At the end of the Day

I’ve been ploughing into some Norwegian smoked salmon tonight – purchased recently from Lidl. On the outer wrapper it says ‘hand salted’.

It’s one of those ‘ears pierced while you wait’ claims this one: why in God’s name is hand-salting likely to increase my enjoyment, or be better for me? Isn’t machine-salted smoked salmon likely to be (if nothing else) free of the slight background worry that the Norwegian hand-salter might not have washed his hands after salmon-gutting and before salting?

As a former adman, I am more aware than most of brand-communication bollocks. I remember that years ago, Delta Airlines ads used the strapline “We’ll get you there”. I mean, what was the alternative – we crash and all die?

This is the point: when is a promise a promise, and when is it a vaguely threatening case of protesting too much? For example:

“My name’s Lord Mandelson, and there’s nothing to be afraid of”.

Sixty odd years ago, Cambridge researchers wired up some volunteers with sensory receptors, and showed them the headline “Don’t panic”. 100% of the sample immediately showed signs of stress. “Why do I not need to panic? Is there something to panic about I’m not aware of? OhmyGodohmyGod.”

We see this syndrome every day in contemporary British life, and the media rendition of it. Over and over, opinion-leader columnists tell us that the economy is getting better, the banking crisis has been overplayed, bankers are very nice really, 18-25 year segment binge drinking is on the wane, regulating newspapers will make life safer for all of us, and enquiries will get to the bottom of things. But actually, fewer and fewer of us believe it.

I think the Establishment’s DON’T WORRY bollocks is misconceived. I’m happy about this, because it will find them out sooner rather than later….which must be all to the good. But the communicator in me feels obliged to point out where they’re going wrong.

So many nutters over so many years have predicted Armageddon, we have become immune to the warnings. Asteroid hits, planetary pandemics, global warming, radioactive sunlight, overpopulation, nuclear conflagration….we are so inured to all of it, if the BBCNews website ran a banner headline tomorrow saying ‘JUPITER COLLIDES WITH SATURN – RINGS HEADED STRAIGHT FOR EARTH,’ we’d all smile, order another pint, and check out the price of Amalgamated Tungsten. But if the headline read ‘BANK OF ENGLAND CONVINCED THAT CURRENCY VALUE SAFE’, we’d all form unruly queues at the nearest bank to demand the complete withdrawal of our overdrafts.

Negative hyperbole is the only remaining method of keeping the British population calm. And in that context, the double-failsafe way to achieve total electoral reassurance is via the judicious use of a slightly dodgy source for the hype.

Were I the resident of Number 11 Downing Street tonight, I would be working on spin such as ‘Anglia University says euro collapse will leave 90% of Britain underwater’. Other alternatives might include, ‘Osborne “is economically clueless paedophile” says Balls’, or even ‘Louise Mensch warns of imminent hyperinflation’.

Driving from Kent to Dorset today, I tuned into the wonderful Kirsty Young interviewing Dustin Hoffman on Desert Island Discs. She asked the veteran film actor about his father, and Hoffman movingly described the somewhat scratchy relationship he’d had with his Dad. The two men shared the same birthday, so when Hoffman Sr was 80, his son was 50. “So Dad,” the son said as they strolled along the beach on that auspicious anniversary, “do you have any words of wisdom for me today?”

His father replied, “Sure I do: it’s all bullshit”.

I have a good and close friend who keeps saying “It’s all bollocks and that’s official”. He’s right: but the awareness of this is now so widespread among the chatterati, government spinners need to take note. If you are unfortunate enough to be George Osborne, the way to get people on your side in 2012 is to tell them that David Icke thinks the Chancellor’s austerity strategy has not a hope in Hell of working.

59 thoughts on “At the end of the Day

    • Hate the expression “ordinary people” – I’m with Wilde … we’re all in the gutter and a few look at the stars. In my view most human beings – presented with temptation in whatever guise (in Osborne’s case obfuscation in the hopes of remaining in power) – would fail the test. Whilst I’m not religious I seem to remember something about the splinter in someone else’s eye and the plank in our own. Let’s not stop bringing bright light to the obfuscation, but perhaps we need to all do it with some humility?

  1. John, do you spend all of your life in a “self centred, egotistical, bubble”, that TOTALLY ignores the real life out there? Too much to say, with no constructive opinions. It is so very easy to knock the current Government, especially George O as chancellor…he is the one taking the brunt of it! As is “call me Dave”!! The Connies are tied down by the Lib Dems….too Europhile and they talk through their bum bums.

    Leave Ed, looking after his Balls. I would not want him looking after the Nations credit card….unless he wants to “polish them up” and face the facts!!
    OOH ERRR!

    • Julie, either you live in a closed world or some sort of institution for the mentally ill if you think that George Osborne is any sort of financial guru with relevant policies, he is part of the Bilderberg group, which as you live in such an enlightened state of awareness should tell you all, but it doesn’t, some sort of troll then?

