I tried not to laugh but when Alistair Campbell started whining about it, well, it would take a heart of stone not too...
I must thank Bishop Hill for posting a link to the 1990 Channel 4 documentary The Global Warming Conspiracy. Watching this first time round all those years ago was the watershed moment for me on climate change. Before I tended to believe, afterwards I never did.
It seems to me that despite being 20 years old now it is rather better than the more recent The Great Global Warming Swindle. Have TV documentaries gone backwards in that time?
It is also annoying that (unless I am very much mistaken) the presenter, Hilary Lawson, is and was thick with the ex-Revolutionary Communist Party crowd.
I was watching Roger Simon’s YouTube piece on Walter Duranty - the New York Times correspondent who covered up the Ukrainian famine in the 1930s. I thought: “Well, I wonder if the reporting in the (London) Times was any better?” And so I looked through some old editions online. And then I found a really interesting letter - one that uses Duranty’s very own words to make the point that - at very least - food was very scarce in Russia.
This is something I have found myself when writing about railways. One of the best writers around is Christian Wolmar who I am pretty sure is some sort of socialist. However, time and time again he would come up with the facts to support the libertarian argument.
By the way, in terms of reporting, although there are dark hints, the Times didn’t really come to terms with the fact that there had been a famine until a couple of years later. We have to bear in mind that it had no correspondents in the Soviet Union, all its reporting was done out of Riga in Latvia and its main source was official Soviet reports.
For Part I, see here.
So, I’m in my live one-to-one, what do I do?
Be on your guard. I recall the case of an aquaintance who was invited to appear on breakfast TV. He showed up for the interview and behind the scenes it was all charm and “We’ll just ask some simple questions” etc but the moment he was in front of the cameras it was straight into most aggressive hard-ball grilling imaginable.
Get the tone right. Stay calm. Be polite. Do not raise your voice. Prove you are a human being not a nutter. Swear if you want to but don’t expect to be asked back. And, if you do, make sure it’s of the “Fuck me” rather than “Fuck you” variety.
Be honest. If you don’t know say so. OK, it might be a bit embarassing if you’re supposed to be the expert but lying is a far worse. And so it should be. I’ve said elsewhere that honesty is hard work. It sounds odd but it’s true. For instance, why do you believe what you believe? Because I bet it’s not for the reason you think you do. For my part I start from two axioms: one, violence is wrong and two, violence doesn’t work. Which is why I am happy to opine on issues like DDT even though I know next to nothing about the subject.
Take your time. You do not have to respond immediately. Sure, your interviewer would like you to and might well apply all sorts of pressure to make you do so - after all broadcast media hate silence. But that is their problem not yours.
Do not tolerate aggression. Make it absolutely clear that you’d rather walk out than tolerate rudeness and abuse. If you are on the receiving end of it try: “You’re being aggressive.” If the interviewer tries to brush you aside, try: “You’re still being aggressive.” If he continues say: “I’ll give you a minute to regain your composure.” And in that time, say nothing. Read a newspaper. Check your emails.
Do not tolerate error. The typical interview question comprises, outrageous assumption, dubious fact, dodgy opinion and finally, after all that a question on a largely trivial matter. If the questioner is stupid enough to enough to leave these hostages to fortune the least you can do is ransom them. So, try: “Is that the most important question?”; “Your report was wrong.” (if there was a report beforehand); “What makes you think that?”; “You’re wrong.” or, if you’re not quite sure: “I think you’re wrong.”
Keep it short. If the interviewer can leave hostages to fortune so can you. The less you say, the less he can pick you up on and the harder it becomes to divert the course of the conversation. When you’ve said what you have to say, shut up. It’s what happens next that is fascinating. Interviewers just love leaving a pause in in the hope that you’ll fill it. Resist the temptation. You’ll say something stupid. One (and possibly the only) admirable thing about Edward Heath was that he would never fall for this. He would say what he had to say and shut up. The interviewer would leave in a pause hoping for more and Heath would silently revel in the awkwardness.
Don’t be scared to repeat yourself. If you get asked substantially the same question give substantially the same answer.
Remember this is serious. So, no grinning about. No smugness.
