BBC in Bad News Shock

The job of the media is to avoid giving people any information that might keep them out of the shops.

That means that actual bad news stories – the kind that might wake people up (or, as  nutters economists say,  ‘hurt consumer confidence) – are a complete no-no unless a National Emergency, like nuclear missiles heading for Surrey or all the cashpoints shutting down, is truly imminent.

So when someone like Alessio Rastani  pops up on BBC News and “tells it like it is,” no-one knows what to think. Gobsmacked viewers jammed up the Twittersphere wanting to know whether he was some kind of hoaxer.

Calm down dears. He was just saying what everyone with more than six brain cells and access to the Internet has known since 2006. Moreover, political and business leaders talk in those terms among themselves all the time – only you’d never it know from the BBC because no-one ever says it on air.

Don’t frighten the horses

So how do the BBC and the rest of the mainstream media make sure that no-one (well, almost no-one) says anything that might frighten the horses?

Well, it’s a variation on Churchill’s assertion that you can never get someone to believe something if his job depends on him not believing it. Virtually the only people who get interviewed about Europe’s epochal slide into the worst depression for 80 years are big-bank economists and other finance-o-crats whose jobs depend on their belief that they can fix the problem if only they can postpone the crisis indefinitely .

Unfortunately for them, the debt-bomb that is energy-starved Italy won’t stay afloat for much longer. And when the merda colpisce il ventilatore, torrents of thoroughly bad news will crash down upon newsrooms like collapsing skyscrapers, with dire tidings pouring in so fast that there won’t be time time to wheel in Europe’s leaders to tell everyone to go out and hit the malls with every piece of plastic they’ve got.

The thing is, most journalists and editors aren’t evil or irresponsible but many of those on the nationals or at the BBC seen to have succumbed to a kind of cognitive capture whereby they believe that their job is to de-claw the truth in order to shield the public from reality.

So for instance we get cries of outrage from the Independent over soldiers being shown what it calls ‘war snuff movies’ when the reality is that anyone can easily find hours of such material from Iraq and Afghanistan on YouTube – not to mention every WWII documentary that includes aerial attack footage.


So if everything in the mainstream media has to be sanitised and played down for public consumption, how do they handle a situation which is very bad and getting worse but has yet to spill over into the next Lehman Brothers Moment? Because if the media leave it till the last moment, millions of people will make carry on making decisions, based on the over-optimistic ‘recovery is just round the corner’ meme. And those decisions will hurt people badly in the coming recession.

I guess one strategy would be to ‘accidently on purpose’ give the likes of Alessio Rastani a bit of airplay every now and then. It’s the opposite of a giving the patient a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down: letting a drop of bitter truth fall into the  mainstream political and economic pabulum in the hope that few patients will get the point and discharge themselves from the asylum while there’s still time.

The great thing about Rastani is that he works for himself. No-one’s going to threaten to fire him for being too candid on the telly – unlike the Government’s energy advisor David MacKay, who was slapped down by Ed Miliband two years ago for telling the truth about Britain’s looming power gap. By the way, how’s that going, Ed? Looks like you might get into Number 10 just in time for the lights to go out.

Energy writer David Strahan has the latest on the Coalition’s stumbling attempts to get to grip with Peak Oil on his blog. He writes

“DECC has recently invited external consultants to bid to provide further analysis on the impact of oil, gas and coal price spikes, and whether climate change related policies make the country more resilient to fossil fuel shocks. This smacks of wishful thinking; the answer is likely to be yes, but nothing like enough.

“It is of course important to understand how much peak oil is going to hurt, but that in itself will do nothing to help when the crisis breaks. It is long past time for the government to develop policies to radically reduce our oil dependency within 20 years.”

The last word goes to ‘Spec’ who comments on Strahan’s article:

“They may understand the problem . . . they just have no solutions. And if you have no solutions, why bother talking about it?  . . .  So the government plan in the UK (and in most of the world) is to wait until oil prices cause a crisis and then start trying to implement mitigation strategies.

“Voters don’t give credit to people that prevent problems. They only give credit to people that solve problems. So the public has to be smacked down hard by peak oil before they will push the government to do something.”

Expect to feel the smack before you see,  hear or read about it in the media.

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