The Guardian: An Obituary

(This is a pre-publication of an obituary of The Guardian newspaper whose death is expected in 2017.)

Today, The Guardian newspaper surprised no-one by admitting it could no longer financially support a print version.  The terminal news was formally announced by Katharine Viner at an impromptu press conferences at the John Stuart Grill burger bar.

Reaction to the Guardian’s demise has been predictable.  Murdoch, Desmond, Rothermere and the Barclay Brothers have each enhanced security at their respective newspaper offices to ensure that no professional centrists get in, the Daily Mirror has hired a supercilious nutritionist for its staff canteen in expectation of new arrivals and James Harding of the BBC is checking that each of the new applicants went to the right private school.  However, the most popular response has been a shrug.

Below, I examine why The Guardian expired.

A newspaper’s political location

For marketing and sales purposes, any national newspaper needs a political location.  All right-of-centre nuances have been covered by Telegraph, Express, Mail, Sun and Times, and the Mirror has been the Labour party newspaper for many years.  Thus, over the past five decades, The Guardian sought a safe house in the (undefined) centre, often (though not always) with created support for the evolving Liberal, SDP, Liberal Democrat entity.

Beyond liberal safety The Guardian had occasionally observed a gap in the market to fill.  In the worst of the Thatcher years it was not unusual for left-thinking “educated” people to persuade themselves that buying The Guardian would be useful and, later, when Blair’s con trick exposed itself, a similar demographic thought it was an alternative to the Labour loyalist Mirror.  Was The Guardian really offering a left-wing mainstream newspaper alternative?  No.  Adept market analysis had led to a few seductive and comforting articles and editorials.  Of course, the target market was not all people with left-of-centre views, only those from a, er, middle-class demographic.  The last position The Guardian ever wished to adopt was support and encouragement for politically aware working class people.

Revelatory events

Two events in the current decade revealed the uselessness of The Guardian.  

The paper gave its full support to the Liberal Democrats for the 2010 general election.  As a follow-up to its identification of a market gap – the left-of-centre middle-class – The Guardian presented its choice of party as an alternative both to the Tories and to a Labour party that had become increasingly right-wing due to a combination of Blair’s authoritarianism and Brown’s reckless attitude to international finance.  The fact that Clegg became a mere lap-dog for Tories’ destruction cannot be dismissed as knowledge in hindsight.  The Guardian knew what it was promoting.

In July 2013, The Guardian destroyed files and computers related to Edward Snowden’s leaks of criminal behaviour by USA government agencies – Guardian destroys computers.  The destruction was at the request of GCHQ.  The Guardian had not been ordered to smash equipment and delete files by a court and none of its journalists were facing criminal charges.  It chose to take the action due to threats of criminal charges, rather than contest any (obviously erroneous and malicious) criminal charges.  Claims that the destruction was symbolic were made by the newspaper because copies of the files’ contents were stored elsewhere by other parties.  The only symbolism on show was dereliction of journalistic duty by a national newspaper kowtowing to unproven authority; in other words, abject cowardice.

Web-based challenge to printed media

The necessity for newspapers to adjust to competition from (mostly free) web-based news sites has existed for many years.  Consequences of the newcomers’ popularity have included the death of some newspapers – for example, The Independent.  Survival for printed newspapers required a narrower reporting scope, proportionally greater emphasis on entertainment and a certainty of political bias.  For right-wing newspapers, the adjustment has been easier because of their low level of interest in integrity, truth and balance, although The Times is struggling.  The Mirror continues as Labour mouthpiece, for now.  The rest – the centre – has been the worst hit by ease of access, no (or low) cost and immediacy of web-based news sites.  First The Independent and then The Guardian.  (The New Statesman had long since degraded into just another Spectator.)  

