Journalistic objectivity

Richard North has written many times, as have I – almost, about our supine media who reguarly ‘parrot’ the latest utterances on the forthcoming referendum by those MPs who still do not realise that their views are of no consequence; and that, at the end of the day, it is the views of the British electorate that matter. In his latest article, he rightly observes that the impending referendum is turning into the ‘Dave and Boris Show’; culminating in the fiasco of a ‘he says – he says’ argument – with Dave lying his socks off and Boris uttering incomprehensible tosh.

The foregoing begs the question: who is more culpable for the electorate being fed what amounts to propaganda: Dave, Boris, or the media?

An interesting article comes from Sam Hooper, who in turn picks up on an article by Glenn Greenwald who believes that the media should – and could – have stopped the attempt at the US presidency by Donald Trump in his tracks.

As I am of the opinion it is not the right of this blog to interfere in the democratic process of the USA – and by the same token neither is it the right of a US President to interfere in our democratic process, but I digress – let us leave that point to one side.

What is interesting in Sam Hooper’s article is the argument that he presents, when he writes:

.While Greenwald is absolutely right to chastise mainstream media outlets for clinging desperately to an “appearance of objectivity at all costs” dogma which routinely sees them humiliate themselves by speaking and writing about the utterly ridiculous as though it were merely an equal and opposing side to an argument [..] Political journalism is scorned by the public as much as Washington politics itself, and often for quite valid reasons – the incestuous, back-scratching relationship between the two is often entirely self serving and actively prevents the holding of government to proper account..., the same can be said of British journalism and Westminster.

In Hooper’s article we then come to another important – and pertinent – statement:

There is almost nothing as infuriating as watching high profile journalists discuss an issue where one side obviously has the moral and intellectual high ground in terms that suggest that it is a finely balanced debate – witness the debates on torture, climate change, Brexit (UK secession from the European Union)  and more. But even worse than this would be a collusion between media outlets to freeze out certain ideas or candidates from being mentioned altogether because they are “evil” or contradict prevailing orthodoxies. (Emphasis mine) – which is what has happened to FlexCit.

Paraphrasing a later point made by Greenwald, in this country many people are alarmed, but it is difficult to know that by observing media coverage, where little journalistic alarm about the lies Cameron posits, or the faux knowledge on which Johnson relies, is expressed. That’s because the rules of large media outlets –  venerating faux objectivity over truth along with every other civic value — prohibit the sounding of any alarms. Under this framework of corporate journalism, to denounce Cameron or Johnson, or even to sound alarms about the dark forces they’re exploiting and unleashing, would not constitute journalism. To the contrary, such behavior is regarded as a violation of journalism. Such denunciations are scorned as opinion, activism, and bias.

When we look at journalism today how can any one of them ‘stand aside’ and watch a  politician unleash and stoke  up what may be termed  anti-democratic feelings without voicing desent? Due to the constraints imposed by representative democracy in this country whereby any member of the electorate has only his constituency politician to whom he can complain (and  heaven help him if his MP is a lackey of the Executive) – and who may well disregard/negate/ignore said constituent’s concerns for personal gain – does it not then mean said constituent must rely on journalists to ‘stand-in’ for said constituent and take an MP to task; as do not journalists have unfettered access to politicians, unlike a member of the electorate?

Greenwald writes:

Large corporations hate controversy (it alienates consumers) and really hate offending those who wield political power (bad for business). Imposing objectivity rules on the journalists who work for their media divisions was a means to avoid offending anyone by forcing journalists to conceal their perspectives, assumptions, and viewpoints, and, worse, forcing them to dishonestly pretend that they had none, that they float above all that.

In that statement we have another aspect of the problem the electorate have; attempting to ‘bring-to-heel’ large corporations which involves massive effort by the electorate, who only have their voice to protest. Did not someone once say: the pen is mightier than the word? So, does not objective journalism have a role to fill in our society – and thus become the guardian of those who cannot speak for themseves under a ‘rigged’ system of democracy?

