Wednesday, 6 July 2011
The diving bell and the swine
Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam (not that this is at all relevant for what follows)
It can seem sometimes that being on holiday is akin to living inside a diving bell. The constant roar of 24/7 news coverage and an always-on accessibility that characterised my non-holiday time dissipates to a low, distorted hum that only floats through the outer shell in disjointed snippets. It’s not an altogether unpleasant experience, metaphorically speaking of course. Being in a real diving bell because you had the bends would be, I imagine, less pleasant. Having said that, being in the metaphorical diving bell of locked in syndrome that Jean-Dominique Bauby used eye movements to articulate and dictate in his deeply affecting The Diving Bell and the Butterfly would also be, to put it mildly, less pleasant. Bang goes that metaphor. Nonetheless, the point still stands – being on holiday serves to detach oneself from the real world.
I vividly remember, for example, sitting in a Sumatran bar with my buddy Tom back in 2000 watching the BBC news, our first dose of news coverage in nearly a month after we’d returned, sweaty and unkempt, from the Indonesian interior. This was before, and it seems strange to write this just eleven years later, the internet had really taken hold in the developing world, and certainly before smartphones became as indispensable to the traveller as a pair of sunglasses. Signing up to my first email account on that holiday I was able to snag the simple email address of firstname.lastname@example.org, with no need to append random digits in a bid to satisfy the dictates of uniqueness. Of course, it helps to have the name Ian Zippymoonflower. News starved we sat watching the coverage of the UK fuel shortages, with mile long tailbacks at petrol stations, and apoplectic truckers bemoaning the unfairness of fuel prices (memo to truckers – there is no such thing as ‘fair’ in the international markets, get used to it or you’ll only end up having a Ginsters and tabloid induced heart attack). We’ll be back to tabloids in just a moment, oh yes. Anyway, poking my head out of the diving bell for the first time in a month to hear news of this fuel shortage made me shrug, whimsically thinking how parochial this news felt, how irrelevant to my current time and place it was. That was until I thought about how I’d get back from the airport, at which point my brain switched to tabloid mode and in capital letters said TRUCKERS HOLD NATION TO RANSOM!!!
I poked my head out of the diving bell again last night, rather more easily this time as I connected my iPhone to the free Wi-Fi in our beachside bungalow, updating my excellent Guardian newspaper app. In some ways I wish I hadn’t. Instead of fully enjoying a sun-drenched day motorcycling around this beautiful tropical island with the love of my life playfully tweaking my nipples from the rear seat I have instead done all this, but with a nagging thought running in a loop through my mind. As I’ve had a day to think about this I feel that I can calmly and rationally share it here, in all its measured simplicity:
The News of the World are morally repugnant, bottom feeding, debased, rag-writing, insensitive, criminally negligent MOTHERFUCKERS.
I hope the NOTW gets sued so lavishly for their disgusting phone-hacking that Murdoch has to sell his left testicle to pay the fines, and that his other one is gnawed off by the animals who perpetrated this abomination when they all get locked away in a windowless hole with the terrified screams of abducted children being molested and murdered piped in to the hole on a continuous loop. I hope they are left with a mobile phone that only receives voicemail and that the phone number is distributed to the general public via the front page of the NOTW for a week running, before the government closes this rag down for good. Then the public can call at leisure to remind these excuses for humans how disgusting they are before deleting the voicemails so others can have their go. I think this could catch on as a national pastime. Far more interesting than football.
Hunter S. Thompson wrote that journalism is “…a low trade and a habit worse than heroin, a strange seedy world full of misfits and drunkards and failures”. I wonder what he would make of this phone hacking scandal if he were bought back from the dead. I suspect he would turn the shotgun on himself once more at hearing what his beloved profession had become. But not before he turned it on every single one of the swine who hacked, and those who implicitly or explicitly sanctioned the hacking, of an abducted teenager’s mobile phone. That, and not Fear and Loathing, would be his masterpiece.