Make the moral argument. In the unlikely event you actually get an opportunity to outline your opinions lead with the moral argument ie violence is wrong. Unlike facts, it’s awfully difficult to disagree with and gives you the moral high ground.
Practice. Perhaps by watching a few grillings and working out what you would say instead.
So, Patrick, have you ever put this into practice?
No. Not in an interview but I have in private conversations with a few aggressive types. They don’t like it.
Will you, when the time comes?
I am not optimistic. Most of this is pretty radical - not the stuff of media training courses. And the media can be quite intimidating. My guess is that in the unlikely event I ever got asked for an interview I would start off with all the passionate intensity in the world and end up lacking the slightest conviction.
But maybe I wouldn’t.
As (sort of) promised.
Why on earth do we need a guide to dealing with the media? Why not, when asked, just show up and answer whatever questions they ask?
Because the media are not your friends. That’s not to say they are necessarily your enemies it’s just that they do not exist to help spread libertarian ideas. At root they - and I include the BBC in this - are businesses. What they sell is sensation. And they would just love you to help them with that - wittingly or otherwise.
Now sensation is a double-edged sword: it can work for you or against you. But there are good reasons to think that for the most part it will work against you. Most journalists have spent lifetimes steeped in a marinade of statism. They genuinely believe that there is no problem to which state violence is not the solution. The libertarian message, of course, is the precise opposite. They don’t like it and so, will take great pleasure in making a fool out of you.
If you let them.
So, your first job is to prevent them making a fool of you.
Your second job is to demonstrate to the viewers, and more importantly, the interviewer that you are a human being. I know this sounds a bit odd and it deserves some explanation. Unfortunately, it’s one of those things I feel instinctively without really being able to explain why. Just being able to demonstrate that you are cool, calm, that you have thought about what you’re saying and that you have some empathy with the wider public seems to me to far more important than what you actually say.
Your third, and very much final job, is to spread libertarian ideas.
So, how do I go about that?
Well, the first thing is to choose the ground. There are a number of different ways in which you might be interviewed: one-to-one live; panel live; one-to-one pre-record, door step. Now door-steps (where the reporter camps outside your doorstep) tend to be reserved for those caught up in scandals and so it is not something we have to particularly worry about here. But pre-records we do. The problem with pre-records is that you are at the mercy of the editor. He can delete the good stuff and keep the bad stuff. He can separate questions from answers and slice and dice. Your only real defence (apart from not doing it at all) is to make your own recording and make it available. I suppose we can make an exception for plain vanilla background pieces such as the one on Guido that Brian Micklethwait spoke to Radio 4 for a few years ago. Even then…
Panels - where there is more than one interviewee - are almost as bad. They put an enormous amount of power in the hands of the chairman. And, boy, do they exploit it. What particularly annoys me about the process is the way chairmen will invariably ask each panellist a different question. What are you supposed to do? If you answer the chairman’s question you don’t answer the first question. If you answer the first question - which is presumably the more important - it makes you sound as if you are avoiding the second. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
The other thing that annoys me about panels is the way that the rude and aggressive almost invariably come out on top.
Which leaves one-to-one live. If you have a choice this is the one to go for. This is the one where the media have the least amount of control. You can say “fuck” and there’s nothing they can do about it. Not that I advise that you do that.
Part II here.
Which is true.
But it begs the question. Why, assuming that Downing Street's email system wasn't hacked by Guido himself, did the leaker contact Guido? Why not go straight to the MSM? Maybe, he did, of course. But assuming he didn't the reason he contacted Guido was because he knew the story would be published.
Guido: the scandal sheet of last resort. And good thing too.
Somebody has compiled a list of the 10 most irritating phrases and it would seem that I use almost all of them*, “24/7”, which I guess makes me “fairly unique”.
I will make a defence of “I personally”. A lot of the time in the media people are not speaking personally they are speaking collectively, in other words on behalf of organisations whether it be the government, business or pressure groups. So, it is reasonable to make the distinction when the views you are expressing are genuinely your views and not those of the organisation you represent.
* The one I don’t use is “With all due respect”. No prizes for guessing why.