With apologies for ‘banging-on’ about the failure of those who have ‘assumed ownership’ of The Harrogate Agenda (THA) and failed to promote it, but the foregoing is an example by which they could have promoted it. If one considers that the first principle of THA is that the people are sovereign, then nothing is beyond their concern and control – hence the people could thus ensure journalism becomes truly objective; ie, sort out ‘the wind from the chaff’.

While the incestuous, back-scratching relationship between the political class and the media is entirely self serving and actively prevents the holding of government to proper account continues,then representative democracy is doomed – as it is not true democracy; as is direct democracy, a system in which the people are sovereign and thus are the masters.

Some Brexiteers (those that supposedly believe in Flexcit) make much of the sunlit uplands of life outside the constraints of the European Union and in so doing write and talk about democracy; yet seem not to realise that to escape the first we need the latter. As they themselves admit, what is the point of escaping the clutches of one despotic form of government only to hand it to another? Yet another reason for THA being point #2 of FlexCit? JC! Does not logic dictate that before reclaiming ‘soverignty’ one puts in place a means by which those to whom power is being returned cannot commit the same mistake again?

It seems to this blog that some Brexiteers appear unable to see the wood from the trees? Just saying………………………..

Afterthought: the ‘opposing view’ is offered as I believe it has been said that ‘the gloves are off’?


15 thoughts on “Journalistic objectivity

  1. Specifically on the subject of the Harrogate Agenda, what are your own views on the notion of Compulsory voting?

    Personally I’m pretty much violently against it, since it implies that a poor electoral turnout is the fault of the electorate – and nothing to do with a poor showing by the politicians themselves.

    However, for a proper functioning democracy – the eponymous example, Switzerland – there must be an engaged electorate. Better still a properly informed electorate who are insistent on the establishment of a democracy which works for them.

    With Cameron lying to the public, and Labour seemingly collapsing once again into civil war it’s possible the 2020 election will see a dramatically reduced electoral engagement. Subsequent to that in normal times would be the pitiful retreat once again into demands for compulsory voting and\or proportional representation. A revenge against the public for daring to refuse to endorse mediocrity and incompetence.

    As the HA develops, this would be a good detail to establish within its framework. A measure which not only holds Parliament to account for its failures – but also some form of non-electoral process which demands participation by numbers of the wider public (and not by Party activists – exactly the people who have led democracy into this morass in the first place). We have compulsory attendance for jury service for example – could this not extend to ‘representative’ politics?

    1. “Personally I’m pretty much violently against it, since it implies that a poor electoral turnout is the fault of the electorate – and nothing to do with a poor showing by the politicians themselves.”

      I personally agree with that…and there’s nothing stopping you spoiling the ballot paper…

      1. Whilst I’ve spoiled one, and only one, ballot form in the past, it’s not really a satisfactory option. It gives no real facility to record a protest. Politicians can still continue to disregard widely held objections prior to and post election and even an organised, national protest of sorts will remain denuded of the fruits of any protest because spoiled ballot papers are counted, but can never be sorted in terms of subjective objection. The elected candidates don’t know why people spoiled their papers and you can be sure they damn well don’t want to know – or at least don’t want to have a collated explanation as to why more than half of ‘x’ constituency didn’t place a vote for their candidates.

        1. To you and TBF I would suggest that turnout and spoiling ballot papers would be a thing of the past had THA extracted the digit and been more proactive as was Grillo.

  2. Off topic ….slightly …its Sunday night and North and Warry are still at each other over on Norths blog. Remember it’s these two who ‘ own’ THA.I don’t think there is any chance now for the THA to progress further.Perhaps someone should buy it back from them!

    1. Maybe I’m wrong but I assumed that THA could only really come into action once the Referendum had taken place (and hopefully won).

      1. Your assumption regarding THA. Replacing representative democracy with the direct form would, I say, face problems even if we had never joined the EU. It would be ‘a leap in the dark’ and all sorts of people would line up to give us their opinion. I’m sure you have noticed John Major is piping on right now attempting to help Cameron. But this is not the point.

        What is revolves around the ability to campaign. And we can see that the promoters of the idea have taken on too much as they spend most of their time on other matters. Don’t forget the recent elections results in Germany. Here we see Alternative for Deutschland have achieved real power in half the time THA has been around.

