Wednesday, 5 November 2008


At four o'clock this morning, British time, I found myself laughing. Others cried. Some danced. I laughed.

The forty-fourth president of the United States of America had just been elected. A historic moment.

I laughed for sheer joy. I speak as a man who managed to smuggle the words 'Vote Barack Obama' into a rendition of 'Sweet Home Alabama' this summer, sadly to a bunch of Brits who were not eligible to vote in the US election, but hey - I did my bit. The whole world wanted Obama. Thank you, America. Thank you.

The past eight years have been characterised by everything that is wrong with human nature and, in particular, with right-wing politics. It has been a period of lies and misrepresentations. Of obscene wealth and escalating despair. Of cynicism and mistrust. Let's face it, the twenty-first century has not started well.

Obama's victory sends out a signal. America and the world wanted change.

But what has this got to do with screenwriting? Possibly, everything. Change is now in the wind. And, as screenwriters, change is what we need.

There are signs of good news. The BBC is assessing how much it pays, not only to its top 'celebrities' but also to its overpaid, overpromoted executives. That's good. The truth is that between one half and three quarters of BBC management could disappear tomorrow and nobody would notice - except that, a year or so down the line, the quality of programming would show a phenomenal improvement.

He wasn't solely responsible - he was more of a figurehead, a poster-boy for the self-centred opportunists - but there is no doubt that George W. Bush poisoned everything. His adminstration gave out a simple message: if you're rich, get richer; if you're poor, fuck off. And don't, for a single moment, imagine that the truth means anything. There is no truth anymore. Just verbiage. Soundbites and lies.

All that has now changed, thank Goddess.

A shift is taking place. American voters have rejected the lies, the arrogance, the plain old stupidity and cupidity of the Bush years. The world now wants genuine leadership. Change. Hope.

This cannot be ignored, not even by those who have ridden the gravy train of the past decade, acquiring bullshit job titles and rolling in money while simultaneously demonstrating their uselessness. The tide is turning. I truly hope that the end of the Bush nightmare will also spell the end of the cult of managerialism, the end of the contempt those at the top have been showing for those at the bottom, the end of a culture based on spin, gloss, and the celebrity freakshow. I truly hope that we may now begin to get back to what really matters. Systems that work. Management that is there to facilitate, rather than to obstruct (and to pay itself vast dividends as it does so). The acknowledgement that we are all in this together.

Not so long ago, I came across an article which asked: 'Why didn't popular culture warn us about what was about to happen in the global economy? Where were the Gordon Ghekkos of the noughties? Why was this obscenity allowed to run riot without writers - the conscience of their societies - bringing such excesses to our attention? Where were the siren voices?'

The fact is that, during the past decade or so, those who control broadcasting have preferred to pump out meaningless nonsense, asinine froth, rather than tackle serious subjects. I said that writers are the conscience of their societies. We are the Cassandras who warn of dire consequences. But if the powers that be deny us the chance to serve our true calling, if they fuck up our scripts and prevent us from reaching our audience, if they force us to write soapy pap rather than genuine drama, then they are colluding in the Great Lie that has characterised the Bush years.

That Great Lie is now in its death throes, and the world is looking towards a new era.

It may not last. Bush and his cronies might have damaged the US and world economies beyond repair. Some right-wing nut might assassinate Obama. Things might be about to get a whole lot worse.

But the tide has turned. The worst kind of censorship is the kind which doesn't announce itself, which pretends that it doesn't exist. There has been censorship of an extraordinary kind at work over the past decade. It has been necessary to protect the interests of those who have made their fortunes, mostly by raiding the public purse and/or inventing phoney finances. Censorship of the kind that calls itself 'responding to market forces' is what has allowed a non-stop stream of empty-headed drivel to replace true culture, true drama, true debate. That kind of censorship has sold us all short. Dumbing down was its way of hiding what was really going on, of drawing a veil over boardroom greed and managerial incompetence.

Now the people have spoken. A grassroots movement has rejected the politics of greed and slander. America has voted for change and the rest of the world is cheering.

Soon, let us hope, we may get on with the task of telling it like it is, without fear or intimidation. Yesterday's vote may be the best news we writers have had in years.


Deaf Brown Trash Punk said...

I cried so much last night with joy and happiness.

I'm at work right now but I don't want to work. I want to cry all day and do a victory dance.

I haven't felt this happy, ever, when it comes to politics... I am so proud to be an American today :-)

ted stratford said...

I'm really looking forward to meeting you Sunday. A man after my own heart and angry too.