Richard Ingrams' Week: Junk TV is almost as evil as junk food

Share

The various government clampdowns, announced almost every day, are always aimed at the irrelevant targets.

While cheap marijuana and cocaine are easily available on the street corner, huge sums of money are devoted to trying to stop people from smoking cigarettes, by banning it in public places etc.

Smoking may be harmful in lots of ways but it does not cause brain damage or the break-up of families.

This week's clampdown is to be on the advertising of junk food on television. But there is no plan afoot to clamp down on a much greater menace - junk television.

When children are reported to watch TV for four or five hours a day, you might expect that there would be some public concern about what they are watching.

But while we worry that their bodies are filled with crisps and sweets, no one is too bothered about the fact that their minds are simultaneously numbed by pop music, third-rate American cartoons or tacky quiz shows compèred by gesticulating 20-year-olds seemingly high on drugs.

Meanwhile, teachers in schools are expected to educate children in competition with the overpaid, undereducated cynics who control the big television companies. They don't stand much of a chance.

What would Johnson have thought of these books?

The shortlist of yet another big literary award - the Samuel Johnson Prize - was announced this week with the headline-catching news that it includes an anonymous "blog" broadcast on the internet by a woman in Iraq.

The panel of judges, which included the kneeling man's crumpet Cristina Odone, right, was headed by Lord Winston, the heavily mustachioed expert on female fertility and a man not best known for his knowledge of literature.

But then that is not the criterion which governs his selection. Lord Winston is there because he is nowadays a television personality whose face will be familiar to the public and, more importantly, to the press.

No scribbler, however snooty, can object to the handing out of large sums of money to writers. My gripe is that it should be done in the name of Dr Johnson.

Johnson had a pretty low opinion of most books. "How few there are," he exclaimed to his friend Mrs Thrale, "of which one can ever possibly arrive at the last page."

Given that approach, it is unlikely that he would have got very far with the Iraqi woman's "blog".

Far too many books, in his view, were published. "It is observed," he said, "that a corrupt society has many laws. I know not whether it is not equally true that an ignorant age has many books."

If that was his view in the 18th century, when very few books were published, what would he think of the situation today when thousands flood out day after day?

As for critics and the lavish, lavish praise given to the kind of fashionable writers who win literary prizes: "Nothing is more common," he said, "than to find men whose works are now totally neglected mentioned with praises by their contemporaries as the oracles of their age."

* When the Afghan court sentenced Mr Abdul Rahman to death for converting to Christianity, there was a minor panic in London and Washington.

Not because the British and American governments were especially concerned to uphold the Christian church or even the principle of religious freedom.

They were more worried that the people at home might start asking why 3,000 British soldiers were being sent to risk their lives in hostile terrain in order to uphold a system where the most alien and barbaric laws remain in force.

Those who felt that way will not have been at all reassured by the sequel. Mr Rahman was pardoned but only on the grounds that he was insane. Nor will he be allowed to stay in Afghanistan, because his life will be at risk. There is no suggestion from Kabul that the law will be changed.

The Government will be relieved that in the current climate the general consensus is that nothing must be said to upset the so-called Muslim community. So, too, it is not surprising that the church's reaction to Mr Rahman's fate has so far been muted, if not non-existent.

It is true that the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke on Radio 4 this week but his message to the nation centred on the need for drivers to adhere strictly to the speed limit in the interests of offsetting the harmful effects of global warming.

React Now

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

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash