The plughole on Fleet Street
I have read Iain Martin’s last newsletter, The collapse of the press and the rise of anti-social media put democracy in peril – 27th May 2016 with interest. I agree with much he says about the crisis that many newspapers now face. I have been aware of it for some time having a son who worked in the digital world and for a national newspaper. He recognised early that this crisis would occur but faced insurmountable difficulties from the entrenched print side in trying to introduce and grow the digital side. My own great fear is that with the fast decreasing readership and hence effectiveness of the independent press we will find the BBC (totally subsidized by an unwilling public) will, with its deeply slanted political and social agenda, will become all -powerful. This would be a disaster.
Maybe, because many people will not be willing to be subservient to the politicians and the arrogance of the BBC, more independent sites such as ‘Guido’ and magazines such as the Spectator and the New Statesman will be created to hold them and the metropolitani to account.
One particular journalist, Charles Moore, must not be lost to us. His articles in the Telegraph represent quality journalism at its best. They are well researched, very well written, hard-hitting and fearless. They have a real integrity and speak to and for many.
Desmond Keohane, Herefordshire, UK
I’ve been in superstores just outside Oldham, and you win your bet; she doesn’t give a stuff.
The press has died for three reasons. Firstly, it got rid of specialist reporters, the ones who actually understood the technical fields they wrote about, usually because they’d done it first. I gave up on the national media for anything scientific or military-related in the early 1990’s. This effectively relegated the national press to discussing current affairs and the arts. For everything else, the media literally does not know what it is talking about.
The idea of ‘talking head+expert’ doesn’t work, because no real expert is interested in talking to a vacuous bobblehead who has an editor with an agenda. The important questions don’t get asked, and it’s not possible to get into an in-depth discussion, as the expert will be edited to pick whatever out of context quotes suit the editor’s agenda. One or two of the regional media, like the Bristol Post or BBC local radio, will sometimes be OK.
Raymond Baxter was not ‘the last of the dinosaurs’ as someone said about his last TV broadcast. He was probably the last technical reporter who knew what he was talking about, and had enough awareness to find and question a real expert when he didn’t.
Secondly, very largely the media shifted to presenting only the cherry-picked data and news that suited the political views of the owners. Previously there had been a mostly fair presentation of the background to most events, with a reasoned bias. An intelligent, neutral person could read a paper or watch or listen to a news broadcast, and have enough information to form their own opinion. There was certainly enough to enable cross-checking between papers. This is no longer possible. The biggest sins, especially in the last few years, are sins of omission. Whole events or trends are simply not covered in the best Three Monkeys tradition. Thus the media is now fundamentally untrustworthy.
It does just enough not to get sued, but any idea about honesty is long gone. A press is not free if it is not honest.
Thirdly, the standard of language and presentation itself has gone down the tubes. If nothing else, one expects the media to be able to write, and understand the correct use of words. The loss of sub-editing wasn’t too much of a problem initially, but now articles contain chunks of repeated material, and it becomes impossible to understand sometimes what the writer is trying to say. It’s quite clear a lot of reporters don’t even check their own material once. The media has dumbed down to the level of its ‘lowest information’ consumer. It’s lost anyone with a brain, and its videos aren’t as fun as buzzfeed (I’m told).
You talk about the power of the press over politicians. Congratulations; politicians having to feed the press what they wanted to hear have given the UK Blair and Cameron. The PM is a PR man, what else would you expect? I hold the media largely responsible for an entire political apparatus that stays reliably ‘on message’ whilst the country disappears down the plughole.
You do not deserve to survive.
Rick Hodge, Midlands, UK
A most informative and interesting article which should be put in the national and international newspapers. Too many people don’t even understand what GM means and more often than not the only time they do see the letters they are usually in the context of scare stories.
Living in Africa and seeing the effect that weather and pests have on the crops I believe that GM science can only be of benefit to mankind, and more should be done to counter the misguided activities of the anti GM lobbyists!
