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  • Writer's picturePatrick Ireland

#RememberMichael (and the Death of Journalism)

A short play I wrote in the wake of left-wing YouTube talkshow host Michael Brooks' death and reflections on working in the 'mainstream media'.


#REMEMBERMICHAEL & the Death of Journalism A Short Play by Patrick Ireland



CHARACTERS

Tom Paxton, mid fifties Grace Everleigh, early thirties

Michael Roberts, late twenties

SETTING The set should be as spare as possible: a desk in the centre with two chairs either side. Sat atop the desk is a laptop, some personal belongings and newspapers. Upstage right is a table with a coffee machine and some plastic cups. By the stage, in the apron, is a standing picture frame - what you are likely to see at a funeral. The picture depicts a man in his late twenties, Michael Roberts, with the words #RememberMichael written underneath. On the floor, beneath the stand, is a thin scattering of red roses.


Blackout. Twenty seconds. “Lascia ch'io pianga” (G.F. Handel) plays softly in the background.

Other sounds bleed into the music: ringing telephones, office chatter, and a cacophony of various political pundits expressing bigoted opinions on TV news. Suddenly, there is a jarring transition to the voice of Michael Roberts --

MICHAEL ROBERTS (crackling audio) ...What does it actually mean to be truly global to the extent we can be? Local, national, and international simultaneously? East, West, North and South? But from a place of actual growth and empathy. And this is where these questions of consciousness come in. Questions of cultivating empathy, and compassion. The complete antithesis of our media discourse today. Long- term thinking. Seeing complexity. The attempt to humanise, rather than dehumanise. These are all countervailing forces to the market techno-logic that consumes us all today.

Audio cuts out. Lights up.

Grace is sat at her desk in the offices of an elite London newspaper, focussed on her laptop screen. After a few moments, Tom enters. Walking through the aisles and onto the stage. He’s wearing a damp trench coat.

TOM

Morning, Grace.

GRACE (looks up) Hey, Tom. How are you?

TOM Shit weather. Shit trains. Shit people on trains.

Tom takes off his coat and places it over the empty chair.


GRACE Some guy threw up on the tube on my way over.

The whole carriage stunk.

TOM Naturally. And of course, knowing our good friends at TfL, by the time they send for the mop and bucket, the entire TSA would’ve gone on strike.

GRACE Has transport always been this shit?

TOM Grace, there are two things that have remained consistent throughout my thirty plus years in the capital as a professional hack. Bad teeth. And a fucking ocean of people’s bodily fluids on the public transport. Coffee?

GRACE

Please.

Tom approaches the coffee machine and proceeds to make two coffees. Grace returns to her laptop screen. Pause. Tom returns with coffee for himself and Grace.

TOM (handing Grace her coffee) Don’t ask me what it is. I have no idea. I just press the buttons.

GRACE I don’t really like coffee anyways.


TOM Well, you’re not a true hack until you’ve got a severe caffeine addiction and at least two marriages under your belt. In fact, given my current situation with Sarah, I might very well soon be over-qualified.

GRACE We should do an exposé.


TOM On my marriage? God forbid.

GRACE On the shit public transport.

TOM Yes, I’ll pitch it to Mark Ainsley at the ten o clock. “Mark, you know those funny little trains and buses you haven’t used since you were -- well, never. Yes, well, actually they’re a

little bit shite.”

GRACE Well, we’re gonna need something because it’s shaping up to be a slow news day. We’ve got three pages on that interview with Lord Rothmore in this afternoon’s edition.

TOM Oh, heavens! How many times does the old codger mention the Blitz?

GRACE At least twice from what I’ve read.

TOM That’s Rothmore’s answer to everything! The bloody “Blitz spirit”! And the most infuriating part of his shtick is the fact he was born in the fifties. Wouldn’t recognise a Nazi if he goose- stepped up to him, Sieg Heiled and kicked him in the fucking balls.

GRACE We’re also running with that Intelligence Report. The Russians are hacking Tik Tok.

TOM What the fuck is Tik Tok?

