Editorial Intelligence?

“There is no conspiracy, I have not discussed these ideas with anybody in New Labour”
(Julia Hobsbawm)[1]

“So why does a faintly unpleasant odour rise from the pages of Editorial Intelligence…”(Cristina Odone, Guardian, March 27, 2006)[2]

“The show is over. The audience get up to leave their seats. Time to collect their coats and go home. They turn round…No more coats and no more home.” (Rozanov)

Kenneth Tynan once suggested that all the headlines in the popular press were the work of the same person: “an excitable middle-aged woman in thick tweeds and an advanced state of manic depression”.

It was mordant and apt then.  But now— networks of neurotic, irresponsible and manipulative troublemakers have sprung up, networks who want to dictate all newspaper headlines have formed companies.

The popular press they wish to place at their disposal, that of their imagination has already degenerated into the same amorphous, macabre, tedious and ugly product — there are no Kenneth Tynans to alleviate the tedium. A manic neurosis seems to have taken over the entire content, not just the screaming gibbering headlines.

For this network ‘Politics’ also became indistinguishable from PR long ago, and  ‘journalists on the take’ is practically their motto.

Media ownership and its manipulative purposes have long been the carefully ignored elephant in the room with the attendant distraction of the adulation of affluence, the celebration of greed and power, the worship of big business and the desire for moral impunity needs its psychological diplomats and political police. All of this allures this network — itself a narrow, self-serving governing elite — like a swaying talisman on a golden chain. Fully hypnotised, the herd think that this form of corruption should be its most lucrative feature if we can only convince others.  A disgusting ideal enthralls them: a Hieronymus Bosch vision of their soul’s aspiration: a network of post modernists, neo-liberals, neo-conservatives, think tanks, lobbyists, spin doctors should gather together in another cult. The integrated spectacle emerges: fetishised alienation, hierarchical power without ideologies, without myths, with the exception of the worship of illusion.  Welcome to Editorial Intelligence…

Julia Hobsbawm was given Private Eye’s 2005 ‘Polly Filler Award’ for her atrocious writing in the New Statesmanwhich noticed nothing amiss:

“Luckily, our new male Brazilian au pair had decided not to take his family’s advice to return home after the Stockwell shooting, and came with us to queue and help with the meltdown control brought on by over excitement (kids) and exhaustion (me).”

‘Polly Filler’ is Private Eye’s satire of a media pundit psychologically out of touch with reality, luxuriating in smug affluence and with a casual callous indifference to the plight of others, particularly the poor, while pontificating for profit on behalf of the rich. Of all the misguided stereotypes surrounding PR, Cocaine use has traditionally been portrayed as its metaphorical fuel — but into its comfortable illusions reality gradually seeps and the addict needs yet another (head)line, until eventually they become a bullshitting embarassment to everyone. Tynan’s manic depression takes hold.

Does Julia Hobsbawm break the mould? Hobsbawm has been described by PR Week as ‘a cross between Rosa Luxembourg and Edina from Absolutely Fabulous’. Which of these Jekell and Hyde characteristics has the upper hand? The Luxembourg quip is some sort of obscure put-down of Hobsbawm’s father Eric Hobsbawm, once thought of as Neil Kinnock’s pet thinker as he attacked the left within the Labour Party, but its all presentation now —big ideas? history? who reads them?

What Edina needs is her entourage — this has also replaced the political party — and most of the gang around Hobsbawm’s latest venture, Editorial Intelligence (EI) go beyond Jennifer Saunder’s mockery — a gathering of a London based set of obesely self-centred journalists, now openly copulating with PR shite-hawks, and dodgy lobbyists to sell the message of the money junkies. In describing EI — which describes itself as “a place where PR meets journalism” — commentators sound like they are picking over a steaming compost heap of rotten souls in a far corner of hades. It can’t be that bad —this shady transaction is nothing new.

It might involve PR but the ‘Public’ (who have not exactly been crying out for this) are, as ever, not really a factor; and the ‘Relations’ are financial and duplicitous. According to Hobsbawm it is all about ‘truth’.

“The role of PR is to provide information, to “tell the truth persuasively”, and to allow journalism the right to interpret, for good or bad.”
(Julia Hobsbawm, The Independent, November 27, 2001)

One interpretation is that it didn’t take long before the “or bad” part of that took over in the case of EI’s own PR and their predictable offer of payments to journalists to join its advisory board (so much for the persuasive nature of truth —it’s hard cash that does the talking in this world). For Hobsbawm some commentators have complained about the move because they prefer the relationship between PRs and hacks to be “cloak and dagger”. In the same article she adds:

“PR has nothing to hide. We send out press releases and give briefings openly (they are called press conferences and launches). With the exception of the mutually beneficial “off the record” quote, PR is transparent. But journalists’ egos often make them demur when admitting the involvement of public relations, hence years of running doctored interviews rather than admit intervention.”

