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Wednesday, September 30, 2020
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Lies, damned lies and journalism

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CORONAVIRUS has nearly put me off Twitter, that place where all of humanity’s foibles are on display and amplified. But not quite. I still go there each morning to see what’s new. 

So it was that I saw a little story of our times unfold last week. First, the writer and comedian Graham Linehan put out one of his many tweets about ‘gender identity’ ideology. Because he has been consistently brave and outspoken on this issue, Linehan has garnered a large and grateful online following from ‘gender critical’ women. In response to Linehan’s tweet, for some reason, we’ll never know what, Jonathan Ross decided to ‘get out of bed’ on the subject. He replied to Linehan, saying he admired and applauded him for his stance.

Ross’s tweet quickly gathered thousands of ‘likes’. Many thanked him for having the courage to join the debate. Some added Ross to their small but growing list of public figures willing to speak up about their concerns over gender identity ideology and the dangers it poses for our more vulnerable children, and for women’s identity, safety and dignity. I saw this par-for-the-course Twitter activity and tuned out to go to the shops to see if I could get any pasta, rice or loo paper. (For the fourth day running, I couldn’t.)

Upon my return I was astonished to see that the Independent had engaged in a flagrant piece of misrepresentation. Only hours after Ross’s tweet, it had produced an online newspaper article saying that Ross had been ‘branded transphobic’. It reproduced a small sample of unpleasant responses to Ross. That was it! Not even the smallest mention of all the support Ross also garnered. Some reporting! What is astonishing is that the Independent produced this article even though the evidence of its bias is as plain as day. The tweet is publicly available and you can see all the responses. 

For example, Helen Joyce, a journalist who works for the Economist, said to Ross: ‘Thank you thank you thank you! Please don’t back down – so many men do once the backlash arrives. We women need you to hold fast.’ 

The TransgenderTrend group said ‘Very brave to say this publicly after seeing what @Glinner [Linehan] has been put through. Thank you. It means a lot to so many people caught up in this who have been cast as bigots x’.

Though this is a small ‘Twitter spat’, it’s a good example of what is happening to journalism today. What do you do when what was once one of our small number of ‘main broadsheets’ pumps out biased propaganda?

I’ve noticed that my children believe what they read. Growing up I always believed what I read or what people told me. A few times, right into adulthood, I made a complete fool of myself for being ‘gullible’. But I think we are are programmed to trust each other. We survive by trusting each other. We should trust each other.

It’s funny that it is surely the Left-wing press which is so devoted to propaganda, when at the same time its editorial stance is one of longing for a better world with more connectedness and community. Isn’t that what the dream of communism is? 

Perhaps they think that the end justifies the means? But what if the means destroysthe end? For if we need to teach our children that they need to be routinelysceptical, then that means we need to teach them routinelynot to trust other people. How do you build a better world out of that? 

For my part I’ll fall back on a twist to Abraham Lincoln’s dictum. I’ll tell my children that they will come across a small number of people whom they cannot trust any of the time. They need to develop a good nose for these types. There will be many others whom they can trust most of the time. But they should try to find people and live amongst people whom they can trust all of the time. If more and more of us try to be in that group, if we try to be trustworthy and true, we’ll build a better world with more connectedness and community. A big project.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep trying to find a shop with pasta, rice or loo paper.

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Caroline ffiske
Caroline ffiske
Caroline ffiske is a former adviser to the New Zealand Government, served two terms as a Conservative councillor in Hammersmith & Fulham and is currently a full-time mother. She tweets as @carolinefff

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