...a blog by Richard Flowers

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Day 2354: Blairimort Bites Dog


So, Lord Blairimort has attacked the "FERAL BEAST" of "the Media" and pinpointed the most wicked monster among them… the SU… hang on, it says "INDEPENDENT" here!

Who does he think he is kidding? He has had the most FAVOURABLE press of any Prime Monster since pretty much ever, with the SCUM and the TIMES both STILL onside thanks to all of Lord B's bending-over-backwards to keep Roger Stavro Moredick happy.

With THAT pack of wolves on your side, blaming the Indy is like keeping the HOUND of the BASKERVILLES and then complaining about SNOOPY looking a bit frothy around the mouth!

To say that the Independent is mixing commentary with news is missing the big picture BIG TIME – all of the newspapers, and the television (yes, the BBC too) have done this for a VERY LONG TIME. The Independent is, if anything, just being a bit more HONEST about the fact that they do it. At least you KNOW that you are buying an opinion sheet when you chose to pick up a copy. And if you don't like it: exercise your choice and don't BUY it.

So what if the Independent is hectoring, or patronising, or preaching.

Sometimes we seem to think that anyone who wants to be a bit Liberal has to PLAY NICE… followed shortly by rolling over and PLAYING DEAD. Well, wake up and smell the VITRIOL! The Daily Hate Mail has been hectoring AND patronising AND preaching and SPITTING POISON like a next of vipers for a hundred years.

If people want to go out and buy the Independent when it decides to stand up for British Liberal values by giving the Hate Mail a taste of their own medicine then I say HOORAY!

Anyway, Lord Blairimort is only pee'ed off because the media want to go and play with Mr Balloon now.

"I do believe this relationship between public life and media is now damaged in a manner that requires repair."

Lord Blairimort is both RIGHT and WRONG.

He is right that the relationship between politicians and media has been damaged, almost to breaking point. But he is WRONG that it is because of the rise of the Internet. The thing that BROKE the relationship was SPIN and the Internet is not the disease, it is the CURE.

SPIN was NOT invented by NuLabour. Au contraire! Spin has been with us for a very long time, because "spin" is what the MEDIA do – not politicians. It is about putting your own SLANT on every story that you report.

Sometimes it is more subtle. Sometimes it is BLATANT – like picturing Mr Kinnock as a dead dodo.

Suppose you are a bit XENOPHOBIC! – then you can add words like "bogus" or "illegal" every time that you talk about "refugees" or "immigrants" so that gradually people get the idea that these things go together automatically and that they are therefore automatically BAD. Similarly, if you are a frothing right-winger you can have all of your papers add the word "loony" every time they discuss "left-wing politics" and it will gently begin to influence their readers into thinking they would have to be INSANE to vote for a left of centre party.

Look – I just did it MYSELF when I put the worth "frothing" in front of "right-winger". Being right-wing does NOT automatically make you a RABID ANIMAL. No – it is just a COINCIDENCE that so many RABID ANIMALS are RIGHT WING!

Oftentimes what you do is put a buzz word or key phrase into a piece about something else entirely, just to keep the ideas ticking over in the reader or viewer's head.

Lord Blairimort's big idea (no, not the invading a Middle Eastern country one) was that he needed a "spin DOCTOR".

In opposition, what he needed was a specialist who could manage the media, overcome the natural barrier to the Labour that the media's own spin was making, and make sure that they got only the stories that were GOOD for the Labour. They planned their media appearances out on a GRID, made sure that everyone said the same key soundbite – i.e. was "on message" – and co-ordinated their announcements so that the media had to follow their agenda. If bad news got out, there was the Rapid Rebuttal Force, ready with a quick answer to kill the story or a juicier scoop about something else, usually the other side.

Lord Blairimort's AMAZINGLY STUPID idea was that you could run a government this way.

The idea that policy should be DESIGNED primarily with the aim of generating the GOOD NEWS STORY ought to be BONKERS. Sadly it may well have been ROUTINE for Lord Blairimort's sofa-style government. And if you can't have good news, then at least have SCARY NEWS and spend all day sounding TOUGH. If the policy can't be explained in a soundbite then don't do it. In the end, this leads to "a good day to bury bad news".

Mr Andreas Withnail-and-Smith was on the Newsnight Show last night. He said: "the government tells lies from time to time. When you are reporting on someone who tells lies from time to time, that relationship is inevitably going to become confrontational."

Now, fair play, Lord Blairimort did put up his hands to a lot of this.

"…I first acknowledge my own complicity.

"We paid inordinate attention in the early days of New Labour to courting, assuaging, and persuading the media."

But then he went on to claim that it's all MUCH MORE HORRID than it used to be.

