April 2017

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It’s the cruellest month, you know?

I do sort of get the first line of the poem though: the onset of all things good puts all your misery and pain in stark relief. Or something along those lines. Although relief is probably a poor choice of word. Nevertheless, no matter what crap I’m currently having to deal with, a bit of sunshine and colour lifts me more than I can begin to explain.

I’m not going to talk about the weather.

My turning over a new leaf, getting fit and focusing on what matters most has got off to some sort of start. A major success has been that the running shoes are not only out but have put in a respectable number of kilometres. Settling down and editing my last completed novel hasn’t been quite so successful. I was concerned about distraction and since then have started two new projects. That wasn’t the plan. Nevertheless, the new projects are closely linked with the subject of my novel: alienation from society and homelessness. As I went about my daily twenty minute walk from where I park to where I work, I reflected on this. Maybe the new stuff isn’t a distraction but more of a continuation. Maybe it’s the same piece of work. Maybe I’m writing around the subject and giving myself a deeper understanding of it.

Procrastination works, folks!

Google Birthday This threw me for a second. I logged on at work and was presented with this happy little gif. My smile faded as it occurred to me that my computer knows more about me than most of the people I work with. All that talk recently of being snooped upon by governments and corporations and how someone can steal your babies and all your money simply by hacking into your toaster. I know it sold a few Daily Mails and Expresses but I presumed that most people with half a brain dismissed it for the utter tosh that it is. And there I was, looking over my shoulder.

By the time I’d got a few milligrams of Taylor’s caffeine in my system I remembered that my first job when I get into work is to log into my personal email – Gmail. Mystery solved. I might write the odd crime novel but it occurs to me that perhaps I should leave the whodunits to those who are probably more qualified. Maybe it’s my age?

It does raise the issue privacy though. Not something I think about a lot. As a writer, I am constantly exposing and revealing my thoughts and feelings and political leanings, whether I mean to or not. My social media sites are all pretty much open to anyone who wants to take a peek. I find it easier to assume that everything I type is public. Not all my friends do though. I have seen things written on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc. that I know is not intended to be public knowledge. The whole ‘who you share with’ and ‘what their settings are’ is just too complicated to nail down (unless you’re prepared to put in the time and effort, which I’m not). And we are all aware of instances where people have been pilloried in the press for their views or even found themselves on the wrong side of the law. We all have the ability to publish now but very few of us have even an inkling what should and should not be put out there. Posting racist, threatening, libel comments on Facebook are simply not the same as slurring some alcohol-induced drivel to your mate in The Queen’s Head. Not that I ever do that – I do it in the tennis club.

And thinking about all that nonsense got me onto the idea of misinformation and fake news. Fake news seems to be in the news quite a lot just lately (or does it?). Everyone’s going on about how we can’t trust what we’re told by politicians and we can’t trust what we read in the press or what we see and hear on TV and radio. And people are banging on about all this as though it’s something new. But it’s not, is it?

Think back over the years: Pregnant women were encouraged to drink alcohol and smoke, the belief in the four humors, phrenology, the eye beam, flat earth, the fake moon landing, the Piltdown man…

It goes on and on. And then there is similar political nonsense such as unions are bad for business (take a look at the German system where unions are respected by all), the number of wars that we have been fooled into supporting. Weapons of Mass Destruction jog any memories? Hitler’s vile assertion that Jews ritually killed Christian children and used their blood in the making of unleavened bread for Passover. It occurs to me that we are in the process of being subjected, once again, to a version of Hitler’s ‘Big Lie’. The idea that the bigger the lie, as long as it is repeated often enough, people will begin to believe in it. Here in Britain (and it seems in America, too) we are slowly being manipulated into a common hatred for ‘the other’.

At the risk of offending, the result of last June’s referendum appeared to be swayed by the insistence that foreigners are the cause of all our ills. I’ve met many people who insist that leaving the EU is the only way to beat ISIS. You couldn’t make it up, could you? And the idea that someone from a foreign country with no English can take your job away from you is a pretty foolish thing to believe, unless you suffer from seriously low self-esteem. We are being told, constantly, by our ultra right-wing press that we are in danger of being completely swamped by Johnny Foreigner. A few years ago I would have insisted that we are now too educated, too informed, too sophisticated to be victims of mass hysterical manipulation. No one is more surprised than me.

I don’t really think fake news is a new thing at all. I think it’s a bit like child abuse, we’ve only just noticed it. But what does puzzle me is, the people who have consistently benefitted from fake news, the establishment for want of a better phrase, were the people who drew our attention to it in the first place. Maybe they’re not as bright as they think.

See you in May.

 

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