Sunday, 14 November 2010

Free Press, not Free Pass

The United Kingdom has a tradition of 'free press' however journalists have few rights in UK law distinct from any other citizen.
Journalists are therefore required to act as 'the eyes and ears of the public' without much authority.

What facilitates journalism in our society is 'Freedom of Expression' .
There is no written constitution on the topic of freedom of expression however our rights are 'residual' -meaning you are allowed to exercise your freedom of expression without constraint as long as your activity is not in breach of the law.
The European Convention on Human Rights 2000, The Contempt of Court Act 1981 and The Human Rights Act 1998 all help in providing a rough code of how we should report fairly and accurately.

Freedom of Expression has depended traditionally on jury trial and the rule against prior restraint.

When acting as a practicing journalist it is essential that we acquire the ability to recognise risk.
Once a risk has been identified it is then necessary for the journalist to be able to indemnify him/herself.
Journalists who are guilty of 1) reporting/publishing errors 2) being careless 3) being neglectful are in breach of Media Law.

There are systems of regulation in place to help aid a 'fair press'.
Ofcom, the media regulator has a broadcasting code, if this is not adhered to, Ofcom has the power to fine or bring about sanctions against anyone in breach of their code of ethics.
There also exist the Press Complaints Commission which exists to adjudicate on complaints and comments regarding the press. The PCC's code of ethics also helps guide journalists in their work.

Law is a bore

I cannot leave the HCJ module behind without a small obituary.
Essentially the syllabus encouraged us to be more knowledgeable, well-read individuals; we covered history, philosophy and economics. We studied music, literature, and art.
We developed our interests and our intellectual habits. Horrie didn’t seem interested in producing a class of students able merely to regurgitate text books onto paper in exams, he wanted to invest something in us that would keep and grow, that seed he planted was curiosity.
These ceaselessly curious minds that Horrie cultivated have now to reign themselves in, away from Joyce, Marx and Wagner, take leave of art and return to what really makes a journalist, FACTS.

Facts, just like the law can be dry and unimaginative, but it’s with a journalist’s knowledge and curiosity that the facts come alive.

If a journalists mind is like a book, with knowledge imprinted on every page, then there should be a whole chapter on Media Law.
This chapter is a tool, an essential tool to help journalists report fairly and accurately.
This knowledge on law is what sets us apart from other members of the public who produce citizen journalism to varying degrees of success.

The senior law lord, Lord Bingham emphasises the importance of the press and the requirement for it to be informed and diligent ‘The proper functioning of a modern participatory democracy requires that the media be free, active, professional and enquiring’.

In order for the press to meet these requirements, aspiring journalists must be conscientious in reporting according to the law. This blog, from now on, will follow areas of the law vital to any budding reporter or broadcaster.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Smith for my Supper

Most of last terms lectures were dominated by revision for our unseen test.
We were spat out of Horrie's classroom with more information to digest than a nun in a strip joint.
Our revision brought together the vast, broad topics we had touched on over the year.
As a romantic thinker, the topic with gave me the most indigestion was Economic Theory.

I'd met Adam Smith in first year lectures but still felt if I saw him again, I wouldn't recognise him, let alone be able to tell you what he stood for.
Seeing as the test was fast approaching I set about trying to decipher my notes and here's what I understand of this Smith chap.
So as far as I can gather, Smith wanted to initiate a shift from mercantilism- Economic activity which solely benefits king or country, to encourage more production to help distribute the wealth of the country.
Smith felt feudalism-where citizens produced only what they needed for survival, curtailed 'the individual's right to wealth'.
To combat this, Smith pioneered 'the free market' which enabled individuals to pursue their inalienable rights, such as the right to the acquisition of wealth.

Smith pushed the idea that more production would bring the cost of products down and make products more available whilst insisting that the quality of the product would not decrease.
By these means, no doubt many of my dutch ancestors flourished, for the dutch had been busy manufacturing slim, fast ships which when legal restrictions were removed and free market trading was introduced, began jetting off to create a huge commercial empire for the Dutch.

The Brits of course, along with the Spanish and pretty much the rest of Europe (us Dutch are so advanced) were busy building huge, lumbering great vessels for war and defence.

Soon the rest of Europe caught on and the free market blossomed.
Smith pointed out in his work 'The Wealth of Nations' that the reason the free market was so proficient was because it relied on something called 'Spontaneous Order' or 'the hidden hand'.
This hand was regulating the economy in no organized or controlled way at all, Smith maintained that simply each individual pursuing their own economic interest would keep the economy afloat. There was no need for governmental control or a devised structure; this 'hands-off' objective became known as 'laissez faire' economics (essentially-leave alone).

