Saturday, 11 December 2010

Newspapers Are Shocking ... Except When They're Not

One likes to smell the sweet air of London occasionally (you know, that diesel-packed smog which is perfectly acceptable to those who passed the act which was supposed to give everyone clean air), so I popped up to Smith Square yesterday for a discussion about the EU, media, and blogs.

For a considered opinion on the day, you could do worse than to read the account of someone I talked to over coffee (yes, I sometimes partake of drinks that aren't chilled or iced ... very sometimes, though).

It was rather scary to be in the same room as some people who think the EU is quite hunky-dory, ta very much. I say 'some' because one of the speakers mentioned that everyone knows that the EU is flawed, and that he had yet to meet a pure, unadulterated Europhile who believed there weren't issues which needed to be ironed out. At which point, a hand shot up to illustrate the owner's acquiescence toward everything EU, a few minutes before the same guy threw a tantrum; shouted that no-one was being reverential enough to the new pan-European assimilation experiment; and fucked off with the right hump.

Turns out he is one of the country's big pro-EU movers, apparently. I suppose I should feel privileged that some of his irate spit landed in my lap two seats away. I'll not wash those trousers for a while and consult Christies about resale value. You never know, eh?

Oddly, he only had time for David Rennie of the Economist. Rennie had spoken of the piss poor nature of journalism these days, whereby hacks would attack the EU simply because "it doesn't sue, and won't complain". As an example, he quoted a Tory HQ fake story which the press took up concerning EU fines for not flying the flag over EU-funded projects.

It was bullshit. It quite simply didn't happen. Journos just re-printed it for its ease of use, and for the aforementioned fact that opposition would be non-existent. It even reached the BBC.

I think you may have noticed by now where I'm going with this, because it's a syndrome we are well aware of here.

We can count such appalling abuses of media reporting in many, many, many, many, many (I could go on) different ways when it comes to anti-smoker lies.

The same mindset applies. There is no opposition whatsoever. In fact - and this is rather pertinent seeing as we are talking about the EU - the silly bird from Cyprus is, err, democratically (?) actively attempting to silence any objection from a legal industry (to which she approves subsidies, by the way - they being Cypriot tobacco farmers) whilst accepting quite absurd anti-smoking science as fact.

Now, if a journo can see that he can print any old anti-smoking bollocks without challenge, he will do so. Yet, the same people who dislike such a practice applied to their cherished EU are quite happy to believe the same baseless nonsense from other areas.

Take Jon Worth, for example. He spoke yesterday about how he only blogs on issues on which he has a sound knowledge. Total respect for that, Jon, it's the sensible thing to do.

Except that, in the smoking debate, he has all of a sudden become an expert because ... yes, you guessed it ... he has read stuff in newspapers.

Now don't get me wrong. Jon is an OK sort. A committed lefty, sure, but someone who would appear to value probity of MSM reportage. Except in the smoking debate, of course, in which case who gives a fuck.

It's a point of view I have encountered over and over again with 'proper' politics commentators. They all talk of the need for responsible media coverage instead of tabloid hackery or lazy regurgitating of vested interest press releases, yet none will ever accept that the same practice goes on in areas they are unqualified to comment on in depth.

In such cases, they just believe the media - who are spewing out the same kind of press released garbage - unquestioningly.

Listen guys. Talk all you like of your distaste for lazy journalism and the propensity for some to take advantage of it. But don't ever think you're somehow too clever to fall for the same tactics.

It's a strategem which was perfected years ago (in 1975 to be precise). You might think that you are too clever to fall for it, but you're just as gullible as the rest of the population if the right buttons in your prejudices are pressed.

The Express may well turn pliant readers to their cause with anti-EU scare myths with which you violently disagree, but until such time as you can notice your own embedded preconceptions being encouraged by cleverly-contructed mendacity, you have no basis for being smug. In fact, your marshmallow acceptance of bullshit in other policy only encourages the same methods being employed against your own pet concerns.

Oh, I nearly forgot, the prawn salad sandwiches were bloody lovely.


Gawain Towler said...

This'll be the chap who stormed out.

