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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Try not lying

Another story from Der Spiegel International caught my eye: Lying Press? Germans Lose Faith in the Fourth Estate. It says it is by “Spiegel staff”. Someone would rather not put their name to this.

This comment from a reader calling themselves “wildberry” summed it up well:

“How can a woman who has been reading SPIEGEL, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Badische Neueste Nachrichten for years hit upon the idea that the journalists writing for these publications are trying to manipulate her, their reader?” This sentence encapsulates the problem. This air of injured innocence betrays the utter refusal of the journalists and their employers to understand why they are mistrusted and seen no longer as telling the truth to the world and holding the establishment to account. Instead they are more and more regarded as no more trustworthy than this same establishment. In fact, as with the latest example of (at best) partial and belated attempts to confront reality, they are seen as culpable, partial, and biased. That they cannot understand their own shortcomings and their own unconscious bias is at the root of the problem. When the press is seen, not as having a slight political preference – that has ever been the case and is widely accepted and understood, but as being complicit in the deliberate twisting of news-facts, one has to recognise that newspapers have dug their own graves and cannot complain when no-one believes them any more.

Another one, this time from “Pryor Oak”:

I am amazed that Der Spiegel is suddenly allowing readers to post comments. That is a step in the correct direction to earn trust in the media. Regarding the events in Cologne on New Years Eve, the Chief of Police issued a press release on January 1, 2016, stating that it was a “peaceful New Year’s Eve”. Only after Germans posted eyewitness accounts on Twitter, Facebook and international media that people learned the truth. This event created a distrust of the German media, police and government because it appeared that these institutions wanted to create a wall of silence regarding crimes committed by migrants against German citizens.

Here are two posts from the Samizdata back catalogue with a similar theme: If you do not want to see the BNP vindicated, try not proving them right and Politically correct evasiveness fails on its own terms. And just to show that this isn’t me jumping on the latest bandwagon, here’s a depressingly similar Biased BBC post from ten years ago: Two Beaches.

In the latter Samizdata post I asked (without, it must be said, any serious doubts as to the answer) the British press how it thought the strategy of silence and euphemism about the Muslim identity of the perpetrators of the crimes for which Rotherham is now world famous was succeeding. The same strategy was tried again in Germany with the same result. If the press of either country actually cares about diminishing the hostility between Muslims and non-Muslims it needs to try a new strategy. Try not lying.

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38 comments to Try not lying

  • Nicholas (Excentrality!) Gray

    ‘Try not lying.’
    So you don’t want politicians to say anything, is that it? Why are you, and me, blaming the journalists and reporters when the editors are the ones who choose which stories to print, or prioritise? Tell the owners to not lie. The reporters probably did a good job, and then the editors (and lawyers as advisors) worked the story over.

  • pete

    The Guardian has had to stop allowing comments on some topics – race, immigration and Islam – because too many commenters have incorrect, ‘toxic’ views.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/31/readers-editor-on-readers-comments-below-the-line

    I hope Der Spiegel isn’t required to do the same.

  • rxc

    The press cannot help itself. They are in deep trouble, because the internet has taken away their readers and the source of their revenue, but they still consider that they are the trendsetters and gatekeepers for ideas. They stay very close to the politicians, in the belief that the politicians will save them, somehow.

    They have effectively become full-fledged enemies of free speach/free press, in order to ensure their own survival. At this point they function almost entirely as a propaganda machine for the statists.

  • lucklucky

    There is no more important issue in the West than to destroy the Marxist press. That goes from The Telegraph to the Guardian.

    See for example how Telegraph is now full of “Woman” “black” issues.
    It doesn’t have Engineer issues, Architect issues, Sellers issues, Drivers issues, Timid People, Asian, White(except if it is to blame) issues, etc etc etc.
    No they only go for the Approved Groups that Marxists allow to exist.

    With current press and its journalists Western world will not survive. They are the enemies. They must be totally destroyed in their credibility.

  • RRS

    For the wordsmiths the game is waging influence.

    Those who seek facts as information (that can be “tested”) now look elsewhere and chat amongst themselves.