If you leave everyone alone to seek out their own profit and produce then everything, eventually on a large scale, will even out. He uses the example of a man buying dinner.
"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages."

i.e. they produce these goods for their own benefit and it's just a happy coincidence that we all benefit too.
I say hand me the Gaviscon!

Monday, 26 April 2010

2 hours with Johnny Depp or a good book?

The incorrigible geek that I am, I’d already read the required reading for the Easter break, Tom Wolfe’s ‘The New Journalism’ and so set about working my way through the work of writers featured in Wolfe’s epilogue.
I started perhaps naively with the work of Hunter. S. Thompson.
This was a bit like a teetolleer downing a bottle of tequila and frankly I’m still hungover.
My prejudicial opinion of Thompson was inspired by the mumbling yank portrayed by Depp in the film of his epic novel/non-fiction ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’.
I presumed from the film that his journalistic writing would be a torrent of incoherent musings, only impressive by the scale of Thompson’s excess.

I decided to push aside my prudence however and delve into ‘Fear and Loathing’ myself.
I have to say I now understand why his writing was and still is so revered.
At a time when novelistic techniques were being used to such poignant effect, when Wolfe and Talease were breaking the seal of journalistic convention; Thompson stood out.
His writing doesn’t make you say ‘ohh this is different’ it simply take you by the scruff of the neck and nuts you in the head!

I’m currently half way through a biography entitled ‘Outlaw journalist: The life and Times of Hunter S Thompson in which his abusive persona and doubtless talent are laid next to one another.

Like someone playing a fantastic practical joke, his genius and his cruelty is exposed.

Rumour has it that our first lecture is a screening of ‘Fear and Loathing’.
My advice would be to bypass the eye candy and read the book which has pace and vigour. In fact the book is more exciting than 2 hours of Johnny Depp….

WOW big words. If Johnny would like to come round to my place and challenge that, he’s more than welcome.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

When Wilhelm get's that feeling...

And so Brian stood at the front of the room and gaily announced in his Irish lilt
‘you cannot be truly happy until you are having proper orgasms’ to which we inevitably laughed and waited for him to attribute his statement, which he did.
They were the words of Wilhelm Reich an Austrian psychoanalyst who followed Freud’s path of psychiatric discovery even deeper into the woods.

Reich concurred with much of what Freud deduced about the mind, he particularly bought into the idea that we are mentally made up of our ID (our instinctive impulses), our Ego (Our civilised self), and our Super Ego (our prohibitive self which controls our ID).
Freud believed we could aid behavioural or mental problems through talking, he practiced a lot of free association; letting his patients speak in a stream of conciousness until at some point they spewed up something which had a deeper significance, something which could explain all their hang ups and complexes (Freudian word).
Reich on the other hand thought that focusing on the mind had it’s constraints, he believed we should focus on our bodies, that we should self medicate our depression or insecurity with a lot of sex, whenever we feel like it, with whomever we fancy. The simple act of fornication would free us of what he called ‘Orgone Energy’, essentially a sexual tension which we accumulated day to day.
He believed that we were constantly absorbing this ‘Orgone Energy’ like a gas, and a build up of this gas would result in tension and stress, the only means of releasing this gas was through having an orgasm.

Reich thought our sexual desires, which were subdued by our Super-Ego were legitimate and one should satisfy them. He then began to consider the ID and whether our instinctive impulses were destructive, if not why should they be concealed? Why does society fulminate against sexual promiscuity?
Why were we so repressed and who was repressing us?
These were all questions that could only be answered by history, tradition and anthropology.
The 1960’s saw a resurgence in Reich’s philosophy, the idea that ‘free love’ was not only acceptable but ‘good for your soul’ dominated young culture.
Much was born from Reichian ideas but it he still present today?
We certainly have popularised a one-night stand culture and though men are often admired for sexual prowess, women are still berated and condemned.
Will Reich’s ideals ever become social norm? Would we be happier and healthier if we were just a little more focused on our pursuit for an orgasm and a little less on the latest episode of Eastenders?

Was Marvin Gaye was right all along? And we are just all in need of some ‘sexual healing’?

