The World’s Greatest Secret

The smile that says "I still have a job"

A secret so shocking that when it’s revealed in a year from now, former staff of the News of the World will turn to Rebekah Brooks and say “Thank you for firing us.”

That’s got to be something pretty bad.

I’m actually worried here, trying to think of something worse than what the NOTW has already done. They bribed the police, for God’s sake. They spied on the grieving families of soldiers and London bombing victims. They interfered with the phone of a child murder-kidnap victim, giving her parents false reason to believe she was still alive.

But this is something they’re ashamed of.

Oh boy.

The fact that it’s not going to be revealed for another year gives it a great Seventh Secret of Fatima vibe, but why is this the case? Most likely, something they were hiding is now bound to come out in the police investigation or the trial. But if it’s bound to, why not reveal it now and end all the wild speculation? Unless of course it’s worse than our wildest speculation.

Which again, would be pretty bad.

More likely, they don’t want to reveal it now because it has a bearing on News International’s most sensitive current business in the UK – their attempted takeover of BSkyB. And as this rests wholly on the question of whether Rupert Murdoch is a fit person to own such a significant portion of the media, it follows logically that the secret is not about the News of the World or even News International, but about Murdoch himself.

What was the NOTW doing with dirt on its owner? Well in the dismissal speech she gave to the workforce, Rebekah Brooks revealed that she herself had been spied on by agents of the News of the World. Merely because she was newsworthy? Well maybe, but I have a suspicion that the operatives who were tasked with the illegal mission decided to get something on their employers too – as insurance against being disowned by them. And it seems reasonable to suppose that if they went after her, they would have gone after her boss too. Those guys got something on Rupert Murdoch.

But what? We already know that Murdoch uses his power as a wealthy media magnate to influence – arguably, to subvert – the democratic process in favour of his still greater wealth. And yet until recently it was assumed that he could still be considered a ‘fit person’ to own UK media. If that doesn’t make you unfit what do you have to do? Have sex with crocodiles, use puppies as toothpaste?

There can only be one thing. Murdoch, like many of his fellow countrymen, is instinctively opposed to the royal family. That his papers have been making them look stupid for decades was no mere commercial tactic but a determined secret campaign.

Murdoch wants a British Republic.

The World’s Greatest Secret

The smile that says "I still have a job"

A secret so shocking that when it’s revealed in a year from now, former staff of the News of the World will turn to Rebekah Brooks and say “Thank you for firing us.”

That’s got to be something pretty bad.

I’m actually worried here, trying to think of something worse than what the NOTW has already done. They bribed the police, for God’s sake. They spied on the grieving families of soldiers and London bombing victims. They interfered with the phone of a child murder-kidnap victim, giving her parents false reason to believe she was still alive.

But this is something they’re ashamed of.

Oh boy.

The fact that it’s not going to be revealed for another year gives it a great Seventh Secret of Fatima vibe, but why is this the case? Most likely, something they were hiding is now bound to come out in the police investigation or the trial. But if it’s bound to, why not reveal it now and end all the wild speculation? Unless of course it’s worse than our wildest speculation.

Which again, would be pretty bad.

More likely, they don’t want to reveal it now because it has a bearing on News International’s most sensitive current business in the UK – their attempted takeover of BSkyB. And as this rests wholly on the question of whether Rupert Murdoch is a fit person to own such a significant portion of the media, it follows logically that the secret is not about the News of the World or even News International, but about Murdoch himself.

What was the NOTW doing with dirt on its owner? Well in the dismissal speech she gave to the workforce, Rebekah Brooks revealed that she herself had been spied on by agents of the News of the World. Merely because she was newsworthy? Well maybe, but I have a suspicion that the operatives who were tasked with the illegal mission decided to get something on their employers too – as insurance against being disowned by them. And it seems reasonable to suppose that if they went after her, they would have gone after her boss too. Those guys got something on Rupert Murdoch.

But what? We already know that Murdoch uses his power as a wealthy media magnate to influence – arguably, to subvert – the democratic process in favour of his still greater wealth. And yet until recently it was assumed that he could still be considered a ‘fit person’ to own UK media. If that doesn’t make you unfit what do you have to do? Have sex with crocodiles, use puppies as toothpaste?

There can only be one thing. Murdoch, like many of his fellow countrymen, is instinctively opposed to the royal family. That his papers have been making them look stupid for decades was no mere commercial tactic but a determined secret campaign.

Murdoch wants a British Republic.

Day of the Social Media Day

Research on Iran. by Negar Mottahedeh Social M...
Well I suppose that's one way to look at it

By the time you read this, Social Media may already have had their day.

That is, if you’re reading after midnight. Otherwise, it’s Social Media Day! So we should all get out and… Actually I suppose we should all stay in.

Do social media really need another day though? They’ve already got most of mine. And while I’m an enthusiastic user and positive overall about their influence and possibilities, I am a little disturbed by the vast power now in the hands of so few. Twitter hasn’t even monetised its success yet; I have paranoid visions that it’s waiting until it’s utterly indispensable to our working and personal lives before sending the ransom note.

Actually this is an apposite time for a Social Media celebration. MySpace, the first great success and first great failure of the sector, was sold on by News Corporation yesterday. I’m very tempted to start using it again just to piss Rupert Murdoch off. There may be several reasons why MySpace crashed, but surely being from the people who brought you Fox News was the kiss of death.

Another good thing happening right now is Google squaring up to Facebook. It would be nice to see some real competition – if you can compete with what looks awful like a natural monopoly – and if anyone has a chance of taking on Zuckerberg¹ it’s Google I guess. Their Google+ system does looks promising. Going by published details that is. No I don’t have invites. Or know anyone who has invites.

Of course I’d prefer if the competition came from someone else rather than Google yet again, and I’m glad to say that the Diaspora alternative… still exists. Any day now, it may start to… begin. OK, it’s taking ages; but even Twitter took years to get it right; when I joined back in 2007 it was just me and two other guys talking about how we combed our hair. And Diaspora are right to be careful, because I think their idea has the potential to be roughly the biggest thing ever.

Hopefully I’ll find some time today to explain why!

  1. Whose name, I’m afraid to say, Firefox thinks should be corrected to ‘C****sucker’. Editorialising?

The Right To Employ People

Differences in national income equality around...
Inequality - Apparently There's Not Enough Of It

I just heard someone called Jackie Lavin on the Pat Kenny radio show say that unemployment benefits interfere with “the employer’s right to employ people”. That’s an interesting concept, isn’t it? I remember when right-wing lunatics used to just call social welfare an interference in the sacred free market. Now it’s an abrogation of their rights. They are actually being oppressed by social welfare.

I hadn’t known that the wealthy had any special rights – at least not officially – but according to her, one of them is to have other people be poorer so that they’re more affordable. That’s kind of mind-blowing, isn’t it? The rich have a right to poor people. It makes a strange Zen-like sense.

This Jackie Lavin is on the radio because she’s a “Business Personality”, best known for appearing in the Irish version of The Apprentice as mentor to her real-world business and life partner Bill Cullen. Also, for appearing in and writing for glossy Hello!-style magazines, like the one owned by Bill Cullen. He’s an entrepreneur, Fianna Fáil donor and I suppose our nearest equivalent to Donald Trump. These are important people then.

Why not apply this entertainment paradigm to the country as a whole? If the unemployed don’t shape up, we can fire them from their homes – from the whole country indeed. ‘Firing’ is much sexier than that dated emigration idea.

I mean. Fuck this.

Map Of The Future

i.doubt.it - some class of a blog

You may have noticed this blog has a new address: “I.doubt.it“. No W’s, no dot-com, just a short yet meaningful sentence in English. Not many websites can boast that. As you may know it’s actually an Italian domain name – you don’t have to be Italian to own one (just an EU citizen). I bought this a few years ago but never really got the best out of it, until now.

Naturally I.doubt.it will be the title of the blog as well as its address. As the newspaper column was Micro Cosmopolitan for over fifteen years I’ll use that name in parallel for a little while though. Until the t-shirts are ready at least.

Which could be something like a month. I’m working to a budget made up mostly of coupons here, and had to go for the super-slow delivery option. I don’t quite get this; without being any cheaper it’s actually slower than ordinary post. In order to offer this rate they had to set up a special concussed delivery service, staffed by people in long trailing coats they keep treading on.

Oh, they just don’t print the stuff till later. Right.

That’s the design up there, incidentally. I wanted to keep it simple and slightly mysterious. The strap line “some class of a blog” is a temporary one I think, something vague that won’t tie the blog down too much as it develops. Who knows where this baby is going to go? If the Irish expression is a bit opaque to the overseas contingent, it just means “a sort of blog”, and is faintly disparaging.

So I’ve a month of anticipation ahead. It really is exciting actually – I’ve never done something like this before. Getting t-shirts made feels like the most egotistical thing I’ve ever done. Even though it isn’t.

