Borders has one of the best selections of obscure, niche-market magazines in Oxford. For all its multinational rapacity, and its attempts to package, brand, pre-chew and mulch down literature that a bookshop ought to treat with at least a little more respect, it’s almost the exclusive distributor of such as the is-it-or-isn’t-it-defunct new consumer magazine Bulb, which is run much in the nature of grow-your-own-hemp-printing-press publications the world over. Probably one of the first decisions Bulb would like you to make would be to stop shopping at, er, Borders.
But this is not about Bulb: it’s about Lobster. A sentence I never thought I’d write.
Lobster, available in the aforementioned rapacious etcetera, is printed very much like a low-budget academic journal. Every six months this self-styled compendium “of parapolitics, intelligence and State Research” puts out an issue of 50 pages of uncompromising media and political reportage and rumour. This is Private Eye in heedless, petrifying freefall, unsupported by the thin, spidery but omnipresent network of well-wishers that the more popular publication has to keep it from the litigious outer darkness.
The articles inside detail, among other frightening nuggets of unreported news: the actions of the new quasi-secret police that both Blairs are setting up; the de facto mainstream conspiracies in the media, the persecution of presumed spies by MI5 through the courts as a PR exercise—see what good we did in the face of the Red Menace!; numerous politicking events behind the scenes of the current Warren Terror; and reviews of books you probably never knew existed, full of facts you might feel safer not knowing. It’s strong stuff, with a whiff of the conspiracy theorist about it, but if even the cited references have any truth to them then it’s hard not to feel chilled to the bone at the state of our nation.
A fascinating publication then: the non-mainstream Private Eye. The quality of the writing is tremendously variable, though; yet for once it feels like the sub-editing has been performed with an appreciative, light touch, and the lumpily written “My encounter with… Tory Action” and the faintly bizarre “Corporate, cultural and state PR”, drowning as the latter is in footnotes, have actually been rendered closer to decent Lobsterish idiom by the apparently sole editor Robin Ramsay. The simple, fuss-free two- and three-column layouts suit a plain A4 stapled booklet well and add clarity to the often frightening information that Lobster challenges you to at least dissect. Its website is still stuck in 2005, but its eyes and ears are very much in the here and now.