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June 18, 2002 8:44 AM   Subscribe

British papers seem to be the only place we can find out what goes on in the US these days. Probably has to do with the liberal media, wouldn't you say?
posted by nofundy (36 comments total)

 
Sad & scary story, but it does have quite a funny little quote in it:

"Over yonder side is contaminated and this side is fit for folks to live ?" And what have we got here? Well, I'll be doggone if it's not a school, with children playing in the smell. The people who run these things, they give our kids a new pair of sneakers and go to church and think they're going to heaven. But at the pearly gates, they're going to find St Peter in his Afro saying: "Whassup cuz? Seems like you're trying to get into the wrong place."

It's always good to find a smile where you can.
posted by Blake at 8:57 AM on June 18, 2002


Er eh em, The Guardian isn't where I go for my news. From what people in the UK tell me, it's one step away from tabloid. For my liberal media fix I go to the Washington Post.
posted by geoff. at 9:03 AM on June 18, 2002


From what people in the UK tell me, it's one step away from tabloid.

Which people are you talking to? Staffers at the Daily Mail?
posted by riviera at 9:08 AM on June 18, 2002


Rivera, I'm beginning to have a suspicion about you.
posted by y2karl at 9:31 AM on June 18, 2002


I don't really want to be a Grundiad flag waver but 'one step away from a tabloid'?!?

riviera: How many times do you have to be warned about your foul language on MeFi? ;-)
posted by i_cola at 9:35 AM on June 18, 2002


Geoff

Er eh em, The Guardian isn't where I go for my news. From what people in the UK tell me, it's one step away from tabloid.


I'm bored and working my notice, so just for fun, here's a UK media analyst's perspective on UK (week) dailies:

The Guardian - mild left wing, usually iconoclastic and very, very boring. Journalism is typically fairly objective and reliable though. Circulation boosted loads by market-leading recruitment section.

The Times - has no personality at all, usually centrist/faintly right wing, okay business section and good tabloid section. Tends to shoot from the hip with news coverage (although not as much as the Sunday Times...) - had a couple of uncomfortable "scoops" recently, notably regarding the Zimbabwean journalist Basildon Peta, for which they were accused of propping up Mugabe. Used to have a good sports section, but has gone downhill recently.

DailyTelegraph - fusty, read by red-faced, blustering colonels and city bankers. Quite right wing but tries to be objective (at least in comparison to the Daily Mail...). Good business section and supplements, okay sports section. Largest circulation of all daily broadsheets.

The Independent - old school liberal, focuses on personality journalism, dreadful circulation (everyone must read it online...) Good, but idiosyncratic sports section. Usually an *interesting* read, even if you don't agree with it.

The Express - Hahaha! Sorry, that wasn't constructive was it? Glorified gossip rag that falls all over itself trying not to offend anyone.

The Mail - An absolute cliche, but The Mail consistently surprises me with just how mean-spirited and pucker-mouthed it can be. Hates Tony Blair/New Labour with a passion that borders on the religious, and I think they would do *literally* anything to harm or otherwise besmirch them (not that they need to try too hard...) It's the largest circulation "quality tabloid" by a long way, a controversial theory is that this is because of its market-leading "Femail" section, for which many women buy it, then throw the frothing gutter politics section away.

The Mirror - (Sorry Riviera...) Fancies itself as the thinking man's Today. Reputation for being old school Labour tabloid, but has fallen very much "on message" with New Labour in my experience. Circulation lagging some way behind The Sun (but, rumour has it, is supposedly losing the red top and "rebranding" as a Mail/Express competitor...)

The Sun - Biggest selling daily in the country. Has a largely self-propogated reputation for the best sports coverage for yer man in the street, and laughably fancies itself as a political kingmaker. Traditionally Thatcherite (mostly due to its political editor, Trevor Kavanagh, who is a longterm Maggie baton-twirler), but seems to have an uncomfortable arrangment with the Labour party. All that plus tits and the best headlines in the world ("No nobby bobby gets a jobby", "He used to be wacko's best friend, but now he hasn't got two 'ape knees' to rub together"... I could go on all day...)
posted by bifter at 9:36 AM on June 18, 2002


Actually, from what people in the UK tell me, it's one of, if not the best, paper in that country. From the time I spent in tat country, I agree, although it's Sunday edition isn't as good as it should be.

