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Believing everything and nothing

If someone ever conducted a poll of 100-plus people beyond a certain age – who in advance had managed to satisfy the examiners they still possessed their marbles – I’d be reasonably confident that the phrase “You couldn’t make it up” would just about cover their general reaction to about 60% of what passes for news, technological development and social trends in the 21st Century.

Granted, given the inevitability that for most human beings their formative years – say between the ages of four and twenty-four – tend to set their attitudes towards politics, art, sport and life generally, there is no doubt a percentage of nostalgia involved in this phenomenon.

Whether or not that be of the famous John Major variety [Fifty years on from now, Britain will still be the country of long shadows on county grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lover and pool fillers …] or perhaps just an inner sense that, in our day, when things were so much less sophisticated and health and safety conscious, we were still able to fill our time with enough simple pastimes to satisfy the most inquiring mind – and just ‘got on with it’ – whereas today’s youngsters, dripping in political-correctness, are bombarded with directives from above that nobody should regard themselves as having ever failed or funked anything.

Or, that if they do, it is never because they failed to pull their finger out, knuckle down and graft, but rather because they were (clearly) suffering from some sociological, medical or other disadvantage of circumstance – quite possibly one that had never been diagnosed previously – that was not only not their fault, but almost certainly the fault of someone else, i.e. most probably one of those who did jolly well put in the effort to achieve or succeed.

Yesterday, away in the country staying with a parent who is not coping particularly well with the vicissitudes of old age, I happened to watch BBC1’s Final Score programme – covering the latter stages and results of the day’s football matches – playing on the television in the corner of the room.

In it, in tune with the Corporation’s slavish campaign to promote the causes of diversity and women, it seemed that every other reporter from grounds around the country was now female.

I’ve got to be honest here, there was a degree of the Samuel Johnson ‘woman preaching’ observation about this development: it wasn’t so much that their excited updating of the viewers of goals and other incidents was done well, but that it was being done (by a female) at all.

At one point my ‘other half’ commented that she wondered quite why there were so many non-male reporters involved, at which point my father, in a rare moment of insightfulness, quipped “That’s simple, they cost less …” a comment which may or may not endear him to those female BBC employees currently engaged in the ongoing “equal pay” row that has engulfed our national public service broadcaster!

Since then – surveying the news websites – it occurred to me that these days the degree to which ‘the news’ generally is straight, fair and impartial reportage is at the very least debatable.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’ve no doubt that all journalism, reporting and indeed recorded versions of history down through the ages have been skewed to some degree in one way or another, even if the average man in the street at any particular time fondly or naively imagined that he were being fed the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The difference in the 21st Century is that – in a manner that is unprecedented – the subjective (or campaigning) aspect of what is either broadcast or else disseminated via the internet, is uncontrolled, unfiltered, unchecked, unqualified and therefore potentially dangerous. And simultaneously transparently so and yet also quite possibly capable of either influencing or convincing the people that (perhaps just ‘because it is there’) it is as truthful and valid as anything that has de facto undergone the most rigorous ‘fact checking’ process.

This is not just a product of the advent of US President Trump and ‘Fake News’.

If anything, one might argue that “The Donald” has done the world a favour in inadvertently alerting us all to the ease with which unscrupulous governments, businessmen, politicians and other powerful individuals can manipulate information – and therefore people’s attitudes and minds, even perhaps the outcome of elections and the course of social developments in general, whether that be for good or ill.

Here are some media stories currently doing the rounds that may illustrate the point:

David and Victoria Beckham are one of the great celebrity couples and probably one of the wealthiest.

Their carefully-created family brand image is brilliantly marketing by those working for them to ensure maximum exposure, often taking advantage of the old showbiz principle “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” when it comes to keeping oneself in the public eye – even to the point of rumours about their rocky marriage, their kids and even (most recently) David’s investment in Salford City football club and the “will she, won’t she?” join the Spice Girls Reunion Tour speculations of of Victoria (or should I say ‘Posh’).

However, there have been regular reports over the years that Victoria’s fashion design business is doing badly and frequently has to be bailed out by her husband. It is the sort of story that no doubt Victoria – if not David – would dearly love to ‘spike’ before it gets written. Here’s the latest example – as appears today upon the website of the – DAILY MAIL

Joe Watts, political editor, on a recent anti-Brexit development, to be found upon the website of – THE INDEPENDENT

The Daily Telegraph makes a simpering and detailed apology to the American First Lady, as reported by Jim Waterson as featured upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN

There is or ought to be a line between those who seek defend a person’s reputation against unproven and unfounded potentially libellous allegations and those who seek to expose criminal, socially unacceptable, fraudulent or other hypocritical behaviour. Roison O’Connor reports on the The Independent website upon Leaving Neverland – the sensational and controversial new documentary about the late singer Michael Jackson – see here – THE INDEPENDENT

Katie Hind, showbiz editor, reports upon attempts by singer/talent show panellist Cheryl Tweedie to prevent newspapers mentioning her past conviction for assault – as appears upon the website of the – DAILY MAIL

The general ‘ignorance’ of the public sometimes has to be exposed to be believed. Here’s a piece by Harriet Sherwood on the extent to which Brits are Holocaust-deniers, as appears upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN

Adam Lusher on the arrest of US Republican and possibly Trump agitator Roger Stone – again upon the website of – THE INDEPENDENT


About Miles Piper

After university, Miles Piper began his career on a local newspaper in Wolverhampton and has since worked for a number of national newspapers and magazines. He has also worked as a guest presenter on Classic FM. He was a founder-member of the National Rust board. More Posts