You get the picture —normalisation: we have nothing to hide except for the stuff we have been doing behind your backs for all these years. Is it just journalists that are egotistical liars in this equation. So EI needs to be set up to get all this corruption out in the open so no one bothers much any more…?

Hobsbawm managed to sign up ‘blue-chip clients’ including, Morgan Stanley and the PR firm Fishburn Hedges — wow! But representitives of both are on the board listed below. She hoped that, lured by the Judas Goats of merchant banking and PR, charities and private companies will follow, now assured that she has normalised a hybrid form of couturier, courtesan journalism. It was eventually discovered that EI was offering journalists £1,000 a year to sit on its advisory board, and £250 a time to appear on discussion panels, while, according to the Sunday Times, 40 organisations such as the Royal Mail and Vodafone had paid £4,000 each to join the club in the hope of getting their agendas across to Britain’s “most influential commentators”. If everyone is part of this cosey marriage of convenience —who will then speak the truth to power: the gossip columns? [3]

Could it be that PR has a lot to hide, most notably in the creation of phony grass roots or ‘astroturf’ organisations and the provision of ‘junk science’, the pseudo science used to sell dangerous products (whether that be cigarettes or New Labour). [4]

PR obviously preys on the credulous, but in areas such as ‘Public Diplomacy’ or ‘Perception Management’ we stray into the territory once the preserve of intelligence agencies, not that the demarcation was that rigid. Government PR does not aid an analytical resistance to the control of the population’s view of political events (leaving aside good old-fashioned suppression, censorship, and intimidation). Although media ownership is fragmenting somewhat, public opinion is still heavily influenced by what the media circulates and this has not escaped the notice of the intelligence services and other fake persuaders. Hobsbawm’s new venture was launched at the Cabinet War Rooms underneath Whitehall, which could signal a desire that the organisation be seen as mired in the bowels of the covert nexus of power; further echoed by Hobsbawm’s assertion that EI is “The Economist Intelligence Unit meets the Yellow Pages meets the Week.”

Amongst much else, the Economist Intelligence Unit was the home of several spooks such as Brian Crozier, who then started his own news agency cum think tank (kindly funded by big business in the form of a CIA-linked foundation). Indeed Hobsbawm is a long standing member of The British American Project for a Successor Generation. [5] This was formulated by Lewis Van Dusen, Jr. author of “Civil Disobedience: Destroyer of Democracy,” Dr. Christopher Coker of the Institute for European Defence and Strategic Studies (with Crozier) and Charles Villiers, who, through the marriage of his eldest daughter Diana to John Negroponte, worked closely with William J. Casey, then director of the CIA, on the Reagan administration’s anti-Communist offensive in Central America. The BAP project had its roots in the US public diplomacy effort ‘Project Democracy’ run by Charles Z. Wick and David Abshire.

What was the point of BAP: as Senaca said to Nero:”However many people you slaughter you cannot kill your successor.”  Literature prepared by those academics in the pay of the US government pointed to a ‘Successor Generation’ in Europe, who might not turn out to be that loyal to the US and the Cold War.  The wonders of the US dollar would be dangled in front of them in the form of (yet another) Atlanticist organisation — so rigid is the UK hierarchy that it can be fairly accurately predicted who would ascend to the top with relative ease (it was just as easy to penetrate by the Soviets: a few elite families at Cambridge and organisations who feed into MI6).  This applied to both sides of the largely imaginary political divide: money unites.  Most careerist politicians and hangers on like Hobsbawm were naturally attracted to it, and the Project had various intentions —support for the euro-missiles in the 1980s and largely covering-up and silencing debate on what the US had done in Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra and so on.  One one level it was a PR stunt—sly insinuation, perversion, subversion and bribery.

Hobsbawm and Blunkett

And power is exercised socially. Hobsbawm seemed uncomfortable in the press interviews which followed her hollow trumpeting of how EI was devoted to the ‘truth’ particularly around her role helping her frisky friend Kimberly Quinn. Shades of Vicky “yeah-but-no-but” Pollard here:

“”I didn’t lobby for Kimberly Quinn to the papers. What I did very briefly was respond as her friend who also was in PR, and I kept to my principle that if you’re in PR and a journalist calls you, you must take the call.” Soon, she realised that, in such cases, “unless you have a formal role, you shouldn’t take the call.” So that is all she did? Respond to calls from journalists? This is not the version of events assumed around Fleet Street. If you recall the timetable last year, after the first flurry of activity in August, the story went quiet and Blunkett’s job looked safe. Then on November 28, the Sunday Telegraph broke an exclusive: “Blunkett’s ex-lover accusing him of fast-tracking visa.” Someone, presumably from the Quinn camp, had given the story legs again. With this, the minister was doomed.” [6]

