I’m really sorry that there is so little about screenwriting in this week’s blog. I’d meant for this to be a tiny footnote at the bottom of the blog, but…I got carried away. I do try to stick to screenwriting (and there are a couple of – hopefully – useful connections to screenwriting and storytelling in here). And I will be back to writing exclusively about screenwriting from next week. But I think this is important and it’s taken over my week and got in the way of work…
THE SOCIOPATH TEST
I couldn’t let this week’s blog go by without saying something about the huge and demoralising frustrations I’m (we’re?) feeling, having to live through Johnson and Cummings’s arrogance and dishonesty over the last week. I don’t know about you but I’ve been coping OK in lockdown up until recently – and then observing Johnson and Cummings and their utter contempt for us over the last week really knocked me back and demoralised me. Day after day we have been taken for mugs as they insult us with their lies. A 60 mile round trip to a local beauty spot on his wife’s birthday with both wife and son in the car, ‘to test his eyesight.’ If it took 60 miles of driving to decide whether his eyesight was up to driving, then it clearly wasn’t! And then suddenly the cabinet decided to agree that eyesight problems are a recognised covid symptom (which they’re not).
The fact is that his actions were exactly what the government advice was designed to stop – people from one area of the country with a high rate of infection (London) – who suspect they’re infected – taking the disease to another area of the country with a low rate of infection (Durham). We all knew that if we were showing symptoms, the worst possible thing we could do was travel with those symptoms to another part of the country. To really put the cap on this, he even took his son to a hospital in Durham!
The idea that the most important government advisor, at a time when he potentially had even more responsibility because his sidekick, sorry boss, was ill, couldn’t get access to childcare in one of the biggest first-world cities on the planet is palpable crap.
And yet there was not one iota of remorse or apology from either him or the PM, despite the fact that millions of other people have brilliantly and quite rightly taken the rules as gospel and made no attempt to ‘interpret’ them to their own advantage. And the way other cabinet members are then wheeled out to support the party lines (lies) using exactly the same language as each other doesn’t even attempt to hide the transparency that this is propaganda rather than sincerely-held opinion.
When thinking about all the people who have suffered in silence and shown such forbearance, it really twists my guts in fury seeing their sociopathic behaviour. My own uncle died three weeks ago. I wasn’t close to him, but his three children and five grandchildren weren’t able to go to his funeral – just one example of many, many thousands who will be feeling hugely slighted by Johnson and Cummings’ complete lack of remorse or apology for Cummings’ crystal-clear flouting of the lockdown regulations at the time – however he (extraordinarily incompetently) tries to spin it.
As a matter of interest, I checked online the qualities that you need to be defined as a sociopath. They are –
and Superficial Charm.
2 Manipulative and Conning. They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviours as permissible.
3 Grandiose Sense of Self.
4 Pathological Lying.
5 Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt.
6 Shallow Emotions.
7 Incapacity for Love(?)
8 Need for Stimulation.’
From what I’ve seen of him, that list seems to pretty accurately sum up Cummings! (I’ve crossed out the only one that doesn’t seem to apply.)
It’s an important facet of screenwriting that one tiny image can get to the nub of a scene when pages of dialogue don’t quite do it. And so it was with Cummings, caught on Sky News cameras with a nasty little smirk on his face as he walked away from his press conference, that spoke volumes about his contempt for everyone who isn’t as ‘smart’ as he is.
I’ve taken this directly from a Twitter thread by @RussInCheshire which sums up the story clearly and excellently. (Twitter has been both a comfort and a curse this last week – a comfort for its brilliant writing and being able to share in the generalised outrage; but also a curse in that it has ratcheted up my fury even further).
