No, Brexit Is Not The Fault Of The Evil British Tabloids

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The fearless and forensic New York Times continue their penetrating post-mortem investigation into the causes of Brexit. This week’s scapegoat – the Evil British Tabloid Press

Fresh from speculating about how the impact of Brexit on London will equal the fall of Babylon in terms of destruction and woe, the New York Times is back with another self-exonerating tonic for the global metro-left, reassuring them that Britain’s imminent departure from the European Union in no way reflects a serious failing on their part, but instead is entirely the result of sinister machinations by evil outside forces.

In the crosshairs this week: Britain’s tabloid press, led by The Sun newspaper, everybody’s favourite bogeyman. The strong implication of the New York Times article is that Britain’s tabloids are powerful and nefarious, exerting great sway over the political leanings of their simple-minded, provincial readers. The natural inference is that it is a worrying phenomenon when Evil Tabloids “influence” their gullible readers in a populist direction, but entirely laudable and unremarkable when the prestige media – outlets like the New York Times and the Guardian – serve their wise readers up with a consistent globalist, elitist worldview.

One can imagine the tone and content of the piece – sanctimonious, condescending and displaying a stunning lack of self-awareness – without even reading a word, but below are a few choice quotes:

In Britain after the so-called Brexit vote, the power of the tabloids is evident. Their circulations may be falling and their reputations tarnished by a series of phone-hacking scandals. But as the country prepares to cut ties with the European Union after a noisy and sometimes nasty campaign, top politicians court the tabloids and fear their wrath. Broadcasters follow where they lead, if not in tone then in topic.

Of course, when the Times talks about a “sometimes nasty campaign”, they are alluding exclusively to supposedly nativist and anti-immigration rhetoric, and not the hatred and contempt frequently pored on people who campaigned and voted in good conscience for Brexit. This becomes clear through all of the campaign incidents cited in the article, culminating in an attempt to link the murder of Jo Cox MP directly to pro-Brexit rhetoric.

More:

Their readers, many of them over 50, working class and outside London, look strikingly like the voters who were crucial to the outcome of last year’s referendum on membership in the European Union. It is these citizens of Brexitland the tabloids purport to represent from the heart of enemy territory: Housed in palatial dwellings in some of London’s most expensive neighborhoods, they see themselves as Middle England’s embassies in London.

In the campaign leading up to a snap election on June 8, most tabloids can be counted on to act as the zealous guardians of Brexit and as a cheering section for the Conservative government of Prime Minister Theresa May — even though the city that houses them voted the other way.

This is actually true. And the reason that many of the tabloids are bastions of working class populism surrounded by a sea of metro-leftism is that these are national newspapers, not city-specific or regional publications.

One has to take issue with the Times’ reference to “Brexitland” though, as if despite representing a majority of voters, Brexit supporters are somehow strange and exotic creatures whose behaviour requires analysis and interpretation by the prestige media – which, of course, is exactly how the New York Times sees them.

A more worthy article would turn the gaze back toward “Remainland” or “Europeland” and seek to understand how 48 percent of the country managed to drift away and treat the concerns, fears and aspirations of the 52 percent with such complete indifference. But this is the New York Times, and they have no interest in turning a forensic gaze on people like their own reporters, editors and readers – the “good people” whose behaviour needs no explanation or introspective analysis.

The article then takes a divergence to discuss Boris Johnson, even though the Foreign Secretary’s execrable journalistic career was spent at supposedly prestige broadsheets, not tabloids:

In the marble-and-glass lobby of the 17-story News Building, home to Mr. Murdoch’s British media empire, there is a small plaque that commemorates the building’s 2014 opening by Boris Johnson, then the mayor of London and now the British foreign secretary.

Mr. Johnson, wild-haired and witty, became a chief architect of Brexit when, four months before the referendum, he threw his weight behind a cause until then most closely associated with the populist U.K. Independence Party. But his main contribution to Brexit may go back more than two decades.

A correspondent in Brussels for The Daily Telegraph in the early 1990s, Mr. Johnson was credited by fellow reporters with pioneering the euroskeptic coverage of the European Union that has since become the default setting for much of the British press. With little regard for the truth — he was previously fired by The Times of London for making up a quote — Mr. Johnson wrote about a Europe scheming to impose standard condom sizes and ban his country’s beloved prawn-cocktail-flavored chips (both untrue).

