A pleasing thing about growing older is that one’s experience and hopefully wisdom gently increase, not unlike a middle-aged waistline. It can be hard to know whether you’re becoming better and quicker at spotting patterns, discrepancies, and contradictions in the media, or maybe it’s just cynicism with a little confirmation bias sprinkled in…
Either way, it’s my opinion that the mainstream media has taken a significant downturn in quality in recent years. It wasn’t long ago I would scroll through the BBC News website and find nothing but straight-forward reporting and informative stories, a little left-leaning maybe but generally an excellent source of news. These days it’s hard to spend any amount of time looking at the BBC News without some ‘woke’ politics creeping in (they actually used this word without irony in a recent article), with click-baity, sensationalist and divisive drivel starting to appear regularly, devoid of journalistic integrity.
Every week there are new examples (‘Is climate activism inclusive enough?’) but I want to focus on a particular Channel 4 segment which laid out as clear as day the woeful state of significant portions of today’s media. In January 2018 Cathy Newman interviewed a Canadian psychologist called Jordan Peterson whose books and talks had begun to garner serious attention and success globally.i Whether you agree with him or not is unimportant: the problem was the nature of the interview. It made me sick to my stomach. In the 25 min segment of her challenging his views and theories on certain issues facing people today, she tried her damned hardest to demonize Peterson and frame his views in the most extreme, divisive way possible. She attempted to sensationalise what could have been an interesting discussion, and she was utterly unapologetic in her attempts to misrepresent him and deceive the viewer into believing that Peterson was a vile misogynist. He isn’t, of course, and he remained remarkably cool throughout, and this meant that her strategy backfired spectacularly. She was left literally speechless and dumbfounded whenever she ran out of accusations and poorly thought-out arguments. I’d recommend you to watch this video if you haven’t done so already – trigger warnings for anyone who doesn’t want their blood to boil.
Now you might say well it’s just a bad interview and maybe she was unprepared, what’s the big deal? Well I don’t think she was unprepared: in fact it’s the preparation she did (and the Channel 4 team of course) that concerns me. In the public eye someone like Cathy has high standing. She is the face of the ‘media establishment’, and at the age of 15 I would have taken most of what she said as pretty much irrefutable. She holds the views and position that you’re supposed to have. She is totally reasonable, intelligent, and of high moral fortitude. Right? Wrong. The truth is that she and Channel 4 employed a devious strategy to draw the ugliest possible things out of Dr. Peterson for the sole reason of garnering views and ratings. She was totally uninterested in the truth and totally uninterested in his personal insights (and these are topics he’s spent decades studying) into some very important subject matters – including what kind of people we want to become in this life. It’s hard to watch this interview and not lose your faith in Channel 4 and similar news outlets. Matthew Blackwell’s phrase “incomplete, low-resolution narrative” describes this phenomenon well.ii Channel 4 want soundbites and drama because proper analysis of complex issues like differences in gender pay is too boring. Instead of committing to educating their viewers (if they think the issue needs to be better understood) or progressing the conversation forward, they’ve just gone with the low-resolution ‘let’s antagonise him with questions we copied from another news outlet, we’ll try to piss him off and hope he makes a scene.’
Maybe Channel 4 see this car-crash of an interview as a success. All publicity is good publicity. After all it’s their 5th most viewed video on YouTube with 16 million views, which is utterly astonishing for a half hour interview considering the types of videos usually watched on that platform (the four above it are all less than 240 seconds long). They most definitely didn’t think it would play out like it did. I was left with a bitter-sweet taste after seeing this interview – on one hand I know it went viral because it encapsulated everything wrong with today’s media and I’m happy that has been exposed, on the other I feel sickened by the situation that we find ourselves in. It does matter that my 15 year old self would have respected and listened to Cathy Newman, and I worry for the millions that still do. How can we trust our establishment, whether it’s the robotic, question-dodging politicians or the conniving, biased media outlets?
