When is news … Well … not news but … say … propaganda.
Yes, it’s a little bit of politics this week. Yikes.
News is, and always has been, complicated. However, recently, it seems two things have happened.
- We’ve realised this.
- We are too busy to read and understand all the reasons underneath everything. We are looking for short cuts. An outlet for news which we know and trust which will tell us everything we need to know.
In short, we seem to be looking less for newspapers these days and more for a reliable friend who will research the facts so we don’t have to and give us a potted summary. I used to enjoy the news on the BBC text service because it would just report what happened. No comment or slant or suggestions as to why. Just the facts.
That’s gone now though.
Maybe there is a parallel with buying products. Take cars. Gone are the days when you could fix something that went wrong easily. These days, most cars, most things to be honest, are so complicated that a normal intelligent person cannot fix them without serious training or expertise – usually in electronics. So these days we have to trust the manufacturer to deliver something that will do what we want it to do without breaking down, blowing up or generally endangering us. As a result, brand has become a lot more important and with so much trust invested in our purchase, maybe that’s why we feel a lot more let down if the product doesn’t live up to our expectations.
News, we have something similar. I’m noticing a trend for people to pick a news service of choice and stick with that. Nothing new there. In earlier days, we all knew and accepted that these outlets had an editorial bias and you took that into account when you read or watched. There seems to have been a shift. News outlets have a much stronger bias and instead of reading them with that bias in mind, people seem to be reading them as truth and then feeling hurt and aggrieved and lied to if the ‘truths’ of their organ of choice are proved wrong.
Perhaps life, political life at any rate, has become too complicated. Perhaps our problem is that while products can be summed up in a nutshell and pitched to us in a catchy soundbite, serious and more complicated issues like news can’t.
The fact is, ‘it feels like the right thing to do’ is fine for deciding what brand or colour of washing machine you have but maybe it’s not going to cut the mustard when you are choosing a political candidate. Surely, when it comes to political or ethical issues our decisions need to be based on more facts. Except that when our news is packaged up in easily digestible soundbites and slickly marketed to us like products the facts are so difficult to ascertain.
We need the facts – without the spin and the NLP trigger words designed to titillate or shock us. The BBC used to be excellent for this and judging by the way the far right and left BOTH decry it for its ‘petty rules’ and bias it is clearly still doing reasonably well at maintaining the middle ground.
But now we have a whole new take on this. First, smaller interests in politics had to be represented – for balance. So it was that the BBC was slammed for only inviting the main contenders to political debates. So individuals like Gordon Fosdyke from the Wombling Alliance who had three followers, one of whom was a dog called Benjy suddenly got prime TV time. So did the far right. And for people with far right leanings, that was an endorsement. They began to feel it was OK to believe the things they secretly believed about people who were a different colour, sexual orientation, gender or heaven forefend, disabled. They began to forget that the reason people have frowned upon views like theirs for so long is because that kind of thinking caused one world leader to start a war a few years back in which sixty million people died. I do hope you are reading, Mr Trump, Leaders of The Caliphate etc.
People who were not aligned with the far left, the far right or those areas of religion more concerned with controlling and judging others than the love your neighbour aspect of their founders began to notice this, and at the same time, people also spotted that there were folks here in the UK preaching hatred on religious grounds. Remember the Muslim cleric preaching hate in North London? Abu Hamza. And so the new crime of inciting hatred was born.
“Expressions of hatred toward someone on account of that person’s colour, race, disability, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origin, religion, or sexual orientation is forbidden.” To quote Wikipedia.
Now, I have a varied group of friends and a couple are very right wing, one tells me his news organ of choice is Breitbart, a platform for the smiling face of the alt right, as I believe National Socialism is called these days. These are all guys – and it’s normally guys because it’s a hard job hating women enough to be alt right if you’re a woman – who would be first to extend a helping hand to anyone in need. The Breitbart reading lad is about as morally and spiritually unaligned with the far right as I can imagine. I confess, I have tried to read Breitbart a couple of times, more to try and understand my friend than anything. There are a lot of sweeping judgements being made, a lot of mocking others who are more accepting of the things they decry and a little bit of sick-up into my mouth at the sentiments expressed a lot of the time. Interestingly, there’s a fair bit of anti feeling against people like Mr Abu Hamza in the far right on the grounds they are preaching hate in our country – which they are. But at the same time, many of those folks speaking out against Muslims (they think all Muslims are like him) have attitudes that carbon copy his. Yet they can’t see that. Like Abu Hamza and his ilk, they target groups who are different; disabled people, LGBT people and women of course, oh yeh, I know the score, no matter what brand of extremism you’re peddling, you all hate me because I’m a lady and I do ladies’ things.