Regardless, having grown up in Texas and seeing what that SOB did to that state, especially around my hometown of Houston, I would like say that this article is spot on: the corruption and the influencing and the absolute disregard these people have for the environment is disgusting.
posted by thewittyname at 9:41 AM on June 18, 2002


bifter: That's a pretty accurate summary of the British press. However, I prefer Jim Hacker's quote in Yes, Prime Minister:

Jim: I know exactly who reads the papers. The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country. The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country. The Times is read by people who actually do run the country. The Daily Mirror is read by the wives of the people who run the country. The Financial Times is read by people who own the country. The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country. The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.
Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about people who read the Sun?
Bernard: Sun readers don't care who runs the country as long as she's got big tits.
posted by salmacis at 10:42 AM on June 18, 2002


it's Sunday edition isn't as good as it should be

It's Sunday edition isn't. Well, it is and it isn't. The Guardian becomes The Observer just for Sunday but effectively has an entirely different staff for that day.

They're both notorious for spelling mistakes though. That's why you'll ocassionally see UK contributers refer to it as The Grauniad. That name comes from Private Eye which takes the rip out of any aspect of British society, the newspapers, courts and politicians especially.

To add to bifters excellent summary, only The Independent has decent Rugby League coverage.
posted by vbfg at 10:43 AM on June 18, 2002


The Mail ... SNIP ... It's the largest circulation "quality tabloid" by a long way, a controversial theory is that this is because of its market-leading "Femail" section, for which many women buy it, then throw the frothing gutter politics section away.

It also has an excellent small crossword. In my first job at a local community college I shared a coffee area with three guys who worked for the horticultural bit of the college. All three of them were Socialist Worker's Party members and all three of them bought the Mail every day just for the crossword. I read the Fred Bassett cartoon and then they went on the compost heap.
posted by vbfg at 10:47 AM on June 18, 2002


y2karl: a few colleagues of mine shared an office with that woman when she was a Mirror columnist. And before she was a recovering alkie. You really don't wanna know.
posted by riviera at 11:06 AM on June 18, 2002


You can learn everything you need to know about the paper from this article's subhead: "Big oil... big politics... little people." You know its going to follow a narrative template right out of the 1930s socialist notebook, and sure enough it does. Belching smokestacks, evil millionaires, pastoral nostalgia. People never get tired of the old stereotypes.
posted by Faze at 11:12 AM on June 18, 2002


Faze,

Are you saying none of this is true? That it is all just "socialist notebook" press? Can you effectively refute even one assertion this article makes?
posted by nofundy at 11:22 AM on June 18, 2002


The Guardian becomes The Observer just for Sunday but effectively has an entirely different staff for that day.

'Effectively' is a good way of putting it, especially if you hear stories of the newsdesk turf wars between the Graun, Obs, and the Graun Unlimited web team. Though it's a bit unfair: the Observer has its own staff working right through the week, it's just that they only publish on a Sunday. Unlike many broadsheets, which share staff. (Mainly because the Obs only went under Graun control a decade ago, and there's still that independent spirit.) A mate at the Obs was telling me about how they're rejigging themselves somewhere between a traditional Sunday and something like the New Statesman: dodging the news cycle a bit more. You takes your choice.

As for the Mirror, well, the newsy relaunch is like waiting for Godot: the inevitable celebrity stories come along instead, and it's back to the drawing board.

Looking up: actually, Faze, you can't tell from the subhed. The piece was in the Obs's colour magazine, and it was as much a pictorial of 'being poor in America's richest state' (if I remember the cover) and all the more effective for foregrounding the pictures -- yes, of people living in the shadow of smokestacks -- over the copy. It was the first time I'd seen mainstream British reporting on Texas that didn't concentrate on shiny Enron offices or Bush's fake cowboy ranch or someone on death row.
posted by riviera at 11:25 AM on June 18, 2002


Thanks for that overview biffer.

I guess I stand with my tail between my legs. I remember mentioning a Guardian article and he blew it off and talked about how bias it was. I always thought since then that it was all America bashing and went for the "Readers don't like America? Then we'll print more anti-American angles", I guess not. I'm going to have to start reading the Guardian more now.
posted by geoff. at 11:57 AM on June 18, 2002


Wot, no Daily Star bifta? Where else would a working man go for a decent dose of tits over breakfast.

