Monday, July 04, 2011

Nick Davies strikes again!

A bit off-topic for this blog, but IMO excusably so.

Some readers may remember that Nick Cohen once apologised to Observer colleague Nick Davies thus.

As Mr Davies is undoubtedly a serious journalist, I apologise for any suggestion that he is less than honest and regret any hurt I have inflicted on his feelings. But I should say for the record that although his Flat Earth News website announces that Davies "takes the lid off newspapers and broadcasters, exposing the mechanics of falsehood, distortion and propaganda," my experience of serious print journalists and broadcasters is that they do not engage in falsehood, distortion and propaganda.


Ah, serious journalists. Perhaps this will become known as the Preston defence. Johann Hari was a professional journalist and therefore serious and in possession of certified integrity.[1]

Nick Davies is alleging again that some journalists are neither nice nor honest. I've got to the stage where I don't even trust Nick's judgement of his own profession.

Everyone else is talking about this, so we might as well join in.

[1] There was a good throwaway Hari joke on Twitter to the effect that the writer hadn't known that Hari was a journalist and had assumed he was a blogger who had strayed into the press by mistake. I forget who wrote that one. There was another which suggested that Hari wasn't a journalist at all; merely a paid undergrad essay writer.

71 Comments:

Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Nick does seem to have a very rose-teinted view of his own profession. Fair enough, since some things need to be exposed, but I'd have thought that anyone with even a vaguest awareness of the business understands that the prevailing culture is that the ends justify the means.

Chris Jefferies springs to mind:

http://enemiesofreason.co.uk/2011/01/02/chris-jefferies-and-trial-by-media/

Also, fwiw the Milly Dowler is by no means the only instance of that kind of thing happening in recent times.

7/04/2011 06:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Hari affair in the same breath as the NoTW scandal? Blimey, you really have it in for him!

Marc Mulholland

7/05/2011 06:23:00 AM  
Anonymous peter said...

In the same breath insofar as they are citing some specific examples that both have a bearing on a general contention advances about the press at large. Which seems entirely sensible and non-vindictive to me.

Also it does make one think this country's going to hell in a handcart to see these lilly-livered relativists not applying to their journo chums the bold, absolute rational principles they're always advocating against apologist A or appeaser B or homeopathic "remedy" C, you know? That's why I think this ongoing coverage and juxtaposition of incoherent stances is valid and non-vindictive.

7/05/2011 09:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cohen: "my experience of serious print journalists and broadcasters is that they do not engage in falsehood, distortion and propaganda."

Jeebus, has Cohen never read anything by Salon's Glenn Greenwald? "serious print journalists" is a polite way of saying "stenographers who parrot the establishment line in pursuit of received opinion." (cf the invasion of Iraq)

[redpesto]

7/05/2011 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Fair point, Marc, even if it was in jest.

I don't just have it in for Hari. I have it in for editors. I admit that the wrongs of Kelner don't compare in scale to the wrongs of Rebekah Brooks, but in neither the Hari case nor the NOTW one do I believe that the journalists acted in isolation. Their employers seemed to tolerate this.

Not often I read, still less want to quote, Guido Fawkes but:

Dylan Jones, editor of GQ, is telling people that Johann Hari was dropped from writing for the magazine because he concocted copy that mixed fact and fiction.

Some editors know what goes into their publications. As for Brooks, so for Kelner: he's either incompetent or venal.

However, I have to come back to Flying Rodent's comment on the last thread.

Re: Hari, I imagine it started like pinching from your employers - you do it once, and nobody notices. Do it twice for the same result, and you get cocky. Two years down the line, the cops are charging you with ripping off twenty grand.

Except I think this applies to Brooks and with the possibility that she did it because other papers did. What I'd *really* like to see is evidence that the Mail hacked the McCanns phone. (Could they go that low? I wouldn't rule it out after this.) Dacre would have to emigrate.

7/05/2011 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Also, too @Marc.

7/05/2011 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't feel too optimistic about Hari's career. Whilst I can understand Brownie's schadenfreude, I don't see the obligation to join in kicking the man when he's down (yes, I do have different standards in that respect for people I agree with more than not).

The News Int crew will no doubt get through their own travails with minimal scarring and undiminished liberty to traduce, persecute and lie in pursuit of a noxious commercial and political agenda.

For all and all, and acknowledging that he's primarily the author of his own misfortune, Hari the commentator was on the right side; Brooks et al, the power-brokers, are on the wrong side.

Marc Mulholland.

7/05/2011 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

I have higher standards for people I agree with or like, mainly to allow for the natural tendency to make excuses for people.

Though in Hari's case I think this was inevitable. As somebody else pointed out, this wasn't the first time that problems with his attitude to truth had come out. It could have been far worse.

