idiots round the world stand hand in hand…

Now I want you all to go and read this outstanding article on the Daily Telegraph‘s real role in world journalism.

Essentially, it’s become a crucial link in the global bullshit cycle. Like the water, nitrogen, and carbon cycles, bullshit circulates around the planet; some actors are bullshit sources and others sinks. The Telegraph‘s role is to receive bullshit from the Republican/wingnut welfare world, which is rather like the depression in Chad whose windblown dust fertilises the Amazon in this model, and print it when other media won’t because it’s too bullshitty.

Once it’s published in London, however, other media can quote it without taking responsibility for it, therefore recirculating surplus bullshit from the UK back into the (shudder) mainstream media. Hey presto, arrant drivel has been converted into serious news. Come to think of it, perhaps I should drop the ecological metaphor; it’s much more like the process of securitising, repackaging, and marketing crappy mortgages.

Originally made in the boom markets of the US, places like Florida (a rich bullshit source if ever there was one) these documents were sold to major banks in London, who categorised them by their likelihood of default and prepared them for resale. To sell, however, they had to all have a top credit rating, which was achieved by assuming that the risk of default on each was independent of the other, and then stuffing in more collateral until the expected value after the average default rate was equal to the face value. The resulting loan sausage, 30% “meat” and the rest rusks, phosphates, and water, was then sold….right back to the banks who bought it in the first place, as it turned out.

Similarly, the Telegraph takes on dodgy news stories, chops them up with some of its reputation, an anonymous source, and a dose of sensationalism, and sells the resulting collateralised drivel obligation (CDO) back to US investors at a profit. Eventually, however, the value of news-style product sourced from people like Michael Ledeen crashed, leaving major US newspapers holding gigantic portfolios of worthless drivel, which eroded their reserves of credibility to the point at which many have gone out of business.

It is widely presumed that the Federal Government will feel obliged to support newspapers deemed systemic, like the New York Times…but one hopes they don’t try buying and rediscounting old scare stories in an effort to resume normal reporting. After all, this was tried in 2002-2003 with catastrophic results.


  1. dsquared

    I think the analogy can be extended, because although it’s the Torygraph in focus here, the Guardian does it too, as does the Times when it bothers to send a correspondent other than Gerard Baker, as does the Sun in its own niche (in this case, the laundering of celebrity stories to which the US press’s chequebook doesn’t stretch).

    London is for the media what it is for the financial industry – a loosely regulated, freewheeling offshore centre, full of talented people with a thirst for booze and dodgy morals, conveniently located between Europe and the US – a place where people can get stuff done, not always stuff that they’d want the missus to find out about, but stuff that basically happens because people want it to. The UK is the world’s biggest free-port and tax haven.

    It’s not actually such a bad thing in the grand scheme – the world always needs a few places where the rules are bent, otherwise we’re on that global work-to-rule I was wittering about the other week. I would guess that a) there are all sorts of funny telecoms reselling business practices that go through London right now which the global telco industry is happy not to have on its own front door, and b) that when the software industry reaches full adulthood with global codes of practice, blogger ethics panels, etc etc, London will be the place people gravitate to when a rule needs to be bent.

  2. Chris E

    This sort of thing was perfected by the not very lamented Lord Black.

    A regional in the Black network would print a story – it would then be picked up by the Telegraph or the Jerusalem Post, then it would go around the world.

  1. 1 Tory of the Week: Dan Hannan « Alternate Seat of TYR

    […] with Daniel Hannan? To understand this Tory of the Week, it’s worth looking back to this post on the role of the Daily Telegraph in the world media ecosystem. Specifically, it acts as a sort of […]

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