Also, describing The Guardian as boring, but the Independent as not seems a bit odd...
posted by kerplunk at 12:05 PM on June 18, 2002


Nofundy, it's not the facts. It's their rhetorical marshalling into a narrative of oppression and privilege. Parallel facts, no less true, could be assembled into a narrative demonstrating some other political point just as easily. Just as an exercise, the story might be re-written as a parable of how American capitalism provides needed goods and services, how it self-polices misconduct in corporate offices, and the selflessness of millionaires in public service.
posted by Faze at 12:39 PM on June 18, 2002


Read the Guardian and you will find at least one US bashing article every day. Sometimes it's dead on but very often the anti-American columnists are just spitting it out for the hell of it. As an American living in the UK I can't even read it anymore.
posted by gfrobe at 12:48 PM on June 18, 2002


The Guardian - mild left wing, usually iconoclastic and very, very boring. Journalism is typically fairly objective and reliable though.

<sarcasm>And this article was all about objectivity...</sarcasm>
posted by RevGreg at 1:09 PM on June 18, 2002


gfrobe: Works both ways with most media. Welcome to the planet.
posted by i_cola at 2:17 PM on June 18, 2002


As an American living in the UK I can't even read it anymore.

Do you walk around with your fingers in your ears, too? I hope you don't elbow too many people in the street.

Just as an exercise, the story might be re-written as a parable of how American capitalism provides needed goods and services, how it self-polices misconduct in corporate offices, and the selflessness of millionaires in public service.
It's all how you look at the tape... for instance, if you play it backwards you'll see us help [Rodney] King up and send him on his way.
I'd like to see that rewrite by noon tomorrow.
posted by riviera at 2:24 PM on June 18, 2002


The Independent also has a brilliant Obituaries section - the creativity involved in the descriptions of people's lifetime activities, foibles and personalities is really outstanding.

And generally, yes, while people might not like what The Guardian says, it does tend to be one of the more objective of the British papers. Its perceived anti-American bias is, I think, just part of its wider aim to expose what should be exposed in any regime or nation. For instance, it's currently being prosecuted by Zimbabwe for having allegedly "published falsehoods" about the State there in its online version. Comment about that (yes, it's from The Guardian) is here. And as it's a case that could set international precedents for the prosecution of web content, maybe it ought to be a FPP.
posted by jonpollard at 2:30 PM on June 18, 2002


Pardon the derail, but is anyone else listening to John LeCarre reading Goodbye to All That on BBC Overseas? The local NPR station carries it from midnight to 3 AM here & I've been waking up in WW I the last couple of nights...
posted by y2karl at 2:37 PM on June 18, 2002


RevGreg: Specifically, what was wrong with the article?
posted by salmacis at 2:38 PM on June 18, 2002


i like in houston. the houston business alliance is real, from what i've heard on the radio, and they did sorta steal some money from a government grant meant to go to wetlands conservation. they say they will use the money for ozone research, but no one really believes that. so i dunno, i have heard some of this info in other places though is the point :) also, there is no highway 255 though, there is a 225, but it doesn't cross the ship channel... here is a map (the water is the ship channel) it is a very industrial area though. and every british person i have seen seems baffled by our road system anyway...
posted by rhyax at 2:54 PM on June 18, 2002


err, i live in houston... spellcheck failed me!
posted by rhyax at 2:55 PM on June 18, 2002


RevGreg: Specifically, what was wrong with the article?

Oh, nothing is wrong the article at all. The author started out with an opinion and followed it through very well and avoided bringing up any opinions or ideas that contridicted his own. Perfect execution. I just meant that calling such journalism objective (uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices) is a bit of a stretch...
posted by RevGreg at 3:46 PM on June 18, 2002


Good spot, rhyax: I suspect that this makes the same error.

(I remember getting called up a few years back by a fact-checker friend-of-a-friend on the New Yorker, to see whether a street address made sense. Now that's something US newsdesks do best: scrape out the silly errors, and keep scraping.)
posted by riviera at 3:49 PM on June 18, 2002


A general comment:

In a way nofundy is both infinitely right and completely wrong. I'm glad the European press is picking up stories the US media is too affair or too into their “I love Bush” fest to run. However, the most of the time European media (with some exceptions) is totally bias and acts with little regard to fairness or journalistic ethics (Please note: my experience is limited to the UK and Italy). The newspapers I read in the UK always seemed toplay to the lowest common denominator by reporting like they are the judge, jury and executioner with tabloid like headlines (such as calling soccer hooligans in Turkey "Murders" and several headlines that celebrated criminal convictions with much joy). I also found that most (if not all) the newspapers and media outlets in Italy were controlled by the government or run by political groups for the purpose of propaganda. Perhaps my rant should not apply to the Guardian, but the headline "Dark heart of the American dream" seems very inflammatory and article disregards any other viewpoint. Further the last paragraph seems to be in the story to simply throw an accusation without any context or hard facts. I don’t think that this article should have been run as a news story and his even borderline for a magazine feature piece.