You should read the FT magazine today, has a longish piece about the dangers of passive smoking(165,000 children die...) all from the WHO/lancet study.

Having pumped out a series of paras taking it all very seriously it finishes comme ca,
"The statistical basis of the estimates can be challenged...
"however there can be no question that 1.2bn smokers in the world are exposing billions of non-smokers to second hand smoke, a disease causing air pollutant", they say.

Anonymous said...

Yes, this is a fantastic cynical article pressing the the right buttons, more of these straight to the point commentaries, exposing journalists elastic moralistic, copied and pasted reports, is if they were the gospel truth! Sorry if this doesn't make much sense, had a few brown bottles, with accompanying roll-up!

Trooper Thompson said...

It must be the alcohol, but I'm furious! ... what was it now? Ah yes! That ain't bullshit about flying the flag. It is written into every contract under the European Social Fund, and probably all the other pots of our money which the British government robbed from us and gave to their Brussels bosses, that if you don't put the EU symbol on all documentations and display it where they tell you, they can take the money back.

Dick, I don't envy you for such rancid company. Fuck all them Federast wankers.

Pardon the outburst.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Sorry Trooper, I didn't make that bit clear. Yes it's written into contracts, but the Express was claiming that the EU had fined the UK when they hadn't.

Gawain: Yep, that's the guy.

Anonymous said...

re the stalker-outer

Always like to put a face on a name with these never had a proper job squeaking wheel chappies.

This'll be the chap who stormed out.

Oxygen thief.

Jon Worth said...

Well done Dick. You quoted me correctly, saying I only blog about things I know about, and then:

1. You quote a tweet, which is not a blog entry


2. It's one with no fact whatsoever, just a matter of personal value in it

Top quality blogging. Not.

Dick Puddlecote said...


Top quality blogging. Not.

Sorry, I didn't realise there was a required quality threshold for blogging. If it was some kind of elitist insult, I'm afraid it's missed its mark. You see, I regularly refer to posts here as drivel, tabloid, wibblings, etc. ... the blog is even titled deliberately to self-deprecate, FFS.

I'm just a guy, originally from a council maisonette in Wandsworth, who has a chance to write about stuff which quite a few people like to read. I thought lefties agreed with egalitarian concepts such as that.

Right, now we've established that there are no pretensions of grandeur or flowery prose here, and that clarifications are very often required (there's even one above in these comments), on your points 1 & 2 ...

I think you've taken this too personally. I said in the piece that you're 'an OK guy' so it wasn't meant as such. It was a general piece about the propensity of many people (the left are particularly disposed to it) of condemning copy & paste journalism on the one hand, yet believeing implicitly the same sources in other areas.

Yes, it was a tweet and a personal opinion only. But it's an opinion formed from reading over 3 decades of cleverly targeted mendacity from those paid to produce, err, cleverly targeted mendacity (here's another example of thousands since 1975). Unless, of course, you are saying that smoking bans are good for your own personal benefit and not because of health concerns, and seeing as I have seen you speak, I don't believe that. As I said, you come across as an OK guy.

So, to sum up, I fully took on board the criticism of the press with regard the EU on Friday, and have huge sympathy with the idea of a nation being hoodwinked by anti-EU propaganda. I know it happens because I see it on a daily basis.

What I was saying is that if Europhile commentators wish to criticise the press for fomenting a distrust of the EU via junk journalism, they should accept that the same thing is probably going on to persuade people to believe nonsense in areas with which they personally agree.

IME, they mostly don't.

Hope that cleared things up. :)

g1lgam3sh said...

I'd have just told Mr. Worthless to fuck off so I admire your restraint and well argued riposte :-)

Dick Puddlecote said...

Now now, g1lgam3sh, that's reserved for serial abusers of hospitality here and has only been required once, IIRC. Having sampled Jon's accomplished public speaking skills, I'm confident he is not one of those. :)

For info, Bruno Waterfield stated that European smoking bans were "a retrograde step", suggesting that he has wisely spotted the big business vested interests behind them.

Dick Puddlecote said...

As an addendum, the outburst mentioned above can be viewed at around 5:50 in this part of the full video coverage.