Hiding In Your Cupboard

Hiding In Your Cupboard
Banksy's desecration of the Palestinian wall

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Browning it

It all looks a bit tits up for Gordon Brown as he continues to obfuscate his way from one problem to the next. Even Peter Mandelson is having a go at him with the fervour of the bullied child for once getting his own back.

UK politics has become increasingly bizarre over the past few weeks. Prescott is the world's least successful bulemic, Blair is accused of over long massages with Carole Caplin, Peter Mandelson is calling for a return to core policies. Have they all gone senile?

David Cameron of course continues to be a shining example of complete buffoonery as he divides his time between changing nappies on his webcam and out running limousines on his BMX. He has now invited ITN to film him and his family at home. Yes we get it David, you are family friendly, so family friendly that every family can only hope for a Cameron of our own. So we can be all traditional and modern at once.

In fact I think I might make that the point of this rather rambling blog entry.

Politicians are caught, like Borodin's mule between the modern and the traditional. The advantages of being seen to be either are so great that they want both and will literally rip themselves in two to achieve this.

Poor little David - on the one hand he wants to be traditional but by god does he want to be traditional in a hip and modern way. If we lived three million years into the future Cameron would simply turn himself into Jamie Oliver and have done with it. That would be Cameron's wet dream.

Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone face much the same problem. Boris wanders around like an old, drunken fart insulting all who cross his path - but doesn't he do it in such a charmingly new way. Its almost as if Boris comes from a future where feelings have been eradicated and replaced with befuddled wit.

Livingstone with his five children by three women lurches around the inner-city like an uneducated, teenage, council estate sperm machine but appears to not give a hoot. Five kids by three women is quite the modern way - in the most traditional of senses of course.

Blair combined wooly headed, ex head boy, now minor university guitar strumming rebel fantasist, with charming statesman of the world who is unafraid to get an 'overly long' massage from his power-wifes crystal ball weilding faith healer with such success that we voted for him over and over again. He combined modern with traditional superbly - he knew exactly what a blackberry was but had no idea how to use it. He knew exactly where the Middle East was but had no idea what to do with it - a very contemporary idea indeed.

Margaret Beckett combined the look of the modern career woman with seventeenth century dentistry.

Peter Mandelson was gay but suitably embarassed about it - once again the modern and the traditional in perfect harmony.

Helen Clark is both a lesbian and not a lesbian at the same time. As is her husband.

Which brings us back to Brown whose basic failing is he wants us to think of him as New Labour when he is really old labour wishing he was New Labour, so he can stop all the lying. He wants to bring back union power so he can diminsh it once more so he can feel guilty about it and then get that eating disorder that he is so jealous of - if only he had thought of it first.

Apologies for the rambly stupid nature of this post - am trying to get over writers block.


Thursday, 10 April 2008

The Man Who Sold The War

An interesting article that Jon Stephenson of TV3 suggested as good reading material for those interested in the media operation behind the war in Iraq. Click on the title.

Also found a strange tit bit of Iraqi war news that may not have come to people's attention.

At some point during the war the the US provided their soldiers with a deck of cards that had the 55 most wanted Iraqi dissedents as pictures on it.

Quite apart from this being a very surreal way of managing a war it is also fairly convenient (and perhaps the basis of a very good conspiracy theory) that the number of dissidents exactly matched the amount of cards in a deck.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Prince Harry In Helmland Hoo-ha

On January 7 the Australian women’s magazine New Idea blew the lid off a press agreement that had allowed Prince Harry to tour Afghanistan as a working soldier. The entire UK media had agreed to a Prince Harry moratorium in exchange for unprecedented access to the prince once his tour had finished.

The press moratorium on Prince Harry’s posting in Afghanistan was not unusual. These arrangements are not uncommon and not necessarily unethical. There are many situations in which it is necessary for the press to remain silent to preserve peoples’ safety.

For instance, the travels of politicians are routinely reported after the journey has been undertaken and specific bomb scares are never reported.

What is unethical about the situation is the very nature of the deal and the style of the reporting. It was disappointing that the leading lights of the UK media were so eager to get their hands on a blatant PR exercise in return for their silence and even more disappointing to see them happily regurgitate spoon-fed, government-friendly journalism.

Max Clifford, a man who really should know about PR exercises, described the tour as a “very calculated PR exercise.”

One Press Association journalist was allowed access to the soldier prince and once the story was leaked by the Drudge Report no time was wasted in releasing the prized coverage as 10,490 words of copy and over 200 pictures hit the desks of editors across the UK.

The story dominated the press. There were eleven pages devoted to Harry in the Daily Mail and Daily Express, nine in The Sun and six in the Daily Telegraph. We learnt about Harry’s breakfast routine, his baseball cap and even his toilet arrangements.

The picture spreads were heavily stylised. We had Harry posing in various military guises; striding purposefully towards us like Tom Cruise in Top Gun. As the Independent wrote, Helmland was receiving the “Hello! Treatment”.