BBC news – are you getting the full story?
An issue I’ve spotted several times with the BBC is a deliberate attempt to withhold what I would consider pertinent information to the story. Again it breeds mistrust – why have they omitted that bit, something that might have bearing on the conclusions one might draw? In February of this year the BBC reported that fatal stabbings are at their highest level since records began in 1946.iii The report mentioned the % of victims that are black (which immediately points towards the idea that black people are victims), it mentioned the % of victims that are male or female, and it mentioned the % of male and female perpetrators (males are way over-represented here – ‘male is bad’). But then it stopped. The next logical statistic should clearly be: what are the ethnic representations when it comes to perpetrators? The Independent has reported that 73% of knife crime is committed by black & minority ethnic people, but the BBC is mysteriously silent about this. They are happy to quote the numbers so long as they support the narrative (men bad, men more violent, black men are victims) but as soon as the statistic doesn’t fit that narrative and could be construed as racist (‘Racist’ for quoting statistics when trying to solve problems like, you know, death), it gets left out. The reason is quite clear: the BBC doesn’t want to be seen as racist for reporting statistics that could be construed as such. And they probably would be accused of racism, because today “People are searching for racism like it’s oil,” in the words of the wise-beyond-his-years Coleman Hughes. “Racism has become a commodity, figuratively speaking.”iv
How can we tackle this urgent problem if we can’t even dare to utter the statistics?
Ironically, the omission of these figures is itself an example of racism – genuine racism, this time. The BBC are saying that black people need to be protected from the truth (‘You want the truth?! You can’t handle the truth!’), because to them this is more important than protecting them from being stabbed. It’s all fine as long as it happens far away from BBC executives’ posh town-houses and country pads. They don’t care that boys and men (mostly black) are actually dying in their droves in the streets, so long as middle England and the ruling classes are seen as progressive and totally on board with these issues. What matters to the BBC is to be seen as doing the right thing. When it actually comes to doing the right thing (such as tackling the problem, which starts with accurate reporting) that’s neither here nor there.
A legitimate response to this may be “The alt-right just love stats like that. They’ll regurgitate the figures out of context and fuel racist fires.” And this may well happen, but we must risk it, we must take that chance in the pursuit of truth, and we must treat human beings as adults. We should regard the general public as decent and reasonably intelligent enough to be able to weigh up evidence and control their tribalistic tendencies – to not immediately swing to an extreme. To be able to come to their own conclusions without being spoon-fed what is the ‘allowed position’ on any one topic. The alternative is far, far worse. We start with not being able to quote certain statistics, because we consider these statistics taboo if they paint certain groups in the ‘wrong’ light. Next we move onto something like Bill C16 in Canada, compelling speech by law. In the end those in power will dictate what information gets released, wholesale. We can see examples of this today in China, where the Communist Party has suppressed discussion of the Tiananmen Square Massacre to such a degree that an entire generation has grown up ignorant of the most crucial turning point in the nation’s history.
Think this is unrealistic and pessimistic? It has already happened. Thousands of girls were drugged and raped on Britain’s streets over many years, with a clear pattern of Muslim-Pakistanis organising these rape-gangs, and it was buried for years. Taboo. Not happening as far as the authorities were concerned. Think of how many lives were utterly destroyed by allowing it to continue so as not to upset the wider Muslim-Pakistani community. How utterly patronising for them. Does the mainstream media really think that if the general public within these Muslim-Pakistani communities knew what was going on they wouldn’t want to stop it? That’s true racism: the assumption that people would either defend or support the mass rape of underage girls by Muslim-Pakistanis just because they’re Muslim-Pakistani themselves. Or no better, does the media think that if the delicate sensibilities of such community are challenged and it’s upsetting for them, then it’s worth letting girls get raped instead? It’s worth trading their lives for a community’s feelings about potential racism?