So, obviously, as a female with a love your neighbour, rather than judgemental, religious faith, reading Brietbart is going to be a very uncomfortable experience for me. The comments are the worst bit. So much hatred. So much bile. Jeez.
However, it got me wondering how and why intelligent thinking people abandon mainstream news which is, at least, delivered by journalists who are paid and trained to do research and attempt to be factual, in favour of a site run by people who are not always journalists, nor trained in journalism and who are unapologetically pushing their own political agenda. In this case hatred of everyone who isn’t a fully able white man, as far as I can see. Maybe I’m naive.
Interestingly, a big bug bear for the far right, the religious exrtremes and the far left – and I’m sorry anyone from either reading this BUT YOU ARE ALL THE FUCKING SAME how are you unable to see that, with the exception of a few key words swapped YOU ARE ALL PEDDLING THE SAME MESSAGE – are protestations that the BBC and other organisations like it are biased and muzzling free speech.
Thinking about it, I’m guessing the BBC has to act within the law. Since preaching hate and hate speak are a crime in the UK where it is based, then technically, I suspect that giving someone a platform Encourage people to hate one another on grounds of sexuality, religion, skin colour, ability or gender group of people is … an ethically grey area. Or to put it another way, vile AND illegal to boot. Especially if those sentiments cross the line from a political argument into the realms of hate speak which they have to, if expressed, because there is no reasoned or scientific reason to think someone’s colour, sexuality or gender makes them inferior. Our forefathers spent seven years discovering where that kind of crap gets us in the 1930s and 40s so that we don’t have to.
Those who had previously been given a platform, albeit briefly, to spread their poison on the BBC are now no longer able to, because preaching hate does not comply with the law of the land – even though Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and The Sun newspaper seem to get away with it on a regular basis. Generally, though, it’s frowned upon. I doubt having someone banging on about people being inferior because they’re female, or coloured or gay ties in with the BBC’s diversity guidelines either.
So, our extremist friends, unwilling to retreat back to obscurity, now pitch themselves as radical new thinkers being silenced. They cry that their ‘right’ to free speech has been curtailed. But frankly, if you preach hate, you forfeit your right to free speech. Furthermore, I can’t help wondering if going after the BBC is these peoples’ way of trying to knock out a main source of reasonably accurate news and one of the few larger ones with a more left wing bias. Clearly it’s a big threat to the extreemists on all sides if they are so keen to take it down.
It’s also important to remember that most of the human race decided, after the holocaust, and the death of sixty million people during world war two, that it was a bad thing to base political rhetoric, let alone government policy around a view that is, basically, the grown up equivalent of a toddler saying, ‘I’m not going to play with you coz you smell.’
It may well be that we need to look at immigration and how people settle here. In my view, if you walk through the streets of Luton chanting ‘death to Britain’ you really do need to have a think about what the fuck you’re doing here. And if you can’t, the government should, perhaps, help you to focus by revoking your citizenship and expelling you to whatever country your grandparents, parents or you originated from … or just expelling you; escorting you to the border and saying, ‘bye-bye mate.’
But of course, treating people who behave in an inhuman manner as anything less than human merely reduces us to being like them. That is what they do to us after all. And if we behave like them our arguments that we are better or more advanced than them become moot. That is what extremes are about, uniting us in our distrust and suspicion of others. Tribalism, basically, a once useful instinct, but one that counts for little when used in excess or without logic, even if it is very powerful.
It seems to me that extremism, in any form, never got anyone anywhere long term, it brought us the Pogroms and Stalin, the concentration camps, North Korea and Cambodia under Pol Pot, The Daesh and medieval Bedouin law in a twenty first century state. It never turns out well. It is proven flawed. There are bigots in every religion and every flavour of politics but fighting their bigotry with a different type of our own bigotry doesn’t help. It just makes two groups of bigots where there was one.
So reading the news? Well, I tend to try and do what people used to do. I watch mainstream news aware that agendas are being pushed. I try to look at the facts behind what is happening. If I read the Telegraph, I accept it has a tory agenda, likewise, I accept that the Guardian is more left wing. But I do at least know that the people working there are, mostly, journalists, and that they believe it’s their job to produce well researched, well balanced arguments. If they fail to include hate speak, or refute the rhetoric of hate speak, that’s a bonus to me. It’s definitely not a problem and not a denial of anyone’s ‘rights’. We should have grown beyond the use of hate speak as a political tool.
I leave you with this lovely flyer that a beer company in the States produced in response to a visit from a white supremacist speaker to their town.
NB: Gordon Fosdyke from the Wombling Alliance is not real.