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“What is a Dominant Media Narrative?” said Jesting High Court Judge

…and stayed not for an answer.

Extracted from this Guardian article:

RT Loses Challenge Against Claims of Bias in Novichok Reporting  Mark Sweney

The Kremlin-backed news channel RT has lost a high court challenge to overturn a ruling by the UK media regulator that it broadcast biased programmes relating to the novichok poisoning in Salisbury and the war in Syria.

Ofcom fined RT £200,000 after determining that seven programmes, [concerning the Skripal poisonings, the US’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, and the Ukrainian government’s position on Nazism and the treatment of Roma people] were in breach of UK broadcasting rules relating to due impartiality regarding matters of political controversy. […]

RT contended that Ofcom had not taken into account the fact that the “dominant media narrative” at the time of the poisonings – that Russia was to blame – meant it could leave that view out of its own programming. The broadcaster also said the requirement to be impartial interfered with its right to freedom of expression.

Lord Justice Dingemans, who delivered the high court judgment remotely on Friday, said: “At present, the broadcast media maintains [sic] a reach and immediacy that remains unrivalled by other media. Indeed, there is reason to consider that the need [for due impartiality] is at least as great, if not greater than ever before, given current concerns about the effect on the democratic process of news manipulation and of fake news.”

He said RT was not restricted from broadcasting its point of view on the Salisbury poisonings, the war on Syria or events in Ukraine. “The only requirement was that, in the programme as broadcast, RT provided balance to ensure that there was ‘due impartiality.’ […] RT’s “concept of a dominant media narrative is a nebulous one, which it would be difficult to define, let alone identify by any acceptable criteria in a particular case.”

He added: “In any event the chilling effect that such uncertainty would or might produce for the broadcast media, would, in my judgment, be likely to inhibit rather than enhance their freedom of expression.”

This post is not about the absurd and self-contradictory official story on the Skripal poisonings, or the presence of authentic, goose-stepping, swastika-waving Nazis in the CIA-organised Maidan revolution in the Ukraine. It’s solely about the judge’s assertion that the concept of a dominant media narrative is a nebulous one, which it would be difficult to define…”

I don’t find it hard to define. Take the case of climate change hysteria and its attendant trillion pound policies, for example. I’d say that there is a dominant media narrative that says that this is a crisis, that 97% of scientists and prepubescent schoolgirls agree that it’s a crisis, and that anyone denying that it’s a crisis is a Big-Oil-financed conspiracist flat-earther blogging in a basement in his mother’s underpants. Nothing nebulous about that. Nothing nebulous about academics being sacked for telling the truth about polar bears and coral reefs either, or senile national treasures lying through their dentures about it on prime time TV.

Now, take the case of a journalist who happens to agree with the above argument as to the existence of a “dominant media narrative” on the subject of climate change hysteria, based, as it is, on the evidence of one’s eyes, of any google search you care to mention, and on the professed censorship polices of the BBC, Guardian, New York Times, etc. Let’s call him, for the sake of argument, Delingpole, and imagine, for the sake of argument, that he had recently written this:

The eco-fascists are showing their true face in the Coronavirus pandemic. Activists claiming to be from Extinction Rebellion have put up posters exulting in the loss of human life.

Corona is the cure – Humans are the disease.”

The official national leadership of Extinction Rebellion has since sought to distance itself from the posters, claiming that the stickers are ‘not in line with what XR believes or stands for’ and blaming ‘far right groups.’ But this should be taken with a pinch of salt.

First, the XR East Midlands Twitter account which boasted about the stunt is widely followed by XR groups around the country... Second, the posters are entirely in line with the thinking of the green movement..

As high-level environmentalist organisation The Club of Rome once infamously wrote:The Earth has a cancer. The cancer is man.”

This is genuinely how many so-called environmentalists think. It dates back at least to the era of late 18th century doom monger Thomas Malthus and is evident in everything from the burblings of Sir David Attenborough… to the entire field of ecology (predicated on the notion that man is a detrimental presence on the planet).

