Royal Rumble

You’ll have heard the news about the BBC’s latest gaffe? No? Let me outline it in brief. The Beeb are in trouble, because they took some footage of the Queen, edited it in such a way as to suggest that she’d stormed out of a photo-shoot with Annie Leibowitz, then put it on telly.

What amused me about the story is that gaffe like this is unlikely to happen by accident. Therefore, somebody somewhere consciously decided that it would be a good idea to mis-splice the sequence of events in order to convey an undoutedly more interesting, but nonetheless totally different story to that which actually took place. The most bizarre aspect of it all, of course, is that the relevant person or persons did not feel that this was at all dubious (or, presumably, they wouldn’t have done it).

What worries me is that they probably only got found out because the Queen happened to see the trailer. This sort of thing is potentially happening all the time. I wonder how much of what we see on TV has undergone a similar sexing up, and passes through our critical filter and is assimilated into our worldview without setting off any warning alarms?

If incidents like this tell us anything, it’s probably that we should be cautious in believing anything we’re told on TV. That’s because those in the television business are less concerned about the accuracy of your knowledge than with trying to get you to watch their programmes. They would rather entertain you than keep you accurately in the know. If you’re entertained, you’ll come back for more, providing a welcome boost for ratings and salaries. If you’re merely in the know, you’ll likely as not change the channel. Or even stop watching television and go outside. This is why Open University is only ever on at a time when no one watches television. It would never survive alongside more entertaining programmes on the other channels. Sad but true, chum.

Our scepticism about TV should probably extend to other media as well. Newspapers, for example, would sooner tell you something sensational than true. Faked photographs of war crimes in Abu Ghraib? Stick ‘em on the front page! Oops, I’ve been sacked.

Sigh. We can’t rely on TV, newspapers, or anything else to keep us properly informed. There seem to be three options available to us: 1) live a life of total ignorance, 2) believe most of what you’re told, with the caveat that it might all be false, or 3) rely solely on The Hutchison Monologues to keep you up to date. At least with the latter option, you’ll not come across anything misleading about the Queen.

queen.jpg

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