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How bad journalism supports our bogus democracies

The 4th July 2014 edition of the Friend included Elizabeth Redfern’s review of Patrick Chalmers’ book ‘Fraudcast News – How Bad Journalism Supports our Bogus Democracies’. Elizabeth opens:

fraudcast news cover“Press corruption is sadly a subject we’re now familiar with, from the press’s own coverage of the Leveson Inquiry and more recently the trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and others, who – in what might become the longest criminal trial in English history – are charged with phone hacking at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid.

“It would be nice to think that this is an unfortunate blip in an otherwise sparkling British press history. Certainly I hadn’t taken much notice of the inquiry or court case until I’d started to read Patrick’s book, when some familiar words started to nag at me.

“ ‘Don’t believe all you read in the papers’ is a common enough phrase, but how much do we really understand about the accuracy of what we are told – and not told – in the press, whether in newspapers, on the radio and television, or more recently on news websites. Certainly I was happy to dismiss much of what I read in the tabloid press, but I didn’t over question what the major television channels said, and as a TV licence payer I was by and large happy with the non-commercial BBC.

“Patrick’s book has pulled me up with a start . . . showing how fundamentally flawed are the so called democracies we live in, and how the mainstream press has no motivation in highlighting to us their biased and manipulative nature. I’m ready to read, watch and listen with new eyes and ears . . .

“ (Patrick’s) main interest is democracy, social justice, and political governance at both local and global levels, and then how – by being well and accurately informed – we can influence the way our world is run. His book follows his journey from naive enthusiasm as a novice journalist to, after 25 years, the sad realisation that news organisations are not really interested in accurate political reporting. The book ‘summarises contemporary governance failures and how journalists must do – and can do – a far better job in bringing them to public light’ . . .

“Starting as an engineering graduate, Patrick tried on repeated occasions to get his dream job at the British news agency Reuters, and succeeded on his fourth attempt, as he believed that they would give him the opportunity to travel, meet interesting people and cover politics. He certainly had the travel, being based in Brussels, London and Malaysia, and met and challenged, amongst others Fidel Castro, Vladimir Putin and Bill Clinton; but had very little opportunity to cover politics in the way he had hoped . . .

“Patrick points out that we all more aware than previous generations were. We know about climate change, conflicts in places like Iraq, and the financial crisis; but how much of what we think we know is accurate?

“And then there is the recent phone-hacking scandal involving the journalists themselves. Our role as press consumers needs to evolve, and Patrick’s book helps us with that evolution. He prompts us to ask the obvious question ‘who do journalists answer too?’ Clearly like most employees, to their employers not their consumers, and their employers or those influencing their employers are often ‘industry-beholden politicians with little political legitimacy’. Or, in the case of the large news agencies, their employers’ customers are large corporations, especially for financial journalism, who only need high-level up-to-date news to understand and work in their markets.

“As Patrick says, the general public needs detailed journalism that helps us ‘join the dots linking banks, financial systems and their regulators to the wider economy’.

The larger the political party the larger the purse to pay for journalistic influence, and rarely here are policies analysed in detail to see their potential positive and negative effects on society: Far easier to focus on the politician talking.

“Patrick also points the finger at large, and often at arm’s length, political institutions such as the EU. Its civil servants, who have a heavy deregulation agenda, run roughshod over national elected ministers, with support bought by the same large corporations, and where criticism is branded as racist. After the EU elections it will be interesting to see what reforms, if any, happen, and how the press covers them.

“Are we as press consumers an economic threat to these corporations if we are well informed? I rather think that it would be a good thing if we were. Too often the mantra of ‘job creation and job protection’ is used to cover ‘shareholder pocket protection’.

“So why don’t we become grass-roots journalists, examining and exploring, and truly ‘speak truth to power’. Using Patrick’s book as a guide we can make our own contribution to a revolution in journalism, focused on people and their needs, and not politicians and institutions. And through this grass-roots work we can influence our environment and aim towards true democracies where we are not ruled over but take an active part in our governance, perhaps through citizens’ assemblies.

“And now is the time to do this, as it is now easier to ‘publish’ than ever before, and we are further away from those that govern us than ever before. This could include videos shot on smart phones. ‘Cutting edge technology allied with public interest content’. We already have groups like ‘Wikileaks’, and the Occupy movement, and we’ve seen how they have touched a nerve with governments and business.

“As long as we develop a ‘structure and focus for our work, check our facts, and make sure we provide a fair and accurate account of events’, we can contribute and work with others locally, nationally and internationally to raise awareness. We can be ‘social and political justice activists’: Investigating, understanding and discussing, and as we know most people like to be asked about how things affect them. Patrick has certainly encouraged me that we can all be amateur and yet effective journalists, especially with modern technology, without a great deal of investment in time and money. And I plan to investigate how I can learn some of the ‘tricks of the trade’, and start writing more on the subjects that interest me which deal mainly with small business development and employment generation . . . “

Click here to read the article.

Patrick, a former foreign correspondent and a member of Quakers and Business, is holding a reading of his book on Friday August 1st 2014, 6.30pm to 9.00pm, at St Mary’s Community Centre, Upper Street, Islington, N1 2TX. For more information:


Media 32: Guardian report given much-needed balance by Reuters

The Guardian has, in the past, been accused of being biased against Israel; is it now leaning towards the other extreme? And if so, why?

fire west bank august


Did its August report, headed by this picture, go too far?

In eight paragraphs on Friday, it reported, “An Israeli living in a West Bank settlement has been attacked and killed”. Not a word was written about the extreme provocation of Palestinians, though a day before Reuter reported that settlers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank are becoming increasingly aggressive. The 100 unauthorised settlements on the West Bank contravene international law and are considered illegal even under Israeli law.

For the record: three Israelis and 15 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank this year

In July, the Israeli Defence Ministry itself announced a crackdown on ‘settler vandals’, saying they were tantamount to terrorists and their attacks could fan sectarian violence.

Settlers have attacked Palestinian communities 586 times so far this year, up from 370 in all of 2012, according to Ghassan Daghlas, who tracks settler violence for the Palestinian Authority.

A week in the life of Palestinian villagers

  • On Monday, witnesses told Reuters that branches were hacked off more than a dozen ancient olive trees in a third Palestinian village next to a settler outpost
  • On Wednesday afternoon, around 15 settlers pelted a school in another Palestinian village with stones, Palestinian officials said. Frightened teachers and students locked the doors and hid inside until the assailants left.
  • They then spray-painted the phrase “Zion’s redemption”, a Star of David and the name of an Israeli soldier who was killed last month in the West Bank on the wall of the local mosque-cum-primary school in the village of Burqa.
  • Last Thursday Jewish settlers torched three Palestinian cars

David Ha’ivri, a Jewish settler activist, did not dispute the villagers’ account of the latest incident and told Reuters that the settlers’ leadership “frowns on acts of violence and speaks out against such acts”.


The Israeli military said that it has arrested four suspects.