Last night's Channel 4 drama "Black Mirror - The National Anthem", written by Charlie Brooker, was quite superb; by turns hilarious, suspenseful, horrifying and illuminating. It certainly lived up to its title, holding up a dark reflection of ourselves in the age of 24 hour rolling news, social networks and the hive mind.
I don't want to spoil the plot too much if you haven't seen it (you can get it from 4OD) but the story revolves around a Kate Middleton figure who has been kidnapped; the kidnappers don't want money, their demand is that the Prime Minister has sex with a pig, live on TV.
What we see is a government, and it could be any government, utterly at a loss at how to cope with the new world that's been created under their feet, unable to control their citizenry empowered as they are with the new tools of the social network age. "Why haven't you taken it down" says the PM when informed the ransom demand video is on YouTube. "We have," says a Whitehall mandarin "but every time we take one down ten more spring up in its place". This is a world where government can issue as many D-Notices and super injunctions and subtle (and not so subtle) leaning on journalists and it makes no difference. In the past the saying was that a lie could be half way round the world before the truth got its boots on , in the Twitter age an embarrassing truth can be three times round the world and have nipped down to the pub for a pint before the government censorship machine has even woken up.
In the drama even when the story leaks with Fox News and Al Jazeera (who,lets face it, wouldn't give a shit about a UK Government D notice at the best of times) broadcasting first the networks are coy, referring to "an indecent act'. "What indecent act" says a drayman to a barmaid as he makes a deliver "'e's got to do it wif' a pig" says the landlady's kid, hardly looking up from his BlackBerry. Now not only is it impossible to hide the story it's impossible to edit out the gory details.
I believe Charlie Brooker's main point he was trying to make is make us ask "well if this did happen, would you watch it, would you really watch, on live TV, a man utterly humiliating himself in a depraved spectacle... of course you would you sick fucks, we all would, we're human, this is what we do" and we see deserted streets as the minutes tick down to the deadline, crowds gathering round TV's giving lecherous cheers and "go on my son" encouragement which morphs into a sort of horrified cross between revulsion and fascination; a worldwide "Two Girls One Cup" reaction video*
But for my money what is more interesting is the what this drama says about the power we, the common man, the sixty million to their six hundred, now carry around in our pockets. We have seen this year that this shit can bring down governments in the so-called Arab Spring. Our lords and masters must be truly afraid.
* for the love of Fafnir if you are at work and you don't understand the reference DO NOT Google that!
Labour Hit Back at 1300-Word Gove Letter - Almost like he touched a nerve… Tagged: Michael Gove
6 minutes ago