Media Failure in an Age of Disinformation

In a week in which the President of the United states lawyer Rudy Giuliani has said: “the truth is not the truth” it’s worth reflecting on a recent history of media failure. The examples go way beyond the relentless smears and attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, or the dreary miserablism of Scottish media bias.

This is all in the same summer that five journalists in America were shot and killed, that the press were deemed to be the “Enemy of the People” by the White House and during which the Boston Globe received bomb threats after publishing articles critical of President Trump. These conditions aren’t confined to America.

What we are witnessing is not just a collapse of media standards, mutating by a combination of churnalism, heightened political tribalism, diminishing budgets and advanced tabloidisation, but a cycle of 24 Hour News and ‘new’ social media competition. Outfits like Breitbart are seeing pop-up mirrors in the likes of Spiked and the Spectator. Hate-blogs like Wings Over Scotland and Guido Fawkes feed off the anti-media zeitgeist in a frenzy of partisan zeal. Trump supporters bate the media at live rallies, and Scottish nationalists lobby outside BBC HQ in Glasgow. The politics might be very different but some of the outlook is the same. People’s anger at what they perceive as a political-media elite is real, visceral and very often justified. But it turns into a politics that defines ‘the media’ as the only issue in the universe.

It’s an issue that is seen right across Britain in different manifestations.

On what would have been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday Newsnight facilitated a debate about whether Tommy Robinson’s imprisonment for trying to stop prosecution of child abusers is comparable.

Last week BBC Leeds offered space to a confirmed fascist Katie Hopkins who has been banished from most media spaces on the grounds that she regularly incites racial hatred.

The Sun’s lies about Scotland and Hopkins are well summarised here.

As the Dorset Eye spotted, it’s not just radio.

They reported “The BBC‘s Victoria Derbyshire programme recently hosted a 15 minute slot in which a couple called Mark Lewis and Mandy Blumenthal were brought on to claim that Labour has produced such an atmosphere of threatening antisemitism in Britain that they are forced to leave for Israel.”

But all was not as it seemed.

The Eye reported: “What the BBC forgot to mention is that they are leading members of Likud-Herut UK, a far-right Zionist organisation that idolises the murderous leader of the Zionist Irgun terror gang, Menachem Begin. Indeed, Mandy Blumenthal is the National Director of Likud-Herut UK, but was instead introduced as a ‘property company director‘, while her partner was described merely as a ‘lawyer‘!

While Corbyn was lambasted for possibly having stood near to a grave of someone who knew someone who was involved in the Munich attacks, these people were given a free pass over their adulation of the man who oversaw the 1948 Deir Yassin massacre.”

 

Erm Hold On BBC. Something You Aren’t Telling Us

How did we get here?

Roy Greenslade of the Guardian sees it as a merger and confusion between comment and news, he wrote in October 2017:

“A dozen or so years ago, the public’s striking back at the gatekeepers of news seemed refreshing. It notified journalists that ; the top-down journalism of old was no longer relevant. Audiences were not passive consumers. They had opinions too and, at last, were able to express them.

That initial healthy phase has been transformed into something much more worrying. Having exploded the myth that journalists deal only in facts, aA significant portion of the public, especially the younger generation, have adopted a virulent strain of anti-journalism journalism.

Having accepted that news is ideologically determined, they prefer to trade in views – And they do so without apparently realising that news-as-comment is one step away from fake news.

There is a bleak paradox here. In seeking to combat the hated mainstream media output, which they regard as a form of fake news, they have become ready recipients of fake news themselves.

Once all news is identified as fake, then its fakeness becomes a matter of degree. This is the gateway to a perilous path leading to the triumph of Trumpism. Even facts can be adduced to be fake. This is not far-fetched, as illustrated by the dispute over the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration speech. Photographic evidence disproved the claim by the then White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, that it was “the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period”. It made no difference to those who wished otherwise. That is the problem with the fake news/news-as-comment phenomenon. If people only believe what they want to believe, regardless of the facts then journalism’s mission to inform is in real peril.”

Where is this going?