  • Mr Ed

    The ones who choose which stories to print, or prioritise? Tell the owners to not lie. The reporters probably did a good job, and then the editors (and lawyers as advisors) worked the story over.

    So why would a journalist allow his or her name on the story if it is not actually conveying what they are reporting, implicitly as truth and news, to the readers?

    Why would a lawyer say ‘Don’t print that, it’s true‘, since incitement to hatred laws would not apply (yet) to factual accounts.

    Why publish something saying, in effect ‘Nothing to see here, move along‘ when you know that is not true?

    Can I sell you a bridge?

  • No doubt it is better even that the article was at least written than that one have the situation of say Karkov during collectivisation when the streets were daily filled with a mix of starving people from the countryside and the corpses of those who had died while the press ran articles on “our new happy soviet life”. Better, but I’m not that impressed in absolute terms.

    From the article: “Hayali [immigrant-origin journalist ] has repeatedly received messages on Facebook telling her how German women had allegedly been raped or how mass robberies were being committed by refugees. “I pursued every lead at first. But none of them were true.”‘ Wow. A huge immigrant cohort of mostly young males are imported at great speed from a place notorious for its high crime rate and its poor attitudes to women, but not one of the reports was true. The statistics of those US city precincts where 100% of the registered voters chose Obama in 2012 have nothing on this. I was reminded of Beatrice Webb’s story of how she toured the Ukraine during the early 1930s and her group heard rumours food was short at a certain collective farm. Her soviet guides were only to happy to help her and her friends travel there, and of course these wicked rumours were lying capitalist propaganda – everyone she saw at the farm was well fed and told her (interpreters who told her) how happy collectivisation had made them.

    I originally followed Natalie’s link to see if the article made any mention of Angela’s deal with Facebook, or the new Twitterati. Instead I found this: “This brings us to a question that not only affects journalism, but is also fundamental: How compatible with the Internet is democracy?” I’m sure whoever wrote this feels it will be more compatible when Facebook and Twitter have the new arrangements fully up and running – and, after reading the article, I am equally unsurprised that something as relevant as a meeting between Angela and Facebook’s CEO to achieve this was not mentioned. (No suggestion of Silicon valley refusing to obey government behests in _this_ case, one may note.)

    Occasionally, as in the old soviet union, some revealing info appears by accident. ‘Reinemann examined the motives and views of extreme critics of the media. To do so, his students searched relevant Facebook groups for people who didn’t believe a word that came from the media. They managed to have conversations with about 1,000 people — from all kinds of political persuasions.‘ In the US, FIRE might at least tell us if students’ coursework was to ease doubters back to the state’s view of things; in Germany, I wonder if anything similar exists.

    By the end of the article, I was satisfied it was propaganda: a good deal cleverer and less naive than it tries to appear. “How do journalists cope with the accusations, the insinuations and the blatant hatred?” By writing articles like this, I guess; concede a little, conceal a lot.

  • Sean MacCartan

    Wow. I’m just hugely relieved that (formerly) massive-selling titles like The Sun and The Mirror were so unflinchingly dedicated to disseminating the unvarnished truth at all times. To say nothing of their consistent refusal to be in any way be influenced by the politics of their proprietors.

  • CaptDMO

    But…but…”code speak”, and “dog whistles, and “Guess the party!”, and “Guess the race…”
    Well, yeah.
    In the US…
    Hillary’s in BIG trouble, her personal minions are sweating!
    “How do you know?”
    One of her minions has been given a pussy pass for “official” testimony on what has been known for years, and “the media” is reporting on how the GOP is desperate
    to maintain status quo, via. pyrrhic swan songs by those recently tried, weighed, measured and dismissed as “wanting”.
    “But that’s NOTHING about Ms. Clinton, or her minion’s, or her puppet master’s, alleged criminal actions!”
    Yep.

  • Mr Ed

    CaptDMO, MSN have reported that issue.

    In Clinton email investigation, Justice Department grants immunity to former State Department staffer

    I can’t quite find it on the BBC website, not yet anyway.

  • Laird

    “concede a little, conceal a lot.”

    Exactly.

  • Mr Ed

    I’m just hugely relieved that (formerly) massive-selling titles like The Sun and The Mirror were so unflinchingly dedicated to disseminating the unvarnished truth at all times. To say nothing of their consistent refusal to be in any way be influenced by the politics of their proprietors.

