Sunday 21 September 2014

Profiling Shane Smith

Man who likes red wine 

Radio 4's Profile doesn't just bring the personalities of its subjects alive, it also reflects the personalities of its presenters. A Profile by Edward Stourton, for example, will have a very different character to one by, say, Mark Coles.

This week's profile of VICE Media co-founder Shane Smith, for example, not only projected the hipster-businessman character of its subject but the John Peel-like warmth, dry humour and vocal inflections of its presenter, Mark Coles - plus his Peel-like love of music.

Shane Smith, a punk-loving Canadian, comes from Irish immigrant stock and has made it big in New York, and the world.

Shane...punk...Irish...New York? Shane MacGowan...The Pogues...A Fairytale of New York. Cue Pogues songs.

Mark's profile of Shane Smith projected the image of Shane that Shane clearly wants to be projected - that of the heavy-drinking/drug-taking, amoral slacker whose exceptional business acumen and 'immersionist' style of reporting wowed Generation Y and won over Rupert Murdoch. Because of Mark's dry style, however, I was left simultaneously won over by and sceptical about Shane Smith's public image. Too good/bad to be true?

The controversy over VICE getting into bed, embedding with...Islamic State and going where no mainstream media outlet has gone before was aired, tending towards the view that it was - on balance - a good thing.

In contrast, the controversy over VICE getting into bed with the regime in North Korea by embedding itself with Dennis Rodman (best known as the Celebrity Big Brother friend of George Galloway and Pete Byrne of Dead or Alive "fame", apparently also a basketball player) and Kim Jong-un (best known as an obese dictator) was also aired, tending towards the view that it was, emphatically (em-fatty-cally as regards young Kim) a bad thing.

Curiously for a BBC Profile, it didn't touch on the man's political views. Shane had nothing but contempt for the Occupy movement (remember that?) and said this of European-style socialism:
I grew up being a socialist and I have problems with it because I grew up in Canada [and] I’ve spent a lot of time in Scandinavia, where I believe countries legislate out creativity. They cut off the tall trees. Everyone’s a C-minus... 
[...incidentally rather like the UK's present political class for that matter!]

That kind of politics does seem to tally with the Generation Y we in the UK know.

Why am I telling you all this on a blog supposedly about BBC bias? Either 'God knows!' or you know, as I sure as heck don't - unless the preceding few paragraphs add up to something significant about BBC bias, and, frankly, I'm getting beyond knowing whether they do or don't.

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