Some questions to ask next time you see a survey…
Is it measuring what it claims to be measuring? Usually, there is an input and an output eg number of cigarettes smoked and mortality. Are both being measured accurately? Can both be measured accurately? I heard a report the other day that had claimed to have been able to measure self-esteem in children. How on earth do you measure that?
Is the thing they are measuring actually as good/bad as the surveyers claim? For instance if policy initiative X is supposed to have given rise to increase in observable phenomenon Y then is Y as good/bad a thing as the surveyers think it is? A good example of this, for instance, is museum attendance. Good, if you like that sort of thing. Bad, if you’re the seven-year old child who would far rather be playing Nintendo.
Is the sample big enough? We’re getting into some fairly heavy duty statistics here. Or, at least we could be, but an awful lot of surveys have pitiful samples. My rule of thumb is ignore it unless it involves at least 500 people (assuming it’s a people survey).
Is there a control? Was it done properly? For instance, one of the earliest smoking surveys pitched a random group of smokers against a group of non-smoking doctors (or so I am told). Not surprisingly the smokers had shorter lives.
Does correlation prove causation? If you increase X and observe an increase in Y that does not mean that X causes Y. Something else might have. Indeed, Y might cause X. Look for a time lag. If X changes and then Y changes maybe there is causation. Also, look for other likely causes. Has the survey factored all of these out?
Is it being reported correctly? Tell tale phrases like “up to” and “as much as” are dead giveaways that the reporters are trying to dramatise things. Also, is what the report says what was said actually what was said. Similarly, if the combination of survey and reportage seems to be leading you to a ready-made conclusion (especially one to do with state policy) be very suspicious. For instance, the other day I heard one claiming that children who wore ethnic dress to school had higher self-esteem. Conclusion, let Muslim parents foist hajibs on their daughters. Just a bit too convenient isn’t it?
The most important thing to bear in mind is that scientists don’t always get it right and reporters certainly don’t. Don’t ever take these things at face value. It’s also worth bearing in mind that there’s a whole branch of the public relations industry dedicated to raising clients’ profiles and one popular way is by releasing surveys purporting to demonstrate a need for the client’s product or service.
By the way, this is just a list of things that came off the top of my head. Does anyone out there have some other examples?
So, Time magazine have made Vladimir Putin their Man of the Year. Well, as Johan Norberg points out this is by no means the first time they have courted controversy in this way. Take 1938, for instance, and a certain German dictator…
Some people don’t half hide their light under a bushel. Under the title 1888: A More Than Mind Games Film and described by the producer as, “… a rough, experimental one at that.” we get this:
It’s only the first-ever film - all 18 frames of it. Plus, as an extra special bonus, the similarly succinct second-ever film. And they’re great. Three-hour Hollywood blockbuster directors, take note.
Bearing in mind that the film itself has precious little to do with football and James Hamilton’s blog has precious little to do with anything else it does raise the question of whether it should be there at all. Since the dawn of blogging I have accepted that, just as Ronseal does exactly what it says on the tin, blogs should do exactly what they say in the title and description.
But should they? The blog EU Referendum never talks about the EU Referendum (not that there’s much of one to talk about) and not even that often about the EU. But is it any worse for that? Do I, as a reader, lose out? Not as far as I can see. I find their digressions fascinating.
Perhaps it’s time to propose Crozier’s Specialised Blogging Rule: while a specialised blog must start off specialised, it can branch out into any damn thing it likes once the author gets bored.
It's a hoax.
But the fact that it has been taken up so widely - including, I might add, by the BBC's Have I Got News For You - does serve to illustrate that when it comes to Japan people in the West will believe anything.
18 Doughty Street (sometimes known as Tory TV and 18DS for the rest of this article) is the attempt to bring some semblance of balance into the world of broadcasting by setting up an internet TV station and spending squillions of quid on it.
It’s been going for a few months now, so they’ve ironed out the early bugs and we can see it for what it’s worth.
Unfortunately, I don’t think they’re getting value for money - certainly not with the sort of money that they’re spending.
My frustrations with 18DS start from the moment I log on and never really end.
For starters, there’s no TV on the front page. Why not? Is this a TV station or not? There’s none on the second page either. That’s reserved for a blog. Now, modesty is a good thing in many ways but this is getting close to hiding your light under the grain production of Saskatchewan.
