It’s 10am and the sun is glorious. I’m in Cardiff, sitting outside Bill’s.
Apart from getting back to London, my work here is done. I had to drop bits of tardis off at the Dream Factory. This involves multiple levels of security, general open suspicion, muted hostility and a bit of carrying. Wearing my gas mask and my chauffeur’s hat I felt as if I was radioactive. Wales is pretty much in lockdown with more to come into force this evening. I wasn’t even sure I was going to get over the Severn successfully based on all you hear in the news. But then the news is mostly utter catshit.
As I drove here through the dawn I was listening to Radio 4 and observing how the daily news is generated. Get somebody on the early show, repeatedly ask them a leading question that fits an agenda, ignore everything but their polite attempt to engage with the stupid question, then roll out that response as news and get people to angrily react to it. Listener reaction is a quantifiable guage of popularity. Outrage is easy to stimulate. Boom, the day ticks over.
Problem is, even though we all know that news isn’t, we still have to get our information from somewhere. Some of our current crop of demagogues are waging war with “mainstream news” because it still occasionally tries to show us how most of the familiar world leaders are walking around with their pants down. The little sites that have set themselves up as legitimate alternative “news” outlets often try to do it in the frame of whistle blowers – “don’t trust the mainstream media!” they encourage you to crow smugly. “We know what’s really going on!” But they can’t be trusted either because the model is the same. Focus on one shaky premise, explode it from every angle, get clicks. And behind a screen in silicon valley is yesterday’s teenager, grinning to himself over his high end skunk as he notices the number of shares go into the millions for the latest iteration of the scary story he made up in his granny’s basement while he was mining bitcoin.
At the heart of it is always the sense that it’s just about to happen. We’ve had decades of things just about to happen that won’t. Today it’s putting asylum seekers into old ferries and creating some sort of floating shanty town. It’s a shift from the gold standard as the basis of currency. It’s fishing rights and zoos. It’s revolution just coming.
Yesterday we all had to stay home for fear of terrorism. Now we stay home for fear of Covid. Presumably the terrorists are staying home too.
As long as there’s something we are made to sacrifice liberty for, then there’s something we can be told has been generated from within to keep us down. Bush vs Osama. Chinese Bats vs American scientists.
Meanwhile the autumn sun is glorious. I’ve got it on my face. I’ve just had a beautiful drive and I have no answers – no more than anyone else really does no matter how convincing (or convinced) they sound. I’m gonna turn around and smash back to London posthaste, and next time I come to this part of the world hopefully it’ll be in kinder times and I’ll be off to do a spot of filming.
Be kind out there. Treat each other well. This too shall pass. I hope.