Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Congratulations Harold

In 2005 Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Apart from a few predictable pieces, the media silence was deafening. I wrote a small piece on the subject and posted it on my MySpace page titled: Congratulations Harold. It was both a celebration of the great man and a damning commentary on the lack of media coverage the event received.

A week or so later I received an email from the MySpace admin team asking me to edit or remove my post. The admin said they had been receiving a lot of “traffic” expressing concern at the content of my post and questioned what I hoped to achieve by publicizing such views. I said I wasn't trying to achieve anything, I was simply venting, voicing my opinion, plus I hadn't received one single complaint. They then suggested it might be in everyone's interest if I simply removed the post, as they were sure I wouldn't want to offend anyone.

Okay, I replied to them, so let me get this straight. MySpace happily promotes:

Smut? Yes.
Expressions of violence? Yes.
Horrible music, in every sense? Sure.
Political campaigning? Yep.
Religious dogma? Disturbingly in greater quantities.
Adultery? Yes, and we made it easier.
Online Predators? Yes, and we made it way easier.
Exploitation? The site runs on it, actually.
Ignorance? More the merrier.
Free exchange of ideas? Sure. Oh wait, you mean intelligent ideas? Then no.
The greatest living British playwright? Heavens no!

I ended by asking if this kind of censorship would have happened before Murdoch took ownership of MySpace. Their response was short and to the point. “It's our policy not to discuss Mr. Murdoch with the public." It was then I suggested theirs was a rather bizarre policy, considering they seemed more than happy to suck his dick in public.

It was around that time I discovered myself and my account had parted company. 

Below is the offending article, posted on my MySpace blog in 2005.


Last week, the finest living British playwright recorded, from his wheelchair, an acceptance speech for the greatest literary prize on earth. And yet anyone who wished or hoped to see an allusion to that talk would have searched the mainstream television schedules in vain.

He received no mention on any of the BBC’s main television news programmes. The BBC flagship news and culture programme, ‘Newsnight’, carried absolutely nothing; there was not a single mention of the fact that a British writer had, this month, been awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize for literature. Harold Pinter's acceptance speech was restricted to the satellite channel, More4, with a late night repeat on Channel 4. And that, quite simply, was that.

What about our newspapers, did they all celebrate this fantastic achievement? Or did many of them choose to ignore literary history in favour of a farcical assault on a dying man’s political beliefs? Long admired for his dramatic work, Harold Pinter has been equally reviled for his political activism. His crime, according to the media, is voicing strong concerns about others’ crimes; those being crimes against humanity. For his 'crime', one of the world’s greatest living writers suffers the fate of so many writers before him: censorship. Except this isn’t nineteenth century Russia, this is twenty-first century Britain.

Powerful interests with plenty at stake drive the brutal truth of modern media and politics - that honesty and sincerity are heavily punished rather than rewarded. It does not matter how often the likes of Harold Pinter are shown to be right. It does not matter how often the likes of Bush and Blair are shown to have lied in the cause of power and profits. The job of mainstream journalism is to learn nothing from the past, to treat rare individuals motivated by compassion as rare fools deserving contempt. The benefits are clear enough: if even high-profile dissidents can be painted as wretched sickly fools, then which reader or viewer would want to be associated with dissent? As such, ‘normal’ (conforming, consuming, looking after number one) can be made to seem healthy, balanced, sensible and sane.

Journalists everywhere deferred to Les Roberts (one of the world’s leading epidemiologists) when he estimated millions of deaths in the Congo in 2000 and 2001. Yet he was publicly humiliated and judged a fool, guilty of schoolboy errors, when estimating 100,000 civilian deaths since the March 2003 US-UK invasion of Iraq. That is nothing less than disgusting - both his treatment and the grim reality of those figures. Realism is seductive because once you have accepted the reasonable notion that you should base your actions on reality, you are too often led to accept, without much questioning, someone else’s version of what that reality is. It is a crucial act of independent thinking to be sceptical of someone else’s description of reality.

The great task of propaganda is to make dissent seem unrealistic, embarrassing, and absurd. And unfortunately, in this very real crime against a wonderfully brilliant man, it’s done just that.

“The theatre is what the British have always been good at. And nobody has so come to represent the theatre’s strengths, its rigours, and its glories, as Harold Pinter.” (David Hare, December 10, 2005)

The 2005 Nobel Prize for literature belongs to Harold Pinter.

Congratulations Harold. I’m proud of you.