Friday, November 14, 2008

Storm in a BBC teacup

I was trying to avoid writing about the tedious "Sachsgate" saga that has been dominating the British media for the past few weeks. So why now? Well, for a few different reasons, but mostly because the NY Times has just done a piece on it, therefore saving me a lot of the work of explaining the whole sorry tale to American readers.

But, just in case you can't be bothered reading that in-depth article, here's the 10-second version: two well-known comedians did a radio show during which they left a few rather puerile messages on an aging actor's answerphone. Two listeners complained. Then a rabidly rightwing tabloid which happens to hate the BBC picked up on the "shocking story" and published a lurid account of the incident, creating a self-perpetuating media shitstorm.

Politicians get involved, people lose their jobs, angry villagers wave pitchforks.

The comparison in the NYT article with Janet Jackson's Superbowl titflash is an apt one. As well as highlighting a certain underlying prudishness on both sides of the Atlantic, both incidents are also excellent examples of the irritating power of a moronic moral minority. These self-appointed guardians of taste claim to protect us from depravity while taking a curious pleasure in revealing and lingering over every salacious detail.

I particularly enjoyed Charlie Brooker's recent account of the snowballing idiocy, which he describes as a "pitiful gitstorm". He also makes a sensible-sounding suggestion about creating anti-complaint hotlines for situations like this one, whereby reasonable people could phone in and cancel out complaints from hysterical halfwits.

If only it were that easy. Here in California we already have a similar idea in place. It's called the proposition system, and unfortunately sometimes there are just too many bigots and cretins to go round.

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