The same editors then rushed to wildly praise Harry for his heroism and his change in character.
“Here’s To You Harry The Brave” toasted the Daily Mirror – a paper that usually relishes the sight of Harry dressed as a Nazi or stumbling out of an over-priced West End meat market.

It was journalistic fodder – the bad boy turned good story that they were all hoping for so they could eventually write the bad boy turned good then went bad again reprise.

A self-congratulatory pat on the back could be heard echoing down Fleet Street as the papers applauded their morality in keeping the prince’s whereabouts a secret.

There are three main areas in which this moratorium could be considered unethical.

Firstly, the moratorium would undermine public trust in the press. As Jon Snow said, “one wonders whether viewers, readers and listeners will ever want to trust the media again.”
This argument seems a hard one to fully support though.

The Independent, which has been critical of the press coverage of Harry in Helmland, said:

“In the case of Prince Harry, the alternative to agreeing to play ball was to break the story in advance, thus preventing Harry's deployment, or break it when he was there, so adding to the risk he was already taking. It requires a considerable egotism to place one's tuppenny scruples as a journalist ahead of the safety of British troops.”

A decent enough sentiment but as Joyce McMillan of The Scotsman writes this leaves the press open to accusations of hypocrisy.

“I am seeking to demonstrate that once we start suppressing news stories for any reason, however apparently sensible or compassionate, we stand at the top of a very slippery slope, and that a media industry which, in recent years, has rarely hesitated to wreck the lives of hapless ordinary people or vulnerable celebrities whose stories interest the public, can hardly expect to win many brownie points for keeping quiet in the case of a young prince desperate to prove his manhood on active service.”

It is also interesting to note that the continuing war in Afghanistan has been under-reported. It takes the arrival of Prince Harry and a PR exercise designed to legitimise our presence there to get it in the newspapers at all.

Secondly, as Afghanistan veteran Leo Doherty writes, the gung-ho reporting on Harry’s tour serves to perpetuate a myth that the war in Helmland is a “just war fit for heroes”.

Doherty believes that the army depends on such images of heroism and sacrifice to legitimise its operations. When a soldier dies in action it is insensitive to belittle the very cause of his death:

“This graveside reasoning goes roughly like this: ‘He loved his job and the Army; he was an honourable man; therefore his death can only be honourable and worthwhile.’”

This psychology allows soldiers to “come to terms with the deaths of their colleagues without calling into question the fundamental reason for such deaths.”

The fresh faces keep on turning up at Sandhurst for officer training.

If the media is all too happy to jump on the vainglorious bandwagon of war with the triumphant imagery of Harry the hero this myth can only be perpetuated. Only a rigorous media, unwilling to compromise with the state, can point out what Doherty describes as “the unpleasant truth”.
The willingness of the media to be used as a tool for propaganda is the final way in which the reporting on Prince Harry was unethical.

Ever since the original Gulf War in 2003, war has become a television spectacle. Journalists were embedded with coalition forces and were able to provide captivating images for their audiences.
The imagery may have been spectacular but the scope of the journalism was narrow. There was plenty of action but little insight.

As Anup Shah at http://www.globalissues.org/ writes, embedded journalists were only granted this access in return for sympathetic reporting towards the war.

“For the military however, it (embedded journalists) provided a means to control what large audiences would see, to some extent. Independent journalists would be looked upon more suspiciously. In a way embedded journalists were unwittingly making a decision to be biased in their reporting, in favour of the Coalition troops. If an embedded journalist was to report unfavourably on coalition forces they were accompanying they would not get any co-operation.”

The access granted to a single Press Association journalist by the Ministry of Defence was a particularly obvious example of this. The bargain went as such; you trade in your journalistic ethics to expose “the unpleasant truth” in return for some really cracking pictures that will sell lots of your papers. Anyone who didn’t want to join in would miss out, a terrifying prospect for editors operating in the oligopolistic UK media market.

Consequently, the majority of the UK press did just that and we were presented with what amounted to a massive advert for the war in Afghanistan.

Ironically, Prince Harry didn’t seem that enamoured with the efforts of the Ministry of Defence and the UK press to bolster his image when he said "I generally don't like England that much... it's nice to be away from all the press and the papers and all the general shite that they write."

No propaganda machine can counter foot-in-mouth expertise like that.

Max Clifford Quote: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/harrys-war-the-ugly-truth-790316.html

“Hello! From Helmland quote”, information on the Press Associations copy and pictures, Jon Snow Quote and Harry’s “shite” quote: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/the-peoples-prince-with-harry-in-afghanistan-dog-of-war-or-pr-pawn-790323.html
The Daily Mirror
Joyce McMillan:
Leo Doherty:http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/harrys-war-the-ugly-truth-790316.html
Anup Shah – http://www.globalissues.org/

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Journalists in bunfight

So this is the next piece of work I have had published. On the PAcific Media Centre's Global Watch website...

Some of the defamatory comments that I wanted to add were edited out by my tutor David Robie.

Click the title ay.