...a blog by Richard Flowers

Monday, January 15, 2007

Day 2203: Bully Pulpit


EXCLUSIVE I have received an ANONYMOUS and ENTIRELY MADE UP e-mail:

"Help, I am being bullied by Dale Winton! Signed, Mr Balloon"

What SHOULD a fluffy elephant believe?

Actually, there IS a serious point here.

Sometimes there are ISSUES that ought to be raised. Who ate the last sticky bun? Where did all that ermine come from, Lord Blairimort?

But is that an excuse to publish ANY accusation that you like? When does FAIR COMMENT turn into SMEAR and SPIN? And doesn't that just undermine EVERYBODY'S trust in journalism and politics?

Look up the word GOSSIPMONGER, says Daddy Richard!

Unlike me, PROPER JOURNALISTS produce EVIDENCE if they want to be taken seriously.

It may be that revealing the source of the evidence in public would be harmful to that person, which is why it is sometimes proper to keep the name of your source out of the article.

But it is not to say that you can publish anything willy-nilly without having to convince ANYONE of your evidence.

For a story like this – one with "unnamed sources" – a proper journalist would be expected to have at least two separate sources and – and this is a key point – they would have to convince their editor (who would NOT be the same person as themselves) that those sources were real, not least because that editor might find themselves having to defend the story in COURT.

And if you say you are "protecting sources" then it is to say that you are willing to make the accusation and then go to prison because you cannot prove it.

What is BAD is when UNSCRUPULOUS and BIASED people want to be anonymous just to SCORE A QUICK HIT on their opponents.

I personally would not go to PRISON just in order to let someone use me for a cheap slander. What sort of a person WOULD?

"Ah," says the journalist, "but POLITICIANS like to give us stories anonymously!"

I am sorry to say that they are RIGHT. This is the "sources close to the minister", "senior opposition spokesperson" or "look it's NOT Simon, okay" sort of story.

Do you know what? I think that politicians SHOULD NOT do this!

In fact, I think that all the Liberal Democrats should make a PROMISE not to do ANY "off the record" briefings. We should ALL be accountable for what we want to say.

Then no one could publish a story with an "unnamed Liberal" briefing against another: we could say "HA! That is no Liberal Democrat; publish their name!"

And this is ALL MY OWN IDEA, just in case anyone thinks that my Daddy Richard is anonymously briefing me to say it!

Is there REALLY any bullying in the Liberal Democrats?

I have checked and this story does not seem to be right.

(And there is NO evidence that Sir Mr the Merciless's imperial guard are sending the CHOCOLATE MUD MEN of MONGO to be melted in the oven of that Pink Dog!)

In which case this is just someone hiding behind an "anonymous source" with nothing more to say than: "Liberal Democrats BAAAAAAD".

That is SMEAR and SPIN!

If you think it is BAD when the Labour does it, then it is bad when ANYBODY DOES IT!

It makes people cynical, and not believe what they read and not trust anyone, journalists or politicians or even each other. It UNDERMINES the whole system of journalism, and that means that it undermines DEMOCRACY.

More than that: it is bad for the CONSERVATORIES. Yes, that's right it is BAD FOR YOU TOO.

Perhaps you might think that you will do better if people think EVERYONE is the nasty party. You could not be more wrong. People have not forgotten who the NASTY party are.

Keep slinging mud and some of it sticks – but remember: it sticks to your own paws too!

It means that fewer people actually vote and that means that – funnily enough – means someone like Lord Blairimort gets a majority of power on a minority of votes. And the Conservatories get NOWHERE.

Think about that: knifing the Liberals (or the Labour) and pretending that it is TRUE – you might as well stick the knife in Mr Balloon yourself. And THEN what will happen!

A clue: BANG! POP!

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