The vulnerability of centrist newspapers is a reflection of political decay of the centre and is also a consequence of the exposure of the papers’ duplicity.  There is no certainty of political position to cling to.  The aforesaid safe house of the centre that The Independent and The Guardian occupied has been throttled mercilessly by both right and left.  Its purpose and its ideology has become as ephemeral as the (democratically elected via proportional representation) emperor’s new clothes.  Liberal politics  – distinct from liberal philosophy – is defunct; real reform of capitalist exploitation is impossible and pretending to want to enact such reform is spotted quickly.  The centre is not a safe haven from the extremities, it is not a compromise and it is not capitalism with social responsibility; it is an anachronism.  Thus, the centre ground newspapers were unable to retreat to a definitive political stance in order to maintain a foothold faced with the competition from the online news sources.

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn was elected overwhelmingly as Labour leader on 12th September 2015.

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The liberal media had two options.

  1. Support a Labour leader who offered a genuine challenge to the Tories’ destruction and to the rise of far-right populism.
  2. Recoil in horror at the thought of a resurgence of socialist tendencies in mainstream politics.

Obviously, the second option was chosen because liberalism is a subset of conservatism.  Within the context of conservatism, liberalism opposes fascism, but liberalism will always favour conservatism over socialism.  (Simple guide to politicalisms.)  Thus, The Guardian failed to adopt a clear political position, a decision that led to its undoing.

Stance, tactics, tone and themes of liberal media opposition to Corbyn is mentioned in Reaction to Corbyn election, Liberal media and Corbyn, Liberal media’s use of events and Oldham by-election.  The theme that dominated The Guardian’s attacks on Corbyn was dismissal of the popularity of socialist tendency accompanied by a tone of condescension.  It was a stance informed by fear.  So strong was the fear that it prohibited intelligent analysis and didactic reasoning.  An example of this opposition to logic is the sheer desperation of Polly Toynbee’s laughable cringe-filled mock support for a non-entity called Owen Smith in which she describes the former Pfizer lobbyist as “soft left” – Toynbee on Owen Smith.  

Aping the normal tactics of the right-wing media, The Guardian was happy to indulge in deliberate invention, misrepresentation and rejection of logical reasoning.  Hadley Freeman in Freeman on Corbyn likened Corbyn and those who support him to Trump and his supporters.  Archie Bland took that anti-logic a step further likening Corbyn’s supporters to the extreme-right: “An elderly man was pictured in a T-shirt bearing the legend ‘Eradicate the right-wing Blairite vermin’, a phrase that will have drawn a shudder from anyone with a passing familiarity with the tropes of antisemitic and anti-immigrant prejudice” exclaimed Bland with a straight face in Bland on toxicity in politics.  

An adopted claim of anti-Semitism was one of The Guardian’s recurring anti-Corbyn themes.  Working hand-in-hand with the Progress sub-party, no lie was too absurd, no libel too embarrassing and no reductio too ad absurdum for this artificially created campaign.  Fuelled in part as a response to Corbyn’s support for Palestine and in part by sheer opportunism, the accusations of anti-Semitism were vitriolic and unashamedly unacquainted with facts.   Johnathan Freedland offered two of the prevailing twists of reason in Freedland on anti-Semitism in Labour.  That is, an attempt to disallow political criticism of Israel leading to libelous anti-Semitism accusations against those who do criticise, and a bizarre deduction that an anti-capitalist critique of international banking is somehow anti-Semitic because some the leading banks were founded by Jewish people.  That is an example of how basic was the dishonesty of the anti-Semitism claims against Corbyn and his supporters.  Daniel Boffey’s tortuous attempt to smear Corbyn via the latter’s acceptance of a donation (that didn’t actually happen) is almost Kafkaesque, if Kafka had been as bad at fiction as Dan Brown is.  In Boffey waffles the Observer’s “policy editor” complains about a “donation” from a pro-Palestinian organisation, whose founder stated that Hamas is not a terrorist organisation.  But Hamas isn’t such, it is the elected authority of Gaza.  And, the donation didn’t exist.  And, the entire article is bunkum of the dumbest type.  More nonsense was spouted by Joshua Simons in a collection of casual general statements such as “in the eyes of the leaders of the British far left, Israel’s occupation – for some, even Israel’s existence – offers a firm moral basis for antipathy towards Jews in Israel or, more ambitiously, towards Jews everywhere” and “antisemitism among the British left continues to be about capitalism too. The familiar image endures of the Jew as the master of usury, the sedentary banker and financier, the archetypal neoliberal even.”  These comments by Simons were plucked from thin air; they are absurd and he knows they are; his article was designed purely as a smear against Corbyn and his supporters.  “Labour is currently led by a team whose political identity is driven first and foremost by a visceral contempt for America and for Israel” he concluded, stupidly.  The nadir for this particular line of attack was the platform given to author Howard Jacobson upon which he first attacked Shami Chakrabarti’s professionalism and competence and then presented some of the most contrived and dishonest arguments about anti-Semitism ever written or spoken – Jacobson’s imagination.  The fact The Guardian chose to print such a smear-filled article revealed its quivering fear of Corbyn’s politics.

