Strange Times 1: Here’s What You Missed

Observatory

This morning’s round-up of bizarre Brexit stories include the ‘Leave’ voters who live in Spain but have just changed their minds upon discovering that their pets will have no passports. One said, ‘Oh, I’m definitely voting Stay now,’ seeming to assume that the binding nature of the democratic process is not applicable to them. And there was this national press story, ’85 year-old Korean war veteran sat on burglar taking antique train set’, which reminded me that for years I collected odd little news headlines and stories from around the world. I put them in files, intending to do something with them and never did.

Some of them are a reminder of a specific time and place. The most outrageous stories came from America, land of tall tales (Paul Bunyan and the blue ox springs to mind), England and Japan, and many were juxtaposed for maximum effect and outrage. Over this week I’ll be publishing a selection of specific events that you’ll probably be able to date. Be warned, they make for quite depressing reading!

In Stockton-On-Tees, a poverty-stricken family succumbed to heroin use, and as her son died, the distraught mother went to bingo to try and win money for his gravestone. Ironically, George Bush chose her neighbourhood for a visit at this time, and his security operation cost the British government a million pounds.

Pat Robertson, the US Christian evangelist, appeared on national television suggesting it would be a good idea for American hit squads to murder the president of Venezuela for his oil.

In London, a Big Brotherhouse member simulated masturbation with a beer bottle on a channel subsidised for its contribution to quality television, and garnered more column inches in the national press than the US government’s final refusal to cut CO2 emissions.

In Japan, internet suicide groups were infiltrated by bogus suicidees planning to kill their fellow members for cash, which had the effect of making teenagers think twice about killing themselves in groups.

In Britain, an eleven-year-old girl was rushed to hospital suffering from a heroin overdose, while on the same day another announced she was pregnant and looking forward to being a pre-teen mum. It was revealed that half a million UK children, most from fatherless backgrounds, belonged to street gangs.

In Plymouth, four mothers filmed themselves goading their toddlers into fighting each other. They did it, they said, to make their children hard and stop them from turning into ‘faggots’.

In America, where an estimated 43 million citizens currently live below the poverty line, one Christian Right group decided to improve the world by financing trips to locate the remains of Noah’s Ark, while another threatened to kill cinema owners for agreeing to book Brokeback Mountain into theatres.

The suicide business returned to normal in Japan, and the new year’s death toll tripled.

Endemol, the makers of Big Brother, produced a season casting mentally ill contestants in the hopes that they would humiliate themselves and hurt each other on live television. With racism shown to be endemic on the programme, public opinion finally started mobilising against them, but the producers felt that its export market had been ‘fantastically improved’ by the sight of burning effigies in India. It emerged that the show was most popular with schoolchildren. Meanwhile, a show called ‘Darts & Fights’ started on Nuts TV.

Hollywood turned the World Trade Center attacks into an upbeat action movie, and the director toured the awards circuit with the fireman pulled from the wreckage, thus rendering the film impervious to criticism. US presidential advisors announced that they would solve global warming by ‘inventing something’, even though they wouldn’t directly acknowledge it was happening. Belize pressed the United Nations World Heritage Sites Committee to acknowledge that climate change was destroying its famous reef, but the US decided to reject the petition because it would ‘damage harmonious relations with the committee’. Meanwhile, the Northern hemisphere posted the highest average temperatures in over 2,000 years.

More tomorrow, if you can stand it.

9 comments on “Strange Times 1: Here’s What You Missed”

  1. Peter Dixon says:

    Um. Todays news stories included an article that news reporting in the UK needs to be subsidised because newspapers, both national and local, can’t afford to pay ‘proper’ journalists. Local news is now a backwater that exists on ‘community journalists’ who receive a pittance for their work. Lots of journalists are trainees and have no knowledge of the geographic and political areas in which they work – its easier to take a press release and print it than to investigate something.

    Because of the nature of provincial journalism it has become ‘tail wagging the dog’ business with virtually no criticism or debate.

    Where I live, in the north-east we had a ‘Great Exhibition of the North’ last year which was given lots of funds but hardly anyone on the ground knew anything about. The content seemed to have been determined and carried out by people from elsewhere. Newspapers extolled its worth because they were given copious press releases/phoot opps and advertising. The local newspaper closed down its ‘Arts’ supplement because it had been losing money for a decade – I don’t recall the ‘experienced art journalist’ criticising anything ever for fear of losing a quarter page of advertising. In the meantime Arts Council and those institutions involved deemed it a great success – however it turned out that most of the figures about visitors to the ‘Great’ festival were asked of people who were actually at the events, so clearly knew about it anyway. A local vox pop proved the total opposite ‘Yes I’ve heard of it’ said one ‘when does it start?’ a month after it had finished.

    We’ve got an era of Ron Burgundy news. Why are politicians ‘fact finding’ and extolling the virtues of Food Banks when they should be squirming with shame and guilt that they’ve allowed such things to even exist while they are in parliament?

