Commenting on press regulation in December last year, The Slog observed that ‘distortion occurs right across the Left-Right spectrum of titles because first, the socio-political tribalism of many hacks is something they simply cannot throw off; and second, because the billionaire tartars who own the damn things have a rigid agenda that, whatever they admit in public, is enforced ruthlessly.’ Today I exhume that piece in the light of current events.
Irony of ironies, a trial has begun this week of two former Newscorp journalists. They stand accused, among other things, of abusing press invasion rights and paying for information. But the reporting restrictions are such that pretty much all we can say is that look, they turned up and oh look, they went home again. In this case, reports are subject to regulation largely on the basis of sub judice considerations. But the abiding suspicion among a huge minority of Brits now is that the restrictions are there to protect the rights of far more than two defendants.
If the UK press pack had taken self-regulation seriously – and not both created and then denied Hackgate for more than a decade – it would not find itself in the Dock facing trial by Star Chamber In Another Place this morning. That it should be examined in secret is iniquitous, but neither here nor there for this debate: we went through that hoop with Leveson, and almost achieved the destruction of internet freedom. The point is, they find themselves under the cosh of unaccountable ‘justice’ today because they were themselves accountable to nobody…..because of their malign influence on Government.
Ironic, yes – but also an irony that offers guidance to the wise. We do not need regulation of press freedoms in Britain, we need regulation of press ownership and proper enforcement of the law. We need an equality before the law that includes the rich, policemen, judges, politicians, journalists close to Government, and indeed anyone with the power to abuse power.
Those secret people meeting secretly today are not accountable to anyone either. So too are many local social services, the Family Courts, and the security services….of this last, more later. A year ago I repeated that, until the situation is remedied – and the Big Party Westminster duopoly is destroyed – the internet remains the only viable Opposition in the West.
That piece follows.
Might will never be right. Secrecy will never be open. Denialism will never get real. And greed will never produce philanthropy. What we need is a Real Opposition designed to restore decency.
Most of what we read, see and hear in the media these days is what I’d call Land of Soap & Fury. Put together, it adds up to ‘what’s happening’ without giving the remotest clue at all as to what’s going to happen. As such, it can be light, short-term distraction (soap celebs) or attempting to start up a longer-term deception (fury) – although the separation is no longer absolute.
British tabloids have developed the use of familiarity via Christian names in recent years: ‘Danny snogs Becky as Vicky stays home with new baby Ucky’, ‘Corrie babe Samia falls for ice-star Sylvain’ and so forth. Each name in turn is strapped inexorably to a two-word description (love-rat, soccer-cheat, rock-legend, porn-star etc) although none of this helps me in the slightest, because I’ve no idea who any of these airheads are. But then, I’m in the minority.
I’m pretty much in the majority, however, when it comes to the fury thing, which you will all recognise as the use of headlines beginning ‘Fury as’. There is no fury at all outside the average hack’s sub-atomic brain: the idea is to whip up the fury and thus keep the story running for as long as possible on the smallest staff imaginable. The Cumbernauld News for instance – that mainstay of on-the-edge life in North Lanarkshire – told us recently that there was ‘Fury as Kilsyth pool opening hours cut again’….and working down the column of news below, it didn’t take long to spot that the paper has been milking this one for quite some time. ‘IRA victims’ fury as top SDLP man rejects Libyan compensation claims’ is a serious subject alright, but the fury gets in anyway.
But probably the most navel-gazing example of the year was ‘Arnault fury at vulgar headline’. Left-leaning French daily Libération posted a full page picture of billionaire Bernard Arnault holding a suitcase with the words, loosely translated: “Get lost, you rich jerk!” after he decided to do a Depardieu and move to Belgium: it’s a non-story created by running a rude headline and then asking the victim if he’s upset. You have to admire the ingenuity if nothing else, but then the story’s credibility wasn’t helped by the enormous smile on the departee’s face.
Taken as a whole, however, the number of furious people involved in these incidents probably totalled no more than seven. I read the Mail’s website all the way through two weeks ago, and totted up nine ‘fury as’ jobs. I’d say the total among that lot was about none, if only because whenever I research a story from the Dacre Mail, it nearly always turns out to be drivel. But the genre is still more distraction than deception, because by the time one has checked it out, it’s lunchtime, and that earlier desire to follow up on the ‘Albania sinks’ story has palled.