The blatant attacks were accompanied by confidence trickstering assisted by patronising faux support.  Toynbee declared “I support everything Corbyn says but can he just change it all to appease my friends in the Progress mob?” in Toynbee yeah but no but, and Freedland assured all that “I agree with Corbyn on immigration but can he change it to appease the UKIPpers?” in Freedland yeah but no but.

The motivation behind the liberal media’s relentless attacks on Corbyn and his supporters is a fear of what may follow if Corbyn is successful.  As stated above, nothing scares a liberal more than socialism.  This has been true since ‘On Liberty.’ 

Death of a newspaper is not welcome

The death of The Guardian is not welcome.  A wide variety of news sources is desirable and that includes the existence of a narrow centrist view.  The Independent continued as The I; it evolved.  The Guardian, buoyed by misplaced sense of its own worth, eschewed necessary change.  

Its political intransigence was its suicide note.

 

The Guardian: An Obituary

British Values? No, there are human values and Tory values – mutually exclusive

The Tory government has suggested that people working for public bodies should swear an oath to uphold “British values.”  The absurdity of this idea is clear.  Three obvious points about this scheme are

  • It’s a distraction from what the Tories are up to
  • Values are not nationality-dependent
  • Positive human values are the antithesis of Tory values

A distraction

As Christmas and the end of the year approach the awful effects of Tory destruction are increasing in size and in intensity.  A spurious debate about “British values” allows the media to be distracted from current Tory decisions and their consequences.  Tory acts and effects from just the last week include

  • Deliberate dismantling of the NHS continues unfettered.  Many operations scheduled to take place over the next few weeks have been postponed, due to unavailability of beds.  The bed shortage is partly caused by huge cuts in funding for social care.  (e.g. Cancelled NHS operations.)  
  • National funding for social care has been hacked by the Tories who are passing the cost onto councils.  Social care funding crisis
  • A damning review of patient deaths for people with mental health issues was published last week, conveniently just as parliament went to recess.  Review of deaths in mental health care
  • The rise in homelessness, primarily due to vicious benefit cuts, continues to rise exponentially.  Rise in homelessness
  • Huge unworkable cuts to funding for inner city schools were declared last week by the government.  School funding cuts
  • British military supply of banned weaponry has been exposed that has been used against the people of Yemen.  British weapons used against Yemen
  • Chronic under-funding and poor staff training has led to prison riots.
  • Government support for an incompetent rail operator has caused overcrowding, strikes and dangers to passenger safety.
  • Brexit continues to be an absolute shambles.

Human values are not dependent on nationality

It is deliberately fraudulent to claim any human value is remotely connected to nationality.  Human values may change over time and not all may be universal throughout the world but ascribing a national character to any such values has no logical or reasoned basis.

Appending a nation as a qualifier to human values is simultaneously exclusive and restrictive.  It excludes people from other nations as an “other” and it restricts the values of those resident in the nation.  The Tory motivation for suggesting the concept of “British values” is precisely to encourage a xenophobic attitude to people in other countries and to encourage bigotry toward British people who don’t wish to be restricted by arbitrary definitions.

It is a wholly anti-intellectual and unhuman.  It stinks of 19th century imperialism.

