Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Swift Boat Veterans for the Tories

This post is about 18 Doughty Street. Yes, yes, we're all obsessed leftist moonbats over here.

The thing is, living in a country where the Sun and the Mail are the two best selling daily newspapers, us on "the left"are quite used to having our views misrepresented, marginalised and ridiculed. We're used to not getting a fair hearing in the mainstream media.

(In recent weeks, I've submitted three comments to right of centre media websites; two to the Telegraph and one to the Sun. Not one of the three made it past their moderators. On the other hand, I've never had a comment removed from Comment is Free and it's awash with people expressing anti-Guardianista views. There may be an interesting point there about hypocrisy and defence of the right to free speech in the media.)

We tend to be less hostile to Auntie because she's obliged to be politically neutral. As a result, of course, the Beeb looks to be to the left of much of the rest of the media. Claiming that this is proof of a left bias at the BBC rather silly. This claim is part of a concerted effort to move the "centre" to the right. That's not to say there's a grand conspiracy at work, just a number of right wing media owners and editors all working towards a goal which they believe will benefit themselves and their companies.

This would be all well and good if Murdoch, Wade and Dacre played fair but they don't. For example, the Scum currently sells in Scotland for 15p and it has boobs. I know a fair few people who buy it, some for the sport, some for the boobs but I've never heard anyone say they buy it for the news. But there is a drip, drip, drip effect going on there which pushes a particular political agenda and ridicules another.

And it's worth restating the suggestible nature of the human condition. You, yes, you, are suggestible. Advertising is a multi-billion pound industry for a reason. Have a quick peek in your kitchen cupboards and check how many brand names are in there. Why didn't you buy the cheaper no brand option? We're all suggestible to some extent.

And it's the way that Wade and co. go about things which really damages any possibility of honest political debate. As I've already said, a key component is misrepresentation of the other view. Us "leftists" are well used to having our views turned into strawmen.

So, it's just a tiny bit irritating to see the same thing starting to happen on the interwebs.

Anyway, on Friday, Iain Dale wrote that:
Leftist bloggers seem to think that this blog and 18 Doughty Street are somehow funded by some shady Americans.
As a "leftist blogger" who has been writing about 18 Doughty Street, I decided to make it clear that I wasn't in that camp. I was also curious to know whether Iain could provide any examples of leftist bloggers making these claims:
Iain, could you could provide information as to which "leftist bloggers" have been writing about that? The only time I've ever seen that suggested was in anonymous comments made on your blog. These suggestions are very easy to refute and to ridicule.

In fact, in the spirit of "reaching out", if you point me at any leftist blogs making such claims, I'll happily tell them they're talking crap. 18 D... is funded by Stephan Shakespeare, Tory candidate for Colchester at the 1997 G.E. and ex-mayoral campaign manager for Jeffrey Archer. 18 D... is funded and run by British Conservatives, not Republicans or neo-cons.
Fair enough, I thought. Attempt at a little humour without being needlessly rude. To be fair to Iain, his reply was quick and courteous (he's also fixed the link to individual comments feature which is nice):
Curious Hamster, I have seen it on several sites over the last few weeks, ever since the onslaught on me started. People have queried both my funding and that of 18DS. Someone kept editing my Wikipedia entry to that effect too.

As you say, the only source of funding for 18 Doughty Street is indeed Stephan Shakespeare, something we were totally open about right from the start.
So, no examples for me to go poke fun at. I was disappointed. I did have a sniff around the history of Iain's Wikipedia page - didn't find any mention of funding but it was hardly an extensive search - but it was really the leftist bloggers making those claims I was interested in. Guess I'll just have to keep an eye out for these elusive creatures.