7/05/2011 03:09:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Strictly off topic but this Hitchens' article is truly dreadful. All the most disreputable Decent debating techniques- guilt by association, intellectual slight of hand, the employment of bad faith arguments are present.

7/05/2011 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

What's the difference between Nick Davies and Nick Cohen?

One of them thinks he's engaged in a battle to save civilisation. The other one actually is.

7/05/2011 03:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

The final seal for Hitchens will be when he finally embraces the Likud lobby. Judging from that article, its closer than I thought.

7/05/2011 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Nick Davies has long been a hero of mine. Reading his first book, Dark Heart, was eye-opening. And his reports for the Guardian on the school "reforms" were easily the best thing I read on the entire subject.

7/05/2011 04:32:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Nick Davies has long been a hero of mine

Me too. The School Report was superb and Flat Earth News should be required reading for all aspiring hacks.

7/05/2011 05:41:00 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

Marc - there's a huge difference between criticising someone who's done something wrong and taking pleasure in someone's downfall. The latter is what I think of as kicking someone when they're down.

I hope Hari's career recovers, but only on condition that he straightens out - the next interview I read, I want to be confident that what I'm reading is an interview.

7/05/2011 06:38:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

DA expresses scepticism at a piece of acceptable blogger's hyperbole at Harry's Place:
I would love to know the source of the claim about a possible NUS ban on headscarves in the 70s. I knocked around the student movement from 1974 onwards and I am pretty sure the issue was never raised.

7/05/2011 10:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Marc - there's a huge difference between criticising someone who's done something wrong and taking pleasure in someone's downfall.

I'll remind everyone of that when Rebekkkkkkkah Brooks eventaully resigns/is pushed, or when Mladic gets his comeuppance.

Let's just say that my willingness to agree that Hari should be reprieved correlates exactly with his preparedness to concede he's guilty of more than just a minor, journalistic indiscretion.

7/06/2011 01:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

skidmarx - I used a recollection of a recent blog exchange as the starting point for a speculative post. I apologised in my post for not having found a link. The accuracy of the comment - or of my recollection of the comment - was not crucial to my post. I promise that my memories of the exchange were as I described in the OP. That's hardly Hari-esque.

7/06/2011 06:29:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

I just love the way Nick draws no clear line between "Gilding your interviews with some historical quotes" and "Hacking into a murdered child's mobile and actively obstructing an ongoing criminal investigation"...

...While he's denouncing editors and journalists for skimming facts for sensationalism, saying things like If a broadsheet columnist produces “facts” that thrill the clients, they pat him on the head and give him a pay rise...

...In The Spectator, which has just had to make huge payouts because its resident insane crowd-pleaser skimmed so many facts while producing the most hysterical sensationalism in by a paid journalist in Britain.

It's just Nick all over, isn't it? Any resemblence to Nick's habit of making convenient errors when they suit his thrilling arguments is, of course, entirely incidental.

7/06/2011 06:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sarah, the "NUS banned headscarves" story should have failed even a tentative smell test. The NUS was never in the business of *banning* things, only that of boycotts and sit-ins. There weren't many Muslims here in the 70s, and the wearing of headscarves, niquabs, and burquas is pretty recent in the UK. Any pious and demonstrative Muslims would have been foreign students, and Arabic countries don't support the education of women.

The NUS had no power to ban headscarves. How would they do so? (Yet again, 'Decency' seems to take no note of the difference between "they would have if they could have" and "they did.") They only had the ability to pass by-laws concerning student unions and those really only exist in the form of licensed premises. I can't speak for where you live, but my local isn't rammed to the doors with niquabbed maidens supping light and bitter.

In the words of Rebekah Wade and Wallace Shawn, it's Inconceivable!

The only thing I can come up with, which is in any way similar is that Jack Straw was NUS President *in the 60s* and he later criticised a constituent for talking through a *veil* (reasonably enough, IMO).

Dave Weeden/CC

7/06/2011 07:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Yet again, 'Decency' seems to take no note of the difference between "they would have if they could have" and "they did."

What_are_you_talking_about? Sarah has a dim and (self-admittedly) potentially incorrect recollection of something the NUS (perhaps at her local level?) may have advocated more than 30 years ago, and for this you impugn her integrity and shoehorn some reference to 'Decency'?

With great respect, what the hell is wrong with you?

7/06/2011 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I am shocked that somebody should have their integrity impugned. Dear me. What the hell is wrong with people these days?

7/06/2011 09:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish Anthony Sampson were still alive. That is all.

7/06/2011 09:40:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

The accuracy of the comment - or of my recollection of the comment - was not crucial to my post.The accuracy of the comment - or of my recollection of the comment - was not crucial to my post.
Given that your post was an insulting fantasy based on your continuing misrepresentations of what the far left believes, it fitted in quite well.

