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Tuesday, June 07, 2016 

This is how you don't silence journalists in a democratic country.

There are many wonderful things about this Stephen Daisley piece that has been doing the rounds, but for reasons of time and brevity let's just zero in on his thundering conclusion:

But media hatred is not criticism. It is a rage against a world that refuses to work out the way it ought to and replicates a hostility to critical enquiry familiar from earlier forms of populism. The object is not "fairness" or "balance" but complicity by intimidation. The object is to single out journalists like Kuenssberg and, by making an example of them, produce a chilling effect.

Am I sure I want to write this story? Is publishing this sceptical analysis going to fill my timeline with abuse and invective? Look what happened to Laura Kuenssberg. Is it really worth it?

That is how you silence journalists in a democratic country. Not a finger lifted, not a bone broken. Make their job more and more difficult. Make employing them more and more bothersome. Eventually, you'll shut them up or prompt their employer to rein them in. And you won't have to worry about hearing them in the mainstream media anymore.

Once upon a time, journalists used to expect green ink letters, dog shit in an envelope, or exceptionally rarely to never having actually happened, letter bombs.  Actually, that's not true.  Some journalists in democratic countries can potentially face far worse, as we sadly know.  But no, what they really have to fear is an unpleasant timeline.

Abusing journalists as opposed to criticising (some) commentators is rarely worth the effort, not to mention not condonable.  Your average punter might not like the media that much themselves, but if you so inspire your supporters to descend en masse outside a BBC building to protest about perceived biased coverage say, then you start looking ever so slightly unreasonable.

Still, the ironies here are nearly impossible to count.  In his scattergun spray against everything he disdains, Daisley mentions identity politics.  It doesn't seem to matter that Daisley zeroes in immediately on why Kuenssberg has faced abuse and complaints so quickly - it's because she's a woman, obvs.  Actual evidence for the dislike of Kuenssberg, which I am not defending in any way, being based on her gender is extremely thin on the ground, but no matter.  Just throw it in there.  That the media deciding Kuenssberg being hissed was more of a story than Jeremy Corbyn's actual speech doesn't really suggest there's much in the way of silencing going on either.

What's happening more widely is the mixing up of journalists and MPs as though they were one and the same, with strangely the same people, suddenly aware of what some normies and a lot of motivated, hateful shits think of them, wanting something to be done about it.  The Reclaim the Internet campaign, laudable as it is, would make more sense if the internet had ever been a place where wide open spaces invited debate rather than flame wars and abuse.  It hasn't, and probably never will.  Facebook and Twitter are too open and too big to moderate.  This is not a bug; it's a feature.  The internet has always been about subcultures, where groups of like-minded people congregate and either get on or fall out, but did so in a confined space.  Throw a whole load of people of different, competing world-views and backgrounds together on one huge place, remove the barriers to communication, and what do you expect is going to happen?

The fact that journalism is becoming one of the worst possible professions to work in, as hardly anyone wants to pay for the product, allied with how it's so easy for the cunts of this world to scream at you thanks to how the media embraced Twitter only for it to come back and bite them in the arse is merely coincidence.  Actual populism, the kind that sees hateful bastards warn that staying in the EU will raise the chance of women being raped because of all the people with different "attitudes" coming over here, is a threat.  

The "populism" Daisley and friends object to is people daring to speak up against the overly deferential treatment of not the mainstream, but the real, actual establishment, or rather establishments, as there's the political establishment and media establishments, as obviously the Graun/Indie/FT aren't the same as the Mail/Sun/Express/Times/Telegraph.  The coverage say that for so long treated Farage, a populist if he wasn't such a pompous prig, with kid gloves.  Farage has had a far better press than Corbyn, and I'll leave it up to you which one is the more radical.

Such though are the biases we've long got used to, for better, for worse.  What really grinds the gears is when the bosses of the Daisleys of this world piss on my head and then he and others like him insist I'm the one doing the pissing.

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Well said.
Some random thoughts:

1) I think part of the reception Kuenssberg is getting is to due how much resentment built up when Nick Robinson was political editor and greasing the tracks for the ongoing austerity charade. Trust in "impartiality" wore very thin - and I might add that much of the LK and others seem to be taking it for granted that they deserve that trust.

2) I did write to The Guardian once, pointing out that in adopting the "let's invite lots of right wing writers in and "centrists" from the USA and Australia and hope to become a big discussion space" strategy for their website was bound to result in the comments section getting nastier and nastier. Fair enough in some ways that they carried on, because it's not easy to think of an alternative business case for G-Online, but it annoys me that they won't acknowledge their own role and responsibility.

I never had a problem with Nick Robinson, oddly enough, and the consensus on austerity was across the board, rather than something the BBC ought to be singled out for, even if they obviously should be better than that.

When it comes to Kuenssberg I simply don't think she's as good a political editor in general as Robinson was - whether that's down to not having the same sources or something else I don't know. Case in the point was the question she asked when she was hissed, which was far too long and didn't either catch out or encourage an illuminating answer from Corbyn. It's that she should be criticised for if anything.

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