September 28, 2007

James Purnell's nonstory

James Purnell was all over the news today for a scandal or an embarrassment, term it what you care. A mix up at an NHS hospital resulted in the minister being included in a promotion photo that he was too late in reality to attend. His image was photoshopped in with a couple of other MPs. The Tories are demanding an apology or even resignation, the press are on the hunt and have been all day and the BBC are making it the story of the hour. But nothing has actually happened beyond a minor mix up. Even if Purnell had deliberately wanted to fake the photograph, who cares. He was late, he missed something for a reason we don't know, and the photo was faked, end of story.

You might wonder why I'm writing about this. Because amidst all the rubbish about BBC bias and leftwing and rightwing newspaper bias, this is what is irritating about the media today. It is this bias towards triviality. This led the BBC Radio 4 News at 6 o'clock this evening (after Burma), this not efforts to come to a treaty about oil in the Caspian, not human rights abuses in Africa, not the climate change summit in America. This was the second most important thing according to the BBC going on in the world today- it makes one wonder. This is a non-story, it is a nothing, a scandal that doesn't exist. It is so far from a story that I don't even care whether Purnell photoshopped the image personally having arrived late because he slept in.

This is precisely the kind of media bias that hurts us all- not a bias leftwards or rightwards but a bias towards stupidity and triviality. If this is the kind of thing that gets broadcast on the news, I'd rather they didn't broadcast the news. Tell us about Turkmenistan, tell us about China (on which we get almost no information) or about our own government's economic policies- explain concepts like inflation- educate us- don't get wrapped up in stupid crises. Purnell, I know from friends involved with his previous job at pensions is actually a rather good minister. Lets start getting rid of ministers for stupidity and not making tiny mistakes. This goes for politicians as well of all parties.

To all involved, just stop, this is hurting us, hurting democracy.


Sean Jeating said...


Trooper Thompson said...

"hurting us, hurting democracy"

What piffle!

Gracchi said...

Yeah its piffle trooper Thompson- that's why the media shouldn't report it. Anyway that's a quote from Jon Stewart on Crossfire- the problem here is the journalists. Why aren't we discussing actual issues.

Trooper Thompson said...

I think the media should report it. I also think it's funny. As someone that amuses myself sometimes by photo-shopping images, the picture was hilariously inept.

I don't know why you expect anything more from the media, or indeed the political class. This is why the internet is so important (and why we should all be concerned by attempts to muzzle it, as seen in your post on Richard Brunton).

El Dave. said...

Trooper Thompson - whether you agreed with it or not, Gracchi set out an argument. You have not given an argument. Would you care to provide one, or do you concede that you don't have one?

Trooper Thompson said...

el Dave,

You use the term *argument* as if you have your own definition, so I concede nothing. I've given my *opinion*. If you want more, you can read it here:

I doubt this will satisfy you. In any case, one thing myself and Gracchi agree on is that this issue is of minimal importance in the great scheme of things, so I'm not gonna write you an essay.

Bel said...

It may be a trivial matter, but surely it's the principle involved that's important? If they can fake something like this, what else are they going to fake? Does this not just highlight the increasing acceptability of political lying that we have been witnessing for a while now?

I prefer to be told the truth by politicians, even in trivial matters.

Lord Higham-Johnson said...

It is this bias towards triviality.

That's true, Tiberius.

It may be a trivial matter, but surely it's the principle involved that's important? If they can fake something like this, what else are they going to fake?

That's also true, Bel. In fact it is the key here. The demonstrably and not seriously challenged BBC pro-Arab and pro-left bias aside, the question is the descent to indifference and nonchalance about all the little things from journalistic, political and artistic integrity to the way our leaders conduct themselves.

This is not just the corrupt Brown's fault - it's a complete falling away in society but it manifests itself in myriad little ways.

Gracchi said...

It is trivial, I see it as a casual lie, I'm not even sure it was Purnell. Its one of those things which is just human to do- he was late for some reason- possibly nothing to do with him himself and he lied. We all do it. Politicians aren't perfect and I don't think they should pretend to be.

I do think though that it is a problem for democracy when the electorate don't know about the key issues and debates that are taking place. Whether its pensions, its Central Asia, its Taiwan, its so many other issues there are plenty of things that we should be debating and this isn't one of them.

Trooper Thompson said...

Lord Higham-Johnson talks of "The demonstrably and not seriously challenged BBC pro-Arab and pro-left bias aside". Pro-left, I concede, but pro-Arab? What's a bit of media spin in comparison to depleted uranium weapons? Who's being trivial now?