It’s tempting to file a review of 2016 although you all know how it went and the media is jammed with celebrity deaths, wars, Brexit and the US election.
If you’re reading this, you obviously survived it. Next stop, the inauguration of an orange Trumpanzee who has just discovered he has opposable thumbs and is using them to troll unstable nations on Twitter. Go 2017, do your worst, although you’ll struggle to beat the sheer horror that my friend in Florida experienced when his dog rolled in a decomposing pelican complete with pouch filled with decomposing fish.
His year is basically over, already.
January is the time of year for resolutions and goals with lots of features on ‘top ten food/ fashion / literary trends for 2017’, most of them PR -led and cobbled together from press releases because public relations folks know that at this time of year we are knackered/ on holiday and like a bit of spoon-fed copy. I’ve been told that this spring I should be wearing track pants with high heels ‘to visit the grocery store’, and that these track pants must cost eleventy - billion pounds so they remain an ‘ironic comment’ upon mass-market sports products as opposed to just, um, track pants. This will ensure I am not mistaken for someone who couldn’t be a**ed to get dressed properly or, god forbid, a person who does something as declassé as exercising or breaking into a sweat. Sorry, glow.
As for clean eating, yes there’s a backlash and some of its most devout exponents are now telling us that they didn’t mean THAT kind of ‘clean eating’; the kind that advises people to remove entire food groups and poses as evidence-based nutritional and dietary advice. Their schtick is basically a modern-day version of the kind of nonsense that was once peddled by carneys travelling in carts across the country in the 1840s. They want us to know that they didn’t intend to ascribe moral values to food items and the people who eat them. They want us to know that yes, as sensible people all along have said, it is the method of food production that determines the moral qualities of what we put in our mouths. When we’re being gaslighted by a bunch of quacks who have made millions from pretending gluten will kill you deader than a dead thing, there’s something very wrong. When a Miffy sweatshirt aimed at small children sports the slogan ‘diet starts tomorrow’, we know things are even worse. Some commissioning editors are complicit in the creation of this clean eating, diet-obsessed pseudo-science and now they are bored, they’ve moved on to the income-generating, trending backlash against it. These articles are commissioned by people who ought to know better than to treat access to good, affordable food as a trend.
Whilst we’re re-filling our wardrobes with high-end trackpants and our larders with whatever foods are on point this year, the de-cluttering industry is going full steam ahead, bunging up newspaper lifestyle sections with advice on how to achieve domestic purity via empty cupboards. Interviewed in the Telegraph last weekend, one of these gurus explained how he ‘travels the world speaking about minimalism’ meaning that he also contributes a fair old bit to global warming. This doesn’t seem terribly in tune with his philosophy of leading a more meaningful life but hey-ho, that ozone layer was cluttering up the skies, anyway.
Is post-truth /expertise still cool? I ask because it’s so important to stay au courant and not get caught out seeking expert opinion and hard objectivity when this is no longer in fashion. How basic that would be. Sadly what seems to be the fashion last year is a kind of post-truth reality where the situation that some white working class people find themselves in is used to justify racism and mask the ugliness and danger of white supremacy, relabelling it as the alt-right movement. All journalists need to be charged with unmasking this for what it is (there are historical precedents to act as guidance), and avoid the trap that the editor of the Wall Street Journal fell into recently when he declared that his newspaper “would not refer to false statements from the Trump administration as ‘lies’, because doing so would ascribe a ‘moral intent’ to the statements.”
The word we are looking for is purpose, not intent. What purpose do Trump’s lies serve? As Dan Rather countered,” Journalism, as I was taught it, is a process of getting as close to some valid version of the truth as is humanly possible.” Trump, and other politicians, are skilled at masking their purpose. Journalists need to bear this in mind even if they have little framework or training in how to deal with an American president and British politicians who deny basic reality.
-- Nicola Miller is author of The Millers Tale blog. Follow her on Twitter - @NicolaMillers