Not every young person devoted to posting their travel adventures on their social media accounts is misguided and naïve, but sometimes it seems that way.
Instagram bloggers Jolie King and boyfriend Mark Firkin are facing ten years in a notorious jail in Iran for flying a drone without permission near Tehran. Or so local reports suggest.
They had no idea about the drone law — or any other Iranian law, it seems. Did they even check? Iran is certainly a stunning country with plenty of Instagrammable scenery to make online followers shiver with awe, but it also harbours one of the most oppressive regimes on the planet.
Jolie King and boyfriend Mark Firkin are facing ten years in a notorious jail in Iran for flying a drone without permission near Tehran
Tensions against the West have risen recently with missile launches, pirated tankers and the unrelated arrest of a female British-Australian academic several months ago.
Were Jolie and Mark aware of any of this? Or were they drifting around in a gorgeous Instadream. Hello trees, hello flowers. Let’s stand in this pool and say cheese; never mind that military installation in the background. Everyone is going to be so jealous!
Jolie and Mark, who are also of British-Australian nationality, were travelling through the country as part of a two-year adventure that was supposed to take them from Perth in Western Australia through 36 countries on their way to the UK, every step of it chronicled on their Instagram account.
Official advice warned the couple against travelling to Iran, but they particularly wanted to go there to ‘break the stigma’ around visiting countries with a negative reputation.
Jolie and Mark, who are also of British-Australian nationality, were travelling through Iran as a part of a two-year adventure they were cataloging on Instagram
Stigma! How I hate that word. It always suggest the blinkered prejudice of others, measured against the superiority of one’s own more reasonable and kindly viewpoint. Whereas the harsh reality is that countries such as Iran get a bad rap for very good reasons, one that is officially upheld by governments around the world.
But Jolie and Mark knew best. Their optimism is admirable, but what were they going to do? Smash down 1,000 years of international hostilities with the power of a pretty smile and a jar of Vegemite?
Perhaps they are victims of their own online success. In the crowded field of international influencers, YouTube posters and Instagram travellers, the race is on to impress followers with destinations that are off the beaten track, covetable and unusual.
It has pushed people like this couple into perilous territory, beguiled by beauty and failing to see that even the most luscious scenery or envy-inducing destinations can still play host to the deepest dangers. And this situation is only going to get worse.
Official advice warned the couple against travelling to Iran, but they particularly wanted to go there to ‘break the stigma’ around visiting countries with a negative reputation
This week Apple launched its new generation iPhone 11, Pro and Max hands-on — and the most startling new features were not the performance or the battery life, but the camera hardware and software. There are now three cameras on the back of the Pro phones and two on the back of the iPhone 11, all capable of delivering top-quality images for bloggers everywhere and their inexhaustible demands for more photographs in more exotic locations. Even in Iran.
Until recently in that country, people accused of drugs offences were executed. Women who have taken off their headscarves to protest against Iran’s compulsory hijab law have been imprisoned.
Peaceful protesters are also regularly arrested, while Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a 41-year-old British-Iranian mother-of one, has been held at the same jail as Jolie and Mark since 2016, on trumped-up spying charges.
This country is no one’s idea of a holiday destination. I sympathise with Jolie and Mark’s terrible predicament — certainly, their detention is an outrage. But I do fear for this new army of vacuous bloggers, who travel the world in pursuit of nothing more than the perfect photograph. Which is then posted online to elicit the envy of their followers and perhaps secure a lucrative deal with a popular brand.
Last October, Indian husband-and-wife bloggers Vishnu Viswanath and Meenakshi Moorthy died after falling off an overlook at Yosemite National Park. They were taking selfies when they plunged 800ft to their deaths. In July, three Canadian YouTube travel bloggers were killed after falling into a waterfall in British Columbia. Isn’t life worth more than a photograph?
An Iranian woman sits in her cell at Evin jail, where Jolie and Mark are currently being held
People get so wrapped up in the lives they live online that they fail to grasp the bigger picture. Or to see that the world is something more than a playground to capture in a pouting pose on Instagram, without context or understanding.
Difficult political situations often roar around those perfectly tousled heads, agencies who would do these people harm watch from the sidelines and wait for their chance.
Jolie and Mark, innocent as elves, skipped into Iran with the best of intentions. Now they find their naivety cruelly exposed as they are used as pawns in a much bigger game.
There is no stigma in that, but it is still the most dreadful of situations. Bloggers, please beware.
Here’s the bottom line on fame, Olivia
Olivia Colman is on the cover of American Vogue this month
Olivia Colman is on the cover of American Vogue this month, a breakthrough of sorts for the older woman in the glossy magazine world.
Yet while Olivia’s kooky charm and talent puts her in a different league from the usual glam beanpoles, the irony is that she still has to defend herself for not being a glam beanpole. ‘If someone doesn’t like me because of the size of my bum, they can f**k off. Because I’m quite a nice person to be with, actually,’ she said.
