Issue 210
September/October 2019


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Sep 16, 2019

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Editorial Comment

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Don't ask that question…

ONE OF THE many diverse faces of the Edinburgh Festival is the one that looks at the state of the small screen. All too often in the past the Edinburgh Television Festival has seemed little more than an expenses paid excuse for delegates to visit the Festival proper.

This year someone actually said something. Channel 4's head of news and current affairs, Dorothy Byrne, dared to put into words what we have all been thinking for far too long: we and our friends across the water are being led by a bunch of liars who are scared of facing critical questioning.

In the words of the Iron Lady, they are 'frit.'

For having the temerity to point this out, C4 were, predictably, punished. Arrangements for them to interview Mr Johnson were cancelled.

In happier times one might have hoped that this sort of crude censorship would have been met with some solidarity from colleagues.

When US media - the New York Times for instance - began to be targeted by the Trump propaganda machine and denied access there was, for a while, some resistance.

Any hope that the 'newspapers' that support Mr Johnson and his potty bunch of Brexiteers would take any sort of principled stand is, of course, pure fantasy.

So far have papers like the Mail, the Sun, the Express and the Telegraph departed from any sort of dispassionate and objective coverage of the Brexit campaign they scarcely merit the description of 'newspaper.'

Predictably - and deservedly - their circulations have suffered as the hard core of ageing bigoted readers they appeal to continues (thankfully) to shrink .

More worrying is the position of the BBC. With unelected advisers like the 'brilliant' (??) Mr Cummings behind him, indeed apparently directing his every move, no tactic is off bounds for our Prime Minister.

Already the Tories have fired a warning shot cross the BBC's bows by 'fining' them several hundred millions by making them bear the cost of the over-75s formerly free tv licence. A crudely political move.

The message is all too clear. Dig too deeply into our crackpot policies. Be too probing with your questions on Newsnight or the Today programme and you will suffer more.

The Director General and his board must not bow to this pressure. When the lunatics take over the asylum the voice of sanity needs to cry out more clearly than ever. They must be brave and speak it how it is.


Manufacturing real wealth

IN 'THE NATURE OF GOTHIC' Ruskin blasted Victorian captains of industry for failing to look after the very people who created the buildings, and ran the machines that underpinned Britain's former wealth and power. He berated them for misunderstanding the true meaning of 'manufacturing', namely making by hand; and for producing much that is shoddy, poorly designed and unnecessary.

He despaired that “to brighten, strengthen or form a single living spirit never enters into our estimate of advantages.”

There were exceptions. Titus Salt recognised mutual advantage in looking after his mill workers at Saltaire. The Cadburys did the same in Bournville, and the Lever family at Port Sunlight, much influenced by William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement.

But perhaps the most radical was Jean-Baptiste Andre Godin, whose 'Familistere de Guise', or Social Palace, at Guise in north-east France, was owned and run as a cooperative by the workers making Godin stoves.

Instead of taking himself off and building a stately pile at a distance, he chose a modest apartment under the same roof.

Now globalisation and the internet have enabled a few to make obscene 'fortunes' (another misnomer?), but how few have chosen to stay close, preferring super-yachts, Caribbean islands, or rockets to the moon and beyond.

Articles in this issue suggest that the tide may be turning a little, as people again value the hand-made, useful, local, and beautiful.

No way can these be mass-produced or exploited by the super-rich. The challenge now, as before, is to make such creations affordable and beneficial to the many, not the few.


See through the Clouds

RECENT ISSUES of this paper have been enjoying very encouraging levels of support from our advertisers. In this we can claim to be going against what is perceived as an ever declining trend for the printed word.

As we never tire of declaring, print is not dead. Despite the best efforts of Messrs Zuckerberg, Bezos et al, there are some very positive trends.

And don't be taken in by cosy claims for the environmental benefits of online activity against making marks on paper.

For all its cuddly imagery, 'The Cloud' actually consists of huge air conditioned server farms gulping gigawatts of energy.



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