‘Spiking’ the ‘truth’

Robert Fisk in today’s Belfast Telegraph complains about censorship and reckons that’s why newspapers are losing out to blogs who show no fear (and sometimes, admittedly, little sense): No wonder the bloggers are winning as gutless newspapers edit the truth.

  • I do sympathise for the papers, they have to make money or go under and occasionally that involves telling the readers what they want to hear and apeasing their pet politicos, looking at the Newsletter and Andytown News here.

    By contrast a blogger doesn’t require the same resources to stay afloat and they have more of a license to call it as they see it as they have only their own conscience to consider.

  • Sean

    I dont know sonetimes some blogs use the excuse of lawsuits to be less than brave

  • poinder
    so it is the paper that decides what we wish to read, surly we can make up our own mind, I think you might find that most of us prefer to read the truth than spin.

    Bob Fisk attitude to blogs is piss poor, sure most are not up to his prose standard, but that is not really the point. what the www does is give a voice to people who previously had none.

    I would hazard a guess that were Bob Fisk starting out as a journo today, he would not be let any where near the pages of a national newspaper, and like many others today, we would find him raging against injustice on the internet.

  • parcifal

    friend of mine cheered me up t’other day saying
    When you’re banned by a blog-site, its always by a gob-shite.

  • Jocky

    “By contrast a blogger doesn’t require the same resources to stay afloat and they have more of a license to call it as they see it as they have only their own conscience to consider.”

    Pounder cant help read that and then notice the hugely annoying add just above it. Is it the truth you want or advertising?

    Now while you can argue that the adds don’t compromise the editorial content of the blog, it does shape the context and set the tone of the blog and highlights that blogs have their own paymasters.

  • Merrie

    It seems to me that some newspapers run untrue things that they think will sell a few more copies, then pay up after the court case. The damages paid out are usually less than the profits they earned from printing the lies.

    These are usually things that affect individuals, celebrities, politicians, etc. The papers do not care about their effect upon the individuals concerned, marriage breakdowns, the hurt to peripheral relatives and so forth.

    The danger of accusing a “sensitive” nation of genocide is that the response can get out of hand. Denmark lost a lot of business in the Middle East because of those cartoons and people got murdered. Also usually there’s not much money to be made from such accusations, it’s not “exclusive” – unless there is a war on.

    The best paper for news is the weekly “New Scientist” – the only smut it would report is air pollution and would usually suggest possible solutions to the problem!

  • There are worse things Jocky, in another board I debate in there was a heated debate on same sex marriage and the viability of gays in the American armed forces, the google-ad-banner bellow was advertising his and his wedding rings. The God of Irony strikes in strange places.

  • Oh yeah I agree Merrie, but where is the fun in that? If I want news I’ll look up the net. To quote a favourite movie of mine “When I read a newspaper I know it’s 99% bullshit, but it’s entertaining bullshit”. I read the paper for the same reason I read hard sci-fi books or listen to music a wee bit too loud, pure escapism.

  • Rory

    The problem with a “free press” in a “democratic” society is that it can never itself be either free or democratic insofar as, that being owned and controlled by vested individual economic and social interests, it must always be antithical to any sign of the extension of political democracy into the planes of ecomics and society. It must always view any news through its own self interest.

    Bloggers are not initially so hampered and indeed might choose never to so be. But as popularity grows and with it the reality or potential of gain via the support of non-democratic economic interests then nervousness at content which might offend the sensibilities of their new benefactors encourages them to dilute radical, free democratic discussion while hiding behind the mantle of fear of libel prosecution.

    This sea change may not be initially apparent to the casual visitor since it is the interests of both the blogger and his benefactors to maintain the facade of open discussion that first attracted its audience.

    Tom Paine’s first instalment of The Rights of Man was happily published and promoted by a ruling class that, assuming its only audience would be the better educated members of their own class, who would ignore the revolutionary polemic and concentrate on the social and economic analysis he offered the better to refute it, were horrified to learn of the growing enthusiasm with which it was circulating among the lower orders and promptly withdrew support for publication of the second part.

    Paine was not deterred but faint hearted radicals, seduced by the attractions of material support from the very quarter they set out to ruthlessly scrutinise have ever since fallen happily into bed at the mere whiff of a dollar bill.

    But not our Slugger, I hasten to add.

