Archive for the ‘Observer’ Category
Sept 11, 2011 – Today’s Observer subhead says: “Retirement age rise to be speeded up”. It quotes the pensions minister: “Everybody knows we are living longer. It is like an express train [...] we think now we have got to move on these things”.
Two strands of “logic” here:
1. We’re living longer, so we must work longer.
2. Express trains require immediate action!
The minister (Steve Webb) explains further: “In a way, successive governments over the decades were so behind the curve behind all this. If you think of male pension age, it hasn’t changed for a century. How much has life expectancy improved in a century? So, in a way, what is going on is a big dam that is finally breaking.”
So, we’re on a train hurtling into danger. And the dam is breaking…
Let’s pause the action-movie DVD for a moment.
The male pension age hasn’t changed for a century? Life expectancy has increased over that time? What does rising life expectancy indicate, if anything, about socio-economic conditions? How do “structural” weaknesses (to extend the “dam breaking” metaphor) lead to a gradual improvement in life expectancy?
In a recent article for CNN, Douglas Rushkoff suggests there’s a “backwards logic” to the notion that we must build bridges, railways (etc) in order to “put people back to work”. The “live long &
prosper slave away” logic seems not just backwards, but express-train-in-reverse-with-idiot-driver backwards.
• ‘BOY-POLITICIANS LACK SENSE & VISION’
• ‘MORE LEISURE, MORE LIFE’
• ‘NEW DAWN OF CONTEMPLATION’
Aug 21, 2011 – This Observer headline is another example of reinforcing a frame while negating it. What we see here is “moral decline” – that is how we conceptualise the issue, regardless of the following word, “not”.
Most media coverage of the “rioting” excludes the perception that it has always occurred in Britain. The country has a long history of insurrection. Even in quaint coastal villages, whole communities criminally conspired against the authorities (eg the customs men) - in Ye Olde days, when murder and violence were more common .1
In 1898, newspapers in England warned of the menace of “hooligans” and of a “dramatic increase in disorderly behaviour”. The Times reported “organised terrorism in the streets”.2
In every decade of the 20th century there were similar media panics.
• ‘NO RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY – A GREAT BRITISH TRADITION’
• ‘GOLDEN AGE OF LAWLESSNESS CONTINUES’
• ‘LATEST INSURRECTION MINOR IN HISTORICAL TERMS’
1. See: Ted Robert Gurr, Historical Trends in Violent Crimes, 1981; Manuel Eisner, Long-Term Historical Trends in Violent Crime, 2003.
2. Quoted from Laurie Taylor’s article, Looking with a historical eye, published in the 1995 Channel Four booklet, Battered Britain.