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Monday 23 May 2022

A Serious Sabbatical

I have to take a break. It may be a few days, it may be longer. But a break has to be taken. So there will be, for the time being, little or no new content on Zelo Street.

Service will be resumed - well, when it’s resumed. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to look in on the thirteen years’ back catalogue.


Sunday 22 May 2022

Australia Rejects Murdoch

It is the country where it all began: where so much of the print and online media, and indeed broadcast media, is under the ultimate control of one individual, an individual who is no longer a citizen there. Australia has the longest history of Rupert Murdoch exercising his malign influence, mainly thrown behind successive Governments of the Liberal-National Coalition. That support continued with this year’s Federal election campaign.

Voters got the usual Murdoch fayre: blanket support of Scott Morrison, leader of the Coalition, and blanket dismissal of Labor leader Anthony Albanese. And, up until this election, Murdoch tended to get what he wanted, as he has in the UK since the Sun first shilled for Margaret Thatcher in 1979. Former PM Kevin Rudd lined up the endorsements.

The Courier Mail, Herald Sun, Australian Daily Telegraph, and of course the Australian, backed Morrison. The Australian’s associate editor Chris Kenny, displaying the Murdoch arrogance and swagger that comes with the sure and certain knowledge that your chosen candidate will prevail, told his readers that “Scott Morrison will be the first Prime Minister since John Howard to win an election and lead his party to the next one”.

Sadly for Rupe and his Australian troops, that one soon joined “Dewey defeats Truman”, as Australia’s electorate declined to do Rupe’s bidding and bundled more than 20 of the Coalition’s MPs out of their seats. Labor’s gains were not so great, with Greens and Independents doing well. And out there on the right, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and United Australia have thus far, as Richie Benaud might have put it, got No Score.

So what went wrong? Simples. On issues like climate change, the population knew it was real, was happening, and was increasingly affecting them. Morrison was rather too relaxed about it. The Murdoch press was, too. There is only so much mileage in gaslighting when your target audience knows it’s being taken for fools. One former Murdoch editor said so.

David Yelland, who used to edit The Sun, concluded “Australia today shows us populist mass market media may no longer carry the day, it has become partisan, climate change-sceptic, old, white, male, tired, irrelevant, ill-judged, wrong”. Australia is an increasingly multicultural and, whisper it quietly, tolerant country. The old dog whistles don’t work.

Commentator Rohan Connolly was not displeased at that state of affairs: “Feels pretty good to wake up today knowing whatever is ahead, we WILL have a more compassionate and inclusive government, and that media monopolies CAN’T simply impose their will upon us. Was a huge moment for this country and we’ve nailed it. Well done Australia”.

And to show that Murdoch still doesn’t get it, after Malcolm Farr, longstanding contributor to News Corp properties, observed “The disconnect between News Corp papers and voters is the huge media story of the election. The screwed coverage and impotence of the brace of tabs and the national daily is going to be difficult for News to overcome”, the Australian Daily Telegraph produced a superbly tone-deaf response to the result.

Under the by-line of Peta Credlin, the article declared “Go Right To Save What’s Left Of Libs”. Like, even further right. When parties in that area have just scored zero seats.

Murdoch will now try his damnedest to finish Albanese. Hopefully no-one will be listening.

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Saturday 21 May 2022

Sickness Of The Press EXPOSED

O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us; To see oursels as ithers see us!

The words of Robert Burns were never more truly spoken than when directed towards our free and fearless press. Indeed, when those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet do see how others see them, they are exceedingly reluctant to take the hint.

Cripes chaps, that foreigner rumbled me!

Worse, they are equally reluctant to admit their complicity in the increasingly authoritarian behaviour of alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his coterie of ineptitude: indeed, for most of them, Bozo is not to be questioned, but cheered on, whatever the policy, whatever the result. The move that should have seen our media class stop and think concerned a potentially swingeing cut of Civil Service numbers.

Tim Shipman - dismissive

After Beth Rigby of Sky News told “Have it from 2 senior sources that [Cabinet] Office about to do a write round to all permanent secretaries to ask them to model headcount reductions in their departments of 20% 30% & 40%. This follows calls from PM for 20% reduction in staff - 90,000 people - across Whitehall”, one onlooker said what she thought.

Iain Dale - yet more dismissive

Annette Dittert, bureau chief for German broadcaster ARD, responded “Everyone in Britain still acts as if this was a normal government. Instead it is a project of deliberate destruction, of laws, of institutions, of anything that stands in the way of a PM who just doesn’t want to be held to account”. She was right. But the press didn’t want to listen.

