While the world burns, Wales seems to be obsessed with bullshit

Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash

Mike Parker

At the best of times, peeking at Twitter should come with a health warning, but in these plague days it’s like jumping on a Spacehopper and bouncing blindfold across a minefield.  And not just because of the vicious scraps and sectarianism now permanently cranked up to 11.  For a writer, there are also depth charges of existential guilt just waiting to blow up in your face.

You haven’t started a podcast yet?  Launched a Zoom book club?  Uploaded some funny/earnest/uplifting little videos?  Offered bedtime readings?  Organised a fundraiser?  Or graciously released your back catalogue at a knockdown rate?  You’ve not even attempted a TikTok?  What the hell is wrong with you?  Do you want to work again?

In the early days of the pandemic, I watched with horror – and a kind of reluctant admiration – as so many of my fellow freelancers smoothly perfected the art of masking blatant self-promotion in the cloak of philanthropy.  Aside from one tweet plugging the audio of my most recent book, I remained tongue-tied – not, if I’m honest, out of any great sense of principle, more that familiar feeling of being outflanked by the cool kids.

I am hugely lucky though.  If there ever was a moment for an under-employed hermit, living in a remote old house and with a hairline so depleted that he’s not had to pay to have it cut since the last century, then this is surely it.

Others, so many others, will not be so fortunate.  The pitiless winds of this pandemic are going to blow away an awful lot of jobs.  My heart aches especially for those in their thirties.  They were walloped with the financial crash just as they tottered on to the job market, then had to scrabble their way through a wasteland of precarious employment and housing, and at just the point where they might begin to walk taller, they get flattened by this.

But – and there’s no easy or kind way to say this – there are many jobs that fully deserve scorched earth treatment.  Over the last two months, we’ve learned the harsh way that there is zero correlation between levels of pay and levels of importance to a decent society.  It’s easy to call out the usual panto bogeymen, the hedge-fund manager or rapacious landlord and so on, but there are so many everyday bullshit jobs, embedded deep within society.  And it is a sector that Wales is sadly stuffed with.

 

Headlines

There are candidates galore, the middle managers and intermediaries useless at absolutely everything except their own advancement, but let’s stick now with the evil twins of HR and PR: Tweedledum and Tweedledumber, if you will.

Some poor sod was moaning last week that they were being compelled to take part in a three-hour Zoom quiz with their work colleagues on Thursday evening.  In fancy dress, no less, and with a fifteen-minute break so that they could all go and do their doorstep clapping duty.  This is an idea so warped that it can only have come from the fevered brain of an HR manager, desperately trying to justify their pitiful job.  Next stop, an online charity fundraiser – “no, it’s not compulsory!” (it is).

And where there’s HR, there’s PR, with its pearly smile and empty eyes.  Wales is a land that loves its PR; often prefers it to reality, it seems.  Entire news cycles and Twitterstorms that rage for days are spun out of nothing more than a press release or a pretend survey.

For a 2018 piece I wrote in Planet magazine, I monitored the Welsh media, broadcast and online, for one random day.  Topping the headlines that morning was an announcement that the Football Association of Wales was in a consortium, alongside its English, Scottish and Northern Irish counterparts, considering a bid to become the European candidate to host the 2030 World Cup.

This meaningless piece of puff dominated all day, in every bulletin.  The hype became more excitable by the hour.  That evening, Wales Today gave over the first third of its half-hour to the ‘story’, anchored live from the Millennium Stadium.  One interviewee, a regular PR smoothie on our screens, assured us that although this was currently the only Welsh ground capable of hosting such big matches, the Liberty Stadium and the Racecourse Ground could also be brought up to speed.  The presenter let that pass, but here’s an exclusive: Wrexham will not be hosting the World Cup.

It was only the Welsh arm of the BBC that was uniquely titillated by this fluff. Though equally invested in the idea, their Scottish, English and Northern Irish services relegated this fluff far down the rankings, to an item of sports news, where it belonged.  We, it seems, are far more easily fobbed off with PR over real journalism.

Or, for that matter, real politics.  In the week that saw Wales clock over a thousand deaths from Covid-19, a rate that puts us in one of the worst proportionate positions in the world, there is more chatter about the changing name of our legislature than what it is doing so badly wrong.

And at such a terrible key moment, when it should be focused like a laser on this unprecedented peril, our main opposition party is training its fire on a pointless and expensive vendetta – again, over names.  While the house is burning down, we’re busy fretting over our choice of wallpaper.


Read more in Mike Parker’s series for Nation.Cymru below:

Part 1: We’ve been told before that things will never be the same again – can we mean it this time?

