Quoth the Master: Mediacrity

The difficulty with free choice is that there are so many possibilities you’ll probably end up choosing something stupid, as Iran discovered in 1979. So it is, perhaps, for my choice of subject today. In flicking through the Facebook Guardian App (being careful, of course, only to read articles which would show my Facebook friends how sane and progressive I am) I stumbled across the next batch of evidence from the Leveson Inquiry, and thought “Wow! Writing about this would be far better than my previous idea (that ironic essay about ants that culminates in a dreadful pun).”

f you’re wondering what the Leveson Inquiry is, it’s a high-profile judge-led investigation into something that isn’t worth explaining to people who don’t pay attention to the news. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Leveson Inquiry is that it should have happened twenty years ago, and that it took the phone-hacking of murder victims to finally raise eyebrows about the legal and ethical issues that might just possibly arise from electronically spying on people and sifting through their bins.

The great thing about the Inquiry, however, the really great thing, is that in contrast to other serious and important investigations, it’s just like watching a celebrity puppet show of the ITV-or-garden variety. We can see the despicable minor celebrities we hate getting grilled, and the cool minor celebrities we like saying how despicable the despicable minor celebrities we hate are. Robert Jay Q.C. is the man with the barbeque apron on, resembling a bespectacled Noel Edmunds of the past, only he humiliates his guests on national television rather than himself (I suspect this look was intentional, as the prospect of Noel Edmunds dying in 40 years rather than 20 would certainly shake me up before giving evidence).

But will this format really produce the sexiest results? Will it give us the hack-slaying, neutrality-enforcing, ethics-imposing legislative juggernaut we’re all hoping for? I doubt it. Don’t get me wrong: the format is great fun. There is nothing at all disagreeable about watching Piers Morgan squirm and fizzle under a magnifying glass before being thrown back into the pond he came from. But the Inquiry seems awfully like a show trial of the UK’s pantomime baddies, rather than the serious probe it’s meant to be, and I’m doubtful about whether this grand performance will end with any meaningful recommendations (Other than Piers Morgan’s head on a stick, which everyone seems to be in agreement over). Perhaps I’m being overly cynical, though, and it really is possible for something this important to be this entertaining. If so, for future inquiries into the creepy-crawlies that lurk below the pavement of our society, Leveson certainly ups the ante.

-Alexander Shattock