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Media circus leads us by the nose

PUBLISHED: 09:00 10 April 2004 | UPDATED: 04:46 02 March 2010

WHAT a curiously prurient lot we English are. What on earth has the Beckhams' sex life got to do with you or me?

Why should we care if the most over-rated footballer on the planet enjoys kinky text with someone who isn't his wife?

Does it affect his ability to play football? Or his wife's ability to sing? In the latter case, would anyone be able to tell?

What might affect the pseudo-royal couple's work performance – and indeed the rearing of their young family – is the extraordinary media circus that has sprung up around them.

WHAT a curiously prurient lot we English are. What on earth has the Beckhams' sex life got to do with you or me?

Why should we care if the most over-rated footballer on the planet enjoys kinky text with someone who isn't his wife?

Does it affect his ability to play football? Or his wife's ability to sing? In the latter case, would anyone be able to tell?

What might affect the pseudo-royal couple's work performance – and indeed the rearing of their young family – is the extraordinary media circus that has sprung up around them.

It must be very difficult to live in such a constant glare of publicity.

And I shouldn't think you could get much good skiing done with half the reporters and photographers in Britain camped on the slope outside your door.

An obsession with the sex lives of the famous is nothing new in the British press.

The troubled history of Ireland might have been very different over the past 115 years if the press hadn't grubbed so intimately into the private life of the charismatic Charles Stuart Parnell.

And that is just one of several instances of newspaper talk having political consequences explored by the writer AN Wilson in his excellent book The Victorians.

Wilson is especially good on the hypocrisy of the English middle classes, who love to see and read intimate details of whatever they find shocking.

In our version of democracy, the net-curtain-twitchers wield enormous power. So do the papers that feed their urge to be outraged.

Which is presumably why Tony Blair allows the tabloids, rather than the Labour Party, to set the political agenda and dictate his policies.

There can be no other explanation for this week's emergency summit on immigration. It's only an emergency because a few papers have stirred it up into one.

***

TODAY is the first Friday after the first full moon (which was on Monday) after the equinox (which was on March 21) - so happy Easter, then.

Has it ever stuck you as odd that the remembrance of Christ's death should be such a moveable feast? Don't we know when he really died?

Actually, when you come to examine the tradition closely, you start to wonder whether he died in the popularly believed way at all.

Festivals of death and rebirth associated with the spring equinox occur in many religions and are far older than Christianity.

One of them, the Jewish feast of the Passover, includes egg - to symbolise the spring - among the foods traditionally eaten. And of course it was to celebrate Passover that Jesus is said to have gone to Jerusalem for the final, fatal time. (Was egg and parsley on the menu at the Last Supper?)

Others include the pagan festival Ostara, or Eostre, associated with the ancient Germanic goddess of spring and the dawn. It doesn't take much to realise that the words Easter and east both derive from her name.

Similarly, the French word for Easter, Paques (and indeed the English Passion), come from the old Hebrew name for the Passover, which is Pesach.

Death, rebirth, the spring, the rising sun - is it any wonder if certain non-Christians (and maybe some Christians too) find the story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection just a little too neatly traditional to be literally true?

This, of course, does not take away the symbolic truth, which is pretty much the same whether you're Christian, Jewish, pagan or Buddhist.

Actually, I relish the way the Christian calendar echoes and perpetuates the older seasonal rhythm of the year, whether you take its stories literally or not.

What I find harder to stomach (or understand) is how the whole joyous festival got hijacked by the chocolate industry.


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