Eventually, after a bit of moderate hair pulling you land on the TV page. And then your problems really start. The navigation is atrocious. There is little indication as to what you should or might want to be watching. Eventually, you give in and just click a link in desperation. TV starts.
Oh, but woe betide you if you are using a decent browser ie, Opera. The controls don’t work and even if you’re using IE7 they’re not that much use. For instance, where’s the bar which lets you to jump around the clip? It’s as if someone somewhere is saying: “I have composed this wonderful televisual symphony and now you’re going to listen to it all - the rubbish bits along with the good. Peasant.” Haven’t they heard of YouTube?
It’s not all bad. I like the set - although they could do with looking into some echo reduction - and Iain Dale is a star. He could just be the best host/interviewer in the country. OK, so I’m pointing out a bright star in a dim universe, but he does ask the right questions and let his guests talk.
But the real problem is… well… that it’s television. I - and I am far from alone in this - have more or less had it with television. I can’t stand the demand that I give something my undivided attention without being able to add my tuppenny ha’penny. Actually, it’s an effort tuppenny ha’penny or otherwise.
When I think about how 18DS could be made better I am reminded of Julie Walters in the title role in Educating Rita: “I’d put it on the radio”. I mean, think about it - what is the value of the visuals on 18DS? Almost nothing. It’s not as if they’re covering bombs, bloodshed or Something Actually Happening. This is the Moral Maze without the advantage of darkness.
I see Al Gore (registration required) is trying something similar. OK, so he’s made the category error of putting his internet TV on cable - you can kind of see why he lost that election to George Bush - but he does, at least, seem to understand that you need to draw upon a larger range of potential contributors. This is, I would guess, the thinking behind a third of content being reserved to citizen-generated “pods”.
I see Channel 4’s going to broadcasting an Equinox special on Thursday challenging the consensus over global warming. I also see that leading dark age economics campaigner, George Monbiot, has been getting in his retaliation first. Somehow, I doubt if he’ll be alone. The really stinging criticism (from my point of view, at least) is that the producer of the programme is mixed up in the Spiked (formerly known as the Revolutionary Communist Party) crowd.
Might be an idea for libertarians not to nail their colours too firmly to this particular mast.
For other reasons too. Although I am a global warming sceptic (largely, ahem, as a consequence of a 1991 Equinox documentary), I have the attitude of “Never say never”. It could be happening. It could be a bad thing - it’s bound to be bad for somebody. It could be caused by humans. Not that I think that’s a problem.
Update 9/3/07 Brian Micklethwait says something very similar but better.
There was no round up last week due to that sodding talk which took up rather a lot of my time.
- Laban reprints Paul Dacre’s Hugh Cudlipp Memorial Lecture. I am far from a fan of Dacre’s Daily Mail but anyone who points out that:
...when The Times’s Ms Sieghart, the very embodiment of modern free-thinking women, holds forth on feminism, she does so courtesy of the topless girls in the still vastly profitable Sun.
...can’t be all bad.
- At risk of turning this into a Crozier-Micklethwait Appreciation Society I would recommend that you take a look, if you haven’t already, at Brian’s first piece (there will be more) on the French anthropologist philosopher Emmanuel Todd. Anyone who, in 1975, predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union a decade or so later deserves attention.
- “Anti-Americanism has acquired the status of Western Europe’s lingua franca."According to The Chronicle. To paraphrase Fred Boynton: I think it’s well-known that anti-Americanism has its roots in impotence, at least in Europe. (Hat-tip: A&L Daily)
- It would be far better to lower - rather than raise - the school leaving age, argues Theodore Dalrymple. ‘Nuff said.
- Don’t learn Japanese. No really. I can say this from personal experience. It’s as mad as a box of frogs. (Hat-tip: Rob Fisher)
- Can we really compare Iraq’s insurgents with the Werewolves, the Nazis’ attempt to start an underground campaign against the Allies? Michael Ledeen thinks we can.
We now regularly spend time after video shoots checking studio’s lavatories (with very thick gardening gloves!) for discarded needles, wrappers and makeshift crack cocaine pipes, not mentioning how much time we spend cleaning up same lavatories with disinfectant and bleach.
