Remerciement: Gawker – The Tea Party Dictionary
Nachrichten Fieber – anxiety provoked by excessive consumption of media.
Your correspondents sound like government flacks. How did it get this way? Why does Rupert put up with it? Also, Adam Boulton: frankly, you are too fat.
Update: Which of you is more ridiculous? Joey Jones with his Labour talking points. Your police reporter who looks and talks like a cop. A defence reporter tied at the hip to the MoD? Or is it you, Adam, always knowing so much more than you tell us? Jon Craig seems to be the only one left who thinks like a reporter. Even Emma Hurd has resorted to blithering climate drivel and penguin hugging.
I was a newspaperman. I remember linotype machines. Boilermakers for breakfast. Even the days when you could get stories without talking to a flack.
My emotions are hence conflicted as I watch the collapse of my medium.
Even without undue sentimentalism – newspapers have always as often as not been rotten, and still are – it is true that newspapers did have a golden age inasmuch as once upon a time they made money.
That business model is broken with newspapers closing almost every day and great titles struggling.
There is a group on Facebook called Newspaper Escape Plan (from which I have borrowed the title of this article) but it has yet to produce a coherent Escape Plan, although it does offer a chronicle inedité of the grim bloodbaths in American newsrooms.
Why prolong the agony? The sooner the newspapers go bust the better. The Ann Arbor News has closed? It has been terrible since forever. Good. Maybe the absence of crappy newspapers like the Ann Arbor News will create space for something better.
As for the publishers: I think that almost all of them are dinosaurs. They are run by charlatans and idiots (meaning those of mental incapacity) and most of them have done nothing interesting or useful for years.
The people who own them (eg Rupert Murdoch, my old governor) inhabit a rich world of psychosis completely disconnected from their readers.
As he attempts to cheat death steaming around the world on his Boeing Business Jet, Mr Murdoch apparently believes he can charge people to read The Times online! Ha! Not when the BBC is giving away commodity news for which, in a perverse paradox, you can be sent to jail if you don’t pay!
Elizabeth Kucinich, or possibly Venus
More 4’s censorship of The Daily Show is now so oppressive it is amazing that Stewart tolerates it. Perhaps he doesn’t know. Compare the show available on More 4 with the version available on the internet and weep. The October 29 edition was practically destroyed. The guts of Stewart’s commentary on Governor Schwarzenegger were simply ripped out. As were the guts of Jason Jones’s piece “Is America ready for a FLILF” (Jones: “It’s an acronym. And a palindrome.”) including the central core of an astonishing interview with the formidable and gorgeous Mrs Dennis Kucinch, the Titian-like English wife of the Democratic presidential candidate.
This is some of the most daring comedy on television anywhere and the response to it by the supposedly edgy More 4 is to depute some hack to rip the show to pieces.
Satire is dead on British television. It’s been 45 years since “That was the week that was” and Britain’s cowardly, government-supporting broadcasters no longer do satire. The only possible exception is “Have I got news for you” which is an establishment affair, quite frankly.
If More 4 cannot be bothered to schedule Stewart’s show properly someone else should pick it up.
More 4 has from the start ruined this show with continuous bleeping and pixellating, so keen is it to ensure that its viewers cannot see some of the best material. Now with the entirety of The Daily Show online we can see the full disgrace of their editing and scheduling.
More 4 may argue that as they run the show at 8.30pm they have no choice. Why? It is a grown-up show and should be run after the 9 pm watershed. Isn’t it on at 11pm in Ameruica. It’s TV for grown-ups. Except in the UK. Until More 4 schedules this show properly and stops shredding it to make it suitable for children the only place to watch it is online. This is yet another example of how British broadcasters treet their audiences on a spectrum that starts with indifference and runs to complete contempt.
Colbert’s show, which is even rougher, is not shown at all in Britain. Not only does Britain not make the best television in the world, we’re not even allowed to watch it.
Zoé’s Ark drops the Elysée in the deepest of African fiascos. French nationals are being held in Chad where they are threatened with 20 years in jail for allegedly kidnapping children from Darfur.
Chad’s president, Idriss Déby, has played a blinder with the rhetoric. He says the French may even have planned to kill the children and harvest their organs. Sixteen Europeans including nine French citizens are now being held in the affair. And this, as a seemingly deranged Sarko is on his way to Washington for what was to have been a triumphant reunion with his friend George Bush.
By any standards Déby, a French-educated kleptocrat, election-rigger and warlord whose controversial son was recently mysteriously killed in Paris, has pulled off a magnificent coup de théâtre, not so much striking a blow against the snooty French, but grabbing Sarkozy by the nuts and squeezing.
