THE NEW POWER GENERATION

GumbyIt shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise that the fresh intake of young MPs that entered the House in the wake of last May’s General Election contains a large contingent of airhead dipsticks. They are the first full wave of newcomers elected to Parliament that belong to the social media generation, the first to have lived their entire adult lives online and to have obsessively indulged in the juvenilia that constitutes debate, the first to represent the extended adolescence that now grinds to a halt around forty. They are the first to have graduated from university when academia had ceased to be the route to intellectual expansion and had instead become an inclusive alternative to the minimum wage, providing frivolous courses and worthless degrees for classroom clowns. They are the first to have had their political eyes opened in an ideologically bankrupt age where savage cynicism renders nothing below the belt, an age without principles, conviction or conscience. Many have little or no memory of the pre-Blair and pre-Campbell Westminster landscape, where there was often substance beneath style, and the best were defined more by what they stood for than what they were against.

Of course, there has always been a sizeable chunk of MPs who are in it to feather their nests as well as a minority on both sides whose reasons for standing are motivated by a genuine desire to effect change for the better. But if the Commons exists to represent the people, it’s no wonder that some of the latest recruits are as dim as those they represent.

In an ideal world, the left and the right would be personified by heavyweights along the lines of Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer, whose clash on US TV’s Dick Cavett talk show in the early 70s stands as a timely reminder of how celebrated public figures have dumbed down beyond comprehension. Compare it not only to a contemporary edition of Graham Norton’s equivalent programme, but to the kind of gleefully lowbrow thought processes of those looking to gain access to the political arena today. An MPs hinterland once encompassed classical music (Ted Heath), historical literature (Churchill) or photography (Denis Healey); today, bar the inevitable exceptions, many unwind by tweeting running commentary on ‘The X Factor’, ‘Gogglebox’, f***ing ‘TOWIE’ or ‘Strictly Come Dancing’; some even stoop to appearing on the latter – stand up, Old Mother Cable.

It’s hard to resist the temptation to regard the upsurge in low art that has characterised the past couple of decades as something that has been socially engineered to enable those in power to get away with murder while the Yahoos are distracted by addictive trivia. That some from amongst those ranks have now progressed to the Lower House is a natural development that seems preordained. We already have a lightweight at No.10 who by his own admission is not an especially deep ideological person, issuing a stream of vacuous sound-bites his Spads assure him chime with public opinion whilst his Ministers sell the family silver to China and offshore tax-exiles as well as handing over the remaining beauty spots to industries whose drilling will complete the country’s transformation into a landfill of hope and glory.

With self-aggrandising bullies on one side and venomous gangsters on the other, the Commons is a microcosm of the rotten society it is supposed to speak on the behalf of – a society in which the police, the judiciary and the CPS are in thrall to bureaucratic box-ticking and PC pressure groups, refusing to acknowledge innocence even when a jury has awarded it; a society in which self-appointed moral watchdogs monitor speech and issue severe guidelines on what can and can’t be said; a society in which name-calling constitutes a crime and the recipients are encouraged to revert to helpless infancy rather than displaying the dignity of an adult above the insult; a society in which women are ordered to simultaneously be ball-breaking glass ceiling-smashers, Virgin Mary’s with babies at their breasts, chaste Victorian maidens and sexually promiscuous skanks whose bedroom recklessness can either be curtailed by an STD or crying rape; a society in which every man is a potential paedophile and every child is in eternal peril from the male of the species.

A society in which the plebs are supposed to be grateful that their living wage or zero-hours contract is helping the Government get to grips with the deficit whilst they are taught to view those unable or unwilling to settle for any old shit as scrounging scum deserving of the punitive punishments devised to dehumanise them; a society in which previously beyond-the-pale far-right, ill-informed opinions of immigrants are sold as perfectly acceptable and reasonable viewpoints – as long as the immigrants in question are penniless and can’t buy ministerial favour with a sack full of rubles or yuans; a society in which the few who enjoy a perfectly legal form of intoxicating relaxation are pursued and pilloried by hypocritical, fascistic lobbyists and a series of discriminatory curbs on their civil liberties; a society in which public libraries are seen as expensive luxuries when the needs of the lower orders can be met by fried chicken or pound shops; a society in which idiocy is a virtue and intelligence is mistrusted and frowned upon; a society that those born before around 1990 no longer recognise.

Whenever BBC Parliament transmits live proceedings from the Commons and new arrivals get their moment in the spotlight, I despair. At one time, I used to look at politicians and even if I disagreed with what they had to say, I could tell they’d lived a full life before donning the ministerial mantle and had come to their particular opinion via a combination of experience and education. They had earned their position. I no longer feel that. I see people I’d cross the road to avoid, people I’d want to throttle within minutes were I stuck next to them in a supermarket queue, people who are inherently stupid and devoid of both common sense and personality. Welcome to the future.

