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Thursday, May 03, 2001

Conspiracy Culture

The word cull continues. Tendrils of black smoke can be seen snaking up into the sky around the trendy, canal area of Nottingham. It is here, in his converted loft, that Sean Hewitt carries on with his mercilessly efficient removal of the foot in mouth words written by yours truly. As he tosses them onto the pyre, Sean tells me that the current total of excised verbiage stands now at 21,290 words. By way of retaliation, I send him 13,878 words concerning the Double Trio which currently goes by the name of "From Double Trouble To Double Trio."

The chapter which covers the SABB period reads much better now that Sean has taken out the tosh I'd written about the English music press of the day. At the time of writing it, I was going somewhere but got distracted and ultimately needed to substantially re-write it or give it the old heave-ho. In the end Sean has done the job for me and it's removal lets a little light in.

I'm still busy with the 80's period Crim and so it was very timely when the 80's remasters turned up in the post courtesy of my chums at Virgin. The package looks very handsome indeed and the music seems to have acquired slightly more punch than previously. I particularly enjoyed Neal, And Jack And Me. Phew - that song really moves at a pace.

Started reading Conspiracy Culture by Peter Knight a few days ago. It's a survey of our need as a society for conspiracy as way of rationalising events and takes in some notorious political assassinations, AIDS, the growing belief alien abduction (and the popularity of shows like the X-Files) and the work of the American novelist Thomas Pynchon.

My first introduction to Pynchon's work was via his epic novel Gravity's Rainbow. Reading it felt being assaulted by a bewildering mass of ideas and connections which I barely managed to make sense of. Yet his writing was populated with humour (at key points several of the players burst into song) and the murky narrative surrounding a secret history of the Second World War in which corporate business was the real victor was enough pull me in a second or third time.

Around about the forth and fifth re-reading I began to get it and found myself wanting to devour everything else that the man had written. Thankfully at the time there was only his first novel V and his second, The Crying Of Lot 49 (featuring a beat combo called The Paranoids of course.)

The other day a news item struck me as being like something out of a far-fetched conspiracy story. . .

A few years ago a tabloid newspaper caused a scandal by printing allegations about Jeffrey Archer, a prominent supporter of Margaret Thatcher, the then prime minister, and best selling author of trashy airport novels.

The story alleged that Archer had slept with a prostitute and then paid her £2,000 to keep quiet about it. Archer strongly denied the story and sued the newspaper for libel. He admitted that though it was true that he had given the woman (who he claimed he had never met before) £2,000 via an intermediary, they had not had sex. He was simply being philanthropic.

Amazingly, the jury believed him and an outraged jury awarded him half a million pounds in damages.

The woman at the centre of the case, Monica Coughlan, was vilified. Not only was she a whore but she had the temerity to impugn the morals and character of a fine upstanding gentleman. The hard life of a working girl got a whole lot harder.And a new slang phrase entered the language.

Punter: Excuse me my good man, I'm interested in purchasing this splendid second-hand automobile. How much is it ?

Dodgy Dave from Dagenham : Well guv'nor I couldn't let this go for less than an Archer.

In the intervening years Archer did well. His cronies in the Tory Party slid him a peerage and he shamelessly campaigned to win the Tory candidacy for Mayor of London. During the tussle, it emerged that Archer had lied about his background and education and business improprieties around share deals and the like. None of it seemed to stick or if it did, people didn't care. The disregard which most voters hold politicians had lowered expectations to the point where it was almost expected that a bit of dodgy dealing was part of the spec.

His books were selling well and it was a very rare day when his chiselled features and bluff, no-nonsense words were not highly visible, dusting up a TV reporter or chat show host.

Things were going well until a friend admitted that he lied in the libel case. Then a second friend coughed to also lying for the Lord. This of course cast a major doubt on Archer's testimony that on the night in question, he not been enjoying the carnal pleasures but had instead been enjoying a meal with the said friend. The game was up.

It looked like Archer had committed perjury. The newspaper which had first published the allegations and had been suckered out of half a million shouted "WE WOZ WRONGED". Then they said "WE WANT OUR MONEY BACK !"

The Crown Prosecution Service were looking into the matter. Archer was forced to withdraw his candidacy for the Mayoral race and was soon expelled from the Tory party. The press were once again full of Archer but now as disgraced liar and hypocrite.

The Crown Prosecution Service decided there was a case to answer and the a date was set for trail. Archer managed to find some creative impetus out of all his trouble and authored a stage play, in which he made his acting debut playing a character who was in court and on trial. The twist in that part of the story was that each night, the audience would have to vote on whether he was guilty or not.

Not surprisingly, the prostitute at the centre of the story - Monica Coughlan - emerged from her provincial obscurity and re-told her tale. At his first appearance at the Old Bailey at the end of last year Lord Archer pleaded not guilty. The trail of Archer is due to start in a few days time. You might expect the mother of one and ex-prostitute Coughlan to be playing a role in the court proceedings. But you'd be wrong.

Last week she was killed as her car was hit by a stolen car which was speeding away from a robbery. Police have arrested the driver of the stolen car.

Maybe I should stop reading books about conspiracy. Wasn't it William Boroughs who said something about a paranoid person is someone who is in possession of all the facts ?

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