The Media Today: What Qualifies as Real, not ‘Fake’?


I find myself assailed by a host of questions at the moment that flow from what I want to do next with my book and my advocacy. All of which have to do with attempting to determine on which media vehicles I should be focusing my attention. And whether I should use someone else’s. Or become my own.

For me. Er. Because I tend to be thorough. Who said ‘obsessed’? Anyways. The starting point for me, is to have a look around, and see what’s what with the world of media.

In what context? Good question. Well. I like to write. And it would be nice if I could find some way of getting more attention. But that is not as important as finding a way to get more exposure for the contents of my book. And to get that investigation finished.

So. I want a medium or media that has respect, ratings and intrepid investigative journalism. In other words, a vehicle that is real, not ‘fake.’ And that is where I come to a grinding halt. Why? Hmm. Let’s do a 365 of the current media scene.

The so-called mainstream media don’t seem to be able distinguish any more between editorial and op-ed. And the pap they push, and the real news they ignore, is determined in large part by their corporate ownership.

Investigative journalism is pretty much dead in the mainstream media. The most intrepid, long-term investigative effort I have witnessed in the past decade or so was the London Guardian’s exposure of the bribery employed on a massive scale by Britain’s leading defense contractor, British Aerospace (BAe).

And yet. The Guardian teamed up on occasion with the UK’s Campaign Against the Arms Trade to undertake the more intensive investigation. And one of CAAT’s leading activists, Nick Gilby, eventually wrote what has been described as the seminal work on bribery in the international arms industry by BAe.

Necessarily, since much of the subject matter is the same as that covered in my book, I was intrigued by his book. And read it. Wrote to Nick. Got no response.

The problem was that Nick restricted himself solely to the information he could recover from the government. Which, in my opinion, is why the book missed the real story. The corruption of government in Great Britain by arms bribes.

Every single major arms exporting nation in the West, in the Seventies and Eighties, had a massive arms scandal, revolving around the receipt of bribes, and involving senior officials in those countries. With the exception of Great Britain.

Nick does a great job of exposing corruption everywhere except within the British body politic itself. That may be why I never heard back from him. I asked him bluntly whether he thought it realistic to assume that Great Britain was the only major arms-exporting nation in the West not to have corrupt politicians?

I respect Nick’s desire to be cleaner than cleaner. More ‘factual’ than fact itself. But it made me face a problem that I think all of us must face with our media.

Everyone has an agenda. A corporation. A CEO. An activist. A lobbyist. A mother. A father. A son. A daughter. A journalist. A writer. An author. Me.

Every single form of media outlet is going to be rendered biased to some extent by the subjectivity of its creator or creators.

How do we choose the right media to trust? Whether to read? Or to use as a media vehicle for our own investigation?

Nick wanted to be sure that he would not be rejected by the mainstream media. So, he kept his investigation rigidly factual. He got respect and coverage. But little attention. Because his findings lacked credibility.

I went to the same places that he did. BAe. Saudi Arabia. But I used my knowledge of the British political scene. The financial workings of the British Conservative Party. My research into the ‘Savoy Mafia.’ My friendship with the deceased subject of my book, Hugh Simmonds, CBE, a former member of the Conservative National Board of Finance, and a partner with a leading firm of London solicitors who specialize in, um, ‘money movement.’ To ask questions. To find patterns. To make connections.

I came up with informed speculation. I took that to other leads. And chronicled feedback and response. I was painfully careful to distinguish between available fact and connection in my book. But the result was not as obtusely ‘factual’ as Nick’s account. And I received next to no consideration from the mainstream media.

Which is the point at which one starts looking at the ‘alternative media.’

The primary development in news reporting in recent years has been the evolution of online media. All the mainstream media place great emphasis now on their online reporting.

Certain major players are online only – Huffington Post, Breitbart. Yet increasingly, the big boys and girls are having to compete with that ‘alternative media.’ Almost all of which is also online.

Blogs. Which are a tad passé. Online newspapers. Some better known than others. Many representing only a particular issue or point of view. And right there is the problem.

There is no regulation of online media. Fact becomes intertwined with opinion. Many of the outlets make no secret of that fact. But this creates a situation where ‘alternative media’ can make more interesting ‘noise’ than mainstream media.

The Guardian has been reporting all this week that what they describe as ‘DIY political websites’ have been competing favorably with mainstream UK news outlets in getting hits in their coverage of the UK General Election.

What the Guardian has also been reporting is that much, if not most, of that coverage has been Labour-oriented.

