The enemy of the people

What has Brian Walden and Bernard Levin got in common? The answer can be found below … but first read on …

According to WikipediaThe term enemy of the people is a designation for the political or class opponents of the subgroup in power within a larger group. The term implies that by opposing the ruling subgroup, the “enemies” in question are acting against the larger group, for example against society as a whole. It is similar to the notion of “enemy of the state”. The term originated in Roman times as Latin: hostis publicus, typically translated into English as the “public enemy”. The term in its “enemy of the people” form has been used for centuries in literature (see An Enemy of the People, the play by Henrik Ibsen, 1882; or Coriolanus, the play by William Shakespeare, c. 1605). The Soviet Union made extensive use of the term until 1956. Since early 2017 it has been used on multiple occasions by US President Donald Trump to refer to news organizations and journalists whom he considers to be biased.”

Following on from the “Trump” comment, I was reminded yesterday in a social media exchange that was to do with Trump that he is often criticized by those objecting to him accusing mainstream media as being the enemy of the people, seeing it as a threat to the freedom of the press, although there are those who agree with Trump, who is speaking as he finds, as do I. These days I only infrequently read a newspaper or watch the main TV channels when it comes to news, partly and regrettably because I lack confidence in much of mainstream media. But I do check out the news online and on social media, and while I tend to gravitate to sources that veer more to my way of thinking, as I suspect do most people, I do try to check out alternative perspectives in order to formulate as best I can a rounded view. I am mindful that there is such a thing as straight forward news reporting as well offering an opinion, yet often the two get mixed and material is selected according to agenda.

The reason why I agree with Trump is I find the reporting often to be factually inaccurate but more significantly lacks balance and rigor. It is further clouded because of the reporters own views, or more concerning the views of the owners of the media source he / she is working for, that comes into it. If I were Trump I would fill aggrieved even though I recognize the role of a journalist precludes him / her showing favour to individuals especially one who occupies as important a position as that of US President. Looking at US newspaper outlets like the Washington Post and New York Times and television outlets like CNN and MSNBC, one might be forgiven if one were to believe the main news item these past 3 years is Russian collusion by Trump and his allies whereas now the Mueller report is over it is becoming increasingly evident the real villains are the anti-Trumpers, not that you would know that from these sources. When it comes to Trump’s successes in the economy, the evils of child sex trafficking, the truth behind what is happening in hot spots around the world like Iran and Syria, dangers threatening America and religious persecution, it seems these are silent.

When I recently blogged on Ben Shapiro’s interview with Andrew Neil, I actually agreed more with Neil, that as a journalist he needs to ask awkward questions and dig deep, even though that may not be what the one being interviewed wants, but sadly too often I am under the impression they have an agenda that is not to do with finding out the truth in an objective way. Going back to my article, I pointed to Russell Brand and how he interviewed representatives of the homophobic Westborough Baptist Church, for respecting those he was interviewing and thus enlightening the audience on some of the pertinent issues. While Nigel Farage has been given a hard time recently, and he needs to accept that is going to be the case, I find much of the reporting tends to be hit pieces, lacking balance. Yet for a free society we need good journalists and we are in danger of losing this not just by authoritarian regimes that try to shut down free speech but by bad journalism. All this brings me to what I expect from journalists and the two people I named at the start.

Brian Walden died last week and Bernard Levin died in 2004. As I look back on past greats such as these, I realize the danger of doing so with rose tinted glasses, yet I recognize these were masters of their craft despite holding views I disagreed with. They had the knack of getting to the heart of the matter and providing a clear, informed, fair and balanced presentation, and when it came to interviewing people they was often able to extract things that the audience wanted or needed to know and could cover areas that others were afraid to touch. My fear is there are too many hacks these days and that we need quality journalists who we can trust to cover what is important and thus serve the people, without fear. Until I see I lot more of this taking place, I am inclined to Trump’s view: the media is the enemy of the people, thus doing a disservice.


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