A clerical error has resulted in twenty Syrian refugees who had hoped for asylum in Denmark actually landing in Australia. As its contribution to dealing with the migration crisis, rather than receiving any refugees Britain offered instead in 2015 to maintain the European Office for Registration of Unqualified Migrants, building on its decade-long experience in excluding would-be asylum seekers or returning them to the third-world countries from which they had escaped. Work in the Office actually started only last Thursday, owing to difficulties earlier in completing the private finance initiative scheme set-up to equip the headquarters chosen (De Labremont Court Mansion in Sussex) with the facilities needed to house staff and to ensure efficient and secure long-distance communication. Among the first group to be handled were twenty refugees who had succeeded late last year in passing through Germany but were refused permission to cross into Denmark, and were therefore to be returned, initially to Austria. But the telex giving the necessary instructions was misread, and as a result these migrants were put on a flight from Frankfurt to Sydney. The Australian High Court has ruled that since they had neither intended nor wished to travel to Australia, and were under the control of a lawfully recognised international agency they cannot be expelled (although they can receive treatment such as would make it likely that they ask to leave the country).
Linguistic corner ‘Patriotism’ is an uplifting or intoxicating feel of hatred or contempt rendered justifiable (according to the patriot) by the fact that it is not directed at one’s own people. Fegan’s Criminal Dictionary
A guest writes. (The contributor, a former broadcaster, wishes to remain anonymous)
Somewhere in the dark and furtive beginnings of regular television broadcasting in Britain sixty and more years ago a chubby, curly-haired youth bounced into a Programmes Provisional Advisory committee meeting (his well-connected step-mother having fixed up the opportunity for him) in Broadcasting House. (The meeting was unusual since in those days what primarily took place in Broadcasting House was broadcasting, whereas now of course the rooms and corridors are filled with the unceasing hum of innumerable intricate internecine managerial intrigues). If we could translate his twentieth century words into New British they would be “Television is a visual medium. Viewers want to see our programs. They want to see things happening. They want movement, they want life. They don’t want a news reader droning on at them with the news, centre-screen and stony-faced like a Chinese idol. They don’t want to see two heads simply using words to pass thoughts to and fro. They want action.” And so on, in the way now only too familiar to those watching a newcomer on the make.
Not very perceptive, the somnolent middle-aged group round the table mistook his self-promotion (which actually reproduced a presentation by a fellow-student he had witnessed on the media studies course at Wyclaw State U) and took it to be originality. To a man, they had a firm instinctive distrust of originality, and so to get rid of him as fast as possible they passed a unanimous motion asking him to draft a plan for presentation training, for all those who had to appear in front of camera. He did not draft such a plan, but his girlfriend did. And that is why to this day BBC news reporters wave their arms like mediaeval conjurors, or advance stealthily towards the camera as if hoping to spring on it and kill it, or wander in a wide meaningless circle across the landscape while delivering their report. The words do not matter; the essence is in the movement. Presentation is the thing, content a mere sideshow. (Thatcher would have approved.) It has always been harder to do this sort of thing with studio interviews and news presenters. Of course they can, and are, frequently interrupted with clips (showing wherever possible attractive young women, or if not available then ‘celebrities’), and many studios have been set up with a slowly revolving panorama behind the speakers. But change there too is at last under way as older customs and older controllers lose their grip. Unexplained people will make brief irruptions into the studio. Interviewers will mix gin and tonic for their interviewees on set. The panoramas will come to life, first in realistic and then in more exciting fashion. For instance, birds will flit across the scene behind the presenters in a most plausible and motionful way. Jackdaws will be spliced in frequently since they like to do aerobatics and pirouette where crows would simply fly from one side of the screen to the other with no more éclat than an MP delivering official policy. Viewers of the older generation will have to surrender. In for a penny, in for a pound. If presentation is going to take over they’ll just have to give up expecting thought and meanings and news and reportage, and if they must get real information they must hunt for it on the net (and a hard game that will be!) But the television screen will be the scene of constant unpredictable activity. Explosions – real or faked – in the panorama, sunrise at interestingly different times of day. Let’s have the special effects guys really earning their money – how about a flock of pterodactyls flapping over Waterloo Station? Cameras will zoom in without warning on bank raids, again real or faked. (Does it matter? The viewers will watch in their millions). Scenes of personal violence, real or faked here too, some from outside the studio, some in. Let’s have a vulture perching on the newsreader’s shoulder. A monkey shown trying to operate one of the cameras. And more, and more, ever less coherent, less interesting, less humane. Society and history move on, and those who cannot keep up must sit unprotesting on their park bench and watch as the others pass on out of view.
Science news It is reported that the expansion of the human biomass is still proceeding in line with the gradual rise in world equity prices on the stock markets, and with experts still arguing as to why there has seemed to be the surprisingly close correlation between them over the past 150 years which, broadly, continues to hold good despite the droughts now affecting a number of places around the globe, and the imminent economic crashes in the formerly acclaimed BRIC nations (which by the way, just go to show how reliable economic pundits are). World-wide the percentage of men who are obese stands at a new record, hailed by food-manufacturers and private fee-charging hospitals alike, with a figure of 13% of the adult male population. An odd statistical feature, however, is that six of the seven leading nations in this exciting contest are English-speaking, and here the number of adult males reaching the obesity level hits 20% a proportion more than 50% higher than the world average. Scientists in many countries are urging the establishment of research programmes to discover whether speaking English has a beneficial effect on weight gain, or whether a high body-mass index produces a tendency to speak English.
Instead of ladling money into artificial intelligence, how about putting some into human intelligence, or better human civilisation?
A number of worried citizens and delighted right-wing politicians have been commenting in recent months on the wide horizons opened up for racial discrimination by recent advances in DNA research. It appears that the chance of two different human being found to share precisely the same pattern of DNA is certainly lower than one in a hundred million. This makes it possible for even a brother and sister to despise each other, by each choosing different elements of the genome as the crucial aspects of their genetic make-up which should count as the desirable norm.
A reader’s letter
Thank you for that sarky bit you had in your last post spoofing the hypocritic tosh this Tory government insults us with. That’s assuming it wasn’t really one of their announcements? By the way if that Maud you’ve got as an intern is the Maud Timoshenko came second in the shot put at the Dublin Student Games, you’ve really done yourselves a good turn there. Good brain, nice strong girl. What about a signed photograph?
Thank you for the plaudit for our intern, and also your kind offer of a photograph, but we receive plenty of photographs as it is, mostly selfies sent in by readers who somehow imagine that their face, or more often full body shot, may persuade us to reveal our private e-mail addresses to anyone who writes in. Few are signed, and anyway they are normally binned on receipt, but we do have one (18 inches by 30) which was needed until yesterday to block a hole in a front window that arose when we had the Fine Gael hockey team here last year. As it happens it is signed by a prominent member of the Tory cabinet and we shall be glad to send it to you in Grimsby.
Saying of the week When you go to see a play in a theatre you are traditionally supposed to offer a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’. However, when you go to the Cinesumma Superplusplex to see the latest Hollywood movie what you need is a willing suspension of dislike.
Thought for the day The pantomime horse is loved by all but it does not win the Derby
Note on democracy In the election which put the present British government in office, those registering a vote were 66.1% of those eligible to do so. Out of this number the Conservative party received only 36.9%. Time for some reflexion on the decent conduct of political affairs.