Journalism and the Corona Virus

It is really difficult to find out exactly what is going on with the corona virus pandemic. I always hope that journalists are able to tell us what is actually happening, and what has happened around the world; that, after all, is what news is about. Unfortunately, journalists concentrate on asking ministers and officials to make predictions and speculate about the future, and having found out (rightly so) that no predictions are possible in the present circumstances, the journalists make predictions and speculations themselves, often by interviewing other journalists.

This is not news; this mere lazy prophecy, a pointless and an annoying undertaking when passed off as news by those too full of self-importance to make proper enquiries.  It ill serves the populace.

One journalist, Mr Robert Peston, suggested at a recent briefing that Public Health England was dragging its feet in approving a new antibody test at one of these briefings. The question implied that PHE was dragging its feet, and denials that it was not dragging its feet simply allow the libel to be repeated. Mr Peston should know better. The antibody test has to be carefully and properly tested to make sure it is fit for its intended purpose. I would imagine that those testing the antibody test are working much harder and much longer hours and for much less pay than Mr Peston.

What should be investigated by journalists instead of wasting ministers and officials’ time asking by foolish questions at daily briefings? At the time of writing, China claims that only 3,335 people have died as a result of corona virus cases. Perhaps this figure is worth investigating, especially when the UK has recorded 7,097 deaths.

The Big Lie of 2019

There are lies, damned lies and statistics, we are told but there is another kind of lie – the Big Lie – one which attracts credence by repetition and one which has caused humanity to undertake some of its most devastating follies.

The Big Lie doing the rounds in 1914 was “Dolce et decorum est pro patria mori” – which Wilfred Owen called “the old lie”. It took the deaths of millions to disprove the lie over the next for years and the deaths of tens of millions more twenty or so years later to show that things were far more complicated than simply discounting the old lie.

But politicians seeking power have never avoided the Big Lie. It is far too an important weapon in their amoury to leave behind. The Big Lie seeks to instill fear in the minds of the people, usually fear of the unknown or unfamiliar. The Big Lie gains traction by repetition until it has been repeated so often that most accept it to be true. It works best in times which are eventful, uncertain and when the political balance of what has gone before is rapidly changing into chaos.

The Big Lie is used as a justification for all sorts of behaviour which in quieter times would never be tolerated. When the Big Lie gains hold it is unchallenged. When a Big Lie is unchallenged it becomes impossible to debate issues rationally.

The Big Lie of 2019 is that Brexit without a deal would be a disaster. Now it may be one, or it may well be the best thing that the UK has had for a long time. It is impossible to describe the Big Lie of 2019 as a truth because no one really knows.

Big Lies give justification in the minds of those who promulgate them into acting in ways that are not democratic and so it has been with the Big Lie of 2019. Parliament has passed laws to prevent a no deal Brexit on the strength that the Big Lie of 2019 is the absolute truth and thus provides the justification of going against the wishes of the majority of the people of the United Kingdom.

When power is up for grabs the Big Lie comes into its own.

I find it terribly sad and frightening that the Big Lie of 2019 is now treated by journalists who should know better as a statement unworthy of challenge.

Five Good Reasons for Secrecy

It is the theory of journalism that everything is the business of everybody. A desire for secrecy is met with suspicion, as though there are no good reasons for people to keep things secret. The concept is brought into focus by about eleven million documents were stolen from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca being reported as the documents being “leaked” by journalists and broadcasters who have unhealthy high opinions of themselves and their own moral purpose.

 

There are many corner of the world where “off shore” companies can be established. The Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and Monaco have been at this game far longer than has Panama. The United Kingdom and France, despite all their self-proclaimed efforts of prevent tax fraud, have allowed these jurisdictions to continue, rather in the same way that Panama has operated. Continue reading

The Simple Truth Lies

If I were a scientist specialising in climate change, I would be rather depressed about my work. It seems that hardly a week goes by when some journalist gets air time on a serious news programme to dismiss anthropogenic climate change as nonsense. This happened on Thursday when Melanie Phillips spoke on the BBC’s Question Time. Continue reading

I am only doing my job and I know nothing

I have been able to watch some of the evidence given at the Leveson Inquiry, mostly by journalists. It struck me while watching then give their evidence just how focussed they are on getting their story in the papers to the exclusion of all else. Most of they use two defences to charges of shall I call it improper conduct. The first is that they were only doing their jobs and the second is that they knew nothing about the serious crimes that were committed. Continue reading