    Well there is a difference to, say, reporting a mass sexual assault and trying to explain it away with platitudes and excuses on political grounds, and knowing that a mass sexual assault has happened and choosing not to report it, or to camouflage it, for political reasons. At least the former is purely ludicrous rather than sinister.

    And in any media that I have read, there is no express statement of truth in any reporting.

  • Lee Moore

    You cannot hope to bribe or twist,
    Thank God! the British journalist.
    But, seeing what the man will do
    Unbribed, there’s no occasion to

    Ah, those were innocent days.

    Incidentally, Natalie’s linked article isn’t merely clueless, it is itself an illustration of the lying press that it argues doesn’t exist. It is careful first to divide press critics into two camps – the knaves, who say things like lying press and who verbally AND physically assault journalists; and the fools, who merely fail to believe what the press tells them. Having established this distinction, it then proceeds to ease merely verbal critics of the press over the barrier into the first category.

    I’m sure there are honest journalists. I’m sure there are even honest journalists who are aware of their own biases and try quite hard to overcome them. But why anyone would believe that these unicorns are common I can’t imagine.

  • Telling journalists to stop lying is a bit like suggesting a whore stops fucking.

    I’m sure there are honest journalists.

    Indeed there are. And they are not quite as rare as unicorns… Siberian tigers might be a better analogue for such rare and magnificent beasts. One of them even writes for Samizdata.

  • Ellen

    Nothing is punished more harshly than speaking the truth. Nothing. Been there, done that, had to survive the consequences.

  • Alisa

    You have a Siberian tiger writing for SI? They ran out of hippos?

  • Paul Marks

    Good post Natalie.

  • PapayaSF

    This issue is much larger than press honesty and political bias. It strikes at the very heart of the modern expression of Western Enlightenment values.

    The West largely stopped fighting over religion centuries ago. (I don’t consider The Troubles to be religious so much as political and, to a lesser extent, ethnic.) We established the principle of religious freedom, and then tolerance of other cultures, then the equality of all cultures, and now the highest virtues of all are anti-racism, anti-sexism, and anti-homophobia.

    But then reality intervened. The Muslim world fell into turmoil, radical Islam was revived, and millions of Muslims from backward, non-Western societies went to Western countries because their own countries sucked. The West, though, has lost its cultural confidence. We’re all guilty colonialist oppressors. Who are we to judge these other people? Even though by any objective measure, Muslim culture is far more sexist and homophobic.

    The left is torn because of the cognitive dissonance: here is sexism and homophobia they cannot fully condemn because to do so would be “racism” and “bigotry.” And even libertarians are torn, at least the ones who think “freedom of movement” is a central moral principle, and the ones who disregard culture as “collectivizing” because they are totally focused on individuals. (One commenter on the Hit & Run blog refuses to draw any conclusions about Muslim crimes because no Muslim has ever harmed her personally, a position I find willfully blind.)

    So I think it’s more than “not wanting to see the BNP vindicated.” It’s not wanting to see that some core principles are simply wrong: all religions and cultures are not equal, and mass immigration from the Third World is a dangerous mistake.

  • Mr Ed

    The left is torn because of the cognitive dissonance: here is sexism and homophobia they cannot fully condemn because to do so would be “racism” and “bigotry.”

    The Left is not torn, it is rejoicing in what it hopes to be the destruction of the West. They care nothing for sexism or homophobia when tested, the affected concern is just part of the hatred of the West.

    There are libertarians who simply adopt a principal as an absolute, and reject anything that conflicts with it, regardless of evidence or natural consequences flowing therefrom. Some people call them dickheads.

  • Runcie Balspune

    We’re all guilty colonialist oppressors. Who are we to judge these other people? Even though by any objective measure, Muslim culture is far more sexist and homophobic.

    Ironically, the culture is more colonialist as well. The empire that sprung out of Arabia became one of the largest in history and was probably the largest ever in terms of the proportion of the world’s population at the time. It was far more oppressive than other world empires have been, and it still influences a substantial swathe of the world and many adherents would like to see it reunited as the empire again, and expanded.

