Journalists as State Functionaries 144

There was a brief moment of truth on Sky News this morning, where there was a short discussion of disquiet among journalists that Theresa May will only take questions that have been pre-vetted and selected in advance by the Tory Party. The Sky reporter even gave the detail that the journalists are not allowed to hold the microphone, which is controlled by a Tory Party functionary so it can be switched off if the journalist strays from the script.

This has been the case right from the start, something I highlighted a few days ago.

But the overall treatment on Sky was that this was not really important, and was simply a matter of ensuring “fairness” in distributing questions between journalists.

This is a desperate situation. I do not know any genuine democracy in the world which would accept this. I have just spent two months in Ghana, where there would be a commendable roar of outrage if the President tried to limit what questions can be asked of him – and he would never dream of doing so. Nowhere in the European Union, not even in authoritarian Hungary, are journalists’ questions pre-vetted.

The idea that the head of the government both gets to choose what they have asked, and gets advance warning of every question so they can look sharp with their answer, is totally antithetical to every notion of democratic accountability. If we had anything approaching a genuine free media, there would be absolute outrage. All genuine media organisations would react by boycotting such events and simply refusing to cover them at all.

The media know perfectly well that the reason May needs protection from difficult questions – and even advance notice of soft ones – is that she is hopeless. Her refusal to debate Corbyn and her car crash interview with Marr illustrate that. But our servile media cover up for her by colluding in entirely fake events.

I learn from a BBC source that in the special Question Time the BBC have organised for May in lieu of a debate, questioners will be selected in advance and May will see the questions in time to prepare.

My observation that the Conservative platform is in its essentials identical to the BNP manifesto of 2005 has received widespread social media coverage. I simply cannot conceive that the UK can have become so right wing. Now add to that, it has become so authoritarian there is no reaction to advance vetting of journalists questions – something Vladimir Putin does not do. And very few people seem to care.

I understand that Theresa May has succeeded in going so far to the right she hoovers up all of UKIP votes. In some ways she has gone further to the right than UKIP ever did. For all his faults, Nigel Farage would be quite genuinely horrified at the idea of pre-vetting of which questions from journalists are permitted. The thing I do not understand, is that it appears that there is no lurch too far into right-wing authoritarianism which causes more liberal conservatives to desert.

I suspect many are deluding themselves she has the ability to control the far right forces to which her every word and action pander. They delude themselves. Firstly, May really is that right wing and illiberal. Secondly it has gone beyond control. Douglas Murray of the Henry Jackson Society has a major article in The Sun today in which he forecasts violence (“deeds not words”) by “the people” if immigration specifically from Muslim countries is not curtailed. He does not state what form precisely these deeds not words by the people would take, but it is hard to see anything he can mean except violence against Muslims. People like Murray are now the mainstream Conservatives.

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144 thoughts on “Journalists as State Functionaries

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  • reel guid

    Michael Crick has tweeted that he was told by a Tory aide at one of May’s election events that if his name wasn’t on the list of those to ask questions then there was no point in putting his hand up to ask one.

    • Manda

      I find it odd he didn’t see that not putting your hand up request and compliance is as manipulative as pre seen questions. Looks good on photo ops May is not ignoring hands up/questions…

      • reel guid

        He didn’t say if he desisted from putting his hand up. But you’re right. Everything about May’s campaign is being staged managed.

        • Sinister Burt

          He did put his hand up anyway I seem to remember on the telly (might have mixed it up with the factory visit…)

          • Reider

            It would be a pity if he did put his hand up, knowing he was not going to be allowed to ask a question. Otherwise, he achieved nothing except participation in the pantomime, thereby helping to give it legitimacy.

  • reel guid

    CPS to bring no charges against anyone over the Tory election expenses investigation. I’m sure we’re all amazed.

  • Theresas EU pawn

    Some of our state functionaries reside in the BibiCEe, our very own election manipulator and skewer of democracy.
    Please be reminded that UKIP won zilch in the local elections last week, whilst the Greens added 40 councillors to the 300+ they already had. All day we got smothered in UKIP pain and demolition, not a word about their success, a clear misrepresentation of their election brief as set out by their rules.

    Now they are planning another feast of bias, by inviting every party to be interviewed, day by day, except the Green party.
    Now this malignment has history with reasons such as ‘you have not got many cllrs’ ‘you haven’t got any MP’s’ ‘you are not polling enough’, all exclusions made up as they went along.

