Crap Journalism: Party Lines


It’s never difficult to tell when the Guardian has decided to take a party line on something.

There was the astonishing vehemence with which it attacked the Steven Speilberg CGI Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn back in 2011, with nearly two-dozen different articles, frequently appearing on a daily basis, slagging off the film unmercifully. This was in contrast to the generally positive tones of reviews worldwide. To the Guardian, however, the film was a personal insult to Herge, a complete misrepresentation of the series, the rape of Tintin the character himself.

Basically, the audience was ordered to boycott the film, and if they ignored that advice, to hate the film. By the time I saw it, I was determined to like it, just because the response was so hysterical, unreasoning and dictatorial. And enjoy it I did (although, despite Andy Serkis being brilliant in it, Captain Haddock still wasn’t right, because he didn’t sound like the guy who voiced the old Tele-Hachette/Belvision cartoons).

Then there’s Jeremy Corbyn, whose every word, thought and deed has been slagged off by the Guardian, relentlessly, since it became apparent that he was going to be voted Labour Party leader.

And now the screw is being turned on Sherlock.

Whilst criticism of the opening episode of the current season was legitimate to some extent, it’s plain that the Guardian has a major mad on again, and the series is to be ripped to shreds. I refrained from comment two days ago when the buffoon Stuart Heritage wrote a full-length and wrong-headed condemnation of the programme based on what hasn’t yet happened in the final episode, and they’re at it again today demanding that all of television give up including ghosts, with Sherlock as its principal target.

Heritage chooses to describe the programme as ‘gutless’ and professes his personal and projected disappointment at the cliffhanger which, in case you didn’t watch it yourself, consisted of the revelation of the third Holmes sibling as being female and shooting directly at John Watson’s face.

Apparently, the programme can only be tolerated – not appreciated or enjoyed – if Watson is dead. Otherwise, it reveals itself as being permanently contemptible. What can you say? Would it help to mention that the Sherlock Holmes novels, and every last colourable adaptation from them, are about the duo of Holmes and Watson? No, the party-line is in. A cliffhanger has been set up and instead of the hero freeing himself, by one mighty bound or, more likely some ingenious twist (is the pistol actually loaded or is this another element of the psychological game Euros Holmes is playing with her younger brother?), the idiot Heritage puts himself in the stupid position of demanding that the co-star dies.

I mean, it’s a complete misunderstanding of the basis of the series that we expect a complex, implausible escape and the fun is finding out how it was done. Only the Guardian, in its new, get-Sherlock phase would imagine anything different.

But it’s today’s piece of idiocy that makes plain there is an agenda. Gwylim Mumford’s piece is ostensibly an attack on a TV trope, which he describes as cheap and lazy writing, and demands it be banned instantly. The piece quotes other series guilty of this factor, which has been overused to the point of cliche, except on Mr Robot, where it’s apparently fundamental to the series’ success. Hmm.

But no, this is another excuse to slag off Sherlock. The trope in question is having dead characters appear on screen as psychological projections visible only to the audience and to the grieving character to whom they relate. This is Mary Watson turning up and having conversations with John, during which she reminds him several times over that she’s dead and has no more knowledge than he has.

One problem is that Mumford analyses the problem as being that “(w)e all know exactly how the dead person vision will pan out. The dead person appears to the living person to help them work through something monumental. Because the dead person is aware of the deep truth about the living person, they’re almost always an insufferable know-it-all, prone to saying things like “I see you’ve finally figured it out” while lying on a chaise longue reading the newspaper. These people aren’t just dead, they’re dead smug. Then when the living character has finally realised what was causing them such angst, the dead character disappears for good, leaving the living person staring into space and looking confused.” And the apparition of Mary Watson does none of that.

But no, the party-line demands another attack, in case the audience gets a bad case of thinking for itself, and decides it knows its own tastes better.

In a couple of months time, I will have been reading the Guardian for thirty-six years. I started buying it not long after it started publishing Doonesbury every day. I haven’t kept buying the paper this long because of that alone, especially not when it went into daily reprints. But day by day, as the paper betrays every (small l) liberal and social instinct it once had, as it gets rid of good writers because they cost and installs ever more right-wing writers who tell us that Theresa May is the ideal Prime Minister, I re-evaluate that decision, day in, day out.

At the moment, the biggest factor in keeping me buying this excuse for a newspaper is the Cryptic Crossword. Doing it on-line just doesn’t compare. And some of the sports writers are still good.

But crap journalism like this grows ever more prevalent. I wouldn’t mind if it were just a difference of opinion, argued out by someone who doesn’t think he’s a great wit or that his personal opinion is the word of a secular God. I like reading dissenting opinions, testing them against what I believe. But that’s not what I’m getting, and the cost of the paper each day becomes harder to justify to myself.

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