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The media needs to get a grip

Like Churchill, one of my absolute favourite things to do is to read the newspapers. I love staying informed on events and reading the best opinion writers. My adoration of analysing the news is what led my co-founder and I to start the Daily Globe. The purpose of this website, in its now two years of existence, is to bring a well thought perspective from the best writers to the pressing issues of the day.

Sadly, most national newspapers and broadcasters have recently gone from reporting and analysing the news to peddling hysteria through leading with gossip and innuendo. Obviously, newspapers and broadcasters want papers sold, high ratings on their shows, and clicks on their links- which is understandable. Nevertheless, what they have been doing recently is tantamount to media malpractice.

Most people probably thought that where it says “whipping up hysteria” that I am referring to is the parliamentary “sex pest”  allegations and yes, that is one obvious example and Effie Deans did a brilliant job framing how ludicrous much of this historical finger pointing about seemingly minor infractions are. However, the media is equally behaving like excitable toddlers in their coverage of the Brexit negotiations and the Paradise Papers.

The so-called dirty dossier should not be front page news in every newspaper in the country and leading every radio and television programme. Of the 36 MP Tory MPs named in the dossier, (the names conveniently came from an aide to arch-remainer Lord Mandelson) none of them are alleged to have committed a crime. Yes, many MPs are alleged to have behaved inappropriately, but as Julia Hartley-Brewer, who herself was a target of Sir Michael Fallon’s wandering hands, said, this has become a witch-hunt. Hartley-Brewer did not want Sir Fallon to lose his job, yet in this era of mass hysteria, Andrea Leadsom was able to knife him out of a job by bringing up an off-colour remark Sir Fallon was alleged to have said. Should sexually inappropriate behaviour be tolerated? No. Should it be dominating the headlines for weeks on end and every rumor be treated as Gospel truth? No on that end too. If a crime has been committed then the crime should be reported to the police and the accused will be assumed innocent until proven guilty. If there was inappropriate, but not illegal, behaviour by an MP then the party whips need to decide what action to take. However, screaming about alleged inappropriate behaviour will do nothing but possibly ruin the career of MPs and further erode trust in Parliament- which is dangerous because the vast majority of MPs, as Hartley-Brewer said herself, are good, hard-working individuals. The media should be ashamed for their role in keeping this story going.

Almost equally hysterical are the rumours flying around about Brexit. On one side, the europhiles in the media and Parliament trumpet every piece of negative news about Brexit but then laughably label positive news “despite Brexit.” Leave supporting media is almost equally guilty of stirring up trouble with talks of Brexit “betrayal”- especially from Nigel Farage on his platform on LBC and in The Telegraph. Unfounded claims of the government agreeing to a huge Brexit bill or doing a “Brexit in name only” are ever present in the media- especially social media. In the media the negotiations are consistently labelled a failure. This is ludicrous. While it is important that we keep a critical eye on the negotiations, it is equally important that we reserve judgment until there have been actual concrete agreements in the EU negotiations. When there is a deal (or not) on trade or a “Brexit bill” or immigration policies proposed, then we should leave no stone unturned in analysing the agreement reached. However, getting outraged about rumour does nothing but make the population angrier and more divided.

Finally, the media is now peddling outrage about the Paradise papers. Again, much of this reporting does not show the full picture yet is designed to get people angry against the “rich”. Take the examples of Lord Ashcroft and the Queen. Lord Ashcroft was harassed by a BBC Panorama reporter while at the Conservative Party Conference about a trust that he was allegedly involved in. Lord Ashcroft set the record straight today on Twitter in order to avoid the howls of outrage from the social media mob. The Queen too, who has served the country tirelessly and with complete devotion her entire life, was attacked because 10 years ago the Duchy of Lancaster invested £10 million in an offshore account- seemingly without the Queen’s personal knowledge. Jeremy Corbyn- despite his Communist shadow chancellor John McDonnell‘s pension investments taking advantage of an offshore account- even went as far as to demand the Queen apologise. This is outrageous and shows we have reached peak hysteria. The solution to this problem is very simple and it involves asking rational questions. 1. Is the investment illegal? If the answer is yes the violator of the law should be prosecuted, if no then he or she should not. 2. Should the loophole be closed? If yes, the blame belongs to the government and the government should close it. If someone is taking advantage of the law of a British Overseas Territory or a foreign government that the British government disagrees with, then the UK government should work with those governments to make it harder to use tax avoidance schemes- as the Conservatives have done in government. However, condemning individual people in the press and in social media for being wicked sinners, despite not breaking the law, achieves nothing but more discord and division.

A free press is sacred and that is why the Daily Globe so fiercely opposed the Leveson Inquiry and its plans to curtail newspaper independence. We continue to oppose newspaper regulation. However, we do call on those in the media to stop peddling hysteria. The media has a responsibility to offer sober assessment of the news and rational solutions. There are some in the media who appear to be taking that responsibility seriously. Specifically, The Spectator, Spiked, and  The Conservative Woman deserve praise for their rational and solution based take on the recent sexual assault witch-hunt and Brexit. More of the media should follow their lead, get a grip, and start presenting the important news and offering rational opinion.

About Ted Yarbrough

Profile photo of Ted Yarbrough

Ted is an attorney in Dallas, Texas, USA. He is a long-time blogger on British politics and has written a thesis on Thatcherism.

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