Friday, 26 January 2007

You don't like it? So what?

Bloggers are the grave diggers of newspaper commentators. It takes a lot for me to read an opinion piece now. Unless it is witty and/or full of facts/figures I haven't seen before, what's the point? I thought the point of newspapers is that they are full of news. Show me what is going on in the world, so I have the information that can help me decide what I think about matters.

Just think: soon we will have a world without Richard Littlejohn, Janet-Street Porter, Melanie Phillips, Simon Jenkins, Jeremy Clarkson, Polly Toynbee, Simon Heffer, Martin Wolf, Peter Hitchens, Julie Bindel, Bruce Anderson, Gary Younge, David Aaronovitch, Janet Daley, Nick Cohen et al clogging up the pages of papers wittering on about how they see the world.

If/when there are no more opinion pieces in newspapers, I hope Charlie Brooker is amongst the last. Perhaps the piece below is just a pose, but it's a bloody good one...

Why would I want to hear your opinions when I've got so many more interesting ones of my own?
Charlie Brooker, The Guardian, Monday January 22, 2007

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's opinions. Opinionated people are everywhere. There's probably one standing beside you right now.

Look at them. There they stand, the great I-Am, eyes glinting with indignation, swinging their pompous little gobhole open and shut, spouting out one self-important proclamation after another. Have you actually heard what they're saying? Probably not. You doubtless switched off. And little wonder: it all blurs into one great big river of blah: it's all "If you ask me . . ." and "Well, what I think is . . ." and "I think you'll find . . ."

They should all either shut up or be forced to shut up by stormtroopers. Or maybe we could seal them inside a Perspex chamber filled with angry bees swarming around with razor blades glued to their bellies. We could televise this. And encourage viewers to text in their opinions about what they're seeing. And trace those viewers from their mobile numbers, round them up, and slap them in the chamber too. And so on and so on, until we've whittled the population down to one person. Me. Watching everyone perish in a chamber of bees. That's my stock answer to everything.

Never in history have there been so many opportunities to put your opinion across. You can print it in papers, shout it on the radio, text it to the news channels or whack it on the internet. And it all happens so quickly, you don't even have to think your opinions through; if you can't be bothered doing the brainwork, you can simply repeat what someone else has said using slightly different words. And poorer spelling.

Most opinions, however, don't really need to be written down at all. They can be replaced by a sound effect - the audible equivalent of an internet frowny-face. Imagine a sort of world-weary harrumph accompanied by the faintest glimmer of a self-satisfied sneer. That's 90% of all human opinion on everything, right there. Internet debates would be far more efficient if everyone just sat at their keyboards hitting the "harrumph" key over and over again. A herd of people mooing their heads off. Welcome to 2007.

Mind you, even the most bone-headed online debate is infinitely more sophisticated than any kind of "public discourse" you'll see on TV, particularly if you're watching the news and they've just invited their viewers to call in for some kind of faux-democratic "Have Your Say" segment, which inevitably functions in the same way as someone turning on a gigantic idiot magnet, given the sort of dribbling thicksicle it attracts.

In fact, that's what they should call it. The Idiot Magnet. At the end of each item on Sky News, they should say "We're switching on the idiot magnet now. Let's see what we dredge up. Ah, Dick from Colchester, you're on the air . . ."

Cue five minutes of Dick repeatedly tapping the "harrumph" key on his phone.

What is it with all this patronising "Have Your Say" bullshit anyway? They don't call the rest of the programme "Have OUR Say". I can have my say now, can I? What, right here, in this two-minute slice of air-time, which no one's listening to anyway since they're too busy trying to get through themselves, or texting their disapproval or going online to moo at a rival? Why, thank you, Lord Media, and harrumph to you, Sir.

Anyway, that's my two cents. Your turn.

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