No two people ever see the same rainbow. For a rainbow to exist it needs three things—low sun, falling water and a surface to project itself against. That surface is your retina, retinas, retinae or whatever you call more than one of the wretched things. This is a good thing, because if we all saw the same rainbow, mathematicians would use trigonometry to triangulate on rainbows’ ends and the whole countryside would be full of little holes in the ground where they’d dug up the pots of gold. It would also mean that finding the ends of rainbows would become a competitive sport, and mathematicians would be fabulously well-to-do and they’d look rugged and handsome, and they’d all have blonde girlfriends with enormous breasts while poor Luis Suarez would be reduced to biting peasants in the favelas of Uruguay and he’d probably catch something unpleasant and die in terrible writhing agony.
We can but dream.
However, on a tree-falling-in-the-forest basis, it would mean that without people, there’d be no such thing as rainbows. I’m sure other animals would see them, but they wouldn’t know what they were. Little baby bunnies might say “Dad! Dad! The sky’s gone all stripey!” and Dad might reply “Don’t worry son, it’s a Technicolor sky-badger. Stay perfectly still and it’ll go away when the rain stops.” But they wouldn’t be rainbows. So in Glastonbury, if it rains (and I hope it doesn’t because nothing in this world smells worse than a wet hippie except perhaps a dead one) there will be 200,000 rainbows, and the rainbow that Pippin Galadriel Moonchild sees from the flap of the chakra realignment tent will be different from the rainbow James Hetfield off of Metallica sees (and will probably want to hunt down and kill) from the performers’ area.
The truth is like that. It’s made up of a billion tiny puffs of nothing that everyone sees differently. The truth shimmers; it’s ephemeral and mutable, subject to changes in time and attitude and culture. And we like our truth filtered. We aren’t interested in boring truths. There’s no genre in fiction called Happy Ever After, in which we get to find out what happened after Cinderella married the prince, or in which James Bond retires and goes to play golf on Sundays while his ageing wife cooks Sunday lunch for the relatives (“…but I don’t like broccoli, Auntie Pussy.”) Indeed, in our quest for sensation we’re willing to suspend belief entirely and accept the fact that James Bond is still the same age as he was in 1964. So it’s no great step from there to the realization that we like our truths adapted too. From being inquisitive, it’s a mere skip of logic to wanting to be told what to think to spare us having to do it for ourselves.
There is no such thing as truth, there are just facts and their interpretation. Any good divorce lawyer will tell you this. As the future comes at us, gets filtered through the moving prism of now and becomes our immutable past, we just can’t leave it alone. We have to pick at it and pin it down and put it into categories. We then use those categories to make our future safe by helping us to predict what will happen. And who better to guide us than our press, and who better to control that press than our government, which knows instinctively how to manipulate the facts, how to present them, and equally importantly when to distract us from unpalatable truths by sticking some breasts or an article about Royal Babies Through the Ages under our noses. And this is where the possibility for true evil lies, as the press builds the categories we shore up our belief systems with. Not all newspapers are evil, but I might go so far as to say that the Daily Mail is. Staffed by Rita Skeeters (one of whom grew up and changed her name to Rebekah Brooks) and run by government puppets, it says what the smartie-crunching masses daren’t say out loud. The Daily Mail bears a huge amount of blame for the rise of extreme right-wing politics, gung-ho nationalism and unthinking knee-jerk reactions to anything from immigrants and gypsies to benefit fraud and socialism. And then it pretends it’s harmless by showing us a picture of the Duchess of Cambridge and little baby what’s-his-name (forgive me for not knowing what he’s called; it’s because I don’t give a shit) in her lovely new home. The Daily Mail is a seething morass of bubbling evil disguised as a newspaper. But like pollution, climate change and Louis Walsh, it’s there, so much a part of our world that we think we’re immune from its insidious, creeping fascism, its subtle alteration of our senses and beliefs, telling us how bad the world is while the death toll steadily rises as people lose entitlement to their livelihoods. The Daily Mail trumpets “2000 IMMIGRANTS A WEEK ENTER BRITAIN!” and David Cameron follows it up by giving us all a serious look and saying “we really must tighten immigration control.” The Daily Mail bellows “THE HOUSE THAT BENEFITS BUILT!” and Iain Duncan-Smith puts on his reasonable voice and tells us that benefit fraud is costing the UK taxpayer £1.4 billion a year (about one hundredth of the amount companies like Starbucks and Amazon are avoiding paying through company tax loopholes, incidentally). And as a result of those policies, people begin to die, a bit like they began to die in Germany in the 1930s.
