I wrote a blog entry for a particular faith publication a few weeks ago and it was promptly removed by the editor. Naming no names. Normally I wouldn’t really complain – I was writing voluntarily and this kind of thing happens all the time. But I thought the blog entry was so anodyne and I just don’t understand why it had to be removed. So just for fun and because the entry seems more relevant with the Syria crisis, here is the offending article for you to judge for yourself…
What is the point of writing? What is the point of journalism? Is it to work with the status quo? Is it to re-enforce the latest political agenda? Is it to write propaganda? Or is it to try to question, to criticize and interrogate those with power over our lives? What is the point of using a pen or keyboard? Is it to make things better or worse?
Whenever anyone says ‘It’s the principle of the thing’ they usually have my sympathy. A few years ago I was reading through the media jobs section of a national newspaper and I came across this job ad. It was headed ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Sword’. Reading the advert it became obvious that the job was to be a speechwriter for the Ministry of Defence.
The tagline was ‘A Force for Good’. I cut out the job advert and stuck it in my diary with a few choice words of what I thought of it. It wasn’t just that the Ministry of Defence were paying £66,389 to the successful applicant, it was that they had appropriated the phrase: ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Sword’ without any sense of irony.
BBC and ITV news agendas today seem to take a reckless disregard to this principle. This is also true of many national newspapers. Sometimes they will always promote the option of a war. And politicians will seize the day, dismiss alternatives and use emotive language to call for war for a political agenda.
I got over it of course. In this life you tend to do that – sometimes we are powerless to do anything about it and the anger fades (and anyway, anger is such a bullying emotion).
The problem is, naive as I am (and believe me, I have my naive moments), I still can’t get my head around the way that the pen and the sword work together. It seems to me that they are diametrically opposed to each other. The pen should promote peace and healing. The whole point of having a principle like ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ is to fight for peace using the written word. Not to promote war.
I keep reading articles in newspapers or hearing news reports on TV which are so uncritical and supportive of war that I find the old frustration coming back again. And what right have I? I’m naive – we live in a world where reports in newspapers about subjects like the arms trade or the latest war are often uncritical. We live in a world where wars are presented as the only option. That’s the way it is.
I hope the person who eventually got the job has job satisfaction. But today there really are other options than war. It’s the principle of the thing.