Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Banned Jeremy Clarkson Article from the Sunday Times

For those of you that are intrigued, I have managed to track down a copy of Jeremy Clarkson's latest article that was banned / rejected for publication by the Sunday Times. Here it is...

"Get me a rope before Mandelson wipes us all out"

Jeremy Clarkson for the Sunday Times

I've given the matter a great deal of thought all week, and I'm afraid I've decided that it's no good putting Peter Mandelson in a prison. I'm afraid he will have to be tied to the front of a van and driven round the country until he isn't alive any more. He announced last week that middle-class children will simply not be allowed into the country's top universities even if they have 4,000 A-levels, because all the places will be taken by Albanians and guillemots and whatever other stupid bandwagon the conniving idiot has leapt.

I hate Peter Mandelson. I hate his fondness for extremely pale blue jeans and I hate that preposterous moustache he used to sport in the days when he didn't bother trying to cover up his left-wing fanaticism. I hate the way he quite literally lords it over us even though he's resigned in disgrace twice, and now holds an important decision-making job for which he was not elected. Mostly, though, I hate him because his one-man war on the bright and the witty and the successful means that half my friends now seem to be taking leave of their senses.

There's talk of emigration in the air. It's everywhere I go. Parties. Work. In the supermarket. My daughter is working herself half to death to get good grades at GSCE and can't see the point because she won't be going to university, because she doesn't have a beak or flippers or a qualification in washing windscreens at the lights. She wonders, often, why we don't live in America.

Then you have the chaps and chapesses who can't stand the constant raids on their wallets and their privacy. They can't understand why they are taxed at 50% on their income and then taxed again for driving into the nation's capital. They can't understand what happened to the hunt for the weapons of mass destruction. They can't understand anything. They see the Highway Wombles in those brand new 4x4s that they paid for, and they see the M4 bus lane and they see the speed cameras and the community support officers and they see the Albanians stealing their wheelbarrows and nothing can be done because it's racist.

And they see Alistair Darling handing over £4,350 of their money to not sort out the banking crisis that he doesn't understand because he's a small-town solicitor, and they see the stupid war on drugs and the war on drink and the war on smoking and the war on hunting and the war on fun and the war on scientists and the obsession with the climate and the price of train fares soaring past £1,000 and the Guardian power-brokers getting uppity about one shot baboon and not uppity at all about all the dead soldiers in Afghanistan, and how they got rid of Blair only to find the lying twerp is now going to come back even more powerful than ever, and they think, "I've had enough of this. I'm off."

It's a lovely idea, to get out of this stupid, Fairtrade, Brown-stained, Mandelson-skewed, equal-opportunities, multicultural, carbon-neutral, trendily left, regionally assembled, big-government, trilingual, mosque-drenched, all-the-pigs-are-equal, property-is-theft hellhole and set up shop somewhere else. But where?

You can't go to France because you need to complete 17 forms in triplicate every time you want to build a greenhouse, and you can't go to Switzerland because you will be reported to your neighbours by the police and subsequently shot in the head if you don't sweep your lawn properly, and you can't go to Italy because you'll soon tire of waking up in the morning to find a horse's head in your bed because you forgot to give a man called Don a bundle of used notes for "organising" a plumber.

You can't go to Australia because it's full of things that will eat you, you can't go to New Zealand because they don't accept anyone who is more than 40 and you can't go to Monte Carlo because they don't accept anyone who has less than 40 mill. And you can't go to Spain because you're not called Del and you weren't involved in the Walthamstow blag. And you can't go to Germany ... because you just can't.

The Caribbean sounds tempting, but there is no work, which means that one day, whether you like it or not, you'll end up like all the other expats, with a nose like a burst beetroot, wondering if it's okay to have a small sharpener at 10 in the morning. And, as I keep explaining to my daughter, we can't go to America because if you catch a cold over there, the health system is designed in such a way that you end up without a house. Or dead.

Canada's full of people pretending to be French, South Africa's too risky, Russia's worse and everywhere else is too full of snow, too full of flies or too full of people who want to cut your head off on the internet. So you can dream all you like about upping sticks and moving to a country that doesn't help itself to half of everything you earn and then spend the money it gets on bus lanes and advertisements about the dangers of salt. But wherever you go you'll wind up an alcoholic or dead or bored or in a cellar, in an orange jumpsuit, gently wetting yourself on the web. All of these things are worse than being persecuted for eating a sandwich at the wheel.

I see no reason to be miserable. Yes, Britain now is worse than it's been for decades, but the lunatics who've made it so ghastly are on their way out. Soon, they will be back in Hackney with their South African nuclear-free peace polenta. And instead the show will be run by a bloke whose dad has a wallpaper shop and possibly, terrifyingly, a twerp in Belgium whose fruitless game of hunt-the-WMD has netted him £15m on the lecture circuit.