In addition to the pretty French nursemaids and their helpers he holds three journalists and seven Spanish air crew. And a Boeing 757. So kerching! It’s pay day for Déby. Sarko, meanwhile, looks deranged and not at all the man in charge of even his own emotions after storming out of an interview with 60 Minutes, after he was asked about, er, Her.
He unwisely staged his tantrum in the presence of Lesley Stahl, one of the grandest dames of American TV news. Asking about Cecilia may have been impertinent but it was certainly predictable. So why was Sarko not prepared? He had already called his press secretary an “imbecile” for having wasted his time by scheduling the interview on a busy day. Such self-revelation is not the calm, collected, controlled behaviour of a statesman. Not even if Sarko is right and it is true that the American media are utterly debased in their obsession with sex and celebrity over substance.
As if this was not bad enough, now Sarko is being made to look like a goat by an African thug who is never off French television without poisonous declamations in immaculate French. So much for the brotherhood of Francophonie.
One can imagine Sarko’s mood on the Presidential Airbus on his way to Andrews AFB. Whether this is just an affair of an inept NGO, as Sarko might wish us to believe he believes, it has turned into an affair of hostage-taking. The French public will not tolerate their girls being thrown into a malarial African prison. Sarkozy knows it. Chad knows it.
The children be damned; they are actually practically the least important consideration of all. Were the children from Darfur? How will anyone ever know? Were Zoés people offering these children a worse life? Most people in that part of Africa can only dream of going to France. Perhaps the paperwork was dodgy. I would prefer to cast my own sympathy with the NGO. They knew what they were doing was dangerous. But they may have underestimated the political cynicism of the regime in Chad, not to forget the political cynicism in Paris.
You do not need to be a Lacanian analyst to understand the political toxicity of this for Sarko. This is an affair ripe with symbolism.
What is Sarko going to have to pay to get the French team home? What does Chad want? Guns? Jets? Helicopter gunships? Prime real estate in Neuilly? Cash – obviously.
The swaggering performance of the Africans is an ironic tribute to Sarko’s own default posture but with the whip firmly in the hand of the Africans. This is a media nightmare for the French government. Chad has complete control of the media on their end, they will control the images, hence the French media, and can create any facts they want. This is a very big problem for Sarko, demanding a coolness that one must increasingly doubt he possesses.
Sarko needs to get a grip.
The glorious British retreat from the Basra Palace – “probably the worst palace in the world”
In the New Yorker last week, Sy Hersh, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, reported that Britain is ready to join the United States in an attack on Iran. Or at least the Americans think so. Quoth he:
The bombing plan has had its most positive reception from the newly elected government of Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.
Hersh is a distinguished and sometimes reliable journalist. He is to be commended for a robust approach even if his expertise evidently does not extend to the method by which Gordon Brown recently became prime minister. Unless I missed something, this did not include any kind of election.
Nevertheless, perhaps the British media might be expected to take an interest in this claim/revelation. And indeed, the story eventually made its way to page 35 of The Sunday Telegraph. Tim Shipman now quotes officials in Washington to support (up to a point) Hersh’s story:
Gordon Brown has agreed to support US air strikes against Iran if the Islamic republic orchestrates large-scale attacks by militants against British or American forces in Iraq, according to senior Pentagon officials.
But this is a somewhat different story to that of Hersh, as premier Brown’s support now seems contingent.
Whether Hersh had it right, or Shipman does, or neither, this was about the limit of British press interest in the story.
After all, there are new pictures of Princess Diana! Maddie is still missing! Plus free DVDs for every reader!
Happily, Jon Snow of Channel 4 News, a serious fellow, finally asked the prime minister about this at his news conference on Monday. Here is the exchange:
Prime Minister, you have said that you want to listen to the British people. One of the things that the British people seem to be demonstrating is no appetite for any new war related to Iraq. Yet the war drums are banging in Washington for an attack on Iran. Are you prepared to follow previous Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, in saying that such an attack is inconceivable. And indeed are you prepared to go further and say that you would neither support nor assist any American attack on Iran?
I will follow what I have said myself only recently that we take very seriously what the Iranians are trying to do in building up their nuclear capability for nuclear weapons. This cannot go unchallenged given that it is a breach of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. If they do not co-operate with the international authorities that are examining their nuclear installations, or potential nuclear installations, that is a very big breach of international rules as well. And we believe however that this matter can be resolved by diplomatic means, by the Resolutions that have been passed by the United Nations, by sanctions if necessary, but I am not prepared to go further than that. What I am prepared to say is we take very seriously what Iran is proposing and we are prepared to use the methods that we have used in diplomatic sanctions to deal with this problem and I do not rule out anything.