That's hardly Hari-esque.
And so rather than comparing it with Hari, I compared it with your complete agreement with a comment that the far left, without qualification, suffers from deep-seated racism; about which you still don't seem to comprehend that saying that you might have phrased it differently doesn't go any distance towards understanding how prejudiced your expressed opinion is.
While I'm on the subject, I forgot to mention that it's very stupid to claim that anyone on the left has ever demonstrated against "the West".
Perhaps on that thread you should have imagined if Back to the Future was re-written with Jewish instead of Arab terrorists. Or half the action films of the last generation had their plots amended to become ones of a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world (I am not actually suggesting this offensive course be taken). Your screed claiming that supporters of Palestinian solidarity are anti-semites is an awful piece of work, whether cast as an alternate history or not.

7/06/2011 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

The accuracy of the comment - or of my recollection of the comment - was not crucial to my post.
The accuracy of the litany of smears of the far left's attitude to anti-semitism which provided the inverted background to your fantasy didn't seem to be important either. And in presenting these smears as the background facts of an inverted reality you were implying that they can be taken as true and authentick accounts of what has occurred in our world. But then posts at HP are there to repeat anti-leftist tropes and to work the commenters up into a lynch-mob fury.
By the way, I forgot to point out that claiming that the far left has ever organised a demonstration against "the West" fails the That's Complete and Utter Bollocks From Start to Finish Test.

That's hardly Hari-esque.
Again with the Sarah AB Dictionary of Words Mis-Used. Mister A, didn't call you Hari-lite, and neither did I. I compared it to your agreement with another statement of someone else's alleging bigotry on the part of the far left; which you repeat,in this case as the basis for your whole scenario, before with a flippant wholehearted agreement (if that's possible), without pausing to think that it's all nonsense, and that what you achieve by repeating it is to confirm a view that you have some deficiencies in logic and good faith.

7/06/2011 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Sorry, both SkidMarx' comments got spam trapped. I released them both; he's repeating himself because he's tried to rewrite a lost comment.

With great respect, what the hell is wrong with you?

Well, if you've got all week, you could ask my gf... but that's really none of your business :-D

Brownie, if you followed the debate in Parliament today (it'll be on iPlayer), your colleague Dav... [cough] I mean "Libby T" may want to revisit this post. (See Tom Watson not long before giving way to Simon Hughes if you look it up on theyworkforyou.com)

7/06/2011 02:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

skidmarx - I'm not sure I even follow all of your comment or understand why my post has irritated you so much. I probably agree with you about representations of Arabs/Muslims - I thought The Mummy was offensive, for example. I'm not saying all pro-Palestinian advocacy is antisemitic any more than I think all campaigning against Islamism is Islamophobic - I was trying to encourage people to understand why relentless hostility to Israel, as expressed in the closed atmosphere of a university, could be intimidatory. Much of the 'lynch-mob fury' I whipped up was against me for (implicitly) criticising Islamophobia.

7/06/2011 04:54:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

I was trying to encourage people to understand why relentless hostility to Israel, as expressed in the closed atmosphere of a university, could be intimidatory. You wanted to back up your support for Ronnie Fraser's lawsuit against the UCU by insisting that his allegations, described by Anthony Lerman as "full of bombast and ridiculous hyperbole, and in places...just factually incorrect",are facts that can provide the basis for a reverse scenario. And you go even further. When you write in your alternate history: "On the activists’ list ‘Islamism’ would slip into ‘Islam’ ", you are claerly suggesting that UCU activists will slip from attacking Zionism to attacking Jews, or when you say "Then it turns its attention to a Working Definition of anti-muslim bigotry. The definition cautioned against treating Muslims as a monolithic group", you suggest that the real Working Definition (or non-working vagueification) doesn't represent opposition to Israel as anti-semitism aimed at all Jews (of course you'll talk about the "overall context" that is never specified, typical for an "I'm not a zionist,but..." that is ever mercurial as Ben Gidley would put it).It's disgusting to give your smears against the far left the dignity of being presented as facts, because when you present their reverse as the basis of what is going on in your alternate scenario. You might not want to be saying that all pro-Palestinian campaigning is anti-semitic, but your scenario presents a situation which implies that it usually is.Just because you get abuse from Islamophobes is no excuse, just as the patronising presentation of the Palestinian view of the Nakba by an Israeli wasn't excusable just because similar abuse occurred.
But then I just don't you to expect you to understand your double standards and distortion of the truth when you post on the one prisoner held in Gaza, and ignore the thousands held by Israel.

7/06/2011 06:30:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

CC - I appear to have another comment that appeared, and then disappeared into the spam trap.
I finished that comment with a remark about how Sarah AB couldn't see her double standards. Here's another example:

Sarah AB
6 July 2011, 7:35 pm
Thanks Gene – and I’m aware that the media make me disproportionately aware of Israel’s wrongdoings (real or perceived).

