Archive for June 5th, 2008

It’s The Way I Tell Me

(Beginning a new series, in which my more awake half answers the questions posed by my sleepier, dumber half.)


Dear I,


Why are news sites like the Guardian and RTE reporting on the outcome of last night’s The Apprentice, which is, after all, a TV gameshow and not the real world?


Dear I,


Thanks for your question, which is premised on a few assumptions that need examining. I know this sounds patronising and ever so slightly nerdish, but I am of course free to patronise you as much as I wish.


The first is that news sites are interested in saying things about the real world. They aren’t. They are interested in saying things about the real world only in so far as this coincides with their business goals. If saying things about the real world directly goes against these goals, they won’t do it.


The second assumption is the existence of a real world. There is, of course, a real world out there, in which people are killed by falling pianos, and tearful girlfriends run in despair after the train carrying their manly lover as it pulls out of the station. But it is wrong to think that news production was ever particularly concerned with this real world. In fact, it mediates and re-presents this world in accordance with institutional priorities, which are formed by a wide range of factors, none of which I can be bothered going into here.


Third, that the ‘outcome’ of last night’s The Apprentice is what you think it is. You use the word as though the narrative that unfolded on screen actually delivered something of real significance. As though whatever else there was to the content of the programme -the suspense-laden pauses, the pompous boardroom politics, the quest for approval from authority figures, the continuing tributes to capitalist bullies and so on- had in fact produced a real event.


Again, I can’t be bothered going into the question of what might constitute a real event. I will just say this: The Apprentice is a gameshow, a carefully designed product. To talk in terms of ‘outcomes’ or ‘what happened’ doesn’t say much other than pay tribute to how the product has fulfilled its intended purpose. It’s like remarking on how this morning’s Weetabix tasted the same as that of the day before. Of course, there are differences. For starters, Weetabix is not designed to generate cut-and-paste press releases and post-breakfast interviews. It isn’t much of a talking point on which to hang other lifestyle articles that might attract potential advertisers for revenue.


I realise haven’t actually answered your question here. That is, even if you accept that news sites don’t do what you expect them to do and the outcome isn’t what you might immediately think it is, there is still the matter of the particular appeal of The Apprentice. But once more, I can’t be bothered. But please, keep ’em coming.

I on Twitter

June 2008