  • As a person who has spent a good deal of time in both worlds, I must say that I wasn’t all that impressed with Fisk’s piece.

    In my experience as both a reporter and a sports editor, I found the biggest problems to be much more subtle censorship and clearly marked out no-go areas – one where local bigwigs, taboos, and just plain unknown factors caused the rejection of a story or a series or even their exploration for possible publication – rather than a problem over whether it was genocide or just a run-of-the-mill tragedy. And then when something was published, the paper’s position was set in concrete.

    For example, when I was trying to get the Raleigh Times to do a series on how the local sheriff’s department, the bondsmen, and the county courts were blackmailing blacks working for the city into taking incredible usurious loans which they had to pay back in a week or be sentenced to six-months in jail for passing a bad check, the editors seemed interested until they realized just how pervasive and well-established it was in the community, and the difficulties and expense involved in really exposing it.

    Then the editor was interested in the problems of the county jail until a local big-wig died while in custody for being drunk and disorderly.

    And you might think covering sports was much different, though, it turned out to be not so much. It just took longer to figure out what had to be censored out.

    When I got really involved in some local sports scandals, I saw the editors finally give matters to a well-established stringer who handled the matters in a much more muzzled way.

    The idea I ultimately gained was that you were expected to be a community team player, whether you were dealing with local law enforcement or the coaching of some team – aka being a cheer leader.

    And I must say that I wasn’t impressed with Fisk’s most contradictory position on the internet. Why hate it if it is exposing more than the well-established media??? Sounds like some kind of prima donna who expects his word to be taken as gospel.

  • Eddie

    What about the set-up here? Are we heading towards a situation in the media where any criticism of the “new dispensation” is seen as being “off message?”
    Are editors/journalists anxious not to be accused of wrecking the chances of the new administration at Stormont? Can this lead to self-censorship, albeit unconsciously? How many are becoming cheerleaders?
    How many totally objective?

  • Fisk thinks the capital of turkey is Istanbul. Enough said.

  • “I found the biggest problems to be much more subtle censorship and clearly marked out no-go areas”

    Trow

    I think your spot on here, although whilst the BBC no longer has a member of MI5 permanently on staff, or so we are told. I have no doubt that a word is whispered into managements ear if by some fluke a non conformists gets past the vetting, sorry interview procedure.
    I also like your use of “not a team player,’ for there is no doubt that this excuse is often used to remove the radical chaff.

    One only has to read the sports pages to see how far journalists are in hoch to the owners and publicity agents of football clubs, etc etc. Take the silly amount of coverage of Beckham, OK report he has signed for a US club, but that should have been it as the team itself is not worthy of coverage in a nationals sports pages.

    Most of what has appeared is nothing more than promos for team Beckham and has absolutely nothing to do with sport. It has really been shameful.

    Best regards.

  • Thanks, Mick Hall. I knew that we would get on the same wave length ultimately.

    And thinking about shameful things, have you ever figured out what happened to the IRBB – a blight on the internet if there ever was one?

    I think that it was an organ of the British securocrats, perhaps MI5 again.

    What are your thoughts about its apparent closedown, once the GFA was finally put in operation?

  • Rory

    Eamonn,

    Why should The Independent’s Middle East correspondent be expected to know the correct name of the capital of Turkey when so many of our own countrymen believe that Dublin is the capital of Ireland?

  • Harry Flashman

    **Bob Fisk attitude to blogs is piss poor, sure most are not up to his prose standard, but that is not really the point. what the www does is give a voice to people who previously had none.**

    Couldn’t agree more mickhall, blogging and the internet are the equivalent of the Gutenburg Bible for the first time the masses have got access to the information which was previously held only by the controlling elites (you and I disagree profoundly on who those controlling elites are but the beauty of this gig is we can both hash it out until we get to find out the truth).

    We are currently witnessing only a scratch on the surface of the revolution in society which this will unleash. Not all of it will be good, alot of it will be terrible but it cannot be stopped. I believe it will lead to greater freedom for the people of the world, so do you, so it is a good thing, but somehow I believe my vision of that freedom will prevail (it always has) so, like you, I am all in favour of it.

    Unleash the free market of thought, overthrow the corrupt, stymying dead hand of controlling elites and let the people decide for themselves, viva la revolucion!

  • Harry.