Looking at this, it is rather masterfully ambiguous (even after the Downing Street editors have corrected the prime minister’s repeated confusion of Iraq and Iran as he delivered this answer). Brown firmly rules out an attack on Iran when he says “we believe that this matter can be resolved by diplomatic means… by sanctions if necessary, but I am not prepared to go further than that.” Then he technically rules the possibility back in again with: “I do not rule out anything.”
So this is a master class in saying two completely contradictory things at the same time. But here’s what I think. Hersh is wrong. And not just about the British electoral system. With citation to Sam Goldwyn, as far as any adventures in Iran are concerned, you can include Britain out.I reckon Brown, who was never an enthusiast for this war and endorsed it purely as a matter of preserving his own career, is sick of Iraq, has no stomach for a conflict with Iran, and that what we’re already watching is Gordon leading the Brits on a cut and run.
Another fascinating exchange came when the prime minister answered a question from Robin Oakley of CNN, who very reasonably asked the following:
Prime Minister you have presented yourself so far as a national leader who looks above petty party-political advantage. Why did you go to Basra to announce a withdrawal of British troops by Christmas, do it at the time of the Conservative Party Conference to take headlines off your opponents, and use somewhat phoney figures, since a quarter of those you said would be coming home had come home already. Isn’t that just the kind of Blairite spinning that you are supposed to stand against?
I think you are wrong in every respect if I may say with some respect to you. I think the facts do not merit these accusations. First of all I had to go to Iraq, to Baghdad and Basra, before I made my Statement in the House of Commons. I think the criticism of me today might have been that I had not had the chance to hear from the troops on the ground, to hear from our military commanders, to meet Prime Minister Al Maliki, to meet the Vice-President, to meet the Ministers for Finance, for Trade and for the Economy to discuss not just troop movements, but also to discuss economic reconstruction in Iraq. As far as what I said, I think you will see when I announce it in the House of Commons this afternoon that my Statement is far more comprehensive about all these things than anything that was said in Basra, and I think you will also find the statement about numbers that I made in Iraq is absolutely accurate.
This seems rather insulting to Robin Oakley! Who is correct here? Both, obviously, The prime minister is a master at counting things once, twice, or as many times as necessary. He subsequently went on to confuse matters still further with talk in the House of Commons of further troop withdrawals accompanied by “briefings” that all the boys would be home by 2008. Whereas Oakley is right that the stunt in Basra was an exercise in tortured accounting, even if Brown is too slippery ever to make the charge stick.
What 2,500 British soliders left in the “Cob” at the airport are supposed to do is left rather vague. Some have driven up to the Iran border with TV crews. Others are filmed training Iraqi soldiers. It is an army now tasked to photo opportunity.
Brown is playing a slippery game, but the troops are indeed coming out of Iraq. Even if they are going to Afghanistan, which is another disaster in the making.
A giant, transparent spin offensive is underway to pretend we have won after all in Basra, with friendly hacks like Con Coughlin of the newly pro-government Daily Telegraph filing magnificently clairvoyant copy from the airport describing the improvements since our army’s triumphant
retreat advance from what the soldiers called the worst palace in the world.
In the British-controlled southern Iraqi city of Basra there is a palpable sense that, after four years of incessant bloodshed, a corner is being turned in the struggle to bring the city back to something approaching normality.
But there is no evidence from his copy that he was even there!
Image from Telegraph web site, two days after Coughlin ponounces peace in our time
Coughlin, who just happened to be at the Cob when Brown later dropped by to annouce the withdrawal of troops who had already left, later went on to warn that premature withdrawals could threaten the success achieved by the British. Delusional.
Insofar as the story of a British triumph is concerned, Coughlin at least reveals what he was briefed by officers following MoD-approved scripts. The line is that we have given the Iraqi people the chance to have a nice stable, rich democracy – it’s up to them. By inference, whatever goes wrong in the future is their fault, not ours. That we were responsible for launching an invasion that has seen the place smashed to bits, with probably 100,000 killed and millions displaced, is not mentioned.
Here, though, is the question for the future. We know this about Brown. He is a bit of a coward. He puts his own survival first. He’s not stupid. A man for whom cowardice, caution and prudence are core, does not and cannot like war, which is always highly unpredictable and frightening.
With Iraq off the table, is Brown really prepared to unleash the dogs of war in Afghanistan? This is a campaign that is going to see lots of people killed and a lot of money being spent as even Jock Stirrup’s ropey Eurofighters are sent into the fray to drop bombs on mud huts.