Olivia is determined to be normal, even though she is increasingly anything but. Accepting her Oscar earlier this year, the actress, who will play the Queen in the next series of The Crown, talked fondly of her days as a cleaner.
In a more recent interview, she said she found success and ‘the loss of anonymity’ hard to deal with. Well, deal with it, darling. For you, this is only the beginning.
Where is the honour in this system?
Geoffrey Boycott was clearly thrilled about being made a knight of the realm this week. He roared onto the Today show (R4) on Tuesday, as merry as a bowl of Yorkshire punch, only to be enraged when presenter Martha Kearney asked him about his conviction in a French court for domestic abuse 23 years ago. Was he a fit and proper person to be so honoured, was her gist.
Domestic abuse charities, various bustling female politicians and the chief executive of Women’s Aid have criticised the decision to honour the former England cricket star. ‘I don’t give a toss, love,’ he told Miss Kearney, managing to boil six decades of misogyny into the reductive syrup of one six-word sentence.
It said everything we needed to know about the ghastly man, even if a tiny corner of my spleen thrilled to his discourtesy. For years, many of us have longed for someone to yell ‘I don’t give a toss!’ at Today interviewers when they ask: ‘What do you say to so and so who says blah blah about you?’ Such a shame it was him.
But still. Sir Geoffrey? You have to wonder about Theresa May’s thinking, and what I am thinking is that she was past the point of caring what anyone thought.
Domestic abuse charities, various bustling female politicians and the chief executive of Women’s Aid have criticised the decision to honour Geoffrey Boycott with a knighthood
The former PM introduced a new Domestic Abuse Bill in the dying days of her leadership, saying it was our ‘duty to bring the perpetrators of these vile crimes to justice’. Only to approve a knighthood for a man convicted of exactly that.
Her resignation honours list also contained the names of the architects of her failed administration who have left this country in such a mess. Perhaps there should be more fuss about their inclusion than Boycott’s? Don’t hold your breath, particularly as feminist groups claim the celebration of a man who assaulted his girlfriend in 1996 sends out the ‘dangerous message’ that domestic abuse is not taken seriously as a crime.
In the world of #MeToo, in an era when grave attempts have been made to criminalise wolf-whistling, at a time when any slur against the sisterhood can result in opprobrium and worse, it is hard to think of anything — other than racism — which is taken more seriously in society.
Yet it is hard to argue with their belief that domestic abuse is downgraded in terms of moral culpability. And that a man convicted of any other violent crime would never even be considered for a knighthood. It just all goes to prove what a tainted farrago the honours system has become.
Quote of the week from Meghan
‘When I first moved to the UK, it was incredibly important to me personally to be able to connect with people on the ground doing really important work.’
Then why does she spend so much time in the air? Just a thought.
Cherry’s glee is just too ghastly
Horror show of the century? Joanna Cherry, dripping with triumphant smuggery, as she sprinted for the cameras outside the Scottish courts this week after the ruling that Boris Johnson had acted illegally by proroguing parliament.
‘As a Scottish MP and a Scottish lawyer I am very proud that Scotland’s highest court has made this unanimous ruling,’ she boasted, fair turning pink with the excitement and exertion of it all. She looked like a prize hen who had just laid a very big egg.
Joanna Cherry sprinted for the cameras outside the Scottish courts this week after the ruling that Boris Johnson had acted illegally by proroguing parliament
The SNP stalwart went on to criticise Downing Street and others who had dared to discredit the judiciary in Scotland over the ruling, as this showed ‘a complete lack of respect for Scotland’s elected parliamentarians and institutions’. Really? Where was she when Alex Salmond did exactly the same thing — in reverse — launching a series of attacks on the authority of the UK Supreme Court.
The then first minister accused the court of ‘intervening aggressively’ in Scotland’s legal system after it ruled that it had twice breached the European Convention on Human Rights in significant criminal cases.
Joanna, zip it with the faux outrage. We can all see what you and everyone else is doing; acting from personal vested interest and dearly held political viewpoint, not concern for the law or protocol.
Your glee gives you away. And that is never a good look.
Downton Abbey may live on
Elizabeth McGovern and Hugh Bonneville in the soon-to-be-released Downton Abbey film
Delicious news from the Downton Abbey premiere. Creator Julian Fellowes revealed the movie might not be the end after all.
‘I thought this is going to be a nice full stop, but there is such an appetite for it, I can see it carrying on — I’d never say never!’ he said.
Some TV series outstay their welcome. However, I think I could watch Downtown Abbey for ever. So long as Mrs Patmore has the breath in her body to tick off Daisy while making a batch of hooves en gelee, I shall be there with them.
Who’s your daddy?
Simon Watson claims to have fathered 800 children as Britain’s most prolific sperm donor — what an irresponsible madman, an uncivilised beast.
The genetic implications of his efforts are terrifying, while the women who willingly and knowingly take his sperm need their heads examined.
I hate people who say shouldn’t there be a law against this, but come on — shouldn’t there be a law against him?