I think my fears, expressed on Friday, that too much of a fuss had been made over the captured boarding party in Iran, were misplaced.
Certainly there was a lot of media attention, but on reflection, the attention was not so much the result of an unhealthy over-sentimental concern whether they lived or died, but was just the latest Reality TV spectacle.
The Sun caught exactly the right note with the headline “We went to Iran and all we got were these lousy suits”.
On the same basis, I think the authorities are right to allow them to sell their stories. Treating global conflict as “I’m a Lieutenant, get me out of here” might make us look decadent, but, let’s face it, we are decadent, and it’s going to be very difficult to appear otherwise.
On the other hand, it also makes us look strong in a strange way. The Iranian regime is fighting for its life, and perhaps hit on the desperate tactic of kidnapping a British naval unit in international waters. If, rather than panicking, we treat the whole affair as a joke or a bit of cheap entertainment, it really drives home the fact that we’re not really even trying. Just imagine how much damage we could do if we actually gave a shit!
What do I think of the current Blair feeding-frenzy? I admit to being a bit conflicted.
First, chris dillow is right as usual that compared to real questions about policy, all this is relatively insignificant.
Related to that, I think the press just wants him out, because they’re bored and would like to see something happen. I can understand that feeling, indeed I share it, but it can’t be a good reason to change the Prime Minister.
I don’t think we’d get better policies either from Brown or from whoever emerges as anyone-but-Brown.
What is distinctive about Blair is his idealism. This leads him to overambitious social and economic engineering projects, which is bad, but it also causes him to resist (to an extent) the Labour Party’s “core values”, meaning the prioritisation of the interests of public sector workers above everybody else. That is good. Will his successor’s corruption be worse than Blair’s idealism? Hard to say.
Then there is the next election. Will an early change be better or worse for Labour? Will the Tories be any better? Is Cameron lying when he says he is really just like Labour? What pressures will be on Cameron from the rest of his party? What would happen to the Tories if they lost the next election? Would they become better or worse, and in each case would that make them more or less likely to win the election after next, and what effect would that have on a Labour government in the meantime?
When it comes the the question of how to influence such an enormously complex and unpredictable system for the better by throwing a single vote at it, the only possible rational response is to give up and do something useful instead.
Current levels of voter turnout and engagement with politics are inexplicably and frighteningly high.
Yesterday I commented on Ian Blair’s accusations towards the press. While agreeing with the thrust of his remarks, I defended the press on the grounds they were bound to be responsive to their readership.
The papers today could have used a similar argument, effectively blaming their readers for their faults.
Alternatively, they could take one fairly sensible thing Blair said and invent huge quantities of spurious outrage, thereby totally obscuring any debate over their own role, and incidentally discouraging other public figures from being so reckless as to criticise the media.
They have their flaws, but they’re not stupid. That’ll teach Blair to say bad things about the press.
Ian Blair said today that the way crime is reported in the press is racist. Specifically, the murder of a white lawyer recently got a lot more coverage than the murder of an Asian builders’ merchant.
There is an arbitrariness about what gets heavy press coverage – Blair also brought up the Soham furore – and very likely race comes into it. The press deals in superficiality, and, at least superficially, the Tom ap Rhys Pryce murder has more “it could have been me” relevance to more of the papers’ readerships than did that of Balbir Matharu.
This works the other way, of course: a murder by a white person is also superficially more newsworthy than one by a non-white.
Is this a bad thing? The superficiality of the media is regrettable, but probably inevitable. Blair was contrasting the treatment of the murders by the press with the treatment by his force – defending himself against similar charges of disproportionate attention. I think we can agree that the police should not be superficial, and particularly that their effort should not be influenced by something as superficial as race. I am reluctant to claim that all murders are equal, in terms of the police effort that should be devoted to them, regardless of the circumstances – I would claim that a random murderer who is likely to strike again is more urgent than a murderer who was settling a specific grudge, for instance – but equality is probably a good rule of thumb.
And if we want the police to be even-handed as regards irrelevances such as race, it would help if the press were too. On that basis, the press should be at least encouraged to take note of criticism such as Blair’s. At the end of the day, though, they, unlike the police, are at the mercy of the lightest whims of their customers.