‘In the image war, the operation name is the first bullet fired, and quite possibly the most critical. If artfully moulded and aimed, it can be a key ingredient for victory.” So writes the US Army’s Gregory Sieminski in a paper from 1995 that has been doing the rounds online in 2011 in the wake of the US-led aerial bombardment of Libya, or “Operation Odyssey Dawn”. As more than one wit put it, they were meant to be naming a military venture, not a stripper.
Sieminski’s study is a fascinating read. The Panama invasion known as Operation Just Cause was originally called Operation Blue Spoon. The US Marine operation to aid victims of the 1991 typhoon in Bangladesh, Operation Sea Angel, began rather more prosaically as Operation Productive Effort.
“Odyssey Dawn” got a thundering thumbs-down online, and soon a Twittery parlour game flickered into life: Which alternative codenames were rejected? Among the suggestions: Operation Sod the Consequences; Operation Furious Ferret; Operation Xbox Royalties; and Operation Third Time Lucky.
Do nothing. It’s good for you. Hell, it’s even virtuous, argues Sven Birkerts in the highbrow Lapham’s Quarterly. What is idleness? As you know, “it is the soul’s first habitat, the original self ambushed – cross-sectioned – in its state of nature”.
Or to put it another way, it is “what supervenes on those too few occasions when we allow our pace to slacken and merge with the rhythms of the natural day”.
Birkerts then proceeds in his grandiloquent way to survey the canon of idle thought – but leaves out one crucial, much more readable, jollier publication, the English Idler, which “campaigns against the work ethic … to return dignity to the art of loafing, to make idling into something to aspire towards rather than reject”. Reborn from ancient roots in 1993 as a quarterly, it soon became biannual, and now appears once a year. Talk about living your values.
Rebecca Black has gone communicable, as they don’t say. Rebecca Black hovers like a Justin Bieber-shaped cloud across the wide world of the internet. Rebecca Black is – steady yourself – bigger than Lady Gaga. The 13-year-old American’s song Friday, which has attracted more than 30 million YouTube views, addresses pressing youth dilemmas, such as whether to catch the bus to school or grab a ride with a friend and, having settled for the latter, whether to sit in the front seat or the back seat. Sample lyric: “Tomorrow is Saturday/And Sunday comes afterward”.
And if all publicity is good publicity, Black has had a lot of good publicity. The Daily Beast gasped at the “social media uproar, mainstream media hellfire, parodies and remixes”. Was this “the worst song ever”? asked a Yahoo.com blogger. And it got downright malevolent on the comments under the YouTube clip, where Black encountered the breezy suggestion that she should try anorexia – and suicide.
It was a “steaming pile of internet hate”, said Adrian Chen of Gawker. Wrong target, he reckoned. “Why not save some ire for Ark Music Factory, the vanity production company that charged her parents $2000 to basically fashion her into a snack for mean YouTube commenters?”
Still, if Rebecca Black feels misrepresented, she now has a website that can fix it for her. Sort of. It is called iCorrect, and for a modest $1000 a year, slighted celebs can strike back at the evil fictions of the fourth estate, delivering “words from the horses [sic] mouth”. This is “possibly the most inspired website since Wikipedia”, writes one journalist in the Daily Telegraph, effortlessly illustrating just how easily moronic nonsense can be commited to print.
The brainchild of billionaire Briton Sir David Tang, iCorrect already features globe-shaking straightenings of the record. From Jemima Khan: “I have never been on a date with Billy Joel, and the song Big Shot is not about me.” Kate Moss: “Don’t try connecting to me on Facebook or follow tweets from Kate Moss, the real Kate Moss doesn’t use these social networking sites.” And, best of all, this: “Accusation, from the Mail on Sunday: David Tang is a creep. Correction, by Sir David Tang: This is greatly exaggerated.” It’s perfectly good sport, and has occasional merit, but there is no attempt on the part of the site to check pesky details like facts. It ends up, as the corrections editor of the Observer suggests, “an egomaniacs’ charter”. But he would say that, wouldn’t he?