It’s all true of course. But if he wants to avoid a £200,000 fine from Ofcom, he would do well to accede to the judge’s demand that he “. .provide balance to ensure that there was ‘due impartiality’” and add a paragraph or two pointing out that many mainstream media consider Extinction Rebellion to be a brave and necessary addition to our democratic debate, that gluing yourself to the top of a tube train to prove what a twat you are draw attention to man’s destruction of the planet is a right protected by our unwritten constitution, that the East Midlands is a noble region noted for its stalwart defence of workers’ rights during the Luddite uprising, that Thomas Malthus was a caring pastor ever attentive to the needs of his flock, and that Sir David Attenborough has all his own teeth, and doesn’t burble.

Or else.

We at Cliscep are not covered by Ofcom, so we don’t have to kowtow to the diktats of the so-far-up-the-arse-of-MI6-that-Mark-Sweney-is-shrieking-with-pleasure Star Chamber that is Ofcom. And I’m outside the reach of British justice (or will be, if I ever get round to applying for French nationality.)

Far be it from me to criticise the ruling of a learned judge, but anyone who thinks that the words “dominant,” “media,” and “narrative” are nebulous, and that “the chilling effect” [of defining the term“dominant media narrative”] would “… be likely to inhibit rather than enhance their freedom of expression.” needs his wig examined.

22 thoughts on ““What is a Dominant Media Narrative?” said Jesting High Court Judge

  1. @Geoff – says
    “Far be it from me to criticise the ruling of a learned judge”

    there was a time when I was to busy working to notice what nobs we had in high places.

    “given current concerns about the effect on the democratic process of news manipulation and of fake news.”

    “news manipulation” wonder what news channels he thinks are exempt from this?

    what a learned nob.

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  2. Glad you gave the example of Delingpole on the XR East Midlands scandal Geoff. Andrew Neil was also onto them on Twitter

    XR UK Official (if such a thing has ever existed) at once took refuge in a conspiracy theory as you can see. I was going to mention that in your previous thread. Conspiracy Ideation at its finest. Dr Lew should do a full analysis. Then I spotted the Foreign Policy article. Quite a lot going on.

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  3. Talking of dominant media narratives, I wonder if the British media are covering this. The residents of Hubei and the Hubei Police have teamed up to violently repel the neighbouring Jiangxi province police who have crossed the border, apparently in response to Hubei residents wanting to get back to work in Jangxi. The Chinese are rioting over their right to get back to a normal existence, taking their anger out on the police who are opposing this. The CCP are of course removing all videos almost as soon as they go online.

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  4. Allison Pearson is a decent journalist, but seriously, isn’t the job of a journalist to go digging for information, always to question, never take for granted the prevailing narrative. This is a very sad and worrying reflection of the state of media journalism in this country. Thank God for the Hitchens and the Roses, but they’re a dying breed.

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  5. JAIME

    ..isn’t the job of a journalist to go digging for information, always to question, never take for granted the prevailing narrative?

    But she is digging for information. She’s questioning her Twitter readers. Possibly she feels as the rest of us do, that there’s no point in consulting the prevailing narrative.

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  6. Geoff,

    Well, technically, yes, she is ‘digging’, but putting out on a request on social media for random Twitter users to give their opinion is not much of an effort in my estimation! There’s a lot of info out there on this, from first hand sources, research papers etc. I doubt that fishing on twitter will uncover that info. It’s not like she doesn’t have time on her hands I would imagine. Too much bloody time. I’m already getting bored!

