Tag: press

The public narcissism of cultural knowingness

Sunday, 30 April, 2017 0 Comments

The dinner of the White House Correspondents’ Association in Washington D.C. last night was defined by the man who wasn’t there. “It isn’t hard to figure that President Donald Trump will regret not being at the center of the kind of adulation and mutual self-congratulations that the media annually shared with former President Barack Obama,” wrote Michael Wolff in the Hollywood Reporter, adding: “At the same time, he apparently is self-aware enough, or combative enough, to refuse to swallow the slights and indignities that former President George W. Bush was said to annually feel amid the spring rites of the liberal media — slights and indignities that would, presumably, be much worse for Trump.”

Public Narcissism  and the White House Correspondents' Dinner

According to Michael Wolff, Donald Trump would have loved being the centre of media attention last night, but his presence among the “elites in their protected bubble” would “offend the populist heart and soul of Trumpism.” And then he wades into the fray:

“The White House Correspondents’ Dinner by any reasonable measure has become a very bad political symbol. It’s an exclusive and exclusionary event that celebrates power and influence for power and influence’s sake. It’s public narcissism, wherein all the celebrities become ecstatic at the sight of one another. (Of note, I have never known anyone invited to the dinner to say they actually wanted to go — rather, it is a burden of celebrity, a self-satisfied martyrdom.) The event is too, in its form, a kind of kin to late-night television — invariably hosted by a late-night star or a comedian aspiring to be a late-night star. It extols a cultural knowingness that, to say the least, excludes Trump and the Trump base, who are the reverse of cultural knowingness. One of the most notable aspects of the dinner for the past eight years, and one of the most notable aspects of Obama’s character, is how much, stepping out of presidential earnestness, he resembles — in timing, sensibility and archness — a late-night host.”

Indeed. But no late-night host is trousering a $400,000 Wall Street speaking fee.


The King of the News

Saturday, 25 February, 2017 0 Comments

Sure, he’s the man the press loves to hate, but Donald Trump is also the man who shifts papers and magazines and powers the clickstream like no one else on Earth. From Germany to Spain to Sweden to Japan, the press is all Trump all the time now. Sex sells was the old media mantra. Trump sells is the updated version.

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The demise of the Daily Telegraph

Wednesday, 18 February, 2015 0 Comments

“On 22 September Telegraph online ran a story about a woman with three breasts. One despairing executive told me that it was known this was false even before the story was published. I have no doubt it was published in order to generate online traffic, at which it may have succeeded. I am not saying that online traffic is unimportant, but over the long term, however, such episodes inflict incalculable damage on the reputation of the paper.”

So writes Peter Oborne, the former chief political commentator of the Telegraph. His account of the demise of a once-great newspaper is painful to read, but Why I have resigned from the Telegraph must be read by all who value press freedom. Before addressing the scandals that forced his hand, Oborne documents the small but significant erosions of standards in the newsroom:

“Solecisms, unthinkable until very recently, are now commonplace. Recently readers were introduced to someone called the Duke of Wessex. Prince Edward is the Earl of Wessex. There was a front page story about deer-hunting. It was actually about deer-stalking, a completely different activity. Obviously the management don’t care about nice distinctions like this. But the readers do, and the Telegraph took great care to get these things right until very recently.”

The abandonment of quality was quickly followed by a surrender of principle. Peter Oborne makes his case by citing examples of the paper’s cowardly response to the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong and its own suppression of the HSBC scandal. Both are profoundly shocking. “A free press is essential to a healthy democracy,” Oborne says and he reminds us that, “There is a purpose to journalism, and it is not just to entertain. It is not to pander to political power, big corporations and rich men. Newspapers have what amounts in the end to a constitutional duty to tell their readers the truth.”

The greater tragedy here is that the perversion of the Telegraph is happening at a time when Vladimir Putin is demonstrating that the news is just one more tool to be perverted for propaganda and disinformation. The West needs truth tellers to defeat this assault on its values and the Telegraph should be in the front line defending us at this dangerous time. Thanks to the brave intervention of Peter Oborne, we now know what needs to be done to save the Telegraph from the enemies within.