Media power and the habit of lies

The following was censored by Sunday Herald when submitted as a comment.

There’s a strong whiff of desperate sensationalism coming off this story. It’s the sort of thing anybody should be wary of who aspires to be an active consumer of media messages. If nothing else triggered alarm bells then the attempt to generalise from a single dubious anecdote should have set them clanging.

So somebody was quizzed about the seriousness of their complaint. The way this is written up by some mercenary hack whose remit is to put a particular spin on it certainly makes it seem as if the complainant had cause to suppose the police were being dismissive. But the point of being an active consumer of media messages is that you add back into the story the stuff that has been left out in an effort to manipulate the reader.

What has been omitted is the fact that racism is, by law, very much a matter of the victim’s perception. It is racist because the person reporting it says it is racist. Which puts a very different light on police efforts to test that perception in the early stages of the investigation. It makes perfect sense that they should seek to establish just how convinced the complainant is that the incident being reported was actually racist in nature. Particularly if the matter is being reported in the heat of the moment. It is entirely reasonable that the police officers concerned should attempt, as far as they might, to eliminate the possibility of the complaint being withdrawn at a later stage. It makes total sense for them to ascertain that the complainant is actually willing to proceed.

Which is not to say that police officers don’t get it wrong from time to time. The point is that, tenuous as this anecdote always was in terms of what it proves, indicates or suggests about ‘institutional racism’ in Police Scotland, it is a lot more tenuous when one considers the stuff that the writer purposefully leaves out.

The media are lying to you. Every day and in myriad ways, they are out to deceive you.

Not that there is a great conspiracy. For the most part, professional journalists lack the intellectual rigour and moral commitment to steadfastly pursue any kind of agenda beyond getting paid for doing as little as they can get away with. There is no coordination among them beyond lackadaisical conformity to a cosy consensus that wouldn’t even arise if group-think was at all effortful. Mostly, it’s just habit. The media lie, deceive and manipulate because that is the nature of their power. Where it is possessed, power will always be used, however haphazardly and purposelessly.

Even if they hadn’t immediately detected a half-arsed clutching at sensationalist straws in the claim that Police Scotland is “institutionally racist”, the active consumer of media messages will, as a matter of sensible precaution, have skipped first to the end of the piece in order to establish the necessary context. They will have read the claims of “institutional racism” aware that no less than 10% of the latest – and largest ever – batch of new police constables come from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds. And they will not have been deceived.

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6 thoughts on “Media power and the habit of lies

  1. Bugger (le Panda)

    Your second from last paragraph is as perceptive, succinct and correct as I have ever read from you.

  2. Brian Powell

    My thought is the Herald has direct connections with the Scottish Office. Magnus Gardham, former political editor of the Herald, now at the Scottish Office. They put out anti-Scottish, anti SNP and ant-Independence articles every day.

  3. FRANKANDERSON

    Have the MSM ever relied on the Scottish constabulary to defend their personal rights and was there ever an acknowledgement from them? I will offer an opinion here and that is that most of them are best typified by self interest which in truth is all that the people in Catalonia and Scotland want.
    If you stick your hand into a lion’s cage and it bites you? Do you do it a second time, no reasoning person would, so therefore why take any cognisance of what people who proffer their implied (lies) version of the truth. If nothing else their abuses have brought a new realisation and practice into every day use and that is “FACT CHECKING” each piece of reportage that states that they have reported the truth or you are invited to believe that it is a factual reportage.

  4. manandboy

    Well done, Peter. Excellent piece.
    Never doubt that you do a great job and that you are much appreciated.

  5. Anne Hunter

    I always give a sigh of relief when I read your calm but incisive pieces Peter.
    It is, however, frightening to know this was censored by the Sunday Herald.
    But I do like to be reminded from time to time why I dumped both the Herald and Sunday Herald.

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