Stupid debate in UK parliament:
Stopping Donald Trump from coming to the UK risks turning him into a martyr, a Labour MP has claimed during a three-hour House of Commons debate.
Paul Flynn said Mr Trump’s call to ban Muslims from the US was “extremely dangerous” but barring him from the UK risked being seen as anti-American.
However, SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh said a ban would be justified on the grounds of “religious harmony”.
A petition advocating a ban has attracted 574,000 signatures.
Monday’s debate, which took place in a packed Westminster Hall committee room, ended without a vote.
I’ve read that a UK petition to ban immigration received just as many signatures, but that didn’t win it a parliamentary debate. I seem to remember that a petition to relax the smoking ban got similar numbers, but that just got ignored.
But this petition made headlines, and got a debate in parliament. I think it’s an example of how the ‘news’ is manufactured: it gave a few British politicians the chance to climb on their moral high horses and castigate the leading Republican presidential candidate.
In another example of manufactured news, which reminded me of Donald Trump’s oh-so-shocking claim that Mexican “rapists” were flooding into the USA, there’s been an outcry about the lack of media coverage of the mass sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve. Nigel Farage:
“But it’s what happened in Cologne, where we saw the mob, up to a thousand young males in the street sexually assaulting and harassing women. It is in I think many ways one of the most disgraceful public order events that we’ve seen in modern day Europe and yet there was an attempt by the police and the press to cover it all up and even the suggestion from some German politicians that German young women should change their dress and their mode of behaviour in the street which I thought was a total insult.”
In fact, what Trump said about Mexicans could equally have been said about the flood of immigrants/refugees entering Europe. But when the (entirely predictable) rapes started happening, there was media silence. Why? Because it was an embarrassing failure of politically-correct ‘multi-culturalism’, and they didn’t want to publicise it.
It reminded me today that I’m always been rather puzzled at the lack of public outrage at smoking bans. But in our highly-managed news environment, I suspect that the outrage is there (I still feel the outrage!), but isn’t being reported. I remember back in 2007, when the UK ban was introduced, expecting to see a lot of media coverage of it. But there was hardly any media coverage of it at all. On 1 July 2007 BBC news had a couple of interviews with cheerful pub-goers, one of whom said that it was nice that the pubs weren’t so smoky, and another from a smoker saying the ban might help him cut down a bit on cigarettes. And that was it. The UK smoking ban was a media non-event. What for me was a watershed moment, that continues to profoundly affect me to this day, was a complete media non-event.
It’s not as if there’s been complete silence, though. In January 2014, the chief political commentator of the Daily Telegraph, Peter Oborne, wrote:
The smoking ban killed the British pub. This vandalism is Labour’s defining legacy
Some people believe Labour’s defining legacy is Iraq. Others think it is the hunting ban. But the issue which has affected most people and which has damaged the fabric and appearance of British community more than anything else is the loss of the local pub.
I entirely agreed with him, of course. However, writing in the Telegraph a couple of months later, Oborne again called for the smoking ban to be relaxed, but this time adding numerous concessions about smoking killing people, etc, which had been entirely absent from the earlier piece.
And then, less than a year later, Oborne resigned from the Telegraph, accusing it of a “form of fraud on its readers” (over HSBC), and:
Peter Oborne has gone further, saying that “shadowy” executives are interfering on an “industrial scale” with basic news coverage.
This is exactly what I suspect is happening: Every news story has to be vetted, and if necessary altered, by “shadowy” executives in order to “send the right message”. Donald Trump is fair game for hyped media outrage, but mass rapes and smoking bans mustn’t be mentioned.
But the attempt to create and maintain a fake reality is getting harder and harder in an internet era in which what is and isn’t newsworthy can no longer be entirely defined by the mass media, now that news has new ways of reaching its audience.
Eventually, it will become impossible. And on that day, I expect the news programmes will feature newsreaders all smoking cigarettes, while telling viewers about all the big news stories that weren’t reported over the past 10 or more years.