Political journalist or government fluffer?

In the pornography industry, there is a specific role called a “fluffer”.[1] The fluffer’s job is to keep the male performer tumescent while the scene is set or changed. A fluffer does not always touch the actor although in some cases they do.

A free press is one that is not beholden to the government

Throughout its history, the UK media’s freedom[2], its special status, is derived from the promise to hold power to account.[3] The UK media deflates the government’s ambitions and exaggerations.[4] The promise died with Margaret Thatcher’s secret deal with Rupert Murdoch. ** The deal made Murdoch’s papers the Prime Minister’s media bodyguard. Yet something has changed.

Stroking the government’s will to engorgement is reward enough?

The media has gone from defending or supporting the government to fluffing the government. The Sun’s headline “Wham! Bam! Thank you Cam!”[5] is political fluffing.

The paper rewarded the PM’s virile behavior by stroking his ego, politically speaking.

Journalists force power to speak the truth

The role and behavior is not new. The question is whether the media can sustain it. A journalist can report the news, they can explain the news, and they can even defend the news. At some point, though they go from being a journalist to being a government fluffer. They keep the government or politician politically tumescent when they no longer reflect reality to the politician or government. They no longer speak truth to power or force power to speak the truth. They fluff.

A journalist is not always an adversary but do they serve the public when the advocate?

A journalist might believe that the government’s austerity programme is needed to reduce the deficit. They may argue it works. Both are valid positions. What happens though when they go beyond that position? If they argue that local government is providing more services for less money, then something has changed.

The statement does more than support the government; it fluffs the government’s political will to engorge it with political confidence in the face of reality. The statement distorts reality to suit the government. Reality is found with these two questions.

Since 2010 how many councils have closed libraries as well as reduced library services? (All)

Since 2010 how many councils have opened more libraries and increased library services? (None)

Councils are doing less with less. Libraries are not opening or expanding services. They are closing and decreasing services. There are less staff and less money to deliver services. It is one thing to support the government and argue that the austerity reduces the public sector to encourage other service delivery models. It is another to claim that local government delivers more with less when they are delivering less with less. When any journalist makes such a claim, and there are many others, they have moved beyond support to something else. Just as the Sun went beyond support to something else. One would suggest their goal is to stroke the government’s ego, to engorge its political will, by falsely stimulating them with such stories.

The question for journalism in the digital age.

Perhaps it is time to say it like it is: either you are a political journalist or you are a government fluffer.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluffer

[2] Although the article focuses on the UK media, the same approach applies to the US media or any media in a democratic society. A similar article could be written about the US media although it would need to consider television news.

[3] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/leveson-inquiry/9613965/All-governments-need-their-feet-held-to-the-fire.html and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21841715

[4] The news magazine Private Eye is the premier media company that deflates the government and holds the powerful to account. However, a newspaper does not need to be adversarial to achieve this task. https://mediameditations.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/journalisms-political-crisis/

[5] The phrase has a strong sexual connotation. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=wham+bam+thank+you+ma%27am


About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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