Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Welcome to the Middle Ages?

Now this is news. Apparently, the 'Vatican gives Harry Potter film two thumbs up'. Which is terrific for me in that the long slumbering Catholic in me -- you know, the one who still thinks that God hates me because I'm an atheist -- can go see the film and not experience any lingering unconscious guilt for transgressing an Edict of the Infallible Father. And it's nice to know that he can change his mind, of course.

But then that means I'll have to work harder than £10 for a ticket and popcorn to keep myself on the radical fringe this month. So obviously I'm a bit torn.

Really? The Vatican still cares about such things? Or, perhaps more to the point, they still think that any of us give a shit about what they say about such things? Please, people, help me out. If you are a Catholic, or not, and you've decided now, thanks to this most sacred blessing, that yes, actually you will go see the new Harry Potter film, now that's it's ok in the eyes of the Lord, please let me know. Write me a short note in blood on a goat-skin parchment or something.

What worries me, though, is what's different? Doubting -- as is my wont -- that the Roman Catholic Church ha suddenly had a Damascus Moment, or in this case a Hogsmead Revelation (geddit?), perhaps, what's different with this film that it suddenly gets the Holy Seal of Approval?

In other words, what's wrong with it?

In the newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican gave the film two thumbs up for its treatment of adolescent love and stated it was the best adaptation yet. The newspaper also said that the Potter film achieved the "correct balance" and helped deliver the message that good prevails over all evil.
I would have thought that the whole Good defeats Evil thing would have become clear a while ago. I will welcome, therefore, the forthcoming commendation from the Vatican for my parenting, creating in my children two Star Wars obsessives. But I think we can see what's really going on here. 'Two thumbs up for its treatment of adolescent love'. The Pope, it seems, is happy that HP6 shows boys and girls kissing, being in love, and most certainly not staying up all night playing with their wands, riding on each other's broomsticks,... oh I just can't. Not that's it's beneath me; just that I don't have the time. Any other suggestions?

Someone, please, send me the link for the fan fiction that addresses this oversight. I'll print off copies and mail them to His Holiness myself.

I wonder if Benedict has figured out that Dumbledore is gay? I wonder how that's going to go down.

(By the way, I found the picture up top by entering 'Harry Potter is satan' in a Google search. On a whim, you know. Not only did it return 793,000 results, I didn't even have to finish typing it as this was a suggested search phrase. Brilliant. I found the picture in the Harry Potter entry in Uncylcopedia, and should probably give someone credit for that. But also you can find this nutter

and from this blog, by someone who is on our side, i.e. actually opposed to banning books, comes this image that is just too wonderful not to share:

I know! Brilliant! There are more out there, too. Try, predictably, 'Harry Potter is gay' as your Google Image search. We could make a photo album and mail it His Holiness. J K Rowling can thank us later for increasing the next films' box office takings when the Pope condemns this Satanic outrage.

Friday, 10 July 2009

The responses

so far are just as predicted. The Met leapt to deny that there was anything further to investigate, and just in time for the six o'clock news, too. But the Met's attempts to muddy the waters are neatly clarified by The Guardian who, it seems, aren't going to let them get away that easily.

The PCC, on the other hand, seem a little more open to the idea of wrong-doing. You can check their statement here, which sounds as though someone tipped a little piss and vinegar into it, but ultimately, there's no point; they can bark all they like, but this is a dog lacking even a pair of second-hand dentures.

In perhaps the weirdest development in all of this, BBC Political Muppet and Professional Numpty Andrew Neil is somehow looking... intelligent. Just listen to him:

Like a person who has done some things and understands some things. Like he has uses. The segment on this scandal on This Week, normally a sub-juvenile giggle-fest from beginning to end, was actually a sober, serious and insightful evaluation of what has happened and what might come of it all. (Before of course descending back into cosy playground sniggering... we mustn't expect miracles, after all.)