1. Dominic Cummings, one of the few men to have ever been found in contempt of Parliament, moved onto contempt for everything
2. When the story broke, and he was accused of doing things that look bad, he said he didn’t
3. Then ministers said press outrage meant nothing, only the opinion of the people mattered
4. Then polls showed 52% of people wanted Cummings to resign
5. So Cummings decided to show the public some respect, by turning up 30 minutes late to make his explanation
6. He began by saying he wasn’t speaking for the govt, which must be why he was in the Rose Garden of 10 Downing Street
7. Then the self-styled “enemy of the Islington media elite” said his wife, who works in the media, had been ill in their house in Islington
8. But she was only a bit ill, so he popped home, got himself nice and infected, then went back to Downing Street for meetings with lots of vitally important people in the middle of a national crisis
9. But then he got ill too, so then it was suddenly important
10. Sadly he couldn’t get childcare in London, even though 3 immediate relatives live within 3 miles of his London home
11. So because he was carrying a virus that can cross a 2 metre distance and kill, he immediately locked himself in a car with his wife and child for 5 hours
12. He then drove 264 miles without stopping in a Land Rover that gets maybe 25 MPG
13. Then the scourge of the metropolitan elites made himself extra-relatable by describing his family’s sprawling country estate, multiple houses and idyllic woodlands
14. He explained that he’d warned about a coronavirus years ago in his blog
15. Then it was revealed he actually secretly amended old blogs after he’d returned from Durham
16. And anyway, if he’d warned years ago, why was he so massively unprepared and slow to react?
17. Then he said he was too ill to move for a week
18. But in the middle of that week, presumably with “wonky eyes”, he drove his child to hospital
19. Then he said that to test his “wonky eyes” he put his wife and child in a car and drove 30 miles on public roads
20. Then it was revealed his wife drives, so there was no reason for the “eye test”, cos she could have driven them back to London
21. Then it was revealed the “eye test” trip to a local tourist spot took place on his wife’s birthday
22. Then cameras filmed as he threw a cup onto the table, smirked and left
23. And then it emerged his wife had written an article during the time in Dunham, describing their experience of being in lockdown in London, which you’d definitely do if you weren’t hiding anything
24. A govt scientific advisor said “more people will die” as a result of what Cummings had done.
25. Boris Johnson said he “wouldn’t mark Cummings ” down for what he’d done.
26. The Attorney General said it was ok to break the law if you were acting on instinct
27. The Health Minister said it was OK to endanger public health if you meant well
28. Johnson said Cummings’ “story rings true” because his own eyesight was fine before coronavirus, but now he needs glasses
29. But in an interview with The Telegraph 5 years ago, Johnson said he needed glasses cos he was “blind as a bat”
30. Michael Gove went on TV and said it was “wise” to drive 30 miles on public roads with your family in the car to test your eyesight
31. The DVLA tweeted that you should never, ever do this
32. Then ministers started claiming Cummings had to go to Durham because he feared crowds attacking his home. The streets were empty because we were observing the lockdown.
33. And then a minister finally resigned
34. Steve Baker, Richard Littlejohn, Isabel Oakeshott, Tim Montgomerie, Jan Moir, Ian Dale, Julia Hartley Brewer, 30 Tory MPs, half a dozen bishops and the actual Daily Mail said Cummings should go
35. The govt suggested we can ignore them, because they’re all left-wingers
36. Then a vicar asked Matt Hancock if other people who had been fined for doing exactly what Cummings did would get their fine dropped. Matt Hancock said he’d suggest it to the govt
37. The govt said no within an hour. Cummings’ statement had lasted longer than that
38. And if the guidelines were so clear, why were people being stopped and fined for driving to find childcare in the first place?
39. Then a new poll found people who wanted Cummings sacked had risen from 52% to 57%
40. Cummings is considered the smartest man in the govt
41. And in the middle of all this, in case we take our eye off it: we reached 60,000 deaths. One of the highest per capita death rates worldwide.
42. We still face Brexit under this lot.
43. It’s 4 years until an election
As I said, it’s back to screenwriting next week with a brilliant guest blog from director RICHARD LAXTON and screenwriter ANNA SYMON.
Until then, stay safe and positive,
All the best
May 29th 2020