Monthly Archives: July 2012

Corporate / proprietor influence in the press

  1. Below is an exchange between the UK Independent’s @donne_mark and @owenjones84 and @medialens, discussing the London Evening Standards famous guest editor and the industry’s response:
  2. mrevgenylebedev
    Proud to have Tony Blair guest-editing the Evening Standard (@standardnews) today. Plenty on the news list for him
  3. donne_mark
    @medialens legitimate to ask why @owenjones84 refused to publicly condemn the Blair fawning/guest editing of the standard? Clue: proprietor
  4. OwenJones84
    @donne_mark @medialens I tweeted out last week calling for people to protest his presence at Arsenal stadium
  5. donne_mark
    @OwenJones84 @medialens but why not the standard? Scrutiny free, obsequious publicity, free to 1.5 million people? Many others did?
  6. donne_mark
    @OwenJones84 I accept that. But intrinsic to what @medialens worry about is corp influence. Why did you choose not to question standard?
  7. donne_mark
    @OwenJones84 @medialens for context, every ref to standard in my blog on media/Blair was removed & piece signed off by adviser to proprietor
  8. OwenJones84
    @donne_mark @medialens Not exactly a massive constraint on my ability to push left-wing views, is it?
  9. donne_mark
    @OwenJones84 @medialens I’m asking a pretty specific question here? Would you have condemned the times if Blair was scrutiny free guest-ed?
  10. donne_mark
    @OwenJones84 @medialens and actually, if you self- censor to appease proprietor/employer, subject to events could be huge constraint no?
  11. donne_mark
    @OwenJones84 @medialens process really worried me,studied media ethics as part of NCTJ & this IS an issue to which it seems none are immune
  12. medialens
    @donne_mark Interesting, thanks. Have you got the original to compare against the published version?
  13. donne_mark
    @medialens well yes, is almost identical, save removal of direct refs to ES. To have signed off by adviser to proprietor was to me stunning
  14. donne_mark
    @medialens i know why @OwenJones84 refused to condemn ES, he texted to explain & I understand. Issue is a culture where he feared reprisal?
  15. donne_mark
    @OwenJones84 @medialens should say have contributed to the independent for few years & have great respect for editorial integrity. I think!
  16. For more on this subject read this comparison of media reaction to @Wikileaks Julian Assange and Iraq’s Tony Blair:

“Ireland is not a country at all”

In today’s Irish Times’ Colm Kenna has an opinion piece titled ‘Public reaction to advisers’ pay indicates need for leadership‘ where, after threatening to say something interesting, he essentially goes on to say that we, the public, are distracted by trivial matters. Therefore it is the government’s responsibility to show ‘leadership’ in addressing those trivial matters in order for the public to have full confidence in them to do ‘what needs to be done to get us out of the mess we are in’.

So, instead of wasting your time reading that, read this instead:

The Great Theft Movement: Ireland as Kleptocracy

Distraction Burglary

Some burglars will try to trick their way into your home. A distraction burglary is where a bogus caller to your home gains entry on a pretext / lie or creates a diversion so that an accomplice can sneak in separately.

Personal Safety Security for the Older Person, An Garda Síochána Crime Prevention Information Sheet

What does it feel like to live in a kleptocracy? How would you know if you lived in one? Here are a few pointers.

  • A kleptocrat, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is ‘a ruler who uses their power to steal their country’s resources’. It is true that no dictionary definition of anything is ever truly definitive. Nonetheless it is worth dwelling on the fact that the definition of a kleptocrat says nothing about what kind of ruler a kleptocrat is. There’s nothing specified about the institutional role afforded to the ruler, or whether the ruler is legitimated by popular authority, or the number of rulers that make up a kleptocracy.