But Iain is quite correct about the openness of the declaration of funding for 18 Doughty Street. Sort of. The relevant section of the 18 Doughty Street FAQ says:
Doughty Media Limited is the company that owns www.18DoughtyStreet.com. The directors of the company are Stephan Shakespeare, Iain Dale, Tim Montgomerie and Donal Blaney. The company is wholly owned and funded by Stephan Shakespeare, the co-founder and Chief Innovations Officer of YouGov Plc.
And I've no reason to doubt that this information is absolutely true. Other information which might be considered relevant, however, makes no appearance.

It is perhaps understandable that Mr Shakespeare is no longer keen to remind people of his close asociation with Lord Archer but some sort of indication of his party political affiliations on that page might just add a little bit more credibility to Iain's claim of total openness. At the moment, the inclusion of his YouGov credentials and omission of his party political credendials creates an impression of political impartiality which isn't entirely accurate.

I also asked Iain another question but over-egged the pudding slightly in my attempt to keep my comment reasonably short:
On a related note, can you confirm that 18 Doughty Street placed an advertisement which stated that it would be "like Fox News"? (Please don't try to spin this; the report I read suggested that 18 D... is a vehicle for the promotion of British Conservatives in the way that Fox News is a vehicle for Republicans in the U.S.)
That report appeared in the Register (via). Iain's answer was interesting:
On your last point, we are not a news channel. However, if people want to say we are like Fox News, I have no objection to that at all. Fox News is highly professional. I am not aware of an advert that said that, and I think it is a fundamental misunderstanding of both the editorial role of Fox News and the Republican Party.

Fox News is totally independent of the Republican Party just as we are totally independent of the Conservative Party. We have a centre right editorial line, in the same way that the Daily Telegraph does. That does not make us slaves to the Conservative Party and more than the Mirror is a slave to the Labour Party.
"I am not aware..."

I'm starting to understand how Paxo feels.

As I said, I over-egged the pudding slightly on the connection between Fox News and the Republicans but "Fox News is totally independent of the Republican Party"? Crikey!

No doubt, the Swift Boat Veterans were totally independent of the Republican Party too.

But let's just repeat one of the lines above, written by 18 Doughty Street's director of scheduled programming:
We have a centre right editorial line, in the same way that the Daily Telegraph does.
Given that that newspaper is commonly called the Torygraph, I can't decide whether Iain is pulling my chain here or what. In any event, Iain's description of 18 Doughty Street's editorial line is not quite the same as the one in their FAQs:
Does 18 Doughty Street have a particular editorial line?

Yes. We are anti-establishment.

A large number of issues that matter to voters going about their everyday lives are deemed too sensitive to debate, or the major political parties have adopted a consensus that prevents fresh, innovative solutions being considered for problems that have plagued Britain for decades. We raise issues where an unhealthy consensus has developed (such as on state funding of political parties or on Britain’s membership of the EU) and we ask questions of our guests from a perspective from which they have rarely been questioned to date.
No mention of centre right there. Perhaps there should be. Just for the sake of openness and transparency.

(By the way, it surely can't be just us lefties who think it's bizarre that this venture, owned and staffed by conservatives, describes itself as anti-establishment. Unless I've misunderstood the whole point of conservatism, it's just silly. We establishment radicals should not stand for it...)

The fact is that 18 Doughty Street is owned and operated by members of the British Conservative Party. The specific purpose of the channel is to promote a right of centre agenda. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to conclude that promotion of this agenda will include attempts to help the Tories win the London mayoral election, other local elections and the big one; the next general election.

Of itself, there's nothing wrong with that. The way they've sought to present their agenda, however, doesn't inspire a great deal of confidence in the future of British politics.


Credit Beau Bo D’Or

Update 2

And another. Heh.


leon said...

Every time I read that 18DS is meant to be 'anti-establishment' I have to stifle a chuckle.

CuriousHamster said...

It is the strangest thing.

It's not quite in the same league as "Fair and Balanced" thought.

Bill said...

Yes, yes, we're all obsessed leftist moonbats over here.

To borrow a phrase, rofl, "You might very well think that; I could not possibly comment."

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