At the End of the Day

Notes on understanding what’s really going on.

If you’re going to take reporting seriously (and this isn’t me being pretentious – I am only an amateur reporter) there is a real need to build up a trusted spectrum of folks who will talk to you.

When I started this lark eight years ago, I had seven solid-gold contacts. They were all leftovers from a misspent youth in advertising, and the many ways in that profession interlocks with editorial media and politics. They were split more or less 50:50 between the UK and the US. In the UK (four of them) three were from Government – that is, the Civil Service in Whitehall – and one was working on a national newspaper. It also has to be said that I retained some 80+ close mates and valued acquaintances from advertising itself….and each of these in turn had valuable contacts in related areas.

In the US, one was based in California, but with quite extraordinary links to big money. A liberal himself, he quickly became a good source of inebriated gossip. One was in New York advertising – the only woman in that City with whom I felt a true kinship, who later went on to much bigger things. The other was (and is) a Washington civil servant now sadly close to retirement.

Looking back, it feels like I might have been a very early proponent of ‘networking’ – a term I loathe, because it is suggestive of using people: but in the end, if the cap fits, one must wear it. If you’ve worked in senior corporate life for over thirty years, it’s amazing how many people one can contact….and thus gain access to folks who might tell you stuff.

The two key things, I have found, if you want them to tell you stuff, are these: create absolute trust in their anonymity; and make it clear that you want to ‘use’ those people for a good cause. These are absolutely mutually inclusive considerations: informants need to know they can trust you – and trust you to do the right thing with what they tell you.

Sometimes, one’s hubris gets the better of one. A contact from the commercials business was able to tell me something important about the Blair Premiership. In using this snippet to put something else together some months later, I got what he’d said wrong. He was not best pleased, and I can understand why. But we all learn from our mistakes: there is no reason for anyone to trust us if we betray that trust.

However, it’s not just contacts that breed contacts. As I frequently observe – but it deserves repetition – these days over 60% of all stories run by The Slog come from Sloggers. There is no way I can express the gratitude I feel about this. Not only does it justify my starting point – blogging by use of startling facts to stimulate an intelligent audience rather than just yelling at the knuckle-draggers – it has given this site a real credibility which (at last) is making inroads among professional journalists. Some Slog readers refer in an acidic manner to ‘the MSM’, but you’d be amazed at just how many highly principled hacks there are out there. Their stuff gets spiked, and if the Eye won’t touch it, they’re increasingly likely to come to The Slog…or a hundred other largely online organs who will only spike stuff they see as spin.

I posted a piece about the pain of being outside the mainstream yesterday. To my genuine astonishment, it got around 120 responders, many of whom thought I was about to do a Frank Sinatra retirement thing. Not a bit of it: I was merely registering how disappointing it is to see The Slog still relegated by many to the Lunatic Fringe. As a bloke whose self-image is one of being a sane realist – and, being honest, as a pack animal who’d much rather belong to the pack – it does irk quite often that the vast majority of my fellow-citizens either don’t see (or don’t care) about how big a scam they’re enduring.

As many of those comment threading to that post pointed out, there is a growing feeling – almost taken for granted in 2011 – that the majority somehow must be right. Whether this has come from majoritarian voting on juries or the furore over such weight of numbers in the EU I really wouldn’t know; but it reflects yet another appalling ignorance about the difference between lots of folks thinking something, and it being right.

A bloke I knew at school – one of the first to set an example of being different to be right – would often say, when faced with others talking up the majority opinion, “Yeh, well – eat sh*t, right? I mean, 400 trillion flies can’t be wrong”.

A lot of the time, it’s very difficult indeed to get at the truth. Often, we don’t find out what it was until much later. That said, it has never been easier to spot bollocks. Bollocks is, after all, not the opposite of Truth. Rather, it’s what the powerful put out to hide the truth.

22 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

    • The majority of people will only sit up and take notice when they find that they can no longer afford the lifestyles that they’ve become accustomed to. They’ll sure want to know then, just what is going on. And they’re so wrapped up in the crap that is on TV, they’ve stopped thinking for themselves.

  1. You write extremely well. Your ability to acquire and assemble information and ideas and present them to your readership in a cogent and and comprehensible manner is admirable. Reasons why I make you my first port of call every day, and why I have resolved never to start a blog. A word of warning to everyone who values freedom of information. The elites do not like the internet. This wonderful resource should never be taken for granted. Someone once said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilence. Never more true than today.
    Take care.
    Blessings
    Jez

  2. “Find the right answer, realise you’ll never see it in your lifetime, and then advocate it anyway because it’s the right answer.

