Friday, 1 July 2011

The mob, the opportunist and the thief

The other day I ate a Tesco Cauliflower Cheese containing 41% cauliflower and 11% cheese; as a friend commented, this meant “48% slop”. Presumably a little more would have required its inclusion in the title of this tasteless side dish. “Slop” would be an accurate description for the last seven days too; it’s not been a good week.

After a proposed sentence reduction for guilty pleas is defeated, we have announcements for a wider rollout of a scheme to “name and shame” offenders, followed by a promised clarification of a householder’s right to maim and kill those transgressing on their property; the “hang ‘em high” mob must be in seventh heaven. I am not immune to thoughts of vengeance, but I fail to see who benefits, and lest this be mistaken for wishy-washy liberalism (though it’s true I also object on moral grounds), it makes little economic sense. The reality is that most who injure will at some point be released and such measures will have no effect on whether they re-offend; more worryingly, that doesn’t seem to be the intention. If you treat people like animals, then they’re more likely to behave as such; rehabilitate, and even if successful in only a small minority of cases, that’s a small minority that won’t be breaking into other people’s property, or worse. That’s a number who instead of draining the public finance will be making their contribution.

Not one to be outdone, Ed Miliband decided that as leader of the opposition he would oppose the public sector strikes. I don’t support them either, but then I’m not sure anyone regards the Labour leader’s stance as genuine; in supporting he gains nothing, by opposing he hopes for the votes of the undecided. It’s an understanding that those who stick to the middle ground win elections. It’s the smart move, but I'm not convinced.

Yet despite these contenders - the appeal to the thug inside, Ed Miliband’s appeal to anyone who will have him - the prize goes to journalist Johann Hari of The Independent newspaper. Johann, we discover, has a rather unique interview style, as he does definition of plagiarism, and some interesting variations on the concept of truth. There is apparently the truth, and then there is a broader “intellectual truth”; one that doesn’t let minor details such as what happened get in the way of a story that needs telling. His excuse for stealing - sorry, copying - comments from other interviews or even the subject’s own writing, is to enable us to understand what the interviewee was trying to say, rather than what was said. Thank goodness for Hari; though I’d suggest his employers add their own version of the following to any existing and future “interviews”:
Some events have been deliberately changed or left out for dramatic purposes.
If Hollywood is able, you’d think The Independent could do the same.


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