Part 2: Last weekend’s pandemic-panic awayday was inevitable – but so was the visceral response

Part 3: Will we use this crisis to rediscover the value of community – or for more suspicion and othering?

Part 4: The BBC needs to start listening to doctors – not government spin

Part 5: In a pandemic, fake news can become a lightning conductor for our fears and frustrations

Part 6: Could the pandemic bring us all back together while keeping us apart?

Part 7: This pandemic is the moment tech giants have been dreaming of – even I’m shoveling my data online

Part 8: Will the pandemic change the superior ‘screw you’ attitude of entitled second home owners?

Part 9: Lockdown is making it even harder to escape from our online echo chambers

Part 10: How have we managed to turn thanking the NHS into a pissing contest?

Part 11: This pandemic has revealed which countries are being governed by grown-ups

Part 12: After the Covid barriers come down, the psychological ones will take some dismantling

Articles via Email

Get instant updates to your inbox

12
Leave a Reply

avatar
7 Comment threads
5 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
11 Comment authors
Wrexhamianj humphrysPawlMathew ReesJonathan Gammond Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
The Bellwether
Guest
The Bellwether

I am very much enjoying these articles by Mr.Parker. He is a ‘proper’ writer! Please make sure he gets paid!

Jonathan Gammond
Guest
Jonathan Gammond

Totally concur. Plus anything that keeps politicians’ articles (and their bland prose) off this site has to be a good thing!

Simon Gruffydd
Guest

As Mike says, our house certainly is burning down – but not due to the arrival of this latest coronavirus – but due to our authoritarian reaction to it, decimating our economic and social lives in tandem. As for some of his other comments, I’d suggest he take a break from the doom-porn headlines and look at some real research. If nothing else, this “pandemic” (https://in-this-together.com/covid-19-is-a-statistical-nonsense/) is outing the inner nature of people. On one side we have the authoritarians with their desire to control others or be controlled by others. On the other side we have people who still… Read more »

Pawl
Guest
Pawl

Ah yes, the freedom to believe that 53,800 deaths are a statistical nonsense, and that Covid19 is caused by mobile phone signal!

Gareth Thomas
Guest
Gareth Thomas

Great article. Thank you Mike. I am constantly frustrated, watching Welsh media, by the crazily stereotypical prioritizing of news items. The Western Mail appears duty bound to print four pages of rugby news even when there’s no rugby. Celebrity rules all! Katherine Jenkins latest frock attracts more coverage than acute social problems. A minor royal person sneezing into a Welsh linen hanky earns a page. Welsh politics is deemed a poor second to the Westminster original. Thank you Nation Cymru (and Mike Parker) for trying to make us see this. I hope you succeed

stuart stanton
Guest
stuart stanton

When you watch the Welsh political pantomime from England it becomes ever more depressing. I fear that AdamPrice is being sucked into it by his constant cheapshots at Welsh Labour. Dafydd Iwan summed it up on ‘Hwb’ in 2014 by stating that Wales is a grown-up nation with a language and culture that predates the Romans, there is no need to apologise or blame, to do so is a denial of the Nation itself. (that broadcast still available on YouTube)

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

When you look at England from Europe, you don’t know what to think!

Plain citizen
Guest
Plain citizen

Dead right. Welsh media, especially he BBC is obsessed by celebrity (especially B list and downwards) and sentimentality.

Ann Owen
Guest
Ann Owen

Come on Mike Parker – aren’t you just a little guilty of this yourself in this article? Referring to a name ” vendetta” but not actually covering the challenge that is given to the Welsh government over its pandemic planning and delivery? I agree with you that our media including BBC aren’t on board with reporting on the real issues in Wales – petty arguments, sound bites and puff pieces are elevated, as you say, to big news stories. Iit makes you wonder whether the order of stories is set in London, it mirrors it very closely! The question is… Read more »

Wrexhamian
Guest
Wrexhamian

The antitdote to this is websites like Nation.Cymru, Jac o’ the North, Bella Gwalia, etc. And Welsh control of broadcasting, of course, starting with a grown-up replacement for BBC Radio Wales. Oh, and a national print media.

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

Good article, again. Thing worrying me, is the sneaking through of various measures, destruction of small family farms, jails
for England in Wales and what else? We need a media, as you say, lazer-focused on the big health issues, but also on secret
organisations, laws, etc, that are puffed out of public view.

Mathew Rees
Guest
Mathew Rees

Not a fan of Mike’s writing, views or politics but he is bang on the money here. I spent 4 years working in PR and Comms in Wales and it’s like living in a detached parallel universe to how most Welsh people live their lives.

It’s especially true when it comes to the language. No matter how much you spin it, it’s dying on its arse but we are still working towards a million speakers when there are no jobs or affordable housing in Wales for people.