It’s encouraging to note that in all the responses we have in relation to our recent interview with John Gibbons no one has challenged any of the very damning things he had to say about the way the media works and the inherent constraints imposed on it by it’s profit-oriented structure (in fact one critic called it ‘brave, brilliant and essential‘).
That is after-all what we as a media monitoring organisation are predominantly interested in. For instance:
“Their ontological security, their notion of the way the world is, the way it’s always been, feels deeply threatened by someone coming along and saying “everything you know is wrong”. And they recoil violently against it.”
“I remember [Miriam O’Callaghan] interrupting a scientist trying to explain a technical point on Prime Time saying: “we’re losing our audience.””
“I was in the unusual position in that I am financially independent. Many journalists don’t have that luxury. So I was only prepared to write it one way, I wasn’t amenable to write it some other way. I wasn’t that interested in how it would go down because the purpose of the column wasn’t to perpetuate itself.”
“So there’s the difference between what we can see with our eyes, which the media are good at reporting and slow moving threats, which they are extremely bad at.”
“Most broadcasters and newspapers are businesses, they are profit driven, advertiser centric. In my own case, while it was never explicitly put to me this way, clearly I was scaring the horses. Because I’m suggesting, for example that consumption and increased levels of consumption are counter productive and dangerous, that’s a red hot poker to your advertisers.”
“I recently wrote an article about the Tobin Tax. What spurred it on was that they had an entire supplement in the newspaper devoted to spread-betting. They wouldn’t have a supplement in the newspaper about how to let your house out to drug dealers but as a moral equivalent it is there and thereabouts.”
“It’s much more subtle. I don’t see that type of lobbying playing a major part, most of the censorship is internal, it’s rarely externalised like that. In a lot of cases you are pushing against open doors anyway.”
With regards to the comments about climate change, I think we’d prefer not to be dragged into the ‘debate’, there is no overarching response we can give to sceptics, deniers or fence-sitters that will satisfy. The data is out there, it’s peer reviewed and it’s open to challenge. Either your argument is that the data is unreliable or misinterpreted, or that the science has been manipulated by powerful forces contriving to produce a global consensus.
The first of these arguments is one for scientific debate, but it’s not one that should happen in some sort of public show trial. There appears to be some sort of belief among sceptics that if a perceived inconsistency arises or if a paper is published that contradicts some specific assumption, then it should be headline news, that it immediately calls into question decades of corroborative research. But science can’t and shouldn’t happen in the media, for the obvious reasons Gibbons outlines.
The media is fundamentally profit-oriented. It has thrived for the last decade (and more) on advertising driven by industries that are strongly bound to consumption of fossil fuels – with motoring, property, holiday etc supplements filling the gap in our national papers. The media is therefore not principally concerned with the common good, unless that is, there is a profit in it.
Bertrand Russell wrote:
“The scepticism that I advocate amounts only to this: (1) that when the experts are agreed, the opposite opinion cannot be held to be certain; (2) that when they are not agreed, no opinion can be regarded as certain by a non-expert; and (3) that when they all hold that no sufficient grounds for a positive opinion exist, the ordinary man would do well to suspend his judgment.”
Well 97% of earth scientists are agreed that “human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures“, so I think it’s at least fair to say the opposite opinion can’t be held to be certain, by non-experts anyway?