7/06/2011 07:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Ros said...

To get back (vaguely) to the original post (why do all comments threads lead to Israel and Palestine?) this News of the World scandal has been very badly timed for Hari, who would have been in his element denouncing the lying Murdoch press. Now he's lost the moral high ground - not that he's in anything like the same league of moral turpitude, cruelty, callousness and criminality of the hacking lot.

I would love it if this brought down the NOTW, but I bet it doesn't.

I picked up a copy of the Scottish Sun today, and how marvellously sympathetic and understanding they were (on p.8) to News International's readiness to bring information to the authorities and Rebekah B's outrage and horror at the affair. Alleged criminals don't usually get such an easy ride with the Sun. Why don't its readers vomit over it?

Alex Massie has come out slashing:-

http://www.spectator.co.uk/alexmassie/7073760/rebekah-brooks-i-am-not-a-witch-im-you.thtml

7/06/2011 07:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone needs to tell Alex Massie that "Bunga bunga" are sex parties. At least allegedly.

7/07/2011 12:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OT, but in case you're not tired of all the scandals, here looks like another:

Controversial plans to build two new aircraft carriers – the biggest ships ever built for the Royal Navy – will be challenged on Thursday in a highly critical report which questions the costs and capabilities underpinning the £6bn programme.

The National Audit Office says it has "deep concern" about the project and does not understand how the Ministry of Defence reached decisions to press ahead, or how the department can be sure it will provide value for money.

In a 40-page study, the NAO reports discovering MoD papers which stated that cancelling the programme would save more than £1bn – contradicting remarks made last year by the defence secretary, Liam Fox, who said it would cost more to cancel than to build them.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jul/07/nao-report-aircraft-carriers-navy

But if that's true, then why did the CEO of BAE Systems write a letter last October to the PM saying that it would cost more to cancel the carriers than build them?

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/letter_bae_to_government.pdf

Could it possibly be the case that the MoD and BAE have colluded in hiding this new information from the NAO, and that potentially even David Cameron may involved in this corruption too?

7/07/2011 02:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Well its good timing for Hari in the sense that everyone's now lost interest in it. I still think he's burned on the "serious" left though, where he was starting to make inroads.

Skidmarx: The prisoner who prior to being captured was a tank gunner shelling Gaza. Hardly a random kidnapping.

7/07/2011 07:07:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Yeh I'm not sure how much Hari could have done with the NOTW thing - the points are being made everywhere, by pretty much everybody.

Just on interviewing etc: I was looking over a Hari interview with Martin Amis the other day and it's interesting that this is one where I don't think anything was used from other sources - yet Amis said pretty much the same thing he says everywhere else. Part of this might be to do with the fact that Hari's not a great interviewer - I dunno - but part of it is also that people are in general pretty boring, and do tend to say the same sort of things, especially when asked the same sort of question. That's where the New Yorker model works - rather than having one meeting, or at most two, you get immersion in someone's world.

We're surely kind of in agreemtn with Nick Cohen here:

when it comes to putting their own bawdy houses in order they maintain that it is outrageous to suggest that the pimps and brothel keepers are in anyway responsible for what the girls get up to behind closed doors.

But the issues are far more serious, surely? There's now fairly serious evidence that police, press and organised crime were colluding in certain cases; there's clear evidence that the police tried to kill off this issue because they were either paid to, or bribed to.

Just as a tangential note, surely the libel reform movement etc is now dead in the water? parliament were with the press on that; but any movement backed by journos which is meant to increase accountability is going to look pretty ropey with all this in mind. How could we trust any journo to even use the powers they currently have with a sense of morality - let alone what would happen if the laws governing 'free speech' were relaxed?

7/07/2011 07:29:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Dave's column today is full of long sighs on the general issue of declining standards in journalism and analysis thereof, and particularly louder on the awful Dacre - the words "Murdoch" or "Vast Empire of hate, lies and filth" do not appear, but he does make one obvious and very pertinent point...

There was some understanding of libel law (among journos), and some broad agreement on what it was wrong to do. You shouldn't make stuff up, you should check things if you could, you shouldn't be gratuitously offensive to people (!). I think there was a broad understanding that the issue was not the law - that some things were bad to do, even if they were legal.

That last sentence could be applied to more or less any major scandal or, say, financial catastrophe of the last thirty years. I've argued on and off about this very point with the internet's Tim Worstalls to no avail over the years, and it's one that should be slap-bang at the heart of every profession, from law to finance, politics and journalism and everything inbetween, regardless of whether it hurts the bottom line.

7/07/2011 08:50:00 AM  
Anonymous hellblazer said...

cheeseboard: how old is that MA interview by JH? Was it for the Indy? If it's the one I'm thinking of, I'm informed that it was really a 2 person interview, with Hari as lead and someone riding shotgun. Perhaps with another person there, there were adequate back-up notes that JH didn't feel the need to go quote-mining...

