Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I spend a lot of time slagging off journalists and politicians for being evil lying pondscum. Because most of them are. I have really really really never been more annoyed about anything than I am about the  "In AV, the loser can win" poster campaign.

So could I draw everyone's attention to this piece in the New Statesmen, about what we're now pretending was a "war" which broke out at the bottom of my street last week.

It's a piece of sane, balanced, accurate, properly-sourced journalism that reports on what happened, and gives quotes about what people think about what happened.

And you know what the sad thing is: when I read it I was surprised and said "I didn't know anyone was still doing that sort of writing."


Sam Dodsworth said...

Laurie Penny can be really excellent - it helps that she's young and earnest enough to care about truth. Her opinion pieces are much less interesting than her reportage, though. And she gets a quite a lot of crap sexist abuse from the right and jealous sniping from the left(*).

(*) Mostly variants of "she sometimes makes mistakes so you should all ignore her". I suspect her real sin was publicly calling the Socialist Workers obsolete and intrusive. (Correctly, in my opinion.)

Her twitter feed (@pennyred) is well worth following when there's a demo on in London, too. She's generally reporting live from the front lines.

And, er, I'm a bit of fan. As you can probably tell. Try her blog posts on Millbank and Parliament Square for more good stuff.

NickPheas said...

What I've not quite worked out is whether the nasty people who cycle on the pavement and threaten you are the same nasty people who smash up shops and hurl concrete slabs at policemen, or are they the nice squatters.

Andrew Hickey said...

Yeah, Laurie's a good sort, if a bit too "OMG! TEH EVUL CONDEMS!" at times. She says what she really thinks, and doesn't let fear of looking silly moderate her at all. I like her.

Jacob said...

Sane and properly-sourced sure; I have no way of telling about accurate; but I wouldn't describe it as balanced - there's no doubt whatsoever that the author is on the side of the protestors and against the police, and while she does quote some statements from the police she's careful to frame them so as to encourage the reader to disbelieve them.

Andrew Rilstone said...

Please imagine a good repsonse from me here:

Please imagine another one here:

Anyone else having problems with blogger eating their comments?

Sam Dodsworth said...

Anyone else having problems with blogger eating their comments?

Yes, but I assumed it was my suite of ad-blocking tools. I've taken to copying my comments to clipboard before I try to post.

Richard Worth said...

It was interesting to see the (mixed) range of comments after Laurie Penny's article, which suggests that even a good journalist can't reflect every aspect of local opinion. It is also helpful to at least acknowledge the official police version of events: arresting people you believe are going to commit arson in a built-up area does put a different spin on events.
I think my problem with her Millbank / Parliament Square commentary as the facts of what happened was that she was only one person at a particular point in the crowd: great as an eyewitness, but not so good at taking stock of what police and protesters were doing in other parts of the forest and how the events hung together as a whole.

Sam Dodsworth said...

It is also helpful to at least acknowledge the official police version of events

How fortunate, then, that every other media outlet was able to restore balance by verbatim repeatition of the self-serving police press release. And how fortunate, too, that the police, unlike mere journalists, are able to be everywhere.

Sam Dodsworth said...

not so good at taking stock of what police and protesters were doing in other parts of the forest and how the events hung together as a whole.

Actually... hang on a minute. Am I misreading or are you suggesting that eyewitness accounts of police beating non-violent protesters might be excused if they were also beating violent protesters somewhere else?

Richard Worth said...

I am suggesting that:
a) people don't tend to read a spread of media coverage for balance: I am saying that Laurie Penny at least flags up that the police have a version of events, which is a Good Thing, rather than acting as though the police are alien and mysterious and need to have things thrown at them. Police and journalists collectively don't see everything, but Laurie is not mixing her reporting on the ground with helicopter views and what other journalists saw. Of course, TV is prone to repeat the 'exciting' bits of any demo and rightly deserves criticism for missing out the boring and peaceful bits,but this doesn't mean that what they saw didn't happen.
b) I have no reason to doubt Laurie Penny's honesty or usefulness as a reporter,and if she sees the police doing something wrong she has every right to report it. However, where my concerns lie is that Laurie's version of events gets taken as the best or most truthful and therefore only one worth remembering. By contrast, official accounts of any event can be bloodless but do explain why some decisions were made,for example to move on a large group because some of them were violent. 'Violent protesters' don't tend to be violent as an abstract: they tend to throw things at the police or otherwise do things which the police are duty-bound to try and stop. Put it round the other way, are you suggesting a score-card where both sides are allowed to injure an equal number of innocents? Or are the police allowed to claim that some of the people in uniform are not part of the police operation and not their fault, as peaceful protesters (quite reasonably) do with trouble-makers? I suppose my central point is that big events of this kind are often too complex for any one viewpoint to cover everything: Laurie Penny doesn't claim to, but I am cautious about anyone trying to claim soon her behalf.