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Post-modern, post-structural, or bullshit?

Posted on 25 March 2009 | 8:03am

And so, by popular demand from Facebook friends and Twitter followers, my blog review of my BBC review of In The Loop.

First, let me express my continuing confusion as to what does and does not connect with you online community people. I mean, yesterday morning I posted a moderately thoughtful blog about the lessons from Obama’s campaign based on a new Fabian Society book and a panel discussion, and in came a few comments to the website, next to none on Facebook and Twitter.

Then, a bit bored and with writer’s block setting in as I rewrote the ending to my next novel, I twitter (or should that be tweet? – I have not worked out my nouns and my verbs yet) the question as to whether it is too post-modern for me to blog a review of my own review of In The Loop on BBC 2’s The Culture Show. Whoosh … in they come by the screenload – some say no, very funnily, most say yes, go for it. So I will.

Now a bit of background. As I said in an earlier blog, the Culture Show’s original idea was for me to watch it with  psychopathic spin doctor Malcolm Tucker, or at least the actor who plays him, Peter Capaldi, and his creator, Armando Ianucci. Despite my agreeing to this, the idea never materialised and so I watched it with Mark Kermode instead.

Kermode seems to be someone who divides opinion. Perhaps that’s why we got on ok. I didn’t know that much about him, but since it became known I had done a programme with him, I’ve had lots of people saying they really like him – a Burnley fan at Ipswich said he was ‘a God’ and looked like he was going to punch me when I said I thought that might be overstating it – and a few who really don’t, like the Facebook message this morning that said he looked like Michael Portillo after a stroke. Harsh.

I have to speak as I find and I found him engaging, clever and easy to get on with, though I had to take him to task for his lazy post-pre-post-modern view that all politics is crass and venal. Again, to be fair, they kept that bit in last night, and believe me, they had a lot of material to choose from. Oh my God, we were there for hours. Poor James Gandolfini – aka Tony Soprano – who plays a pacificst American general, never got a look in. Ditto the discussion about whether MPs hate their constituents – I think they don’t, the film suggests they do.

So the judgement for me becomes whether they made a reasonably interesting film and whether it captured the nub of the argument we had. On the second point, I think they did, though it was interesting how many Facebookers and Twitterers said they still couldn’t work out whether I really liked it or not – I didn’t – and whether I would recommend it – I would, but not if you want it to be as funny as The Thick of It, and not if Damned United or The Class are showing at the same cinema.

On the first point, given it was just two blokes watching a film and then talking about it, I thought they did ok with what they had. Perhaps more relevant is the view of the woman lying in bed with me as I watched it (yes, I’m an early to bed early to rise man and yes, it was Fiona) who said ‘they keep asking you the same thing in a different way and you keep saying the same thing in a different way.’ That’s what strategic communications is all about, dear. I was taking another opportunity to defend politics and the political class against cynicism but in a different context to my usual blathering. Oh, she said.

I must also thank Fiona for the nice new white shirts she bought me a few weeks ago when she was busy promoting her book about the need to share the domestic workload more. There was quite a fuss (for BBC continuity reasons) about whether I could watch it part with jacket on, part with jacket off. In the end, the style police said ok to have jacket on to arrive, but jacket off for whole film or on for the whole film. I think the white shirt and red tie worked against the red seats. Two men in suits watching a film – nah.

Anyway, to those who said reviewing your own review was post- modern, post- structrual, self-promotion gone mad, or just plain bullshit, many thanks for watching, reading and commenting.

I’m doing Radio 5 Live at half eight, defending social workers. They called because they had read my blog about social workers a couple of weeks ago when I said Barnardo’s chief executive Martin Narey did a great job making the case for social workers. So someone’s out there … even if the social worker blog also got less response from Facebookers and Twitterers than my tweet about The Culture Show. I’ll work it all out one day, but then there’ll be another phenomenon to catch up with.

  • Paul Marshall

    I don’t think Kermode is a God either, but I do like his film reviews. I couldn’t really work out whether he liked it either, and usually he is quite clear. I think what you said in The Guardian was right – they were really hoping you got upset by it. I thought one or two of the clips looked ok, and I’m interested to see if Gandolfini can break out of the Soprano typecast. Not easy.