    A lot of troubles in the countries that once formed this empire stem from the cultural differences that failed to assimilate, even after many centuries, and is what probably contributed to the “Arab Spring”, it certainly plays a part in the big divisions between Arab, Persian, Turk, Central Asian, and East Asian politics in what is envisaged as a united religion but is far from that.

    The British Empire went through similar struggles, disparity in culture and the desire for independence from a distant ruler, but for some reason that is perceived as “different”. The continued failure of politicians, world statesmen and the media to recognize that the problem we have today are as much about imperialism and colonialism, but on the other side, the ultimate insult is to assume that only the West was good enough to have a world empire, and to turn a blind eye to those who openly strive for it today (whilst simultaneously berating the Western nations for it).

  • Mr Ed is right; those committed to the left are not torn. I describe their true attitudes at the end of my 2007 post: Biting the hand

    George Orwell notes how intellectuals made hating Hitler a bridge to hating Britain (supposedly for not opposing him enough) _before_ WWII, but Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in 1939 forced them to choose whom they hated more. Obeying Stalin’s orders to side with Hitler was easier for many a fellow traveller, not just the party hacks, because their true feelings “made it difficult for them not to side with any country hostile to Britain”. {Quoted from Orwell’s review of Burnham, The Managerial Revolution in Polemic No 3, May 1946. See also similar analyses in Notes on Nationalism, 1945]

  • Snorri Godhi

    Posts like this are what elevates Samizdata over ordinary libertarian blogs. As Mr Ed says:

    There are libertarians who simply adopt a principal as an absolute, and reject anything that conflicts with it, regardless of evidence or natural consequences flowing therefrom. Some people call them dickheads.

    The reason i warmly agree, is that Mr Ed puts consequentialism above deontology, to the point of calling deontologists “dickheads”.

    There is something in the OP that i feel is slightly misleading, though:

    In the latter Samizdata post I asked (…) the British press how it thought the strategy of silence and euphemism about the Muslim identity of the perpetrators of the crimes for which Rotherham is now world famous was succeeding. The same strategy was tried again in Germany with the same result.

    Strictly speaking, this is correct. I note, however, that the Rotherham cover-up lasted for years if not decades, while the Cologne cover-up lasted for days: a difference of more than 2 orders of magnitude.
    I also note that a similar cover-up in Sweden lasted for months, and a campaign of disinformation about rape statistics, also in Sweden, is still going after more than a decade afaik.

  • And even libertarians are torn, at least the ones who think “freedom of movement” is a central moral principle, and the ones who disregard culture as “collectivizing” because they are totally focused on individuals

    Nope, and you need to define your terms. Culture is not “collectivising” if by collectivising you mean collectivist: that is something done at gunpoint rather than a matter of “culture” as such. But if you means “enables people to act collectively”, well, yeah, and any libertarian who has a problem with the notion of civilisation itself is a bit confused.

    My view is that immigration is not a problem… immigration plus a welfare state, well yeah, that is indeed a problem. But the problem is the work of a state, not of culture or immigration. Only a state can stop people being “discriminating” (a much abused word), and thus actively preventing the pressure behind the natural process of integration from occurring. It takes a state to fuck up a society like that.

  • Regional

    It’s funny how those nations who were in the British Empire remained part of the Commonwealth.

  • Regional

    Now England needs Brittany, Normandy and Calais to field cricket teams instead of burning cars during summer.

  • ” the Rotherham cover-up lasted for years if not decades, while the Cologne cover-up lasted for days: a difference of more than 2 orders of magnitude.”

    Various thoughts occur about this.

    Rotherham began either just before or just after blogs began (and the blogosphere took time to grow).

    Statistically, Rotherham was one assault every two or three days on average. Cologne was many in a single night.

    The Rotherham victims were mostly targeted as underage or just over it, often in care (or otherwise not as well supported by families as might be), less well educated, etc. Cologne seems to have targeted at random, so inevitably had a number of victims who were educated, had web accounts and/or networks of vocal friends, etc. (This reflects the difference between the at-least-slightly-integrated Rotherham perpetrators and the very recent arrivals who made up a good part at least of the Cologne events. The former had learned enough about where they were to do some targeting.)