Otherwise a good story, I wish that I could read about this type off stuff more often in the US (The NY Times has run a pieces like this one). Perhaps it belongs in the opinion or comment section.
posted by Bag Man at 8:41 AM on June 19, 2002


Thanks for the comments bag man.
I personally find that (if not all) media outlets in the US are controlled by the government or run by extensions of political groups for the purpose of propaganda (think News Corp. or Wash. Times.) The reporters in the US that SHOULD be keeping people aware of events such as those pointed to in this story were once called investigative reporters for politics. They're now referred to as Ari's little whores (excepting their most senior member, Helen Thomas.)
If all I wanted was White House generated pablum as political reporting, I could go to the RNC web site, listen to Rush or ask any Freeper. Where's the other side slinging dirt in this great big ole' liberal media of America I keep hearing about? Hiding in Britain?
Announcement: Reporters in US have no cajones!!
posted by nofundy at 9:51 AM on June 19, 2002


Where's the other side slinging dirt in this great big ole' liberal media of America I keep hearing about? Hiding in Britain? Announcement: Reporters in US have no cajones!!

I think you're also ignoring the fact that in America this is a non-story. While areas of Texas may be highly polluted from the oil industry there, most people realize that there is a certain price to be paid for prosperity and progress. Most people also realize that most of the damage was done long ago and today's industries are much cleaner and merely attempting to deal with the debris of those who came earlier. Most people also realize that any company that doesn't seek political alliances is probably not going to be around very long, and most politicians who don't seek the backing of businesses will go the same route. Most people also realize that without the oil industry, Texas would be populated with "dirt farmers" - if it were populated at all. All of the intrigue pointed out in that article also led to jobs for hundreds of thousands of Texans who otherwise would have been much worse off. Like I said, in America this is a non-story - we all know this stuff to be true and, for good or ill, it's business as usual in every facet of our lives.

Of course, look at the title, "Dark Heart of the American Dream." Did you expect any mercy from them? Why aren't they looking at the "Dark Heart of the British Empire"? Do they wish to talk about the conditions along the Clyde River from years of shipbuilding? How about their occupation of foreign soil which occurs until today? What about a long, hard look at British Petroleum's past and the excesses of it's founders and the MPs with whom they colluded? It's nothing less than the pot calling the kettle black. Why I should care what a British reporter thinks is beyond me. When they've managed to unfuck their OWN country - then they can start pointing fingers...
posted by RevGreg at 1:26 PM on June 19, 2002


Do they wish to talk about the conditions along the Clyde River from years of shipbuilding?

Here? Or how about Sheffield, here? Or how about the aftermath of coal mining as seen from the Yorkshire pit villages, here?

And I've read a fair few features in my time that gave precisely the same presentation to the working-class industrial towns of Britain: in fact, this Obs piece reminded me of one from a few years back in the Sunday Times.

How about their occupation of foreign soil which occurs until today?

Um, what do you count as occupied 'foreign soil'? Gibraltar? The Falkland Islands? Bermuda?

What about a long, hard look at British Petroleum's past and the excesses of it's founders and the MPs with whom they colluded?

Here? Or here?

When they've managed to unfuck their OWN country - then they can start pointing fingers...

Oh, you so funny. There's obviously no pointing of fingers in the endless Europhobia that comes from certain people here. And so the kettle responds to the pot: 'you're black'.

And finally:

While areas of Texas may be highly polluted from the oil industry there, most people realize that there is a certain price to be paid for prosperity and progress.

And isn't it amazing how the American capitalist dream ensures that the costs of progress are apportioned to a different group of people from those who prosper from it? I'm sure that the people of Sacramento, Texas, sleep pleasant if asthmatic dreams, knowing that their foreshortened lives enable the fat cats of the energy business to buy that extra ski-lodge in the Rockies. After all, it's a price that they're always told is worth paying for the prospect of jam tomorrow.
posted by riviera at 2:33 PM on June 19, 2002


And I've read a fair few features in my time that gave precisely the same presentation to the working-class industrial towns of Britain: in fact, this Obs piece reminded me of one from a few years back in the Sunday Times.

Fantastic! And what about the fact that we do just a fine job of pointing out our ecological mistakes? Such as this (about 20 miles from my home) and these? What I question is why the Europeans seem to think this is some sort of "scoop". Actually, as things go, it's pretty penny-ante stuff.

