Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “journalism”

Why I’ve stopped buying newspapers

Twenty years ago I used to buy newspapers quite a lot. Now I may buy a Sunday newspaper once a month or so. Sometimes the newspaper publishers run surveys to find out why people buy or don’t buy their newspapers, but they usually ask all the wrong questions.

I suppose the main reason I don’t buy as many newspapers as I used to is that since I retired I don’t get out much. Going out usually costs money. We do go out to church on Sundays, and on the way home stop at shops, and so for a while bought the Sunday newspapers most Sundays, but even that has dropped off, partly because of financial constraints, but also because of this — What is the Labour Party for? On the mystery of Jeremy Corbyn:

There is a preference in the media’s political coverage – and in political campaigning altogether – for symbol and personality over policy and fact. The media coverage of Corbyn, who despite being an MP and unusually active campaigner for over thirty years had not much figured in the press until the leadership contest, has been by any measure persistently negative.

Of course South African Sunday newspapers only rarely refer to Jeremy Corbyn, but in their coverage of South African politicians, the same general principle applies: The emphasis is on image rather than substance, personality rather than policy.

Almost every Sunday there will be a full-page article on some politician, and the article will usually be about some political rival threatening to take over their position. I rarely read beyond the first paragraph, because I know from experience that if there are no facts in the first paragraph there will be none on the rest of the page. The policies of the politician in question are not important. What’s important is that there is conflict, and that increases circulation, or so they say.

Jeremy Corbyn

The problem with Jeremy Corbyn is that he has no ambition, and it ambition that fuels the conflict that journalists like to write about. Corbyn talks too much about principles and policies, and not enough about his rivals or their voters. If he started calling Tory voters “a basket of deplorables” he’d probably get a better press, though whether it would get him more votes from Labour supporters is a moot point.

So where do we get our news nowadays?

A few days ago our TV was on all day on the channel showing the Constitutional Court hearings about the crisis in social grants payments. When it comes to the judges of the Constitutional Court, they are not interested in the fluff about personalities, they want the facts. And if they don’t get the facts, they ask. They don’t concern themselves with speculations about who might get Bathabile Dlamini’s job because she messed up, or how much sushi was consumed at her last birthday party. They want to know what she has done and what she hasn’t done about the payments of pensions and other social grants.

Bathabile Dlamini, Minister of Social Development

Even the Daily Maverick, which is usually better an more insightful than most, writes, Sassa grant crisis: In this game of thrones, can Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini survive? | Daily Maverick. The important question, you see, is not whether 17 million social grant recipients will get paid. The important question is the personality-cult one: the political survival of one celebrity politician, rather than 17 million people who might have no food on the table in April.

When it comes to the media and their predilection for personality cults, one wonders which came first, the chicken or the egg. The scramble for power of ambitious politicians makes great copy, at least in the opinion of journalists, and so if politicians want the publicity they crave, they must spend more time on polishing their images than on fine-tuning their policies. It’s a vicious cycle, the one feeds off the other.

And politicians like Jeremy Corbyn break that mould. That’s why the media hate him, and why I rather like him.

Trial by media trumps truth and justice

The warmongering mendacity of the Western “mainstream” media just became a whole lot more obvious. They lied about the Iraq War, and several other wars, but at least they did report on the Chilcot report, which exposed many of their lies as just that.

But they are still covering up the lies they told about the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession, which they assiduously promoted. They lied about Slobodan Milosevic, the former President of Serbia, calling him “The Butcher of the Balkans”, a “mass murderer” and saying he was responsible for the deaths of 250 000 people. They brainwashed a lot of people, especially in the West, into believing these lies, which is presumably why none of them have said a word about this — ICTY Exonerates Slobodan Milosevic for War Crimes | InSerbia News:

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has determined that the late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was not responsible for war crimes committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

In a stunning ruling, the trial chamber that convicted former Bosnian-Serb president Radovan Karadzic of war crimes and sentenced him to 40 years in prison, unanimously concluded that Slobodan Milosevic was not part of a “joint criminal enterprise” to victimize Muslims and Croats during the Bosnian war.