Thursday, 4 March 2010

‘As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams’

And so we were introduced to Existentialism, the interest in human existence.
Who we are and how we function. It brought me back to my A-level drama, which was a 2 year course in existentialism, explored through Samuel Backett and Franz Kafka. Having studied ‘The Trail’ and crawled around stage in ‘The Metamorphosis’ I was encouraged to think about it what it means to live, day-to-day.
‘The Metamorphosis’ follows the reaction of a young man, waking up to find he has taken the form of insect. On this discovery, his main concern is how he will attend work, how he will converse with his parents and sister, essentially how he will continue to function as he had done before.
Kafka suggests through his novella that all humans are drawn to a life of routine, of ritualistic behaviour which we hold as our reason d’etre.
We wake in the morning to complete the tasks we have set ourselves for that day.
Gregor Samsa, leads a banal life of habit and although he appears a loving son and someone of a good nature he is not missed by his family when an infection eventually leads to his physical demise.
This story presents the idea that we live to function which is emulated in ‘The outsider’ by Albert Camus.
This novel presents Merasult, an unconscious nihilist who sees life with little perspective and no purpose. He lives in a scary world of calm observation which alienates/dislocates him from his peers. His extreme indifference hinders his ability to feel any emotion other than the physical feelings of hunger or tiredness. When he murders an Arab with no malice or antipathy he fails to emotively conceive what he has done.
Condemned for his lack of remorse and apparent nonchalance he is sentenced to death, which he waits for with fear only for the physical anquish.
During his last days in prison he is visited by a priest, who implores him to repent his sin. Mersault consistently shows disdain for the priest and for the religion he preaches ‘I hadn’t the time to work up an interest for something that didn’t interest me’ and is not concerned with any ‘after-life’ that might exist ‘Do you really think that when you die, you die outright, and nothing remains?’ ‘I said: yes’.

Merauslt’s disregard for morality contrasts to ‘The Fall’s’ protagonist Jean-Baptiste Clamence who is unequivocally quixotic in his pursuit of moral sanctity.
His endless yearning to succeed in everything in hidden by an apparent moral crusade which he eventually finds hollow. Clamence tells his story of realisation to a passing acquaintance, to whom he admits ‘I lived consequently without any other continuity than, from day to day, I, I, I.’

Existentialism is said to have been instigated by an incursion of atheism.
The increasingly popular idea that ‘God is Dead’ lead to a crisis of purpose.
No longer did people convince themselves they were born to ‘serve god’ or to fulfil some higher moral purpose. This gave way to the question ‘why are we here?’.

Monday, 15 February 2010

There's no such thing as good or bad; just thinking makes it so

And so HCJ started again and we encircled Horrie to hear about Nietzsche, about the paradign shifts that have pulled along our cultural history like a horse drawn carriage. We learnt about the reluctant union of science and art and how scientific discoveries altered the worlds of our forefathers.
Amidst all this learning came a concurrent thread which I remember considering when reading Rousseau, is our behaviour predetermined when we are born or are we taught it?
In Emile, Rousseau explores this nature vs. nurture question.
The same question arises when studying Freud, who acknowledges we have an innate desire to behave in animalistic way, our ID and it’s our ego which prohibits, our ego is developed by our upbringing, so is our ID suppressed by society? Nietzsche believed so.
I think this is the basis of Kant and Nietzsche’s disagreement.
Are we naturally good or bad? Or is it thinking that makes it so?
Do we really have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other from the day we’re born?
Nietzsche believed that morality was not something innate; humans have not anthropologically developed a sense of right and wrong. We are taught a societal perception of right and wrong and behaving in accordance with the social conventions, epitomises our enslaved mentality. We have confined and curtailed our behaviour to adhere to a dogmatic religious code which is Apollonian.
This contradicted Kant’s theory that we all have an instinctive knowledge of when we committing a moral sin.

Nietzsche thought moral and legal law infringed the pursuit of the individual, that it discouraged a life of Dionysian indulgence. Dionysus is the Ancient Greek god of wine, the inspirer of ritual madness and ecstacy and Nietzsche was a big fan, he criticized religon for it’s supression of innate hedonism, something which was encouraged by a Dionysian lifestyle.

Nietzsche believed our ideas of right and wrong or good and evil have evolved over time originating from religious doctrine, this was a form of control, which Nietzsche did not see as a bad thing necesserily, he believed religion should happily control the ‘common people’, the ‘bungled and the botched’ as long as the ‘hero’, the great man could suceed.
So does religion really breed control and restraint, or rather does it sustain a consensus for the masses, does soicety run more efficiently on the idea that we all share a common moral code? If an individual broke the law because he genuinely saw no wrong doing in taking drugs, he would have no defence. Law (generally) is not subjective and cannot be if it is to maintain order so is the same not true of moral law?
Obviously people have different spectrums of good and bad, some people do things which others would find abhorent, but Kant believed that even the people who do ‘bad’ things, have a conscience and a knowledge that what they’ve done is wrong, from telling a lie to murder. Neitzsche denounced this and in his book ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ stated ‘it was a mistake to regard it as a duty to aim at the victory of good and the anhiliation of evil’.