A week has passed and it amazes me that there has been as much surprise at – and media condemnation of – Damien McBride’s attempts to slur the opposition as there has been. Surely this sort of thing, in one form or another has been going on for years? I’m not suggesting I approve of McBride’s attempts to dismantle the reputations of the Tories, but this is far from the first time that it’s happened.
Gordon Brown may have expressed his apologies, may have “ensured that there are new rules so that this cannot happen again” but Westminster is a notorious whispering gallery and the press have been pecking up the strands of scandal dropped there for years to feather their nests. That is surely going to continue, outside official channels, as it has in the past.
It occurs to me that this frenzy of outrage is more an expression of fear on the part of the traditional media; fear that their sources may be decamping to the ultimate whispering gallery that is the internet, where rumour, conjecture and slander can live with considerably less fear of court action.
Bloggers like Guido Fawkes and Ian Dale are getting to the meat of a story more quickly, more effectively and with a wider reach than the analogue media; they must be chilled to the bone at their inability to lead the story. The papers are losing control and trust, hence their vicious reaction. If they can help halt the tittle-tattle’s flow towards the net, they will.
And this sort of diatribe has been part of the political mix forever. The metropolitan dinner party and lobby circles in Notting Hill, Hampstead and Westminster lap it up but, hypocritically, publicly disown it when outed.
The sad thing is that this latest round of technological, net-based spin and whisper is borne out of Barack Obama’s positive and hugely successful campaign to become President of the USA. But Britain’s political thinkers are so ingrained in negativity that they have inverted Obama’s campaign tactics and made something poisonous with them.
Consider the net a wire service, a huge, powerful story feed where everyone who wants it can get the message at high speed – delivered to their mobiles the moment it goes up if needs be. Psy Ops campaigns on the net are simple and easy to run, but it’s ludicrous and hypocritical of the media to suggest that this evil propaganda device is a new phenomenon. It’s just running at the speed of thought now.
The key soldiers in the Psy Ops political war on the web are ex-newspaper men and women and there are plenty of PR people sticking their members into the swill pit. But politics has always been a dirty, ruthless and cynical game and the only way out of this mess is for people is to stop glorying in the ruthless gossip and disinformation and take a more positive outlook on life, political or otherwise.
I’ve seen friends destroyed by the sort of tactics that McBride proposed to use – they haven’t been in public life for years and won’t be coming back unless a new attitude comes to the fore. They just don’t have the recourse to justice that the seriously wealthy have. There are a lot of casualties out there who’ll never get a fair crack of the whip despite the PCC.
What we need is a realignment of thought, not a few rules that are little more than sticking plaster placed over a crumbling dam.