Why should we worry about this?

Slobodan Milosevic

Slobodan Milosevic

Slobodan Milosevic died more than 10 years ago, the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession ended nearly 15 years ago — why not let the past stay in the past? What purpose can be served by dragging all this stuff out of the past?

It is almost a cliche to say that those who do not study the past are doomed to repeat it, but what the Western media did to Slobodan Milosevic 15-20 years ago helped to promote a regional war, and what they did to Milosevic back then they are now doing to Vladimir Putin, where the stakes are higher. It is not just a regional war they are trying to promote, but global thermonuclear war.

Here is one example of an obituary in the Western “mainstream” media — Slobodan Milosevic, 64, Former Yugoslav Leader Accused of War Crimes, Dies – The New York Times:

As he rose and then clung to power by resurrecting old nationalist grudges and inciting dreams of a Greater Serbia, Mr. Milosevic became the prime engineer of wars that pitted his fellow Serbs against the Slovenes, the Croats, the Bosnians, the Albanians of Kosovo and ultimately the combined forces of the entire NATO alliance.

By stirring a dormant but incendiary nationalism, he succeeded in rallying support for himself in the late 1980’s, at a time when Communism in the rest of Eastern Europe was in its death throes.

At the time of Milosevic’s death most of the obituaries accused Milosevic of “engineering” or “orchestrating” these wars. I wrote more on this at the time of his death here Will the real “Butcher of the Balkans” please stand up? – Methodius Hayes’s journal. The stories treated these accusations not as allegations, but as established facts, though the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has now shown that most of these accusations were groundless.

As for the “orchestrating”, a contemporary American policy analyst, Samuel Huntington, describes the orchestration as follows (in his book The Clash of Civilizations):

The breakup of Yugoslavia began in 1991 when Slovenia and Croatia moved toward independence and pleaded with Western European powers for support. The response of the West was defined by Germany, and the response of Germany was in large part defined by the Catholic connection. The Bonn government came under pressure to act from the German Catholic hierarchy, its coalition partner the Christian Social Union Party in Bavaria, and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and other media. The Bavarian media, in particular, played a crucial role in developing German public sentiment for recognition. ‘Bavarian TV’, Flora Lewis noted, ‘much weighed upon by the very conservative Bavarian government and the strong, assertive Bavarian Catholic Church which had close connections with the church in Croatia, provided the television reports for all of Germany when the war began in earnest. The coverage was very one-sided’…

Germany pressured the European Union to recognize the independence of Slovenia and Croatia, and then, having secured that, pushed forward on its own to recognize them before the Union did in December 1991.

And the first violent act in the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession was the seizure of customs posts along the Austrian border by Slovenian nationalists — did Milosevic really “engineer” that? One of the better obituaries of Milosevic in the Western media is to be found here — Scapegoat, R.I.P.:

Slobodan Milosevic’s obituaries are damning. In death, as in the last years of his life, the former Serbian president is being blamed for all of the death and destruction that accompanied the breakup of the Yugoslav Federation in the early 1990s. He has been described as the “Butcher of the Balkans.” He is accused of masterminding four wars, of committing genocide and ethnic cleansing. These charges have been repeated so many times that they have become part of received wisdom. Yet the facts tell a different story.

And among the facts that the author, James Bisset, adduces are:

But it was not the Serbians and “Slobo” who started the wars in Yugoslavia. The fighting started because Slovenia, then a Yugoslav republic, declared unilateral independence and used force to seize customs posts along the Austrian border.

The federal prime minister of Yugoslavia, Ante Markovic, who happened to be a Croatian, ordered the army into Slovenia to restore order. The army was met by armed resistance and retired to barracks in Croatia to avoid further bloodshed. The Croatian security and paramilitary forces then surrounded the federal barracks and fighting broke out in Croatia. At this time, Milosevic, as president of Serbia, had no control over the federal army. (Incidentally, the federal minister of defence at the time was also a Croatian, as was the foreign minister.)

Later, when the army lost all of its non-Serbian soldiers, it did become a Serb-dominated force. But when the federal government collapsed, it was none other than Milosevic who ordered all Serbian soldiers out of Bosnia.

