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LONDON — Diarist Simon is looking at retrenchments at Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post and says he doesn’t buy the excuse that “Facebook and Google are devouring even more market share”. He says it is more likely that the audience is exhausted by the hysterical tone that the digital media embrace and they just want to read the news. In this week’s diary he also weighs in on Brexit, Iqbal Survé and Angelo Agrizzi, saying Agrizzi is “pretty unlikeable”, but the information he has on “brazen theft” could lead to jail for the state capturers and that would be “quite nice”. – Linda van Tilburg
By Simon Lincoln Reader*
Some weeks ago, a media bloodbath: Buzzfeed and Huffington Post, along with others, executed substantial cuts to their respective human resources, accompanied by a sequence of excuses: “Facebook and Google are devouring even more market share” and “we want consolidation, not another funding round”.
I have never found Huffington Post’s journalism appealing (neither did South Africa), but I did read excellent investigative longform from Buzzfeed, entitled, “From Russia with Blood”. But that appears to be the exception: for the most part, it is hysterical, prescriptive, self-indulgent and even dishonest. Recently Special Counsel Robert Mueller was compelled into an unprecedented statement describing a report Buzzfeed published into Donald Trump as “inaccurate”. Buzzfeed quietly blamed the reporter’s cocaine habit.Simon
Gratuitous cynicism met the retrenchments, in stark contrast to what happened when Iqbal Survé took over Independent Media and a generation of South Africa’s finest journalists walked out in disgust, much to our sympathy, at what was clearly an orchestrated grab at the attention of the black middle class ahead of the 2014 general elections.
Central to so much of contemporary media and its upstarts is the theory of social justice. Not only has this eliminated balance in reporting, but it mutates effortlessly into identity politics, instruction and worse, groupthink – all provoked by the destructive imposter Twitter, whose founders believe that 160 characters of (mostly) unsolicited flatulence constitutes “debate”.
The real reason for the Buzzfeed and Huffington Post retrenchments is almost certainly one of preference. Readers are exhausted at the endless, enraged criticism of Trump or Brexit, the obsession with privilege and patriarchy and offence, the contrived celebration of “minorities” and the scapegoating of all the world’s ills upon one particular race and gender. Readers, I suspect, just want to read the news. Like those excellent reporters at The Cape Times once wrote it.
This week’s Brexit story involves Peter Lilley, Lord Lilley, an extremely articulate man who, along with Martin Howe QC, are probably the only two pro-Brexit profiles worth listening to on the subjects of regulatory law, economics and trade.
Peter is an unashamed Francophile. He owns a house in rural Normandy (I should point out that the EU is neither France, nor any other member state). One day he observed his neighbour dragging a lamb to be slaughtered in a decidedly primitive way. As the peasant attempted to chop the lamb’s head off with an axe, Peter politely interrupted: “Are there not EU laws that determine how you should do such things?” “Ha”, the peasant jeered. “EU laws – zat is only for ze British.”
Corporate espionage has been around forever but the case of Corpcapital in 2003 nudged the lid off the activities of finance firms in leafy Rosebank and Illovo (nothing much did come of the likeable Nic Frangos’ claims that fellow Corpcapital board members had conspired to spy on him – just a substantial bill to tax payers – thanks Alec Erwin by the way – thanks for that one).
But recently in rapid succession two recordings of supposedly private conversations have emerged.
The first involves Iqbal Survé. Of course there was the shameless, mandatory horse manure: Iqbal claimed to have been going out to dinner with Alibaba’s Jack Ma, making it sound as though there was a candlelit table for two at Magica Roma surrounded by baritone-y waiters singing about Naples (I’d like to speak to Jack about this, because Iqbal said the same things about Nelson Mandela and that didn’t go so well).
The second involves Angelo Agrizzi. This was made at a house belonging to one of Gavin Watson’s children, and clearly conspired to expose Agrizzi as a racist.
Does being a racist undermine his deposition? This is where an important distinction needs to be made, for the sake of the credibility of the commission.
Angelo believes that his existence is superior to that of an average black man. For what it’s worth – if I were an average black man, I would hesitate to react instinctively: “Umm…superior…actually I think not, Angelo, you speak like it’s holidays in Bedfordview, you collect tacky Ferrari shit, Gianni Agnelli would NOT be impressed and you’re about to be jailed for corruption that is, if the stroke that’s clearly in the post doesn’t get to you before”.
It may excite members of the grasping Watson extension, but the idea that a racist’s confessions are inadmissible on the basis that he or she is racist is a neurotic pisstake borrowed from social justice theory. We don’t have to like Angelo, indeed, he’s pretty unlikeable. But he is also possessed of information without ideological extension, experiences of brazen theft and malfeasance in which no personal thoughts of his own are necessary or applicable. Used in the right way, this information could lead to the incarceration of some happy-clapping lunatics. Which would be, well, quite nice.
- Simon Lincoln Reader lives in London.