Um, what do you count as occupied 'foreign soil'? Gibraltar? The Falkland Islands? Bermuda?

How Ireland and Scotland? What about Wales? Occupation is occupation. Unless we want to bury our heads concerning these countries long standing bids for independence.

There's obviously no pointing of fingers in the endless Europhobia that comes from certain people here.

When I start being a Europhobe let me know. Wondering why someone feels they can preach such a self-righteous line of crap when they have the same skeletons hanging in their own wardrobe is not exactly Europhobia. We, likewise, have no right to point finger at them for their trangressions. In the end, both actions are like pissing in the wind because a) it's none of the other party's business b) the party bleating has no power to make neccesary changes anyway and c) time spent pointing out the other guys faults would be much better spent DOING something about one's own. Just my opinion there. 99% of said article's readership has absolutely no ability to do anything about what the article protests. They have no voting power, they have no political voice and they have no truly vested interest.

American capitalist dream ensures that the costs of progress are apportioned to a different group of people from those who prosper from it

Certainly. If you're ignorant enough to segment those "prospering" to a tiny group that you oppose, I suppose that's correct. If you ignore those who prospered from the jobs created, those who prospered from the cheap fuel, those who prospered from the jobs created by the cheap fuel, those who prospered from the cheap products made possible, etc., etc. Once you look at the BIG picture - things change. And, for my biggest bitch with this bullshit article, since when has this been limited to the American capitalist dream? Socialism, Fascism, Communism and even Monarchies: all of them have created the exact same situation. Pinning it as a condition of the American capitalist dream is yellow journalism at it's worst.

I'm sure that the people of Sacramento, Texas, sleep pleasant if asthmatic dreams, knowing that their foreshortened lives enable the fat cats of the energy business to buy that extra ski-lodge in the Rockies.

<sarcasm>You mean the people who are forced to live there, forced to work there and forced to accept the paychecks offered by these companies?<sarcasm> They are hardly kept in concentration camps and led to work in chains at gunpoint. And I'm sure you mean the foreshortened lives that are longer than they were before the industrial revolution?

After all, it's a price that they're always told is worth paying for the prospect of jam tomorrow.

Welcome to reality, we're glad you could stop by for a while. Really, are you going to say that life hasn't improved? You would rather live under the conditions in 1802 rather than the conditions in 2002? The only reason you have the idle time to bitch about all of this is because a bunch of "fat cats" created the world you have. Without huge oil companies, you would not have the energy for the society in which we live. Without huge tech companies, you would not have the marvel of computing that is on your desk. If you don't like it, leave. Once you have weened yourself of the BENEFITS of what these "fat cats" have given you, you'll be a bit more convincing.
posted by RevGreg at 4:00 PM on June 19, 2002


How Ireland and Scotland? What about Wales? Occupation is occupation. Unless we want to bury our heads concerning these countries long standing bids for independence.

Come back and talk to us when you've given your country back to the Indians. Cheers.
posted by riviera at 5:27 PM on June 19, 2002


Oh, and where's the fucking mea culpa for the fact that the entire assertion of your last post was based on utter rubbish, and that you were too bloody lazy to do a couple of searches to check? Or do clergy get a free ride on facts?
posted by riviera at 5:29 PM on June 19, 2002


Come back and talk to us when you've given your country back to the Indians. Cheers.

It's a fair cop. So, I guess the British can shut up concerning the Israeli occupation then also. You prove exactly my point. If you aren't clean, you have no right to criticize.

fact that the entire assertion of your last post was based on utter rubbish

Hmm, riviera, my assertion is that progress has it's costs - which is irrefutable. What about the rubbish assertion you made by quoting a few bland articles on environmental issues in Britain in comparison with a scathing article which suggested that the Texas situation was indicative of an entire society?

As for your statement, hogwash. Need I explain simple macroeconomics to you? There is more to the picture than "fat cats" and politicians profiting - if you don't wish to open your eyes to that, so be it. You want links to prove my point? Here is a link to the city of Corpus Christi and one to the city of Houston - two places that would not exist in their current glory if not for Texas oil. One of them, gasp, even brags of it's beautiful beaches and recreation areas. Big oil paid the people who built these cities. Big oil was the reason many of the supporting industries and businesses came. Big oil and all of the industries and businesses are the reason people came, because there were jobs. It's rudimentary - that I need to spell it out for you is rather droll...
posted by RevGreg at 6:52 PM on June 19, 2002


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