Human values are opposite to Tory values

Tory values are confidence tricks, fraud, abuse, bigotry, division, theft, blackmail, bribery, corruption, violence and cold-hearted unrestrained greed.

Human values are the opposite.

 

British Values? No, there are human values and Tory values – mutually exclusive

Institute of Economic Affairs

(Website: Institute of Economic Affairs)

“Our mission is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems.”

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) is a cesspit brimming with rancid cheerleaders for soulless anti-society free market thuggery.  

IEA main objectives are the promotion of an extreme free-market approach to fiscal funding of essential public services and the removal of all workers’ rights.  The purpose of both is to feed the chancers, gamblers, confidence tricksters and con artists of the financial gangster cadres, at the expense of the majority of the people.  The strongest theme in IEA literature and policy is support for the destruction of the NHS.

The tone of the IEA literature is part pseudo-academic claptrap, part “alt-right” blog.  It is lazy verbal trickery that pretends to analyse an issue and, remarkably, always concludes that less public funding and/or gross reductions in employees’ rights are the solution.  Imagine the Kray Twins employing a conman to explain how a violent protection racket is a desirable objective for those being “protected.”  There is arrogant and smug heartlessness throughout.  

An example of IEA’s political ideology and of its mode of communication is Kristian Niemietz’s plea for the NHS to be dismantled.  His paper Universal Healthcare without the NHS pretends to be an academic study of the history of the NHS with comparisons to health services in other countries.  It is a concoction of selective analyses and imaginative deductions designed to attain the conclusion that all NHS services should be given away wholly to private parasites.  The fact that he calls patients “consumers” tells you all you need to know.  In an accompanying blog that acts as a pointer to the paper – Niemietz blog, he displays the petulant attitudes that permeate IEA’s mode of communication: “I decided to make life a bit easier for the Twittermob that normally comes out, wielding the virtual pitchforks, when I publish something on healthcare,” Niemietz states followed by a selection of short retorts he has encountered.

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Neil Record, Mark Littlewood and Kristian Niemietz

The chairman of IEA is Neil Record.  He founded and chairs Record plc, a company that creates wealth for its clients via currency gambling and hedging.  That is, a company rammed right in the decaying anus of exploitative capitalist gangsterism.

Director General Mark Littlewood pops up on TV and radio frequently.  He is deliberately childishly provocative.  Other faces that might be seen in the media are listed here: IEA Staff.

Despicable Donors

As the table on page 7 of a Transparify report into think-tank donor transparency shows, IEA keeps its financial backers secret.  Alongside three other cheerleaders for public services destruction, Adam Smith Institute, Centre for Policy Studies and Policy Exchange, IEA doesn’t want the public, who are the target of its ideology, to know which tax-dodging organised international thieves and fraudsters are employing PR machines like the IEA.

Links to brief descriptions of other right-wing think-tanks

Institute of Economic Affairs

Prevent’s PR defence is transparent

An extreme racist anti-Semitic far-right gang called National Action is due to be proscribed by the home secretary.  The gang is known for aping the slogans and ideology of Hitler’s NAZI party and is a despicable and hate-filled group.

Prevent has claimed some of the credit for the investigation into National Action.  The Independent website gave a platform to “Prevent coordinator” Will Baldet wherein he congratulated himself and Prevent on their actions against far-right groups and individuals – Will Baldet Indy.  Baldet presented his article as if in response to criticism of Prevent; that is, criticism that claimed that Prevent did not focus enough on the far-right. 

Such (valid) criticism is part of a general observation that the purpose of Prevent is to stifle political views that the government doesn’t like.  There are many examples of how the Prevent strategy is used to attack radical views including environmental protesters (with Caroline Lucas MP) – Prevent Lucas, anti-fracking campaigners – Prevent anti-fracking and supporters of Palestine – Prevent Palestine.  

However, the main target of Prevent has always been clear.  This and the intent and the practice of Prevent are explained by Jahangir Mohammed and Dr Adnan Siddiqui in their excellent and thorough report for CAGE:  CAGE Prevent report.  Two salient points in the report neatly describe Prevent: 

“PREVENT is a strategy that seeks to eliminate alternative political discourse about western foreign policy amongst Muslims, even amongst children. It is a policy to silence Muslims and pacify/de-politicise their faith. In short it criminalises political dissent or alternative political thought.”

