Look at this*, will you? It’s short enough anyway, but the key bit is this:
The home secretary was expected to say in a speech later she wanted the body that oversees sentencing to ensure police killers were never released.
But a spokesman for the council said murder was the only offence for which it could not introduce guidelines.
On the surface, it’s a response to an interesting story which I might actually have posted about. But now it looks like it’s not going to happen, so I won’t.
Instead, I’ll write about the strange muddling of past, present and future that afflicts news coverage. I don’t know when I first noticed it happening, when the news started to become about things that hadn’t yet occurred – “today the Prime Minister will announce”; “Figures to be released by the Federal Reserve will show that…”. Sure, natural disasters, crimes, wars, sports events, they were and remain subject to the normal, linear march of time. But many things no longer do, with politics right at the top.
It makes sense, I suppose. What’s the use of a politician saying something, what’s the use of even being a politician, if the press aren’t there to see and hear you? So you tell the press. But of course they want to know more, and you want them to, as well, so you can get an idea of how people might react in time to disown the idea if it’s a bomb, and so you can get the talk-shows buzzing with interest if it isn’t.
The speed with which this story has turned itself around seems to be something new, though. The kind of thing you might expect to see in The Thick of It, not real life. The news breaks that something will happen, someone reacts negatively to this prediction, and – as that “was expected to say” strongly suggests – the event collapses in on itself like all those quantum probability events that never happen. Or, to put it slightly differently, the prediction of the news actually affects the reality of the news, cancels it out, leaves us back where we were before we started. And we shouldn’t be surprised. If she does backtrack, which she probably will, in some form or other, it’ll just be precisely what I referred to above – reacting in time to disown the idea. But it’s rare, I think, to see it all happen so quickly, and so transparently.
Presumably in the future, when government mind control is finally perfected, they’ll probably wipe the events like these from our memories completely. Bad ideas will be run up the flagpole, shot down, and erased from history.
A chilling thought has just hit me. It is rare for a u-turn to be as transparent as this one’s going to be (did I just predict the news? Sorry). But why is it so rare? Is it possible that the mind control’s already happening, and this one somehow slipped through? Did George Osborne suggest only yesterday that the poor should eat one another, see to his surprise the policy wasn’t that popular after all, and activate the brain-ray so we all still think of him as a lovely, cuddly figure of generosity? Did Ed Miliband call for the City to be uprooted, physically, and moved to Hull? Did Nick Clegg change his mind about everything he’s ever said, again?
I need to get this out there before they find me. I don’t know if they control the internet yet, but if they don’t, this is where the fight back begins. Unless someone reads this and we decide not to, in which case, of course, it was never, ever, going to happen.
*Update: things have moved even faster than expected, so the link I posted to the BBC now refers to the actual story that has actually happened rather than a hypothetical response to a predicted news story, so the bit I quoted will have to do.
If you liked this, please comment and share, and don’t forget to take a look at some extracts from my soon-to-be-published novel Without Due Care here.