This week saw the release of print figures for the UK print press which saw the Telegraph crashing a further 22%. The Times reported with unseemly glee:

“The owners of The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph have slashed the value of the titles by £114 million after further falls in print advertising.

The writedown pushed the parent company, Press Acquisitions Limited, into a pre-tax loss of £119.6 million last year. In 2016 the company made a £9.2 million profit, according to accounts posted at Companies House.

The non-cash charge marks a fresh setback for Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, the billionaires who have controlled the business for over a decade. In 2004 they bought the newspapers from Hollinger, the company once controlled by Conrad Black, a former newspaper proprietor, for £665 million.”

On the same day Paul Dacre reportedly sold over two hundred thousand pounds worth of shares in the Daily Mail.

People will respond – with some truth – that the massive decline in print sales is often accompanied by a shift to online readership. That is true but it is often a shift that has no sales value attached. For some media outlets online sales means people reading their product for free. This process accelerates the desperate media move for clickbait or the descent into catchy and viral but also fact-free titbits of video morsel thrown out into the digi-sphere like online chum.

The crisis of right-wing newspapers might be a source for celebration, but it is likely to lead to just these same forces re-emerging in new and even less restrained forums. To celebrate the death of newspapers is just to feed-in to a whole narrative about the media which is extremely unhealthy.

Scepticism of the news and of news journalism is healthy.

Cynicism to the extent that all political problems, faults or criticisms of your own party or movement are consigned to media bias alone is a terminal discourse.

Not all journalists are flawed.

The ‘MSM’ has some great journalists. The ‘MSM’ has some terrible journalists.

The indy media has some great journalists. The indy media has some terrible journalists.

What about Scotland?

The mewing of discontent from senior journos about Corbyn’s observations about class and privilege across the British media prove him to be largely spot-on in his modest proposals for reform.

 

 

But if ‘the media is the problem’ and it is in need of deep structural reform and restructuring – both in terms of the dismantling of huge anti-democratic power bases – and in terms of the creation of a credible empowered 5th Estate as a matter of course – it is also reflective of wider societal and cultural problems. That is people being incapable of seeing beyond their own narrow interests and views, lacking empathy and understanding, viciously tribalistic and polarised and seemingly unable to communicate.

This is a crisis of citizenship as well as media, it is a crisis of hyper-individualism as well as ownership, it is a crisis of the commons and the collective imagination as well as of moron-celebrity culture and Red Top Rage.

If the toxic influence of the tabloidisation of British culture has led us into the hell hole of Brexitism – the equally toxic culture of social media silos has exacerbated this political crisis.

The Yes movement needs to see the media crisis in its full multi-dimensional depravity, and stop seeing it as a microcosm of our own exceptionalism. This would mean, crucially, seeing institutional misogyny as a key part of the media make-up, see a common-enemy if not common-cause with the Labour movement for the smear campaign being conducted against their leader and find solidarity despite different constitutional visions.

Comments (37)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Stu Kinnear says:

    Calling Wings a hate blog is disgraceful.

    Small man syndrome writ large.

    1. Bee says:

      Absolutely. When I read “Hate blogs, like Wings Over Scotland” I stopped reading the articl as the author, Mike Small is so woefully ill informed that anything else might right will obviously be rubbish.
      WOS is one of very few reliable media monitors we have. He meticulously references all quotes and articles.
      I am very sad to see this scurrilous accusation on Bella Caledonia.
      Not bonnie at all!

      1. Bee says:

        Whoops, sorry about all the typos .
        *article
        * he might write

    2. Iain McIntosh says:

      Couldn’t agree more.

      What Wings does is shine a light on the Scottish and uk press plus Scottish and uk policitians. No one esle does!

      It escapes me how something can be called hateful for analysing how those rich, powerful and influential that are lying to the people with the expressed intention of getting us to vote against our own interests.

      Difficult to defend an article that praises the Dorset Eye for doing something Wings does day in and say out, yet Wings is hateful? Why?

