The Sunday Times’ exposé of Boris Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has inadvertently revealed something else. And it’s that corporate journalists are terrified for the future of the establishment media. But it’s also shone a light on the wilful ignorance about how the UK got into this mess in the first place.
The Sunday Times: shock, horror!
As The Canary reported, the Sunday Times revealed that Johnson missed five Cobra meetings during the early stages of the pandemic.
It essentially showed what many people already knew: that Johnson is a self-serving narcissist who cares very little for anyone outside his own social and corporate class. But the reaction of corporate journalists to the Sunday Times piece told a different story.
First, there was shock from the likes of ITV political editor Robert Peston. “Gobsmacked”, he was. “Gobsmacked” that the PM is a political pariah and borderline eugenicist:
not far off 500k deaths”. Ministers knew by 2nd week of February the gravity of what confronted us. So I am literally gobsmacked by the @thesundaytimes disclosure that the PM was not prioritising the looming Coronavirus catastrophe till March. https://t.co/HWQ9HqBgOg
— Robert Peston (@Peston) April 18, 2020
Maybe his BBC counterparts Laura Kuenssberg and Norman Smith would have different takes. Except they didn’t, as at the time of publishing neither of them had tweeted anything at all since 17 April. Clearly having a ‘well-deserved’ weekend off. The poor things.
Meanwhile, Andrew Marr said that “hindsight” was easy in terms of the Sunday Times‘ piece. But most of us don’t need hindsight to know that Johnson’s time as PM was always going to be a car-crash for most of us.
politics.co.uk‘s favourite centrist bore Ian Dunt said he hadn’t “read a more damning account of government failure than that Sunday Times article”. Maybe he hadn’t seen The Canary‘s articles on the UN accusing successive Tory-led governments of “grave” and “systematic” violations of sick and disabled people’s human rights, causing a “human catastrophe”. Or maybe he just didn’t care.
If you live outside the so-called ‘Westminster bubble’, the Sunday Times piece may not have been a shock. But what the fallout from it also caused was a growing cry of corporate journalists pleading with people not to share snippets of the article without linking to it.
Begging bowls at the ready
The Guardian‘s Hadley Freeman effectively begged people to click through to the Sunday Times article. “Newspapers are dying right now” she proclaimed:
Note to people sharing the Sunday Times article by cutting and pasting snippets: you are not helping. Newspapers are dying right now. If you want to support journalism, link to the newspaper itself. People get 2 free articles a week from the Times when they sign up
— Hadley Freeman (@HadleyFreeman) April 19, 2020
But as Declassified UK‘s Mark Curtis mused, is this really a bad thing?
More good news: “newspapers are dying right now”. Please everyone keep sharing the S.Times snippets and not the link. https://t.co/23I6Xg1HRH
— Mark Curtis (@markcurtis30) April 19, 2020
Times journalist Sathnam Sanghera thought democracy depended on quality journalism we have to pay for:
Quality. Journalism. Costs. Money. Which. Is. Why. You. Should. Not. Post. That. Sunday. Times. Piece. Without. A. Link. Democracy. Kind. Of. Depends. On. Newspapers. Thriving.
— Sathnam Sanghera (@Sathnam) April 19, 2020
Although as The Canary‘s editor-at-large Kerry-Anne Mendoza noted, this isn’t really the case:
Hiding. Critical. Public. Information. Behind. A. Paywall. Is. Immoral. You. Absolute. Melt. https://t.co/i9MWbjuH1p
— Kerry-Anne Mendoza (@TheMendozaWoman) April 19, 2020
And with the Sunday Times owner Rupert Murdoch being worth over $7bn in 2019, penny-pinching at his rag doesn’t really wash.
But it’s perhaps the Guardian‘s Jim Waterson who summed up the state of the corporate press the best. He tweeted:
I’m glad to see the crisis is actually about ethics in journalism business models.
— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) April 19, 2020
Unfortunately for the wilfully ignorant Waterson, the coronavirus crisis is, in part, all about “ethics in journalism business models”. Because one of the main reasons we have a PM who has made such an intentional shambles of the pandemic response is due to the ethics of the corporate press’s business model.
A crisis decades in the making
The UK has a media welded to the establishment. From the Sun cheering on Margaret Thatcher in the “war” against the miners and the “dictator” Arthur Scargill. Then to its support for Tony Blair. To the Mirror publishing fake torture photos during the invasion of Iraq, and undermining the legitimate war crimes case in the process. To the Daily Mail‘s support for Nigel Farage and Brexit. Via the Sunday Times itself effectively backing Johnson in the 2019 election. All of this has led to the point where the UK is facing the worst crisis since WWII with an utterly negligent PM at the helm.
This is because the public, after decades of being fed a media diet of lies, propaganda, and spin on behalf of the establishment, has now gone full circle. We’ve got to the point where even when we’re presented with a man like Jeremy Corbyn, many people had their head’s spun by the press for so many decades they’d inadvertently vote for Johnson and the Tories thinking things would change. Now we clearly know they haven’t.
The corporate press: ultimately to blame?
The blame for the unfolding catastrophe coronavirus has brought can be laid at the corporate press’s door. Because without them (and a healthy dose of some in the Labour Party actively undermining Corbyn), Johnson wouldn’t have been in charge during this in the first place.
So, corporate journalists can plead potential poverty and destitution during this time all they wish. Ultimately, they’ve only got themselves to blame if they join the 1.4 million other people queuing for Universal Credit right now.
We need your help ...
The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.
Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.
We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.
Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?