Tuesday, January 07, 2014

And How Do We Begin To Resent, Clarice?

In what's now becoming a regular occurrance, a TV station has broadcast yet another freak-baiting documentary in which a camera crew follows a load of oddballs or undesirables around, then picks the biggest zoomers of the bunch to focus on for our entertainment and disgust.

The subjects are usually grotesquely obese folk or ugly weirdoes who spend their nights frottering each other in quiet country lanes.  The sexual deviants get comedy Marvin Gaye soundtracks, while the fatties get humorous Oompah-Oompah tuba music as they wheeze up a flight of stairs.

This time it's Benefits Street, a particularly obnoxious piece of anger porn in which a camera crew follows around a load of residents in one of Birmingham's poorest areas, and then focuses on the most outrageous dole-dependent zoomers they can find.  Cue entertainment, disgust and creative descriptive violence.

And predictable as clockwork, many of the responses I see are just a hundred variants on the following questions:

Doesn't the media have a duty to inform, rather than misrepresent?

Is it a coincidence that they're screening this naked propaganda on the same day as the Government's latest assault on public spending?  

Why would Channel Four produce such blatant, exploitative drivel? 


Why not broadcast a show about the vast financial frauds that crippled the world economy and hurled tens of millions of us into poverty?

To which the answers are No; Probably; To make money and Because nobody would watch it

But all of this earnest angst misses a fairly obvious point, assuming as it does that the current levels of perpetual, piss-boiling fury at the mere suggestion of some unemployable dossers nibbling on hunks of government cheese is a media creation, or the foisted scam of a cackling government minister.

To that, I can only say that The Sun and the Mail are the nation's top-selling publications, and these poke-the-poverty-stricken shows sure do seem to get a lot of viewers.

Why?  Well, it reminds me of that scene in Silence of the Lambs where Hannibal The Cannibal Lecter lays some truth on Jodie Foster...

Lecter: ...Of each particular thing ask, what is it in itself?  What is its nature?  What does he do, this man you seek? 

Starling:  He kills women. 

Lecter:  No, that is incidental... He covets.  That is his nature.  And how do we begin to covet, Clarice?  Do we seek out things to covet?  

Starling:  No, we just - 

Lecter:  No.  We begin by coveting what we see every day.  

So what is the nature of the British public?  What is its nature?  As far as a large section of the public goes, its nature is that it resents. 

And how does it begin to resent?  Does it seek out shiftless neds to be offended by?  Of course not.  It begins by resenting what it sees every day.

And right here is the crux of the problem.  It's not like Channel Four etcetera don't try to drum up interest in real problems that are actually bedevilling the public - they've tried repeatedly to explain e.g. the vast scam of the financial bubble and the directly-resultant planet-fucking catastrophe to us, for example. We just didn't want to watch it.

I can't speak for my countrymen but from my experience, we weren't much interested because it's vastly complicated, deathly dull and impossibly remote from our own lives.  How does a coke-fuelled heist by a bunch of yacht-flaunting preppy public schoolboys result in an avalanche of job losses, shuttered high streets and me frantically dialling Wonga on the 26th of the month?  It's incomprehensible.

The BBC can plaster Fred Goodwin all over their bulletins, but it isn't Fred The Shred who's standing at the bus stop swigging White Lightning and screaming abuse at strangers.  Channel Four haven't as yet found a way to bring home the effect of a bajillion new Chinese slaves on our own employment prospects, but folk can sure hear those Poles on the number 27 bus babbling in their heathen lingo.  Thirty years of intentionally destructive housing policy didn't break into our front rooms, nick off with our telly and leave a shit steaming gently on the rug.

Now, scruffy poor people, they're as familiar as our own next-door neighbours - are our next-door neighbours, in many cases.  Most of us went to school with loads of the same folk now queueing up outside the Jobcentre.  The press can talk all day about benefit-sucking workshy vermin, but it only resonates with the public because we already have a readymade picture in our minds.

And so what, you might say?  There are millions of us who fit that profile perfectly, but are somehow able to resist the urge to rage-wank ourselves into a boiling frenzy every time the TV shoves some sniggering Ratboy stereotype down our necks.

True, true.  There are also millions of us who tune in at every opportunity just for the sniggering Ratboys, for the sheer thrill of a blazing rage-wank at the moochers.

I understand that one day I might find myself jobless and in need of some meagre financial assistance - hell, I've been paying for it for a decade and a half, so I'd expect it.  To me, having a job and paying your bills is just the least you're supposed to do, rather than a towering achievement that sets me above and apart from them but then, I'm not everyone.  A lot of folk can work themselves up to astonishing levels of rage over simply working for a living, while some others don't, even if they wouldn't trade places in a billion years.

So sure, all of this seething hate directed daily at the poorest section of society is exploited mercilessly by politicians and layered on in spades quite deliberately, but seriously - do the Tories come off like genius propagandists to you?  

I mean, take a look at the cabinet - most of them might as well be slippery aliens with tombstone foreheads and flourescent genitals, for all that they have in common with the man in the street.  This mob of gangling posho throbbers somehow don't quite strike me as master strategists, and yet most of those who elected them have more in common with benefits claimants than they do with rich people.  

Which suggests to me that all this half-focused resentment boils up from street level, and is only amplified by the Tory press or Benefits Street.  They show us Britain not as it is, but how a good chunk of the populace believes it is and - let's be honest - want it to be...  Because it sells to people who really quite enjoy feeling resentful and bitter, not because they're misguided, but because they're just not very nice people.

All of which is pretty depressing and likely to prompt folk to wonder what the point is in trying to make the country a more pleasant place for a lot of people who would gladly make it much worse out of nothing but spite, to which the only answer I can offer is - so that they don't take the rest of us down with them.

Sleep tight!

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