Sunday, 30 September 2007
Saturday, 29 September 2007
MI6, in other words, would maintain a priceless advantage, a quality regarded as essential in intelligence operations of many kinds - what spies call "plausible deniability". And if, heaven forfend, the service told me something that turned out to be mistaken, or even tried to plant sheer disinformation for who knows what purpose, there would be no comeback, no accountability. I could put up, or shut up.This is, or course, the essence of any spin operation. As Rose points out, it was the same with the lobby briefing system and is the same today:
The lobby rules were a licence to manipulate coverage and a way of settling political scores, a game in which journalists and voters held few cards. "Lobbies of all kinds are a conspiracy against the customer, the reader," says Peter Preston, who as editor of the Guardian also campaigned for reform. "They enable the reporter to say, 'Look how clever I am. I've got this amazing source, but I'm not going to tell you who it is, so you're just going to have to trust me.' The trouble is, the in formation may well not be trustworthy at all - from either a prime ministerial spokesman or MI6."And:
As Andreas Whittam Smith, the Independent's editor when its campaign began, pointed out in an article he wrote looking back in 2002, the old lobby rules tended "to enforce a consensus". This suited everyone: while the PM's spokesman got his message out unmodified, "When a repor ter writes along the same lines as everybody else, he or she cannot be blamed if things turn out differently." Unfortunately, he noted, "Reporters as a group are often completely wrong." As spies can be . . .This leads Rose into a mea culpa over Iraq:
To my everlasting regret, I strongly supported the Iraq in vasion, in person and in print. I had become a recipient of what we now know to have been sheer disinformation about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and his purported "links" with al-QaedaRose points out that the system also allows journalists to make things up:
Over the years, I listened as the spook spokesmen expostulated about national reporters who used such tags and attached them to quotations and stories that, they insisted, were pure fiction, saying that their authors had never spoken to officers at all. Alas: unable to confirm anything on the record, the agencies could not issue denials, either.
In a speech to the Royal Television Society this month he said: "A politician talking to a journalist about trust is a bit like a City banker talking to a Premier League footballer about pay restraint. But, even if I'm in no position to teach broadcasters any lessons, the same thing applies to us both. In both politics and television, you devalue the only currency you have if you forfeit the trust of the public."There is also a real life spin doctor being quoted on the record:
But Mr Purnell's special adviser, Lisa Tremble, said last night that the image had come about as the result of "a misunderstanding about what 'merge' meant".And the story gets weirder:
Conservative HQ was claiming last night that the alteration had been made at the minister's request. But Ms Tremble said the Conservatives had fabricated an apparent admission from a spokesman for Mr Purnell "who simply doesn't exist".
Monday, 24 September 2007
Sunday, 23 September 2007
Today the Sunday Times takes the story a step further by reporting that Israeli commandos had snatched nuclear material from the facility. After tests showed that it was nuclear and was of North Korean origin, the US approved the Israeli air raid.
There is no evidence for any of this, just briefings from US/Israeli intelligence. It sounds a bit unlikely and dangerous to me - snatching nuclear material. In fact it sounds more like the opening of a James Bond film.
Thursday, 20 September 2007
Some people are still calling for a criminal enquiry. Getting people to hand over their money under false pretences certainly looks like fraud to me. Meanwhile the broadcasting union BECTU says that staff are being scapegoated. I don't usually have a lot of sympathy for people who play the scapegoat card when they've done something wrong but BECTU may have a point that it's only the more junior staff who are in trouble.
Mr Brown told the Cabinet yesterday that he was confident of defeating the Conservatives. "We have shown we can run the country," he said. "Now our challenge next week is to demonstrate how we are changing the country."Apart from the fact that Grice has no idea what Mr Brown told the Cabinet, it looks to me very much like a quote - a slogan even - manufactured for public consumption.
Monday, 17 September 2007
Kate and Gerry McCann's legal team has contacted American lawyers over a case where key sniffer dog evidence was thrown out of court in the hope that it may help them fight any charges that they were involved in the killing of their daughter.Another example of a paper allowing someone a free hit under the cloak of anonymity. This isn't a difficult one to work out:
A source close to the McCanns' solicitors said the smell on Mrs McCann could be explained by being in contact with corpses while working as a GP.It's hard to see how this bit of spin deserves having the "source" protected. It's not even a new argument.
