Since the newsmongers of Europe have organised the biggest flashmob promotion of comment ever yet seen (‘50 opinions, all different,when you spend just five minutes on our website’, ‘buy today’s copy of the Daily Lyre and you get 780, yes 780 column inches of reports on Cameron’s catastrophe’ etc, etc, ad lib’) we have found for our fortunate readers just these two short items:
(1) (translated from the Bairisch patois spoken by a powerfully built man wearing a mean and massive pair of lederhosen) ‘Hearty thanks. Britain lodged in the throat of Europe like a great chunk of French cheese for 40 years. Gone at last! Raise the flags! Assemble in marching order!’
(2) Distinguished constitutional expert Giscard Spengler is proposing an innovative reform to the currently accepted principles of democracy which he will submit to the UN: Every referendum to be followed by a second referendum to decide whether or not to accept the results of the first referendum; the electorate for the second to consist either of all those who voted in the first one, or (to be decided by the General Assembly) all those who did not vote in the first.
non-Brexit news: ‘Tim Peake for top award?’
Astronaut Tim Peake is a hot tip to be Z-list celeb of the year, following his successful return to Earth. A leading newspaper editor said, despondently, “This story had all the world-wide appeal and the gut-wrenching significance of a piece of coloured tinsel paper. And that’s how it is, we had no choice – we knew where it would happen and when it would happen, there were communication channels already in place, so we didn’t have to pay for those, and it ticked one of the ‘even if they don’t understand it, people always think they are interested in…’ boxes (the one marked [spaceflight!]) The only way we may have fallen a bit short is not bringing in an expert to tell about how he actually saw ‘evidence that there could really be little green men out there.’ ”
non-Brexit Question of the posting : Can anyone tell us why the average westerner is shocked by the notion of taking a knife and fork to a dead dog, but enjoys giving the same attention to a deceased pig?
In the still continued absence of our Editor we are very happy that Berthold Featherstonehaugh-Cheems has sent in this piece, all the more so since, in response to government urging us to use bicycles for travel in London and to his University’s increase of car parking fees for staff to £3,150 per annum he sold his car and took his old Raleigh bike up to London from his mother’s home in Dorking. He reports that his physical health is greatly improved but he now has a severe stress condition requiring twice-weekly consultations, having been repeatedly threatened with violence by motorists and suffered minor injuries when various unpleasant items and substances were thrown at him.
There is a curious imbalance in the public concern about surveillance. Undeniably it raises issues, in particular one raised by Juvenal about 2000 years ago and which as far as I know has remained above ground ever since: ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’ I would write more at this point but there is a tiny pixel in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen as I look at it right now, which my Detectorex device tells me is not actually a pixel at all, but a nanoscale full colour video camera analysing my brain patterns through remote-sensing technology to see whether I am thinking about anything which might help to provide information to be used in blackmail against me whenever the need may arise, and I object to this sort of thing on principle. So I shall speculate on a piece of abstract philosophy to see if it will switch itself off through sheer boredom. My goodness! It seems to have worked! But the really strange thing – I don’t know how they manage to finagle matters so they turn out like this – is that all the fuss and attention goes to the minor matter of whether someone is watching us. It seems to me it is really quite a lot more important to know not what we are providing to them (whoever from time to time they may be) but what they are providing to us, and I don’t mean the repulsive ‘easy-listening’ muzak which seems to be thought appropriate to accompany anything from old newsreel about World War II to a programme ostensibly about Easter Island petroglyphs but complete with obligatory palm trees, blue ocean, and languorous polynesian girls. Who knows what is coming across? In the old days subliminal advertising was a matter of inserting an image or slogan, pretty much the sort of thing that got done at the kitchen sink with a roll of film and a pair of scissors, with a view to splicing a picture of, say, a naked woman opening a box of expensive branded chocolates, to be projected on a cinema screen for a twentieth of a second or so, the idea being (I think) to persuade cinema goers to buy that brand of chocolate. But in the decades since then there have been fantastic developments in technology. I’m told it is possible to transmit the entire contents of the Encyclopaedia Economica Erigena to a man halfway up a mountain in the Himalaya in a fiftieth of a femtosecond. (What he does with it then I do not know.) We can cause the panes of glass in an embassy window to vibrate in such a way as to persuade spies for another nation who are also watching to believe a dramatic conversation took place in what was actually an empty room. Psychology has also made dramatic advances. Police forces in several countries are experimenting with what appear to be perfectly normal megaphones but which are equipped with adjustable electronic filters capable of modifying the sound so as to instil crowds with a feeling of trustful obedience or, if the case so requires, a desire to smash parked cars thus rendering themselves easy meat for the waiting special militia, or any of a gamut of reactions in between. Are we really to suppose that in this field, so rich with possible advantages for governments carrying out successful improper or illicit research, there have been no further technical developments dealing with mass communication going from those owning the transmitters to those slumped before their screens? Surely the technical means have been discovered to surreptitiously insert implausible opinions in favour of views which the government (that is, elected politicians, or in certain cases, the president or close members of his family, or in other certain cases, the cartel of tycoons and multinationals actually running the country) has decided to be in the interests of the population for whose safety, happiness and well-being they (or he, or it) are always ready to pay lip service. Perhaps far more persuasive and effective messages and commands are being passed every hour, with far greater effect than in the bad old days of yore. Do powerful sequences of images milliseconds long and a few milliseconds apart, flash across the world’s screens below our level of awareness, steadily working to establish a secure belief in a need, for example, to work ever harder for rulers and against the evil inhabitants of some neighbouring land which the government [for identity see above] has decided would be an agreeable addition to its investments.
If such things are going on, part of the process would undoubtedly involve efforts to broadcast especially material which could be appealing to the greatest number and addictive in itself, obviously in the main friendly and helpful to governments [see above again for identity] and where at the same time the subliminal messages could be given free rein. In a self-perpetuating way the material would also contain extensive subliminal incitement to watch precisely that sort of material. Could there be any link to the increasing proportion of human time spent exploring the (anti)social media? A twin development would see news programmes manipulated so as to reduce the risk of citizens learning about ideas and possibilities not favoured by those in power, the aim being to reduce the interest level of news broadcasts so as to diminish the number of people likely to watch them. Are there any signs of such a decline?
If these gloomy ruminations are justified, how might we tell? Ah, there’s the rub. Nevertheless, reflect that even as the human population increases (except, alas, in Syria), and the number of technical means for casting one’s opinions before the herds grows, at the same time the diversity of public views on almost any major issue tends to shrink, into a smaller and smaller number of propositions packaged together not by mutual consistency but by having been asserted (not necessarily on a single occastion) by a well-known designer or tennis-player or filmstar or top model or by some other ‘leader of opinion’. And if you survey the printed and spoken words scattered around the nation’s collective consciousness, how would you judge what you see?
A little grim, Berthold? But never mind, thanks for this piece.
Take care all! Maud and Dr Karela