Does Brown have the stomach for this? Me – I’m not sure. And with the Tories as gung-ho on the Pathun adventure as ever, perhaps the PM has something else in mind. To win his deferred election as the man who brought all of this nonsense to an end. Methinks (hopes anyway) that this is the turning point. Think prudence.
The campus police at the University of Florida attack student who asked too many questions.
There are numerous places on the Internet where you can see University of Florida (Gainesville) police officers Tasing/torturing Andrew Meyer, 21, a journalism student who dared to ask John Kerry several highly pertinent questions when he appeared on campus this week.
They comprise a cinema vérité at its purest. The sound is hyper natural. You can hear clearly the victim begging for mercy, the hissing of the Taser and the screams. The Taser is renowned for causing incapacitating physical discomfort, usually short of death, although this is not unknown (Amnesty has documented 245 Taser-related deaths).
Earlier, some students had hooted and yelped in approval as campus police officers moved in to silence Mr Meyer but belatedly as events unfolded one or two in a crowded room indicated they might share the viewer’s horror at these graphic but highly educative events on an American campus. Not all viewers, of course: the imbecilic brigade of the American right is already screaming that this was a set-up. They are the ones who presumably can he heard to hoot with delight when the campus police take out one of their fellow students. And not Kerry, obviously, who increasingly seems to be himself an imbecile.
A very clear version of the incident can be seen here but You Tube has plenty of other examples. It is a frightening and also very powerful scene and one that will do further enormous damage to the international reputation of the United States and to the American campus. And further confirm that Kerry is as useful as a toad in a laundromat.
One reason why America cannot currently win its so-called war on terror is the repeated demonstrations like this one that when it comes to moral leadership, the American cupboard is looking pretty bare.
Free speech is now under physical attack on the campus of the university of Florida, and by agents of the state. Just like the university of Teheran! (This is also the state where not one but possibly the last two presidential elections were stolen by the Republican party apparat, disenfranchising ‘colored’ voters – one of the points being made by the brave Mr Meyer.)
The American campus is already seized by fear with foreign professors harrassed and deported by Homeland Security; arbitrary and capricious border controls applied to visiting scholars, and hysterical Zionist campaigns against anyone who raises their voice against the State of Israel, its historiography, its behaviour, or questions its claims. This has become a new McCarthyism. Joel Kovel’s recent experiences at the University of Michigan show that a university press long thought to be resistant to political pressure will now grovel to blowhards, although to its credit the university has resumed (grudgingly) sales of Kovel’s book, Overcoming Zionism.
This latest incident in Florida is extraordinary because it shows what happens when you put police onto campuses. The gang of police can be seen surrounding Mr Meyer from the very beginning of his questioning of Kerry. Kerry’s own behaviour as Mr Meyer is attacked is bizarre. He apparently sees it as no part of his own duty to interfere in any way. Profile in courage!
There are so many videos taken from so many angles that this is one of those rare events that the revolution has not only seen fit to televise but to do so from every conceivable angle.
The viewer can see the initial assault on the student when the police who had already been intimidating him decided that enough was enough and it was time to bring down this insolent yelp.
The viewer then sees him calling vainly for support from Kerry, anyone, receiving not a single word of support from anyone, followed by shots being wrestled to the ground by numerous officers while he can be heard begging not to be ‘tasered’ – using what is bound to become an immortal phrase: “Don’t Tase me, bro’!” This is a perfectly cromulent use of the infinitive verb to Tase™.
The Taser, normally marketed as a non-lethal alternative to firearms, has never previously been marketed as a method of shutting up those who have inconvenient questions. Doubtless, sales will spike on this new publicity, with big orders from China, possibly. Meyer spent the night in jail on the trumped up charges of disrupting a public meeting and resisting arrest.
The president of the university pronounces himself regretful for the incident. I would have thought he should have sacked the police at the very least, or at least sent them to the countryside for re-education, and begged the student to accept an apology (two of the officers have been suspended on full pay). I do know this is a student I would hire for any newsroom unwise enough to have me in charge (not that I am ever likely to have the opportunity – it is merely an expression of the instant and wholly positive impact this young man has had on me as an almost singular representative of what remains decent in his profession).
There are also hundreds of news reports. Counterpunch asks why Kerry stood there and said nothing. Huffington is very good on the sequence. As always, the journalism that does not appear is as interesting as that which does. Why have journalists on American campuses shown themselves as craven and ineffective as their counterparts at the New York Times and Washington Post? I look in vain for the story in The Michigan Daily. America needs more like Mr Meyer.