Continued… Cunning Hired Knaves

Another Climate Change ‘debate’

  1. media_bite
    Coleman, has his finger on pulse as usual RT @MarcPColeman: Joe Caulfield of Turn 180 & John Gibbons of @think_or_swim debate #climatechange
  2. media_bite
    On the day we find Higgs boson Coleman hosts a climate ‘debate’ RT @MarcPColeman Joe Caulfield of Turn 180 & John Gibbons of @think_or_swim
  3. think_or_swim
    @media_bite @MarcPColeman Yes and no David. This was a ‘climate change – is it real?’ make-uppy debate, actual issues barely mentioned
  4. media_bite
    @think_or_swim @marcpcoleman Thats what I thought, unbelievable that media are still pumping this formula, a waste of yours & listeners time
  5. MarcPColeman
    @media_bite Your blogsite says “a shot at bias in the media”. How is representing both sides “bias”? Wd you prefer only 1 view?
  6. MarcPColeman
    @media_bite People have said same about representing US Republican view ie that there’s no “need” to air any view other than Democrats (1/2)
  7. MarcPColeman
    @media_bite That view is commonly held in the Irish media which gives almost 100% representation to Dem when analysing US politics (2/2)
  8. media_bite
    @MarcPColeman True, its time we brought back debates about link between smoking and cancer
  9. media_bite
    @MarcPColeman The premise of these debates is that there is actually a scientific debate about validity of theory, when there isnt
  10. media_bite
    @MarcPColeman oh and about US politics, while it is entirely irrelevant to GW, media discussion about US power is deficient in most respects

Like him or loathe him – Assange and Blair

Media Lens recently explored the UK media reaction to news of Julian Assange’s bid for asylum in Ecuador. Their Alert exposed an embarrassing example of groupthink among an already visibly introverted Twitter clique, comprised of an array of liberal journalists from the country’s respected broadsheets.

In their haste to “groan with each fresh turn of the story” (as the Guardian’s readers editor described the prerogative of Assange’s detractors) few journalists bothered to address the substantive issue of the threat of extradition to the US. They instead framed the asylum bid as a ploy to avoid questioning over sexual assault allegations in Sweden.

Rather than a ‘groan’ this ‘fresh turn’ triggered an avalanche of abuse and ridicule directed at Assange, with journalists attempting to out do one another in a show of radical on-message-ism.





[Source: 1, 2, 3, 4]

The lurid nature of the commentary cited in the Media Lens Alert stands in stark contrast to the professional hesitancy typically displayed in print, and perhaps hints at what lies between those carefully crafted lines. These interactions are more suggestive of private exchanges between colleagues at the proverbial water cooler, dominated by fact free or counter-factual mockery. Bluntly referencing the antagonistic history that has been the relationship between Assange and the British press.

Comment is free…but facts are sacred” proclaims the headline banner on the Guardian’s comment pages, yet in this particular case, they were conspicuous by their absence.

Even George Monbiot, a journalist who is well known for meticulous footnoting, demanded only a cursory review of whatever evidence his Twitter followers put in front of him before passing judgement. A method of investigation potentially hampered by his habit of ‘blocking’ people who disagree with him, MediaBite included.


[Source: 1, 2, 3, 4]

A perspective which just so happens to comfortably align with that of his editor-in-chief:

“the Guardian’s editor-in-chief, still supports many of the principles of WikiLeaks and would support Assange in any attempt by the US to extradite him over the release of the cables”

But it would be unfair not to mention those instances where journalists attempted to back up the vitriol with those ‘sacred facts’. New Statesmen writer David Allen Green made numerous threats to outline the legal thesis that undermined Assange’s fears of extradition to the US, however they came to nothing. His hastily penned blog published soon after Wikileaks’ Twitter account announced Assange’s arrival at the Ecuadorian embassy constituted his singular offering to the New Statesman’s readers, reflecting closely the tone of his tweets on the subject:


[Source: Tweet since deleted]

“It appears to me that Assange’s ploy is just another desperate stunt to frustrate and circumvent due process for investigating these allegations.” [David Allen Green, New Statesman, 19/06/12]

In the end it was left to the Guardian’s Nick Cohen to step up to the plate. Cohen, a liberal apostate (think Hitchens without the conviction), who threw his reputation on the bonfire that was Tony Blair’s invasion of Iraq, is highly regarded in the British press and his piece on Assange was well received by colleagues:


[Source: 1, 2, 3, 4]

