“Not just for journalists” – News and How To Use It by Alan Rusbridger

IMG_9Dec2021at003144Ah news. Bitterly contested these days, isn’t it? Either you’re accepting of whatever mush the evil overlords want to push down your throats (Daily Mail readers, we’re looking at you), or you’re one of those people quietly distancing themselves from the news (peering askance at whatever Boris is doing to distract the easily distracted from his latest awful connivance) or you’re a QAnon loonbag off digging your rabbithole through the trash mountain. Surely there is another way?

Thankfully yes and Alan Rusbridger, former editor of The Guardian is your guide. News and How to Use It is a kind of selective dictionary. (“Selective dictionary,” the Qanon loonbags yell! “It would have to be selective if you’re willing to listen to a representative of the lamestream media!”) It is, quite possibly as you’d expect, exceedingly well written, funny and balanced but not in that BBC way of “here is one deranged loon with a deranged opinion sat opposite another deranged loon with an equally loony but curiously opposite position”.

If, like me, you find yourself assailed, weighed down, brought low by both the appallingness of the times in which we live and also the abject weakness of much of the media to, you know, do their job and hold the powerful to account, News and How To Use It will provide a much-needed balm. As Rusbridger disarmingly defines such words and phrases as “false amplifiers” (people who shout loud and distort the general view) and “presstitutes” (what journalists get called by knobs), “death knocks” (when journalists speak to the recently bereaved), “zoomers” (opposite of boomers) and “news amnesia” (technically when a subject matter expert can see that an article on page 3 is full of shit but then reads on anyway presuming everything else is right), you relax in a congenial fog of “not alone-ness”.

What do I mean by “congenial fog of not alone-ness”? I mean this: Only 44% of the population of this country voted Conservative in the last election. There are more people who didn’t vote Conservative than did. You can take solace in this. We are not alone. It’s easy to be waylaid and offset by the fact that 80% of the British media is in the pockets of rich, belligerent, xenophobic white men. But there are alternatives. And News and How to Use It offers much in the way of useful advice. Like: interrogate your news. Like: ask yourself why the rich, belligerent, xenophobic white men want you to be angry at immigrants and benefit frauds rather than, you know, rich, belligerent, xenophobic white men who don’t pay their taxes or live here and still somehow manage to shape popular debate and install their favourites in Downing Street and what have you.

Any Cop?: All told, News and How to Use It feels timely and important and worthwhile and a valuable resource and a book that should be on everyone’s shelves as well as passed hand to hand. This is not just for journalists. This is for everyone who enjoys the benefits of a nice democracy, you know? Remember that? Democracy. It was nice wasn’t it?

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