“PREVENT has more to do with censorship and exclusion of certain political and religious views from public life, reforming peoples perceived ideas, beliefs and behaviours, than it has to do with violence.”

Baldet’s aforecited defence of Prevent can be summarised as: Don’t fret about Prevent’s constant extra-judicial intrusions and the attacks on radical politics, look how we stopped a few far-right kids from being far-right.  He mentions a few Prevent cases wherein young far-right supporters were persuaded to change their outlook.  That is commendable, but such a process does not need the behemoth of the Prevent strategy.  Baldet is using those few cases of stopping youngsters from glorifying hatred as justification for the entire Prevent machine.  

Bizarrely, he even posits Prevent as an antidote to Islamophobic media.

Persistent media stories placing undue focus on Islamist terrorist attacks in Europe and beyond… That fuels anger online towards our Muslim communities.

The above comment is true, but it is also exactly the purpose of Prevent as the CAGE report demonstrates.  For Baldet to distance Prevent from (and place it in partial opposition to) an intent that it actually shares is very dishonest.  

Baldet is aware of the erudite criticism of Prevent and makes a peremptory dig at “groups” who expose its agenda.

…a cadre of UK groups who openly deter our efforts to prevent terrorism.

You don’t need to be Hercule Poirot to deduce that CAGE are one of the “UK groups” to which he refers.

The closing paragraph in Baldet’s article is a self-revealing preçis of why he wrote it.

For all the hyperbole that surrounds the Prevent strategy, the one  fact that is missing from the debate is simply this: it works. It is the stories like this you don’t often get to hear; the lives that have been saved.

TRANSLATION: The coherent arguments pointing out the insidious and sinister nature of Prevent can be refuted with a few examples of kids with offensive views being educated.

It is clumsy PR that insults the public’s intelligence and it is a ready-made spurious response to anyone who decries Prevent: If you criticise Prevent then Baldet and his cronies will accuse you of not wanting to tackle extreme right wing gangs.  

(Sir) Lynton Crosby would approve of this verbal manœuvring.  (A brief summary of Crosby’s methodology: Sir Lynton Crosby)

Prevent’s PR defence is transparent

Short simple guide to modern political ideologies

Conservatism

Management of the economy in a democratic system that seeks to convey wealth from the many to a small elite.  Due to the necessity to win elections a conservative government directs blame for financial difficulties from itself onto imagined (false) enemies.

Liberalism

A variant of, and more modern version of, conservatism that seeks a similar objective but includes sops to pseudo-intellectual middle-class as bribes and, thus, as distractions.

Fascism

Extreme variant of conservatism that eschews democracy and, hence, has greater reliance on distraction techniques such as promotion and enaction of prejudices usually including violent racism, sexism and homophobia.

Capitalism

(Mis)management of the international economy devised and maintained (by variants of conservatism) in order to serve a tiny elite at the expense of everyone else.  Key features of capitalism are an ongoing and increasing necessity to con and coerce people into supporting governments that maintain it, a requirement to continually seek new markets to exploit leading to inevitable collapse, and offshore vessels of wealth – tax havens – to ensure the beneficiaries can dodge the consequences of their exploitation.

Socialism

Management of the international economy that serves everyone and denies capitalist exploitation.  Key facets include genuine opportunities for anyone to pursue any career, occupation or objective, absolute commitment to normal human rights to education, housing, healthcare and welfare, and knowledge of the clear distinction between enterprise and exploitation.

Communism

A system of government that maintains socialism.  To be effective communism excludes the con-trick of parliamentary and/or congressional “democracy.”

Post script: Some nonsense terminology

 

Democratic Socialism is a contradiction.  Socialism cannot be maintained if held back by antiquated cod democracy.

Anarchism belongs in the Stone Age.

Centrism does not exist.  There is no centre in politics.  There is a gap, a chasm.  Any claim to be in the centre is intrinsically dishonest.