What both the Soap & Fury approaches have in common, however, is distortion. Be it the size, nature or even narrative of the ‘story’, very quickly, those in charge of the black arts get to work…..and in that process, the title’s management itself is a willing accomplice. Looking back over 2012 as a whole, I would say that the ClubMed, Syrian, US debt, Hackgate, BSkyB/Hunt, UK austerity, Olympics bounce, Cameron reshuffle, Rotherham election, McAlpine slur, and Plebgate ‘stories’ were, without exception, massive distortions of the truth.
The distortion occurs right across the Left-Right spectrum of titles because first, the socio-political tribalism of many hacks is something they simply cannot throw off; and second, because the billionaire tartars who own the damn things have a rigid agenda that, whatever they admit in public, is enforced ruthlessly. I once sat in an office with Robert Maxwell for just over an hour, and during the course of the meeting he spiked two stories – one a humdinger about the late Princess Margaret. The next day, I saw him on television denying that he ever exercised any influence over editorial policy. I watched this year as Murdoch denied he had ever used his newspapers to promote Newscorp commercial ventures. The dislike held by Vince Cable for Murdoch would’ve remained unpublished had the Barclay Brothers’ spike succeeded: as it was, a disgruntled Telegraph hackette tipped off the BBC’s Robert Peston, and he ran the story that led to the Business Minister being elbowed aside in favour of Jeremy Hunt.
These are minor anecdotes, but only a very small selection of those I and hundreds of other commentators encounter week in, week out. The fact of the matter is that in Twenty-first Century Britain, freedom of speech and reporting is an utter sham.
Except, here and there, online. But the trouble with online is that one has to plough through acres of conspiratorial codswallop, all the time trying to tell the real news from the surreal interplanetary lizard fantasies. Worse still, instead of having maybe eight titles to read, there are millions of lone bloggers yelling their heads off – some of whom suggest a better provenance than others. Recently I posted to the effect that – even despite these inbuilt disadvantages as a medium – online news and superior blogsites are continuing in many areas to steal the march on physically-derived, gargoyle-owned and politically spun newspapers. Worse still from the élite viewpoint, the best sites are releasing stuff they’d really rather we didn’t know about. Hence the accelerating desire of the Fat Controllers to regulate the virtual news arena.
Probably the clearest sign to date of this (and the MSM’s complicity in it) is that a Leveson Enquiry set up to see whether old media proprietors were suitable to be deemed human wound up vomiting out hundreds of pages of woffle, not one of which made any mention at all of newspaper ownership restrictions, but most of whose aftermath consisted of Lord ‘Scab’ Leveson mouthing off about how much he hates the blogosphere….from the relative safety of Australia.
Other signs then followed with more subtlety: all the major ‘quality’ papers (plus omnigob Boris Johnson) ran Leaders saying how the real danger was among mad bloggers, none of whom have as yet shouted into a celeb letterbox, hacked a dead little girl’s phone, tried to start a war, corrupted an entire police force, or had all four of the last UK Prime Ministers in their waistcoat pocket. Also, they all pay UK tax – something of a novelty in Wapping and the Channel Islands.
Next up, the McAlpine scam moved up to full throttle as Andrew Reid began to finger anyone with blog-power, breaking every last SRA guideline as he did so. Here again, the silence from the MSM – on both this matter and his Lordship’s notorious second cousin – was ear-splitting in its intensity.
In the midst of this, I was astonished to hear a seasoned lobby journalist wondering in all sincerity why David Cameron was against offline press regulation, given that it had caused him so much trouble over the years. Although the circumstances didn’t really allow for this, I felt like bellowing, “Because he’s being f**king-well told to, you cretin”. The bottom line is, you would have to look hard among lobbyists, MPs and Peers at the minute to find anyone audibly opposing a more controlled internet; and the key verb there is ‘opposing’.
There exists in our once fine country today a disgusting phalanx of spin doctors, lying Ministers, paedophiles, media moguls, security officers, senior policemen, Whitehall mandarins, manipulating bankers and globalist privatisers who would like The Opposition shut up and closed down. They want this done for many reasons covered above, but they all share that one objective: to silence contrarian thought and analytical criticism. For those of us who work in the internet space, however, there are two key enemies: ourselves, and the Old School proprietors.