Bisset goes on to point out that Milosevic was not a very nice man. He was an unreconstructed communist leader, but so were Tudjman and Izetbegovic, who were backed by the West. But he was not a war criminal, the accusation used by the leaders of Nato at the time as a casus belli.

The Western media are not just spinning, they are spinning out of control, and I urge anyone with any concern for truth and justice to tweet and retweet and share this until the Western media acknowledge that they lied, and start publishing the truth for a change.

Manufacturing news

We’ve known for a long time that the media don’t like reporting news, but prefer to manufacture it, but I don’t think it’s ever been as blatant as this: Louis van Gaal says ‘it’s over’ with Jose Mourinho tipped to take over at Manchester United | Football News | Sky Sports:

United have no plans for a victory parade in Manchester, and the club are believed to be angry that news of Mourinho’s potential appointment has overshadowed the club’s first FA Cup win since 2004 and first piece of silverware since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.

And they’re right to be angry.

  • Manchester United winning the cup is news
  • Media speculation that Mourinho will take over from van Gaal is not news

I very much hope that Manchester United will resist the intense media pressure to replace Louis van Gaal as manager with Jose Mourinho.

MUFCThe media have had their collective knives into Louis van Gaal since before Christmas, just as they have had their knives into Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders.

But are they so narcissistic as to believe that their speculation is news, and more important than the news of Manchester United willing the English (or is it the Emirates?) FA Cup?

Journalism and journalistic standards surely can’t sink any lower.

 

 

 

 

Charlie Hebdo, polarisation, Quakers, Orthodox

The Charlie Hebdo murders have sparked off widely-differing reactions around the world, and ripples of solidarity and hostility that go way beyond the original event.

It seems that people are being friended and unfriended on the basis of Je suis Charlie and Je ne suis pas Charlie. I had two such opposite reactions to one of my blog posts on the subject.

A few days ago I posted a blog article Je ne suis pas Charlie.

One person posted a comment saying

Thank you Steve for your post. It has given me courage to post my own views on Facebook which I copy below. On Facebook, I can be found as Brigid O’Carroll Walsh. I am also interested in your comments, Steve, about modernity and fundamentalism and think that this is an idea well worth exploring. Anyway, thank you and here is what I said on Facebook:

Dear Facebookies, All the stuff I am reading about the protests of the dreadful killings in France seems to me to leave so much unsaid. My own view, I think, is a minority view and I did not want to air it because I fear a thoughtless howling down. However, this post by my oldest internet friend, Steve Hayes, has given me courage.

Another, an old friend I have known for nearly 50 years, not only online but also face-to-face, wrote in a very different vein, on Facebook:

Steve Hayes, I find your whole attitude offensive in the face of such sad events. I think you are being deliberately bloody-minded. You are very close to being unfriended so please keep your comments on this issue to yourself from now on, or at least don’t post them on my page.

So the events of last week have certainly polarised people, and seem to have lost me an old friend, which makes me very sad.

And that would be the end of my sad story, but for one thing that strikes me as curious. Both the friends who reacted in such very different ways are Quakers, and I wondered about other Quakers’ views. Someone posted some links in a comment on  my encouraging/offending blog post, which included this one from a Quaker. I find myself in broad agreement with it.

QuakersI have quite a number of Quaker friends, including some linked on Facebook, but not many of them have posted anything directly on this issue. But some of those who have have seemed to wonder how one can do peacemaking in this kind of situation.

Most of us are a long way from Paris, and it is impractical to do anything there, but the division seems to have spread so widely that it would be worsh looking to see what it is that is causing it. How is it that two Quakers can have such radically different views?

One thing that strikes me is that it could be a misunderstanding, and that instead of “unfriending” and breaking off relations in other ways, we should be talking through our differences. Modern technology has made communication much easier in many ways. This should, in theory, make it easier to discuss and resolve differences, clear up misunderstandings etc.

But very often it has the opposite effect. If you had a friend on another continent before about 1990, you could send one another Christmas cards once a year, and not be aware of any fundamental differences of opinion. Modern communications technology makes it more obvi0us and immediate. In some ways, ignorance was bliss. As one person put it, we live in an  age of communicati0n without community.

