Sunday, April 06, 2008

Who's Fooling?

ALMOST seven days have passed since my April 1 story about a monster sighted in the lake at Ruislip Lido, and I have received no comments either questioning its veracity, or confirming and adding to the tale. Mind you, the response to my report two years ago on the North Circular being turned into a motor racing circuit (Mayor's Tale, April 1, 2006) was just as muted.

It seemed not that many readers were attracted to either story, and my regulars just noted the date and shrugged, yawned or sighed at my attempts to amuse, then moved on. Maybe internet folk are not so gullible as we're told. Not as daft as newspaper reporters perhaps, or not so hungry for stories to pass on.

For the Jewish festival of Purim, which more or less coincided with Easter and Nawroz this year, the Jewish Chronicle ran a spoof story about Chelsea boss Roman Abramovich planning to invest £100 million in the United Synagogue, and turn it into a "world class religious organization which will be able to take on the best in Europe, notably the Catholic Church".

According to the story, he was going to import "world-class rabbis from the continent and the USA", and have St.John's Wood synagogue demolished, setting up a new headquarters establishment at Stamford Bridge.

I don't know what some of my relatives would have made of this. Their Saturdays were divided between going to synagogue and even more devout attendance at Old Trafford, switching their blue and white talith (prayer shawls) to red and white Man U. scarves on the way. I care little for Chelsea and even less for the United Synagogue, but hey, let's not get serious.

It seems someone did take the Jewish Chronicle's amusing purimspiel as gospel, so to speak, for as Private Eye reports, the Daily Mail columnist Ephraim Hardcastle - aka Peter McKay -ran the Abramovich story as bona fide news. Well, if you ask me people who believe what they read in the Daily Mail deserve to be taken as fools.

It's not the first time that something which began as a joke has reappeared as news. The Daily Telegraph humourist Peter Simple occasionally featured items in his column from a fictitious "Dutt-Pauker News Agency", assumed to be located somewhere East of the Iron Curtain or taking its inspiration and subsidies from there. (Rajani Palme Dutt was a leading member of the British Communist Party, Anna Pauker had been a Romanian Stalinist leader).
One item I remember from some time in the 1960s referred to a nuclear submarine base in Bournemouth, and riots by striking miners and unemployed there. It was all good fun, not least to lefties like myself who, even if we weren't guilty of such geographical faux pas, might recognise the familiar style!

But then the same report was recycled, more or less word for word, in a Sunday paper, I think it was the People, which had fun attributing it not to an imaginary Stalinist news bureau but to the Times of Zambia, a real paper but run by funny Africans, you see. I could not help wondering whether the South African intelligence services found the credulousness -and prejudices -of your English journalist handy for planting such tales.

If one deterrent from attempting satire is that it can come back and bite you by being presented as real, another is that it becomes harder these days to think up anything so absurd it might not be happening for real. Maybe my friend bloggers are wiser than me, in not trying, for looking around I could not detect any April Fools jokes, though I wondered at the start of this from Unrepentent Communist, dated Tuesday, April 1, 2008

"Waves of relief rippled through the North East of England yesterday when it became clear that those whose jobs are under threat in Northern Rock need have no more sleepless nights as to their futures. Over 2000 staff at Northern Rock, are anticipating that they will be made redundant in the next six months as the troubled finance house battens down the hatches to ensure commercial survival following its nationalisation. The relief felt by many Northern Rock employees was prompted by news of the terms of the first wave of redundancies being released. If these initial redundancy settlements are harbingers of the terms of all the severances to be announced in the coming time period, then many facing redundancy and wondering how they will make ends meet once they are laid off by 'The Rock' will be able to sleep easy in their beds, confident that the company will be applying the same spirit demonstrated in the terms offered to the first redundant employees to all others facing the chop. Demonstrating particular generosity and compassion Northern Rock is giving, what some unkind commentators have described as 'disgraced' former chief executive Adam Applegarth ( top left- looking quietly replete )a £760,000 pay-off, a £346,000 pension top-up and continuing to honour his cut-price staff mortgage.
The pay-off is much larger than the sum foreshadowed in December, when sources close to the bank insisted Mr Applegarth would get less than six months' pay, and no doubt will be good news for all other Northern Rock staff, who had feared erroneously it would appear that they would receive a miserly statutory pay-off".

As the author, Gabriel adds at the end "NB....This piece was posted on 1st April 2008.....but its not an April Fools Joke"..
Northern Rock...The Man Who Broke the Bank Cleans Up.

That's after we heard that the juicy bit of Northern Rock had been separated off. Granite contains about £45bn of Northern Rock's most profitable mortgages but it is not being nationalised - leading opposition MPs to claim taxpayers will be left with the "rubbish" in the bank's mortgage book.

For 2,000 Northern Rock workers looking forward to an average £2,000 per head redundancy money, it is not a joke. Not even when they are told that it's all being done in the name of fairness, under EU rules on competition. Amicus says there must be no compulsory redundancies.

That's the other problem with making fun of things happening in our society. Take the recent troubles at Heathrow's Terminal 5, with baggage and staff thrown into chaos, locked doors that should have been left open, baggage handlers unable to reach planes because their IDs would not pass security... The media pretends that what went wrong was a mystery, but we all know that when it comes to creating chaos and disruption, no protesters, however determined, can come up to British management, especially when it is led by the modernisers and the bullshit division. It would have made a great Marx Bros movie but not even my schadenfraude would permit me to laugh at the poor staff and passengers.

Whereas as we see at Northern Rock, whatever goes wrong for the rest of us, the bosses usually come out having a larf.

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