So actually I do see a reason to be miserable. Which is why I think it's a good idea to tie Peter Mandelson to a van. Such an act would be cruel and barbaric and inhuman. But it would at least cheer everyone up a bit in the meantime.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Nick Griffin's Appearance on Question Time - a Huge Success...

I found last night's televised footage from the BBC quite disturbing and in fact, quite insulting to the concept of democracy Britain tries hard to maintain. No, I'm not talking about the amusing escapades of last night's Question Time, but the anti-BBC protests happening outside of Television Centre.

A large selection students could be seen widely condemning the BBC for allowing Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, onto Question Time, arguing that we should not offer a man that peddles such hatred a platform on national television. Whilst I abhor the BNP and its racist, hate-filled views, denying this man a chance to appear on television would have seen us move onto very dangerous ground indeed.

Democracy is built upon the notion that all people have equal rights and that people are also granted freedom of speech. Whilst the BNP and Mr Griffin clearly don't subscribe to these ideals, had we banned him from appearing on the programme, we would in fact have been denying him his freedom of speech. Although that speech was clearly filled with vitriolic hate and racism, he had the right to say it. It is down to us, as a democracy, to argue through reason and debate against such views, exposing the man and his party for what they truly are.

I defy anyone who actually watched the programme to argue that Mr Griffin shouldn't have been allowed on. The week's preceding news focused on why we shouldn't give the BNP the 'credibility' of appearing on Question Time, but his performance was about as credible as the claim MPs have never fiddled expenses.

Mr Griffin is today arguing that the programme was biased and set out to victimise him, but in truth, this sorry man was in fact exposed for the racist, hate-filled bigot that he is. Those worried he would come across credibly saw him attack Islam, homosexuals and ethnic minorities with gay (excuse the pun) abandon. He admitted denying the holocaust but claimed to have 'changed his mind', stated that the Ku Klux Klan member he shared a stage with was part of a 'non-violent' chapter and also claimed that Churchill would be a member of the BNP today. Wow.

I think it's safe to say that Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time was a huge success. The man crumbled under pressure and was revealed to be an ignorant, racist bigot with no idea how to answer a justifiably angered public. Those that argued he shouldn't have been on the show need to take another look at the programme and ask themselves why that farce wasn't in fact a huge victory for democracy and common decency.

In addition to this, 8.2 million people tuned in to watch Question Time – three times the usual amount. Whilst many will undeniably have watched to see Griffin baited, this issue has forced people to engage with British politics, have an opinion and examine their own beliefs – all in all, Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time was a very good thing indeed.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Ignorance is NOT Bliss...

(This article appears on the working writers' website 'Writing Mafia', http://www.writingmafia.com/ignorance-is-not-bliss/)

When you join the ranks of employed wordsmiths across the globe, it goes without saying that your expertise regarding language and writing is unquestioned by those paying your (albeit paltry) salary. My inbox is regularly frequented by queries concerning apostrophe usage, pleas for proof-reading and Shakespearian dilemmas – ‘to hyphenate or not to hyphenate’ is a question that is very much in vogue at the present time.

I shall make no attempt to hide the fact that being consulted as the ‘expert’ when it comes to writing, language and grammar serves to massage my ego; a welcome by-product that any writer relishes. However, even the most ‘authoritative’ of sources can be found to fall short when scrutinised more closely. Any craftsman (or crafts ‘person’ if we’re being politically correct), will admit that they’re always learning their trade and writers should be no different.

In the early days of my writing career, I feigned ignorance on more than one occasion, happily glazing over a particular turn of phrase or unknown word in order to save face and remain the ‘expert’ that I hoped my employers were taking me for. But in reality, whilst saving career face, what was I actually gaining in the long run? Answer? Not a lot.

A particular instance this week pointed out just how far I’ve changed my thinking in terms of accepting the limitations of my so-called ‘expertise’. A manager used the phrase ‘luddites’ to refer to some colleagues he was exasperated with when trying to push through a new agenda at work. Now, whereas the copywriter of old would have glazed over this and happily got the gist of the overall message, the first thing I did in this instance was to check my dictionary.

For those of you not au fait with emails concerning petty office politics (you lucky things), ‘luddite’ refers to:

“A group of British workers who between 1811 and 1816 rioted and destroyed labour-saving textile machinery in the belief that such machinery would diminish employment.”

This unfamiliar word now clarified, I immediately understood my manager’s difficulty in passing a digital marketing proposal, adding a new word to my vocabulary in the process.

