Page 4, 4th September 1992

4th September 1992
Page 4
Page 4, 4th September 1992 — Technology in grubby hacks' hands

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Organisations: Poor Bloody Infantry
Locations: Sarajevo


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Technology in grubby hacks' hands

Desmond Albrow

APART from advances in medical science, I have never been much impressed by the steady march of technology.

Scientific inventions are invariably perverted for the use of war and exploited by power maniacs. Innocent and altruistic scientists fall to comprehend that their work can finish up in the wrong hands. They have total faith in total progress. I have faith only in selective progress.

Even scientific inventions of a frivolous nature can be exploited by the grubbier members of our planet. The tape recorder and the long lens are now threatening to rock, if not overturn, the royal boat. I fly no flags for Fergie and the bald-headed Bryan but I find the methods used to capture their holiday together distasteful. I hold similar views on the tapes of the alleged conversation between Princess Diana and Mr Gilbey, the old boy of A mpleforth.

Tabloid "scoops" today, thanks to the improvements in technology, are generally prurient, sneaky affairs and owe little to journalistic talent. Anyone who can work a camera or a tape-recorder and whose moral sensibilities are about equal to that of the average orang-utan can find a home for their wares in the tabloid pages. It was not always so.

Tabloids have always been saucy and irreverent: that is their rightful function. But they used to go in for proper journalistic scoops of some social importance. The People

newspaper, for instance, took the lid off the insidious operations of the Messina brothers, who had built a corrupt empire of prostitution in Mayfair. The man responsible for this exposure often at great personal danger was Duncan Webb, also an old boy of Ampleforth and a Catholic of deep faith.

He was slowly dying throughout the latter years of his press campaigns against vice and went to Lourdes in June, 1958. In The Times a few weeks later appeared these words in the personal columns: "Humble thanks to Our Lady of Lourdes and St Jude Duncan Webb."

If he were alive today he would give short shrift to the long lens journalism of the tabloids. So, I imagine would the tough, cynical but more morally aware editors who employed him.

I HAVE always liked the manner in which the BBC's Martin Bell carries out his journalistic duties from the trouble spots of the world. His matter-of-fact, slightly staccato delivery gives a sense of urgency to his reporting keeps It well on the right side of personal histrionics. Even when he was hit by mortar shrapnel in Sarajevo he contrived to make the shooting a low-key business. Fortunately for him, and for us, his wounds are not serious.

Bell, like so many war correspondents, both male and female, is brave and tenacious. I mean it, however, as no slur on them to say that it is a bit easier to be brave when a camera is pointing at you and millions are watching your behaviour under fire. The adrenalin of publicity is a powerful drug and can make heroes of us all.

It is a completely different matter if you are just part of the Poor Bloody Infantry, doing a dull but important job, fired on from all sides with no-one to record your valour or your cowardice. Television has been blamed for many things but I have never known it to be praised for helping heroism. IT IS NOW a cliche of television to show a picture of a factory at a complete standstill whenever the recession is mentioned. Presumably it makes its point with many viewers yet with me the pictures also arouses other memories.

It compels me to recall the more prosperous years when Britain was relatively booming but some factories were not functioning and the workers were standing around doing precisely nothing.

This state of affairs had been brought about, not because of lack of orders, but because some union had ordered its members, sometimes for some fatuous reason, to down tools. Prosperous is the nation that can afford strong unions.

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