Press Clippings From Hell No.2
‘How did we get here from there?’ someone asked me in all seriousness. My 30-year collection of press clippings, kept to remind me of the context in which I wrote certain stories, highlights that slippery path…
There’s a plastic George W Bush toy that spouts some of his more scrambled public statements. Play them back now and they don’t seem quite as dumb as they once did.
Before he went, George Bush reneged on his few climate change promises and bade farewell to a disastrous G8 summit meeting with the words ‘Goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter’. He then punched the air and grinned as the French and British prime ministers looked on in shock. The scene is still quite popular on the internet.
On the subject of the environment, ministers announced that ‘Plan A’ (carbon reduction) had failed and that ‘Plan B’ (invent something fast) was now the only remaining solution. But planet management never gets easier. On the island of Macquarie, between Australia and Antarctica, cats left by ships got rid of the mice but preyed on rare flightless birds, so conservationists culled them, only to watch horrified as the rabbit population exploded and stripped the island of its vegetation, causing a landslip that wiped out a rare penguin colony. The chain of events is an example of ‘trophic cascade’ leading to ‘ecosystem meltdown’. Today, Australia is facing an even bigger plague of mice.
A devastating cyclone killed thousands in Burma and left many more without shelter, food, water or electricity, facing the ravages of disease. The Burmese militia responded to this by banning emergency aid imports and handing out DVD players to homeless villagers who had no food or power.
The fifth most read item on the internet was the crash of world stocks. But the most-read story was someone getting voted off the reality TV show ‘Big Brother’ for spitting. As the credit crisis deepened, columns about collapsing banks finally took the lead over tales of exploding hamsters or supermodel Naomi Campbell’s latest screaming fit.
Meanwhile, it was revealed that Sarah Palin, the gun-toting cartoon-brought-to-life former running mate of Senator John McCain, once asked her librarian how to go about getting books banned, as there were some she didn’t like. Oil-worshipping Sarah was Alaska’s biggest polluter, but promised to give everyone in her state a $2,000 cheque in return for destroying it.
In the last week before he quit the white house, George W Bush declared his intention to exploit the vast oil and mineral wealth hidden below the Arctic circle by extending America’s sovereign rights over the seabed. As he bowed out, I was reminded of his quote about books. ‘One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures’. In the broadsheets, as is traditional during times of regime change, his apologists began his immediate rehabilitation. In years to come they would re-evaluate his presidency in the light of Trump, but not by much.
Meanwhile, the Czech artist David Cerny was paid £350,000 to commission artworks forming a huge sculpture of 27 nations for the atrium of the European Council, but admitted hoaxing the EU by knocking it up with his pals. Officials began to smell a rat when they noticed that Romania was represented by a Dracula theme park and Bulgaria by a Turkish lavatory, but in a typical state of indecision they went ahead with the opening anyway. Britain was represented on the sculpture as a blank space.
Mexico’s long border with the US, the world’s leading drugs consumer, became the site of more killings than Iraq. The chances of kidnap became so high that we heard about microchip tracking devices being implanted into the arms of wealthy schoolchildren.
On a lighter note, Adam Deeley, 34, a mature British student, choked to death in an impromptu challenge to see who could eat the most fairy cakes at the Monkey Cafe, Swansea. He managed five at once. Or rather, he didn’t. Paging Mr Darwin.
In Washington, a Christian group called Pray At The Pump started gathering around petrol pumps and praying to the Lord to lower prices. ‘If we keep this up,’ says its leader Rocky Twyman, ‘we can bring down prices to less than $2 a gallon.’
Thanks to rising oil and food prices, the production of a new food staple was stepped up in Haiti as mud cakes soared in popularity; the baked grey discs of dirt apparently taste like – well, dirt with margarine in, but stop stomachs from feeling empty. If the starving weren’t prevented from leaving by US coastguard patrols, they could have gone to stare through shop windows at the Hermes ‘Birkin’ handbag, which went on sale in New York for $37,000. It continued to sell well through the stock market crash.
And in case that’s not enough, Louis Vuiton started selling custom-made travel caviar sets, for all your urgent caviar-on-the-go needs. And spa treatment centres started including a ‘caviar face pack’ for old vultures with too much time and money on their claw-like hands.
I have plenty more of these if you can stand it…