So you see, whilst we may enjoy playing on our ‘literary expert’ status amongst peers, ignorance isn’t always bliss. The English language is growing daily, and as writers, we need to ensure that our vocabularies are added to just as quickly. Pretending that we know a word may save face in the short-term, but when the alternative is learning and actually expanding the very expertise we’re trying to portray, the option is simple – ignorance is for the ignorant.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Book Review - 'American Psycho' by Bret Easton Ellis

When ascribing meaning to any art form, be it visual, musical or literary, context is of paramount importance. The scandalous novel of ninety years ago, today lines bookshop shelves as a nostalgic literary classic; the risqué painting of yesteryear is now mass-produced and hung on a million walls worldwide.

Eighteen years since its publication, Bret Easton Ellis' 'American Psycho' remains a significant novel of western society, undiluted despite its two-decade history. Any novel examining the soulless nature of capitalism and materialism has only to be read in the context of the current recession we're wading through, to resonate with modern readers.

The story of 'American Psycho' is now firmly ingrained in popular culture, thanks largely to the Christian Bale film of 2000. Whether you've read the book, watched the film or discussed it with your friends, the name Patrick Bateman is as famous as the author who created him.

Young, successful, extremely rich and devilishly handsome, Patrick Bateman leads a life where no luxury is spared. He dines at the most desirable of restaurants, fulfils his sexual desires with a string of attractive and successful women, lives in an exclusive apartment and has every material object that his heart desires. Bateman is also a murdering psychopath.

The graphic, sadistic and sexual nature of Bateman's murderous rampages are one of the most distinguishing features of Easton Ellis' debut novel. These evocative descriptions of depraved bloodlust scandalised a world upon the novel's release, and although society has undoubtedly become yet more de-sensitised since 1991, the uninhibited torture scenes and violent passages remain disturbing to this day.

But it's easy for such a contentious issue to detract from the novel's, arguable main, theme. In Bateman's world, all human interactions have been stripped down to materialistic components. His relationships with women are based purely on pursuing unattainable physical attention. All relationships with peers, since they surely cannot be deemed as friendships, revolve purely around materialistic one-upmanship – who has the better clothes, who has reservations at the most exclusive or restaurants, who has the most expensive business cards – the limits of obsessive neurosis are unlimited.

On a psychological level, the most obvious feeling we're supposed to have is one of shock and horror at Bateman's depraved homicidal acts. The beauty of 'American Psycho' however, is its ability to lay the most base of horror and evil before us, whilst using this as a mere backdrop to the 'real' terror of the materialistic life that Bateman leads. A world devoid of any genuine human interaction, emotion or feeling whatsoever – something that our desensitised society ironically finds infinitely more terrorising than the thoughtless murders and tortures of human beings – real food for thought.

A revolutionary novel, 'American Psycho' is a vivd commentary on the materialistic times we live in and one that remains as relevant and accessible today as it did two decades ago. The graphic nature of this novel makes it difficult reading for anyone who's not as desensitised as the soulless characters that populate this novel. If you can stomach scenes of an extremely violent nature however, and are looking for an important novel that makes a poignant comment on the social mores of modern society, 'American Psycho' is an important work of literature that's not to be underrated.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Gordon Brown - Sitting Duck

Without a shadow of a doubt, it's been a tumultuous week for Britain. Many famous names have been forced out of the spotlight by an unrelenting public exercising their democratic right to voice their opinions and demand their say.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that I am in fact, referring to the 'stars' of Britain's Got Talent' or 'The Apprentice', however I'm actually discussing another of Britain's most farcical and intriguing of entertainment outlets – Her Majesty's Government.

I've desisted from writing about the MPs expenses scandal until now, since this political 'hot potato' has been commented upon by the world and his metaphorical dog. The blogosphere has been saturated with comments, opinions and backlash regarding this issue, making yet another article futile in terms of potential interest, yet the topic has reached fever point in recent days, making it impossible to ignore.

I shall publicly state for the record that I suffer no political inclinations towards the Labour party and am certainly no fan of Gordon Brown, but I really am starting to pity the man. The Prime Minister's current grip on the political reigns of power is about as stable as a man holding the reigns of a bucking bronco covered in baby oil, margarine, butter and any other substance as slippery as our Darling Chancellor and his cronies in Westminster.

You see, the man spent years waiting in the wings for his opportunity to run the country, hiding patiently in the shadows of the country's Blairite years, which in retrospect, look comparatively rosy (surely we've forgotten the Iraq war by now...) Biding his political time however, Brown has inherited a legacy that's turning out to prove as infected as as a Mexican pig. In fact, you could say that the only benefit the man has had in his stint at Downing Street, has been meeting the Obamas.

