BY DOMINIC WIGHTMAN
While the highly respected journalist John Ware’s attack in the Jewish Chronicle on “deceitful propaganda” was a wholly merited blast at anti-Semitic Corbynite ideologues – the Lansmans, Mendozas and Rachels from Swindon of this world – John came up with some useful paragraphs for those running blogs and websites which by choice or nature are outwith the mainstream media and regulatory control:
As journalism seeps into the jungle of the “activist” fringe and further away from the mainstream where it is at least governed by clearly defined codes, there is indeed a cost to democracy. It is broadcasters like the BBC that are trying to hold the line on standards, not the self-appointed “media activists” who make up their own rules and whose self-righteousness leaves them with dangerously little self-doubt.
If we want fair and truthful journalism to prevail over deceitful propaganda on the internet, we must hold their authors to account. If we continue to let them get away with it, truth will not be the only casualty. Democracy itself will be wounded — perhaps fatally.
Having edited this humblest of publications for four interesting years – having witnessed the BBC’s sharp decline during this time – it is blatantly clear to me that John’s view of the BBC is via rose-tinted glasses. Perhaps, in private, he agrees with former truth-telling colleagues?
Those who set and regulate “clearly defined codes” in the UK are chocolate teapot. Just take a look at the laughing stock IMPRESS, which, like the Electoral Commission, needs its own regulator – at the bare minimum, a nurse. “Deceitful propaganda” on the Internet from any “activist” site is trumped by the danger of deceitful propaganda regularly splashed across the pages of local newspapers and the BBC website which used to be trusted. Those, like John, rightly harvested respect over the years for reporting the truth diligently (and in his case, bravely). Such publications have recently gone to the dogs – decimated by either the desire for clickbait or wokeness.
The landscape has changed. Alas perhaps, the media pie has been so decimated by the Web – advertising so diminished by a proliferation of media and channels – that nowadays many “trained” journalists are doing something else to pay the rent and it is no wonder that “activists” are at the helm of growing publications, as they have found a financial technique via vertical targeting (allowing serious actors to avoid clickbait) that activates the punters. The Canary and Skwawkbox are extreme examples of publications where wingnut editors exhibited bigotry to rouse their echo chamber – yes their bias is laughable and so they were laughed at by the majority, just as the majority has laughed at Citizen Smith’s Socialist Worker for many years. Are the hard left sites really that dangerous? To some vulnerables and anoraks maybe, not to democracy.
“Governed by clearly defined codes” it may claim to be, but the BBC makes daily errors of judgement so fatal to the paying public’s expectation of the organisation’s impartiality that trust is fast evaporating. Giving a voice to Mendoza, Sarkar and Jones has hardly bolstered the BBC position. The MSM, save the Express, Sun and (at times) the Telegraph, deserted this country’s Brexiteer majority during the Great Remoan. There were times that this Brexiteer-supporting, countryside-backing publication wondered whether its voice would be silenced by the Remain establishment such was the daily barracking.
Journalists are trained. Are they? One journalist course in London – once respected – is tutored by a Communist who celebrates Lenin’s birthday and grooms students to be proponents of free borders. The activists are too often training the journalists nowadays! Carole Cadwalladr is a trained journalist, so is Paul Mason, and so, one hears, is Yasmin Alibhai-Brown! Corroborating evidence is not beyond wise minds who lack journalistic training – determining truth is still the currency of many professions. Look how the compliance floors of the banks have expanded. Who do you trust more to determine truth? A centrist AMLA expert who blogs part time or a student of journalism sporting a Che Guevara t-shirt?
As for “wounding Democracy”, the last years saw several threats to British Democracy as parliament became unfit for purpose and matters ended up in the Supreme Court. The BBC fawning over Remainers, an errant Speaker and Lady Hale’s spider brooch shall not fast be forgotten by Brexiteers. Mainstream news channels took a shellacking at the General Election – famously leaving a Channel 4 studio groaning in horror – to re-establish the will of the people and right the ship of British Democracy.
There were times over the last years that those publications like ours proposing the benefits of a no deal clean Brexit were scorned. The chance of such an outcome had gone, so claimed the MSM. Self-righteousness leaves only those who are not circumspect and humble with dangerously little self-doubt.
Anti-Semitism – something this magazine through its untrained part-timers has exposed and condemned at every turn – is unacceptable anytime anywhere and John is to be applauded for taking it to the Corbynites. He has truth on his side and the endorsement of all civilised souls. Good luck to him. But please, John, do not cut down all who sit outside of the BBC and the mainstream as democracy-wounding, unregulated “activists” – especially when, starved of licence fee income, the market obliges them to take a vertical position to breathe. Respect is there to be earned by all just as you have won it – the BBC is fast losing it, while much of the MSM is treading on very thin ice.
See instead in this temporary chaos a watershed of ideas and a growth of freedom. Press regulators chasing their tails is a splendid opportunity for the little fish – not all the new fish in the sea are sharks – one that can benefit our democracy through an augmentation of critique and exposure, while allowing the light of truth to flit and simmer in ways previously unseen.
Trust the judgement of the British people. Siren voices – including the BBC’s– shall be determined by the truth they tell; facts and opinions the sound people of this land will want to click on and subscribe to because the tellers have their trust (and merit their pennies). Nutters on the bus were never that hard to spot.
In the meantime, light a cigar at a career well spent – relish the change and chaos. Fools and useful idiots may well be unable to determine truth or seek to deconstruct it, bigots and liars will always need exposing – they are few and far between. Even in our new world – volume and size too often exaggerated by the Web – truth eventually slaps twits in the chops, whichever way how.
Dominic Wightman is the Editor of Country Squire Magazine.