Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Celebrity Big Brother and the death of journalism (again)

Almost exactly a year ago, I suggested that a particularly venomous article by Julie Burchill signalled the end of journalism, as various manifestations of what we used to call the broadsheet press appeared simultaneously to realise that vileness sells best and if you can’t do vileness then at least write about other hacks being vile, like moderately literate hyenas eating each other and ultimately themselves and then vomiting up the partially digested flesh and selling it to the highest bidder.

But you know what? I was wrong. The Burchill piece was still actually about something that matters, whatever you might think of the way she approached it. This is the end of journalism. On the DigitalSpy site, one Catriona Wightman – who sounds as if she should be the captain of lacrosse at a halfway posh convent school in Berkshire – essentially transcribes a few minutes of Celebrity Big Brother, most of which concerns a debate about whether one of the housemates had wiped his bottom with a towel. There is no attempt at wit, no pretence of analysis, not even any simulation of enthusiasm or explanation of why we ought to care. Ms Wightman just writes down what some people did and said on the telly:
Lionel Blair, meanwhile, seemed disgusted by the whole scene as Luisa said: “It probably was Jim.”
Now, I’ve been accused before of intellectual snobbery, of being too harsh on people who, it is argued, are “lacking in cultural capital”. So maybe I’ll be pilloried again for suggesting that Ms Wightman, apart from writing shit about shit, is also writing about stupid people for stupid people. Whether she herself is stupid or shit I couldn’t possibly say. But if she isn’t, she’s pretending to be, which is probably worse. But now I’m writing about her, so what does that make me, apart from a stupid hyena who’s decided to eat shit?

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