Here is Lord Blairimort's thesis:

Increased competition means journalists look for stories that give them an "edge" over the competition, stories with "impact" – discord rather than discussion; misconduct rather than mistake. This makes the new rules of reporting:

  1. Scandal or controversy beats ordinary reporting hands down
  2. Better to challenge motive than judgement
  3. Hunt in a pack rather than being left behind by the news agenda
  4. Comment on the news with the news
  5. Confuse your commentary WITH the news

His solution: media should get back to reporting PROPER NEWS (Lord Blairimort will tell them what) and there should probably be a change of the regulating of the media – probably a new SUPER-REGULATOR (who can control all that nasty freedom of information).

"Things, people, issues, stories, are all black and white. Life's usual grey is almost entirely absent."

Well, it is a BIT LATE for Lord Blairimort to be complaining about newspaper stories all being BLACK & WHITE with no NUANCE.

I seem to recall a CERTAIN SOMEONE accusing anyone who thought getting UN agreement was more important than his "let's invade a Middle Eastern country" policy of being a FRIEND OF SADDAM; denouncing anyone who thought Civil Liberties might be more important than his "let's rip up the Magna Carta" policy as a FRIEND TO TERRORISTS; condemning anyone who disagreed with him about anything at all as THE FORCES OF CONSERVATORYISM!

Who was it who claimed there were only "24 hours to save the NHS"? The Labour.

Who was it who was first to harp on about Conservatory SLEAZE and SCANDAL? The Labour.

Who was it who called them VENAL and CROOKS rather than just a bit rubbish? The Labour.

Who was it who first whipped the press dogs into a feeding frenzy? Who was it who tried to control them with the threat of them not getting the next story? The Labour.

Who was it whose aim was to make their message the news? Who was it who confused their message WITH the news? The Labour, THE LABOUR, THE LABOUR!

Lord Blairimort has spent a LONG TIME painting choices in black and white. And CONDEMNING anyone who takes a more nuanced approach.

And the media have, by and large, COMPLIED.

Much of Lord Blairimort's power comes from the COSY inter-relationships between himself personally and the very small group of proprietors and editors who control the British newspapers. They scratch his back and he scratches out restrictions on cross-media ownerships for them, er… Between them they decide what it is that "The People" want to hear. Or will be graciously allowed to hear.

The power and patronage that comes with this little coterie is TOTALLY CORRUPTING. Lord Blairimort's agenda has been entirely neutralised by wishes of the News International Corporation. Did we join the Euro… goodness, no! Have we rolled back Thatcherism… no, we just brought it all back with new names. Did we clean up all the sleaze… ha very ha very ha.

But this is where the Internet comes in. Now people have access to MORE CHOICES. They have more freedoms of information than ever before and that takes away some of the power of the press. Instead of DICTATING the agenda, they find themselves chasing it.

Is that a BAD thing? Lord Blairimort thinks so, but I am not so sure. Is it not just MARKET FORCES: supply and demand? The press are chasing to supply the stories that people are demanding.

Lord Blairimort's reaction to the new media age seems to be:

"Ooh the Internet is scary; I can't control it!"

Here is the NEWS: you have NO RIGHT TO CONTROL IT!

We are in an age of transition: this new technology means that more and more people have the power to seek out the news and the stories that THEY want, and to seek out the people who will report it in THE WAY that they want. Mr Dale Winton's diary is not popular IN SPITE of his blatant political bias – it is popular BECAUSE of his bias.

More than anything, though the new media is INTERACTIVE. People EXPECT to be able to make comments, have their say, shout and rant and froth at each other. Those comments don't disappear into a vacuum. Well, not ALL of them. They inform the journalists and commentators – reinforce some opinions, spark some new ideas.

And the online papers and news sites can TRACK which stories get the most clickage. Their readers are literally telling them which stories they find interesting, which commentators they seek out and read.

News becomes a CONVERSATION.

It is the NEW job of politicians to talk to people, listen to people, engage with people, even argue back against people. Just like their OLD job really. Before Lord Blairimort decided his job was to decide everything FOR "The People".

I am not saying that this is ALWAYS GOOD. You get dumbing down, and the cult of celebrity, and narrowing, parochial-ising of the news. You get a hundred channels of "Living-Dead TV", and "ITV Play" and "Sky Sport 666". You get spam and pop-ups and "you have won $1,000,000,000". Because change isn't always easy and people do things that are DUMB.

But it is the people who are in charge, and NOT Lord Blairimort and NOT EVEN Roger Stavro Moredick.

Mr Andy "Life on" Marr was on the telly yesterday too, talking about Lady Thatcher. She wanted to set people free so that they could be more like the Victorians, he said. Instead she got the 1980s. That's the thing about freedom – you can't control what people choose to do with it, or it isn't really freedom at all, is it?

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