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Join the Big Brother trail and save British food

Friday 19 January 2007

Our countryside and rural affairs commentator John Sheard, a self-confessed Luddite desperately coming to terms with 21st Century communications, urges readers to copy the Big Brother example and launch an email campaign to save British food

I STARTED my career as a copy boy/cub reporter in the days of "hot metal", when anything I wrote, after being sub-edited, was eventually converted into molten lead to be turned into reverse-image type which eventually got brushed with ink and printed on to very inferior paper called "newsprint."

blair in downing street
Give Blair something to chew on

My copy was written in pencil on specially cut sheets on this awful paper because ink from a biro or fountain pen spread into indecipherable blots. To use one of the four ancient typewriters, which were commandeered in normal working hours by the four senior reporters, I had to get to the office early, work through the lunch hour or stay on after everyone else had gone home.

When I was editing a series of glossy magazines some 20 years ago, and had a secretary to do any posh letter typing for me, someone plonked a primitive word processor on my desk and said "Get on with it: as the boss, you must set a good example to your staff."

I resisted like any good Luddite but after several months of agony, I realised it was do or die: unless I conquered that evil machine I would be out on the scrap-heap in my prime. Then came the Internet and the web and here I am, thanks to the support of my Daelnet colleagues, who treat my like a favoured younger brother, sorting me out and trying not to laugh when I create some inexplicable computer cock-up.

Despite this, there still lurks in me some of the old Luddite doubts: the only truly powerful media, I believed, lay on the printed page or, on the odd occasion, radio or TV. This week, that delusion was shattered by a hilarious row over an imbecilic TV show called Big Brother inflamed by the newest media kids on the block, the world wide web and the Internet.

I have never watched Big Brother nor any other so-called "reality show" - which are deliberately designed to create friction amongst contestants of questionable intelligence - but as I understand it, some white girls said something unpleasant to a beautiful Indian girl and, suddenly, the whole race relations industry was alerted and began sending millions of emails across the world demanding retribution.

The web and the Internet are potentially the most powerful media that man has invented

Within hours, the media watchdog Ofcom had received 20,000 complaints, the highest number ever, and by the time this article is posted, there will have been many thousands more. Ludicrously, it has caused an international incident between the UK and India and, much to my delight, caused enormous embarrassment to would-be Prime Minister Gordon Brown who just happened to be on a visit to the Sub-Continent.

Now I heartily applaud anything that embarrasses Brown, who had never shown any form of remorse over wrecking the British economy and reducing millions of old age pensioners to abject poverty, but reading the papers about all this, I suddenly caught on:

The web and the Internet are potentially the most powerful media that man has invented. If a cat fight between young women of minimal talent can cause worldwide headlines and a fall-out between once-friendly major nations, what could it do if something really important happened?

In other words, how could the country folk who read this column use this remarkable tool to fight for their rights in a media world totally dominated until now by the London-based media, who think you fall off the edge of the world at Watford?

Fortunately, better brains than mine were at work and, this week, the County Land and Business Association called upon its members to start a camping against Tony Blair who, famously once asked what was the point in growing food in Britain when it was cheaper to import it?

In his arrogance, Blair this week set up a new website at 10 Downing Street urging people to "Just Ask." The idea is to create a two-way discourse between rulers and the ruled.

So Douglas Chalmers, Northern Director of the CLA, is urging people to ask "Where does our food come from" every time we shop or eat out in a restaurant or a pub. At a time when there is growing concern about the enormous waste in cost and pollution of flying food in from abroad, or dragging it millions of miles around Britain when it could be grown on the farm up the road, this could literally be quite a hot potato.

I don't suppose it will cause quite the same stir as a big brother spat - after all, more people vote on that show than in local government elections - but it might make some influential townies sit up and take notice, particularly politicians who might see a few votes in it. So get onto the web, people, and make an old Luddite happy!

Your views:

  • Blair's view is asinine. We have, from time immemorial, a history of producing the highest quality livestock. This is made possible by our temperate climate and first~class terrain. When there are still famines and shortages, it is our moral imperative to continue providing food.

    We have also, as a nation led the world, and prospered, in producing wool. Artificial fibres depend on non~renewable fossil fuels for their production and are pollutant and carbon~prodigal at all stages of their life~cycle. The current global warming scare serves only to highlight these defects, making a wool renaissance an urgent necessity.

    B R I T I S H F A R M E R S, F I G H T B A C K!

    Peter Thornber - Settle


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