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Story of Cecil King

by Sven Triloqvist Fri Sep 16th, 2011 at 11:40:06 AM EST

Adam Curtis has put the rough cut of a film about King and the Labour party, circa 1964, on his BBC blog.


It's long cut and still a bit ragged visually, but it has some stunning stuff in it. Those of us who were adults (just) at the time will recognize this world of combovers and men's attire in wool.

Those of you who are too young, or growing up outside British politics at the time, will still find a lot of resonance in the events of today. An insanely powerful media baron goes insane with advanced megalomania, a huge national deficit, a PM with the slimmest of majorities, a previous government brought down by scandal (The Profumo Affair), a scheming Bank of England, and tabloid trivia. Many of the reporters seen here in BBC footage of the time, were later editors of the major newspaper titles. There's also an interesting bit with George Brown talking about his drinking.

All this was of course before the advent of computers. Editorial rooms are a sea of paper, on the floors and on the desks. Journalists type copy up on a typewriter then send it down to the linotype room to be set in metal. The linotype operator retypes the copy into his machine, and letters drop down one by one into a slot with the width of one column. When one line of type is ready, the machine lifts up the line and casts it in hot metal. These are then placed in a chase, which holds all the lines together. The linotype op pulls a hand (galley) print and sends it to be proofread. Upstairs a possible layout for the paper is being sketched on 1:1 paper.

Slowly, as the chosen pictures are half-toned, and the copy is glued into place in the page layout, the paper takes shape; though it can change several times before it goes to press. There were not many aids in fitting a jigsaw of articles into a newspaper - it was mostly the experience of craftsmen that resolved the puzzle.

What an odd world it was. And such a lot has happened since, but many things never change. Like the quest for power. History contains all the lessons needed to ensure that the insane don't achieve power, yet is rarely heeded. Perhaps the quest for power is insanity, or at least a severe Learned Behaviour Disorder. Thor knows how many psychopaths we could identify around us.

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Mountbatten was once asked about this and he was quite open about what happened. He said he was invited to attend a meeting but didn't know what it was about. After 10 minutes he got the picture, stood up, announced that "this is treason" and walked out. He never heard any more and assumed that it has all fizzled out.

It goes to show how clueless they were that, to overthrow the govt, they felt they had to both remove the Queen and replace her with someone from the same line.

Peter Wright had a few things to say about some of the background to it in his book, Spycatcher (if ever a book was misnamed, that was it). They hated Wilson with a passion and had managed to convince themselves, probably with KGB encouragement, that he was a Soviet agent. By and large I think the security services pose far more danger to the country they serve than to any external enemy

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Sep 16th, 2011 at 01:26:53 PM EST
Checking the wikipedia article on the Mountbatten, I found a link to Ken Livingstone describing the history in parliament, including his policy recomendations:

House of Commons Hansard Debates for 10 Jan 1996 (pt 43)

Mr. Livingstone: Madam Deputy Speaker, I am pointing out that treason against Labour Governments has been endemic in MI5 throughout its history, and that it has co-operated with Conservative Members of Parliament against the elected Government of the day. On those grounds, and because I do not believe that Stella Rimington or anybody else has done anything to change the climate of treason in the organisation, I oppose the Bill. I believe that MI5 should be broken up, and any worthwhile bits of it given to the police to operate as usefully as they can within the law.

I agree, not only about MI5 but in general about secret services.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Sep 17th, 2011 at 06:32:03 AM EST
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What a fascinating story, and how relevant for today.

sure it's a rough cut which is a touch schizoid, telling two stories at the same time. One, the reach of power and privilege. The other, an homage to journalism from another distant time. At times it doesn't work telling both side by side, though one tale is gripping and the other has real charm.

I'd like to know much more about the plot and its men... and whether Cecil King ever was able to make himself invisible walking down Fleet Street.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Sep 16th, 2011 at 05:46:27 PM EST
PS. Here's the review of the film (to date) by the Global Village Idiot, in its entirety:


45 minutes. The rough cut from Sven's Diary. Story of Cecil King

Power mad media mogul. Conspiring Bank of England. Severed breasts wrapped in newsprint. City of London attacking. Hidden debt, financial threat. Rampant ego. Psychic demented mogul wives. Laughable but charming sound track. Unsevered pert breasts. Mountbatten. And playing himself, the dynamic young newcomer, Rupert of Murdoch.

2.3 thumbs up.



"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Sat Sep 17th, 2011 at 04:57:07 AM EST
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"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Sep 16th, 2011 at 09:41:55 PM EST
And the DVD is to be released imminently, I see.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Sep 17th, 2011 at 02:50:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't wait to see this. And the screenwriter is an MP! Danke Chris.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Sat Sep 17th, 2011 at 04:57:53 AM EST
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Yes, but the ending is very different from that which Mullins wrote in the book and, imo, is better for it.

For a couple of years afterwards you could buy "Harry Perkins for PM" badges; I wish I'd seen one to buy.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Sep 18th, 2011 at 03:07:05 PM EST
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