It’s More Complicated Than That…

I don’t have enough time to write a full post today — I’m off down to That London to see the Beach Boys tonight, and I’ll have a review of that show up tomorrow.

But it’s been an interesting few days for me, watching how newspapers report things, how social media reacts to that report, and comparing it to what is actually happening, because several things where I *actually pay attention, so I know what is going on* have happened. This has happened a *lot* recently with political stuff, but there’s been a cluster of bad reporting recently…

Item 1 — Lib Dem conference was not, despite all the reports, full of people wanting Clegg’s head. Clegg’s safe for the forseeable future — see Jennie’s post for why. The politics reporters are just stirring.

Item 2 — Jimmy Fallon is *not* replacing Davy Jones in the Monkees. No-one suggested he should. Mike Nesmith said, as a joke in a Facebook status, that he might join them on stage to sing the song Daydream Believer. This one hasn’t been as widely reported as the other two, but is still out there.

Item 3 — Mike Love has *not* sacked the other Beach Boys. He doesn’t have the legal right to do that. See Andrew Doe’s summary on this message board thread for the truth.

This week, the Guardian suggested that there should be a broadband tax to pay for newspaper journalism, because some newspapers (i.e. The Guardian) are losing money since they switched to a “give everything away for free” business plan. Now, I don’t want to tell them their jobs, but maybe more people would pay for newspapers if they had any trust at all in what they reported?

Conversely, if you read something that would sound unbelievable, but it’s from a source you normally trust — check it out anyway before getting outraged.

Linkblogging for 25/09/12

Sorry for the relative lack of updates for the last week — my wife’s been away at conference (and before that for work), which means I’m more distracted than normal. I’m also working on two writing projects I can’t talk about yet, which are taking up some of my brain power. I’ll have a Who post up tomorrow or Thursday, and a review of the Beach Boys gig I’m going to on Friday up either Saturday or Sunday — and hopefully a review of the Ray Davies gig I’m going to on Monday up soon after that — but I’ve spent the last little while distracted by social media, and will probably take a while longer to get back up to my normal writing speed.

Meanwhile, here are some links:

A short (four-song) performance by Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent, to watch or to download as MP3 for free

With the Beach Boys visiting the UK, Radio 2 has had a Beach Boys week. For the next few days, you can listen to an hour-long concert, the long documentary series the Beach Boys Story, and a new documentary presented by Harry Shearer, all here.

“Aunty Sarah” on the links between homophobia, transphobia and misogyny, in a speech given to a Lib Dem conference fringe

Andrew Rilstone looks in great (and fascinating) detail at the lyrics to some songs from Bob Dylan’s new album

Zoe O’Connell and Tin Tower on evil MP Tom “Dickhead” Harris getting someone evicted.

And in the wake of the Guardian calling for a broadband tax to keep newspapers afloat, Heresy Corner looks at alternative ways of paying for news.

Linkblogging For 22/09/12

I have lots of important things to do at the moment, like fixing the formatting on the Kinks ebook so it can be published, writing my novel, and writing music for a project I’m doing with plok. However, I’ve decided instead to spend the weekend watching old William Hartnell Doctor Who stories. So have some links while I do that:

Leonard Pierce on Romney and bosses

Stuart Douglas on his rewatch of all the Hartnell stories

Pat Mills on the creation of Judge Dredd

A geological timescale for creationists

James Graham on the coalition, six months on from him leaving the Lib Dems (I only agree with about half of this, but all of it’s worth reading)

And Mike Taylor tells how he came to buy the DVD of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle. Worth reading, and not just for the line “there is a common thread of insight and wit that leads through [C.S.] Lewis, [Andrew] Rilstone, Hickey and [James] Ward to Lee”.

Two Posts By Me on Mindless Ones

My review of last week’s Doctor Who. In a shocking development, I didn’t like it very much. Not my best piece of writing about the show, but when it’s this bad, it’s hard to muster up any enthusiasm.

And some questions for our forthcoming Dave Sim interview, along with a call for extra questions in the comments.

Tomorrow I’ll have something new here — a streaming music radio programme I’ve edited together.

One big rule if you’re writing about politics

There are people supporting every party and none who can make convincing arguments for a point of view, and who it’s worth reading whether you agree with them or not. But I find they are increasingly outnumbered by people who it’s simply not worth reading.

And there is a simple way of telling who they are — they use canned phrases that seem to come from some political party’s central office.

Mostly these seem to come from Labour supporters at the moment (possibly because Labour are the most popular party, possibly because my social circle skews leftwards). Some of these phrases sound reasonable, others definitely don’t, but they include “Conservative-led government”, “savage cuts”, “our NHS”, “most right-wing government in [insert time period]”, “ConDems”. The problem is when those phrases get used by everyone simultaneously.

It’s certainly not confined solely to Labour, though — “Tony Bliar”, “ZaNuLieBore”, “cleaning up Labour’s mess”, “Red Ed, the unions’ man”… these all have the same effect.

If you’re using these insta-cliches, which tend to spread through political twitterers and bloggers like herpes, then to anyone who is unaligned, or does not share your particular alignment, or even who agrees with you but has an aesthetic sense about the use of words, your post will actually be saying to that person “I have not actually thought about this issue myself, rather I have read a press release from the party of my choice, please ignore me.”

If I read someone saying “We must protect our NHS from the effects of the savage cuts brought in by this Conservative-led government, cuts which are too deep and too fast”, then I know that they haven’t actually thought about the issue themselves and there’s no point reading what they have to say.

If, on the other hand, I read someone saying “We need to protect *the* NHS from government cuts, which I think are far deeper than necessary”, I think “this is a person with whom I could have a discussion, and find out which cuts she thinks are most damaging and what we could do about them. It may turn out that she’s wrong, but it may not.”

Likewise, someone saying “The government need to do this because they’re cleaning up ZaNuLieBore’s mess!” gets instantly disregarded. Someone saying “Realistically, if we want the economy to recover, then some things need to be cut, and while it’s bad, better to cut this than let the recession continue” is, again, someone with whom discussion is possible. They may well be someone I disagree with, but I will at least be disagreeing with *her*, not with a press release she glanced at.

Each of these phrases sound focus-group-chosen to be convincing on an emotional level. “OUR NHS” sounds much more important than “THE NHS”, doesn’t it? But after hearing them a thousand times, they’re not. They’re manipulative, and to me at least they have an actively scary, creepy feel to them, like being surrounded by beings that have been mind-controlled by aliens.

But luckily, there’s a very simple rule you can follow, which will allow you to write convincingly and without people looking at you in the expectation that your faceplate will fall off to reveal the robot underneath. It’s this:

Think about what it is you want to say, and what words you can use to say that as clearly as possible.

It’s a simple rule, but one that’s rarely followed by bloggers and twitterers (and, reading through Orwell’s essays, it appears never to have been followed by pamphleteers).

If you’ve thought about something, and you have a clear idea of what it is you want to say, and you have chosen the words you think will best express your thoughts — chosen them yourself, not picked phrases that have been handed to you by a third party — then people will, when they read your writing, say “That’s a good point” or “I never thought of that”, or “You’re wrong, here’s why…” — all of which are useful reactions if you’re wanting to convince people of something.

If, on the other hand, you string a bunch of stock phrases together, you may well get five hundred retweets from people who already agree with you, but you’ll never change a single mind, except to possibly make some people who did agree with you before disagree with you in disgust.

(Doctor Who post will be up tonight, nearly a week late…)