A couple of things have happened this week which made me wonder. Okay, that’s not exactly a rare thing as lots of things make me wonder but, even so, these created more wonderment than usual. And I feel the need to warn any regular readers that I’m about to have a rant.
Firstly the topless photos of Kate Middleton. Leaving aside the invasion of privacy issue (I loved the way the editor claimed you could see her quite plainly from a public highway which gave the photographer the right to snap the photograph, while she failed to mention that not everyone carries around a massive great telephoto lens in order to see it), what I find odd is how everyone blames the magazine for printing the pictures.
There was a big hue and cry over the naked photos of Prince Harry over here (only one newspaper in Britain printed them) because it brought up the question of the freedom of the Internet as opposed to the perceived lack of freedom of the press. Now, in light of the French magazine printing photos of a topless Kate, the storm is being stirred up once more about the press and how they should act.
This all gets away from the one basic fact that the only reason newspapers and magazines print any salacious material is because that’s what they believe their readers want to read and/or see. And, if sales are anything to go by, they are completely correct in their assumption.
Let’s look at the French gossip magazine that is at the centre of the Kate and Her Completely Normal Breasts furore. The editor of the magazine claims that the images are not distasteful or damaging or anything different to what people can see on French beaches all the time. This is obviously true however, the editor must be quite simple if she thinks people would buy the magazine if she featured a photo spread of someone that no-one’s ever heard of, lying sunbathing topless on a terrace in France. Better yet, if she thinks this is true then surely the magazine should have just printed the photos without saying who it was.
But this all gets away from the fact that most humans love hearing the worst about others. That’s why people read newspapers like The Daily Mail; it gives the reader a sense of belonging when a newspaper raves and rants about things intended to make the reader rave and rant with indignation and xenophobia. And that’s why magazines and newspapers will never stop printing photographs of well known people if they are in any way reflected badly in them…even if ‘badly’ isn’t even really bad.
And this leads me quite nicely onto the other big news story of the week. The so-called film about the life of Mohammed. I managed to watch about ten minutes of it before turning it off because it was so bad. The funniest bit is how the voices have been dubbed in various places to change the original dialogue the actors were given into Islamic references. You can’t miss it – the voices are completely different and the words don’t match the lips…at all! It’s clearly the work of a remarkably untalented group of people (except for the actors, some of whom are actually trying really hard).
In general, films like this are just laughed at and then forgotten. Who cares? Well, in the case of this particular film, the entire Muslim world apparently cares. There’s been the usual flag burning, riots, guns being shot into the air (do these people not understand gravity?) and outright bloody murder. Am I alone in thinking this is all a bit extreme? I mean, the film really is shit. Surely this much attention just gives it more credit than it’s due.
Quite often I hear Muslims interviewed on the radio and they always say things like: Islam is a peaceful religion, it does not condone violence, that is the work of an extremist minority. The fact remains that these acts are carried out in the name of Islam, regardless of what more civilised religious leaders say. Once they put a label on themselves, unless you do something about it, that label will adhere to everyone who believes the same thing.
It’s like the Catholic/Protestant thing in Northern Ireland. They may all be Christians who worship the same god but basically they just want to kill each other (I seriously will NEVER understand that). It’s no good for Catholic church leaders in Italy (for instance) to start saying true Catholics don’t carry on like that because, clearly they do.
And I do know that The Troubles are not a religious conflict but this is how it’s reported. For instance, I heard an interview on Radio 4 last week where a man returns to his roots in Belfast and interviews a group of 18 year old local kids, asking them about The Troubles and what they thought of them (it’s been 18 years since the IRA stopped being so horrible). The question always came back to one of religion. No-one, however, asked the most important question: How can Christians justify violence towards each other when Christ taught his followers to love one another?
I know the answer is always going to be political or power driven but the little people, the ordinary souls on the street, who bear the brunt of all the violence and needless hatred, they’re the ones I don’t understand. They are the ones who go to church, who pray and beg forgiveness and they’re the ones who throw great lumps of masonry and petrol bombs at each other, just for holding a parade and playing particular songs.
But that’s getting me a little bit off the subject. What ties together the two stories from last week (Kate’s breasts and the pathetic film) is that both were only important because someone just knew they would cause a stir. No-one HAS to buy the French gossip magazine and no-one HAS to watch the movie. But most people just love to be led, be it by celebrity photograph or really, really bad film making. And that, in turn, will cause the stir. Because people have been told to be indignant by other people.
Well, I’m damned if I’ll be!