I should perhaps add what I find so compelling about this story. Because, perhaps just as with the MPs'-expenses scandal -- when we already knew that MPs are generally posh-troughing swine -- or the bankers'-bonus scandal -- when we already knew that bankers are greedy little amoral bastards -- surely we already knew that tabloid reporters in the UK are despicable wood lice who would gladly crawl under a rock or worse to dig up the dirt on public figures, both relevant and irrelevant, just to sell some piles of flattened trees that, because of certain quirks of history and the English language, we still call 'newspapers'. But I suppose that there is a potential here that I find so promising, that this might, just might, be the moment that they stop getting away with it, something gives and we get a better, more responsible media, and so a better, more intelligent debate.

Writing that, of course, I realise now that I am deluded. When the banking and credit crises broke, and empty-headed prophets ran around declaring that 'capitalism will never be the same again!', we all knew that was horseshit, that it was just a matter of a very short time, a heads-down play of humility until the angry mob looked away, distracted by pretty flowers, butterflies or some other, less-consequential scandal, before bankers were up to business and usual and capitalism breathed free and happily once again.

Oh well. At the very least, it will nice to Murdoch and his cabal of snakes (what do you call a group of snakes? a herd?) get a kick up their collective bollocks.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Initial response

to the burgeoning News of the World phone-tap scandal is that this, finally, is really a story worth dominating the front pages for a few days. Whether or not it does so, I suspect, depends almost entirely on the tenacity of The Guardian, because I think that -- unlike the bankers'-bonuses scandal or the MPs'-expenses scandals -- the press will have to be ruthless in interrogating their own practises, which they repeatedly demonstrate themselves incapable of doing. (As so brilliantly highlighted over at my friend Sarah Ditum's Paperhouse -- see this, for example.)

The sad point being that with News of the World, the Sun, the Times, The Sunday Times, thelondonpaper, SKY News, the Conservative Party, the Metropolitan police, the Press Complaints Commission, and the entire British legal system all now directly implicated in illegal activities and/or a cover-up of said illegal activities, I wouldn't expect of deluge of media interest in this story. I can just see everyone grabbing some very big brooms in one hand and the edge of some very large carpets in the other. Add to that the current toothless impotence of the BBC, and the Daily Telegraph's wish to not stir up old questions about where and how news outlets get their information, and that leaves us, by my count, with the Daily Mail to join the Guardian in this crusade. But somehow I just don't think the Mail will carpe that diem, despite this having all the hallmarks of a classic Mail headline: the ubiquitous foreigner who has infiltrated noble British institutions and used them to conduct illegal operations against poor, helpless celebrity darlings such as Boris Johnson and Gwyneth Paltrow.

(Brilliant headlines on BBC News 24 this morning, saying that victims included 'John Prescott and Gwyneth Paltrow' and then 'Max Clifford and Elle MacPherson' -- you just know that the news writers are trying to imagine the dream-series of Celebrity Love Island...)

I'll wait to see how this develops and how bloggers more considerate and less reactionary than I respond to this, but you just sense that this will all go away as the mass media try to distract us and divert our attention to hate figures they deem more acceptable vessels into which we can drip our scorn and and disdain. (For precedent, refer again to the MPs scandal being thrown up to let the bankers get on with the real business of robbing the British people.)

But it may not rest there: the British public love a hate-figure, a straw man that they can let fire to and dance around. Fred Goodwin, Peter Viggers... could Rupert Murdoch be next? Just maybe? in an Ashes summer?

Also, I'll be most curious to see where David Cameron's defence of Andy Coulson leads him, particularly his claim that 'I believe in giving people a second chance' -- surely that means Brown deserves another term as PM?

(The basic point is that Coulson is guilty guilty guilty as fuck, unless he's going to try to hold on to the claim that he knew nothing about it, in which case he's guilty guilty guilty as fuck of complete and utter gross incompetence, which I'm not sure makes him look any better.

And could the PCC pull its head out of its ass, realise that self-regulation is a farce and suddenly, emboldened by the public and enabled by proper legislation, 'grow a pair'?

In an election year? Not likely.