Sunday, 14 April 2013

Numbers Have Meanings

I have spoken a few times about how important it is to remember that words have meanings.  Since they have meanings, we must be clear about what we mean when we used them, and as a writer I always aim to be judicious and accurate in the terms I lay down like so many bricks in the wall.  It will not do to throw around words willy-nilly when writing a story, otherwise the real meaning of your piece is lost, and the weight of your terms is diluted.  When a character is a 'murderer', I mean a murderer, somebody who decides to kill other human beings.  I don't mean somebody who killed a friend in a terrible boating accident.  In real life, I have pointed out that words like bigot do have an application, and you cannot simply wash the label off yourself if you make yourself sticky enough to wear it in the first place.  Try as many a homophobe might, cries of "I'm not a bigot but..." immediately negates the first four words of their own sentence.

Now, I'd like to point out that numbers, too, have meanings.  This is not a quasi-existential conundrum or any attempt at fuzzy mathematics.  I'm not very good at maths anyway, so I am not going to compound on how 2+2 can equal 5 (apparently it can, for adequate values of 2, and not only in the world inhabited by Fox News).  2 is a good number to start with.  2 is the chart position of a particular song in the UK singles chart.  2 is the number of times I can recall that the British Broadcasting Corporation has chosen to obscure the position of a song in that same chart.  The first time was when the Sex Pistols' God Save The Queen appeared, which was considered far too politically inconvenient to air.  Now such aggressive and troubling punk rock seems almost quaint, but its anti-fascist message apparently has not been heeded, as the BBC has whitewashed today's chart and allowed only a five second clip of Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead to appear in the news instead.

Yes, yes, calling the BBC fascist and getting bent out of shape about a song is rather petty.  But it is no more petty than an organisation that is meant to report simple information like the position of a song in a chart deciding that, since a song's position may be embarrassing, the song must be buried.  And it is not simply the dodging of playing an embarrassing song; it is a purposeful effort to alter history.  A transparent, incompetent attempt, that makes the BBC look suspect and brings their general credibility into question.  If they will in essence cover up a song because it doesn't suit the political climate, what else will or have they obscured from the public?

The BBC is not alone.  If one were to Google "UK singles chart" right now, the results would provide info taken directly from both the BBC and the Official UK Chart.  The former mysteriously omits song number 2 from the top three visible on Google; the latter simply lies and pretends song number 2 is something else.  Of course visiting the actual sites provides the real data (though for some reason the Official UK chart does not provide a 'buy' link for the number 2 song), but if one were simply surfing on Google, one would be misinformed.  This is not an accident.  This is not important, in isolation, but if a song is enough to get these bodies so worked up they will simply lie, why should they ever be trusted?

Worse than burying information, the BBC have opened themselves up to accusations of bias as they did play I'm In Love With Margaret Thatcher in full.  This has been adopted as an anthem in opposition to those who are celebrating her death, though in reality the band behind it, the Notsensibles, have said their intention was satirical.  The BBC also, in the five seconds they did air of Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead broadcast the eponymous line.  If they were so concerned about offending and upsetting people they had to bury the song, why air the specific line that would be most concerning?  The BBC insists they were acting out of balance, but they appear to have fallen flat on their faces, pleasing nobody and shredding their credibility all to avoid taking a decisive editorial stance.

In their intention to avoid controversy/reality, the BBC have made this minute-long song a national issue.  Their objective appears to have been shielding a nation from its own opinion, and in their arrogance they think they have both the right and capability of doing so.  What has really happened is that people sitting in their bedrooms have clicked a button to download a song and the result is the British Broadcasting Corporation felt obliged to mangle reality. That’s power. None of these ordinary people will get state funerals, or see anything like the £10-£40 million spent on them in their lifetime, nevermind just to put them in the ground, but their simple act of defiance has rattled the halls of power. Like Toto, we have pulled back the curtain, and pay attention to what cowering and weak mortals lie behind it.

Here it is, today's moment of zen:

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