Introduction by BSN Editors
If anyone wonders what’s wrong with the mainstream media and why we at BSNews have devoted so much of our lives to shouting about it, just have a gander at Kirsty Wark interviewing Glenn Greenwald on Newsnight about the Snowden revelations. Have a wild guess at why Greenwald is so obviously filled with contempt for her ‘ludicrous’ line of questioning. And dwell on the question: why did Glenn have to remind Kirsty several times that, as a journalist, it’s not a good idea to blindly accept government statements as fact. This was a rare instance of a real journalist (guess which one we’re referring to) confronting a corporate hack so used to being spoon-fed by the establishment she didn’t even have the good grace to blush as her bias was exposed.
Despite the insistent claim of Pauline Neville Jones that Edward Snowden has already given (willingly or otherwise) secret documents to the Russians (and Chinese), she nor Kirsty Wark could backup this claim with any evidence. Instead we were told simply that Russians are very ‘sophisticated’. That may be so but since Snowden is using 4,000 character key encryption to secure his trove of documents, it would take decades to decrypt even using the most powerful and ‘sophisticated’ super-computer, by which time, the documents would presumably be declassified and the technology they describe would be obsolete.
Together, Wark and Neville Jones acted as a useful mouthpiece for GCHQ, serving government and elite interests at the expense of transparency, democracy and the citizens of their country.
For instance, notice how Wark early in the interview attempted to downplay the Snowden revelations by referring only to meta-data – this is not lazy journalism but a deliberate attempt to mislead and deceive viewers. The truly damaging revelation is not so much the building up of patterns of interactions in our digital and real lives – although that’s bad enough – it’s the monitoring of the content of our communications that is the key issue here – that is the real invasion of privacy. We’re not ‘sleep walking towards despotism’, we’re there already.
It’s actually impossible with prism (see here, here and here) to collect only meta data – by design the system is copying bits (binary digits) of data flowing through an optical fiber – there is no smart decision to be made at the tap (interception point) – its either a one or a zero – laser light on or off. There are absolutely no criteria on which to base a decision on whether the information is meta-data or content.
While the difference in terms of invasion of our privacy may be academic, the knowledge that the government is recording our content is far more likely to cause self censoring and this is the most sinister aspect of this scandal. As the founder of OpenDemocracy, Anthony Barnett alluded to, the long term effect will be that we temper our arguments, bite our tongue in political debate, become less outspoken. Dissent is silenced in the most subtle but effective way.
The most embarrassing news interview ever
This must be the most cringe-inducing interview by a senior journalist I’ve ever seen.
It’s conducted by Kirsty Wark, one of the BBC’s top presenters, and takes places on Newsnight, the BBC’s flagship nightly current affairs programme.
It truly makes me more ashamed of the “profession” of journalism than I already was – and I didn’t think that was possible.
Throughout the interview, Wark abandons even the pretence of doing what journalism is supposed to be about: interrogating the centres of power and holding them to account.
Instead Wark mimics adversarial journalism by interrogating the US journalist Glenn Greenwald about his role in the NSA leaks, as though she’s a novice MI5 recruit. To do this she has to parrot British government misinformation and fire at him questions so childish even she seems to realise half way through them how embarrassing they are.
This is actually how most Newsnight interviews run: creating the theatre of conflict between journalist and interviewee that conceals the real issues rather than revealing them. If one wanted to produce news that looked honest while actually being deeply dishonest this is exactly how one would do it.
The reason that the charade is exposed in this case is because the interviewee, Greenwald, is another journalist, and a far better one than Wark. So every time she relays an MI5 talking point, he can point out that she’s not doing the work of a journalist, even by the official definition she is supposed to believe in.
Anyway, watch it and weep…