As Douglas Murray has pointed out, as far back as 2004 people were trying to make investigatory films about rape gangs but were warded off by the police for fear of stoking the fires of BNP. Maybe a film would have caused more friction and tension in this country, but let there be no doubt that there was a direct cost, paid by hundreds (probably thousands) of young British girls. Years and years of rape, abuse and manipulation as a direct consequence of inaction due to the cowardice of the politically correct. A nightmare still playing out today in numerous towns and cities of the UK – a widespread, drug-induced, paedophilic network of rape-gangs destroying lives. How many girls would you say would be worth the risk of increased tensions? Ten, a hundred … a thousand?
It shouldn’t matter that the victims were pretty much all white girls. That’s a different conversation altogether (one Maajid Nawaz has been happy to engage in, check him out). One would hope that regardless of race, colour, or creed, in 2019 we can all agree that everyone should do everything in their power to systematically bring to justice communities, gangs, and individuals who believe they can rape young girls.
This all reminds me of something similar relating to the Catholic church. Comedian Bill Burr was asked whether he felt he should give the Catholic church more respect (when he rightly ridicules and lampoons them for their utterly disgraceful levels of paedophilia). His answer was ‘don’t you think the Catholic church should have shown more respect to the children?’ We should absolutely respect religions and cultures for the good they bring to this world, but surely that sits below rape in the big scheme of things.
What alternatives do we have to mainstream media?
Thankfully the plummeting quality levels of the established media companies has not gone unnoticed and millions of viewers and readers have gone to other places for news/conversations. Presidential hopeful Andrew Yang commented that one of the best things he could do for his campaign was to go on the Joe Rogan show.v The viewing numbers speak for themselves: a 2 hour long, in-depth long-form interview with no stops has 3 million views. The Joe Rogan Experience treats you like an intelligent person who can deal with nuanced issues; MSM treats you like a child that can’t handle the truth.
Fake news is an unfortunate phrase. I often think it’s a term that someone like Christopher Hitchens would refuse to utter, just based on the fact that it does a poor job in conveying any useful meaning. If the phrase was coined by Trump then I guess that is fitting, as he also produces that inadequate, uneasy feeling that makes you think we can do much better. Nevertheless, Channel 4 is fake news, as is the BBC and also the Guardian, the Daily Mail, and many other news sources. It’s not that they don’t report on genuine news stories as they break, nor is it that they produce full stories of pure fiction. The fakeness I’m talking about is the same as the jovial, over-friendly car saleswoman as she desperately tries to extricate 40-something thousand pounds from your bank account, or the pearly-white display from the waiter at a £500-a-head restaurant on Pretentious Avenue in Belgravia. The product or service they’re providing you with doesn’t change too much, but the way it’s presented to you changes everything. The amount of information they choose to provide changes everything. And you simply cannot trust these people, as their motives are not aligned with yours. They’ve proven time and time again that they’re not to be trusted.
Does the car saleswoman care whether it’s a decent car or not, or whether you’ve fully understood the product? No! So long as she gets her commission. Does the waiter really care whether you’re satisfied with the food? No! So long as you leave a tip. Do the BBC care whether you understand the complex issues facing the UK today? Absolutely not, so long as you click and share and comment.
One of the highest upvoted posts on Reddit is ‘Sinclair’s script for stations’. It speaks for itself, please go and watch it. Hopefully the video will illustrate some of the things I’m talking about.vi
When it comes to news it shouldn’t be about money, about click-bait and high impressions numbers. I wish Cathy Newman hadn’t disgraced herself with a display of dishonesty and contempt, masquerading as a tough interview. News should be about honesty and integrity, cold hard facts backed up by unbiased analysis and in-depth explanation. We are a long way from there now, and just like with a saleswoman or fake-smiling waiter, you should be extremely careful how much you trust mainstream media when their motives are clearly not aligned with yours.
ii Matthew Blackwell – “The origins of colourism,” Quillette, 13 February 2019 https://quillette.com/2019/02/13/the-origins-of-colourism/