Posts tagged ‘politics’

Flat Earth News

Thanks to the Private Eye for running excerpts from this excellent book in the magazine. To step away from my main story, you should try to read at least one copy of the mag, it is the only real satirical magazine in the UK and the only publication which investigates and attacks all the parties and all the people who shape our lives. It has long had a history of hard hitting investigative journalism and prints the stories the papers and TV don’t want to or dare not.

Flat Earth News is a book about the media and written by a journalist. Nick Davies explains, throughout, where the once proud tradition of journalism has now become “churnalism”. Where once a journalist may spend weeks tracking down and verifying a story, they now rewrite PR pieces, government pieces and whatever they can get from the newswires. He takes us through the means by which outright and blatant lies can be placed on the front page of every newspaper and why they are never challenged. And the book is somewhat frightening.

If you get your world news and views from the media, you are being very subtly (and not so subtly) manipulated to think the way “they” think you should think. This is the sort of thing that would be at home in a Cold War thriller or science fiction story, and yet is happening right now and has been for many years. Welcome to the future.

What can we do about it? Depressingly, and in my opinion only, not a great deal. The lack of journalistic integrity is a massive by product of the new rise of the media barons who cut staff and demand ever more product, governments who think less of doing the right thing than getting away with it and PR companies who will do whatever it takes to make us think in an approved manner.

We are all aware of the manipulation – how many thought the “limited” number of Wii console stories were put there just to make us panic and buy one? I know I did. But it doesn’t stop there, the rush to war on Iraq is covered, the supposed Al-Qaeda operatives are covered, methods of winning elections and many other stories. The links page on the Flat Earth News website has links to sites that cover this sort of thing in more depth.

If you care about public manipulation, media integrity and about how the world is viewed, you should read this book. In my view, this is one of the more important books of this decade to be published.

About the Author:

Nick Davies has been named Journalist of the Year, Reporter of the Year and Feature Writer of the Year for his investigations into crime, drugs, poverty and other social issues. Hundreds of journalists have attended his masterclass on the techniques of investigative reporting. He has been a journalist since 1979 and is currently a freelance, working regularly as special correspondent for The Guardian. He also makes TV documentaries; he was formerly an on-screen reporter for World In Action. His four books include White Lies (about a racist miscarriage of justice in Texas) and Dark Heart (about poverty in Britain). He was the first winner of the Martha Gellhorn award for investigative reporting for his work on failing schools and recently won the award for European Journalism for his work on drugs policy.

Trust Issues

As you all know, I’m a fan of Judge Judy (incidentally, if you want to see the show, go to YouTube and look up the contributors HappySpaceHopper and Gegan). One of the main closing comments from the defendants and plaintiffs tends to be “don’t trust anybody”. Usually a ridiculous statement if you watch their cases.

This brings me onto a more local issue for me – politics. Our local council elections are coming up soon and this has brought the muppets out of the woodwork. Our current Labour councillors are a total joke. Once they were elected they disappeared and didn’t bother us again. And now we have the hopefuls. The Labour bods won’t bother coming round, they think they are a shoo in (since my area is traditionally Labour, they’re probably right). The Tories popped round and got sent away (incidentally, the local council newbie, Jean Shippam, keeps putting out newsletters to show how committed she is – Google for “”jean shippam” dartford” to see the level of this dedication – I suspect I’ll be the other hit once this is posted. I’m most annoyed by her “concerned citizen” persona, when in fact she is angling to be the local Tory councillor. I’m not expecting a new era of honesty if she gets in) and then I had the English Democrats round. The English Democrats are trying to be an acceptable BNP. Enough said about that.

All we’re missing are the Greens, the Lib Dems and the various independent and small parties and the cast will be complete. Where on earth is the late Screaming Lord Sutch when you really need him?