Julian Barnes’s latest book, ‘The Sense of Ending’, at least attempts to show us how our memories can deceive us and how things were not always as we remember them. Nevertheless, if you can accept my anecdotal version of a conversation that took place in the senior common room in a certain British university at the beginning of the 80s, we might get this post started.
Lacking credibility as an academic, ego’s role was that of an observer. Not that that was resented and being an eclectic, auto-didactic learner, I was willing to listen attentively and pick up any scraps that might fall from my mentors’ mouths. Indeed, this approach had invariably saved me from having to read some big heavy book.
Anyway there they were, Tom, the university’s resident marxist, the humanist Alex, and John, whose riposte vis-a-vis of the wooly thinking popular historians, would invariably be a “how the fuck can we know what the people in England thought in 1884?” Of course, he was right, but, unfortunately, his à la Popper approach to things, inevitably resulted in him being unable to come to much of a conclusion and even then only one that was peppered with academic caution.
Nevertheless, credit where credit is due and all of three of them at least looked at a thesis and anti-thesis before they attempted to synthesize. Therefore, when they found themselves embroiled in a discussion on Conor Cruise O’Brien’s credibility as an academic all of their criticisms appeared to focus on O’Brien’s work for the Parish Pump. The quality papers of course; the ‘Observer’ and the ‘Irish Times’. However, in the ivory tower journalists are invariably seen as, although not exclusively so, opinionated buffoons and there they were coming to the conclusion that this, long time supporter of Zionism, British power in Ireland, censor, bully, anti-Republican and self publicist, was …. well, was hardly an academic.
Now, if that conclusion implies that journalism and journalists per se are being discredited, then that was the intention, even if it has to be conceded there are exceptions. For instance, John Pilger, Robert Fisk, and Greg Palast all write in the mainstream press. Nevertheless, while they are hardly on their own, good investigative journalism remains at a premium and it has for the most part nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the drivel that Daniel Finkelstein calls “quality journalism”. Or what about the following?
In “speculating” that Jeb Bush, the brother of George W Bush and son of George Bush Sr, might still run for the Republican nomination, the “journalist” Paul Harris, writes in the ‘Guardian’ the ex-governor of Florida, “is a beloved figure among many conservatives who see him as a strong and charismatic leader who is popular in the must-win swing state of Florida.” Well that might be true. However, would it not be better to point out that this guy after all knows how to make Florida swing in the conservative direction and, perhaps, a little mention of the election frauds that got his brother into power in 2000 and 2004? Quality journalism, my arse, and Harris actually has the audacity to quote CBS and Fox as his sources.
Of course, while John, Robert and Greg are in the minority, Paul and Daniel are in the majority. They are the mainstays of a “free press”, that bombards us with “facts”, which doesn’t ask questions, which, manufactures our consent, which lies and complies.
Finally, the last independent newspaper in Nazi Germany, the ‘Frankfurter Zeitung’ wasn’t banned until 1943, with Goebels placing it under his protection, while arguing that he would get bored if he only had the Amann press to read. Of course, one had to read between the lines to get the “real news”. However, having read the ‘Frankfurter Zeitung’, you can indeed read between the lines. Reading Harris this evening there is nothing implied, there is no nuance, there is no reading between the lines. At least we could attack the Zionist Conor Cruise and, indeed, can attack the Zionist Daniel Finkelstein, with Paul there is nothing even to attack. Well, nothing apart from the fact, that he is possibly a lazy bastard who cannot be bothered either getting or doing a proper job.