Sometimes I unplug my brainstem from the non-stop crisis liveblog that has become our life in the UK and become briefly conscious of how the media, especially the BBC, has failed us on Brexit in a way that reminds me just a little bit of the collapse of Yugoslavia. (1/20)
To destroy a successful, stable multi-ethnic state takes years of preparation, before the fuse is lit and events accelerate out of control. The people who set the fire then shrug, act like it was all casus fortuitus, and we all have to react to the new facts on the ground.
A small minority of wreckers can easily unravel a state if they pick at the right threads. But the key is getting the media to ignore wider context / analysis & just focus on the ‘bang bang’ like our non-stop liveblogs - “OMG, Gove just got in his car!”
In ex-Yugo, Mark Thompson chronicled the painstaking way nationalist media gradually persuaded people to ignore their own lived experience of harmony & begin ‘othering’ their neighbours. It was a short hop from there to pre-emptive attacks. books.google.co.uk/books/about/Fo…
In UK, anti-EU ultras hunkered down after losing the argument in 1990’s & played a long game of de-stabilisation & media manipulation. This list of UK media lies about the EU is indicative of the effort they put into cultivating hostility: blogs.ec.europa.eu/ECintheUK/euro…
Many of today's loony commenters in the Telegraph & Mail (yes, I read their splutterings) are 100% convinced the EU is moments from total collapse, and that the UK should pre-emptively fight to hasten that imagined outcome, & not co-operate (£39bn! etc). This stuff works!
Ex-Yugo also had principled media like Oslobodenje & Yutel opposing nationalism even after the war began. But in UK, gutter press sets the agenda & BBC follows, neutral between lies/truth, but biased towards bold, simplistic positions, hence the boosting of Farage, Davis, et al.
The BBC seems not to realise its framing decisions shape, rather than reflect, public opinion. Farage = lovely TV, but @carolecardwalla = too complicated, bit moany, so ignore. Journos who know they are being lied to by non-credible bad actors never seem to call them out.
Has anyone seen a journo confront one of the wreckers along the lines of ‘you lied before the vote, why should we listen now?’ or ‘OK genius, please lay out your alternative plan’? These editorial choices mean they are players in the crisis, not just observers.
In ex-Yugo, BBC took an editorial decision to frame Bosnia as 3-way ethnic civil war (‘all sides guilty’), despite reality of multi-ethnic state trying to survive a genocidal aggression to divide it. Why? To simplify for their audience. Editors as participants, not observers.
Great BBC journos under fire would argue with their editors who asked them to balance reports with the ‘other side’. What is the ‘other side’ of besieging & shelling a city? If one side says kill them all & other says ‘please don’t’, the truth is not in the middle.
2 days before the war, ppl in Sarajevo told me there couldn’t be a war - unthinkable. 9mo later they were burning books for warmth. When a state collapses, it happens faster than you imagine, but liveblog ‘bang bang’ won’t tell you why. We are all the proverbial boiling frogs...
How did the UVF drag act get a say in removing my fundamental freedoms? Why are cretins like Fox, Francois, Davis taken seriously? Why are Spiked/RCP now everywhere? Telegenic, simplistic positions + media literacy gets the seat at the table that a wrecking minority needs to win.
Karadzic was laughed at. Funny hair. Mad poetry. But if they had their time again, Bosnians would no-platform the hell out of him. See Hemon’s eloquent critique of the media’s belief that they can somehow out-argue contemporary fascists: lithub.com/fascism-is-not…
Karadzic didn’t have a view of a better society. Like Bannon and the ERG Brexiteers, his was a negative vision of destroying co-existence, with little idea of what might come next. Serbia & Bosnia are still paying the price; only organised crime really won.
And the rewards for wrecking can be huge. One eg among many is JRM’s partner Odey, laughing all the way to the bank: thetimes.co.uk/article/it-s-b… - it is no coincidence Brexit was bankrolled by the nastiest super-rich ppl in UK. Where is the outrage?
Yet here we are, liveblogging the barely literate ‘no confidence’ letter of a fat bloke from Essex who I wouldn’t trust to service my car, whilst ignoring business leaders, civil society, 3m EU Brits, etc because they are soooo boring & keep saying the same thing. Not sexy!
UK is not Bosnia, of course. But neither was Bosnia til ‘92. There is a chance the UK will break up if it crashes out, and then who knows? But the media continue to give attention & credibility to the bad actors marching us towards the cliff.
Maybe I am getting old, but in a mature society that just about functions despite its inequalities, a good maxim for pols & media alike should be ‘first, do no harm.’ Media hunger for tweetable soundbites should not override responsibility to seek the truth. But maybe too late?
There's no conspiracy behind this, & plenty of decent people working hard in media. But the BBC's outdated version of balance is incredibly vulnerable to exploitation by bad actors, and no longer fit for purpose IMO. As with climate change, it let us down when most needed /END