Memo to mediocrity


Richard Norton-Taylor, the Guardian’s senior spook watcher, uses his employer’s pages for a bit of self-puffery for his play about Tony Blair’s Iraq war lies. This is an important topic, which deserves much better than a theatre piece.

As hotairhead (why did I ever choose such a dumb name as my Comment is Free identifier?) I throw in my contribution to the debate, which you can read and join at the above link.

The nub of it is basically that journalism should be about dissecting our public figures and governance systems and asking how they can be improved, which Norton-Taylor could usefully do a great deal more of in his day job. Theatre in Britain, while sometimes ever so slightly risqué, is hardly going to set the political world alight and effect any radical change.

Norton-Taylor reckons it plays a useful role, as he explains here. I don’t question a play’s limited educational usefulness but I don’t buy the idea that that is a subsititute for what he or others could more usefully do as journalists.

The question is whether conventional media are capable of the necessarily sustained assaults on the powerful that we need. I rather doubt it, for various reasons, including journalists’ personal mindsets and the commercial demands of the products/newspapers their employers peddle. The Guardian might do this sometimes on some stories but never enough and never with the necessary coherence and clarity to make it stick. We must think more on alternative journalism, what it is and how we can sustain it. I haven’t any clear answers yet but I believe those are the questions.


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