Press Clippings From Hell No.1
An odd article in the New York Times grabs my attention today. A man who runs an online spectacles company has been threatening to rape and murder customers who complain about the poor quality of his sunglasses. The 6′ 5″ Ukranian admits he may have a bad attitude.
An older clipping is sent by a friend about six Belgian nuns, the Poor Sisters of Clara, who sold off their Bruges nunnery to property developers without informing the Vatican and bought a much nicer one in the South of France with a swimming pool. They also flogged off its art treasures and bought a new Mercedes and some racehorses, attracting the attention of Interpol.
For years I kept international press clippings that I intended to add around short stories in order to place them in context, but…I got bored with that. I kept them to help spark ideas, and they eventually ended up in an electronic dump-bin somewhere.
When I was clearing out my old MacBook Air I found the files, so here for your – well, not edification exactly – are some of the clippings I culled from the nineties to the present. A warning, though; after reading them you may come to feel that humanity is overrated…
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 Brother house 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 Republican government’s final refusal to cut CO2 emissions. US presidential advisors announced that they would solve global warming by ‘inventing something’, even though they wouldn’t directly acknowledge it was happening.
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. When the suicide business returned to normal in Japan, the new year’s death toll tripled.
In Britain, an 11-year-old girl was rushed to hospital suffering from a heroin overdose, while on the same day another 11-year-old announced she was pregnant and looking forward to becoming a pre-teen mum. It was revealed that half a million UK children 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 37 million citizens were living below the poverty line, one Christian Right group decided to improve the world. They began financing trips to locate the remains of Noah’s Ark. Another such group threatened to kill cinema owners for agreeing to book Brokeback Mountain into theatres. So much for Christian kindness.
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 mobilised 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.
Hollywood turned the World Trade Center attacks into an upbeat action movie and Oliver Stone toured with a fireman pulled from the wreckage, thus rendering the film impervious to criticism.
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’. The Northern hemisphere posted the highest average temperatures in over 2,000 years.
Taxpayer-subsidised Channel 4 announced its latest adventure into the amelioration of the human spirit: ‘Wank Week’.
Surveys were published with some interesting data tucked inside them. Only 60 per cent of women in the UK were now sexually active. Over a million British schoolchildren were experiencing mental health problems. Over a million elderly people went an entire month without seeing someone they knew. London’s most rapidly growing demographic group was deemed to be single people living in apartments full of gadgets.
Experimental drugs tested on six English volunteers placed them at death’s door and inflated their heads ‘like the Elephant Man.’
Chinese cockle pickers returned to Morecambe despite the fact that nineteen employees had drowned in one afternoon while digging for shellfish.
In County Durham, a giant inflatable sculpture designed to create a sense of ‘harmonious calm’ took off with thirty people trapped inside it, killing two and injuring a dozen others.
A Russian spy died after being poisoned by a radioactive spray applied to his sushi. And the dead journalist Alistair Cooke had his legs sawn off and replaced with drainpipes by New Jersey-based Biomedical Tissue Services, a modern-day Burke & Hare company prosecuted for trafficking in body parts.
With CCTVs adopting face-recognition and electronic tracers of every kind invading British society, Orwell’s concept of a Big Brother state truly became a reality when a contestant on Big Brother admitted she had no idea what the title of the show meant.
In Britain 1 in 10 children lives in a mixed-race family, with mixed-race relationships so common that traditionally distinct ethnic groups have started to disappear. Not in the royal family, however, after Prince Harry was rebuked for using the term ‘Paki’ and Prince Charles admitted to calling an Asian friend ‘Sooty’. Hating to miss out on any publicity, Margaret Thatcher’s daughter Carol publicly called the handsome and talented French-Congolese tennis champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga a ‘golliwog’.
More recently, councillors in Penzance, Cornwall acknowledged that they had voted to leave Europe, but promised their constituents that they would ‘petition the EU to exempt Cornwall from losing EU funding.’
Time to give our planet over to the ants, I feel.