Rupert Matthews: Only the EU's cheerleaders in the press ignore the issues and focus on discrediting personalities
“Surely not!” I hear you cry. “The very idea!” Well, quite.
The British press is having a bad time of it right now. The fall out from the News of the World phone hacking scandal is proving to be serious and wide reaching. As is the way with such inquiries the initial remit to look at phone hacking has been widened to embrace “the culture, practices and ethics of the press”. Predictably the tabloids are getting a bad time and just as predictably the great and the good are joining in the press-bashing with glee.
Well, they would. It is generally the great and the good who are of interest to the media. It is their dirty laundry that tended to get aired on the front page of the News of the World.
I suppose I should declare an interest here. In my youth I worked for the Daily Mail for a few months. Actually, I have two interests to declare. Since Roger Helmer has announced his retirement from the EU Parliament I am going to be taking his place as an MEP and so be elevated in a minor way to the ranks of the great and the good - at least so far as the journalists are concerned when they need a target for their scorn.
I had been wondering if I would get such an easy ride from the press in my new guise as a soon-to-be-MEP. In fact it has all been generally fairly pleasant, except...
What I have found interesting is that without exception the media have ignored completely my previous life in politics. My career as a councillor (8 years) has sunk without trace, my work for the party since I joined in 1982 has become invisible and even my day job as a writer of history books has vanished entirely. No. All the press are interested in is the fact that I have written a few books about ghosts, a couple on UFOs and one on sasquatch.
For the most part these stories have been fairly good natured. See the Independent, the Telegraph (scroll down a bit) and the Leicester Mercury for examples. After all, journalists are in the trade and know that a freelance writer must write about whatever his publisher likes and pays for.
There have been two exceptions. The Financial Times wanted to quiz me on my "belief in the paranormal" and tried to lure me into declaring a belief in such things as alien invaders, conspiracy cover-ups and the unquiet dead. Then the BBC wanted to do an exclusive interview with me on my supposed, but non-existent, full time career hunting ghosts and ghouls. I had to disappoint them both. I don't have a generalised belief in the paranormal, nor do I chase around the country hoping to catch a white lady in the act. I write books on the subject, presenting the evidence so that readers can decide for themselves. That is what I am paid to do. End of.
But then my wife pointed out something I had missed. Only the FT and the BBC had tried to paint me into a corner on the subject. Only they had sought to twist my views into something they were not and so portray me in a bizarre light. And only they had been, and remain, cheerleaders for the Euro currency and for EU integration in general.
Could it be that, having lost the argument on the facts, the Euro-luvvies were trying to discredit someone with well-known eurosceptic views by twisting facts and misrepresenting views?
The press. Ulterior motives. Oh, surely not.