“Boris invented fake news,” said Martin Fletcher, a former foreign editor of The Times, who was in Brussels shortly after Mr. Johnson. “He turned euroskepticism into an art form that every news editor in London came to expect.”

Ah, so the reason for bringing up Boris Johnson in an article supposedly about tabloid journalism was in order to shoehorn “fake news” into the discussion. Well, while nobody would seriously defend the quality of Johnson’s Europe reporting for either the Times of London or the Telegraph, these stories were primarily consumed by broadsheet-reading elites, not the oafish, Sun-reading working classes held in such contempt by the New York Times. And it should be noted that whatever the failings of the British newspaper media with regard to Brexit – and they are many – serious journalists like the Telegraph’s Christopher Booker have contributed consistently powerful analysis and criticism of the EU, shedding far more light than heat (unlike Johnson).

Besides, as this blog has previously discussed, focusing exclusively on “fake news”, much of which is so obviously hysterical and false as to be unbelievable to all but the most swivel-eyed of social media sharers, ignores the far more pernicious impact of ideologically skewed mainstream news, which is read by elites and decision-makers, often actually driving the political debate.

The example I always return to is the fact that nearly all prestige American news outlets have stopped referring to illegal immigrants as such, referring to them euphemistically as “undocumented” or “unauthorised” immigrants instead. Similarly, when an American politician seeks to crack down on illegal immigration they are nearly always described as being antagonistic toward the “immigrant community”, suggesting a deep-seated conservative antipathy toward all immigrants, making them seem far more extreme than they really are.

This linguistic trickery, common throughout the American mainstream media, seriously impacts the way that people view the subject of immigration. Read about Donald Trump’s hostility to “immigrants” often enough and you could be forgiven for thinking that the American president is actively plotting the deportation of law-abiding, visa or green card-holding immigrants, when this is simply not the case. American news outlets know that they are misleading their readers and viewers by stoking these alarming fears but do so anyway, purely in order to push a certain political outcome (acceptance and normalisation of illegal immigration).

All of this should be borne in mind when the New York Times article goes on to discuss tabloid treatment of immigration in the Brexit debate:

Britain makes many of its own laws, of course. But it is an interesting choice of example. A more obvious one might have been immigration.

Research by a former Times journalist, Liz Gerard, showed that tabloids pounded the immigration issue, with at least 30 hostile front-page splashes in The Daily Mail in the six months leading up to the referendum, and 15 in The Sun. The headlines — “Britain’s Wide Open Borders” The Daily Mail shouted — often tended toward histrionic. The Sun insinuated that child refugees arriving in Britain were lying about their ages and should have dental X-rays.

“Tell Us the Tooth,” the headline read.

A week earlier, I had met Kelvin MacKenzie, a former Sun editor and a columnist who was subsequently suspended for referring to a mixed-race soccer star as a “gorilla.” He said that the paper still reflected the “beating heart of Britain,” and that Brexit was won on immigration “by a thousand miles.”

Has the British tabloid media focused heavily on immigration, and often covered the subject in a crass and obnoxious way? Yes, of course – both news reporting, editorial lines and political commentary in the tabloids have been troubling at times. But one must remember that left to their own devices, the prestige media would hardly cover the issue at all. Newspapers like the high-minded Guardian have zero sympathy for those who object to uncontrolled mass immigration, and even more supposedly conservative outlets like the Times or Financial Times would happily ignore the subject altogether were it not for the tabloids keeping the issue on the national agenda. One cannot examine the sins of the tabloid press while pretending that the prestige press is somehow faultless.

Or can we?

Well, the New York Times certainly seems capable of obsessing about the mote in their British cousin’s eye while ignoring the beam in their own. As far as the New York Times is concerned, Brexit is purely the result of rabble-rousing tabloids (with an assist from glib superficial coverage in the prestige conservative press) whipping up xenophobic feelings among their working class readership. According to this self-exonerating narrative, Brexit has absolutely nothing to do with the prestige media failing to hold politicians to account for progressively signing away sovereignty and governing competencies to a barely accountable supranational government, or helping to make a nuanced conversation about immigration impossible.