7/07/2011 09:06:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

Brownie, the old moral compass appears to be deserting you here:

I'll remind everyone of that when Rebekkkkkkkah Brooks eventaully resigns/is pushed, or when Mladic gets his comeuppance.

One of the three people under discussion (Hari) is generally agreed to be a good person, a basically talented journalist who has written good things and contributed positively to national public life. There are two exceptions to this, one minor (he used to be identified with your cesspool of a website) and one major (he kites quotations in interviews).

Another person under discussion (Wade) has been responsible for much of the last decade's worst journalism, has worked in service of fearsomely reactionary politics, and was in charge of a newspaper during a period when it carried out very serious and probably criminal malpractice, victimising a number of blameless ordinary citizens.

The third person you mention (Mladic) is one of the most notorious war criminals of the last forty years, who was in charge of irregular army forces which massacred and tortured thousands of civilians as part of a campaign of racist ethnic cleansing.

I was about to write a short comment saying how silly it was to try to play gotchas with respect to our attitudes to the first two named (for what it's worth, I was going to analogise between Ken Dodd and Al Capone both having served time for tax evasion, potentially a promising joke I thought).

But then I saw the third and realised that you have no judgement whatsoever. I hope that you are just trying and failing to be clever, because the idea that someone really and honestly lacks the concepts to understand why this is stupid frankly frightens me.

7/07/2011 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

On right vs legal, one of the things I've found really striking over the last few days has been the total amorality quite casually and unselfconsciously displayed by NOTW people. On a couple of different occasions I've heard people wield some quite flimsy bits of back-covering legalese ("...but within the law", "...but that was OK at the time") as if they were rock-solid defences. The weaselly McMullan's performance on Newsnight was particularly instructive - he was virtually thinking it through out loud: "it's illegal now... but it wasn't illegal then... but it was a bit scummy... well, some people say it was a bit scummy... different people say different things... not for us to sit in judgment... you're a working journalist, what are you going to do... someone hands you a lead, you go for it, you get the story!" By the time he got round to talking about Camillagate he'd compressed the whole thought process to "it wasn't illegal, you go for it!" If you've got a moral compass when you go to work for NI, I think the working culture of the place systematically demagnetises it.

7/07/2011 09:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Chocolatedippedpickles said...

We should just enjoy the spectacle of the establishment tearing itself apart. Murdoch has finally managed to alienate his media's own readership and the power he has had in this country for decades will surely be over.

7/07/2011 11:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone arsed to get a transcript of Aaro's bust-up with Monbiot on Twitter?

7/07/2011 11:38:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

I briefly knew someone from the SWP who'd been secretary to the editor of the News of the World, and she did say that she had to forget all her principles every single day at work.

7/07/2011 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Anon: voila.

Sorry George. I'm having a colonoscopy tomorrow, drunk the lax and the stuff is coming out faster than you put it in.

Ouch. And that's a really insincere sorry...

Hang on, SM, are you saying that someone in the SWP had principles? (Oh lord, I'm trolling my own comments for a cheap laugh now.)

7/07/2011 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Jonathan said...

OC's tangential note that he thinks - I infer, perhaps hopes - libel reform is now dead in the water. I sincerely hope not and the issues are distinct. Kampfner has just posted this on the Q&A with Rusbridger which says what I'd say on the matter more eloquently:

ohnkampfner
7 July 2011 2:51PM
Congratulations to Alan, to Nick Davies and to others at the Guardian for the tenacity with which they have pursued the phone hacking story. It is investigative journalism at its best - and a reminder that the profession can still speak truth to power and can eke out information (properly) that those in authority seek to conceal.

Amid all the baying for Murdoch's blood, a note of caution, however. Please can we differentiate between three quite distinct issues:
1) the unlawful and potentially criminal actions of a number of people at News International, reaching seemingly to a high level in the organisation. The full might of the law should be applied to them.
2) the inadequacies of the rules governing the PCC. Self-regulation is absolutely vital to preserve the independence of the press, while ensuring high standards and proper redress. This is clearly not happening. But beware statutory regulation and what it will do to free expression.
3) the least fashionable thing to say - the problem with modern UK journalism (as I wrote in a comment piece for Wed's FT) is not that it finds out too much, but that it finds out too little. Remember weapons of mass destruction; BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia and more... We have some of the most pernicious libel laws; our judgements on privacy are a mess; injunctions are being applied with scant regard for (legitimate) public interest, and the government is seeking to clamp down further on the internet.

It is worth reminding readers that the problem is not journalism per se, but bad journalists, goaded on by amoral and avaricious editors and managers.

