Wednesday, 19 March 2008

The Press

To summarise if you're lazy: The Daily Express and Daily Star have printed two front page apologies to Kate and Gerry McCann for their "unfair coverage" of the couples suspected involvement in the whole affair.

Radio 5 Live had a piece on it this morning that I was listening to, and they were talking about the media, whether or not it needs checks/restraints (in my opinion it does, but internally, there must never be external censorship of the news), how outlets can be made responsible for what they report and if its power is getting out of control. It never ceases to amaze me how selective the news media's perception of itself is.

Whenever it comes under attack (like it will be now) it points fingers. Newspapers point fingers at other newspapers or at TV and radio. Radio - as shown on 5 Live this morning - will blame the papers and TV (thankfully someone called them on it though, saying that 5 Live was a part of the machine that deserves scalding as well). TV will blame the press and radio. It never ceases to amaze me how, during the BBC phone rigging scandal, BBC News would report on the matter as if it were a completely different organisation. "Well it was BBC Entertainment that was doing it, not BBC News."

The attack that "the media" will come under over this McCann furore will play out like this: The Sun (for example) will ride it into the ground, blaming the Express and Star, as if they had never printed a bad article in their history (They are in fact probably the worst culprits of journalistic immorality). Someone from The Daily Mail (for example) will write a long and scathing commentary about how out of control the media is, hypocritically oblivious to the fact that just the week before that same columnist had been slandering someone else (if it's the Mail it would be a vaguely left leaning politician, a gay, immigrant or non-Christian). The radio will lament about the state of the press, and the TV will bemoan that the media is out of control. And it'll go on for about seven days, endless finger pointing and blame shifting, until the media has decided that the public have lost interest in it.

That's right, the media will decide when the public has lost interest in persecuting them. It's brilliant self protection is it not? Who brings these rumours of McCann deception to the public's mind? The media. Who reports that the media was wrong and out of control in doing this? The media. Who then ‘attacks’ themselves over the terrible state of the media? The media. And then who will wash the story from the popular consciousness in the blink of an eye when they feel like they’ve played out this charade long enough? The media. Why are so many middle class people terrified of "feral youths", despite the fact that all the really awful crimes that are being committed by them are in three or four major cities nowhere near the middle classes? The media. Why have people forgotten about the assasination of Jill Dando, but are still going on and on about Diana? The media. Why can Robert Murat not get a job anymore? The media.

They are untouchable. They print what they want, report what they want and destroy who they want. Should you ever bite back at them, what do you get? Usually (the McCanns are an amazing exception) it's a tiny three inch snippet of an apology at the bottom of page fifteen that no one notices.

The other place that the media will shift the blame to, is the public. Their audience. Their employers (don’t tell me that their employer is the corporation they work for, if the public don’t buy their paper, they lose their job. Supply and demand). It's become an excellent tool that the media disseminates these days, saying that "People want news! People deserve to know what's happening! It's in the public interest!" And then, when they get bitten in the backside, all their columnists write the standard "We should be ashamed of ourselves" article. No we shouldn't! You should! Firstly, in the case of the McCanns, if they want to play with the fire of the British mass media, they have to be prepared to get burnt. It's not a one way street and they knew the nature of the beast they were dealing with. Secondly, who is it that decides what is in the public interest and what isn't? Who is it who condemns the reader just for buying the paper? The media! They print the stories that they think will sell, then they blame the consumer for buying the stories they put out there.

And best of all? You can't change anything. Because to change the public opinion on the matter, to get it out there that it is the media alone that is to blame, and they that need to exercise some restraint and self censorship, who do you need the help of? That's right. The media.

They’ve got us by the balls ladies and gentlemen. They tell you what to think, what you read and what to do. Just remember that old, old saying: Don't believe everything you read.Especially when it's "news".


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