I don’t watch TV these days. I don’t want to watch it. I stopped watching years ago.
I think I started to stop watching TV when they stopped allowing smoking on TV. And in the UK that was probably back in the 1990s, if not before.
I had a similar experience with movies. The old cinemas, back in the 50s and 60s, were warm, welcoming, smoky places. Sometime around 1990, maybe earlier, they were sterilised, when smoking was banned in them.
And of course the pubs and restaurants and cafes and clubs were all sterilised in 2007, when smoking was banned in them as well. I only ever sit outside them now, in the gardens where smoking hasn’t (yet) been banned.
Once smoking gets banned somewhere, I get banned there too. Or at least I’m no longer welcome there, so I may as well be banned. So when they banned smoking on TV, they banned me from TV. Or told me I wasn’t welcome there. So I’ve never wanted to appear on TV. Why should I want to appear someplace where I’m not welcome? Why should I want to watch something from which I’ve been banned?
The only time I’ve ever appeared on TV was when the BBC showed up at Stony Stratford and filmed me holding a placard saying “Enough Is Enough.” It now seems to have been all I ever wanted to say to the BBC anyway. If they ever come to interview me, I think I’ll just stand in front of the camera, saying nothing, and holding up a sign saying “Enough Is Enough”. I’ve still got it. On the other side it says “The Fightback Starts Here.” So maybe I’d stand in front of the cameras slowly flipping the sign between the two messages. It’s all I have to say to them.
The BBC no longer speaks for people like me. We’re the Deplorables. They deplore us. And we deplore them. They don’t seem to understand that the deploration(?) is mutual. They don’t like me. And I don’t like them. They want to eradicate me. And I want to eradicate them.
I was thinking this morning that the Smoky Drinky Bar is like watching TV. After all, it’s just watching a screen and listening to a loudspeaker. The difference is that in the Smoky Drinky Bar I can talk back. And I’m welcome there. I can speak to the TV, and engage in a conversation with it. The Smoky Drinky Bar is like watching Coronation Street, but also joining in the conversation in the Rovers Return.
Coronation Street is all entirely scripted. It’s edited and produced and shot on a set. But the Smoky Drinky Bar has no script. There’s no editing either. It’s a conversation. It’s a party. And just like real parties you can arrive too early, or leave too late, when there’s nobody there. It’s just like real life.
In recent years TV has tried to move towards real life. Back in the 1990s Channel 4 had a programme called After Dark, in which a bunch of people – mostly celebrities – sat in armchairs around a table, smoking and drinking and talking. It would go on for hours. I think it was shot live. Oliver Reed appeared in one episode, very very drunk.
Reality TV does a similar thing, putting ordinary people in some situation, and just watching them interacting. But the “reality” is often highly controlled. They’re locked in, for a start. Or locked out. There’s a reality programme called Love Island where – shock, horror -, everyone’s been smoking. I think some of them may have been having sex as well.
But none of these TV shows include the viewer like the Smoky Drinky Bar. It’s a different sort of reality TV. Ordinary TV is essentially a one-way broadcast medium. That’s just the nature of the technology. It’s the technology of top down control. And the top down control is being used to define the message that gets sent, and to normalise some behaviours, and denormalise others (e.g. smoking).
The Smoky Drinky Bar is a pub community. Over the past month of its existence, I’ve felt like I belonged to a community again. I’ve probably talked more in the past month than I have in the past year. It’s been a bit of an overdose, in fact.
I was thinking this morning that the Smoky Drinky Bar would be ideal for the elderly or disabled or hospitalised. From their beds and chairs they could hold long conversations with people all over the world, rather than just stare at a wall, waiting for someone to visit them once a week.
In fact, it might no longer be necessary to have hospitals, if the “hospitalised” were being watched over by hundreds of people all over the world, who were able to keep an eye on them, and raise an alarm if necessary, They could stay in their own homes. And their doctors could visit them via the Smoky Drinky Bar.
And they could smoke.