So one of the challenges of peacemaking and peacebuilding is to see how we can use the advances in communications technology to build community, and try to reduce misunderstandings.

I’m not a Quaker, but an Orthodox Christian, and some see the two as very far apart. Fr Alexander Schmemann, an Orthodox theologian of the last century, told of attending an ecumenical conference as an Orthodox delegate. One of the organisers offered to seat him with the “high church” group — Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and the like. He saw this as the organisers puting him in a box of their own making, and he said Why not with the Quakers? They share our emphasis on the Holy Spirit?

Fr Alexander went on to say:

The important fact of Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement and in the encounter – after so many centuries of almost total separation – between Orthodox and the West is precisely that the Orthodox were not given a choice; that from the very beginning they were assigned, not only seats at a certain place, role and function within the ecumenical movement. These ‘assignments’ were based onWestern theological and ecclesiological presuppositions and categories, and they reflected the purely Western origin of the ecumenical idea itself. We joined a movement, entered a debate, took part in a search whose basic terms of reference were already defined and taken for granted. Thus, even before we could realize it,we were caught up in the essentially Western dichotomies – Catholic versus Protestant, horizontal versus vertical, authority versus freedom, hierarchical versus congregational – and we were made into representatives and bearers of attitudes and positions, which we hardly recognized as ours, and which were deeply alien to our tradition. All of this was due not to any Machiavellian conspiracy or ill will, but precisely to the main and all-embracing Western presupposition that the Western experience, theological categories and thought forms are universal and therefore constitute the self-evident framework and terms of reference for the entire ecumenical endeavor

And perhaps that illustrates the kind of assumptions we make about each other, that leads to miscommunication, misunderstanding, and, sometimes, hostility.

I think that is one of the obstacles to attempts at peacemaking. And perhaps it is something that Quakers and the Orthodox Peace Fellowship could work on together.

Is Putin’s "secret weapon" going to blow up in his face?

More contrasting views from Russia and the West. According to Time the Orthodox faithful constitute Putin’s new “secret weapon”. Russia: Pussy Riot and Putin’s Religious Backing | World | TIME.com:

The prison sentence handed down last week against three members of Pussy Riot, a group of activists opposed to President Vladimir Putin, will restrict a lot more than the personal freedoms of the young women convicted. Judge Marina Syrova sentenced them to two years in prison for offending the faithful of the Orthodox Church by performing a crude anti-Putin song near the altar of a Moscow cathedral in February. While many were offended by the gesture, the judge’s verdict has put the state’s seal of approval on the righteous anger of one community, and that anger is proving hard to control.

But according to a Russian source something different is going down Russian Orthodox to Form Party | Russia | RIA Novosti:

Autocratic Russia and the Union of Orthodox Citizens are planning to register an “Orthodox” political party, Izvestia daily reported on Thursday.

The organization’s founders said they see Russia as a monarchy with a special role for the Russian Orthodox Church and the patriarch of Moscow and all Russia as the country’s spiritual leader.

Does that mean Putin is going to leave his own political party, and join this new one?

Weird words: closure

I first learnt the meaning of the word “closure” as a student, in the context of student debates. When something was being discussed in a formal meeting, and a lot of people were repeating a lot of similar points, someone would say “I move closure”, and the chairman/speaker could put it to an immediate vote. If it was passed the chairman asked all those who wished to speak to raise their hands, and made a not of their names, and then no one else was allowed to speak. Closure meant that debate was closed.

More recently a new meaning has appeared.

When someone dies unexpectedly, and in an newsworthy manner, journalists ask how their family or friends how they feel, and they usually say, “We just want closure.”

This is duly reported by the media, and everyone seems to be satisfied.

If the bodies of those who were disappeared by the police during the apartheid era are recovered and reburied, journalists ask their family and friends how they feel, and they say “Now we have closure.”

This, too, is duly reported by the media, and everyone is satisfied.

I was never quite sure what this closure was, but clearly it was something people had or did not have when someone else had died.