Military Dictatorships are fascist states in which, like all conservative states, the power lies with the capitalist minority.  The military are merely employees.  To describe such a system as a military dictatorship is deliberate misdirection.

 

 

Short simple guide to modern political ideologies

Tom Watson will save us all from fake news

Tom Watson, authorised by nothing more than his moment in the sun (no pun intended) questioning the evil one Rupert Murdoch live on TV at the DCMS select committee, has decided that he shall be the investigator of fake news.  Caped-up, psyched-up and, obviously, well caked-up, Watson and his trusted side-kick Michael Dugher intend to save us all from having our defenceless minds being infiltrated, infested and assimilated by dastardly wrongdoers telling us stuff that isn’t true.

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How could we survive without this superhero twosome?  Personally, I believe everything I read, just like everyone else does.  No-one has any concept of satire or mock-taking or story-telling or wit or sarcasm or mischievousness.  We have no imagination and always assume everyone who writes something has no imagination. Of course, that is all sarcasm.  I made it up.  But, the deeply-dippy duo Watson and Dugher are unable to accept that almost all people are intelligent and experienced enough to spot “fake” news instantaneously.  

An ingrained facet of elitist politics, part nature, part nurture, is to choose to assume that the majority of the public, an other to the elite’s elevated existence, are neither bright nor discerning.  We are denied the capacity to make informed, logical decisions.  We must be led and that means we must be protected.  That is, censorship.  Fake news, heavily biased opinion presented as news and rabble-rousing articles have been part of civilised society for centuries.  The consumption of it has always been optional, and its distance from truth and facts has always been clear.  No-one needs to be protected.  

The aforesaid pompous pair are committed to their crusade.  A synopsis of the scope of their inquiry into fake news is here: Watson Fake News Inquiry.  The wording of the intent of the inquiry needs examination and response.  (Quotes from the synopsis are in italics.)

It will ask if social media platforms could, or should, take steps to ensure users are exposed to a greater diversity of views, and whether they have a responsibility to prevent fabricated content being widely shared.”  

Yes, that is an exact word-for-word quote of Tom Watson, Labour MP, and not a memo from the office of Erdogan or Jung-Un.  It should always, without exception, be the user’s choice how great a diversity of views that she or he encounters.  It could be the entire range of political views or it could be a single rigidly defined political view.  It is the choice of the person using the social media platform and should never be restricted or controlled by an arbitrary spurious authority, whether that is the platform host or a politician.  For Watson to ask that the owners of a platform decide what is fabricated news, and what is not, is to assign a heap of power to an entity that cannot be trusted with it.  The power of that decision should be left to the user.

It (the enquiry) will explore whether they (social media platforms) can make editorial decisions without being accused of political bias.

They cannot do that, and nor can Tom Watson.  Every word spoken or written about politics is partly informed by bias, as it should be.  The user’s own bias will determine what she or he chooses to read.  No third party should interfere with that choice.

The remainder of the inquiry abstract is a series of questions to which Watson suggests people can provide answers as contributions to the inquiry.  All the questions are wordy: Watson is keen to direct the thought-process of the respondents so that each question is answered subject to a myriad of presumptions.

What distinctions should we make between “fake news”, “clickbait” and sloppy or inaccurate journalism?

Is Watson asking the respondents to define what they think “fake news” is?  If so, why does he suggest exclusions.  If he is requesting a definition of “fake news” why is he holding an “inquiry” into “fake news?”  Surely, it is incorrect nomenclature to describe a process as an inquiry if the topic being inquired into isn’t even defined?  As an aside, if, for example, I encountered an imaginative article on, say, Progress Online website that wholly misrepresented the views or actions of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would that be “fake news”, “clickbait” or “sloppy and inaccurate journalism?” 

What are the financial and other incentives in creating “fake news” and how might these be reduced or removed?

This is an odd question because most people who write like to get paid for it, and most websites seek income of some sort.

