Category Archives: Media

You Have Been Watching …

In which The Author finds yet another security leak from the future

I won’t recap the plot of George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four in detail. If you haven’t read it (and why not?), it’s set in a totalitarian Britain, where every aspect of society is dominated by the shadowy Big Brother. The story’s protagonist, Winston Smith, works for the Ministry of Truth, where he and his colleagues literally rewrite history to conform with the Party’s ideology. (Orwell had worked for the BBC, so he’d probably learned a trick or two about news management.)
To cut a fairly short story even shorter: every home has a ‘telescreen’ which broadcasts the Party line day and night. It also acts as a two-way channel, allowing the state to monitor the activities of the citizens:
Behind Winston’s back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig-iron and the overfulfilment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
Anyway, here in free and democratic Britain, the telescreens are slowly becoming ubiquitous. I’m in Thereisnospoon in Aberdare at the moment. When Tim Martin first launched his revolutionary pub idea, one of his USPs was ‘no jukeboxes, no televisions’. But, of course, the punters wanted to watch soccer, or the Six Nations, or the Test matches, or royal weddings, and eventually the company caved in and installed TV sets.
Which would be all very well if they were only switched on for sporting events and royal weddings. But they aren’t. They’re permanently tuned to the increasingly misnamed BBC News channel. Even with the sound off (most of the time), we’re treated to inaccurately subtitled versions of whatever Winston Smith Laura Kuenssberg has decided is newsworthy on any given day.
And that’s just the start.
Get on a bendy bus in Cardiff city centre to travel down to the Bay, and there are telescreens there, too. Amazingly enough, they’re also tuned to the BBC News channel.
Back in the city centre, there are at least two massive screens in the middle of the shopping precinct. There’s one in Queen Street, just opposite the Friary, and another next to St David’s Hall, facing onto Waterstones. Guess what they show, day and night.
A few years ago I was on a river taxi (possibly in Bristol), and that was also showing the BBC News.
In fact, it’s becoming a refreshing change to call in for a pint somewhere that isn’t showing the British Brainwashing Corporation’s take on things.
Before I sign off: for the benefit of you who live in the rest of the world, Plaid Cymru won the Rhondda constituency in Thursday’s elections. Ms Kuenssberg, and Steve Richards on Radio 4’s The Week in the Westminster Bubble, seem to have omitted to mention this historic result in the one-party state. Now you know …
(Who needs the telescreen, eh?)

The Sight of Free Speech

In which The Author isn’t the victim of an April Fool’s joke

Back in the good old days of Punk, the seminal DIY band Crass released their first EP/maxi-single/mini-LP/whatever, entitled The Feeding of the 5000.
The initial release (of five thousand copies) came out on the Essex-based Small Wonder label. Unfortunately for everyone’s favourite anarcho-hippies, the pressing plant refused to handle the content of the first track, ‘Asylum’. As a result, the record hit the shops with about two minutes of silence before ‘Do They Owe Us a Living’ kicked in. The band subsequently referred to this John Cage tribute song as ‘The Sound of Free Speech’.
I found myself in a similar position yesterday evening, when I had a phone call at home. The local Labour group had taken exception to something I wrote in this blog a couple of months ago, and had gone to the Western Mail about it. I agreed to delete the offending posting ASAP – although I couldn’t do it last night, for obvious reasons (no Internet access at home, and no library access at 6 p.m.).
I thought about it afterwards, and realised that it was only two paragraphs in an otherwise innocuous discussion about housing estates. It seemed like overkill to remove the entire entry. I would have had to delete all the subsequent links, and alter quite a bit of the external content as well. It would have been the blogging equivalent of sending Crass away from Southern Studios at the outset.
I headed straight to the library this morning and read the article for myself. Martin Shipton, the chief reporter, had also emailed me yesterday to ask for my thoughts on the subject. I’ve just emailed him back, explaining that all views expressed in my blog are entirely my own (unless I’m quoting someone else, obviously). They don’t reflect the opinions and policies of any political group with which I may (or may not) be involved at any level.
I also pointed out that there’s a considerable amount of criticism of the ruling party scattered throughout the last eight years’ worth of content. It’s funny that they’ve never picked up on my entries about the declining library provision, or the public transport cutbacks, or the antisocial behaviour in our town centres, or any of a dozen other issues I’ve mentioned over time.
So I decided on a compromise. I’ve just redacted the post in question, in the way that redacted documents appear on NCIS. Instead of being able to read slightly jaundiced and tongue-in-cheek comments made in a personal capacity, you’ll now be able to enjoy the sight of free speech in the one-party state of Rhondda Cynon Taf.
It looks like this:
twas brillig and the slithy toves
did gyre and gimble in the wabe,
all mimsy were the borogoves
and the mome raths outgrabe