The fine art of pop-up journalism

A scandal as newsworthy as “Dog bites postman”: the local newspapers have set their face against those delightfully, unintentionally humorous pop-up newspapers distributed by political parties at election time. The party papers, in case none has come your way, pretend to be local newspapers but consist only of plugs for their candidates. They are not exactly subtle. They may appear real to the bored and gullible, which is what all political campaigning does.

Most of them are from the Liberal Democrats, whose novel interpretation of the notions of truth and honesty in campaigning have long been a fascination for students of politics and psychiatrists. We have all loved those ‘Labour’ leaflets that, when opened out say “Labour … cannot win here”.  (I mainly see those in seats where the Liberals trail a poor third.)

The LibDem fake newspapers have been joined by the other parties too though. They all give as good as they can get.  Some Conservative newspapers even carry on throughout the year and provide a more useful village newsletter than the commercial papers do.

Maybe a few people are taken in.  That is not the point though: these newspapers work at a subliminal level – they only need to hook you for a moment to embed the impression of their headline in your mind, and if you then realise to your horror that you are reading a political leaflet, nevertheless in that opening minute you have read it as news and it makes an impression.

I need to get hold of some more examples – they are exactly what I should be using.

The local papers, the genuine locals, are discontented.  They voice fears that these pop-up party pretend papers will sap trust in the integrity of the local newspapers.

Who are they trying to fool? The local papers have done that very convincingly all by themselves.  The political news is simply reprinting the political parties’ press-releases: all those pictures of a councillor standing by a new sapling or a hole in the road are no different from the pop-ups. There is no integrity nor that vaunted neutrality in journalism; that is a phrase thrown around to encourage customers, but there is no integrity in journalism beyond the appearance needed to bring in the widest range of paying customer.

I have sympathy with the newspapers as they have a hard task trying to persuade people to buyer a wad of folding paper when on-line splash stories and antisocial media dominate the attention of their key market.  An irony is that they pay journalists to produce news content as a chassis to feed the adverts to their customers, which is where the real business lies, but oftentimes the newspaper is only bought for the adverts anyway.

The local newspapers long ago blazed a trail in the bringing the news. Now the young apprentice has copied the master’s work, and may excel him.

Maybe the pop-up party paper is the way forward for local journalism. There is motivation for it, and their village citizen-journalists are closer to the ground than those in the town on the other side of the tracks. 

I do not see the pop-up papers in our villages though, not even from the Liberal Democrats: they are good at press-releases, so that the local commercial newspaper looks like their LibDem paper already.

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University What It Is

That which is now called an University, is a Joyning together, and an Incorporation under one Government of many Publique Schools, in one and the same Town or City. In which, the principal Schools were ordained for the three Professions, that is to say, of the Romane Religion, of the Romane Law, and of the Art of Medicine. And for the study of Philosophy it hath no otherwise place, then as a handmaid to the Romane Religion: And since the Authority of Aristotle is onely current there, that study is not properly Philosophy, (the nature whereof dependeth not on Authors,) but Aristotelity.

And for Geometry, till of very late times it had no place at all; as being subservient to nothing but rigide Truth. And if any man by the ingenuity of his owne nature, had attained to any degree of perfection therein, hee was commonly thought a Magician, and his Art Diabolicall.

Now to descend to the particular Tenets of Vain Philosophy, derived to the Universities, and thence into the Church, partly from Aristotle, partly from Blindnesse of understanding; I shall first consider their Principles.

There is a certain Philosophia Prima, on which all other Philosophy ought to depend; and consisteth principally, in right limiting of the significations of such Appellations, or Names, as are of all others the most Universall: Which Limitations serve to avoid ambiguity, and aequivocation in Reasoning; and are commonly called Definitions; such as are the Definitions of Body, Time, Place, Matter, Forme, Essence, Subject, Substance, Accident, Power, Act, Finite, Infinite, Quantity, Quality, Motion, Action, Passion, and divers others, necessary to the explaining of a mans Conceptions concerning the Nature and Generation of Bodies. The Explication (that is, the setling of the meaning) of which, and the like Terms, is commonly in the Schools called Metaphysiques; as being a part of the Philosophy of Aristotle, which hath that for title: but it is in another sense; for there it signifieth as much, as “Books written, or placed after his naturall Philosophy:”

But the Schools take them for Books Of Supernaturall Philosophy: for the word Metaphysiques will bear both these senses. And indeed that which is there written, is for the most part so far from the possibility of being understood, and so repugnant to naturall Reason, that whosoever thinketh there is any thing to bee understood by it, must needs think it supernaturall.

……

Then for Physiques, that is, the knowledge of the subordinate, and secundary causes of naturall events; they render none at all, but empty words. If you desire to know why some kind of bodies sink naturally downwards toward the Earth, and others goe naturally from it; The Schools will tell you out of Aristotle, that the bodies that sink downwards, are Heavy; and that this Heavinesse is it that causes them to descend: But if you ask what they mean by Heavinesse, they will define it to bee an endeavour to goe to the center of the Earth: so that the cause why things sink downward, is an Endeavour to be below: which is as much as to say, that bodies descend, or ascend, because they doe. Or they will tell you the center of the Earth is the place of Rest, and Conservation for Heavy things; and therefore they endeavour to be there: As if Stones, and Metalls had a desire, or could discern the place they would bee at, as Man does; or loved Rest, as Man does not; or that a peece of Glasse were lesse safe in the Window, than falling into the Street.