      As for the author’s belief that Corbyn is misunderstood and labour is not anti-semintic, I too believed that, at the beginining, not now though. The longer the labour charade on doing the right thing for Jewish people has gone on, the more Corbyn’s inability to act has revealed him to be completely unfit for any postion of responsibility. There is now a further divide and toxixity in uk politics thanks to Corbyn, if you were a Jew, would you trust Cotbyn?

      As for brexit, young people reading this blog should realise that Corbyn is in the same bed as Johnson, Gove and Fox on brexit, always has been. Corbyns sold future generations down the river why they were singing his name at Glatonbury. Unforgiveable!

      As for Corbyn’s observations about class and privilege across the uk media, Prof John Robertson has been telling us that for years regards the Scottish press. Perhaps it only becomes relevant and is not hate filled in the authiors view when someone from the british elite says it?

  2. duncanio says:

    It is disappointing to see Wings labelled as a ‘hate-blog’. Verbose perhaps but factually accurate and rationale. I like BC too and most of the opinions posted by commentators.

    However, please don’t give our opponents the opportunity to divide and conquer us. We’re all on the same side (aren’t we?)

  3. Indyman says:

    So correcting media lies and misinformation makes WOS a hate blog? Grow up FFS

  4. Bob says:

    Bella Caledonia have become part of the “Media Failure in an Age of Disinformation” by describing Wings Over Scotland as a Hate Blog. A site that holds the UK MSM to account and is itself attacked by them all including politicians exposed hiding behind the UK MSM missinformation.

    But when you read the reason given is because it “feed off the anti-media zeitgeist in a frenzy of partisan zeal” you soon realise the writter of this piece does not have a clue.

  5. Al Manny says:

    Wings a hate blog? That’s the final straw for me. I stopped funding you some time back, now I can’t even be bothered to read you. Do you ever stop to think that it might just be a little bit insulting to the followers of the most informative, best investigative blog in the country, to accuse them of being followers of a “hate blog.” At the same time you’d be quite happy to take money from these “poor deluded fools.”

  6. Frann Leach says:

    “Hate blogs like Wings Over Scotland and Guido Fawkes”? Are you serious?

  7. Brian MacLeod says:

    “Hate-blogs like Wings Over Scotland…”

    I have never seen anything approaching hate on the Wings site. It’s one thing to disagree with Wings, but another to behave like the Unionist media.

    You have totally discredited Bella Caledonia as a reputable source IMO, and I have unsubscribed to your feed.

    1. Davie says:

      I dip in and out of Bella. Contributed to your first fundraiser.

      Soon as I read ‘hate site like wings’ the article, and your site, is pointless.

      Cheers Mike, all the best

  8. DialMforMurdo says:

    Ahem.

    Fair to say there’s a decent amount of hate emanating from the Bath bloggers latest soporific rant…

    “Scotland’s newspapers are just one gigantic filthy avalanche of stinking, poisonous sewage today.
    They’re a disgrace to both journalism and humanity.”

    1. Osama bin Liner says:

      Occasional (justified) anger isn’t hate. Don’t be so pathetic.

      1. DialMforMurdo says:

        There, there. x

  9. Aaron says:

    “Hate-blogs like Wings Over Scotland”?

    That is absurd and stupid. It’s no wonder Bella’s engagement is so woeful. Save for a few die-hard elitist RISE types who probably vote Labour anyway – you’ve alienated almost entire support base as these comments plainly show

  10. scrandoonyeah says:

    Mike,

    Quite controversial framing WoS as a ‘hate-blog’

    maybe you could give us a list of the ‘hate’

  11. Archie says:

    One might ask why it is that supporters of Scottish self determination are constantly asked to sublimate their own desires to support other people’s causes, but can expect nothing in return. You are fond of decrying Scottish exceptionalism, yet here you are asking us to make common cause with politicians and supporters who ally with Tories, and would frankly rather we didn’t exist. Not a chance. We’ve been conned like that too many times.

  12. tartanfever says:

    The core problem with Corbyn isn’t an issue with the press – they are merely a conduit. The problem with Corbyn is is his own party – that many MP’s, MSP’s the NEC etc clearly detest him. Are the ‘anti-semite’ accusations mostly fabricated outrage, certainly. Corbyn supports Palestinians, that simply cannot be tolerated.