    Anyone have other ideas about why the attempt to deny the facts about Cologne did not hold together for long?

  • The Wobbly Guy

    There are libertarians who simply adopt a principal as an absolute, and reject anything that conflicts with it, regardless of evidence or natural consequences flowing therefrom. Some people call them dickheads.

    Found a very relevant quote over at Chateau Heartiste.

    In the future, when the last libertarian is bludgeoned to death with the last copy of Atlas Shrugs by some black panther militia man, he’ll be bitching with his dying breath about violations of his property rights and voluntary agreements.

    Seems like there’s a concerted effort to deny the effects of culture and genes, and how these proclivities can either boost or hinder liberty.

    immigration plus a welfare state, well yeah, that is indeed a problem.

    Disagree. Singapore has a minimal welfare state, but we are still getting the negative effects of immigration – privatised benefits for the top (highest wealth inequality in the world?), socialised costs for everybody else (eg. low employment for the poorly educated).

    The welfare state argument is, I’m beginning to feel, a doctrinaire libertarian’s way of refusing to acknowledge reality.

  • Mr Ed

    when the last libertarian is bludgeoned to death with the last copy of Atlas Shrugs

    A slow, very slow, death, even for a fanatical leftist, wouldn’t it be quicker to bore them to death by reading it to them?

  • Laird

    Specifically, the famous Speech.

    However, that presupposes the ability to read, not generally a facility attributed to “black panther militia men.”

  • privatised benefits for the top (highest wealth inequality in the world?), socialised costs for everybody else (eg. low employment for the poorly educated).

    Thank you for making my point for me.

    The welfare state argument is, I’m beginning to feel, a doctrinaire libertarian’s way of refusing to acknowledge reality.

    Er, you do know you just explained the system is skewed by the politically entrenched, right?

    And as for libertarians being bludgeoned to death with Atlas Shrugged, I am with Mr. Ed on that. Plus there seems to be some confusion on the libertarian position on several weaponry, so this is probably a contender for “stupidest quote of the month”.

    Seems like there’s a concerted effort to deny the effects of culture…

    Indisputable that a dominant culture of liberty is a prerequisite for liberty.

    …and genes

    But that is the most hilarious remark on Samizdata so far this year. I really must write to 23andme and ask them which genes best express liberty. This is tinfoil hat level wacko.

  • PapayaSF

    You may laugh about genes, but they may be a factor. For example, centuries of cousin marriage in the Muslim world has damaged their genetic health on average, leading to higher rates of genetic diseases and lower IQs. Link (with a photo not for the faint of heart). Would that not be a factor?

  • PeterT

    The welfare state argument is, I’m beginning to feel, a doctrinaire libertarian’s way of refusing to acknowledge reality.

    Er, no. Immmigrants also benefit from the culture of trust and the rule of law. It’s not all about cash benefits, or even free healthcare and the like. Granted that ‘welfare state’ is not a good term for the whole package. As Perry said:

    Only a state can stop people being “discriminating” (a much abused word), and thus actively preventing the pressure behind the natural process of integration from occurring. It takes a state to fuck up a society like that.

    In other words (and sorry if I am misquoting here), you need to play by the rules to benefit from them.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Link to Orwell’s review of James Burnham, cited by Niall, March 4, 2016 at 10:26 am, above:

    http://www.george-orwell.org/James_Burnham_and_the_Managerial_Revolution/0.html

    And thanks very much, Niall. I can’t wait to read it! (Why do people always say this, meaning they have to wait to read it?) :>))

  • Julie near Chicago

    Also, Niall, your posting on Wilberforce is excellent. (Most of the commenters agree.) Thanks for it, and for the link. 🙂

  • The Wobbly Guy

    In the minds of libertarians like Perry, the science is settled!

  • Julie, my attitude to Orwell has changed over the years (as has Natalie’s; we once talked about it and discovered we’d walked the self-same road).

