Thursday, 14 July 2011

Will #HackGate lead to real change or just more of the same?

I'd love to believe that the revelations about what the News of the World did lead to more significant changes than the closure of that one paper. We all know News International is not the only organisation tainted by the historically common dodgy practices of the media. It's just unfortunately the one bearing the weight of the scandal. Wouldn't it be wonderful for all the dirty laundry to be aired now so perhaps our media can move on to improving the way they work, what they report and the very nature of their business?

But alas I, being ever-increasingly cynical, believe that all that will happen is the politicians and media will bore quickly of the subject and move on to their next "bee-in-a-bonnet" issue. We only need to see what happened with the expenses scandal: a lot of MPs standing down at the 2010 election, a few scalps taken by criminal trials and... then we all forgot about it.

Do you remember how everyone in the country was said to be so angry about at all the expenses scandals? There was almost a feel of revolution in some of the media reports, as if the citizenry might rise up at any moment and overthrow the political class. Of course what was really the case was that whilst the chattering classes (including people like me) were all aghast, most people seemed to just shrug their shoulders, announced that all politicians were corrupt anyway and got on with their lives. Whilst the Coalition that followed the 2010 election was quite unique, the actual votes cast on the day hardly showed any huge backlash against the traditional power structure.

The same appears to be happening with Hackgate. Whilst the politically aware are arguing over Government interference in the media industry and the morals of hacking private individuals phones, the vast majority of the country has expressed a typically British mild disapproval along the lines of "Well that's just not on" and carried on buying their regular newspaper.

Whilst, like the expenses scandal, I expect this to have effects on individuals as well as particular newspapers and organisations, I really cannot believe based on past evidence and an almost universal lack of public anger that this story will change anything in the long term for the industry as a whole. In my opinion this will be just another storm in a teacup, dancing round the edges of a much larger issue.

I hope I'm wrong, and that this spirals into an earthshatteringly pivotal moment in the history of the media, British politics and our country where the way things are done gets better.  But I seriously doubt this will result in anything beyond cosmetic changes such as the News of the World being replaced by a seven day Sun newspaper.

Nothing to see here.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Two Books. Two Religions. One Theme.

Sorry I've been quiet recently. Mother-in-law has been for a visit, work intervened and I'm rediscovering my love of reading. Which is what I'm here to post about today.

As regular readers know I have obsessions with both the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and with the Church of Scientology. I find both religions fascinating, inspiring and disturbing in equal measures. They have extremely similar backgrounds of charismatic prophets, tight control of followers, evangelism, mixing politics with religion and persecution.

Currently I'm reading Under the Banner of Heaven, which is both a concise history of the Mormon faith and the tale of a modern-day murder of a mother and her child by Mormon fundamentalists. The interposition of the two stories makes it a compelling read and a really good introduction to the faith for a non-believer.

What I find truly fascinating about the "Lafferty" murders is how Ron Lafferty (one of the murderers) used his religious beliefs to excuse the murder of his sister-in-law in his own mind when he had plenty of real-world reasons to do it. The human mind is a complicated beast.

The other book I'm very interested in getting is Inside Scientology. Whilst I already have a rather large Scientology library, my reading of this long excerpt shows this book may well prove to be one of the most well written and well researched critiques of the Church since Jon Atack's brilliant history Piece of Blue Sky.

Scientology is a very secretive religion, still in it's infancy and, like Mormonism before it, desperate not to show anything other than sweetness and light to the "wog" world (as they refer to non-Scientologists).  It's a particularly interesting time at the moment as whilst there have been "Free Zone" splitters before, we may well be witnessing the beginnings of a more successful schism in the Church thanks to independents such as Mark Rinder. Exciting times for us Scientology watchers.

On a related note there are two musical stories of late which I think need to be shared. Firstly the Book of Mormon musical has pride of place on my mp3 player at the moment. I am totally overly excited by the prospect of it being released on the West End next year. Check out All-American Prophet for a taster

The other piece of news is a bit late but none-the-less hilarious. A Scientology song. With David Miscavige singing! Priceless.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist