“The nearest thing to prostitutes you can find in public life.”

As journalism lurches from one morale-sapping crisis to another, the PR industry thrives. Nick Cohen is mad as hell and can’t take it any more:

As with Nye Bevan and Conservatives so with me and PR departments: “No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for press officers. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.” Or as the BBC’s economics editor Robert Peston put it in his recent Charles Wheeler lecture, “I have never been in any doubt that PRs are the enemy.”

[...] You might say that biased reporters look more like sex workers, as they try to satisfy their readers’ every whim. But there is a small difference. The biased journalist occasionally tells the truth. He might produce propaganda, but his bias or that of his editor will cause him to investigate stories conventional wisdom does not notice. Right-wing journalists uncover truths about corruption in the European Union. Left-wing journalists discover truths about the crimes of Nato armies. They look at scandals others ignore precisely because they do not think like level-headed and respectable members of the mainstream.

Press officers have no concern with truth. It is not that all of them lie — although many do — rather that truth and falsity are irrelevant to their work. Their sole concern is to defend their employers’ interests. That they can manipulate on behalf of central government, local authority and other public bodies is an under-acknowledged scandal. The party in power that wishes to stop public scrutiny, or the NHS trust whose executives wish to maintain their positions, use taxpayer funds to advance their personal or political interests. If anyone else did the same, we would call them thieves.

Roy Greenslade feels much the same way.

Posted in Journalism, Media, UK politics | Tagged , , ,

Football fever

world cup chicago OLSON single

Supporters in Chicago.  Photo by Scott Olson/Getty.  Go here to see more of his shots from “the most soccer-mad city in America”.

Posted in Photography, Sport | Tagged , ,

The Brazilians’ fear of the goalkeeper

[*Blogpost title with apologies to Peter Handke.]

Neymar aside, it’s very hard to work up much enthusiasm for the Brazilian XI in the World Cup. The general lack of confidence and guile on display almost reminds me of England. How about that for an insulting comparison?  At each game I’ve seen so far, the singing of the national anthem has been the only time the players look roughly in synch. Will they  beat Colombia on Friday? I wouldn’t count on it. Ah well,  at least the host nation has a quality player between the posts this time. Not that the locals can ever get all that excited over whoever wears the No 1 jersey:

Júlio César, the starting goalkeeper for Brazil, is a frangueiro (chicken man). He is also a peru (turkey) and, on occasion, a mão de alface (or, roughly, lettuce hands). These are the printable euphemisms that Brazilians have for goalkeepers… In Brazil, goalkeepers are special, and not in a good way. They are the Little League right fielders, the last boy picked. In pickup games on the countless asphalt courts around this country, children usually play a form of rock-paper-scissors to decide which unlucky soul has to begin the game at goalkeeper. In the slightly more organized games in which adults rent a field to play on, anyone who agrees to play goalkeeper always plays free of charge.

[Via Simon Romero]

Posted in Brazil, Sport | Tagged , , ,

“Good lecturer, ugly shoes.”


HT: TaxProfBlog via Althouse

Posted in Comedy, Education | Tagged


Along with direct rule, the French brought their penal code to Vietnam. Goodwill largely motivated them, since Vietnamese law beheaded thieves and had adulterous women trampled to death by elephants. But French jurisprudence confused and convulsed Vietnam’s traditional legal system without creating a viable alternative. It could not handle subtle Vietnamese judicial nuances, such as refraining from pronouncing a defendant’s name in court lest he “lose face”. It also contributed to the erosion of Vietnamese society in which, according to Confucian tenets, the father arbitrated family altercations or called on a respected dignitary to mediate a dispute informally. Besides, French justice lost its credibility when colonial police could wantonly jail suspects for years without putting them on trial.

Stanley Karnow, “Vietnam: A History”.

Posted in History, Notebook | Tagged , , ,


Another of my 20 essential Brazilian songs from the Sunday Times.  The playlist is on Spotify too.

Posted in Brazil, Music, Uncategorized | Tagged ,


Angela’s mother employed her colour very much as she practised certain winning usages of smile and voice to obtain indulgence which meant much to her and which took nothing from anyone else. Then, too, she was possessed of a keener sense of humour than her daughter; it amused her when by herself to take lunch at an exclusive restaurant whose patrons would have been panic-stricken if they had divined the presence of a “coloured” woman no matter how little her appearance differed from theirs. It was with no idea of disclaiming her own that she sat in orchestra seats which Philadelphia denied to coloured patrons. But when Junius or indeed any other dark friend accompanied her she was the first to announce that she liked to sit in the balcony. or gallery, as indeed she did.

Jessie Redmon Fauset, “Plum Bun: A Novel Without A Moral”

Posted in Notebook, Literature, Race | Tagged , ,


Doyle Family, 2010

“Doyle Family, 2010″, from “Mixed Blood”, portraits of mixed-race families by the photographer known simply as Cyjo. [HT @Lucas_Jackson]

Posted in Photography, Race | Tagged ,

Unflinching jazz memoir title of the year

We have a clear winner, courtesy of Art Pepper’s widow: “Art: Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman”. Sounds like a very good read though.

Posted in Literature, Music | Tagged , ,

Soft power, 1945

Coke ad Paris 1945

Coke means “We’re your allies.” Magazine ad from the end of world War Two. HT:   & 

Posted in Art, History, World War 2 | Tagged , , ,