No sooner than Tony Blair stepped aside, the political excrement started to well and truly hit the fan. Brown's inherited an economy that's in worse shape than American waistlines. His MPs are running around like political bandits, claiming public money for everything from toilet seats and mock Tudor beams to tins of baked beans. His leadership is constantly undermined. Basically, the poor bloke is a sitting duck (upon the 'duck island' that Peter Viggers claimed £1,645 for perchance?) that come the next election, has more chance of winning the X Factor than reclaiming Number 10.

So pity Mr Brown. He's not at fault for the economy, nor is he at fault for swine flu or Susan Boyle losing Britain's Got Talent. He may not go down in living memory as one of the nation's most successful Prime Ministers but please, spare a thought for the beleaguered politician. He may be going down, but he's maintaining the British stiff upper lip as he sinks into obscurity. The only real question surrounding the country's current political climate is 'will the next chap do any better'?

Over to you Mr Cameron...

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Brand Ethics or Bottom-Line?

During these ‘tough economic times’ (surely the marketing community can think of a better moniker for ‘recession’ than this), one of the truly remarkable things is the miraculous recovery of the environment.

The hole in the ozone layer has grown back, endangered species are now thriving in their natural habitats and all produce sold in the UK is organic, natural and locally sourced. Or at least the absence of these once unavoidable corporate agendas would seemingly now imply…

Those of us who move in marketing circles will no doubt be fully aware that sustainability and green agendas have been noticeably swept under the carpet, no matter how discreet the corporate broom being used.

It seems that the days of lavishing big budgets on corporate social responsibility or building an ethical brand are long gone – or at least on hold until Brown and Obama smooth out this royal financial pickle we’re in.

Whilst this is an understandable reaction to constricting budgets, the abandonment of ethical agendas leaves the more loyal consumer wondering just how dedicated their favourite brands were to these itineraries in the first place – a dangerous game to be playing when every consumer coin is worth its weight in gold.

Many independent businesses have invested heavily to associate themselves with the ideals, values and ethics they hold in common with their target consumer groups, regardless of whether these beliefs are genuinely held or commercially motivated. This is all well and good when companies can afford to market lifestyle and image as opposed to product, but as marketing budgets shrink and brand ethics dissolve, so too does their perceived integrity.

This has already proved disastrous for many brands, as more and more companies are beginning to find out. Whilst no one would doubt the need to focus on the bottom-line during this recession, certain ‘ethical’ businesses may well end up seeing a plummet in brand advocates, as well as in profits.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Viral Virals & Swine Flu Marketing...

The recent hype surrounding the outbreak of swine flu highlights two very different forms of marketing. On the one hand, consumers are being bombarded with topical adverts as brands jump on the bubonic bacon bandwagon, whilst office in-boxes around the world are now contagious with spoof swine flu emails – the viral goes viral…

So which of these is actually more effective as a form of mass communication? It’s no secret that the key to successful marketing lies in being both topical and relevant. Kleenex are currently advertising their ‘anti-viral’ tissues (a product that’s not to be sneezed at), whilst Dettol’s website lists disinfecting surfaces as a ‘golden hygiene rule’ in the fight against swine flu – juxtaposed against some beautiful pictures of its product range…

Compassionate or commercial (who am I to question the integrity of a corporation’s altruistic intentions), one thing remains clear – some brands have sensibly jumped on the bandwagon, just as they did when Obama came to power or when the ‘credit crunch’ kicked in etc. Standard ATL advertising thrives on its relevance, but is it actually viral marketing that is more infectious these days?

Within a few days of swine flu fever hitting the media, the Stig’s inbox has been hit by a deluge of emails containing amended Piglet cartoons, Photoshopped images of Lemsip and Porky the Pig and countless other emails that I’d rather not disclose in public (the boss reads this blog after all). I shall, of course, be forwarding these emails to friends and colleagues, which begs the question - is viral marketing now a much more effective method to reach mass audiences?

As fleeting as they are, virals are actively interacted with. You only have to look at recent cultish phenomenons such as ‘Thumbman’ and Compare the Market’s Alexandr the meerkat (who has more Twitter followers than Boris Johnson and Hillary Clinton) to see that consumers are becoming more and more online savvy – handy, considering everyone’s marketing budgets can no longer afford print.

Whilst we hope that the viral swine flue epidemic is eradicated quickly, perhaps the marketing community should choose this moment to usher in a new era of virals in its place. For marketing messages that permeate mass audiences and encourage widespread engagement, surely viral communications are now the method that will bring home the bacon when it comes to brand awareness.