https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfr ... U8Kbff22UM
End front-page falsehoods and regain the public’s trust
If you are going to put a crucial decision on the future of Britain to a vote of citizens it’s pretty obvious what the proper function of the press should be: to arm them with unvarnished facts on both sides of the argument. We might add: don’t pretend a complex question is a simple one. And: by all means tell us your own view, but save that until you’ve given us the facts.
Etonians, unironically, give a kicking to 'the elites' with a winking eye on next day’s tabloid headlines
For the past four years – you might say much longer – this is not how much of the British press has behaved. Several newspapers have done the opposite. They pretended Europe was a really simple question. They did not bother to present both sides of the argument. And they appeared overwhelmingly keener on shouting their own views before presenting straight news.
The prime minister himself is at the heart of this story. His Brussels years of ever more inventive Euro “scoops” morphed into years as editor and columnist in the service of the tax-shy Barclay brothers. The Telegraph reciprocated by becoming Johnson’s greatest cheerleader in his rhetoric-over-evidence rush to lead a do-or-die Brexit. Today it’s often hard to tell whether he thinks he’s dashing off a column or governing the country.
But there will, in time, be so much more to examine. The then proprietor of the Express, a former pornographer, writing a cheque for £1m to Nigel Farage at the start of the referendum campaign – thereby effectively signalling the end of the Express as a newspaper. The Sun printing a BeLeave in Britain poster – and duly having to register it as a £97,000 donation to the Leave campaign. Why should the public trust “proper” news when journalists turn propagandists?
And then the bullying. The front-page exhortations to “crush the saboteurs”, the denunciations of the “enemies of the people” and the Brexit mutineers. “Dissident” MPs displayed like targets on front pages as though the murder of one of their colleagues counted for nothing. And, lately, the persistent anonymous feeding of anonymous No 10 titbits to journalists, who breathlessly rush them on to Twitter with barely a care as to whether they’re actually true.
We could add the mirroring of the current crude demotic political discourse. Quentin Letts, moonlighting in the Sun when he is not entertaining Times readers, calls Lady Hale a “beady-eyed old nanny goat”. Why?
Letts went to a decent private school, attended two world-class universities and – when not putting the boot into people who do not conform with his own idea of what the establishment should look like – leads a bucolic life as a deputy church warden in Herefordshire. In the past such figures would have seen it as their role to help people without their privilege to become better informed. Now, Dacre-trained in attack dog menace, he pulls on his bovver boots and joins them.