What is the role of social media “gatekeepers” such as Facebook and Twitter in creating so-called “filter bubbles” in which the news material people see all comes from the same political perspective, and in skewing people’s news consumption in the direction of sources which are more partisan and/or less reliable?

There is so much direction in this question.  Two gross assumptions are made in the question in order to direct the respondent into answering within boundaries declared by Watson.  First, the word “gatekeepers” ascribes power to the platforms that users should not recognise.  All social media platforms, however they may have been designed, are used how the users wish to use them.  The only restrictions should be functionality, that is, technical restrictions.  Watson, however, wants to infuse the perspective that the platforms are moral and ethical guardians.  The second gross assumption that Watson makes is, as noted earlier, that he posits as undesirable that some users only encounter political views similar to those they hold.  It is the user’s choice.  It is neither good nor bad if a user wishes to only see similar political views to her or his own.

Could social media companies do more to ensure that news material shared on their platforms is reliable, or to make it easier for unreliable material to be flagged as such or removed? Could users be given more power to fact-check and/or raise concerns about fake news?

Watson suggests that social media companies can decide on the reliability of news.  There is absolutely no reason why any such company is more able to do that than any user of its platform.  Users fact-check content all the time; they do not need “power to fact-check” as that means giving some users power on what other users can read.

Could social media companies do more to ensure that users see more balanced news material, and if so is this desirable?

This is definitely not desirable.  Watson is persisting with his theme of presenting the social media companies as having the sense to make decisions that he feels the user cannot make.

What role can/should search engines play in checking the reliability of news-related material and should reliability play a role in prominence in search results?

Watson thinks search engines can have some ultra level of common sense that we mere users cannot attain.

How have changes in the way the public consumes news, especially the rise of social media, affected the way news is covered by journalists?

A simple forced assumption made here: The question doesn’t ask if journalists methods have been affected by social media, it just states they have been.  Clearly, any lack of quality in journalism is the fault of journalists and their employers; to blame social media is to excuse poor journalism.

What impact are declining sales and advertising revenues having on the ability of news organisations to invest in journalism, and on the quality and range of news coverage?

More blame attached to social media: Watson suggests that the future of journalism is at stake.

What are the values reflected in the editorial and community standards required by social media platforms, and what is the relationship of those standards with the regulatory environment around UK press and broadcast media?

The values named above are whatever the users of a particular platform decide they will be as said values develop over time determined by how users behave and use the platform.  There should not be any relationship between social media “values” and any regulations for press and broadcast media.  Juxtaposing those two concepts is no more useful than asking if every social verbal conversation should abide by, say, parliamentary rules.  It is insidious of Watson to offer this juxtaposition as a possibility to be considered.

How can we encourage media consumers to think critically about the reliability of the news sources they read and share?

This is such an offensively condescending question.  Watson’s contempt for the intelligence, reason and cognitive abilities of the public is glaring in its pomposity and peremptory superciliousness.

What is the role of education in promoting critical thinking and media literacy, and who can play a part in this?

I am sure that “critical thinking” is a module of many educational courses.  Teachers are the best people to ask to do this as they do it already.

What impact, if any, is “fake news” having on political discourse in the UK and elsewhere?

It encourages challenge to opinions.  That is, it is beneficial because the recipients use their brains to analyse, dissect, correct, respond to and/or dismiss.

Does the government have any role to play in addressing the problem of “fake news”?

No.

True intent of the fake news inquiry

As stated above, users are able to decide how to use any social media platform and how to interact with any content thereon.  Not only is there no need for the platform hosts to guide users with respect to accuracy of news but also such guidance is, by nature, censorship that is extremely unwelcome.  

Watson and Dugher are pursuing an aim that is not information gathering but is a laughable exercise in attempted coercion that is doomed to fail.  The leading questions, packed full of forced assumptions, are designed to guide the answers.  But, just as fake news is spotted easily by almost all social media users, so is the undynamic duo’s clumsy plan.  

So, what is the intent of the fake news inquiry?  The simple answer is support for censorship of social media discourse.  Nothing scares the elite more than the public talking to each other about political issues.  

big-brother-1984

Tom Watson will save us all from fake news