Monday, March 11, 2013

Home Truths about the British Press

To return to a perennial problem in British democracy: what can we do about a press that is both so biased it is twisted, and so aggressive it has rightly been called "feral". 

The Reporter- once a by-word for integrity- think Alistair Cooke or Ed Murrow- has instead become a by-word for tetchy arrogance or profound corruption- think Piers Morgan, the Murdoch Press, the Daily Cancer-Scare or, lets face, it large parts of the BBC.

From overseas, I find it extraordinary that there is not more condemnation of the blatant manipulation, and outright lies that comprise a large part of the newspaper stories on the political pages- and increasingly in broadcast media too. Yet even in the fairly unimportant world of teen pop stars, the naked nastiness of the press- and especially the paparazzi in Britain- is making lives miserable. Justin Bieber, for example, is a fairly harmless teen sensation, who has been harried and hassled all through his visit to the UK- he is only 19, and may not have behaved well, but the abuse that he has had from the British Press makes it all too "Belieber-able" (sorry about that, couldn't resist) that he has no wish to visit the UK ever again. After all, why would you want to deal with the hostility and aggression that he has seemingly had to deal with?

The fact is that the general reputation of the British press internationally is growing more negative by the year.

HL Mencken famously said that "Journalism to Politician as dog is to lamp post". Mencken meant that all political ideas should be challenged, British journalists have taken him more literally. The problem is that they seem to have the delusion that spreading their effluvia everywhere they can in their own nests is something other than nasty and foolish.

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