Julian Taylor, on what it’s like dealing with stick-thin models while they’re still alive.
But I wonder if there’s more to it than that. I have run into a couple of TV presenters in real life and they were much thinner than they appeared on screen. The camera really does add a few pounds. There’s a definite incentive there to be thinner than is healthy.
So we come to the end of yet another series of Bad Lads’ Army - British TV’s most subversive programme.
While the massed ranks Establishment would have us believe that there is nothing that can be done about the current crime wave, Bad Lads’ Army drives past delivering a well-aimed two-fingered salute.
The programme (originally Lads’ Army) starts from the simple premise that there is nothing wrong with today’s youth that could not be solved by a month of 1950s-style National Service.
What happens every year is that some of the 30 or so recruits get chucked out but that most make it through to the end. Along the way, a regime of physical exercise, kit inspection, psychological challenges, instant punishments, paltry rewards, ill-fitting uniforms and lots and lots of cold water tame their initial arrogance and cockiness and replace it with team spirit, pride and a respect for others. For many of them passing out from Bad Lads’ Army is the first thing they have ever seen through.
Whether what the viewer sees is a true reflection of what happens (I think yes) and whether the effect lasts (I suspect not) is debatable - TV is such a liars’ medium. But ITV is to be congratulated for devoting an hour of primetime to the idea that no one is irredeemable.
I was watching BBC2’s Scandal the other night. From what I can make out in each show they take a decade and describe the scandals of the time with the aid of contemporary media coverage. Last night was the 1980s featuring Janet Cooke. Now, I’d never heard of Janet Cooke but it turns out that she was a US journalist who faked a report and got sacked. And the irony? Well, guess who was fronting the TV footage. If it wasn’t our old friend Dan Rather…
Also in the programme, and rather brave of the BBC I thought to bring it up, was the Belgrano Affair. Older readers will remember that this was the scandal that erupted when the BBC and others attempted to claim that there was something wrong with sinking an enemy warship in wartime.
David Cameron smokes. You may not have known that. I only knew it because it was buried away in a rather unimportant profile piece about him in The Times.
Personally, it doesn’t bother me that he smokes - that would, after all, be rather hypocritical - but it might bother some. Moreover, it might be made to bother some. The MSM could, for instance, mention Cameron’s name over footage of him taking a few surreptitious puffs. They could ask whether it would be appropriate for Britain to have a smoker as Prime Minister. They could pose questions like: “Aren’t you encouraging children to smoke, Mr Cameron?”
But they haven’t and I don’t think they will. Why? Because I think the MSM has decided it wants Cameron as Conservative leader. Not in the sense that they’ve been conspiring in smokeless rooms presided over by the MSM’s very own Doctor Evil. No, more that the MSM have identified Cameron as one of their own and have decided to give him an easy ride.
The questions I would like them to ask:
- Why not?
- How do we pin this on Bush?
- See 1.
Recently I have been toying with the idea of switching on the BBC, seeing how long it takes them to annoy me and then blogging about it. I feel that it might prove therapeutic.
I wasn’t really intending to start today, but I lazily switched on the telly far too early this morning and more or less straight away they were demonstrating why they should be closed down. It was News 24 and they were doing a piece on the “right to roam”. So, we got five minutes of puff for the Ramblers Association saying how wonderful it was, 10 seconds of the wimpy Country Landowners Association saying “be careful” and absolutely no time at all to the prospect that property rights are the basis of prosperity, that this is legalised theft and how would you like it if the local chavs were allowed to roam all over your property.
Saw a webcast by the English Progressive and Liberty Party (no, I don’t know who they are either) here, via the Englishman’s Castle. Interesting not so much for its content but for the suggestion that anyone can make political television and they no longer have to crawl to the TV stations to do it.
Hey, even I could do it. I could have a whole channel all to myself. All I need is a name.
This was the line that caught my attention:
British papers need not worry — as yet. Such much-cited blog triumphs as the toppling of Eason Jordan, the CNN executive, and the humiliation of CBS’s Dan Rather would not have needed the web to expose them in Britain. They would have been splashed across every tabloid. The American press remains timid. The Patriot Act suffered nothing like the press mauling given to Tony Blair’s control order legislation.
