The market, Salonica

The market, Salonica
The market, Salonica

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Fan fiction

It’s official.  The British are the laziest workers in Europe.  A recent study has shown that they ring in sick more than anyone else, excusing themselves with a range of fake illnesses. 

I suppose if you normally deceive people, you expect other people to do it to you.  When footballer Wayne Rooney rang in sick for two World Cup qualifying matches, accusations kicked around social media that he lacked commitment to the English cause.  He felt he had to prove that he was really injured, and posted on Facebook a photo of his bloodied head.  It was grim, but no doubt there are still people who are convinced that he should stop looking at himself in his bedroom, get back on the field and do what he is paid to do.  With fans like these, who needs an opposition? 

In attack or in defence, the power of social media is enormous.  A picture can be unforgettable.  The Arab Spring is blossoming nicely.  When it began, as despots fell around us, commentators noted with satisfaction the role played by social media in helping idealistic young people organise their protests.  At the same time, images from mobile phones were posted on the internet to show the true suffering of the population and so contradict the propaganda of the regime. 

In the UK, two summers ago, technology gave youngsters with other ideals an advantage over police in the so-called Blackberry riots.  You won’t, of course, bless mobile communication when your grip on the realm is being prised away, finger after finger, by teenagers with a hand-held device.  SLAP! Don’t mention the riots! 

But forget the bad guys. It’s far more embarrassing when the good guys shoot themselves, on film and in the foot, doing things you wish they had done in private or not at all.  I mean the footage of the Colonel, baited, butchered and bundled off to YouTube, the hell of endless hits, when rebels surrendered to the same urge that makes tourists snap each other and hunters screw their kill to the wall.  Although we loved getting rid of him, these antics gave us liberals a problem or two when they were uploaded onto VirtualPurgatory. 

For a start, those of us who queued up behind the righteous ones in the contest with Tyranny are now inconvenienced by images that are, at best, tasteless souvenirs and, at worst, proof that some, if not all, of the righteous ones are as bad as the devil they deposed, their vengeance is so calculated, their cruelty so deftly improvised. 

That’s not all.  Even though we regret that the photographer and his friends are intent on the murder of a human being; that they’re finding pleasure in his pain and humiliation – his true suffering, if you like – and clambering to record their involvement in it, we are nonetheless fascinated.  The jerkiness of the camera enhances the realism, and the horror; it seems we are holding the camera ourselves, we wonder if we could do the same things, and we feel guilty just for wondering. 

These moving images of one, helpless man shame us more than fifty stills of executed loyalists.  A rebel said there’s a Gaddafi inside everyone.  I’m a fan.  He can have a job in my next government. 

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