We regularly watch TV nature programmes in which foxes are portrayed as frIsky playful bundles of fun, a joy to behold and well worth the setting out of titbits on the back lawn. In one Springwatch programme cameraman Buchanan tracked down foxes living in inner-city Glasgow and went into reverend cries of sheer delight each time he came across fresh evidence of the “exciting growth in the number of the creatures now choosing to live amongst us”. Absolute tripe.
On the allotments we have to regularly check all the wire fencing around the chicken-runs, because the cameras tell us that there are regular visits by foxes during the night. No doubt the TV boffins will tell us that it is all part of the food chain. Wrong. We know from sad experinece that if a fox gets into a hen-run it will not merely carry off a meal, it will kill every hen before leaving piles of headless bodies. And we now know that the ever inceasing urban foxes are quite prepared to attack babies in prams, even people sleeping in tents. We do not trust or admire them in any way whatsoever.
Come to think about it, the list of people or things that we codgers distrust would fill a giant-sized notepad. And top of that list would be our newspapers. We all knew that most of the dailies favour one political party or another, but yesterday’s proceedings at the Leveson inquiry made clear that the bias goes far beyond editorial views. The news itself is being distorted, what we are being fed each day is little more than propaganda.
Yesterday it was the turn of Aidan Barclay, the chairman of the company behind the Daily Telegraph, who made clear the extent to which the corruption of the truth is the norm on Fleet Street. In March 2010 he texted David Cameron after a breakfast meeting with him at the Ritz Hotel, which his family also owns. He said that he had spoken to the editor, Tony Gallagher, and they would arrange a “daily call during the election campaign as discussed”.
Barclay told the inquiry that the aim was to “get Cameron’s message across in the most efficient manner”. He went on to detail various contacts with the would-be prime minister plus regular contact after the formation of the coalition. The only conclusion one could draw was that the Conservative Party and the Telegraph created headlines and stories favourable to their joint political aim. The reinvented the news.
Undoudtedly those papers that favoured the other major parties were busy doing the same thing, with The Sun going one step further by obtaining promises of favours in exchange for endorsement. One way or another almost the whole range of newspapers were distorting the news and deliberately misleading their readers.
Of course we buy newspaprs, or read on-line versions, for more than political news. Which is just as well since what is emerging on a daily basis at the Leveson inquiry is clear. To have any prospect of knowing what is really going on we have to tune in to TV news bulletins, where the BBC and ITN at least do seem to operate free of political manipulation.
This morning we have yet more evidence of just how deep the trend of news distortion runs even when there is no election in view. To me the biggest story of the day was the attack on Messrs Cameron and Osborne by their own MPs, yet only the Independent chose to really highlight it. Conservative MP Nadine Dorries accused the two men of being “two arrogant posh boys who show no remorse, no contrition, and no passion to understand the lives of others”. She was immediately supported by other bankbench colleagues.
Meantime a Conservative-dominated committee of MPs added to Mr Cameron’s woes by declaring that he is presiding over an administration that lacks a “clear and coherent” approach. The Public Administration Committee accuses the government of driving through “short-term” policies that do not reflect the longterm interests of the nation. They cite a range of mistakes over economic, defence and energy policy which they say could have “catastrophic” consequences for the country.
And on the same day the former cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnel, has attacked ministers for blaming the Civil Service for many of the problems of the past few weeks. He said sardonically that “the Civil Service has what is for the government an annoying habit of pointing out it’s important to stay within the law”.
Of course we expect the opposition to be attacking in this way, but when the government is under such attacks from its own MPs and the Civil Service it is surely news of considerable significance. Had it not been for a handful of truly independent nespapers little if anything would have been heard.
It is often said that newspapers are useful only for the wrapping of fish ‘n chips. From now on we will tend to sprinkle even more salt!
JOB HUNTING? TRY THIS!
Have you noticed the spread of gobbledygook? A whole invisible army of Baldricks is beavering away in an attempt to confuse we simple bumpkins. Try this advert for a vacancy in the BBC News Group.
“This post is in the Journalism audience research team. The post is a Senior Research Executive and will report to the Manager for Multi-Platform Journalism. The post-holder will be required to work across all core inter-unit Journalism disciplines, in line with meeting the Journalism Group objectives, but will focus on understanding Multi-Platform audiences…”
Albert has posted his application!