    • Julie,

      With all due respect, I am actually in the process of trying to construct my own ‘self centred, egotistical bubble’ in which to spend all my life away from the real life outside which, in this country anyway, is actually being created by Osborne and Cameron, or at least their departments which should be under their control.

      I have voted tory all my life, I have no intention of doing so again, as long as I live. The party is supporting these two lying , coniving, self important children while they continue to ruin this once great country and sneer at the public which voted for them while they continue with their stupidy, the party is therefore not fit for purpose, and not worth my vote.

      Its easy to knock these two halves of the same turd because they are the problem, they were the ones who courted the liberals (although it is becoming increasingly obvious that that was in itself an incompetant mistake) to form this totally useless alliance, and therefore must also carry the blame for that.

      Osborne and Cameron are two untruthful, patroising little shits and the sooner this country is rid of them the better.

    • “Only fools rush in where angels fear to tread”
      FGS read the title… need some help? It very clearly proclaims that it’s “a diary of deception and distortion”. Key word: “diary”; end of discussion.

  2. Salting fish by gloved hand is done using crystal seasalt.
    The alternative is a squirt of brine from nozzle on conveyor belt..

    • The current politicians at the top table started life as a squirt of brine, unfortunately the best part of the dose escaped target.

    • I’m trying to put a comment in here and it’s not being accepted – at the third attempt and after logging out and then back in! Smells fishier than non-salted salmon!

    • @ Archaeos Pteryx

      Well well, great minds think alike – or not, as the case may be. My thoughts also drifted over to Cuba and its tobacco products.

      To wit, should the US sanctions against Cuba ever be lifted, and surely it has got to happen one day, then can we expect to see advertising along the lines of “rolled on the thighs of a Cuban beauty”.

      For those who think the Cuban embargo doesn’t really affect us. Many moons ago my co-driver on a tour that went to Hungary (back in ’83, when the Iron Curtain was still in position) bought himself a box of fine original and genuine Cuban cigars from a shop in Budapest.

      No problem, one might think – until we were passing through Customs at Dover! To say that they treated him like a pariah is perhaps the understatement of the year! But at least, after much kerfuffle, they let him keep the cigars – in exchange for a princely sum!

    • @ Archaeos Pteryx

      Could it be that the advantage of hand-salting is similar to that of a certain brand of Dutch beer – it reachs the parts that machine salting can’t get to! As for who’s doing it – probably lads and lasses from the lower social strata earning a minimum wage.

    • @ Archaeos Pteryx

      The romantic and popular conception of smoking salmon also conjures up many false images, such as lots of salmon carcasses hanging in a domed space with smouldering fires on the ground and a narrow smoke outlet in the ceiling. Amongst my acquaintances here is a former fishmonger that smoked his own salmon – here in the south-west corner of Germany, at least 600 or so clicks away from the nearest stretch of salt-water!

    • @ Archaeos Pteryx

      The pre-salted salmon were delivered by his general dealer. These then went into his smoker machine – and with not a real fire in sight! But he was subject to some rather rigorous rules by the local council on smoke emissions.

    • Intriquing – it refuses to accept the last paragraph! Perhaps because it contains the words smoke, smoker and smoking, each several times?

  3. Yes, it amuses me too when supermarket cakes proclaim they are ‘decorated by hand’, as though the process involves anything other than someone on the minimum wage standing at a conveyor belt.
    You may be right about it all being bollocks. Everyone wants wealth, everyone wants sex, no one wants to die, and most people want at least a bit more than what they’ve got. That’s what keeps us going, I suppose.
    I can’t usually bear Richard Littlejohn but his piece in the Mail yesterday about how nearly every news story comes with the threat ‘People Are Going to Die’ was very good.

  4. Spot on, John. Paradoxical injunctions can be very effective but, just like antibiotics, they have been misused and overprescribed..

  5. Re. Cambridge researchers – this could have to do with the fact that the subconscious doesn’t do negatives.

    So, you say, “don’t panic”; it hears, “panic”.

    • Absolutely spot on. I work in marketing and always do the “pink elephant” trick with my younger colleagues! Going to hear Steve Peters (Chimp Management Neuroscientist) on Monday ….. can’t wait.

    • “…the fact that the subconscious doesn’t do negatives.” Do you have a reference for that?

      It is intriguing from the PoV of philosophy, logic, and semiotics. It implies, for example, that the rejection of Delta’s “we’ll get you there” might be other than “we will not get you there”, suggesting perhaps (absent the negative) that I might need someone else also to assist getting me to where I want to be, or that Delta will get me somewhere else, for example to Narita when I want to get to Akihabara. Those by no means exhaust the possibilities. A trivial example, maybe, but with ramifications for ideology, social policy, “narratives”, etc.

      • I think that I possibly first came across this reading about neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). If you have a google you will quickly turn up a fair amount of stuff. And I am sure that such psychological tricks are well understood by those shaping public policy, as the poster last week talking about the manipulatory phraseology in Cameron et al’s speeches pointed out.

