Archive for January 24th, 2008

Pope: No Dope

Unfortunately, though, (communications media) risk being transformed into systems aimed at subjecting humanity to agendas dictated by the dominant interests of the day. This is what happens when communication is used for ideological purposes or for the aggressive advertising of consumer products. While claiming to represent reality, it can tend to legitimize or impose distorted models of personal, family or social life. Moreover, in order to attract listeners and increase the size of audiences, it does not hesitate at times to have recourse to vulgarity and violence, and to overstep the mark. The media can also present and support models of development which serve to increase rather than reduce the technological divide between rich and poor countries.

The Pope. I hope those nincompoops who produce right-wing Catholic crapsheet for cannibals Alive! take heed of his message. I receive that particular periodical through my letterbox each month, and I always mean to comment on it here, but never seem to get around to it. Not now, though. Only to comment that whereas I might interpret the above as meaning that media production under capitalism serves capitalist interest, the columnist for Alive! takes it as meaning that the Pope is denouncing the gay agenda promulgated by the likes of Pat Kenny who interviews homosexuals on the Late Late show. He may, of course, mean both things.

Anyway, Ratzinger generally has interesting things to say, which is an improvement on the last chap.

Today, communication seems increasingly to claim not simply to represent reality, but to determine it, owing to the power and the force of suggestion that it possesses. It is clear, for example, that in certain situations the media are used not for the proper purpose of disseminating information, but to “create” events.

I can agree with that.

Diddly Squat

On Sunday The Observer published a hatchet job by Nick Cohen on Ken Livingstone. The usual sort of thing you see from disenchanted leftists of a certain inclination, with tales of dark deeds from vile sects, but there was one line in particular that jarred with me: this description of Gerry Healy of the Workers’ Revolutionary party.

The cult’s main purpose, however, was to worship the personality of its great leader, Gerry Healy, a squat, bombastic Irishman and a rapist as near as damn it.

Cohen is offering a moral judgement here, based on the history of a person who existed in fact, not a novelistic invention. For him to give the details on Healy’s height, disposition and nationality alongside the accusation that the man was a rapist (which may well be true, I have no idea) is to relate the former categories and the latter.

So then – this was no ordinary rapist: he was a short-arse. Not only was he a short-arse, he was an Irish short-arse. And not only was he an Irish short-arse, he was an Irish short-arse loudmouth . And if there’s one thing worse than a rapist, it’s an Irish short-arse loudmouth rapist. We are invited to understand, by implication, that there are other categories of rapist preferable. An Irish loudmouth short-arse rapist may be worse than, say, a soft-spoken strapping English rapist.

That is a generous interpretation of his description, even if it says something about Cohen’s attitude towards short people and Irishmen. A less generous interpretation would be that Cohen sees a causative relationship between Healy’s squatness, his bombast and his Irishness, and the ‘fact’ (like I said, I have no idea) the man was a rapist. This would mean he thinks Bono to be a more likely rapist than Hugh Laurie. Which would an outrageously racist thing to say, quite frankly.

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January 2008