Sunday, August 8, 2021


Is it still possible to ignore something until it goes away? The expectation these days is to react, fight, stand your ground, voice disapproval, and close the other side down.

As someone whose school years were not the best of their life, I believe the bullies did win after all, or at least everyone chose to adopt their tactics. But the bullies receded eventually, perhaps bored or no longer fulfilled, because I ignored them as much as I could. It takes as much effort to say nothing as saying anything at all.


But bullying makes news, hectoring makes news, provocation makes news. Anything written on Twitter by Piers Morgan is routinely written up by newspapers, including the one he used to edit, the “Daily Mirror”, legitimising the way he uses it, if not condoning it.


This playbook appears to have been used by the television channel GB News, which has generated an immense amount of heat, but very little light, since it launched on Sunday 13th June. GB News courted pre-launch comparisons with the rabid Fox News Channel, touting items on Andrew Neil’s flagship 8pm show with titles like “Wokewatch” and “Mediawatch.” These were initially addressed by Neil’s programme on the channel’s launch night, talking about how the channel would “lend an ear to some of Britain’s marginalised and overlooked voices” and speak up for “their voice has not been heard in the mainstream media.”


Online traffic about the channel, which includes boycotts of advertisers and poking fun at numerous technical errors suffered, is led by controversial statements made by presenters, particularly former talk radio “shock jocks” Nigel Farage and Dan Wootton about the England football team “taking the knee,” the Royal National Lifeboat Institution rescuing refugees at sea, “doomsday scientists” running a “Covid scare campaign” that “terrified the public into supporting lockdowns,” and anything else that speaks to how a culture war is being waged by “woke” people. Eschewing traditional news bulletins for leading with conversation, the subjects discussed are few and repetitive.


In itself, GB News is rather boring to talk about, for the extent to which its tumultuous launch and continued existence has been taken apart in numerous news articles and opinion pieces, there is really nothing left to say about it that hasn’t already been said, because everyone has said everything about it from the moment the channel was first announced. The broad narrative of overambition and hubris – its viewing figures are currently in the tens of thousands, below what it needs to prove its viability – also invites comparisons with the launch, collapse and overhaul of TV-am when that launched in 1983, suggesting not only that the crisis at GB News, whose director of programmes at launch has already left, suggests not only that the current problems experienced by the channel were not only expected, but forseen. TV-am eventually became more popular, but only by changing itself almost entirely.


Since Sunday 13th June, I have watched a total of three hours of GB News – one was the opening launch programme, followed by bits of other shows, including a Sunday morning with the deliberately provocative title of “The Political Correction.” The repetition of talking points became boring, and seeing a parade of mid-shots of people talking is visually uninteresting, not helped by having a studio set with black walls and no windows. 


So, I ignore the channel, and ignore the discourse surrounding the channel. Its viewing figures confirm I cannot be the only one. I am not interested in what the presenters have to say on the same few topics, especially as its competition, as a politically right-leaning channel, is most national newspapers, talk radio stations, and vast sections of the internet. It can only make noise to attract attention, and can only provoke a reaction by creating heat. I already learned to avoid things like that.

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