      2. Meltermian

        Now whatever put that belief in your mind? You been talking to Niall Warry who can only parrot that which he has been told by Richard North?

    2. “Sunday night and North and Warry are still at each other…….”

      My other Sunday reading was the stuff from John Major, which I have mentioned before. Here JM attempts his version of FUD. However, it was as per usual with JM more funny than fearsome. All that florid prose, and not without some very questionable statistics. You may be surprised to hear that I put the RN and NW efforts into the same box. It was so over the top. The sky will fall in unless it’s done my way. But the problem with dishing it out is you stand a chance of getting some back! Recently this blog gave us a clip from ‘The Travelling Wilburys’, their song, The End of the Line. You seem to imply that it’s all over for THA; you could be right.

  3. Don’t forget Beppe Grillo in Italy! What these people have demonstrated is this ….you don’t need the MSM….and yet in the UK we have a stale argument controlled by gate keepers who all play this childish game.The solution is simple stop reading garbage .As for direct democracy i think it’s beyond the self destructive nature of our tribalism to think of an alternative,after all we have had TINA rammed down our throats for nearly 40 years.What this referendum needs is someone like Grillo,or better still Russell Brand to attack the establishment.

    1. It goes beyond Grillo in Italy, there are similar movements in Spain and other countries too. You use the word ‘stale’ to describe the attitude of mind in UK politics and could be right. However, there are certain reliable features of all political systems based upon the nationality involved. For example the strong confident leader who knows they are right and is acting on the best interests of not just one nation but the region has been seen before in Europe. In Germany Merkel is usurping power in a way that should worry us all.

      As for having Russell Brand lead us I disagree strongly. He is simply part of the anti-establishment and as much of a pest as the real thing. Perhaps it’s me but I don’t find this sort of ‘comedian’ funny at all. By contrast I’ve found the weekends offerings from John Major a real laugh, what a performer, what an idiot! And a few weeks back we had Hogan-Howe in full dress uniform looking more like something from central casting than head-honcho at the Met. And if you like radio humour there’s always John Humphrys who does all that theatrical woofling and snorting better than Stephen Fry!

  4. In2Minds They turned it into a market based solution and now it’s as dead as a parrot.

  5. In2Minds ref Brand i said ‘attack the establishment’ not lead the leave campaign. What i find interesting about the reaction to Brand, Grillo,Sanders, and Trump is the reaction of the establishment,they hate and fear all alternative voices,hence my reference to TINA….There Is No Alternative. It’s interesting the latest trimmed down offering from Flexcit is called….The Market Solution…i would argue that we have had nearly 40 years of ‘ Market Solutions’ the EU is essentially a ‘ Market Solution’ so is TTIP it’s about time we had Democratic solution such as THA.

    1. “’s about time we had Democratic solution such as THA.”

      Quite agree – unfotunately while Niall Warry is in charge of THA we might as well wait for pigs to fly 🙁

    2. I’ll pick up your point about Market Solutions and TTIP. Alas we have reached a stage where to even pose a question about business is to run the risk of being dubbed ‘anti-business’. You don’t even have to criticise the world of business to get this label stuck on your thoughts. To be anti-business now ranks alongside racism and Islamophobia as the thing not to do. And funny how it goes in that our collective failure to deal with militant Islamism has helped bring about the atrocities we see, the latest in Brussels this morning. And then to make matters worse, while the wounds of some of the injured are being dressed, French PM, Hollande, begins thinking aloud about ‘investing’ in the EU.

      For him, and he’s typical, the business case is the important one, he was worried the EU might look unattractive. And it was for the sake of business (cheap labour) that uncontrolled immigration was allowed. Also for the sake of business we have ‘funny money’, QE, Quantitative easing. As we now see there’s no such thing as cheap labour and the social costs of Islamism are huge. These two stupid policies alone will ruin the EU.

      So I’m thinking that a general appeal to quit the EU carrying the business orientated title, Market Solutions, might not work. It does not carry the much needed emotional appeal upon which many people, including some ‘business’ people will make up their minds.

      Here –

      is what I wrote in 2013 about the film NO! by Pablo Larrain and the referendum in Chile.

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