    I grew up in a house where many decades-old left-wing books of my parents and their parents had migrated to an old bookcase in my bedroom – as a place to dump them. They were no longer ‘relevant’ 🙂 but my parents were hoarders – nothing was ever thrown out. There were _two_ copies of Stalin’s shorter history of the communist party (it was shorter because so many names could be omitted after he’d made them unpersons). There were several works of the ineffable R. Palme Dutt (actually, the very F*-able R. Palme Dutt), but sadly I did not have a copy of the book he wrote to accompany the spring 1941 ‘People’s Convention for a People’s Peace’. (The book explained how the eternal alliance of communism and national socialism would save the world from the evil war launched by the British capitalist imperialists, but Hitler attacked Stalin just before it was published; the copies were pulped and Dutt wrote a new book demanding ‘second front now’.) There was a work of future fiction about a communist revolution in the US and how wonderful it was. There was a book assuring me that the science of Lysenkoism was settled (but it was Natalie, years later, who showed me its companion volume – a work by a British communist that actually described and tried to justify the ‘science’ of inheriting acquired characteristics.) There were many others, and some dated back to the ‘Left book club’ works of the ’30s.

    When I was bored enough – there were fewer TV channels in those days, and no blogs – I dipped into these works. If you are concerned to inoculate your children against left-wing propaganda, then I can report that the strategy of dumping left-wing propaganda of the _past_ in their bedrooms worked from me. Of course, it might not have worked so well had it not been utterly unintended.

    Orwell was not there. A battered copy of Orwell was being thrown out by my school – that’s how I encountered him. He caught my eye because he was talking about those books in my bedroom. Exactly like the young Natalie, when I read him I was wholly oblivious to how left wing his economic beliefs were. On other things too, he sometimes was so far in the left-wing bubble he failed to notice the obvious. In ‘Homage to Catalonia’, Orwell noticed that, in a village behind the lines, “some industrious atheist” had chipped the crosses off all the gravestones that had had them. That this vandalism had no visible consequence was to Orwell a sign of how the locals had always known ‘the Catholic church was a racket” (he knew that in England – even in his left-wing understanding of England – that could not happen). The idea that the villagers might have been afraid does not enter his head. Later, he notes that attacks could never be announced until just before they started because if they were “the fascists always knew” and he relates this to there indeed being spies amongst the locals living behind his own side’s lines, but it never occurs to him that these two things he reports could have the slightest connection. I could give many other examples.

    So how come I so often quote Orwell, so often re-read him and have some liking and respect for him along with what I’ve just said above? The moment I compared Orwell to the books in my bedroom, I saw that here was a man who would not intentionally lie for the cause – and who would make some effort to find out what was true, simply to avoid the risk of doing so.

    Orwell’s essay on Kipling is a mirror-image description of Orwell. He says Kipling “was just coarse enough to keep his mouth shut in army messes” and therefore we have the only literary picture of the Raj we could ever get. In Russia, anyone could find themselves in the army, so we have Tolstoy’s stories of army life, but “the British empire is demilitarised to a degree that continental observers find incredible” so it took “a very unusual set of circumstances” for a literary genius like Kipling to be standing next to those few soldiers in that teeming subcontinent, describing it all.

    Turning this around makes it a description of Orwell himself. Honesty is always at a discount in left-wing thought (for reasons that would require a blog post in its own right – or a book). It took an unusual set of circumstances for the flogged Eton scholar cum imperial policeman to roam the world of fashionable English leftism and Spanish revolution while remaining honest, and one of them was that he was just left-wing enough to be able to keep his mouth shut at times. Both I and (independently) Natalie have wondered whether some of his remarks on hospitals and health care in the year he died (the year the NHS was born) suggest he was finally losing the faith. (I have likewise wondered whether Camus’ praising a reviewer who analysed ‘The Fall’ from a Christian point of view means he was finally gaining it just before he died. 🙂 ) But perhaps it is only ‘the eye of faith’ that would imagine either.

    If anyone is reading Orwell because I’ve quoted him, then I thought I’d better get all that off my chest.

    (All Orwell quotes in this comment are from recent memory; I’ll answer for the gist being right, maybe not every word. Usually I verify quotes before typing them, but time presses.)

  • Julie near Chicago

    Niall, thanks for this wonderful combination of memoir and thoughts on honesty, Orwell, and Kipling. And for giving us the link in your comment to “Resentment isn’t an Argument.”