    I have no doubts that in a world of poor, warmongering politicians, Jeremy Corbyn is a reasonable and decent man.

    Am I ever going to vote for Labour ? Never.

    The idea that an illegal war that saw millions murdered, injured, displaced can be dealt with by an apology is ludicrous. ‘Sorry’ isn’t enough and never will be. The idea that even Corbyn would ever take real action against Blair, Straw and the cabal of warmongers in Labour that are still present and operating with influence within that party and British political life is ludicrous. Maybe this is a perfect example of what you describe as ‘viciously tribalistic and polarised and seemingly unable to communicate.’

    I personally have nothing to communicate about Labour apart from what I have said here. That will not change. It’s not about unwillingness to communicate, it’s a principal.

    Finally, if Wings over Scotland is a hate blog, then what about those that print articles claiming a ‘moral authority’ to bomb a country without any verified information or facts, except of course, by those sources sponsored and paid for by the British Government ?

    1. Punklin says:

      Mike please respond do you/ does BC regard Wings over Scotland as a hate blog? If so, please substantiate. Otherwise you have done your site a lot of unnecessary damage for a stupid cheap shot.

  13. gordon cuthbertson says:

    I often dont agree with Stu Campbell’s personal views on Hillsborough for example, however I can’t see any justification for labelling wings a “hate-blog”. Bella provides some of the best writing available but that comment is well below the standard

  14. Bibbit Blair says:

    I find Wings a very fair, even handed, rational and conscientious news conduit.

    In a recent post Wings linked to a notoriously visceral British nationalist, ‘Effie Deans’ who had written completely surprisingly unbiased article on her concerns at the rabid ‘trial by media’ of a former First Minister.

    A so called ‘hate blog’ would never give a ‘tip of the hat’ to the opposition.

    Perhaps, Mike, ‘First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye’.

    1. Taking down Effie Deans, sound alike essential work, she’s a powerful influencer to many many people!

      1. Osama bin Liner says:

        You might want to remove that embarrassing reply when you realise you’ve completely misunderstood the person’s comment.

  15. AngusSkye says:

    Like many others, I am sick of you attacking other independence people. Does it ever cross your mind the damage you cause and the glee you give to unionists?

    Today is the last time I’ll use your website.

  16. Jamsie says:

    I wonder how the Daily Record is feeling having been used as the vehicle to run over wee Eck and destroy him.
    Interesting that for the first time ever wee Nicola separates the party from the government and tries to hide behind the cloak of confidentiality and yet the stories circulating suggest the leak to the Record came via a series of both government and party acolytes close to wee Nicola and her hubby.
    It seems the undercurrents being expressed verbally in the party recently by supporters in the more traditional areas of strength were aimed at leading to a possible return to front line politics for wee Eck to try to give the party some direction.
    This was obviously a threat to the duo at the head of the party currently and had to be dealt with.
    Whilst the rumours had previously been completely suppressed previously it was now thought prudent to let them come out and destroy any return.
    By using the sexual harassment allegations it was hoped to avoid a civil war breaking out in the party between those in the traditional heartlands and the central belt lefties now looking to completely control the party and in whom wee Nicola and Murrell have invested so much.
    It is said wee Eck knows this and is using his action against the “government” to not only expose the actual perpetrators but to link them with Murrell and possibly Sturgeon.
    Looking forward to the next episode in the tragedy which is unfolding.

    1. Jamsie says:

      If such stories are true then there will be interesting times ahead!

    2. Derek Thomson says:

      “wee eck” – “wee Nicola” – there’s something wrong with you.

      1. Jamsie says:

        I know, I know.
        I do hate political pygmies!

  17. kailyard rules says:

    Getting your kicks by kicking Wings Over Scotland just proves you are part of the problem of disinformation and media failure. How can we bellaieve you?