7/07/2011 01:55:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Aaro: Do you want to be reminded that Murdoch probably saved paper journalism? OK. There

Crikey.

It is worth reminding readers that the problem is not journalism per se, but bad journalists, goaded on by amoral and avaricious editors and managers.

That seems a rather inadequate explanation for the ills of the newspaper industry. The malaise is structural and goes much deeper than just a problem with individual editors and managers. The idea that any form of self-regulation can work in the context of such concentrated power seems fanciful. We need proper anti-trust legislation. But who would dare take on Murdoch? After Ed Milliband attacked NI & Brooks yesterday Nick Robinson reported that a Murdoch aide had told him:

'Rebekkah Brooks is family. This is a family firm. If Ed Milliband thinks he can win, he is about to be proved very wrong.'

7/07/2011 02:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

I don't doubt that Aaronovitch believes it. He's wrong obviously, but still.

He gutted the Times. Its amazing to think that once upon a time it was THE newspaper. Whereas these days its definitely the junior partner to the Telegraph and the Guardian. I seriously doubt it will be around in ten years.

7/07/2011 03:55:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

He gutted the Times. Its amazing to think that once upon a time it was THE newspaper. Whereas these days its definitely the junior partner to the Telegraph and the Guardian. I seriously doubt it will be around in ten years..

What happened at the Sunday Times was pretty terrible too apparently. Lots of good journalists quit or were driven out.

I am pretty confident the Times will be still be around in a decade. The Times still comfortably out sells the Guardian. I don't know what the balance sheet looks like but Murdoch, like many barons before him, can comfortably run it at a loss because there's so much cross-subsidisation.

7/07/2011 04:25:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

NOTW Gone...

7/07/2011 04:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

dd,

Get off your high-horse. My comment was a direct response to Phil and his unqualified statement about not extracting pleasure from someone's downfall. Including Mldaic is not an error of equivalence, rather a deliberately chosen extreme example to highlight something that ought to be obvious, which is that this lofty principle contracts and stretches to exclude/include those we personally dislike/like.

So for example, someone who has been on the receving end of legal threats from a journalist who is later exposed to have, at best, employed somewhat unethical journalistic standards, is less likely to upset at his (temporary) downfall as someone who has not.

This testing of principle using extremes is not an uncommon technique. The fact that you're ignorant of it is not my responsibility.

Notwithstanding the above, I'm already on record on the other thread as saying I agree with Hari a fair bit and hope he gets a chance to rebuild his career, although a little more humility and honesty in his 'apologies' than I've seen to date wouldn't go amiss.

7/07/2011 04:53:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

CChap - No,I am not, as I think she had the job before she partied.
I would be reluctant to suggest the opposite, however.

Would DA's line be drawn at the point he discovered that his phone had been hacked?

7/07/2011 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

My comment was a direct response to Phil and his unqualified statement about not extracting pleasure from someone's downfall.

For your information, I won't "extract pleasure" from Mladic's downfall either. I'll be glad when he's gone, but I won't be laughing. I guess you cracked a bottle when Shipman topped himself too.

Notwithstanding the above

The trouble with people who go around acting like dung-throwing apes, with every sign of deliberation and indeed relish, is that after a while we've only got their word that it is an act. When you tell us no but seriously I am actually a human being, are you taking off a mask or putting one on?

7/07/2011 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

To save everyone else the trouble of looking it up:

David Blunkett, 16/1/04: "You wake up and you receive a phone call - Shipman's topped himself. You have just got to think for a minute: is it too early to open a bottle? And then you discover that everybody's very upset that he's done it."

Alan Bennett, 15/1/04: "We now have a Home Secretary who, on being told one of the prisoners in his care has committed suicide, says he feels like pouring himself a drink. This is a statement deplorable on so many levels they’re too wearying to list. But it will delight the Sun and the Daily Mail which is its intention."

It's interesting (and, I guess, reassuring) that Blunkett felt that 'everyone' was reacting differently from him.

7/07/2011 06:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

The trouble with people who go around acting like dung-throwing apes, with every sign of deliberation and indeed relish, is that after a while we've only got their word that it is an act. When you tell us no but seriously I am actually a human being, are you taking off a mask or putting one on?

It's all a bit more prosaic than that. My first comment referred to "Macallans all round" following Hari's exposure. Subsequent comments made it clear that I don't regard him as journalism's Vald the Impaler. That's it.

Given he twice threatened our blog - and by implication me at a personal level - with a libel writ because we dared to suggest he be wary of developing a reputation not unlike the one he now has, I'd say I've been more than fair. Fairer than he was to me/us.

I won't "extract pleasure" from Mladic's downfall either. I'll be glad when he's gone

So you'll be "glad", not pleased?

Thanks for clearing that up.

