Bleats

Reports Of A New Government Butt-Squad Are Tragically Nowhere Near As Interesting As You’d Hope

But oh, what a magnificent phrase it has bequeathed our culture!

Clickbait has a bad name, frankly, because there is a genuine art to an eye-catching headline.

In these go-go frantic days of mobile reading and 24 hour news cycles, when every news organisation is frantically competing for eyeballs, being able to draw the jaded reader into one’s site even for a second is battle of gladiatorial proportions.

And if you’re a newspaper reporting a reasonably dry story about a reasonably dull topic – that the government are cracking down on the illegal tobacco trade, which is apparently a thing – then you need to do something more snazzy than “People Are Cheating The Tobacco Industry Out Of Poison Dollars”. Which is what I would have gone with while deploying all the insufferable smugness of an asthmatic lifetime non-smoker.

And thus I would like to applaud the unknown Fairfax subeditor who worked clickrate magic on journalist Mark Kenny’s piece on Sunday, “Government ‘butt-squad’ to chase billions in criminal tobacco fraud”.

I want this on a t-shirt, or possibly a back tatt.

Government Butt Squad.

Just roll that around your mouth for a second. It’s just an enjoyable thing to say out loud, as well as being an amazing name for your next punk band.

It’s such a pleasure that it doesn’t even immediately register that “butts” are the things that cigarettes burn down to and are not a synonym for cigarettes themselves and that therefore the headlines doesn’t really make sense in context, unless these criminal syndicates were smoking their own supply first.

But enough of such infernal nitpickery! We say excelsior, SMH: the culture is the richer for your exemplary headlinesmanship.

Pope Marks Easter by Unexpectedly Announcing There’s No Hell

Finally: some happy news from the Catholic Church!

Pope Francis has a rich history of seemingly straying off-doctrine, but according to Italian paper La Repubblica on Wednesday he got into the Easter spirit by telling an interviewer that Hell doesn’t actually exist. Which seems accurate, admittedly, but a weird thing for a pope to bring up.

The comment was made in one of his conversations with the paper’s founder, 93 year old Eugenio Scalfari, who had a meeting with Francis recently although it was not reportedly specifically for the purpose of an interview.

Reportedly not real.

According to the article Scalfari – who is an atheist and something of a friend of the chatty pontiff – asked Francis where bad souls go after people die. The reply, as he reported it, was “They are not punished. Those who repent obtain God’s forgiveness and take their place among the ranks of those who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot be forgiven disappear. A hell doesn’t exist, the disappearance of sinning souls exists.”

The Vatican have rushed out a statement denying that the report was accurate, pointing out that it was not recorded, wasn’t an interview and that the “literal words pronounced by the pope are not quoted… no quotation of the article should be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father”.

And not that we want to play popes off against one another, but Benedict declared that Hell “really exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much anymore”. Although given it was 2007, maybe he was talking about Berlin. Remember when it was super cool and everyone was moving there? Man, it sounded great.

Where Francis stands with regard to the existence of Tatooine, Wakanda and Westeros could not be confirmed at press time.

Media: Your funny "Time Traveler" Story Is Just Making Fun Of Mental Illness

Haven't we gotten beyond forcing people into freak shows in 2018?

If you’re a broadcaster or publisher with, let’s say, a pretty cavalier attitude to the news that you’re reporting upon, there’s a decent chance that you’ve interviewed some person that claims to be from the future or to have psychic powers which allow them prognosticatory visions.

And they’re done because they’re easy laughs at people saying silly things, like that LA will be under water or that teenager Yolanda May King will be the next US president, but let’s be clear:

They’re laughing at mental illness.

“Time Travellers” are a regular feature in UK paper The Mirror and on radio in Australia with Kyle and Jacqui O, and we’re going to go out on a limb and surmise that it’s not because they have a sincere interest in the possibilities of cutting edge developments in physics so much as that it’s a lazy space filler for people that can’t be bothered trying.

However, there’s a reason that we no longer have freak shows, which can largely be summed up as “recognition of human dignity”. So why do we still permit people to be displayed for our amusement when their condition is mental rather than physical?

 

It’s not like they don’t know what they’re doing either. The Daily Mirror’s story on “Noah” even acknowledged that he suffered from anorexia and depression – actual mental illnesses – and still gleefully reported that he claimed to be from the year 2030 while pretending that a lie detector had declared his claims to be true.

The most insidious thing about many mental illnesses it that it can convince the person suffering from it that they don’t have a mental illness. Since all our perceptions are routed through our brains, it’s easy for hallucinations to seem perfectly reasonable to the person having them. Our therapeutic tools for dealing with it are still pretty blunt and imprecise, but mockery still isn’t one of them.

The Far Side knew what’s what.

 

Mental illness is still woefully underfunded and massively stigmatised. We need to be doing more to address this huge societal issue, and maybe – just maybe – not actively using delusional people as entertainment might be a good way to start.

These are not zany kooksters being wacky for laffs, media. These are people that need actual, genuine help.

C’mon, team. Quit it.

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