And when challenged, the Daily Mail will throw up its hands and whine about the freedom of the press. The press is resting on its laurels; it’s in the nation’s good books after outing lots of famous people for actually not being very nice. Take Jimmy Savile. Lovely bloke; raised millions for charity, helped make the dreams of hundreds of children come true via his television programme. Did huge amounts of work for people with disabilities, appeared tireless and unstoppable. Look, here he is in an old Jim’ll Fix It from the BBC archives, helping a little girl to realise her dream of meeting her idol, Gary Glitter. Savile closes the programme by moving out into the pre-pubescent audience with Glitter and they wave goodbye as they each cuddle a child. And they live happily ever after, doing their charity work and touring with endless 70s revival novelty shows respectively.
Except it didn’t happen like that. And we’re really glad. Why? Because the press told us they were bad people. The press did the children of this nation a great favour by exposing all those supposedly harmless entertainers as paedophiles. Rolf Harris won’t be singing Two Little Boys at Glastonbury this year in front of a crowd of ironic trustafarians. Poor Rolf—he touched me in so many different ways. Can you tell what it is yet? We can now, and we can sleep much easier in our beds knowing our children are comparatively safe from Jake the Peg’s middle leg, because all the nation’s kiddy-fiddlers are either doing time or bowed under the weight of their own paranoia because of all the new and interesting ways in which they can be found out—through text and email interception, computer download monitoring and phone hacking. But the press didn’t bring that situation about for the greater good. They did it for one reason and one reason only. To sell papers and make money. We love a good scandal, whether it’s two whores making a Wayne Rooney sandwich or Princess Diana being harassed to death in a Paris underpass. These are our freedoms—the vicarious schadenfreude we get from watching famous people suffer, the shiver of delicious fear that runs down our backs when we see the mighty fall. We love it, it’s what they’re there for. If you pay a footballer a quarter of a million pounds a week, or a singer a million pounds a gig, then we want them to bloody well suffer for it like we do when our alarms go off in the mornings and we shrug ourselves from the warm cocoons of our beds and slouch off into our bleak eat-shit-shag existences to earn our pittances. The press will be there on our behalf to hound the rich and famous every step of the way, hoping to catch a partner’s nipple or a flash of cellulite through a telephoto lens, hoping to find a sportsman stepping out of a bar at four in the morning, his judgment clouded by alcohol, in the company of a pretty girl suffering an apparent wardrobe malfunction. Tits sell papers. People like tits. As Keith Lemon once said to Kelly Brook, “You should be grateful, love; if blokes didn’t like tits you’d still be working behind t’counter at Dixon’s.”
And there will always be women out there happy enough to play to the crowd. The money’s good, you get free beer and drugs and a conveyor belt of B-list husbands. Katie Price is worth £52 million. That’s £26 million for each lump of frankly unattractive balloon-shaped silicon, because there aren’t any other reasons for her fame. She’s a glamour model. One definition of “glamour” is shape-shifting malevolence, another is enchantment and magic. Glamour models are certainly magic. They turn recycled wood pulp into money for Rupert Murdoch, they distract us from the business of the real world. School shooting? Famine in Sudan? Piece of unpopular legislation going through parliament? Never mind, here’s today’s Page Three stunna LaToya. She hopes to travel and meet people. She wants to go round the world, and with spheres like hers, she’s sure to be taking off before long, eh readers?
If the fourth estate has got us by the balls, how do we control it? Celebrities are no longer immune; they can no longer live in their gilded castles expecting to get away with anything while we ordinary folk look on. They need to be careful how to behave, because the press is tapping their phones hoping for a juicy bit of gossip. Celebrities are now accountable, like the rest of us. They don’t live up in the stratosphere any more. But the very fact of that accountability allows the government to use the press to dangle celebrities’ more outrageous escapades under our noses to distract us and channel our anger. When we should be righteously, supremely pissed off that our country is being run by a small group of millionaire politicians working hand-in-hand with global businessmen and a cartel of corrupt bankers who are actually beginning to kill off our weaker citizens, we are instead told to be annoyed at Jeremy Clarkson for muttering a nursery rhyme. Clarkson is an amiable enough buffoon who just happens to have the best job in the world bar none, but he’s a puppet, a tool of distraction, a readily available channel for our indignation so that we have none left for the true cunts of this world like Iain Duncan-Smith, who surfs the wave of indignation stirred up by the Daily Mail, and while we should be concerned that the death toll here in this green and pleasant land has risen by thousands in the wake of Duncan-Smith’s welfare “reforms” we are instead told to be concerned about a word Jeremy Clarkson either did or did not mutter on a TV out-take once. We’re going to hell in a handcart and Clarkson is dancing in the slaughterhouse like a big shaggy bear, wearing a “what, me?” look, shoulders shrugged, palms up, lower lip pouting, eyes raised heavenwards in clownish exasperation.
