Do we really need to to talk about Paxman's beard?

Plus, why John Cleese still has some growing up to do

Share
Related Topics

Opinions are like ****holes. Everyone's got one. I first heard this coarse piece of homespun philosophy many years ago from a hardened news editor who cursed the proliferation of columnists and commentators in the pages of his newspaper.

What would he make of today's media landscape, where opinions multiply, then feed on themselves, and finally break out like a contagion? Sometimes, it's hard to work out what is regarded as newsworthy. Is it what someone does? Or is it what someone thinks of what someone else does? Let's take, for instance, the story du jour, and the apotheosis of silly season “news”: Jeremy Paxman grows a beard. Heaven help us! Not a beard! Whatever next? Eddie Mair has a haircut! John Humphrys buys a new pair of trousers!

Think about it for a minute. A news presenter decided, over the course of his summer holiday, to have a tonsorial rethink. He then appears on screen in his new unshaven state. Cue a gushing tidal wave of opinion, coming at us from every corner of the media universe. It's not as if  Paxman's work has suffered, and the beard, reminding him of summer days of languorous inattention to serious matters, has transformed him into relaxed, carefree soul. No, he seems to be every bit as irascible, forensic and fearsome as ever.

Of course, no one believes this to be an event of any import, and it certainly makes for a welcome diversion from the tragic situation in Egypt. Yet if anyone seeks the apotheosis of our 140-character culture, an example of how, in these infantilised times, the trivial can seem important, and how social media can, without discrimination or mediation, spread opinion like a forest fire, the summer of Paxman's Beard is definitely it.

 ****

For someone who's the other side of three-score-years-and ten, John Cleese hasn't learned very much. Like, for instance, how not to sound like a grumpy old man, or even a silly old fool. He seems at ease with his cultivated persona: Disgusted of Santa Barbara.

He's been in town, promoting Planes, the new Disney film in which he is the voice of a veteran British aeroplane called Bulldog, and he chose this opportunity to sound off about the failings of 21st Century culture. “The world we live in today has deteriorated a great deal,” said Fawlty...sorry, Cleese, “and a lot of it can be put down to social media.”

Cleese speaks like a man who knows there's a party going on somewhere, but he hasn't been invited, and he tries to make like he doesn't care. That's at odds, however, with his Twitter profile, which reveals that he has 2.7 million followers, and has been responsible for 768 tweets. He said he does “Twitter”, largely on the advice of Stephen Fry, who told him that it's an effective medium for self-promotion.

Not only that, it means he can bypass the British newspapers, which according to Cleese, are populated, with a few exceptions, by “the most appalling, depraved, disgusting, amoral creatures you could find anywhere outside of prison”. And then, just to show he's not lost his comic timing, he adds: “And of course many of them are going to be inside a prison soon.” Morning, Major!

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Port Eliot Festival  

How to keep it real and escape from the screen this summer

Simon Kelner
 

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on