How journalists misguide the public via politicians e.g. PM

This picture carried in a number of news publications. The UK PM Boris Johnson thinking up ever more elaborate visions for news coverage to nail, or in this case, tread his colours to England’s football mast.

In using this image, I’m playing into the conveyer belt that gives it publicity, but I’m not here to push any party line. By now you’ve heard the news. England lost to Italy at Euro 2020. On balance football pundits don’t have any qualms. Penalties can be cruel and here it spared no mercy for three of England’s finest.

Then as night follows day, the speakable happened; fan racist abuse turned its full venom on the players that missed. The Prime Minister ‘s tweet featured on the BBC was quick to condemn. “Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves”, he said. “Ashamed?”; as if this platitude will bring about wholesale remorse.

It was the lead on the BBC. Now at this point this statement appears news worthy. However in today’s contortionist spin versus journalism this headline grab is anything but.

To any rookie reporter it’s understandable. The obvious question is how do you feel PM? And the BBC and others may justify this as a time stamp of indeed the PM’s feelings, which may be used at another time to reveal contradictions. The BBC did so recently with scientists saying the link between COVID and being admitted to hospital had been weakened. The PM preferred the word “severed”.

Contradiction then perhaps? But at that moment and time, whilst still knowing his thoughts that’s not the grab. A surfeit of politicians has become used to glaring u-turns, obfuscations and lies. They do so because the media they face is predictable, and live in a century where previous integrity practices prevailed. Not any more.

In his 1987 James Cameron lecture Executive Editor of the Washington Post Ben Bradlee delivered his talk on Why governments lie. Defense secretary Robert McNamara’s big lie to the American people about how the US was winning the war against the Vietcong in Vietnam was front page. It would take seven and a half years and the Pentagon papers for the public to realise McNamara’s was lying. Bradlee’s point is that journalists find it difficult to come to this conclusion. And even though today’s politicians do so in real time, journalists tend to look the other way.

This piece of footage has been viewed almost 25m times, and only recently did one network air it for examination.

To the present then and the beautiful game veered towards something as brutal in insults and intent as The Purge — a 2013 film of future dystopian world where for 12 hours citizens are legally permitted to slay each other.

Weeks earlier the PM refused to condemn fans who booed English players for taking the knee before a match. Now he and his home secretary Priti Patel were condemning racist abuse. Yet in the past he’s used openly racist comments on people and communities. The former Manchester United footballer Gary Neville, now football pundit summed it up.

Politics has entered an era of populism where shame is a distant word and politicians can say anything to appease their base. That we know about, but the one of the major arteries we depend upon for our news is at times not fit for purpose. What’s the point of journalism if journalists won’t tell us what’s going on that strafes democracies.

Sourcing the PM for a condemnation is easy. What he intends to do to stem racism is the news story? If the PM hadn’t condemned, just as he hadn’t criticised those booing fans, that would be news.

The symptom is obvious; the system that enables this needs examining.

This image below is a metaphor for all that’s wrong. It’s the biggest expected game. Execs would have known. But the stewards were over run. In one gate, the risk of serious injury was present from fans crushed in a pen, trying to get it.

The gates opened, the fans came hurtling in and mob violence took over. The news media today will focus on the fan violence rightly so, but ignore the wider story. Giving the green light to fans of around 60,000 to be at Wembley, aware of the consequences of the delta virus ripping through the UK.

The PM’s next milestone is the removal of guidelines and laws that have safeguarded people during the pandemic. Let the people decide he says. This Dr asks an obvious question. But the media must take a long look at itself too.

Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.