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Tuesday 18 February 2014

Breitbart – When News Is Not News

Back in 2009, Jon Stewart picked apart the idea that Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) was about news, rather than what he called “Opinu-tainment”. The best known hosts were part of the “opinion” strand, while the “news” strand clearly fed into and out of that labelled “opinion”. So news and comment fed off one another to further the channel’s agenda.
Where does the "Executive Editor" get his news ideas?

Something similar is being fed to readers of the newly launched Breitbart London site, which passed before my inspection yesterday. Consider “‘Climate Change Obsessed’ Smith ‘Should Resign’ Says Official”, sub-headed “Lord Smith, the embattled Chairman of the Environment Agency (EA), ignored multiple warnings that his policies would lead to serious flooding in Berkshire, Breitbart London can report”.

This has been posted under the by-line of “Breitbart News”. It is therefore being presented as part of the site’s “news” side, rather than “comment”. But it is not news: the angle is pre-determined by the prejudices of the site’s main players, not least James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, and Raheem “call me Ray” Kassam, both of whom have significant previous on Climate Change.

So Breitbart’s “Executive Editor” and “Managing Editor” need to push a line to their readers. How might this be achieved? Simples. A small amount of the mystical art known as “five minutes’ Googling”, followed by a taped phone call, then a little creative retelling, will yield the desired result. First of all, they need to search for someone who has an unequivocal view on the floods.

How is this achieved? By looking at the BBC website, silly! Ray and Del Boy hate the BBC with a passion, except when they get money for appearing on it, and when they need a reliable information source. Here, they find Councillor Colin Rayner, and he’s not backward at coming forward with his views. A look at the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead’s register of members’ interests comes next.

This shows Rayner to be a farmer, and we know from the Somerset saga, and George Monbiot’s investigations, where the farm lobby stands: whatever they might have done to foul things up, it’s all the EA’s fault. Rayner then, hey presto, comes up with a reliably quotable spiel which, to no surprise at all, includes calling on Chris Smith to resign, claiming that the EA are not “professionals”.

The dish is then seasoned with a link to a Daily Mail article. If only they had read it: the copy includes “the natural activity of the Thames removes significantly more silt than mechanical dredging would do” (Rayner, being of the farm lobby, has decreed dredging to be the solution). And there you have it: how Breitbart brings its readers news that is not news. As with Fox, it is mere “opinu-tainment”.

Sadly for the Breitbart gang, we’ve seen it all before. Nice try, though.

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