  2. Brooke says:

    What Peter D. said… And you haven’t even begun with the US. Unfortunately some of us get an hourly barrage of the bizarre; more coming with possibility of 2nd government shut down. Thanks for the warning about tomorrow.

  3. Peter Tromans says:

    Apart from ‘Private Eye’, facts went out of the window for most news media long ago. Even the BBC, which I don’t believe sets out to deceive, ultimately does through its painful fear of being none PC, none even handed, not giving every powerful, incompetent or liar unchallenged news time. All that’s left for most media to be honest about is the bizarre: from unusually shaped potatoes, the major news that a teenage girl mistook a thermometer reading for a positive pregnancy test, through to a thousand things all of which should be unspeakable

  4. Ian Luck says:

    Thanks for a factual, and thoroughly depressing picture of the now that was the bright, clean, and optimistic future that a lot of us were assured would happen. That future was cancelled indefinitely some time around 1971. I’m sorry for the next bit, but your text shows that the good, kind, intelligent, and reasonable of us share this oblate spheroid with an incredible number of irredeemably unkind, stupid, and useless c**ts. Jarvis Cocker put out a track several years ago called: (C**ts Are) Running The World. It was usually missing the bracketed part, but yes, he was quite correct.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    We have just lost Joe Slessinger (don’t know how to spell him) at age 90, a radio and tv journalist with the CBC for +60 years. He was a refugee child from Prague at age 11 and again fled Stalin after returning to Czecheslovakia. I heard his reports most of my life and always listened most closely to what he said from whatever place he was currently posted. This morning they replayed an interview he gave in 2001 on the importance of boots on the ground journalism. He had taught Anna-Maria Tremonti (I used to listen closely to her reports as well) that you had to find the heart of a story if you were going to really reach your audience. He was in Kuwait reporting on the chaos of the war there when he heard a tinny version of the Fuer Elise. Upon investigation he discovered it was a musical greeting card, abandoned and blowing in the wind. Its sound made the background to his report on the family tragedies occurring as people fled the fighting. If news sources won’t fund this kind of reporting we will get internet file film with reports by people who have never been out of their offices.
    Anna Maria learned Joe’s lesson and the result was informative, backgrounded stories that meant something. Now that she is a radio host she seems to be trying to do the same with national stories, but the CBC doesn’t have many international people any more.

  6. Wayne Mook says:

    Cannabis smoker finds tiger in abandoned house in Texas.

    Tate Modern neighbours lose viewing platform privacy case. (It turns out people in glass apartments should have curtains.)

    Trump condemns attacks on media after BBC incident. (wonder never cease.)

    Some of Tuesday news.

    I used to keep odd stories, there was one last week about a ghost that was leaching off an 81 year old psychic, it even flushed her toilet, it was in last weeks Metro.

    Wayne.

  7. snowy says:

    The error is to think that Politics makes sense. It hasn’t for decades and now just exists [in the UK], to soak up surplus graduates from Eton and Oxford too dim to get on any other course than PPE. [Graduates of a PPE course will declare that their studies give them a well rounded view of Society at large, those that strongly disagree with this view will deride it as 3 years of General Studies put up to give the Thickos something to do.]

    Governments come and governments go, promises are made and never kept, laws are passed when they can be pressured into action by Social Media, it really is just show biz for the telegenically challenged.



    A thought exercise for those with really nothing better to do.

    Find two maps, one showing the Leave/Remain split and the other of the Lab/Con divide in the General Election. Hold them side by side and discover that they have almost identical distributions. [It is not exact but there is a very strong corrolation.]

    If we take that in broad terms:
    Conservative = Leave
    Labour = Remain

    It should be very easy to align one to the other.

    But there is a striking anomaly:
    All the areas that vote Conservative are majority Remain.
    All the areas that vote Labour are majority Leave.

    You might have thought, those whose job it is apparently to represent the views of their voters might have noticed this and acted upon it, but they all are in a political bubble driven by a slavish adherence to the party line/political dogma, where reality is a minor irritation, [and gets in the way of their next media appearance/step up the greasy pole].



    [The disjunction does make sense, if you completely ignore the pantomime in Westminster, whose players are completely self-serving and reduce the argument into the classical terms of ‘Capital’ vs ‘Labour’. But the explanation is slightly confusing to those not versed in British politics and VERY, VERY dull. In fact I now wonder why I typed all the above in the first place!]

  8. Wayne Mook says:

    Snowy where I am, Manchester Labour & Tory Trafford voted remain but Salford Labour & Cheshire Tory voted leave. Most of the cities on the M62 corridor voted remain, Liverpool, Leeds (just) and even Harrogate & Stockport all voted remain.

    There are a number of factors but it does get dull, so I’ll end here too.

    Wayne.

  9. Helen Martin says:

    Governments feel free to trumpet reasons for the electorate voting as they did, mostly that “people agreed with what we said” when the real reason might have been that the opposing party had said something the voters couldn’t stomach or the locals knew the character of opposing candidates and wouldn’t vote for them if life depended on it.

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