Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I've never trusted Dispatches - the long-running current affairs series on UK's Channel 4. Nearly every edition is full of factual inaccuracies, deliberate distortions, and downright bias - all with the unprincipled aim of provoking deliberate alarm for the reward of increased journalistic impact.

The first manifestation I noted of its shady deceitful methods was in the early 90s - a programme focusing on activities of Genesis P-Orridge (or whatever people call him these days) and cohorts. Normally, P-Orridge is so full of shit about how he founded The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys; invented LSD, the wheel and the internet; and redefined popular music as we know it; yet this is one rare occasion that I've found myself sympathising with him. He and several of his associates were scandalously stitched up by this disreputable team on the Satanic Ritual Abuse episode, to the extent, as I understand it, that he was forced into exile for his own safety.

Since it's presented under the aegis of a respected TV channel that receives state funding, the credibility of Dispatches is rarely questioned, and is therefore taken far more seriously than would be say an article in the rabid Murdoch tabloid press (News Of The World, The Sun), thus resulting in an even more insidious impact.

Interestingly, there are transparent concessions employed that can, upon further analysis, be identified as giving more cause for suspicion. For example, the studiously solemn voice-over of the narrator and melancholy creepy soundtracks, are both typically employed to give extra gravitas to the topics, eliciting an emotional response from the viewer of deep concern. Also, the frequent use of the word 'story' to describe the topic of each edition cunningly presupposes that what we are being presented with has a genuine narrative - the metasignificance of which is the implied notion of something happening that is interrupted by an event. In the context of current affairs therefore, something existentially bad interrupted by the force of good. Furthermore, having recently seen the documentary Helvetica and noting Dispatches' use of said font, it points to a subtext of the triumph of presentation over content.

Below is a handful (from a long list) of other examples of the Dispatches team up to their dirty tricks.

It almost goes without saying that a middle-aged middle class white male evangelising Christian 'saving' children in Africa should not be trusted. The fact that the Englishman in question is condemning the use of Christ's name in identifying witch children in Christian Nigerian communities would be like Gary Glitter warning kids not to join the Cubs. The poor kids in question don't stand a chance. Dispatches is guilty of a form of demonisation and imposition of 'superior' Western beliefs that wouldn't have been out of place in the 19th century, and all without any questioning whatsoever of the suspect motives of the would-be 'saviours - either way, the poor kids in question don't stand a chance. The great irony here being that the real issues at its heart are the twin legacies of the beliefs of the very same Christian zealots in conjunction with the West's ruthless exploitation of the country's natural resources.

Far be it for me to be defending radical Muslim preachers, but once again this was a disgraceful episode where secretly filmed speeches in mosques were carefully spliced together to portray the clerics in as bad a light as possible: distortions for which TV journalists are only too expert in creating, both in small subtle ways and others more obvious (as exemplified here) provoking serious consequences.

Timed very carefully to affect a government debate on the timing of abortion interventions, Dispatches screened some highly shocking graphic footage of aborted foetuses in a blatant attempt to create disturbed emotionally charged responses. The programme's virulent anti-abortion agenda became clearer when it was discovered that said footage was provided to them by an extreme 'pro-life' group.

Ironically when considered in relation to the aforementioned Abortion episode, the Dispatches team once again were guilty of blatant scaremongering aimed at promoting their questionable and reactionary ulterior motives. The science of 'proving' that video games are harmful to youngsters is entirely spurious at best (the converse is likely to be nearer the truth) - but it's the hysterical paranoid fear of books, of pornography, of horror films, of television, in a shiny new wrapper. As far as I'm aware, Hitler and Stalin were never into COD4, Halo 3, Killzone 2 - nor indeed Super Mario.


Shonx said...

Whilst I agree with you for the most part, it should be pointed out that Peter Oborne was pointing out the housing wrangles and expenses abuse that most of the UK's papers have just discovered back in 2007 (although I have the feeling that he probably wrote this a couple of years before even that)-


Video here -


Since Chris Morris et al parodied the emotionally manipulative styles of "factual" reporting in Brasseye, it seems astounding that most documentaries have now moved closer to self-parody than he could ever have envisaged.

Alan.. said...

"Dispatches screened some highly shocking graphic footage of aborted foetuses in a blatant attempt to create disturbing emotionally charged responses"

When I was in high school, around 4th or 5th year, my entire year got taken to the assembly hall and were treated to a lengthy pro-life presentation that included graphic images like the ones you describe and also video footage of the 'silent scream' of a fetus moments before an abortion.

After the presentation a number of pupils in the class asked our RE teacher why we were only given one side of the story and the reply was something along the lines of "There aren't any pro-abortion groups who give talks in schools."

I'm ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I wasn't one of those who spoke up afterwards. Instead I was one of the many in the class who fell for their cheap tricks.

It wasn't till about a year after that I began to see through their bullshit and realised just how perceptive my classmates had been in challanging that outrageously manipulative presentation.

A lesson learned the long way I guess.

the mullah said...

without wishing to support gp-o, it might be examined that the whole debacle surround him as put forth by "dispatches" was used by him to spur numerous changes in his life. I believe this is called "secondary benefit", in the literature.

SenzuriChampion said...

wishing to support g-po, it might be examined that the whole debacle surround him as put forth by "dispatches" was used by him to spur numerous changes in his life. I believe this is called "secondary benefit", in the literature.