It’s all there in black and white – or is it?

We all have secrets. Obviously I can’t tell you most of mine, but one I can reveal is that I used to train journalists. This was in the days when people read newspapers in order to find out what was going on.

In order to ensure that the reader got a fair crack of the whip (apologies if this now comes under the heading of violent and therefore forbidden language), we used to have an ABC of news writing. Oh, yes. Cutting edge stuff. The A stood for Accuracy; the B stood for Balance; and the C stood for Clarity.

We were aiming in those far-off innocent days to tell the whole truth, and if there were two views on a subject, to give them both. If there were many views, we tried to say so. Another word for this was Objectivity.

There are still some journalists who try to do this. But nowadays objectivity has largely gone out of the window. There are several reasons for this, but the primary one is that there are certain things we cannot say. 

At one extreme, this borders on the absurd. In America recently five black police officers murdered a man, who was also black. This was frustrating for many people because it fell outside what they considered the norm: white people being violent towards black people. Sadly, there is a history of that kind of thing in America. One US journalist wrote that the policemen killed the black men because they had “internalised white supremacy”. Another claimed that the murderers were “carrying water” for whiteness. 

Obviously this is rubbish. Sorry: I can’t say that. 

Nearer home, there are other things we cannot say – because they are not regarded as “sensible”. The consensus is against them. 

I have always reacted against the word “consensus”. To me it means I am not allowed to hear or talk about certain views because most people, or certain “experts”, don’t hold them. To me, this seems a great way of covering things up. And, as Tolstoy said, “most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives”. And ours. Tolstoy didn’t say that last bit.

If you can get the Government behind you, or the BBC, You’re made. People never get to hear the opposite views. As Bertrand Russell said, “There is no nonsense so arrant that it cannot be made the creed of the vast majority by adequate governmental action”. Or by the BBC abrogating its responsibility. Russell didn’t say that bit either.

So now no-one can put forward different views on climate change, and no-one can suggest that covid vaccinations may have adverse effects. All this can conveniently be lumped under the heading of “conspiracy theory” – instead of being considered as alternative points of view that we can consider. If that kind of talk were allowed, pillars of the way we live would tumble: the applecart would be turned over in a momentous way. Net zero, carbon capture, wind farms and lockdowns would all be pointless. Among many other things.

OK, I’m getting on a bit. It’s a new way of life. But to me all this abandonment of the ABC of journalism eats away at our freedom, like data manipulation and hidden cameras. It must be very hard for someone with basic, revolutionary, lively ideas of freedom and openness to work in journalism nowadays. I said that. There may be other points of view.