Tim Shipman of the Murdoch Sunday Times was one of those not prepared to take reality on board. “More unbiased reporting from our German colleagues. I don't know a single British reporter who would tweet something like this”. Sneering dismissal. And a total lack of awareness of why “a single British reporter” would not say “something like this”.

He was not alone: Iain Dale of LBC followed Shippers’ sneering dismissal, and raised him a few chips of defensive, judgmental whataboutery. “Nice to see you cover our politics in such an impartial, unbiased way. Perhaps turn your fire on your own government's lack of leadership over Ukraine and its craven attitude to Russia. Shameful”. That’s quite some brass neck, given the amount of Russian influence in the Tory Party right now.

At least the responses didn’t include “Two World Wars and One World Cup”, but give it time. Ms Dittert’s point was well made: outlawing peaceful protest, encroachment on human rights, leaning on the Police to investigate opponents, demonisation of lawyers and the judiciary, forced media sell-off for no other reason than vindictive spite, off-the-scale misuse of taxpayer funds, and tacit encouragement of a Prime Ministerial support cult.

Some of that misuse of funds was, by the belated confession of former chief Downing Street polecat Dominic Cummings, expended as sweeteners to that very same media class that is now responding to Ms Dittert with “Fingers in ears, La La La, I can’t hear you”. As Cummings put it, “the newspapers negotiated direct bungs to themselves with him, no officials on calls, then he told officials to send the £ -- dressed up as 'covid relief’”.

Ms Dittert told Dale “You should know that it’s not mutually exclusive to criticise your own government (which I have done extensively if you had read any of my tweets) and realise what’s going wrong in another one”. But whether Dale was listening is doubtful.

The Tweeter known as Steve Analyst observed “Weird how journalists in this country rarely ever call out journalists in this country, but suddenly tonight it's open season on a non-British journalist who had the nerve to question the UK. Our journalism industry is a disgrace”. When Nick Davies, formerly of the Guardian, did call out the tabloids on phone hacking, he was ostracised and denounced. Piers Morgan called him “Judas”.

When SNP MP Mhairi Black addressed the Commons this week and warned that the UK is sliding towards fascism, the press mostly ignored her. The same press that is so heavily invested in The Adoration Of The Boris. One of theirs is in Downing Street. They are right about everything, and so must he be. For them it is one big jolly game.

This is not a cult ...

And what sport it is! Climate change is real? Quick, hire someone who says it isn’t! Someone is so poor they have to travel round on a bus all day to keep warm? Quick, have them investigated and smeared! The EU? Get someone to denounce it! Yes, even Brexit is part of that game. They can always gaslight and ostracise anyone who dissents.

... not a cult at all

There are fewer journalists with any specialist expertise, but this too is not a problem. Denounce experts! Wait for a press release from an Astroturf lobby group! Job Done! Tell the readers what is good for them! Tell them what to think! Demonise any information source that might make them knowledgeable! All power to the Boris!

(c) Martin Rowson 2016

Perhaps - just perhaps - there are some in the media class who know they are aiding and abetting a project of national self-harm, an exercise in increasingly authoritarian rule, a Government based on narcissism, corruption and dishonesty, a country now regarded by others as an object of ridicule, a pariah state, increasingly a basket case.

Lockdown? What lockdown?

But any such realisation is kept quiet: the Mafia-like control exercised by proprietors - like Rupert Murdoch - and managerial tyrants like the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre keeps those with access to the media megaphone cowed and compliant.

But don't step out of line, Rupe's listening

In the USA, Combover Crybaby Donald Trump was removed before he got the chance to totally foul up the country. The Johnson cult is now busying itself making damn sure that doesn’t happen here. Bozo doesn’t want to be accountable, and nor do his ministers. And he wants to stay in power, especially if he can do so without actually doing any work. That is what our media class is there to facilitate. While brooking no criticism from others.

And don't f***ing cross me, c***

That is why Annette Dittert was so viciously shouted down. She should not be surprised if the practitioners of The Dark Arts are now turned on her, such is the press’ sickness.

After all, there has to be someone to blame for our ills. And it won’t be the press.

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Friday 20 May 2022

Piers Morgan Even More Unwanted

And so the ratings continue to decline, to a point earlier this week when not only did the average audience muster just 24,000 viewers, but by the end, only 10,000 hardy souls remained. The travails of The All New Percy Moron Show, flagship broadcast of Murdoch property TalkTV, headed by the overinflated ego that is former Screws and Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, show no signs of lessening. And it’s not hard to see why.