Which begs a question, which I have raised in the past week. Is both media coverage and polling truly reflecting a dramatic surge towards Labour in the closing stages of the 2017 UK General Election? Or, as some Labour activists themselves recognize, is it merely the case that Labour activists are more active? Louder? More present?

I’m not going to talk too much about that election here. I do that in a companion note I’m working on. But, more power to Labour activists. They are very good at getting themselves on panels. At answering the telephone. At making noise. But can one trust the ensuing media coverage and polling?

I remain in communication with a freelance British journalist, who revealed on one of the left-wing UK online newspapers, what he believed would be the defining story of the 2017 UK General Election campaign: the underhand donation of some £5 million by HSBC to the British Conservative Party.

(And by the way, a blog (AnotherAngryVoice), which itself gave space to the story, has been quoted by the Guardian as having the two most-hit stories of the 2017 UK General Election campaign.)

Of course I applaud the efforts of said freelance British journalist. And the fact that any media outlet would give his story coverage. And engage in an extensive Twitter campaign to give it profile. To be honest, I was jealous as heck at the initial results.

And yet. The story pretty much dwindled. Not least because a couple of well-known online newspapers rubbished the story and its findings.

Did they rubbish it because they were jealous? Because they have too much corporate backing? Or, because the online news outlets which gave the story so much profile are so avowedly left-wing? Are so consciously and ‘noisily’ Labour-leaning?

Or, was it simply that there was not enough ‘evidence’? And how do you get ‘evidence’ when you are a small online newspaper? A freelance journalist? Is it not fair merely to ask questions? And then hope that those media vehicles with more fulsome resources will pick up a story and run a full investigation? A sentiment I express poignantly, having asked the same question myself repeatedly.

I found myself – I guess I still find myself – with my own investigation, in a vicious circle of book –v- investigation –v- mainstream –v- freelance.

I’d go to a commercial publisher. Who would nicely suggest I get a newspaper to help with my investigation. Get more results. And then come back to them with a more ‘finished’ product.

I’d talk to a newspaper. Who would suggest that I write a book. Get it published. Maybe by a small firm. Get some profile. And then come back to them, when I had more coverage.

One journalist, Paul Lashmar, then of the London Independent, now of the University of Sussex, where he teaches about anti-corruption, investigative journalism, was very kind to me.

He explained to me, in 2001, that I had a story which, in all the best circumstances, he would be happy to investigate. He felt I had enough to make a compelling presentation to his editors.

The problem, he told me, as he shared the fact that he would not be making the presentation, the problem was that he reckoned it would take a year to get to a conclusion, and at least four assistants.

For that sort of investment, the Independent, any major ‘quality’ newspaper, would need to see a series of articles as the investigation was in progress. And Paul simply didn’t see that. All he saw was an end product. Not enough return for the investment.

The world of investigation is no longer (if ever it was) driven by the need for truth. It is driven by ratings. Money, for corporation-driven media. Hits, for politically-inspired activists.

On which latter point. Do not for one minute think that this is all about bad, bad corporate media. And good, good activist media. The latter can be just as mendacious as the former. And the former as truth-seeking as the latter. If it suits their ends.

One of the problems with the story about HSBC – and I have shared this with the journalist in question (um, should probably have kept my mouth shut) – one of the problems is that it had an agenda.

Maybe the agenda was deliberately to keep it simple, in order to have political impact during the British General Election.

Now, to be fair, that is just as much of an agenda as the British corporatized media not giving enough airspace to the British Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn. And don’t be giving me guff about balance. The need for affirmative reporting, to offset the unfair advantage of corporatized media.

Bias is bias. It ain’t objective if it is subjective. And one of the primary consequences of the bias of the outlets giving positive coverage to the HSBC story, in my opinion, was that they missed the big story.

It’s no big news that British billionaires donate heavily to the British Conservative Party. The deeper story is that they are able to give so much money. That they want to give so much money. Because British billionaires essentially took over the British Conservative Party in the Nineties. So that they could use it as their own private money-laundering vehicle. And if that link tickled you, try this longer one, too.

So. A left-wing British activist, together with left-wing British online newspapers and blogs, ran a story, created a lot of noise. Which got nowhere. Because they were noisy and left-wing. Obviously had an agenda. May not have had enough evidence. May not have had much of a story. And, in my opinion, missed the real story. Because their primary ambition was to give the Conservative Party a bloody nose in the General Election. Which potentially renders them as useless (as truth-seekers) and self-obsessed as the corporatized media running editorial for advertising bucks.

