Let me get this out of the way before I start - I'm not an activist or a campaigner. For various reasons, I'm not a great joiner of campaigns or parties or a signer of petitions. I'm more than happy to bump my gums about issue x, y or z online, but my net contribution to the UK's political scene is zero. Thus, I try not to instruct people who actually get off their backsides and do things.
That said, I think we need to have a chat about strategy here. It seems to me that a lot of time is being wasted complaining about things that simply can't be altered. Take the recent student protests, for a start - I've now lost count of the number of people I've seen grousing that TV news broadcasters focus too heavily on a minority of troublemakers and ignore the issue that's so animated 50,000 peaceful protesters.
Every time I see this, I can't help but think of In The Loop...
Toby Wright: We called some builders. They didn't turn up when they said they would.
Jamie MacDonald: What did you expect? They're builders! Have you ever seen a film where the hero is a builder? No, no, because they never fuckin' turn up in the nick of time. Bat-builder? Spider-builder? Huh? That's why you never see a superhero with a hod!
Complaining that TV news is sensationalist and reductive is like bitching that the X Factor is rigged. Is it really? Get out of here! It never is!
If it bleeds, it leads and there's nothing like a spot of amateur constabulary boxing to give an ITN producer a glorious woody. Thus, 50,000 protesters get ten seconds, and the rest of the broadcast is devoted to slow-mo replays of airborne fire extinguishers and looted police vans.
Seriously, if Trevor MacDonald walks into his office tomorrow to be told to put together a ten minute panel discussion on the pros and cons of education cuts, he'd conclude that his bosses had been tearing shit up all night on an epic cocaine and methylated spirits bender. Education policy is brutally tedious, he'd say. Can't we just show more clips of twatty students breaking things? And lo, they would!
Broadcasters may have a duty to present current affairs as faithfully as they can, but that's always superceded by their number one priority, which is ratings. A five-minute grilling of Michael Gove is advertising death - the public would damn near break their wrists changing the channel. Hell, I'm a well-informed observer of events, and even I would rather watch the International Wide-Eyed Seal Pup Clubbing Championships than Michael bloody Gove.
And while I'm at it, I think we could also do with a good bit less of this kind of thing - tiresome lectures on the acceptability of sick jokes.
I watched a recorded episode of ‘Russell Howard’s Good News’ this week – I couldn’t even enjoy the funny bits. The show was fragmented by the host’s jokes about rape and paedophilia. I don’t find them funny. They make me feel sick. They give me nightmares.
I can see why this kind of thing upsets people and I sympathise, but really, this is tactically insane. If you wanted to alienate the public, then what better way to do it than by continually finger-wagging them for their choices in light entertainment?
Given that left wingers generally are so often portrayed as hair-shirted, mung bean chewing, po-faced language commissars, it never ceases to amaze me that so many are keen to play up to the stereotype. Tut-tutting the electorate for their naughty programmes makes us look humourless and dictatorial; immediately annoys the tut-tuttees and hands opponents a great big stick to beat us with.
Can we give this stuff a rest, please? It reminds me very much of that deranged US Tea Party politician and her Jihad on people jerking off, and may well be one of the least endearing and most counterproductive of all of the modern left's many bugbears.