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In fear of Jahannam

Behind the headlines, more mothers weep. Three young lives cut off: two full of hope cut down by one full of hopelessness. Rage cannot make sense of it.

I would have preferred it had the man been arrested, but I will not weep for his fall. His was a suicide. He went out knowing the day would end in his death in this way – “suicide by cop” they call it. I want to understand what brought him to end his life in this way, and to take other lives as he did so. We cannot sit inside his head though.  Those who tried, failed.

The murderer this time was Usman Khan, a Muslim militant radical.  He joins an ignoble list of lone-wolf killers of the last few years seeking fame or mayhem by these atrocities. Those who drove trucks driven into crowds in Nice and the Berlin Christmas market in 2016, and the Orlando shooter of the same year, or several other I could mention, had things in common; they were young men, at that wild, confused age, displaced from their own culture, if they could be said to have a culture. They were convinced Muslims but not devoutly practising: they had indulged in drink, drugs, loose women, and other sins of the flesh. As they sat and compared their lives with their religious ideology, they disgusted themselves. Usman Khan was not like that but maybe his past failure disgusted him, and like them, he was watching the time tick by.

The authorities thought he was cured.  He was not.  Those who taught him to deradicalize him were everything he despised, so of course he sat through and nodded, and laughed at them. The ‘Archbishop Blog’ had a telling insight into this process yesterday.

Going off the rails is not uncommon in young men.  The rails are constricting and instinct is for freedom away from the one-dimensional line. For those who have been wrenched out of a parent cultural framework and thrown into a new society into which they cannot properly fit with their existing understandings and cultural preconceptions, then there are no the rails for them in the first place.

What is a young man thrown into a big, anonymous city? He is a drop in the sea, going unwillingly with the tide. What all seek though are power and voice. They must be in dejection, which Hobbes defines as “Griefe, from opinion of want of power“.

We know that:

The Passions that most of all cause the differences of Wit, are principally, the more or lesse Desire of Power, of Riches, of Knowledge, and of Honour. All which may be reduced to the first, that is Desire of Power. For Riches, Knowledge and Honour are but severall sorts of Power

The desire for power does not distinguish in the mind those forms which Hobbes enumerates. The base, animal instinct to destroy a thing in the public eye, whether smashing a bus shelter or burning down a building, is to feel an exercise of power as it effects real change. That is fleeting and tends to destroy any opportunity to achieve real power in the future, but young men are impatient. They fight, they break things; they paint crude messages on walls; and in our latter days they make women afraid on social media. It is all the same; an exercise of irresponsible power.

‘Irresponsible’ seems not a bad thing for the powerless man: responsibilities are constricting and breaking free of them is liberation. Society is constructed to restrain, for the public good, and to channel the energies of youth into positive channels, without which life is “continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short“. When they step outside society they step into “Warre Of Every One Against Every One“.

For Muslims, with those carnally-driven men who nevertheless identify themselves as adherent to Islam, their doctrine has a warning at the end: they are heading for Jahannam, Hell.

Each pint of beer, each temptress and each morning woken in shame, is a weight on the balance against them, for Islam, like Mediaeval Rome, has no grace or salvation but teaches that at the Day of Judgment they face a tilting balance of good deeds and evil, and those who have descended to carnal deeds believe the balance is weighing them toward the inferno.  Every time a lorry passes by too close they think of how close is death; each time they are startled in a dark alley or they are gripped with disease they fear that the end will rush upon them with no time to rebalance the scale. An emergency action is required.  It is not for Islam: it is for themselves.

Waiting for them are the teachers who sell them snake-oil salvation – a get-out-of-Hell-free card. If you live in dread of a swift end and eternal flame, there can be no more joyful teaching than the idea that you just perform one act and all the alcohol, drugs and women are washed away. If it is an act of violence, it chimes with a young man’s desires, and if it is an exercise of power, without responsibility, then it is all they could dream of. The crusades were powered by just such a teaching, and the radical Muslim teachers are no different from the cursed priests of those days.

Here Islam is very distinct from Christianity.  The Roman pontiffs could not call on any Bible verse to justify their own indulgences for slaughter, while the imams can. That is a powerful difference.  However the act and the motivation are independent of the book – they come from the rotten heart of man.

For the desperate believer who has been thinking of his own death for years on end, now given this one hope of Heaven there is another element.  If they perform the act and walk away, the temptations of the world are still there.  They may empty the balance, but begin at once to fill it up.  If you score a goal, you may still lose the game, but if you score just as the whistle goes, it is secure. Therefore for them the motivation is clear:  perform the act and die at once so salvation is secured.

Against this motivation, who can reason?

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