straight jacket

I could be wrong but from what I have gathered, the ability to write well requires watching everything all the time including yourself and your thoughts and imaginings as well as everyone else’s. It’s like spying on yourself. I wonder if the Stasi and the KGB produced good writers, people trained to spy and watch each other all the time, trained to spy on each other’s farts even. Spying on a fart. That level of observation must have produced a few decent writers. Writing a fart. But perhaps their weakness was the inability to observe themselves after all those years observing others. Except that observing others is of course also about observing yourself. That’s the whole point perhaps. Maybe that’s why those spying regimes finally crumble because people can’t cope with the spying on themselves. That is of course what happens eventually. You don’t need to train the spies because people teach themselves, willingly, how to spy and how to watch and how to tell the authorities who is who. The subtleties of deviant behaviour. There is a level of madness required to spy on others and to spy on yourself, to watch continually for interesting behaviour and then note it and write it. It must be a form of madness. Which may sound pretentious but I’m absolutely sure I’m onto something here.

It just occurred to me (thirty minutes later) that it could be the other way around: the best writers become the spies precisely because they’re so good at observing. Think about it…

P.S. The book Flat Earth News by Nick Davies would, by the sounds of this review, finish me off entirely. I would not be able to read it without talking to it, shouting out in agreement with it, and then slowly softening into depressed silence about the state of the British and much of the world’s media. It’s not just the printing crowd who regurgitate unverified facts as shock and awe news reports, it’s the broadcasters too. Yes, of course, the BBC has a long history of regurgitating the wires. One of the ways I found I could sell stories easily to the BBC was to first write them for one of the wires I, unhappily, worked for during brief periods of my reporting career. Until the producers had seen the story on Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France Presse or a.n.other, they wouldn’t believe it. It’s still the case. And another odd thing was that the BBC’s ‘two source’ rule often applied to two agency wires. But in some countries of the world, the wires get their information from the same people. And certainly, I have known many BBC stringers who – due to meagre salaries – also worked for the wires. I could go on and on and on…

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