        A corollary of this is research that shows that behaviour is much more likely to be influenced by positive example rather than negative exhortation – hence the constant blather about role models in the media.

  6. I too was driving yesterday and enjoyed Dustin Hoffman’s recollection of what his father said about it all being bullshit. He also related a tale of how being scared of one’s wife increased the chances that one’s marriage would last. The next piece narrated by Hugh Dennis on lost words also grabbed my attention. Dr Johnson refered to leverment (not sure of the spelling, can’t find it in any dictionary!) “the comfort one has of ones wife”. A fantastic word and probably one of the few comforts we can aspire to as we slip into what has/will become a permanent economic depression. Not sure if a word exists for the comfort a wife gets from her husband but in this pc age and with the capacity of the english language to adapt I don’t see why leverment shouldn’t be resurrected in a unisex context.

    • I will try & remember that beautiful word. As for being scared of my wife that doesn’t apply. The fear I feel comes from the knowledge that with the oncoming inevitable end I will eventually lose her. I have already lost one wonderful woman but I have since been incredibly fortunate in finding another, there is no bullsh*^t in our bubble, it is life sustaining. When we become permanently separated that will signal my death, even if I am still breathing.

      • I suspect scared of losing one’s wife through committing an unforgiveable error was what Dustin meant and I think there is much truth in that. If we are happy with what we have we are fortunate. The more leverment the better as far as I’m concerned.

      • Fortunately I have never succumbed to the temptation of doing the twist with an alluring stranger. Always preferred to stay with my partner in a slowly evolving tango.

    • leverment – “the comfort one has of ones wife” -probably has the same root as leveret i.e. a big rabbit – so that would explain it……

  7. It’s worth remembering that the observation ‘it’s all bullshit’ is not actually a negative, it’s a release. Much like the Sanskrit ‘maya’ (illusion); once we realise that ‘all this is that’, we are released from our suffering which is itself an illusion.. allegedly.. no.. really.

  8. I’ve been ploughing into some Norwegian smoked salmon tonight – purchased recently from Lidl. On the outer wrapper it says ‘hand salted’

    Pretty good it was, too, bought in Lidl Moabit (Berlin). But like you, JW, I wondered about the hand-salting for 24 hours before actually opening the packet. Tasted good with German rye-bread and Meerrettich

    • I would say you had reason to pause while deconstructing the bollocks from Lidl. The problem is this: if you smoke food to preserve it, and salt food to preserve it, then if you have done either of those things correctly, it will not require additional preservatives. So either the smoking or the salting is redundant. What else does the packet say – does it mention ‘preservatives’, or that ‘smoked’ means an additive chemical known as BFK (Brown for Kippers)? And would anyone in Lidl know if we asked them?

      Another issue is cultural, more subtle but also problematic. Some people prefer to salt fish; others prefer to smoke it. For example, in southern Europe you can easily make salt in the summer from brine, whereas in northern Europe wood is more plentiful than sunshine. So we have here in this smoked/salted conflict potentially a salmon with an identity crisis. (Notwithstanding that salmon tend to get about). Would you (pace my post above) eat GM salmon?

      • I’m no expert, but as I understand it from Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall you have to salt the fish first before you smoke it, otherwise the smoke doesn’t take.

      • Might it not be something different altogether? For instance these days the fact that anything at all is salted conveys a not too subliminal hypertensive warning to the ever health-alarmed public. ‘Salted’ — if that word alone appeared it would carry a negative connotation –these days particularly amongst the informed and ‘educated’. ‘Hand salted’ rather decreases the negative sense of valence quite a bit. It brings with it as an extra bonus the connotations which automatically come with the word ‘hand’ in relation to a product — far and away the first association made by such trickery must be to ‘hand made,’ which traditionally is assurance of quality. And the manufacturers are under the obligation to indicate whether or not the salmon is or is not salted, no? Thus ‘hand salted’ strikes me as a clever route to the best of both worlds, so to speak.

        To state it simply — they are trying to avoid the negatives associated with the word ‘salt’ by buffering the expression.

  9. John, during the earlier part of this year I found your blogs to be insightful and in the nature of investigative journalism through the many contacts you obviously have. In the past 3 months I have found an increase in the number of angry/emotional e-mails as distinct from the incisive ones. All I wanted to ask was whether you felt this was serving you?

      • I think these ‘end of the day’ Slogs are meant to be non specific ‘grumpy old git’ rants -like the ones I have daily when some twat pushes my nose out of joint with some ridiculous platitude or something.

  10. The butcher I use in my local market had a sign saying ‘Home baked pies’, so out of curiosity I asked they had a large oven at home or what? He said No. So I asked what’s with the sign then and he shrugged and said they’re baked here around the back.

    I also noted the ‘home cooked hams/chickens and turkeys.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s