GRACE A place where teenage girls go to twerk and teenage boys go to wank.

TOM Great. The Russians know what we’re wanking to.


Beat. Tom sips his coffee.

TOM Is there anything on Twitter we can run with? I feel in between wanking and the Blitz, we need something with a little gravitas. Has J.K Rowling pissed off any more transgenders?

GRACE Err, not really. Usual noise.

TOM Grace. Darling. In today’s climate, with journos dropping like flies, there’s always a story. Don’t remind them that they don’t need you.

GRACE (looks back at her laptop screen) Well, err... this thing’s been trending for the last hour or so. Almost 10,000 tweets. #RememberMichael.

TOM

Remember-Michael-who?

GRACE

Michael Roberts.

TOM

Never heard of him.

GRACE He died. Last night.

TOM Oh, well we love a good death. How’d he die?

GRACE “Sudden medical condition”.

TOM “Sudden” as in he was suddenly bludgeoned to death by a racist Met officer?

GRACE Hardly. He was as straight white male as they get. And young.

TOM

How young?

GRACE

Twenty seven.

TOM

Not young enough.

GRACE

It’s now 10,000.

Beat. Tom finishes his coffee.

TOM So, who was this poor sod? Why does Twitter care?

GRACE (scrolling through Twitter) Err, it says here he was a “political commentator”.

TOM Nobody mourns the death of a hack. Who was he really?

GRACE Host of the “Michael Roberts Show”. Some YouTube politics thing.

TOM Then he’s an overgrown man-child in his mum’s basement. Sorry. Was.

GRACE People are tweeting like crazy. Posting emotional tributes and stuff. Look at this-- (points at the screen) #RememberMichael. There’s been nearly a hundred new tweets in the last minute.

TOM

Any names?


GRACE Just nobodies, from what I can see.

TOM

World’s gone mad.

GRACE

Maybe it always was?

TOM Maybe. But at least then we didn’t have to listen to people spewing up their guts online.

GRACE (reads) “Michael believed in bringing people together in the struggle for love and justice, fighting for all poor and working people, a struggle that he understood to be global.”

TOM

Trot.

GRACE

What?

TOM He’s a Trot. Clear as day.

GRACE

What’s a Trot? TOM It’s short for “Trotskyist”. As in Communist. They were bloody everywhere in the eighties. Throw a rock and you’d hit one. Thankfully they all disappeared back into their caves, but now Twitter has drawn them back out.

GRACE

How can you tell?

TOM “Bringing people together”, “love”, “struggle”, “working people” -- it’s all double speak. GRACE

For what?

TOM For we’re a bunch of Marxist lunatics.

GRACE

It’s now 12,000.

TOM Are any of the other outlets covering it?

GRACE A couple of the online headbangers, but nothing proper.

TOM Good. My estimation of the British press has gone up somewhat. The day we start eulogising YouTube Trots, is the day liberal democracy dies.

Tom picks up his coat.

TOM Anyways, keep an eye out for any good stories. I’ve got a quick catch-up with Julian before the ten o clock. I’ll see you then.

As Tom exits, he suddenly realises that Grace hasn’t touched her coffee.

TOM Your coffee’s getting cold, by the way.

GRACE I told you I don’t like it. I just drink it because everyone else does here.

Beat. Tom shrugs and exits upstage. Before he leaves, he heads over to the coffee machine and makes himself another coffee. Grace meanwhile, returns to her laptop.

The lights slowly dim and “Lascia ch'io pianga” (G.F. Handel) returns, playing softly in the background. After a few seconds, the voice of Michael Roberts returns --


MICHAEL ROBERTS (crackling audio) ...What does it actually mean to be truly global to the extent we can be? Local, national, and international simultaneously? East, West, North and South? But from a place of actual growth and empathy. And this is where these questions of consciousness come in. Questions of cultivating empathy, and compassion. The complete antithesis of our media discourse today. Long- term thinking. Seeing complexity. The attempt to humanise, rather than dehumanise. These are all countervailing forces to the market techno-logic that consumes us all today.

Audio cuts out. Blackout.


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