However, there were gaping holes in his argument, which relied on a (perhaps purposefully) farcical understanding of US politics and law. His article was all the more strained by the simply ridiculous attempts to denigrate advocates of opposing positions, such as Salon journalist Glenn Greenwald, who Cohen referred to as Glenn Beck’s “mirror image on the American left”. Cohen wrote:

“American democracy is guilty of many crimes and corruptions. But the First Amendment to the US constitution is the finest defence of freedom of speech yet written. The American Civil Liberties Union thinks it would be unconstitutional for a judge to punish Assange.” [Nick Cohen, The Guardian, 24/06/12]

A day later Forbes contributor, Mark Adomanis, described Cohen’s grasp on US law and its relationship with politics and power:

“How is it possible for anyone, let alone a someone who is employed as a professional political commentator, to think that the ACLU’s opinion carries any weight whatsoever? How shockingly naive or uninformed do you have to be to think that Obama, or anyone else of consequence in Washington, gives a half a whit about the ACLU?

Will Julian Assange be tried by the US government? I don’t know, and neither does Nick Cohen. But what I do know, what should be quite obvious, is that the ACLU’s opinion on the constitutionality of such a prosecution is about as relevant to whether or not it will occur as the price of fish food in Seattle, traffic conditions in Vienna, or Cliff Lee’s WHIP.” [Mark Adomanis, Forbes, 25/06/12]

Confronted with this pretty damning assessment, Guardian journalist and former Wikileaker James Ball responded:



Facts are clearly not sacred when it comes to certain issues and certain people.

Two days later, a funny thing happened. We were provided a perfect case study for comparison. The owner of the London Evening Standard, a free sheet masquerading as a serious paper (where ‘upskirt’ photographs of female celebrities sit alongside reports of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan), announced that former British Prime Minister and co-architect of the Iraq war would take the reigns as editor for the day.


The reaction on the floor of the Evening Standard was much the same:


Prompting a backlash on Twitter, with users supporting the #BinBlair hashtag:


But Lebedev’s adviser, Amol Rajan, who is also a journalist with Independent, was more than happy to defend the decision:


[Source: 1, 2, 3, 4]

Among the journalist Twitter clique that attacked Assange though, gone was the vitriolic one-up-man-ship, gone were the supportive ‘re-tweets’ and nowhere to be seen were the rash blog posts deriding Blair for his alleged crimes. Channel 4 news’ Alex Thompson was one of the few who took to Twitter to point out the bitter irony of Blair becoming editor of the fourth estate:


George Monbiot also found a moment to criticise Blair’s return:

[Source: 1, 2]

But Monbiot found no time to chide the Evening Standard or for that matter his own paper, the Guardian, whose editorial entertained a new era of Blair on the back of his editorial debut:

“John Major likened Blair’s long goodbye to Nellie Melba; the coming comeback must show he is more like Sinatra and Elvis” [Editorial, The Guardain, 29/06/12]

Is this the same Monbiot who challenged us to attempt “a peaceful citizen’s arrest of the former British prime minister, Tony Blair, for crimes against peace“?

The context of Blair’s return to the spotlight is equally if not far more controversial than that of Assange. It is only weeks since Blair was questioned by the Leveson Inquiry, a process instigated in part by the Guardian’s investigation of News International’s phone hacking, about his relationship with Rupert Murdoch.

As a major player in the media market the owner of the London Evening Standard also testified at the inquiry. He described how newspaper owners deserve access to politicians.


A position made more interesting when you put it in the context that his father, Alexander Lebedev, admitted the paper was always intended to be a loss making exercise.

“As far as I’m concerned this [buying the Standard] has nothing to do with making money. There are lots of other ways. This is a good way to waste money” [Luke Harding and Mark Sweney, The Guardian, 14/01/09]

And we now we have Tony Blair brought inside the paper as some sort of PR stunt to support his planned re-entry into politics. A return the Guardian then devotes a soft “like him or loathe him” editorial to. And only a handful of the uninhibited journalists who had their go at Assange days earlier voiced concern at a rival newspaper bringing in a man accused of war crimes as editor for a day.