Germany last week, on a poetry reading tour. Rock and Roll, eh? "It's Wednesday! It must be Frankfurt". My German is non-existent. Apart from hello, goodbye, thank you, excuse me, coffee, and wellensittich.
So, in Frankfurt, back in the hotel room (still sulking because I didn't have time to bunk off and go the zoo), under framed intaglios of Die Wülkere, listening to the sounds of a late-night delivery to the Turkish restaurant next door, I flip on the telly. There's bound to be some Hollywood movie subtitled in German, I think. Flick through the channels. News, cookery programmes, news, footage of ruined Schlösser, Blam! CSI! Dubbed into German. The Rock! Dubbed into German. A little frisson of brownout dims the repro chandelier for a second. Blam! American tv movie, dubbed into German. Ach....
So what was left? CNN EUROPE. OMG. I swore blind I'd never, ever have a sophomoric rant about the media, but I was wrong. CNN Europe is so....so...so...brain-washingly repetitive; segments fold and reappear with nightmarish, sickening, HP Lovecraftish inevitability. It is a land of bristling superficialities cut through by Day Today graphics, interspersed with Hilton Hotel infomercials and populated by bizarre creatures made of crisp serge, porcelain teeth, and lighting effects. Masters of the Universe my arse.
Report on bird flu, 27 October 2005. Enthusiastic anchorwoman interviews epidemiologist. "I was talking to someone earlier" she says, wide-eyed, "and they told me that the reason bird flu is spreading is because birds migrate! Is that true?"
Now: fifteen seconds footage of Kofi Annan giving a speech. What do you hear? Not Kofi Annan, mate. You might want to know what Kofi Annan is saying, but you can't. Oh no. What you DO hear is CNN news drums blamming away in the background. And out of the drums, like a voice from far away, comes the Truth. Out of the delphic vapours the deadly voice of the killer anchorman says something of no more import than: "Kofi Annan gave a speech today". Disasters! Hurricanes! Famines! Here are the dispossessed, angry and voiceless, talking. You can see their mouths moving. But you don't get to hear them talk. Oh no. "Bringing you the truth...as people see it" is an inspired slogan.
CNN is like someone who, upon witnessing a multi-vehicle fatal car accident, points at the carnage and says "that's a Ford Focus and that's a Scania sixteen-wheel truck".
Sophomoric rant over. Thank god for this