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  7. As usual, the issue of airborne or not imposes binary thinking on a more complex and subtle reality. This is the best article I’ve seen on the topic:
    https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/16/coronavirus-can-become-aerosol-doesnt-mean-doomed/

    The weight of the evidence suggests that the new coronavirus can exist as an aerosol — a physics term meaning a liquid or solid (the virus) suspended in a gas (like air) — only under very limited conditions, and that this transmission route is not driving the pandemic. But “limited” conditions does not mean “no” conditions, underlining the need for health care workers to have high levels of personal protection, especially when doing procedures such as intubation that have the greatest chance of creating coronavirus aerosols. “I think the answer will be, aerosolization occurs rarely but not never,” said microbiologist and physician Stanley Perlman of the University of Iowa. “You have to distinguish between what’s possible and what’s actually happening.”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. JAIME
    Sorry, my irony gets more opaque as it gets heavier. Interrogating one’s readers is just one of the lazy habits of modern journalism, along with not looking for primary sources, and a total ignorance of basic concepts like probability, uncertainty, and how rational people like scientists (but also doctors, managers, almost anyone who has to make decisions) arrive at conclusions. Journalists are basically binary, as Ron notes in the comment above. They start with a conclusion that makes a good headline and work backwards.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Geoff, add to that relying on so-called “fast thinking”, stuffing a happening into a known category, in order to grab the attention first. In a pandemic “slow thinking” is at a premium, when people should really aspire to stop and consider, albeit under pressure to act (or appear to act). Fast thinking is how grocery store shelves are emptied.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ron, correct, Covid-19 viral particles exist in an aerosol form. The issue is under what conditions that aerosol can become airborne and how far it can travel and remain airborne. The CDC have decided that masks should be standard issue for the public. I’ve yet to see what expert guidance they are relying upon to inform that decision.

    Geoff, sorry for not picking up on your subtle irony. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. There is also a shortage of masks to protect health care givers. Let’s see what CDC does.

    “Due to the N95 respirator shortage, the CDC recently relaxed its guidelines, saying that among health care workers, face masks were “an acceptable alternative when the supply chain of respirators cannot meet the demand,” except in situations when respiratory aerosols might be produced, such as intubation or nebulizer treatments.

    In addition to the shortage, N95 respirators are challenging to put on. Doctors receive annual training on how to mold the respirator around the face. As a test, doctors put on a hood and have the artificial sweetener saccharin sprayed in. “If you’re wearing the mask properly, you don’t taste any saccharin,” Yang said. But most people do, he noted.

    For this reason, the N95 respirator isn’t recommended for the public, since it requires training to put on properly. Moreover, the N95 respirator is thick, so it’s hard to breathe through.

    In a nutshell, the public does not need N95 respirators; they likely will not be in a situation where they’re exposed to aerosol of the virus, and these masks are needed by health care workers who will, Yang said.

    “There’s no reason for the general public to wear N95’s,” Yang said.

    However, even regular face masks are in short supply, prompting the CDC to recommend the use of bandannas and scarves when necessary. There’s not a lot of research on homemade masks, but a small 2013 study found that masks made from cotton T-shirts were effective, though not as good as surgical masks”. March 25 interview

    https://www.livescience.com/coronavirus-do-face-masks-work.html

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  12. How does a ruling that includes the assertion that ‘dominant media narrative’ is too nebulous fail to recognise the nebulousness of ‘due impartiality’?

    Liked by 2 people

  13. LOL. .’The public are too thick to wear a respirator, so they shouldn’t have them’.

    Come off it Ron. These masks aren’t just used in hospitals; they’re designed to be used by anybody who requires protection from aerosol pollutants.

    I’ve got one. It’s got two adjustable straps, a nose piece which you mold around the bridge of your nose and it has a foam lining around the edge to seal the gap between your face and the mask. I managed to get it to fit quite snugly – and I could still breathe! The idea that you need specialist training to use one is ludicrous. Sadly, scandalously, there aren’t enough of them to go round, even for health care workers. When this farce is over, there should be some serious questions asked about why certain nations, who had very large stocks of masks a few years ago, did not maintain those stocks.

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  14. N95 masks get “fit tested” to make sure you’re using the correct size in the medical environment (which is where the saccharine comes in). IMO, it’s more about reducing liability than people not figuring out how to wear a mask.

