How 24-hour news could destroy the world
Tony Blair dubbed the media a “feral beast,” but politicians still grin and bear its intrusion. But what if Blair was right and the press monster is not just an obstacle to decent politics, but an active threat to global security too? It’s a complaint given weight by a recent book, No Time to Think, by Pulitzer prize-winning newsman Howard Rosenberg and veteran reporter Charles S Feldman. The two interview Ted Sorensen, adviser to JFK during the Cuban missile crisis. Sorensen, asked how things might have panned out in the age of Guido and Drudge, answers starkly: “Had the first sign of the missile crisis… been communicated to the public, the 24-hour news cycle would have produced enormous pressure on the president to make a decision immediately… In all likelihood that would have meant our selecting… an air strike against the missiles and related targets which, in all likelihood, would have required, according to the Pentagon, a follow-up invasion and occupation of Cuba. And in all likelihood—in as much as we discovered that Soviet troops in Cuba were equipped with both tactical nuclear missiles and the authority to use them against any US attack—the result would have been a nuclear war and the destruction of the world.” Feral beast or not, you can’t put it much more plainly than that.
The worst department in Whitehall
The competition for worst government department, normally a close-run thing, is over. Both the department for environment, food and rural affairs and Ed Miliband’s small and perfectly pointless department of energy and climate change can rest safe in the knowledge that the hapless department for culture, media and sports (DCMS) can’t be caught. Under the leadership of Andy Burnham, the department for luvvies has transcended even its previous “sock puppet” reputation—earned by its slavish repetition of demands from its industry groups—by abandoning the playing field instead.
Picking a low point is tricky, but recent decisions on product placement have come close. Across Europe, countries have begun allowing Coke cans to crop up in television dramas, largely to staunch the losses of their dying advertising industries. Burnham announced he was against this, then launched a review—presumably to find out why—whose negative verdict was no great surprise, despite the pleas of the European commissioner. Things are only going to get more painful from here for the British television…