No, instead we are expected to believe that the earnest saints of the prestige media and their establishment readers and cheerleaders are totally blameless. We are expected to close our minds to the possibility that more people might have heeded some of (say) the Guardian or the New Statesman’s more accurate concerns and reporting during the EU referendum if those publications had not conducted themselves for years in such a screechingly, stridently blinkered pro-EU manner.

And even now, after the New York Times managed to cocoon its own readership in such a self-reinforcing ideological bubble that almost none of them saw Donald Trump as a potential threat to their world order, in examining Brexit America’s newspaper of record is unable to question whether producing news and commentary almost entirely of the elites, by the elites and for the elites might not be the smartest way to approach journalism.

For God’s sake, New York Times, wake up. Turn your concerned gaze around 180 degrees and question the assumptions, biases and blind spots in your own reporting. Stop worrying about the evil tabloid press and its hold over the impressionable British working class mind for two seconds, and spend at least a moment considering how your own prestige journalism has unhelpfully perpetuated and reinforced failing globalist shibboleths for years, leading to these harsh instances of political correction in domestic and world affairs.

Because if the unexpected election of Donald Trump and the vote for Brexit (different though the two phenomena are) have taught us anything, it’s that blue-collar, working-class folks are far from being the only people who can be plausibly accused of being brainwashed by the news media that they consume.

 

 

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No, Donald Trump Did Not Call For Hillary Clinton’s Assassination (This Time…)

Donald Trump already provides ample evidence that he is temperamentally unsuitable to be US president without the biased, pro-Hillary American media putting words in his mouth

There is a particularly pernicious story making the rounds at the moment that Donald Trump supposedly called for the assassination of Hillary Clinton (again).

From the New York Times:

Donald J. Trump once again raised the specter of violence against Hillary Clinton, suggesting Friday that the Secret Service agents who guard her voluntarily disarm to “see what happens to her” without their protection.

“I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons,” Mr. Trump said at a rally in Miami, to loud applause. “I think they should disarm. Immediately.”

He went on: “Let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away, O.K. It’ll be very dangerous.”

In justifying his remarks, Mr. Trump falsely claimed that Mrs. Clinton wants to “destroy your Second Amendment,” apparently a reference to her gun control policies.

[..] On Friday night, breaking from his prepared remarks and turning his gaze from the teleprompters, Mr. Trump looked straight into the crowd as he made the insinuation about Mrs. Clinton’s safety. He gestured emphatically with his hands as he spoke, at one time pointing to a member in the crowd to find agreement.

And the US Guardian:

In a sometimes bizarre 45-minute speech on Friday night, which opened with the unfurling of a new “Les Deplorables” battlefield flag backdrop, the Republican nominee went off-script to call for his opponent’s bodyguards to “disarm immediately” – adding, “Let’s see what happens to her.”

“Take their guns away!” Trump demanded to loud cheers during a section of the speech in which he said his rival wanted to “destroy your second amendment” and he accused Clinton of “arrogance and entitlement”.

In a statement, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook denounced Trump’s comments: “Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President, has a pattern of inciting people to violence. Whether this is done to provoke protesters at a rally or casually or even as a joke, it is an unacceptable quality in anyone seeking the job of Commander in Chief.”

“But we’ve seen again and again that no amount of failed resets can change who Donald Trump is.”

The call to leave the Democratic nominee protected by unarmed secret service agents, first made by Trump in May, raised eyebrows as a reversion to the undisciplined candidate of the primaries rather than the more scripted one of recent weeks. Trump also suggested in August that if Clinton was elected president, “the second amendment people” might be able to stop her from appointing judges. That statement was widely interpreted as a veiled assassination threat as well at the time.

The tone and inference of both of these articles are shockingly misleading.

The point that Donald Trump was making was that it is rather hypocritical of Hillary Clinton to advocate for stronger gun control laws which potentially limit the ability of the citizenry to defend itself when she herself is surrounded by the best trained and equipped armed guards in the world, and does not have to worry for her own safety. Trump was suggesting that were Clinton’s Secret Service protection revoked, forcing her to provide for her own personal security, she might not be so keen to limit the types of weapons available to private citizens.

