Tag Archives: patrick chalmers

Farage: good in parts, awful in others

The Andrew Marr Show

Good comment piece in today’s Guardian newspaper. Couldn’t help wading into the comments section as per the following:

A more positive interpretation would be that the ineffectual attempts to destroy Ukip show the growing fragility of the carefully crafted management of what is sometimes called “the national conversation”. It suggests that in the future, there may be space for a more genuine plurality of ideas, views and politics than the carefully scripted, staged “rough and tumble” without content that masquerades as democracy in the rich world.

I certainly hope you’re right.

Farage is a funny and clever speaker on EU issues – this speech is a classic

I would never vote for him though, or UKIP, as on many issues he’s the same “free”-market champion as MPs in the Conservative, Labour and LibDem parties.

You could make the same analysis of treatment by the majority media, and the big three political parties, of the Scottish independence question.

This translates into a huge bias towards scare stories about the supposed consequences of voting yes versus a dearth of those that examine either the causes of an upsurge in independent thinking or the very positive possibilities of Scotland’s residents voting to govern themselves.

The model of Western “representative” democracy is dead – that’s what’s at stake in all of this. What we need is a radical reform of our existing systems – something that will need radically different media for us to do so.

Declaration of interest for moderators – I’ve written a book about the very same, as hotlinked in this post.


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Wikileaks and Assange – complicated but compulsory reading

I’ve let my thinking about Julian Assange and Wikileaks swing one way and then the other in the last 10 days – and make no apologies for what you might call being quick to change position but I’d rather say is being open minded. The work done by Wikileaks and its founder is so important that it bears time and attention to work out what’s going on as best we can.

Assange’s publisher Colin Robinson added some excellent perspective today in the Guardian, following on from what was a lengthy but revealing and insightful recent piece by would-be Assange ghost writer Andrew O’Hagan. It prompted me to write the following comment in response to the Guardian piece.

Great to have this counter point to O’Hagan’s piece – this is valuable material.

I disagree with you on this bit, the second sentence:

O’Hagan’s LRB piece is no part of an organised dirty tricks campaign. But by focusing as it does on Assange’s character defects, it ends up serving much the same purpose.

O’Hagan’s piece is essential to understanding where all the confusion arises from in all things Assange.

I read it as a huge admirer of what Assange has achieved. I concluded it thinking that Wikileaks and/or its founder were done – too difficult to work with to the point of taking themselves out of the equation on these issues.

Your piece has re-opened my thoughts on this – so I’m grateful for that.

Must get my copy of Cypherpunks.

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Psychology of human responses to climate change

I recently spoke at, and took part in, a UK event organised by the Climate Psychology called Fertile and Sterile Dialogue in the Climate Change Debate”.

It was a stimulating day, shared with emotionally smart people who think deeply about why we are so slow to respond to gathering evidence of human-induced climate change. I emerged feeling more encouraged than I have in years thinking about climate change issues. Maybe we humans will fashion some sort of workable response, even if it is messy, imperfect and slow.

My presentation focused on personal experiences of reporting on climate change, during global talks in Kyoto and Copenhagen but also plenty of places elsewhere. These are packaged together with my broader critique of media and governance in Fraudcast News – How Bad Journalism Supports Our Bogus Democracies.

Below is a 30-minute video synopsis of the day, put together with great skill by the Hedgerley Wood Channel.

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Brand value of democracy

Russell Brand has kicked up a welcome fuss with his responses to Jeremy Paxman’s recent questions in an interview about democracy and voting. His was a sparkling performance that showed the limitations of Paxman’s political thinking and highlighted the failures of the UK governance system. I would say the same is true of Western representative democracy as a whole.

The ex-junky comedian has seriously got his shit together.

For those who missed it, here’s the video.

More important for his arguments, going forward, is the response of official media outlets, by which I mean easily the vast majority of them. They show exactly the same failures of thinking and imagination as El Paco himself.

Their number would include people such as the Guardian’s Anne Perkins, who condescended to comment on the subject in the absurdly titled post “Russell Brand: mad, bad and dangerous for democracy?”

No Anne, he’s certainly not as dangerous as your thinking is.

I’ve written a far-unfunnier book than Brand would do covering the same sorts of points in specific detail based on personal experience. Its value is in being an insider account of why our media fail us.

It’s called Fraudcast News – How Bad Journalism Supports Our Bogus Democracies.

You can download a free PDF from here or buy a copy from here.

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Comment faire face au fascisme?

Yannis Youlountas parle de son film “Ne vivons plus comme des esclaves” – un documentaire qui fait le tour des actions, des journaux alternatifs, des radios rebelles et lieux d’occupation et d’autogestion qui se multiplient dans une Grèce en crise.

Pourquoi une mise en ligne gratuite? Youlountas souhaite que l’accès gratuit au film participera à faire réfléchir les gens et contribue à étendre le débat sur la nécessité de rompre avec la marchandisation du monde et de l’humain.

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The theatre of elections – US or otherwise

I have a lot of time for the work of Dan Gillmor, director of the Knight centre for digital media entrepreneurship at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite school of journalism and mass communication. Not least of my likes is his publishing model for his book Mediactive (2010), about how people can be empowered as new media users. It inspired my own approach to publishing Fraudcast News. Where I have reservations, though, is in Dan’s all-too-conventional perspective on the realities of political power, as demonstrated in this opinion piece he wrote for the Guardian’s Comment is free section.

The title, “America’s next president had better believe in restoring liberty”, pretty much encapsulates the problem running through what he presents as the imagined speech of a presidential candidate running in the 2016 election. It suggests any future candidate with a chance of winning under the hijacked electoral system might ever say such a thing and then implement it in the highly unlikely event of victory.

It would be good to get Dan to incorporate some of the analysis and suggestions of Fraudcast News into his own critique of media and government.

I tweeted him my comment and got a response out of him, as shown below, so here’s hoping.
This was my reply to his original piece:

All well and good but this imagined speech and its messages supposes that its audience members accept the legitimacy of the presidential election process itself.

Speaking as a Brit, I am unimpressed with both the US presidential election process and its (rough) equivalent in my own country’s general elections. Both are lame affairs that offer no real choices to their citizens, whatever the razzamatazz of their campaigns and the rhetoric of the candidates.

The crisis in governance – intimately linked to the legitimate questions you raise about liberty Dan – has come about precisely because our political systems have been hijacked by narrow, uber-wealthy elites. The participation of we the people in the related theatre that is elections has almost nothing to do with the political decision making that ensues.

You say, for example:

we’ve chosen to limit liberties in order – we’ve told ourselves – to have more safety or less trouble

Except “we” haven’t really chosen anything at all – it’s been largely foisted on us with little more say so than making some consumer choices that no one ever said were linked to a coordinated global programme of mass surveillance.

None of that is to even touch on the question of why anyone might want to attack the United States or its interests. Howard Zinn anyone?

I like your work Dan, and your book publishing model of free PDFs and paid-for hard copies inspired me to use the same approach in my own critique of journalism and democracy, but I think your reading of all this is way too conventional. No presidential candidate who made a speech such as this would get anywhere near becoming a viable contender under the current rules of the game.

That makes the exercise a bit pointless IMHO.

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Résistances – not your average documentary film festival

Frenchman François Manceaux, director of a documentary on the financial crisis in Portugal, explains what makes the annual Résistances film festival unique among its peers.

By placing questions of money and marketing behind overall content and coherence, the organisers produce an event that makes people think deeply about the realities of modern-day politics.

Manceaux’s film “Portugal, l’europe de l’incertitude” played during the 8-day event in a section dedicated to the exercise of power.


July 15, 2013 · 3:27 pm