    If the BBC’s election coverage rules are that bendy, they should be reformed, but this is going too far now, they are undermining the GE and interfering in the democracy by making it up as they go along.
    please sign this petition and ask your party that they should remind the BBC of their position as provider of publicity for all parties, or stand aside from the interview, rather than giving support to such bias and ignorance by attending it.

    thanks in advance.

  • Scott

    To me this just shows the gutless Journalists we have in this country if they were to take a stand and say they would not attend any May mock meetings they would get some respect from the public.
    If what you say about Question Time is true I would like a person who is going to ask a question would turn it round and ask a different question and see what would happen but then again I suppose the audience will be vetted.

  • Manda

    “I learn from a BBC source that in the special Question Time the BBC have organised for May in lieu of a debate, questioners will be selected in advance and May will see the questions in time to prepare.”

    It is patently clear that those are the only circumstances under which May would or could be put in such a situation… has she any policies out yet apart from free vote on fox hunting? May is clearly socially awkward and inept speaking off the cuff, personally I doubt she even has a clue about her own policies and real life effect of past government actions. She appears to be a robot that has to be carefully programmed and wound up very gently in a sterile environment to function reliably!

  • Quentin Quale

    I thought the Tories would be content hoovering up the UKIP vote. Seems they are using UKIP policy as their starting point. This does not bode well for the future direction of the UK. Or should I say rUK as surely Scotland won’t take anymore of this right-wing madness.

  • Nick Lynn

    Journalists and broadcasters really need to stand up and object. Cut off air time for any politician or party that imposes this sort vetting and see how long they survive without it.

    It’s bad enough that every day we are subjected to staged ‘walkabouts’ and meaningless mantras that media outlets run as ‘reportage.’ I want to see some meaningful challenge and fact-checking.

    The political elite it seems have learned from the referendum that they can force feed the electorate with lies and misinformation and that the media will collude with them in doing it. I don’t recognize where this country is headed and I know I’m not alone in feeling that way. These are dire times.

    • Manda

      “Journalists and broadcasters really need to stand up and object.”

      Where are the journalists in MSM? A very rare breed these days allowed the occasional article as far as I saw last time I followed MSM. Most true journalists (along with journalism) fled or were side lined from MSM a long time ago and replaced with or left a glut of narrow minded, ideological, self serving, whinging establishment scribes.. few have the integrity or thinking capacity to ‘stand up and object’…

      What’s that saying… ‘it’s very difficult to get a man to change his views if his salary depends on it’ or similar. The MSM are under some sort of ideological control, I’m not sure of all the factors involved but the bottom line is they don’t care about anything or anyone past their own jobs and position unless approved from on high. Is that sort of ‘caring’ genuine? No, it’s sickening. I have no respect for MSM at all, in truth they disgust me more than other sectors of the establishment.

      • John Spencer-Davis

        I think that should be qualified just a little bit. A more subtle point is that there are plenty of journalists around with the integrity and guts to stand up and challenge conventional thinking, but the very fact that they are that way means that they do not tend to make it into the positions which require more quiescent and accommodating people.

        ‘Marr: “How can you know that I’m self-censoring? How can you know that journalists are..”

        Chomsky: “I’m not saying you’re self censoring. I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But what I’m saying is that if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.”’

        Andrew Marr interviewing Noam Chomsky, 14/02/1996.

        So you are quite right in my opinion to say that “Most true journalists (along with journalism) fled or were side lined from MSM (meaning the political centres of the MSM) a long time ago and replaced with or left a glut of narrow minded, ideological, self serving, whinging establishment scribes”, but I don’t think there is necessarily any ideological control. There is no need for ideological control. Such journalists control themselves. The funny thing is, no doubt they believe that they have independent and critical minds.

        • Manda

          Yes, but ideological control can be a personal belief system can’t it? Perhaps I am stretching the term too far and I take and agree with your point.

  • Jill Nicoll

    The woman is a crass idiot, and as such, dangerous. She has no right to demand questions. Where is the democracy in that? It,s all about control. Hers.

  • fwl

    “I make it a habit not to talk politics with you gentlemen of the press….By the way, I hope you are not interviewing me-I believe that is the word-or intending to quote what I have been saying”
    President Arthur quoted in William Leuchtenburg’s The American President.

    Of course repression, censorship and restraint should galvanize those journalists with integrity and who are mere puppets. One US reporter complained that C19 US political evasion was so effective that news gathering was carried out “much after the fashion in which highwaymen rob a stage-coach” (also from Leuchtenberg). That’s the spirit and perhaps Assange stands a noble line of highway men journalists – go get that truth.