Now, one can disagree with the premise of Trump’s point and poke all kinds of holes in the logic (though this blog considers the basic thrust of the argument to be quite sound), but by no stretch of the imagination does this amount to a snide assassination threat. It does not even amount to a charge of inciting his supporters to imagine the horrific scenario of an assassination. It is merely a reductio ad absurdum argument intended to make the point that well-protected senior members of the US government should perhaps refrain from dictating to ordinary Americans the manner in which they can defend themselves.

John Hinderaker of the Powerline blog makes the same point:

Trump obviously was making the point that he and countless others have made many times before: liberals like Hillary Clinton, who are protected 24/7 by armed guards, are deeply hypocritical when they try to disarm millions of Americans who don’t have taxpayer-funded protection and rely on their own firearms for self-defense. The point is a powerful one, which is why liberal reporters don’t want to acknowledge it. Instead, they absurdly pretend that Trump was hinting that Hillary should be assassinated.

This kind of thing fools no one. Millions of Americans are quietly fuming over the press’s overreach, going over the top, day after day, to defeat Donald Trump. The blowback is building, and will continue building until election day.

At one point, when I was opposing Trump during the GOP primaries, I said to the press: Stop attacking Trump! Liberal reporters often began with a valid point, but their hysterical hatred for Trump caused them to go too far, making arguments that were patently unfair and unsustainable. Therefore, the more they attacked Trump the more his support grew. The same thing is happening now: most Americans have a pretty good sense of fair play, and they know that Trump is being treated badly by the establishment–a group for whom most Americans have no great affection.

But the media, always on the lookout for the next Trumpian outrage, refused to see reality in these terms. Rather than reporting Trump’s rather simplistic but sound argument – one which was worthy of discussion and a response – many media outlets instead chose to claim, with no evidence, that Trump had done something far worse.

This blog has no problem calling out Donald Trump’s extreme and unacceptable language when he actually says something bad – the infamous “second amendment remedies” comment in August being of another order altogether. But on this occasion, Trump was not making an extremist or reckless point, though the media chose to report the two stories with the same level of outrage.

And it is this behaviour, right here, which erodes public trust in the mainstream media. It is tawdry, opportunistic media overreaches like this, so clearly betraying a seething partisan agenda, which drive decent but concerned citizens into the arms of the extremist fringe and the conspiracy theorists.

Sometimes, to watch the American media openly campaign for Hillary Clinton, one wonders if everybody else inhabits a slightly different universe. We all witnessed disturbing footage of Clinton’s lifeless body being dragged into the back of her waiting secret service van on the occasion of the 9/11 memorial in New York City, yet the chirpy presenter on MSNBC that afternoon casually announced that she merely “stumbled” a little – the definition of “stumbled” having been temporarily extended to include loss of motor control and even consciousness. What we see with our own eyes and what the media choose to report are increasingly two very different things.

And while Donald Trump has a treasure trove of past incendiary statements positively bulging with potential scandal, that is apparently not enough for the media – they must also twist Trump’s words and breathlessly and falsely report to the public that the Republican presidential nominee just called for the assassination of his rival.

You don’t need to admire or support Donald Trump to be outraged at the lazy, biased journalism on display here. This blog is certainly no Trump fan. But if someone does happen to support Trump then these unnecessary extra efforts by the media to demonise the candidate and his supporters will only harden their support and erode what little trust is left in the media.

Those perpetually outraged American liberals in the media, on the hunt for their next anti-Trump scandal, should bear in mind that hysterical and obviously-inflated charges will not have the effect of somehow “bringing Trump supporters to their senses”. On the contrary, it will simply drive Trump loyalists and even wavering voters to alternative, less scrupulous sources which echo rather than castigate their beliefs.

Lying to the American public and pretending that Donald Trump’s remarks were a de facto call for Hillary Clinton’s assassination will not cause a single person to flip from supporting Trump to supporting Clinton. But it will ensure that a number of readers wave goodbye to the New York Times and the Guardian, instead placing their trust in pro-Trump outlets like InfoWars or Mike Cernovich.

Now, is the catharsis of manufactured outrage and liberal media grandstanding really worth the potential risk of shoring up Trump’s base?

 

Donald Trump Rally

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