And how do we control the press without being censors? “I may not like what you say but I will defend to my death your right to say it”, as Elvis Presley once said. I suppose the national sense of outrage that greeted the fact that the News of the World was tapping the phone of a murdered schoolgirl for entertainment and profit was actually enough to get the paper closed down, but within a few weeks Murdoch launched the new, super soaraway Sun on Sunday. Same meat, different gravy. Let’s meet LaDestiny, she wants to cure global warming and help bring about world peace, and we’re certain a piece like her will succeed where others have failed, eh readers?
The redtops have spawned a kind of reverse samizdat—a government/press cartel of misinformation and pure bollocks distributed in the form of OK, Take a Break, Closer, Nuts, FHM and Loaded and a shedload of similar brain-dead prole-fodder. They know what we want, they now how to stop us thinking—they give us our daily fix of aspiration, then their puppetmasters offer us credit cards to buy it with. Then they crank up the aspiration a notch and offer us more credit cards. Carrot, stick… carrot, stick… and on and on. Their landfill of Kardashian trash buys our souls and ensures our obedience. It keeps us safe, allows us to sleep easy in our beds knowing that we can look around Kerry Katona’s lovely new home in the company of their written-for-infants editorials. Hug me till you drug me, honey, kiss me till I’m in a coma…
So how do we stop this? Not by scorning the methods of entrapment or eavesdropping or by imprisoning the hackers. Not by closing a whipping-boy of a paper when it steps too far. You don’t kill a weed by cutting its leaves off; you kill it by attacking the root. The only way to do this is to realise that the government and the press are exclusive entities which should be ring-fenced and not on any account be allowed to mix, on pain of criminal prosecution and political exile. The government doesn’t meddle so overtly with most forms of entertainment—fiction, the music industry, films, computer gaming or art, so why not apply the same rules to the press? They should exist in two separate spheres. In an ideal world, the press looks after truth, and the politicians look after freedom. There’s no really obvious reason why they should make such uneasy bedfellows, yet somehow they do. Possibly because truth and freedom are two basically indefinable concepts. But the press and the government have been in bed together for decades; they’ve been shagging each other senseless down all the days, and the bastard result is UKIP—politics that plays to the crowd via pre-arranged cracks in society the media have opened for them. It’s as if Victor Frankenstein strapped the Daily Mail to a wet metal table in a thunderstorm and a bolt of lightening created Nigel Farage. He lives! He lives!
This should be lesson enough. Keep the press apart from politics. Build a great big fuck-off fence between them, allow no cross-pollination. If you’ve had a career as Murdoch’s bitch, you should be prevented from going to work as Cameron’s spin doctor. And once you’ve kept the entities separate for a while, the press would then be welcome to criticize or praise the government on an independent level. And the first obvious result is that it would no longer be in the interest of the government to manipulate opinion or distract attention via the media. Any attempt by the government to influence the press or vice versa should be considered a criminal activity. In that way, the freedom of the press is not compromised—they can talk about what they want if it sells papers, and of course they can be prosecuted for personal intrusion without being able to stand on some kind of spurious moral high ground and fall back on freedom-of-speech platitudes. Laws could then be passed. Thou shalt not intrude into the lives of celebrities—particularly via their partners, children, neighbours or old friends, by monitoring their communication devices, or by hiring the sort of woman who could trip a footballer up and then make sure she was underneath him by the time he hit the floor. Prosecution for breaking those laws would then be a simple matter of criminality, with no political or censorious overtones. It would eventually become a matter of puzzlement when the Daily Bell-end moans on about immigrants or benefits, because this is not news, it’s not their job. It’s just bollocks, it reflects nothing about the world apart from the opinions of some very blinkered humans and tells us nothing. And above all and beyond everything, this kind of shit is not part of the mass media’s job description.
And then maybe we’ll have a slightly better chance of living just a little more happily ever after.