And yet. The mainstream media. As corrupted by corporate cash as it is. Can sometimes hit a home run. Look at the Petrobas ‘Car Wash’ scandal in Brazil.

Or have a gander at another article in the Guardian. Which I have described as one of the scariest articles I have read anywhere in 30 years of investigating my book.

Now. Before we write off all ‘alternative media.’ Look at some of the people who have been making real headway with the Trump-Russia story. None of whom could be described as mainstream investigators.

One of them is a Washington, DC restaurateur, who (not unlike me) just believes in asking questions.

Along with – the real biggie for me, in this regard – a couple of guys, who I believe have uncovered the real truth behind Trump-Russia. But who can gain absolutely no traction whatsoever.

One of the guys is a Miami-based investigative journalist. The other a reasonably well-connected, national Democratic activist. Good enough credentials. But their story is making the rounds of what is definitely only the alternative news websites and blogs.

Why is no-one paying attention? Well. The politicians have their reasons. Self-preservation.

I came across the same response in the UK with my investigation and book. Everyone and his uncle ‘knows’ there is rampant high-level corruption of the British body politic arising from arms sales. But no-one wants to be the whistleblower. It would devastate said body politic. And would do nothing for the reputation or safety of the whistleblower.

Meanwhile. Those in authority, on both sides of the political divide, with an agenda to push with regards to Trump-Russia. They play leaking games with the media. Who themselves play along. Rather than finding the real story. Because they have to worry about ratings. And lawsuits. What with all the competition from online media sources. Who have no regulation. But make lots of politically-biased noise. Which gets hits. And. And. And.

The players and the media get away with this bastardization of investigation. Because we the people. We have our own agendas. And they aren’t always about finding the truth.

What is one to do? Whom do we trust? Well. You could take my approach. Read what takes your fancy. And try your best to test it against common sense, your own research, your own sense of what is real or likely. Maybe ask some questions? Heck, other ordinary people ask questions. Maybe this should be the age of the citizen journalist? The citizen investigator?

And don’t be too biased or snobby in your approach. It used to be that ‘alternative news’ meant left-wing. Not any more. It also embraces the right-wing. And. Um. News of a more ‘esoteric’ nature.

My wonderful publisher, Kris Millegan of TrineDay, got me on some ‘alternative’ online radio shows. To give my book an initial shove. And. Sigh. Like everybody else. They had their own agendas.

Most of them involved the existence of angels on earth, our genesis from UFO’s and the fact that someone’s grandfather not only was an extraterrestrial, but was also Grandmaster of the Noble Order of Freemasons of St. Thomas of Kinkade. Double sigh.

My favorite radio interview. The one I really, really thought was going to make a difference. Was my interview with Oliver Stone’s son. Not so much. Turns out he was more into fraternal orders than corruption. Triple sigh. Everyone has an agenda.

Mind you, I did get on a couple of Fox News regional radio programs. Say what you like. They were receptive. And honest.

They knew they weren’t going to find much common ground with me politically. But we settled on an approach which got me a nice reception, and allowed me to present my agenda.

The approach? The need for truth. And its relation to allowing people truly to be free. To be able genuinely to design their own destiny.

I still have a soft spot for those regional Fox presenters. There are some right-wing folk out there who are truly scared that too much agenda – right-wing, left-wing, political, media – is denying ordinary people the sense that they have any control over their lives.

Which neatly brings me back to what the rest of us can do to attempt to find our own truth. Which is: trust our instincts. Find out for ourselves. Ask questions. Become citizen journalists and investigators.

Which would be fine. Until we discover. From no less a source than the Guardian. That it ain’t just the corporatized media we are up against. Or alternative news sources. With political agendas. And tinfoil hats. Nope. Now the politicians, the government and big data are laying traps with military-style psyops.

I’ve always taken the view that I can take on anyone. If I can see them coming. But when the ground beneath us is itself shaky. If we can’t trust the consumer technology we use to order our sport’s shirts. Then how do we trust anything that is presented to us?

And just when you think it might be safe enough to get back in the water. You can apparently always count on your average UK journalism student to turn out to be British Intelligence. Just exactly when do I get to stop sighing?

Which brings me right back to where I began. In terms of my book, the next steps in my investigation and my advocacy. Which media can I trust? On which media vehicles should I be focusing my attention? Should I be trying to gain their co-operation? Or should I be attempting to become my own media vehicle?

And, by the by, which media can you trust? What is real, and what ‘fake’? And do you feel yourself any closer to the answers? Sigh …

Published in: on June 6, 2017 at 2:28 am  Leave a Comment  

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