I have just received one of the worst dressing-downs I have ever been subjected to. And considering my propensity to prefer the jeans and t-shirt section of my wardrobe, that is saying something. When I look around the office I see the other editors staring at their screens with glassy, non-seeing eyes as well. At least they can still use both hands; I have been typing this surreptitiously with only one hand. Things are not well at the office.
When I started at the newspaper our managing editor gave me the time to develop the concepts of the pages in my care. She watched me struggle to define the right things to cover and with subtle, gentle nudges she would push me back onto the course she had already decided in her head. Her criticism was constructive, her suggestions never demands, and for the better part of a year I luxuriated in the liberty to do my job the way I thought best.
But sadly these days are gone. Always one to be ahead of her game, my boss has chosen to become a leader of the pack yet again and where she would whip us into a frenzy of enthusiasm on the scent of a controversial story, she now simply whips us into shape. Literally.
When once she would point impassioned fingers sporting black nail polish at you during ardent arguments, she now stalks around our desks in what can only be described as a black tent. Gone are the days of democracy and discussion, her voice is the only one that counts and she punctuates her power with a shiny black cat o’ nine tails.
She has gone to the dark side where freedom and justice are paid only lip service, and hunger for power and the will to dish out harsh punishment to any who disagree rule all.
As she roams around the office as a conservative dominatrix we cower at our desks. Within a day of a prosecutor trying to change the law singlehandedly by ordering lashes for a drunken disorderly, my boss jumped on the bandwagon of yesteryear, denying everything she used to stand for.
It started with an editorial meeting that for once was eerily quiet. Our normal argumentative banter died out in the face of her stern stare and strange attire, after which she proceeded to demolish our morale within the space of 10 minutes.
A cabinet reshuffle has been announced to probably take place at some point in the near future, which is as exact a timeline you can get from the government, she told us in steely tones. One of the positions expected to be changed is that of minister of information, and this new warden of words will most likely strive to implement the conservative views of the powers that be.
And so, she continued in the face of our stony silence, the paper will change its direction to comply with what will be expected of us. Stories are to be pitched in emails to the Supreme Guide of Editors, and once they are approved we can assign them to the reporters. A strong set of guidelines will be issued by these supremes, and dissent will be met with swift and disproportionate measures.
Politics were directed to only write positive pieces about our esteemed leader, Business was ordered to fill their pages with glowing economic success stories and the Opinion editor was summarily fired. From now on there is only one opinion that counts.
For a brief moment I hoped that my section would survive the slaughter, but that was short-lived. This boss I had liked because of her sense of humour and adventure primly informed me that I was going to be issued a list of topics that were seemly to write about, compiled by the Supreme Guide. My page would continue but without movie or theatre reviews, and no reviews of music or art.
Now, no matter how long I have lived here I am still an opinionated Dutch person, so I argued. This leaves me next to nothing to fill the page with, and denying culture exists does not mean it is not there, and whatever happened to ‘Independent English language newspaper’, the slogan so proudly featured on our masthead, I asked her, full of defiance.
Her answer was swift and brutal; with her black leather whip she whacked me across the hand.
It is clear that times are changing and opposing opinions are no longer respected. As I sneak out of the office for the last time, clutching my hurt hand and dignity, I am sad for the loss of freedom of expression. There are dark days ahead and I, for one, am not planning to spend them as anyone’s whipping boy.
*In response to readers’ concerns, DNE would like to reiterate this is a satirical column and does not represent a change in editorial policy