01 The lazy linguist
The English-speaking world
Let’s get one thing clear once and for all: the only person who has ever been allowed to “reach out” (and, in her case, touch someone you love) was Diana Ross. Anyone else should just “get in touch with” their colleagues, perhaps even “write a letter” asking for their views. What was once a mild rash has become a contagious bug and we need to find a vaccine for all this reaching out. Not only is it a drippy, meaningless phrase, it also conjures up an unpleasant image of people’s sweaty paws grabbing at you.
The people who “reach out” are also those whose thinking is always “blue sky”, who can’t describe anything vaguely contemporary without incorrectly enlisting phrases such as “minimalist” or “modernist” and who don’t have to hurry to the airport but need to “rocket” there. But for now if we can just get everyone to delete “reach out” from their memory banks, opening our emails in 2010 will be a less tense experience. And if they don’t, perhaps we’ll have to reach out – and grab them by the throat.
At the end of the day the only way to move forward and stay on brand and on message will be to press reset and stop using all cliches. Are you with me?
02 Larry King & Co
With some notable exceptions, US news broadcasts are still largely populated by an ageing, increasingly irrelevant generation of news pundits. A fusty crowd of so-called journalists, experts and talk show hosts that were never exactly Walter Cronkite to begin with. Chief among them is Larry King, host of Larry King Live, a nightly interview show on CNN. It’s one thing to watch King lob soft questions to Shirley MacLaine about her obsession with UFOs, but it is quite another when he creates a safe space for Muammar Gaddafi and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. King (neé Lawrence Zeiger) has been past his sell-by date for years.
At 75, King looks like a bag of bones and his mind doesn’t seem to be that agile. His aversion to preparation was on display when Paul McCartney upbraided him for calling Ringo “George” — Harrison had been dead for six years — and when an incredulous Jerry Seinfeld asked King if he could inspect his resumé after King suggested that “Seinfeld” was cancelled.
Nor is he averse to fabrication, revealed by his “great friendship” with Sandy Koufax, a retired baseball player and Jewish icon, of which Koufax has no recollection. King’s presence confounds given that both late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel and ubiquitous sports journalist Bob Costas have shown integrity as fill-ins.
Larry, could you do us a favour? Could you take Jon Stewart with you when you go please? Thank you.
03 Hamid Karzai
Isolated behind the walls of his palace, Afghan president Hamid Karzai lost a lot of credibility in 2009. Up to one third of the votes cast in his favour in August’s elections were fraudulent, according to EU monitors.
Ballot boxes in Taliban-controlled areas were simply stuffed with votes for Karzai. He may have finally cracked and agreed to hold a run-off vote in November, but the damage is done. Karzai’s government has been undermined by rampant corruption, incompetence and electoral fraud to such a degree that he can never lead Afghanistan with an acceptable degree of legitimacy. The US needs a credible Afghan leader in place to justify sending more troops to the war-torn country. Let’s hope the right man emerges.
The year ahead will be tense as western governments with troops in Afghanistan reassess their ambitions and strategies. And also think how, and when, they can bring their soldiers back home.
We’re all for advanced forms of communication and robust brand building but every new media channel has its time and Twitter moved into its 16th minute long ago. Twitter might have stayed off this page had lazy media news organisations not turned it into cheap filler to replace meaningful content and had older, wiser individuals not employed it as the digital version of a face and bum lift. This magazine’s editor summed it up best when he told a CNN anchor, “When you look at old media brands and the way they’re using Twitter it’s like seeing some old guy walk down the road with a young bimbo on his arm – it’s that uncomfortable a relationship. They just don’t understand each other.”
There is a kind of social media that really works for business and play. It’s called having a glass of wine.
05 Joseph Kony
Joseph Kony, Africa’s most wanted rebel leader, continues to evade arrest. His Lord’s Resistance Army, which was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands in Uganda, has now spread across central Africa. Since 2008 Kony’s army has carried out massacres in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
He continues to kidnap children, using them as soldiers and sex slaves, but despite attempts by the US, the UN and regional armies he remains at large. Southern Sudanese leaders have warned that Khartoum’s Omar al-Bashir, Kony’s former paymaster, may use him to spread unrest ahead of 2010’s Sudanese elections.
Kony was the recipient of the International Criminal Court’s first arrest warrant but his arrest seems way off.