ISMISM New concepts for the Nineties: No. 27: Standardism

Share
Related Topics
Standardism: n 1. The belief that everything should always stay exactly the same, standard; a doctrine that can be applied equally to A-levels or newspaper articles. 2. The notion that all newspapers should be composed of standard articles, which can all be interchanged with each other without anyone noticing. This is taken for granted in London. If you are in New Zealand, however, it can come as quite a shock to discover that a well-run newspaper treats its opinion columnists as if they were completely and utterly indistinguishable.

The shock broke on Bryan Gould, the former deputy leader of the Labour Party, with the force of a thunderbolt last week. He is now considering whether to sue the Evening Standard for libel after it published a piece by a Tory minister's son with his by-line. One might have thought that Mr Gould would be proud to be treated as if he were a real journalist. But no. He seems to believe that he has some right to his opinions, irrespective of whether there is any demand for them. No wonder he failed as a politician and ended up as a teacher.

The story of Mr Gould's piece illustrates the lengths to which standardism can go. An executive at the Standard was able to ring him up and praise his piece in terms so well standardised that neither he nor Mr Gould realised they were discussing entirely different articles.

Standardism has long been common at the news end of the business. A well- written news story is packed full of devices to diminish its novelty. No phrase is allowed that has not been worn smooth and dull as a linoleum floor. Each new fact must be cushioned by paragraphs of recapitulation and only two new facts are allowed in every story. The consequence is that all the show-offs in the business write opinion pieces instead.

The real tragedy of the Gould case is that these facts have now been revealed to the outside world and even the opinion racket is now blown. People will think that standards are falling.

Fortunately, standardism enables us to have wholly standardised views on standards themselves. A-levels offer a case of standardised standardism.

The standardist procedure is to suppose that, since they have changed, this must be for the worse. Hence the plethora of articles by such as Sir Rhodes Boyson suggesting that there should be at most five A-level passes in any given year. Any decent newspaper executive could counter these by finding a teacher to argue that A-levels should be handed out with child benefit. But that takes us on to restandardisation, which is a far trickier issue altogether.

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 Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

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

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Patrick Cockburn: Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
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