Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Sign O' The Times

As a cultured member of the liberal elite (take that, Rush Limbaugh!), I can say in all honestly and with great pride that I have never, in my nearly four decades on this earth, watched even so much as 30 seconds of the vile and cretinous public spectacle that is the global Big Brother television franchise. However, the present run of the UK version seems to have thrown up (an apt phrase if ever there was one) a situation which may be seen as instructive of the values system presently operating within the media, society and the international political economy alike.

A great hullabaloo has arisen due to the petty racism of a few of the white "celebrity" (Information Landmine uses this word advisedly) contestants against the glamorous Indian film star Shilpa Shetty, who is also locked in amongst the collection of has-beens and never-really-weres desperate to re-ignite their sputtering careers.

So what does all this nonsense have to do with trends within the international political economy? While certain wags (of the old-fashioned variety, as opposed to the opportunistic female companions of England footballers) might suggest that it has something to do with a (presumably) well-paid job that might previously have been filled by a Briton being outsourced to an Indian counterpart, a deeper, more fundamental trend can be seen at work within this situation, one that illuminates the underlying values and concepts of power within a globalizing world.

What the hell am I on about exactly? When this whole debacle hit the media, there were protests in the streets across India - the world's largest democracy - and questions to the Prime Minister and members of his cabinet in the British House of Commons. Nevertheless, the producers of Big Brother, Endemol, and the broadcaster, Channel Four, defended the programme and would not budge in the face of official and public criticism alike. Then something noteworthy happened: one of the programme's biggest sponsors, The Carphone Warehouse, pulled out, citing concerns about its corporate image. Having offended two governments and many of their citizens/subjects (delete as applicable), Endemol and Channel Four did jack all. But having seemingly offended a powerful corporate paymaster, they suddenly seemed in retreat, with Channel Four's panic-stricken boss repeatedly refusing to comment on the whole sordid affair during an interview with BBC Radio 4.

Power in the modern world lies with the corporations and their pounds, dollars and rupees, as opposed to governments or citizens, although the former can use the lever of regulation if it chooses to do so and the latter can spook the money men into changing tack given enough negative momentum. But surely in a more democratic world, power should rest with the people and the governments who are elected by and thus, at least ostensibly, represent them?

Maybe in a more democratic world, but certainly not in this one.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

One other thing this debacle has proved beyond all doubt is that it's only a matter of time before Rape an Ape hits the airwaves for real.

Only fans of Time Tunnel will get the reference. :P

20 January, 2007 14:30  
Blogger Steve said...

Armando Iannucci is indeed on the ball with that one. As he is with most of his satirical efforts, for that matter!

21 January, 2007 23:19  
Blogger Uncle Petie said...

Is that not Time Trumpet? Time Tunnel was a 1960s US sci-fi series.

Am I alone in thinking that this was really just a case of a few girls ganging up on the pretty one because she's better looking, better spoken and more successful than they are?

Also on BBC News 24, in the best bit of instant irony of 2007 so far, was an (old, white) guy from Carphone Warehouse saying that they didn't want to be associated with this sort of racist stereo-typing because all their employess were "young, urban, cool and Asian." I shit you not.

21 January, 2007 23:28  
Blogger Steve said...

Right you are, Uncle Petie, about the Tunnel/Trumpet thing! That one caught me out as well.

Does anyone else remember Drunk In Time, a recurring sketch on The All New Alexei Sayle Show in which Sayle and Peter Capaldi played a pair of drunken Liverpudlians sent back and forth through time in a spoof of Time Tunnel? It was pretty damn funny, really.

Also, it was interesting to see clips from Time Trumpet being used on none other than the BBC 10 O'Clock News last night in an item about the omnipresence of Tesco stores within the UK's cities, towns and villages. The thing they used was very amusing and 100% accurate but, nevertheless, should the "real" news be using clips from the fake news in order to illustrate real-world issues? What's next? The Washington Post printing stuff directly from The Onion?

Perhaps we are at last living in a post-satire world.

24 January, 2007 23:23  

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