  • Tony Quinn

    Many thanks for your very positive contribution to mental health issues and your continued support for the political process, despite its weaknesses. I’m sure the BBC regret trying to set you up on The Culture Show.

  • Judith Haire

    Yes you’re right about the verb Twitter..I tweet, you tweet
    When you’re ready to catch up with another phenomenon what about Capello Why can’t he leave Ledley King alone he has a poorly knee never likely to get better and Harry isn’t happy. Yes the England team needs good defenders but John Terry is a phenomenon in himself. Can’t stay going to listen to you on Five Live. Glad you rose above the Culture show episode. Keep blogging.

  • Jane A

    What does and doesn’t connect – interesting one.

    For me, it’s not whether or not I’d like to respond or whether the subject chimes with me (almost all do, as you probably know by now) : it’s just that old chestnut, time.

    It’s a two second job to write something flip about your review, but I’d want to sit and think about the Obama/Fabian one and give it the thought it deserves and post something half-way sensible. And by the time I do, that blog has been superceded and we’ve all moved on. But none of it is lack of interest.

    I recorded the Culture Show (is there a verb “to Sky+”?) so will watch tonight.

    Brilliant that you’re doing a stand up for social workers – GOOD for you. Excellent.

  • Ken Coker

    I’ll swap your “strategic communications” for “self-reflective practice”.

  • Luis Alvarez

    After watching the culture show last night I immediately felt uplifted. Every time I see politicians on TV afraid to stand up against the usual lazy caricature of modern politics portaited by the media I feel betrayed as an active participant of politics and worried by the impact on the already apathetic population.

    Congratulations Mr. Campbell

  • Alina Palimaru

    I agree with Jane A on feedback. But in addition to the ‘time’ problem, I also think that our predisposition to respond to certain posts is conditioned by the nature of the media we use to convey our views. Some of the lighter topics may seem to generate more interest, simply because one can throw their two cents in with quick, short, simple statements, which is consistent with the thirst for speed induced by Twitter, IM or FB. Some of the more complicated issues elicit interest as well, but because most of us are used to the instant gratification of 140-character Tweets, IM, and even cryptic emails (C U B4 2pm, BRB etc), I suspect our brains gradually give in to brevity, and we become less willing to think through more meaningful feedback. Or, as AC points out, we are discouraged to respond altogether.

    While some people use these new media thoughtfully and to great social and political effect, I also remark that, generally there is an increase in volume (i.e. someone sending 200 tweets per day, mostly mono-syllabic, or just banal) and a decrease in quality and meaning. It’s great that someone can connect with me 200 times a day, but does “LOL” or “watcha doin?” tell me much about you or us? Is there really meaning to it? Not sure…

  • Emilianna

    Message boards are less dependent on 24 hour cycles as new topics are brought up. On some boards, it isn’t rare for a single political point to be discussed for days.

    And yesterday, once the “Paul” comment was up, there wasn’t any use commenting on anything else and I’m not going to acknowledge someone who can’t even tell the difference between the Gulf War and the Iraq war… “Nothing personal”? Please.

    I’m not sure there are lessons to be learned from the Obama campaign insofar as much of his success had to do with riding the wave of history that propelled him to power. You can’t replicate a thing in his persona that compelled people to project their aspirations and dreams upon him. He also happens to be the wrong president for this economic crisis. Had the market crashed last Spring, he would never have won the candidacy. Or he shouldn’t have.

    Post-modern: I’m going to keep goading you to indulge in self-reflexivity. It’s thoroughly entertaining and it’s driving your detractors insane with bilious wrath. That’s what I call a win-win situation.


    P.S.: I knew the “woman” was Fiona and am utterly troubled you felt the need to confirm it.

  • JessicaNulk

    I love it! That is way cool man! The steps weren’t that complicated too, which is great.

  • ArianaReed

    Good work! Thank you very much! I always wanted to write in my blog something like that. Can I take part of your post to my blog? Of course, I will add backlink?