© The Editor

VIDEO KILLED THE VIDEO STAR

Corrie MajorcaYouTube has changed a great deal over the five years or so in which I’ve had an account with it. These days, every time I post a new video, I anticipate ‘Third Party Matching Content’ being slapped upon it within seconds of it appearing. At one time, using a soundtrack from a video you ‘sampled’ could land you in hot water, so I’d mute the original audio and overdub my own; then even the visuals began to be subject to copyright infringement. It begs the question what is YT for? Is it still supposed to be a platform for the powerless and unknown to make themselves heard or is it merely another corporate tool that serves the rich and famous?

Over the past five years, I’ve produced several series on YouTube. First up was a parody of a 1970s ITV regional company magazine show, ‘Cumberland at Six’; this was followed by (among others) the spoof documentary ‘Exposure’, the weekly ’25 Hour News’ bulletins, various ‘Top of the Pops’ spoofs, and what has undoubtedly been my most popular saga (in terms of views and audience response), ‘Buggernation Street’, an ongoing soap opera in which any resemblance to another ongoing soap opera is purely intentional.

‘Buggernation Street’ is not for the faint-hearted; the humour is bawdy and near-the-knuckle, but is a graduate of the same Great British academy of licentious satire as James Gillray, George Cruickshank and the Earl of Rochester – even Derek and Clive. Every resident of this grubby terraced street is engaged in some illicit sexual practice, and a good deal of the humour arises from descriptions of these activities being discussed in broad Lancashire accents by the most unlikeliest practitioners of them imaginable. The footage is drawn from early 70s ‘Coronation Street’ episodes, invoking instant nostalgia if you’re old enough to have been watching back then; for those who remember long-gone characters such as Jerry Booth or Alan Howard, it’s a twisted trip down Memory Lane; for those who don’t, it doesn’t really matter. The parody takes on a life of its own and can be enjoyed by anyone not easily offended. Albert Tatlock, for example, was always a grumpy old git; but in my take on the character, he becomes a foul-mouthed bullshitter who calls a spade a f***ing spade. The utter ridiculousness of the likes of him or Ena Sharples or Minnie Caldwell talking about intimate personal (and invariably sexual) subjects is partly what makes it funny.

Putting together each episode was no straightforward re-dubbing exercise. Simply placing rude words into the mouths of the characters wasn’t enough; there had to be a storyline to follow as well. And because I had certain favourite characters, I would try to ensure they appeared each time, something that necessitated upwards of six or seven different old ‘Corrie’ episodes being recut into one ‘Buggernation’. Working without a script, I’d improvise dialogue once I’d worked out how each sampled clip could be segued into the next. There would usually be a central plot with a couple of subplots underneath it; and there was continuity too. Dipping into one episode randomly, the viewer could be confronted by references to events that had occurred several episodes previously, so it paid to follow the saga from the beginning. As an avid viewer pointed out, the emphasis on ‘Dad’s Army’-style catchphrases and the anticipation of them appearing also played its part.

‘Buggernation Street’ survived intact online for a good three years, spanning 28 episodes, until recently. ‘ITV plc’ has begun cracking down on the show, forcing me to remove the all-important pilot episode that introduces the cast because it was ‘blocked worldwide’. There was supposed to have been an EU ruling that allowed the use of copyrighted footage for purposes of satire, but I’ve yet to see this ruling prevent the censorious (not to say humourless) intervention of ‘The Man’. I monetise my videos, making a miniscule amount of money from each one if it acquires a sizeable amount of views; but if there is any copyright infringement, this stops. Fair enough; I can accept that as long as the video can still be seen. When even this isn’t enough to satisfy the claimant, the said video then receives the ‘blocked worldwide’ tag and I’ve no option but to take it down.

For me, the YouTube video is an outlet for a certain type of ‘artistic expression’ (for want of a less poncy word) that is supposed to represent the democracy of the internet. At the moment, this democracy feels more like it’s based on the Chinese model, with a glut of ‘official’ videos from the likes of Vevo and others clogging up the system and pushing the amateur to the periphery. A recent video of mine was blocked due to the BBC claiming copyright infringement simply because I used about ten seconds of the BBC4 logo at the beginning of something that ran for over 20 minutes; for the first time, I disputed the copyright claim and the video has been restored until the dispute is resolved. I’d put a lot of work into the video and it had been an instant success, not even gaining one single notorious ‘thumbs down’ on the way past 1000 views. It seemed a petty objection to me and I wasn’t prepared to concede defeat.

The way things are going, YT could end up as bland and predictable as MTV within five years, completely negating its initial intent. It wasn’t supposed to be one more promotional juggernaut for record companies or movie studios, but that’s what it’s on the road to becoming. Enjoy while you can…

© The Editor