One of the classic techniques in this type of spin is to dress up an argument as a "belief". Of course, no-one knows what anyone actually believes. It would be more accurate and truthful to say "they want you to hear the argument that..."
Government ministers have given their backing to a renewed campaign by farmers and industry to introduce genetically modified crops to the UK, the Guardian has learned.
They believe the public will now accept that the technology is vital to the development of higher-yield and hardier food for the world's increasing population and will help produce crops that can be used as biofuels in the fight against climate change.
"GM will come back to the UK; the question is how it comes back, not whether it's coming back," said a senior government source.
Sunday, 16 September 2007
If these people had been employed as the forecasters in the private sector, they would be out of a job.As Northern Rock, a former building society turned bank, goes belly up.
Saturday, 15 September 2007
Monday, 10 September 2007
I think he probably has Freedom of Information in mind when he says:
This is typical of this Government. It has a good idea, which is to make the release of official statistics subject to independent monitoring and parliamentary accountability. But once it has garnered the plaudits for having made the pledge, it then begins to fudge it.
Sunday, 9 September 2007
The Observer reports that the McCanns have been in touch with Foreign Secretary David Miliband. Now
they are hoping he might help head off any decision to lay charges against the McCanns on the basis of what one relative branded as 'repulsive' suggestions they were involved in their daughter's disappearance.Meanwhile, the Portugese press have had a pop at ours. According to the Sunday Telegraph,
I don't think I could have said it any better myself.
In the tabloid Correio da Manha, columnist Octavio Ribeiro takes aim at the British press pack to make a wider point about national characteristics. He says the media has been overly enthusiastic in believing the McCanns’ story from the beginning.
“The behaviour of the English press in the Maddy case is the symptom of a serious disease. The way that the mass of British papers and not just the tabloids militantly kept to a fixed idea of what had happened, goes against the principles of good journalism.
“I remember the hysteria about the ‘secret dossier’ that was the basis of the decision to invade Iraq. And Blair: safe, sound and popular too after it was revealed as a deception.
“The way that Maddie has until now been treated by the English press shows that any agile press spokesman has an easy job.”
Saturday, 8 September 2007
I think Sambrook is right about this. I think Gilligan got a fantastic story out of Kelly but fell down because he couldn't back it up. But whether it would have made any difference to Hutton if he had Kelly on tape, who knows? Susan Watts of Newsnight had Kelly on tape saying more or less the same.
The Times has an interesting account of how some big hitting spin doctors have helped the McCann's promote the idea that Madeleine was kidnapped and that everyone on the planet should be looking for her. Personally, I'm suspicious of anyone who engages in that level of spin and the more spin comes out of the McCann camp claiming outrage at the idea that they should be suspects, the more suspicious I am.
Friday, 7 September 2007
I've just recorded a t.v. interview for a film I've been making and manage to avoid the hackneyed noddy shots, although I confess that the shots of me asking the questions were recorded after I asked the actual questions, as there was only one camera.
The interesting thing about he Guardian story is the extent to which the BBC source is allowed to make an anonymous defence.
The source robustly defended the practice, insisting that Yentob was unable to attend every interview that appears on his show because of his workload.It is quite possible that the source is Yentob himself, something the reader would be entitled to know, I suggest.
Monday, 3 September 2007
Maj Mike Shearer, British spokesman in Basra, said a bugler from Four Rifles led the advance at 0100 local time.Obviously, if it's an advance rather than a retreat, it can't be a defeat.
Except that Charles Heyman, an expert on Britain's armed forces, said:
"You could dress that up with a bit of political rhetoric to suggest now is the time to hand over - but most of the people on the ground that I've spoken to and most of the reports that I get seem to suggest that the security situation in Basra is absolutely dire."
Sunday, 2 September 2007
A lot of people have suspected for a long time that the Libya was blamed for the 1987 bombing because of international politics rather than evidence. Now one of the defence witnesses, Swiss businessman Edwin Bollier, may have been vindicated.
Few people apart from conspiracy theorists and investigative journalists working on the case were prepared to believe Bollier...