Now here’s a new datum, which sets the cat among the pigeons: By Reader Request: Closure | Clarissa’s Blog: A reader asked the following question:

Is closure an American phenomenon? Do other cultures just say “piss off” and go on their merry ways?

And Blogger Clarissa replies that “closure” is indeed an American phenomenon, and is unknown in Russian or Ukrainian culture.

That leaves me wondering whether Ukrainian funerals are seen as an opportunity to tell the “dear departed” to “piss off”?

Western Media-Appointed Good Guys Strike Again

In the civil war going on in Syria, the Western media have appointed the rebels against the Assad regime as the good guys, and woe to those who disagree with their judgement. Among those who disagree are probably most of the Christians in Syria, who fear what will happen to them if the rebels take over.

The appointment of the good guys by the western media is not merely a wrong opinion, they seem to have got the facts wrong as well. Western intervention in Libya’s civil war last year did not bring good results, and the same thing seems to be happening in Syria as well.

The Pittsford Perennialist: Western Media-Appointed Good Guys Strike Again:

If you were paying attention you would not be surprised about these “attacks on the people of Tawargha [that] are so severe that the United Nations has labeled them ‘war crimes'” — After Libya’s War, Acts Of Vengeance.

Now, if the official “bad guys” had been accused of this, this “one more fact about the town that was destroyed” would not have been buried at the end of the article: “In this overwhelmingly Arab nation, most of Tawargha’s population was black.” No, if the actors were reversed, that bit would be front and center, and the phrase “ethnic cleansing” would have rightly been used in the headline.

Not that the Assad regime are the good guys. But while it is desirable to get rid of a bad government, it is better to replace it with something better rather than something worse.

As my blogging friend The Pittsford Perennialist also points out

Likewise, news that “the infamous Houla massacre in Syria, which the US and NATO hoped would be the casus belli for their planned invasion, was in fact carried out by rebel forces” should come of no surprise — Implosion of The Houla Massacre Story — Is Anyone Paying Attention?

For the other side of the story, see Syrian Christians fear Islamist rule if Assad goes.

Russian Church Opposes Syrian Intervention – NYTimes.com:

It is clear by now that Russia’s government has dug in against outside intervention in Syria, its longtime partner and last firm foothold in the Middle East. Less well known is the position taken by the Russian Orthodox Church, which fears that Christian minorities, many of them Orthodox, will be swept away by a wave of Islamic fundamentalism unleashed by the Arab Spring.

In his warnings, Patriarch Kirill I invokes Bolshevik persecution still fresh in the Russian imagination, writing of “the carcasses of defiled churches still remaining in our country.”

The western media have criticised the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church for their non-interventionist approach, and accuse them of sitting idly by and failing to act to “stop the killing”. But the question is, who is doing the killing?

In Syria, as in Libya, the killing has been, and is being done by both sides. What is needed is not military intervention, but peacemaking intervention.

Two evils for the price of one: abortion and pro-lifers

I think that wilful abortion is evil, and a violation of human rights. But there are times when I think pro-lifers are just as evil, especially when I come across things like this, found via a link on Facebook.

The person who posted it on Facebook introduced the link by saying “The Obama administration rules that stock holders aren’t really owners and have no real say in the operation of the business they hold shares in.”

I was curious and had a look at the site.

Obama agency rules Pepsi use of cells derived from aborted fetus ‘ordinary business’ | LifeSiteNews.com:

In a decision delivered Feb 28th, President Obama’s Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruled that PepsiCo’s use of cells derived from aborted fetal remains in their research and development agreement with Senomyx to produce flavor enhancers falls under “ordinary business operations.”

I became curious about “President Obama’s agency”, and discovered that the site that mentioned it couldn’t even get the name right. I think they were referring to this:

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (frequently abbreviated SEC) is a federal agency[2] which holds primary responsibility for enforcing the federal securities laws and regulating the securities industry, the nation’s stock and options exchanges, and other electronic securities markets in the United States. In addition to the 1934 Act that created it, the SEC enforces the Securities Act of 1933, the Trust Indenture Act of 1939, the Investment Company Act of 1940, the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 and other statutes. The SEC was created by section 4 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (now codified as 15 U.S.C. 78d and commonly referred to as the 1934 Act).