John Dodds, Harare, Zimbabwe
Rachel Cunliffe’s closing remarks on GM touched a nerve. (“For too long, politicians and journalists have let environmentalists get away with defamatory pseudoscience. Today, science is fighting back.”)
This is exactly what I thought would happen with AGW. Instead, the clear academic majority supports even those scientists who cooked the books, and bully the dissenters mercilessly. This would be fine if the predictive models were being proved correct (or even useful). Yet the models are hopeless and the scientists are emoting rather than remaining dispassionate.
It can’t all be about grants, surely. What happened to the search for truth? Instead, we have the search for corroboration, however flimsy.
Alasdair Ogilvy, West Sussex, UK
So glad that I found out about CapX when it was highlighted on the Andrew Marr show – great content and coverage!
Interesting insight from Jonathan Alpeyrie – Spare a thought for French Farmers.
Living in a highly rural area of the U.K. many of my friends, who are farmers, were surprised at how the EU approach to French farming might be causing angst and frustration to their counterparts in France – who would have guessed?!
Trevor Walton MBA, Carmarthen, Wales
Socialism and self-delusion – 27th May 2016
People are not self-deluded. Not even close.
People are a product of the educational system, and the general media establishment which is where they get their information from, post schooling.
Its not about self-delusion but intentional indoctrination.
Issue school vouchers, and give parents (who cannot afford alternatives) options, and the indoctrination ends.
Allow universities to fire professors at will, and indoctrination ends. Academic freedom is no longer predicated on tenure. Tenure is been used to lock in socialism and eliminate academic choice, because tenure is only used to lock out non totalitarian view points.
A new generation has been indoctrinated. And no amount of reality can overcome the skillfulness of totalitarian indoctrination.
Marco Fuxa, New York, USA
Marian L. Tupy wrote in ‘Socialism and Self-Delusion’ that: “Our minds have evolved to deal with issues faced by our hunting and gathering ancestors (e.g. an exchange of meat for sex) not to deal with issues facing us today “.
To me this seems like ridiculous patronising of socialists through a massive over-simplification of the values that are behind socialism. The idea we haven’t ‘evolved’ properly to have the brain power necessary to comprehend the free-market is totally self-contradicted by citing Einstein as a socialist. Socialism is perhaps, yes, a primitive idea that everyone looks out for everyone else, but it is also a progressive one, in which there is no good reason that power, wealth and opportunity should be exclusively concentrated in the hands of the few.
Being a socialist does not mean advocating the policies of the USSR or Venezuela, it means regulating to keep our air clean. It means workers rights to prevent a race to the bottom and unfair exploitation. It means recognising that some services are a basic human right, such as healthcare and social security, and as such everyone should pitch in, while those most able to contribute give more than those that cannot.
The debate should mature from one between communism and free-market capitalism, but towards one in which the exact levels of regulation, welfare and tax are carefully considered on the basis of kind of the society we all want to live in.
Alexander Brindle, Bristol, UK | @Brindle_Alex
The dislike Americans show for free trade in the recent YouGov polling shows the utter lack of understanding that many people have of how trade works. I have no doubt that if you asked Americans if they wanted to pay more for their shopping, consumer goods, electronics and so on, the vast majority would say no. Yet they think free trade is bad for them.
Moreover, they don’t seem to understand that the trade they worry about is largely in their own hands. It is American consumers that buy BMWs and Hondas, French wine, Italian cheese and Chinese white goods. If they think buying such things is bad for them, then they can buy other things – a free trade agreement doesn’t force Americans to buy foreign goods!
The belief that trade can be a one-way street, in which only Americans gain, or is simply a zero-sum game, is widespread, and can be seen in many of the arguments about Brexit. Unless people understand that trade benefits both parties – after all, that’s why it happens – then we will continue to see a lack of growth and dynamism in the US and Europe.
Tim Hammond, London, UK