The Friday Speed Read
Of all the casualties inflicted by the landmark / woeful (delete according to political preference) year that was 2016, one that’s so far managed to duck any notable level of scrutiny is the death of hyperbole. We realise that we’re in danger of sounding like the kind of blog that suggests that the last great truly great album was Radiohead’s OK Computer (which, my god, is nigh-on 20 years old) but it really wasn’t that long ago when hyperbole would be identified, highlighted and pilloried whenever it appeared. And it appeared a lot on the front pages of British newspapers.
So, when a tabloid headline screamed about “Weather Armageddon” or “The Most Evil Man that’s Ever Lived Ever” or “Footballer in Ten-in-a-bed Scrabble Tournament”, we all just shook our heads and laughed. Oh there we go, good old Fleet Street, Professor Hyperbole is alive and well and living in the hearts of us all.
But that was of course Pre-BrexTrump when life was carefree / ruined by a Liberal elite (again, delete according to political preference if you wouldn’t mind) but now in the Bright White Light of the Age of Trexit (Brump?), all such exaggeration is rendered sterile.
You can’t exaggerate the already-exaggerated. You can’t hyperbolise hyperbole.
On Wednesday 29th of March a letter signed by TM the PM was hand-delivered to EU President Donald Tusk and this somewhat anticlimactic piece of admin was enough to begin what’s going to be the biggest change to the way the UK is run since, at least, 1973 when we joined the then EEC, and conceivably even since the end of the Second World War.
In other words, it’s big. It’s really big. You really can’t get any bigger.
After a brief moment of national unity and mourning following the murders in Westminster last week, the now familiar, bitter dichotomy of views that continue to dominate life in the UK despite TM’s plea for unity, returned with a predictable intensity. The Daily Express acted as though a century of Christmasses had come all at once; the Sun dropped a pun (“Dover and Out” – verdict 5/10) the Daily Mail barked out the single word “Freedom” at very high volume and then following morning the Mail and Express treated the world to a Double Farage, both printing a picture of the MEP for South East England, wearing Union Jack socks, quaffing a pint of foaming English Ale and smiling like a man who knows he’s pulled off the near-impossible.
To recklessly misquote George Orwell, if you want a picture of the future, imagine a union jack sock inside an Oxford brogue, morris dancing on a human face – forever.
Earlier in the week, The Daily Mail got all hot under its starchy collar, with a photograph of TM the PM and Nicola Sturgeon, photographed from below, their legs slightly foregrounded in the frame. “Forget Brexit”, it chortled, “Who won Legs-it?”. Cue a barrage of criticism from all corners of Planet Politics, with people suggesting with some strength, that maybe the two women in the photograph are worthy of a debate that extends beyond the fact that, being human and everything, they have legs.
But then the following day, Sarah Vine, writing in the same paper, scolded all those accusing the paper of misogyny for having a massive sense of humour failure and reacting like, “snowflakes still stuck in a rut of Seventies-style feminism”.
And thank goodness we’ve moved on so far since then.
Not to be outpunched in the frenzied attack on hyperbole, Donald Trump this week committed to undoing much of the environmental progress made in the final months of Obama’s presidency by reviewing the carbon dioxide limits imposed on fossil-fuelled power plants and greenlighting the so-called Keystone oil pipeline between the US and Canada. Climate Change campaigners shouted their objections to both, given their obvious potential to exacerbate a global rise in temperatures. It’s hard not to think of this as a moment almost as influential as Article 50’s invocation, particularly when this may just be the beginning of Trump’s rolling back of environmental regulation.
A point of no-return? Five years ago this would have been just a silly hyperbole. But now, well, it just feels all too real.
So, in the face of all the above, thank goodness then for sculptor Emanuel Santos, whose bust of footballer Cristiano Ronaldo was unveiled at Madeira Airport in celebration of its name change to honour the island’s most famous son. The bust has been ridiculed for its, at best, tangential resemblance to “CR07” but Santos remained defiant:
“It is impossible to please the Greeks and Trojans. Neither did Jesus please everyone,” Mr Santos said.
Mr Santos. The Friday Speed Read salutes you.
And because we mentioned OK Computer, here is the video for Radiohead’s No Surprises. The link between a man in a glass box that’s slowly but irresistibly filling up with water has no symbolic relevance to the week just gone. None at all. Don’t even go there.
Have a great weekend.