Surprisingly deep sleep last night yet it is now days since I had my last hayfever tablet. I guess it was an exhaustion sleep. I’d had a pretty long day and topped it off by watching Bombshell into the early hours. Looking at the IMDB this morning, I can’t help but feel it’s a grossly underrated movie.

Brief review before I talk about parliament and Steve Baker…

Perhaps it’s because I’m currently fascinated by the influence of Fox, having just finished Brian Stelter’s Hoax, but Bombshell gave me another perspective on a critical story to understanding modern life. It focuses on Megan Kelly and others who were subjected to sexual harassment at the hands of Fox chairman Roger Ailes and it does so with a magnificent cast. Charlize Theron was robbed (robbed I tell you!) of an Oscar for her performance as Kelly. I’ve not seen (and I’m unlikely to see) Judy, which won Renee Zellweger her Oscar for Best Actress, but I find it hard to believe she could have done a better job channelling the spirit of Judy Garland than Theron does as Kelly. Afterwards, I watched a half hour interview that Kelly did with other victims of Ailes (here) and her husband suggested Theron’s performance was one dimensional but, then, he would say that, wouldn’t he? As somebody who didn’t previously like Kelly, based on my believing her the moderate face of a deeply unpleasant network, I found myself reassessing my opinion, even more so than after finishing Hoax. She came across as sympathetic and principled, or, let’s say, as principled as somebody can be in the cutthroat world of cable news.

Frankly, hearing again the stories of Bill O’Reilly pleasuring himself with a sex toy reasserts the different perspective you should always maintain whenever you listen to his witless moralising.

Kidman was also great (not sure about the rubber chin, though) as Gretchen Carlson, the Fox and Friends host who first stood up to Ailes, and Margot Robbie does a well in a very difficult role, as the conservatively liberal ambitious but vulnerable TV wannabe. Her side of the story was a fiction, I believe, but based on the experiences of the man women who came forward.

Oh yes. Kate McKinnon was not in it enough but, then, I’ll say that about anything where Kate McKinnon isn’t given 100% of the screen time. Big Kate McKinnon fan here…

I’m thinking I’m done but it’s a testament to how great he is that I almost forgot to mention John Lithgow. I mean, I was almost treating his performance as though he was Roger Ailes. He was that good. He also maintained that balance that’s needed for Ailes, in many ways a monster, in many ways a saint. It’s a really hard circle to square: how Ailes could do these things whilst maintain the “family” ethos at Fox. Even his victims expressed how many kind things he did for them. Life is complicated. The best films reflect that.

It might not be a film for anybody who isn’t an absolute news junkie and whose favourite movie genre is probably anything that combines politics and journalism but, if you are, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Making my breakfast this morning, I listened to the radio. It’s actually a Amazon Dot and I use TunedIn to listen to American news. It replaces, however, US ads with UK ads, often by the government, and today I heard the first “Hands. Face. Space” ad. I know I’ve been critical of the government’s messaging throughout this crisis, but I think they’re finally doing a good job. “I wear this mask to protect my mates” is the message they needed to be getting out three months ago.

Now if only they could do as good a job inside parliament.

I read this morning about Steve Baker’s opposition to the government’s new restrictions. He says “it is time for us to actually start living like a free people, not subjecting ourselves to constantly shifting legal requirements, which I think now no one can fully understand”. It’s so shameful.

Both the British Conservative Party and the US Republicans are allowing themselves to be wagged by the tail. This is the rarely spoken truth about Fox News which is staffed by many reasonable and intelligent people (many closet Democrats), trapped in a system controlled by a small number of powerful people, usually with primetime shows, delivering a message that is cynically designed to exploit the fears of an uninformed audience. There is a real war between the arm sides: the news arm and those that spread opinion, and in recent years, the opinion side is raking in all the cash. This is the great Oz reveal: the people who own and run Fox News don’t believe in the crap reported by Fox News. Pull back the curtain and you just find Rupert counting his billions.

Baker’s words feel similarly provocative and, frankly, twirl-your-finger-against-your-temple loopy. Johnson’s press conference on Tuesday made an extremely good case for increased restrictions at this time, simply to avoid the kind of escalations that have been seen across the continent at this point in the curve. Not to get too Culture-Wars about this, but Brexit was rife with British exceptionalism. We sacrificed so much to keep the world free from Nazi domination, We’ll Meet Again, beaches, Spitfires, blah blah blah… Suddenly these same people spouting this anti-scientific bullshit at a time when we should really be feeling blessed to have good scientists watch out backs. How about some patriotic songs about our epidemiologists and virologists? Let’s have a day commemorating our great data modellers?

Perhaps Baker should be taken on a tour of a Covid ward, not so much to understand the potential deaths and the strain another peak would place on the NHS during flu season, but the emerging picture around ‘Long Covid’ and those people struggling with bad health for months after the virus has left their system.

Keeping your distance from people in a pub is not that great an inconvenience but if people don’t do it willingly, there needs to be somebody around to insist that they do it. To carry on the awful World War 2 analogies simply to put it into words these people might understand, Baker is acting like some chump who would have kept his lights on and curtains open during an air raid and being told to “stand apart” is no different to being yelled at by a warden shouting “turn that ruddy light out”.

How is that difficult to understand and who, really, is being unpatriotic now?

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It’s a cool domain name and it was available. Yes, I know. Available. Crazy, isn’t it?


Yes. It also helps that it’s also my favourite satire written by Alexander Pope, one of the most metrically pure English poets who also knew his way around a crude insult or two. If you’ve not read it, you should give it a try.

So this is satire, right?

Can’t deny it. There will be some. But it’s also an experiment in writing and drawing, giving work away for free in order to see how many people are willing to support a writer doing his thing. It’s the weird stuff that I wouldn’t get published elsewhere in this word of diminishing demands and cookie-cutter tastes.