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  15. I can understand that in a very busy ICU, with patients coughing and spluttering and health workers needing to come into direct contact with those patients in order to administer care, it is absolutely vital you get a 100% correct fit, but to suggest this applies to average Joe who only wants to minimise the risk of being infected in the supermarket is ridiculous.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Damn, I think I may be guilty here of having applied the despised Precautionary Principle! Not good for a hardened climate sceptic. I’m never going to live this down.

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  17. The more I reflect upon this ruling the more bemused I become. It’s as if the judge has decided, upon this occasion only, to abandon the very basis upon which the legal system is founded, i.e. the judicious application of vagueness. It’s not the case that vagueness undermines the service of justice, rather it lies at its very heart and is essential for the system to operate.

    Okay, so one of the problems with vague expressions is that their applicability changes depending upon context. But actually, that is the main reason why they are necessary – they have semantic utility. And, to the extent that re-usability is a positive feature for legislation, one will be looking for expressions that have such utility. Expressions such as ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ and ‘reasonably practicable’ exist because the law cannot be too prescriptive, otherwise it would lack the required flexibility and utility. One cannot write bespoke legislation for every circumstance and so generic wording is required – hence vagueness and hence the need for judgement in its application (with test cases establishing precedent). If everything was clearly and unambiguously defined, with precise boundaries existing between the legitimate and the illegitimate, then there would be no need for judgement – the clue is in the word.

    There are some who view vagueness in language as a linguistic anachronism – a legacy of our primitive past, when sophistication and precision provided little evolutionary advantage. I disagree. Our love of vague terms is not a failure to divest ourselves of a bad habit. On the contrary, the vagueness in our language provides utility that enables us to operate effectively and efficiently in an uncertain and ambiguous world. Judges, of all people, should understand this. Those who are not prepared to do their job should stand aside for those who are.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. JOHN RIDGWAY

    ..the very basis upon which the legal system is founded, i.e. the judicious application of vagueness.

    ..which is presumably what Jesting Pilate was getting at when he tried to wash his hands of the awkward Jesus problem with his “What is Truth?” Abstract ideas like “truth” can be so vague and bothersome, which was Pilate’s excuse for dismissing the case. For our judge, “dominant media narrative” is so vague that he has no alternative but to find the accused guilty. So he would no doubt agree with you about vagueness being inherent in certain notions. I wonder what would have happened if RT had based their appeal on the argument that “’due impartiality’ is a nebulous concept, difficult to define, let alone identify by any acceptable criteria in a particular case.” Would the judge have agreed with them?

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  19. Geoff,

    It’s all about balance. It is not for nothing that the statue atop the Old Bailey is holding a set of scales. It ill-behoves a judge to ignore his duty simply because he only has the scales of justice at his disposal!

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  20. Scandalous lack of preparedness in terms of stocks of surgical masks for the general populace and sufficient PPE kits for medical staff, scandalous lack of testing. When the public wake up to the damage inflicted upon their personal liberties, their mental health, their livelihoods, their kids’ futures, the national economy, they are going to be very, very angry. Simple measures that may have made this pandemic much easier to contain, even assuming it is as bad as Imperial suggest. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Johnson or his government, or the Tories in general, who’ve been in power long enough to get their house in order. A few months ago, he was sucking up to Huawei, antagonising our allies in favour of a Communist regime which subsequently unleashed a plague upon the world, splashing out £200billion on a white elephant rail link and twatting about pissing away £2 trillion by banning gas boilers, forcing people to buy electric cars and despoiling the landscape with 400 ft high bird munchers in order to fight a tea cosy in the sky. All the while, the tide was going out very rapidly and very ominously. The reality tsunami is about to hit.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/face-masks-have-asking-wrong-question-along/

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/coronavirus-uk-news-latest-deaths-tests-flights-nhs-ventilators/

    Like

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