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Wednesday 21 July 2021

Ceci n'est pas un Headline

 

Young woman brutally beaten by thugs while defending friend from heinous homophobic abuse

 

 

This headline from Pink News of 21 July 2021 puzzles me. Is the paper worried that readers won't end up on message unless supplied with the brutally and the heinous? Well, that was a concern they had in the old Soviet Union where readers had to be guided, rather clumsily, to the right response. And it was indeed true, you could not entirely rely on Soviet citizens to be on message, especially as the message did change fairly frequently. But I doubt that is really a problem for Pink News. Very few people are in favour of women being beaten by thugs (though they may have  no specific issue about young women); nor are they sympathetic to those who shout homophobic abuse, even if it's because their objection is a general one about shouting abuse rather than specific to homophobic abuse.  So I wonder what is the function of the brutally and the heinous? Perhaps they are just the nervous tics of an insecure intern? Or maybe the tics take their inspiration from television's Canned Laughter, still in use after all these years just in case you don't find American comedy all that funny.

Soviet-style control anxiety also shows itself in British celebrity gossip magazines which never, but never, print a photograph of Prince George; they only ever print an adorablephotograph (it’s one word, really). All royal babies are by definition adorable though that does not prevent the fact being spelt out. But, perhaps unfortunately, it does not serve to distinguish babies from dogs which - at least when owned by celebrities - are also adorable.

But what then is the function of adorable? I suppose it conveys a sense of the writer as someone who is permanently elated and effusive, rather like a party host who reckons that tonight is a wonderful occasion and everyone looks wonderful and isn’t it wonderful that you were able to come. The cleverness of Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight is that it manages to reclaim a trite (over-used and unthinkingly-used) expression and make it meaningful again. But I don’t expect any celebrity magazine anytime soon to pull off the same trick with adorable. The word is totally fucked.


Added 31 July 2021:

Today Pink News is taking a different approach:

‘Beautiful’ queer woman and her dog both killed in ‘gruesome’ murder while walking in the park



Adding quote marks doesn't really solve the problem; it's still a control-anxiety introduction to the story. Compare and contrast with another murder reported in today's Independent:

Woman found beheaded on sidewalk in Minneapolis suburb


That's a news headline; and it does its work without suggesting  that this crime is newsworthy because the woman was young or 'beautiful'.


Saturday 3 July 2021

That Diana Statue

The following letter was published in The Financial Times on 18 June 2021, uncut from the version I sent them:


Statues which reproduce the bodies of dead individuals in metal or stone are a bad idea, full stop. This ghastly genre has never produced anything of artistic merit or aesthetic value, which is a main reason why - to be honest - only dogs and pigeons take an interest. Neither the “wokes” nor the academics who feel under threat from government policy, as they appear in “The Battle over Britain’s history”, (FT Weekend, June 12), challenge the genre; they seem to think that introducing more “diversity” into this bizarre world of effigies and mummies would solve the problem. It won’t, not least because heroes are never saints and reputations wear out faster than stone or metal. So: No More Statues! Our public spaces are cluttered with too many of the damned things already and the more that can be got rid of the better. And just to avoid a mis-reading of my argument: Collective memorials, like the Cenotaph, are entirely different in character which is why they are more readily appreciated both as prompts to remembrance and as works of art.