    You’ve got to settle for second, third of fourth best in day to day life more often than not. There is no reason to accept anything but the best in your thinking, however. The only real personal issue is it requires you to completely give up on the idea that you will ever be all that free yourself. Accepting you can do nothing to sway tens of millions of people with muddleheaded notions any time soon is the first step to actually fixing stuff properly.”

    Ty, Shipbuilder.

    Nicked from Injun HPCer

    No idea where it comes from.

  3. I lurk here, reading daily, having found my way from the Torygraph’s Financial section. Your ‘articles’ cleave through the spin/lies and bias I see in Auntie’s reporting. They also help me put ZH’s intensity into context.

    Long may your blog continue.
    Thank you, and Merry Christmas.

  4. I was gloomy before I read this from the Bloomberg “Murdoch uses the Saturday Excuse” article – I’m still gloomy, but at least I’m laughing

    “In order to put this into context, James Murdoch accepts that he signed the check to Gordon Taylor,” said Mark Lewis, a lawyer for phone-hacking victims including the Dowler family. “It seems that he did writing but he didn’t do reading.”

  5. Thanks for being there & please keep going. I know enough about history to know that the mainstream is always behind the curve, especially when it is being subtlety controlled by those who happen to be the main problem. You & a few others make me, & I am sure others, feel as though we are not alone & totally losing it. Your use of logic and reason, backed up by a world weary wisdom, works wonders at clearing away the fog & as you put it, the ever increasing load of bollocks.

  6. Sir,,
    I’m sorry that I write so much bollocks all the time. It is to hide the truth that I don’t know what I’m talking about,.. but it does impress the boys. ;-)

  7. off topic
    Ever since the zerohedge rehypothecation story markets have tumbled. Maybe the big players know the truth is out of the bag, and they must deleverage before everyone else.
    Euro will be the fall guy.

    • Well, whadayerknow. It looks like BuBa is talking at two opposing issues at the same time:
      1.publicly demanding honest banking and no bail outs et al, whilst
      2.quietly shovelling out €495 billion to the PIIGS to keep then afloat.

      I wonder what the German electorate will think of this.

      The Merk must know about this…maybe that’s one reason why she is so keen to keep the euro alive.

  8. I don’t see Target2 as a matter of “prudence” so much as a system for reconciling payments that works fine for the purposes it was designed for.

    The problem is that Target2 is facing condition (like spiralling current-account deficits which money racing towards the creditor countries and a possible EZ breakup) that it was never designed to operate under.

  9. “I was merely registering how disappointing it is to see The Slog still relegated by many to the Lunatic Fringe. As a bloke whose self-image is one of being a sane realist – and, being honest, as a pack animal who’d much rather belong to the pack – it does irk quite often that the vast majority of my fellow-citizens either don’t see (or don’t care) about how big a scam they’re enduring.”

    John, as I understand it, you spent most of your working career in advertising. Did you not see how the whole trend of this industry has moved away from promoting the good features of competing products as being unique and is now all about promoting the unique features as being good? Isn’t it inevitable that this change of emphasis has been absorbed into the delivery of political messages as well?

    This is how it is. Winning the race by producing the best product is no longer guaranteed, because the rest of the field is trying to short-circuit the competition. What wins races now is competent deception and lying – not competent production of real value.

    • Simon
      I gave up advertising twelve years ago next month. But you make a very sound point.
      One of the reasons I left the business was the realisation that my clients were getting not just younger, but – more to the point – increasingly willing to bend the truth.
      It’s part of my belief that, around 1982/3, insects stopped hiding under stones, and instead went out into the world of commerce, shouting “I am an insect, and f**k you”.

  10. I can only repeat Jeremy’s appreciative comment – says it all for me too. Visiting the Slog daily is definitely a priority – even if only for the sarcastic wit!

    “You write extremely well. Your ability to acquire and assemble information and ideas and present them to your readership in a cogent and and comprehensible manner is admirable. Reasons why I make you my first port of call every day, and why I have resolved never to start a blog. A word of warning to everyone who values freedom of information. The elites do not like the internet. This wonderful resource should never be taken for granted. Someone once said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilence. Never more true than today.”

    Happy Christmas and EU free New Year!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s