And what's more, Ron ...

Morgan is still parading his arguably unhealthy obsession with the Duchess of Sussex, while his target audience has moved on. He whines on about WOKE when most of that audience doesn’t even know what the word means (it would be interesting to see him put on the spot and made to define the term himself). He’s attempting to serve audiences in the USA, Australia and the UK, with guests two-thirds of that audience won’t know.

Worse, it’s now clear that the premise of his show - titled Piers Morgan Uncensored - is false, after a guest called him a cunt live on air and was duly, er, censored as a result. News UK CEO Rebekah Brooks is rumoured to be telling anyone who will listen that the new channel wasn’t her idea, and the show fronted by the former non-bullying political editor of the Sun, Tom Newton Dunn, barely registers on the ratings chart.

Look out, it's Tedious Maximus

The rumour mill is in overdrive: there’s going to be a revamp, TalkTV is looking for a co-star to emulate Morgan’s time at Good Morning Britain, the blame game has started over Newton Dunn’s ratings. But the only one to blame for the lacklustre performance of his show is Morgan himself. And yesterday evening’s offering shows the problem.

What was on the menu? “The female skateboarder usurped by a trans competitor [who cares?] … Piers Vs Anne Robinson [ditto] … Are the police getting too soft? [ditto] … And is cancel culture killing comedy? [there’s going to be some swearing … FUCK OFF]”.

Meanwhile, bald man celebrates winning comb

This was then compounded by over-celebration at a false ratings dawn as Morgan hooted “BOOM! [Piers Morgan Uncensored] beat [Sky News] by a thumping 67% in the ratings last night, and [GB News] by 23%. Thanks for watching & thanks Anne Robinson, [Howie Mandel] & [Frank Luntz] for terrific interviews. I’m off for a long lunch to celebrate”. Meh!

He has to beat Gammon Broadcasting™ News (“Bacon’s News Channel”) every weeknight. Beat them out of sight. And on that 24,000 ratings night, he didn’t. Worse, he’s bring bested by GB News hosts in the hour before his show, and the hour after - former Brexit Party Oberscheissenf├╝hrer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, and deeply unpleasant inward migrant Dan Wootton. The message sent by viewers is not being received by News UK.

So let’s take this nice and slowly: Morgan’s involvement in GMB equalling BBC Breakfast in the ratings war was down to a whole team of people, only one of whom is at TalkTV. And his moment of success there - walking out on weatherman Alex Beresford for being called out on his Meghan obsession - cannot be replicated regularly.

GB News has cornered what little market there is for the truly wacko. Morgan is being outdone by reality shows on mainstream channels. The presenters inherited from TalkRADIO are, not to put too fine a point on it, mainly crap. So very few tune in.

What is the point of TalkTV? If TalkTV can’t answer that question, they’re screwed.

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Thursday 19 May 2022

Julia Hartley Dooda Rape Joke Fail

News that a Tory MP, revealed to be someone in his 50s from the 2001 intake, had been arrested on suspicion of indecent assault, sexual assault, rape, abuse of position of trust and misconduct in public office between 2002 and 2009, was a serious revelation, or rather, it was for most people. For those more interested in promoting Themselves Personally Now, however, it was just another means of scoring some notoriety points.

Pretentious? Who, moi?

Those in this category, to no surprise at all, included Murdoch property TalkTV’s tedious self-promotion specialist Julia Hartley Brewer, another of those clever people who talk loudly in restaurants and know everything about everything. For Ms Hartley Dooda, there would be no barrel remaining unscraped in her quest for more attention.

And so it came to pass: after TalkTV’s Twitter feed brought the news “BREAKING: A Conservative MP has been asked to stay away from Parliament amid an investigation, the Tory whips office said, after it was reported an unnamed MP has been arrested on suspicion of rape”, she was in there like a shot. “Top tip for male Tory MPs: make sure you are VERY visible at Westminster tomorrow”. Laugh? I thought I’d never start.

She was also prepared to gain notoriety points by excusing the appalling Michael Fabricant, who apparently made light of the matter and later deleted a Tweet after being leaned on by the Tory whips. “I think male Tory MPs have the right to make it clear that they are NOT the (as yet unnamed) MP accused of rape. Seems pretty reasonable to me” she trilled. And she was ready and willing to argue this with her own colleagues.