7/07/2011 07:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

It's interesting (and, I guess, reassuring) that Blunkett felt that 'everyone' was reacting differently from him.

You really suppose that's true, though? That there were more people taking the "everyman's death diminishes us" view as opposed to thinking "I'm glad the bastard's dead"?

I seriously doubt it.

I absolutely adore Bennett, but he can be a self-righteous prig at times.

7/07/2011 07:12:00 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

You really suppose that's true, though? That there were more people taking the "everyman's death diminishes us" view as opposed to thinking "I'm glad the bastard's dead"?

I seriously doubt it.


I suspect that's what Blunkett was hinting at, too ("everyone" meaning "all the Guardian-reading liberals I'm surrounded with here"). I hope he and you are both wrong.

Of course, I didn't say I'd be "glad, not pleased". I'm not under any obligation to undistort your distortions for you.

7/07/2011 07:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Rebekkah Brooks is family. This is a family firm. If Ed Milliband thinks he can win, he is about to be proved very wrong.'

What is this? Married to the Mob? Or does Ed have to bring a gun now that Murdoch's brought a knife?

[redpesto]

7/07/2011 07:52:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Or the sopranos.

When you really think about it the fact that media owners can threaten major political figures in such a public manner is astonishing. That's before we even get onto colliding with organised crime to intimidate police officers off a murder investigation.

7/07/2011 09:12:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Long before this scandal broke I'm sure I wrote somewhere - maybe here or maybe somewhere else - that I couldn't think of any other country in which the media held such sway over politics. That's not exactly how I put it, but that's the general idea. It doesn't surprise me that a media owner could say that, because that is entirely how they have become accustomed to behaving over the past generation or so.

Why this should be particularly so of the UK, I don't know. I'd welcome suggestions.

Re: principles, yes of course many far-left people have lots of principles. Probably too many, partly because they (the principles) end up competing with one another, partly because it's probably a bad idea to try and work out what you should think about a subject by proceeding in a chain of logic starting from first principles. perhaps better to say what you feel, and then work out why you feel that: you get better insight that way, and certainly a better insight into the weaknesses of whatever position you've arrived at.

7/07/2011 09:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Of course, I didn't say I'd be "glad, not pleased".

Er, you said "glad" but denied you'd "extract pleasure". Are you claiming that "pleased" is not an acceptable synonym? Oh, you are.

In which case: so you'll be "glad" but "won't extract pleasure"?

Thanks for clearing that up.

7/07/2011 10:40:00 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

Er, you said "glad" but denied you'd "extract pleasure".

I don't know why you're carrying on with this. If you actually don't understand the point I'm making (which, being charitable, I doubt) it's an even worse reflection on you than if you're pretending not to understand.

7/08/2011 07:38:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

I am pretty confident the Times will be still be around in a decade. The Times still comfortably out sells the Guardian. I don't know what the balance sheet looks like but Murdoch, like many barons before him, can comfortably run it at a loss because there's so much cross-subsidisation.

Its a little bit more complicated than that. First of all the Times doesn't sell all its copies at cover cost. A lot are given away for free, others are sold at a considerable discount. Also the Times is sold on sale and return - which boosts sales, but at the cost of printing more copies, collecting them, pulping them, etc. I believe that the Guardian's advertising rates are also higher than the Times (full price buyers are considered more valuable).

They both lose money (the Guardian Media Group exists to subsidize the Guardian newspaper), but the Times has been in pretty steady decline for a while, whereas the Guardian, last I checked, had arrested the fall and might even have picked up a few readers.

Now the Observer on the other hand...

7/08/2011 08:03:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Holy shit - Nick digs out the enemies list for yet more Nixonian brooding...

http://tinyurl.com/43dc935

7/08/2011 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Let's just note for now that, during the week when the entire Murdoch empire was rocked to its foundations by revelations of criminality and bribery that may yet do for a Tory government, Nick chooses to ignite a pissy, four-year-old argument with... Johann Hari.

Oh, whether to attack the multi-billion dollar, right wing propagandist media colossus or the gimpy, discredited librul hack? Nothing if not predictable, our Nick.

BTW, my recollection of the Hari-Cohen spat is that everyone involved came out of it looking absolutely terrible. Have I got that wrong?

7/08/2011 01:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Richard J said...

TBF to Nick, I don't know what the Spectator's lead times are, but the story did explode only on Monday/Tuesday or so.

7/08/2011 02:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Asteri said...

"BTW, my recollection of the Hari-Cohen spat is that everyone involved came out of it looking absolutely terrible. Have I got that wrong?"

I was recently reminded of this from 2007

http://aaronovitch.blogspot.com/2007/07/kamm-on-hari.html

Hari comes out the least terrible

7/08/2011 04:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Hari begins his rehabilitation.