The Last Paper Column

This will read a little strangely. It’s unedited from the version as it appears in the paper.

Alas This is Fake
The Paper Gives Me A Decent Send-Off

This is the last Micro Cosmopolitan in the City Tribune. I’m leaving the paper. After sixteen years – can you believe it? So much has changed over that time. Why back then there was a Fine Gael/Labour government.

I’m going to miss it badly; in particular, being able to say “I write for a paper”. There was something grand about that. But the world is changing, rapidly. Instead of being a columnist, I’ll be a blogger. Instead of it appearing once a week it will be several times a day. Instead of writing on Wednesday for you to read on Friday, it’ll be instant comment on events as they happen. There will be cartoons too, and you’ll be able to have your own say.

I gave you the address before, but now there’s a new and much shorter one – “I doubt it”. Simply type I.doubt.it and you go straight there. Neat, no? Just dots between the words, no W’s or nothin’. And if you don’t like going to websites you can receive it by email for free. Those of you without computers may find that you can read it perfectly well on your phone.

Otherwise though, you’re stuck. This is the sad fact about the way things are going. You won’t have to buy a daily paper, but you’ll need a machine. In the time I’ve been at the Tribune, the publishing industry has changed out of all recognition. I am fortunate perhaps to have started back when we were still something you might recognise as a “classic” newspaper. I actually brought my column in on a piece of paper, held in my fist. Someone had to type it out again. That almost seems crazy now.

1995 wasn’t quite back in the age of typewriters though. The paper had Macs, and I had a primitive sort of word processor you would point and laugh at now. There was just no way these two computers could communicate with each other. Two years later, while doing volunteer work in South Africa, I started e-mailing my stories. I soon had a computer of my own, and though I couldn’t yet afford an Internet connection – and certainly, not a Mac – I was bringing my stories in on floppy disk. And now… Well, we’ve cut out the paper altogether.

I mean, the whole newspaper.

The business is going through a crisis. On one hand it’s being squeezed by new media; I get a large proportion of my news from blogs, from upstart online-only papers, even from Twitter. Now it’s the papers that can’t afford to buy Macs. The oldest mass medium can and will adapt, they have the core skills that are essential for gathering and recounting the news. But they have to find new ways to make it pay, and they need to do that now – right in the middle of the worst recession since the war.

You support those skills when you read the print version of the Tribune, so I hope you will continue to get it – even without me. And do tell all your friends who stopped buying it while I was here.

http://I.doubt.it – Think of me whenever you hear a politician speak.

Love and out,

Richard Chapman

Why l Won’t Buy an iPad 2

iPad2 CartoonBecause Apple censor. All right, I don’t care much either way if they want to reject apps with sexual content, but when they disallowed political satire it became both personal and a matter of principle. They may have relented in the most celebrated case, but until the policy is changed explicitly they can insert the iPad 2 in landscape orientation.

Otherwise, it’s a fine device. In particular I like the cover. Seriously. It protects the screen in transit, then it converts to a stand. Apple design cuteness at its best.

The original was not at all feature-rich, the better to focus attention on the core concept. Now, again in typical Apple fashion, they add just a well-chosen few at a time so that each seems a choice delicacy. It finally has cameras and a gyroscope. Not the rather decent camera of the iPhone 4 though, and nor does it get its high-resolution display. There are real if fairly small improvements to its thickness and weight, but the only truly substantial change is a faster, dual-core processor.

So this is, if you like, the iPad 3GS; most of what the last version lacked is fixed, but cool cover aside (which is an accessory anyway) there are no show-stopping innovations. This is the iPad released just to keep up with the burgeoning crop of Android competitors. It doesn’t blow them away – that will have to wait for the next release – but it undermines their most obvious advantages.

So you want to wait for that next release, or go with one of these rivals? To answer this question, you must ask yourself why you need a tablet.

And the answer of course is that you don’t need a tablet. Don’t be ridiculous. These iPad things are computers with all the parts you might do real work with actually removed. Get a grip, it’s a leisure device. A media consumption appliance. A toy.

The question is, which is the best toy?

Right now, I’d say the rivals are well in the lead. And it’s not about hardware (though we’ll get back to that). It’s more about freedom. Though Apple stuff is beautifully done, it is done with rather controlling ends in mind. Some say they are reinventing the publishing industry, and that may be true. I’m just not so happy about them wanting a 30% cut of it.