Remember Piers Morgan. The internet didn’t figure. Up to now I have assumed that where the US leads the UK will (eventually) follow. But maybe not.
Of course, this does beg the question why the tabloids (and indeed the broadsheets) don’t lay into the BBC more often.
DumbJon warms up with:
Jeremy Vine has always struck me as the type of bloke who is more than usually likely to be found hanging around primary schools.
Before moving on to:
This was the Beeb’s definition of balance: 10 minutes of unhinged ranting about Bush balanced by 10 minutes about A N Other
Natalie finds new BBC fish to fry:
…the BBC describes its hero Judge Deed as “the judge who is not afraid to question the establishment.” Yawn. Who exactly is afraid to question the establishment these days?
From Biased BBC. The really ludicrous thing is that the “Establishment” of Sixties legend died out years ago.
An alternative reading is that Guardian readers are six times as gullible
Peter Briffa reflects on the survey finding that the Guardian is six times more trusted than the Daily Mail.
He who controls the language controls the future.
I was put in mind of this by a couple articles on the Big Blog Company’s Blog. In the first an MSM organisation attempted to ban the word “blog”. In the second an MSM referred to the “so-called Blogosphere”. I can’t help but think they find these very words disconcerting.
If this WSJ report was a blog posting, that line would have to include a link to supporting evidence. But it’s not a blog posting, so it doesn’t - and I don’t think the supporting evidence could be found anyway.
Jackie demonstrating how the MSM is just so much better than the Blogosphere what with all that fact-checking etc.
Red used to be Blue - only changing in 1992. Well, well.
She was actually talking about the Turner Prize but somehow managed to come up with this gem:
… try recalling any documentary made either by Louis Theroux or by any of his many lesser imitators that you’ve ever idly watched while waiting for something else to begin. Or think of The X-Files, or programmes about President Kennedy’s assassination, the pharmaceutical industry, Mark Thatcher’s finances, or more or less anything else you like. It honestly doesn’t matter. So pandemic is this particular, flawlessly-impartial-yet-oh-so-damning tone, that we all know it well, even if by now it has become so familiar we hardly notice it at all. It is, to adopt a register too rarely invoked in the world of television criticism, the sound of the clerisy in full cry. Don’t trust anyone, the voice tells us - except, obviously, the nicely-brought-up, public school-educated, probably Oxbridge-burnished, immaculately liberal intelligence behind the making of every paranoid, definitely ‘edgy’, yet entirely establishment-accredited programme you see, all of which you should trust implicitly.
Biased BBC showcases a quite astonishing example of sloppy BBC fact-checking over Zimbabwe.
This is bias Swedish style:
Recently I initiated a discussion about the strong left-wing bias in Swedish public service media. The discussion really took off when one of the most celebrated radio journalists, Cecilia Uddén, said that she did not think she had to be impartial or present both sides in the American election. I thought that was the start of something. I thought that public service would discuss the problem of having a very homogenous staff with the same kind of worldviews and news evaluations. I thought they would ask themselves if perhaps there is a tiny problem that 70 percent of their journalists vote for the leftists. I thought they would take a moment to think about why some news never make it in Sweden, and why others are blown out of proportions. I was expecting some form of self-criticism, or analysis. Anything…
Nothing. They thought that they’ve done everything right, past, present and future, and there was no need to think about the culture that could produce such a comment from such an experienced journalist. They just said that she had happened to make a stupid remark by mistake, and they stopped her from reporting for two weeks. And then everything was business as usual.
Until yesterday. Because now they have discovered that they have one television journalist who is not a leftist, and who actually supports the war on terrorism and Iraq, Per Gudmundson. And he writes about this on his blog, Gudmundson – which is widely recognised as one of the best, funniest, strangest and most interesting blogs in Sweden, by socialists, libertarians and those in between. Yesterday they gave him the ultimatum: Stop blogging or you’re out of here. After all, we have to be impartial and objective, and your strange views undermine that objectivity. Gudmundson has now been terminated.
From Johann Norberg.