7/09/2011 12:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To drag this topic onto the blog's raison d'etre, does anyone else think this strikes the death knell for Aaro's Birtist and intrusive approach to personal information? It seems that the people we would trust the most with our info,the police, come out looking corrupted and somewhat incompetent. And of course there's the journalism that goes under the rubric of News International, who are no longer the gatekeepers to Truth so much as the fallen angels making up Murdoch particular domain of hell. As someone said before, Aaro got attacked by Monbiot on Twitter over the responsibility held by the company he works for all these scandals, and Aaro was highly disingenuous in his replies, more or less saying that because he wasn't under any sort of "editorial control" (because he's a free spirit, you see, not bound to any of the old ideological lines) there was nothing to be worried about concerning his employer's ethical behavior. It's the sort of thing that should receive a proper posting on here.

7/09/2011 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

That twitter conversation here

I am on my 10th newspaper editor, George. Only once have I been 'instructed'. At the Indy, as it happens

A notably rare exception to the general rule that he is a safe pair of hands who needs no 'instruction'.

Reminds me of that wassock who did the official history of MI5 and was only refused access to one file (that he knew of and asked for).

Prosecutions under the official secrets act are very rare, too, so I suppose the Act has very little effect.

7/10/2011 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Just on that Cohen-Hari 2007 thing. I'm pretty sure the main reason why Nick was so upset by it, and why Hari is in the *proper* enemies list, is that 'What's Left' was very clearly pitched at an American market - all that 'liberal-left', all the culture wars material - and so for him to be quite publicly humiliated in a review by Hari in a fairly widely-read place like Dissent didn't exactly kill the book in the US, but it can't have helped either, and instead of chumming with Berman and Hitchens Cohen ended up chumming up with Pajamas Media and their ilk.

OC's tangential note that he thinks - I infer, perhaps hopes - libel reform is now dead in the water. I sincerely hope not and the issues are distinct.

I dunno if they are so distinct. Part of the problem with the superinjunction examples is that they're almost all tawdry (and presumably dubiously-sourced) instances of 'celebrities' shagging around and to see politicians discussing Ryan Giggs' sex life in parliament and trying to make out that they're some sort of saviours of free speech gives me the creeps.

Just to take on Kampfner, in order:

1) the unlawful and potentially criminal actions of a number of people at News International, reaching seemingly to a high level in the organisation. The full might of the law should be applied to them.

But it's industry-wide; it's just that the News Int stuff was the most obvious (mentioning it in print ffs) and the most widespread. A mate of mine who was at the Sunday Times's main gripe with the hacking investigations was that The Guardian did it too, it's just they tended to do it for more 'noble' means than looking up what Leslie Ash's daughter was up to.

2) the inadequacies of the rules governing the PCC. Self-regulation is absolutely vital to preserve the independence of the press, while ensuring high standards and proper redress. This is clearly not happening. But beware statutory regulation and what it will do to free expression.

Well, yes, but whingeing about how the PCC etc are not fit for purpose ignores who is responsible, ie the entire profession of journalism.

3) the least fashionable thing to say - the problem with modern UK journalism (as I wrote in a comment piece for Wed's FT) is not that it finds out too much, but that it finds out too little. Remember weapons of mass destruction; BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia and more... We have some of the most pernicious libel laws; our judgements on privacy are a mess; injunctions are being applied with scant regard for (legitimate) public interest, and the government is seeking to clamp down further on the internet.

I really don't think this point is eloquent - it lumps everything in together. Yes, BAE Systems and WMDs were hugely important stories; but a footballer's dad being a drug dealer, frank bruno being in a mental home, etc.

for me the main problem with libel reform is that it's being run by people who are slapdash with facts as it is, and that it's not going to lead to higher quality journalism but more tawdry, often outright untrue, reporting, including much more contempt of court. If everything were so noble, the superinjunctions wouldn't be more or less exclusively limited to stories about people's love lives.

7/11/2011 08:20:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

It's the sort of thing that should receive a proper posting on here

It certainly should, Anonymous, thanks. We'll give it a go.

7/11/2011 10:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How would libel reform lead to more contempt of court?

------

Cohen appears here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14106031

7/11/2011 06:41:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Gordon Brown's brung the Sun and SundayTimes into it. Also alleging NI had political campaign against him (no shit - not exactly Smear! though is it; the whole press pack were against him).


OC - if you substitute 'non-privacy-invading; for 'noble' it makes more sense. One big thing is not to let business (or govt) get privacy protections. What I reckon about privacy laws (1st half).

Libel reform? Does anyone ever explain what they actually want? I thought the real problem was money imbalances. Short of legal aid, all Lawyers drawn by lot and paid for by a certal fund, or...Soci*lism, dunno what is to be done about that one

7/12/2011 08:05:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

ugh incoherent never mind must get on

7/12/2011 08:06:00 AM  

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