    1. Don’t Bellaieve everything you read.

  18. Bill says:

    Have spent some time going over the Wings site. Read a number of the main articles and quite a bit on the sidebar. I can find no evidence that would lead me to believe that this is a ‘hate’ site. Certainly there is mockery of those who put themselves up to be shot down if proved wrong. Excellent banter, much expression of opposition to the mainstream, but nowhere any level that could be deemed as ‘hate’. If we are going to move to evidence based assertion then your ‘hate’ assertion is wrong in my opinion.

    Bill

    1. Wul says:

      I don’t think WoS is a healthy place. It’s author has protracted on-line battles with a gallery of individuals and then uses his blog to lampoon them and invite his followers to affirm his position. It’s all a bit pathetic when viewed dispassionately from outside the bubble.

      I think there a has been a marked deterioration in the quality of the blog’s analysis as the popularity and income has gone up. It is lauded by its followers as somehow crushing opposition to independence but I think it will have hardened more people against the “Yes” movement than it has converted. The “Wee Blue Book” was useful and a great idea, but taking apart Daily Record articles for being factually incorrect is a very old party trick now.

      I tend to read the articles that might contain new information and ignore the comments which are mostly uninteresting variations of “good on you Stu, that showed ’em”

  19. john burrows says:

    WOS equivalent to Katie Hopkins and Breitbart?

    The title of your essay is Media Failure in an Age of Disinformation.

    Was this meant to be ironic?

    1. No, it was very specifically suggested it is the equivalent to Guido Fawkes.

  20. Wul says:

    I can’t help feeling that our society is becoming increasingly and dangerously infantilised. Much of our media reflects, affirms and reinforces that infantilism.

    To say “I’m going to stop reading outlet “A”, because it criticised outlet “B” ” is a childish response which only guarantees our own ignorance.

    How do we encourage a more adult way of organising our society? I’m not sure. Maybe we start with the qualities we try to encourage in our children as we try to steer them into adulthood:

    Opportunities to exercise autonomy, whilst being held responsible for the outcome.
    Reflecting on our behaviour and how it might affect others ( using the theory that other people have feelings too).
    Admitting mistakes and making amends.
    Being honest & assertive but not antagonistic or abusive.
    Refusing to take part in herd-like scapegoating of others in order to feel a sense of belonging.

    etc. etc.

    I took part in the first BBC demo in September ’14. I see Mr Small has included it as an example of “political tribalism”.

    I have to say that is not the way I experienced it at the time. The impetus for my joining that demonstration followed a string of visits to Glasgow city centre and seeing the streets awash with good natured “Yes” gatherings.
    I’d travel home thinking “can’t wait to see this on the news tonight”, tune in to “Reporting Scotland” and see…nothing. No mention, no report to footage. This happened several times. The final straw for me was being swept up in a truly massive “Yes” celebration at the top of Buchanan Street and returning home to see the day’s referendum coverage of Glasgow limited to tightly cropped shots of Jim Murphy and about 20 embarrassed looking “No” supporters campaigning outside Frasers at the bottom end of Buchanan Street. At that point I thought “No way!, this isnae on!” I really felt that we needed to cry “foul”. The feeling at that demo was that we were pluckily standing up to a very powerful and arrogant corporation which was abusing public trust.

    The demo was later spun as an intimidating, aggressive attack on the poor, feart, hermless wee employees within. With hindsight, I can see that individual BBC employees may have felt scared at the sight of hundreds of people outside their work, clearly unhappy at them. Add to that the shock of suddenly seeing “the viewers” camped en masse on the very doorstep of new HQ. Talk about being in touch with the public! Shit just got real.

    Perhaps our rush to claim victimhood is another symptom of our infantilisation.

  21. Jim Sansbury says:

    With respect.
    How is WOS a “hate blog”?

  22. Stephen says:

    Like to read Bella now and again. Thought i’d lend it support as it seemed to be promoting good journalism in Scotland. Accusing WoS of being a “hate blog” however is more false reporting. Not sure i’ll be returning for a while as quite disappointed with this type of article. All the best.

Keep our Journalism Independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address to subscribe for free here and receive Bella direct to your inbox.

 
Bella Caledonia