So when Kate McCann, political editor of, er, TalkTV, countered “I don’t think that’s the main issue with the tweet”, another self-promotion opportunity beckoned. “But it was the main point of his tweet. Exclamation marks and emojis don't take away from this”. She was right, she had more followers, and that was that. And then she went totally OTT.

After one Tweeter responded to her assertion that Tory MPs had the right to show they were not the accused by telling “You're right, they do. However, they don't have the right to make a joke out of it”, she just had to play the contrarian. “1. He didn't. Exclamation marks don't = joke. 2. Yes, everyone has the right to make jokes about everything, including rape and worse. It's called free speech”. FREEZE PEACH! FREEZE PEACH!!

You do not, repeat do not, repeat DO NOT joke about rape. But after someone prodded her with “Tell us a rape joke”, off she went. “I don't really tell jokes, but I've laughed at many good jokes about rape. If you don't like a joke, don't laugh. But people can make jokes about anything they want”. Good jokes about rape? Shine a light.

Moving right along from the thought that not going anywhere near those summer parties held by the increasingly alt-right Spectator magazine may be a wise move, one Tweeter responded “'I've laughed at many good jokes about rape’ … No you haven't because there's no such thing as a good joke about rape … I’ve talked about my own rape frequently. As a rape survivor I'm asking you to tell me just ONE of the GOOD jokes you've laughed at about rape … I’ll wait”. There were many more in the same vein.

Not many people tune in to TalkTV. And after this latest self-promotion failure from Ms Hartley Dooda, that situation may be highly unlikely to change. Good thing too.

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Wednesday 18 May 2022

Michael Fabricant - Keep Your Hair On

The Metropolitan Police has toldIn January 2020, the Met received a report relating to alleged sexual offences having been committed between 2002 and 2009. The offences are alleged to have occurred in London. An investigation is ongoing, led by officers from Central Specialist Crime. A man, aged in his 50s, was arrested on suspicion of indecent assault, sexual assault, rape, abuse of position of trust and misconduct in public office.

Having a laugh. But not doing an Irish Jig

There was more. ”He was taken into custody and has since been bailed pending further enquiries to a date in mid-June”. We have since been informed that the individual concerned was a Tory from the 2001 intake. Also, “The Conservatives confirmed on Tuesday that their chief whip had asked the MP to stay away from the parliamentary estate during the police inquiry”. This was clearly a serious matter for MPs. Well, most of them.

For Michael Fabricant, who represents the unfortunate voters of Lichfield, this appeared to be a less serious matter than for many outside Parliament. “I am expecting a strong turnout of Conservative MPs at Prime Minister's Questions today. Not only to demonstrate their strong support for #Boris (!!). BUT also to prove they are NOT the one told by the Chief Whip to stay at home. I'll be there!” An arguably inappropriate emoji was added.

This was not well received. “I think you’ve probably got the message by now, but just in case … This Kenneth Williams Carry on Parliament-esque response to a rape allegation should never have seen the light of day … You should read your funny Tweet out to the victim … The fact that he thinks this is funny tells us all we need to know about him”.

And there was more. “Is this meant to be humorous? It fails on every level … Bloody hell mate, think about it eh? … Rape jokes. I’d say it’s a new low, but it’s more the new norm … Not sure joking about serious sexual assault is a good idea, Michael”.

The Tweeter known as the Laura Kuenssberg Translator noted “Tory MP Michael Fabricant has already made a joke on Twitter about his colleague being arrested for rape and sexual assault over a period of 7 years. This tells you exactly what the Tories think of rape and sexual assault. They think it's a laughing matter”. Some Labour MPs were unimpressed.

Chris Bryant simply responded “Seriously Michael take this down now. It shows callous disregard for the alleged victims, and it implies rape and sexual assault are a laughing matter. Take it down”. Deputy leader Angela Rayner added “Grotesque”. Meanwhile, more detail on the allegations was emerging, making Fabricant look even worse.

Gaby Hinsliff of the Guardian observed “Bleak detail about the MP rape arrest is that allegations reportedly first made in Jan 2020. Nearly two and a half years just to get to this (still quite early) stage in the process, & that's not even unusual”, while Kate Ferguson of the Murdoch Sun added “New on Tory MP arrested over allegation of rape: Tories will decide whether or not to suspend them from the whip (the parliamentary party) after the police investigation is finished”. They won’t suspend him. Because that would name him.

Only after all that did Fabricant yield and remove the offending Tweet, muttering “those who want to read something into a comment will contrive to do so whatever. They are professional offence takers”. Maybe stop causing that offence, then? Just a thought.

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