Thursday, September 04, 2003

Journalists and 'Civilians'

Boris Johnson on Hutton .....

There are two nations sundered from each other in modern Britain, and they are the members of the politico-journalistic complex, and the civilians.

Like the cockroaches capable of surviving nuclear fall-out, the first group can take almost any kind of verbal punishment. The other nation is composed of people who believe that words mean what they say, and who weigh their words, and feel eaten up with guilt if they make a mistake.

One nation is so habituated to spin, exaggeration, half-truth, suppressio veri and suggestio falsi that they are genuinely unable to tell when they are guilty of these practices themselves. The other nation is always amazed to learn the process by which their thoughts, often balanced and full of saving clauses, are converted into newspaperese.

This struck me a few years ago, after the Sunday Times had sent a reporter to join Hull Labour Party, in an attempt to get a story on John Prescott. John Humphrys on the R4 Today programme interviewed Prescott's agent, a true Old Labour man who was apoplectic with rage against the journalist.

"But surely" interrupted Humphrys, "he was only doing his job".

But to the Old Labour man, the journalist was a fellow human who had lied to him, misled him, tricked him, to get his story. He felt betrayed, that the journalist was despicable.

John Humphrys just didn't know what the fuss was about. He simply couldn't see the problem. And while Humphrys may be a smug, self-satisfied liberal hypocrite, he's not an evil person. He's just lived in that world too long.

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