We are our own worst enemies because we circulate bollocks without checking it enough, because we won’t join together, and because we too tend to be politically tribal. The ageing megalomaniacs who own the media in Britain (and across the US) are our enemy because they don’t get the internet, would like to bend the place to their controlling, creepy will, and because we are steadily destroying their business models. They are our main enemy because this is business: they can’t win on a level playing field, and so they are now turning to the Courts and the legislators to wipe us out. Hence the Verizon deal in the US. Hence the millions spent lobbying Congress about a variable-speed internet, and the decline of pressure groups insisting on net neutrality. Hence the McAlpine project. And hence a Leveson Enquiry perverted by those with the power to do so.
The bottom line in Great Britain is that there is no Opposition any more. Labour remains opportunist and cynical, interested only in expounding the fantasy that they are somehow on our side. Miliband has done nothing so far to back up those like Tom Watson, Frank Field and even Sally Bercow who would like to see the repressive cabal broken up. He didn’t care about Hackgate until the country’s disgust gave him no choice, he did nothing to put Hunt’s neck on the line over BSkyB, and he’s still scared witless to take on the power of paedophilia. Before Miliband, the Blair gang led the charge to bend the truth via Mandelson, Campbell, Jowell, Johnson, Prescott, Harman and the rest of the propagandist troughers.
Fair enough, there is opposition to Camerlot in the Conservative Party. But to me, it is no more than a Muslim Brotherhood trying to wipe out an Ahlawite minority led by Assad: the victors will be even more fanatically ruthless than the losers.
And so yet again, as the year closes, I’m making the same appeal as I’ve done a half dozen times previously…..only this time with greater urgency, because everything that concerns me is coming to pass. Independent online news desperately needs objectivity, higher standards, and above all, clout. Sure, we need more syndication – and that is starting to become more formal. But what’s required is a close, mutually decent group of people clearly branded via portal and/or masthead as standing for implacable opposition to what’s happening in the West…and capable of rising above the old socio-political tribalisms. What’s required is The Real Opposition.
There are plenty of things to oppose that should cut across all Party lines: growing State power, greed, sexual abuse, ambulance-chasing, Machiavellianism, management financial crimes, globalist lunacy, the privatisation of Government, the abandonment of equality before the Law, rabid denialism, crooked accountancy, undeserved privilege and immunity, corruption in all its forms, backwards-looking ‘solutions’ to a capitalist model in crisis, aggressive mercantilism, widespread tax evasion, a political closed shop, politicised education….we are doing so many things wrong in Britain now, there is more than enough to radically change.
The trick will be to do that without turning into some form of virtual Pol Pot. I repeat this too, because it bears repeating: the only way to achieve such a balance is by not becoming a ‘Party’. The minute anyone vies for elected political power using the existing system, the system will win: the Party thus created will adapt to accommodate that system…..and those who seek always to pervert it to their own ends. You need only look at what’s happening to UKip to realise that. UKip isn’t a movement to restore decency: it’s a ragbag of sensible and bonkers people who want to restore British sovereignty. Its aims are far too narrow to achieve anything beyond the American Tea Party.
The real task here is to have some absolutely non-negotiable values and standards at the base level….and become an unbearable toothache in the mouth of every gobby politician who wants to move away from them – and every fat cat offering them money so to do. Despite propaganda to the contrary, these basic building blocks are really not that hard to define. Empiricism. Independent Judiciary. Equality before the Law. Freedom of media speech. Deregulated politics. Abolition of lobbying. Depoliticised education, health and welfare. More mutual businesses. No representation or media ownership without taxation. Prison reform. Greatest fulfilment of the Greatest number of citizens. Maximisation of citizen self-sufficiency. Reduced litigiousness. Rigorous professional standards. Better life balance. Zero deficits in perpetuity. Maximisation of arable land use. Fairer taxation. Devolution of power. No immigration without full employment. A new model of capitalism. An end to corrupt monopolism. Depoliticised police.
Overall, as I’ve tried to summarise it in the past, radical realism, or as I’m thinking about it at the moment, the Rebirth of Decency.
As every month passes, I have less and less time for those who want to whinge, but not to do anything positive about the enormous problems in the way of civilisation’s survival. For an independent, organised internet, there is no limit to what it can achieve in terms of change…and very little in terms of rapid timescale. For too long, we have had self-regulated politics. We must be the regulators of egomania, corruption and greed in the future. And our first task must be to stop any attempts to silence us.