Being harmlessly sidetracked by blogs is a vice that is excusable on a slow day… I believe there is a medical term for it – procrastination…

I found myself thus sidetracked a short while ago, by a blog that said the situation in North Korea ‘is not all that it seems’. Fair enough, I thought, what ever is? 

In this instance, to my astonishment, I found myself reading a thesis that claimed a) North Korea is a US puppet state b) the US has been secretly taken over by Nazis and c) Kim Jong-un is the son of a kidnapped teenage Japanese bikini beauty (so the DPRK by this logic is extremely close to Japan). My brain having, by this stage, completely boiled over I decided to stop reading – just about at the point where I think the Daleks were being blamed for the failure of the global economy.

Unreal though this may seem, it proves that whatever the apparent facts of a situation there will always be those who claim the polar opposite to be true, and to be able to ‘prove’ this. Which gets me back to the basics of decent journalism and what used to be known, before blogging threw reality out of the window, as ‘standing up your story’ – that is, it having some basis in fact rather than a claim that the CIA ‘know all about this’. It’s very simple to suggest that the entire Establishment is hiding Something (probably because they undoubtedly are, but the Something is equally likely not to be what we might guess it is). It is much harder to prove this.

However, in writing this I can sense the ghost of an old boss (editor) curling his metaphorical lip. This particular gentleman was an enthusiastic Communist who maintained, in the face of tv coverage and reams of newspaper reportage, that the massacre in Tienanmen Square had never occurred. This formidably bright man was utterly convinced of this. And as we all know, there are plenty of people who believe that the US government in some way ‘engineered’ 9/11. In neither case can I understand how the contrary view can be true, but there it is, and there are people who claim to have ‘proof’ that these things are true. One thing is for certain, and that is that just because a lot of people say something it doesn’t mean it’s true, or indeed that it isn’t true… It just means that a lot of people say it.

It’s tough, as a journalist, to maintain impartiality largely because so many facts are like this – they are ‘givens’. North Korea is a rogue communist state; Al Qaeda was behind 9/11; Chinese troops killed students in Tienanmen Square. Yet all of these ‘facts’ are a product of our Western mindset and undoubtedly, were we from the Middle East or Asia we would argue with one or more of these statements. So what we write is a product of our environment as much as it is of ‘fact’. That is almost inescapable. 

Do I give up on journalism, or blogging, on this account? No, I don’t think I do, but I think we must accept that what we read and indeed, what we write, is by definition partial, and take that as a starting point from which to try to do better – to find the concrete facts such as they are. But try as we may to shake off the shackles of our presumptions, there are some that will always ensnare us.

I would certainly be interested in the thoughts of others… Meanwhile, I must go and find out if Kim Jong-un is really going to become King of the Daleks next week!