Was Obama even alive in 1934, when this particular agency was created? Will it cease to exist when his term of office ends? This really is a prize piece of vicious and malicious misreporting, and with such standards of dishonesty and lack of integrity I would not trust anything found on that site.

Yes, I’d boycott Pepsi too, if it were available and if the report were true, but it is wrapped up with so much deliberate misreporting that I wouldn’t trust anything in that story.

Fifty years ago folk singer Jeremy Taylor did a rap piece called Joburg talking blues, in the course of which the supposedly American narrator said, “In America there’s two things we can’t stand: the one’s segregation, and the other’s niggers.”

When I read pieces like this, I feel a bit like that narrator. There are two things I can’t stand. The one’s abortion, and the other’s pro-lifers.

Bonking zombie is back

A few years ago I discovered that vampires were more than undead monsters that populated horror novels. There actually is a vampire sub-culture, with live human beings who enjoy drinking human blood.

But I thought zombies were safely(?) in the realm of the undead, until I read this article BONKING ZOMBIE IS BACK! Residents live in fear after gogo is found dead in house of sex . . . | DailySun blog:

Last year, sex in the house of the Veeplaas zombie led to a mother, gogo and little boy being taken to places of care.

NOW THE MUM IS DEAD AFTER NEIGHBOURS CLAIM SHE WAS BONKING HER ZOMBIE SON!

Stories about self-confessed zombie Mthandazo Klaasen (39) having sex with his 69-year-old mother spread like wildfire in Port Elizabeth’s Veeplaas kasi three weeks ago.

Does the Daily Sun know something that the rest of us don’t? Even the Zombie Research Society says that:

1)The modern zombie is a relentlessly aggressive, reanimated human corpse driven by a biological infection*; 2)The zombie pandemic is coming. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when; 3)Enthusiastic debate about zombies is essential to the survival of the human race. (*A subset is the living zombie, defined as a relentlessly aggressive human driven by a biological infection.)

Though that footnote about the subset could possibly fit the case that the Daily Sun reports on.

Until recently most reports I’ve seen about zombies in the press have undoubtedly been of the undead variety, and there has been no question of “biological infection”.

The reports have usually concerned people who have been accused of being witches because their neighbours allege that they have seen zombies working in their gardens. The witches, it is said, resuscitate corpses to do chores for them.

But a self-confessed zombie?

That’s a new one on me? They even have a picture of him, looking, well, quite un-undead.

I wonder if any reporters of the Daily Sun have seen his death certificate. Have they been to his grave to see if his body has been exhumed? Actually I don’t expect journalists from papers like the Daily Sun to research or verify their facts since their main purpose is to make money out of spreading idle gossip in print. But it would really be interesting to know something about the new zombies. And precisely what a “self-confessed” zombie is confessing.

London’s burning – remember 2010?

In London (the city that is to host the 2012 Olympics) groups of young people rampaged for the third straight night.

It is difficult to resist the temptation to schadenfreude when one recalls the way the Brit media behaved over the football World Cup in South Africa in 2010, where every petty crime that occurred in South Africa was gleefully and prominently reported with the reminder that South Africa was to hold the World Cup in 2010.

So when I read stories like this, I recall those days.

Market Inline – British riots spread through more cities on the third night of violence:

In London, groups of young people rampaged for a third straight night, setting buildings, vehicles and garbage dumps alight, looting stores and pelting police officers with bottles and fireworks. The spreading disorder was an unwelcome view of London’s volatility for leaders organizing the 2012 Summer Olympics in less than a year.

In 2010, the Daily Mail was particularly bad in this respect. See, for example Notes from underground: Legends from a small country: ‘Kill a Tourist Day’. But other papers joined in, sometimes even making up completely bogus stories and headlines for the purpose.

So as London (the city that is to host the 2012 Olympic Games) burns, many South Africans might be tempted to think “serves them right.”

We’ll probably resist the temptation, but watch the South African tabloids to see if you can catch a glimmer of Schadenfreude. You never know.

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