Friday, January 19, 2007
Distorting Media Prism Makes Cynics of us All
'politics is a dirty game, played by devious people who tell an essentially false narrative about the world and thus deceive the British people.'
He doubted this chimera of a 'parallel universe' which bore little relation to the real world in which politicians and the like live and seek to do their jobs.
Journalist David Leigh exposed the limited truth of this critique by replying that in his experience:
'when a journalist asks members of British institutions uncomfortable questions about what is going on, they respond with more or less polished evasions or downright lies'.
However a more recent critic, Peter Wilby, argues a different case. He cited the YouGov poll on New Year's Eve which revealed 40% of respondents judging 2006 as having been a good year for them: and only 26% a bad one. But asked about the nation as a whole, only 7% thought it had been a good year and 24% were not optimistic about 2007. He points out:
'The effect is familiar to pollsters. Asked in general terms about the NHS or the schools, people often say both are in dire straits. Yet asked about the local school their children attend or about their own or a close relative's stay in hospital, the majority express complete satisfaction'
He concludes that the explanation for such disparities is provided by the media's -especially the Mail, Express, Telegraph, Sun & News of the World -overly critical attitude and conviction the 'country is going to the dogs'. Not everyone reads these papers-and circulations are falling- but they tend to set the agenda for television. And maybe there is something in our national character which enjoys revelling in such downbeat analyses; we must do or such material would not appear in the press with such depressing regularity.
So, to some extent, we are the authors of our own low opinion of ourselves. But the corollary of this must be that a great many polls about public services being rubbish, despite the millions poured into them by Blair governments, should not be taken seriously. It might seem odd to articulate this but, to some extent, we should not believe our own opinions.
Here's one of my favourites from the NWT website: "A woman has denied slashing a teenager in a Psycho-style shower attack."
His montage was entirely conducted from telly news, and reading spl's sumamry of NWT's news scoops suggests how close we are coming to that - the tabloids are not alone!
The question is - how do we recover a proper public cautiousness and judgement?
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