Speed 04 August 2017

When the line between dystopian fiction and the 10 O’clock news begins to blur then it’s probably fair enough that we start worrying. In a week in which it was reported that family TV viewing is being replaced by box-set-binging, Sunday saw the final episode of a bleak, profoundly troubling vision of an all-too-plausible alternative reality in the adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, starring the unfairly talented Elisabeth Moss. Then on Monday another bleak, profoundly troubling vision of an all-too-plausible alternative reality commenced with the return of ‘Celebrity’ Big Brother.

We’re not sure which is scarier.

But that’s not the end of it. Do remember in The Terminator when all the computers have gone rogue and exact their revenge for being made to run Windows 95 for all those years by building killer robots and waging war on humanity? Well that happened too this week. Well, it almost certainly would have done had a Facebook boffin not pulled the plug when it was discovered that two of its AI bots, Bob and Alice, began talking to each other in a language that they only they understood. Here’s an extract:

Bob: i can i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: you i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

Bob: i i can i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

Bob: i . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

Admittedly, it’s a bit of leap between a private language and the mechanised destruction of humanity but WE CAN’T BE TOO CAREFUL. In the meantime, with all their talk of balls and “me, me, me”, Bob and Alice have both now got agents and will be entering the Big Brother house this coming weekend.

(By the way, the Big Brother house is haunted by the ghosts of Jade Goody and David Guest. This must be true as The Star dedicated the entirety of its Thursday front page to the story).

The dystopian theme continued in the US this week as lovable rogue Mr D.J. Trump took steps to counter all that beastly fake news by doing what any lover of democracy would do in such trying circumstances and set up his own news channel. That’ll show them. And who has DJT appointed to present this new show? His daughter-in-law Lara Trump.

Talking of the continuing adventures in TrumpLand, it was another stormy week in the White House which saw the departure of Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci a mere 10 days after being given the job. Newly-appointed Chief of Staff John Kelly didn’t like the cut of his jib and he was shown the door but not before he’d told the BBC – “Where I come from we stab people in the front”. A real loss to politics.

Back on the right-hand side of the Atlantic, and as we approach the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, many newspapers battled with their consciences to form a view about the so-called Diana Tapes, private conversations recorded by her voice coach and to be broadcast as part of a documentary on Channel 4 this coming Sunday. In other Diana news, the Daily Mail has spent the week curating a Diana Fashion Special looking back at some of her greatest outfits worn during her short life. 20 years ago looks like a completely different world.

Elsewhere, the England women’s football team got a lot of coverage, particularly after beating France in the quarter final of the European Championship (they then lost to the Netherlands in the semis); not that everyone was happy about the growing profile of the women’s game. Here’s Dominic Lawson in the Daily Mail:

“Please stop telling us that women’s sport is as good as men’s. It isn’t”.

So there.

There was widespread coverage for the latest example of scientists doing incredible things, with the news that a team have successfully edited the DNA in human embryos to remove genetic mutations that cause inherited disease. Whether you think this is breakthrough that will save millions of lives or has the whiff of hubris about it is a matter of personal choice but every paper was quick to point that “designer babies” could be the logical destination of DNA editing in this way. And that’s a whole other nest of dystopian wasps.

(which is a good name for band – “Hello Wembley! We’re the Dystopian Wasps . . . . “)

Finally, the majority of the Thursday papers featured The Duke of Edinburgh on their front pages, dressed in a mac, a dapper bowler hat and standing in the pouring rain during his final solo royal engagement. If the Daily Express had bowed any further it would have fallen over. “Thank you, sir” it simpered, a theme that continued in its special souvenir pull-out of the Duke’s life of royal service. All the papers agreed though, that at the age of 96, retirement is probably fair enough.

And there we go. An entire edition of TFSR passes without a single mention of Brexit. Which makes a for a rather pleasant change. Although don’t mention the queues for security at European airports which many papers have been very cross about indeed this week.

The Friday Speed Read is off on holiday for a couple of weeks so let’s banish all dystopian thoughts and end with something sun-drenched and appropriately jolly (and in defiance of the terrible weather). See you later in the month.