    Spot on Harry, the www must democratize political thought and actions, for the first time ‘the people’ can analyze the work of politicians and if we find it wanting say so in a public forum. Whereas in the past we left this to the experts or opposition politicians. Whether it be the left or right, politicians at times need a brake put upon them, not least because they believe their ideas are best for their fellow man and have the means to put them into practice.

    Trow mentioned another internet list in a post to this thread, whilst not wishing to go off thread, I am sure that just as we use the internet to oppose things we disagree with, Im certain the worlds security services do much the same, although I have no idea whether he is right about the board he mentioned, although nothing about the great game would surprise me.

    Although I believe the internet has made many of the things the spooks get up to redundant, as much of the information they searched out by fair or foul means is now readily available on the WWW at the flick of a mouse. It really does make one wonder what the big new MI5 building in the north is all about, could it be a back up Office in waiting, much the same as the major City of London corporations have ready in case of a terrorist attack or natural disaster?

  • snakebrain

    Robert Fisk provided some of the only fair and even-handed reporting of the Iraq war, and for that reason, amongst others, I’m inclined to grant him my sympathy.

    I watched a fantastic documentary on GoogleVideo not so long ago, which systematically analysed the US, and particularly Washington, Press handling of the Bush administrations scheme for linking Iraq and 9/11. It revealed how neutered the US press has become, and I think the same probably applies to much of the British press, which are our first sources of information in the Anglosphere.

    The 9/11-Iraq documentary included an incredible interview with a semi-repentant Dan Rather who attested that, in the time immediately after 9/11, for a major US news corporation to disseminate material that was “deemed to be unpatriotic” would result in “a phone call from powerful people in high places”, and the loss of the advertising revenue that is the lifeblood of those organisations. It was quite clear who was doing the deeming..

    Blogging is generally free from many of the constraints that major news organisations face, and will undoubtedly continue to have a major impact on the reporting and analysis of current affairs and politics. There will probably be a buying up and consolidation of blogging sites under the umbrella of larger organisations, as happens in any marketplace, but the beauty of this format is that, like a many-headed hydra, the beast can always, at little expense and effort, grow fresh heads and renew its attack.

    The freedom of exchange of information that the internet allows will certainly have a dark side; we are seeing that already with video-clips of beheadings in Iraq and Afghanistan being circulated, and with the use of email and other technologies to plan and orchestrate terrorism. The eternal combat of good and evil is not about to abruptly conclude, though there are more informed players in the game than ever before.

    I predict major efforts to control the internet through covert and overt methods on the part of established authorities over the coming years, and equally valiant efforts to outrun those controls on the part of the global blogging communities; a technological and intellectual arms race that will run and run.

    One to watch out for in the world of blogs is semi-intelligent computer programs that can simulate online conversation and are already at the stage of being virtually undetectable from a real person. Sinister…

  • Wilde Rover

    “I despise the internet. It’s irresponsible and, often, a net of hate”

    Robert Fisk

    “If I want news I’ll look up the net. To quote a favourite movie of mine “When I read a newspaper I know it’s 99% bullshit, but it’s entertaining bullshit”.

    Pounder,

    I think you may have identified a possible reason for Robert Fisk’s ire. It’s not nice when people don’t take you seriously anymore.

    “A net of hate”? Does mainstream media not promote hate?

    “blogging and the internet are the equivalent of the Gutenburg Bible for the first time the masses have got access to the information which was previously held only by the controlling elites (you and I disagree profoundly on who those controlling elites are but the beauty of this gig is we can both hash it out until we get to find out the truth).”

    Harry Flashman

    Hitting-Nail-On-Head Award would appear to be due here.

    The people have always been told to hate someone. Is Mr Fisk concerned that the people may begin to focus their attention on those most deserving of their wrath?

    Perhaps one day the words of that great citizen of the Republic of the United States of America, Bill Hicks, will make complete sense:

    “The world is like a ride at an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it, you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it’s very brightly coloured and it’s very loud and it’s fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question: Is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, “Hey – don’t worry, don’t be afraid ever, because this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people. “Shut him up. We have a lot invested in this ride. Shut him up. Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and my family. This just has to be real.” It’s just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. But it doesn’t matter, because – it’s just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.”

  • Nice post WR, always sweet to be reminded ot the much missed Bill Hicks. You know America is in trouble when the jokes of a comedian that died near 10 years ago is still relevant and to the point.