

I continue to watch all of this unfold and hope to learn from it. Comments please, to speed the process.