  • Graeme Purves

    On Good Morning Scotland, BBC reporter David Porter informed us that Theresa May was “taking a break from street campaigning” today!

    • Ba'al Zevul

      Which street’s she giving a miss? Bond Street? Regent Street? Doesn’t sound likely to me.

    • Sharp Ears

      A conference on Somalia at Lancaster House where more plans to impose the West’s presence there will be discussed. A little like a meet of the Mafiosi.

      The President of Uganda is attending. He has his army in Somalia.

      He was met by FCO flunkies.

      Museveni in London for Somalia conference, to meet Theresa May

      He will be able to give May a few tips on staying in power. He has been in his ‘office’ for 31 years!!! WTF?

  • Ba'al Zevul

    WTF? moment – Rod Liddle, Spectator deputy editor and loose cannon, is unhappy about May’s robotic persona and now thinks Corbyn ‘is starting to sound like a decent Labour leader’. He might be said to know. Despite his un-PC utterances, he used to work for Labour, and was once a supporter of CND.

    Actually, the Spectator, with its palaeo-Tory reputation, often seems more interested in free speech than the UK press at large.

    • Herbie

      And John Rentoul has been singing Corbyn’s praises for a while now.

      Perhaps the hidden hand is working its magic, and Corby’s our Trump.

      • Ba'al Zevul

        Rentoul? Be deeply suspicious of that. When Blair wipes his arse, it is with Rentoul’s tongue. A deeper game is afoot. First, having sabotaged Corbyn’s leadership at every possible point, the Blairites now have to make it look as if they are, after all, pro- Labour.
        And this is because without seated ‘Labour’ Blairites, there is no chance of swinging Labour back to neoliberalism. But they realise that barriing an unfortunate accident, they’re stuck with Corbyn until the election. No harm in tossing him some crumbs of hope, poisoned though they are.

        Neither Rod Liddle nor Noam Chomsky have any love at all for Blair. Their opinions are their own. But Rentoul’s opinions are those of Blair’s stalking-horse, Progress, and he may very well be getting paid to publish them.

        • Herbie

          I knew that Rentoul was a big fan of Blair, his biographer too.

          But yeah. What explains his seeming transformation in support. Just noticed the positive headlines from him in The Independent over the past week or so.

          You could well be correct.

          Saw another gusher from Polly Toynbee in The Guardian about the leaked manifesto.

          But then, the whole country would support that without a blink so long as it’s presented properly.

          I suppose they could just be covering themselves for a Corbyn loss.

          Can’t really blame Corbyn if you attacked him during the campaign, eh.

          I Rather naively saw it as simply positive.

          Well spotted.

  • Sharp Ears

    Red in the face from planting a couple of rows of vegetable plants, I have just been harassed by an elderly man asking if I have a water softener ?? and then a lot more questions which I wouldn’t answer. Annoyed, and to my amazement he started knocking Jeremy Corbyn and the problems in the NHS. I told him to clear off. Methinks from the local Tory partei or a polling outfit?

  • David Timperley

    When did all the media start doing what the government wants? Your job is to report facts both good and bad and leave the public to make up their own minds. The BBC News is a disgrace these days with no investigative journalism, just talking heads trotting out the conservative spin. People are sheep these days, I was taught to think for myself, if I hurt myself then I was told to look what I was doing, not to blame someone else for not telling me something was dangerous. People have become so used to being told what and how to do things they seem to have lost the ability to question and make up their own minds as to the correct course of action.
    Democracy is hard won, but easily lost, but politicians can be replaced in the blink of an eye.

  • Susanna Davis

    Utterly lamentable and ignominious behaviour! And why is it condoned rather than rightfully mocked, when the media mock others for far LESS?! Are we now a post-democratic state, an autocracy?

  • Deborah Mahmoudieh (@veganicvibez)

    She knows she’s “won” anyway – postal votes – holiday period – 2nd, 3rd & 4th homes in UK & abroad – 200,000 vote-slips “stolen” – votes gone “missing” – another rigged election coming up?

  • David Smith

    I have just emailed the Electoral Commission as follows,
    “It has become obvious that in their choice of which party to support, voters tend to be guided by their perception of the party leader’s ability rather than by the party’s policies. There is wide support for Labour Party policies, but not for Jeremy Corbyn. The BBC which is funded by licence payers has at least a moral duty to be even handed on the coverage of Mrs May and Mr Corbyn. It has blatantly ignored this responsibility. Is the Conservative Party bound to report at least part of the cost of BBC’s news coverage as a donation to their campaign?”
    will report any reply on my website.

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