Hobsbawm Macaulay Communications

And what would Absolutely Fabulous’ Edina be without a Patsy. Hobsbawm Macaulay Communications, the company she originally set up with her old school friend Sarah Macaulay — who went on to marry Gordon Brown —was forced into liquidation after finding itself the ‘victim’ of a business deal that went wrong (not unlike the present PM’s running of the country). Hobsbawm was faced with the option of paying a bill for £100,000, run up by a film company to whom HMC had assigned a property lease, or declare the business insolvent. The pair then fell out and Hobsbawm Macaulay Communications went silent. This is the company who advise big business. [7]

Before Gordon Brown got in the split seems to be final, for Julia: “in our culture, being able to schmooze and cajole is every bit as valuable as having what the Brownies like to call ‘a brain the size of the planet”. [8] And she seemed to have picked up the scent of ‘PR Spiv’, David Cameron quite early on.

EI…EI…Oh!

She says the new service will combine “the consulting and analysis of a think-tank with the accurate data of a directory and the inside scoop of a newspaper”. Unlikely that this will wash now that News International’s scooping methodology has been a tad problematic. But most everyone else says its the same old same old. Hobsbawm, not without her own cynicism, has noticed something about the mainstream press: “The notion that journalism is ‘at the vanguard of truth seeking, truth telling’, that it is ‘further up the moral food chain than most other forms of communication,’ that ‘journalism is somehow seriously frank and free,” is a delusion.” We shall see this aptly demonstrated in our examination of those deluded enough to join with her below.

But EI has higher minded plans than exploiting the debasement of journalism.

“If I could wave a magic wand there would be a forum —part academic, part think tank. A place where moral philosophy is applied to the question of where information goes in the 21st century.” This place would be the ‘truth institute.'” [9]

The ‘Ministry of Truth’ title was of course already taken, not that plagiarism has ever stopped the PR industry. [10]

Although it has caused a fair bit of it, EI aims to break down the ‘traditional hostility’ between journalists and PRs by getting the two to mix at lunches, dinners and speaking events. “Cynicism is so over,” she says. [11] But incredulity came thundering back with the first episode of EI (a feeble attempt to be some sort of alternative media) which contained the ramblings of one Derek Draper. Where does one begin with Draper? Some time ago his response to the question, ‘Did you actually write your book New Labour’s First 100 Days?’ was ‘Write it? —I didn’t even read it.’

Ever ahead of the game Draper has now transformed himself from something that emanated from an orrifice of Peter Mandelson’s that produced noise to a psychotherapist, in between getting caught on tape by Greg Palast boasting of his involvement in a tiny circle of people who secretly ran the country for personal profit and so forth: “cash for access”, “Lobbygate”. Who knows —after Editorial Intelligence we might soon see Editorial Therapy: a place where journalists and lobbyists and PR people can go to discover their sensitive, less materialistic sides.

Labour fundraiser… the access of evil

Further down this ‘moral food chain’ was the 1000 Club, Hobsbawm’s organisation for those with an annual £1,000 or so to give to Tony Blair, which has existed since the early 1990s. This was described as a way to ‘make middle-class participants feel like big shots’ and we now know the sum falls far from that of a peerage.

“The covering letter accompanying the club’s promotional literature in March 1996 – laden with such Blair clichés as “young country” and “new economy” —promised invitations to special summer and Christmas receptions, an annual conference dinner, campaign briefings and chances to meet members of the Shadow Cabinet. The reply-paid envelope was addressed to Hobsbawm Macaulay Communications in Soho’s Poland Street. Within five years, the event had grown considerably in stature. The 1996 dinner saw 450 tickets sold out a month before it was held in July. Hobsbawm Macaulay refused to release the guest list. “This is a private function”, an employee explained. “People who have bought tickets have asked not to have their names disclosed.” Names that did slip out included Bruce Shepherd, managing director of Shepherd Offshore; Caparo’s Swraj Paul; Ulster Unionist David Montgomery, chief executive of the Mirror Group; and Hanson director Peter Harper, the company’s linkman to Labour.” [12]

Much of her work involved pandering to the vanity of the rich who wish to meet the famous:

“But the prize for hypocrisy goes to the Labour politicians who have condemned Prince Edward’s wife for exploiting her royal connections, while averting their gaze from the Chancellor’s wife, Sarah Macaulay. Over the past few years she and Julia Hobsbawm have built up a successful public-relations firm. Early on, they had significant help, from Geoffrey Robinson, who was then buying his way into Gordon Brown’s favour and Tony Blair’s government. He lavished some 100,000 on fees to Hobsbawm Macaulay, partly in payment for organising his hospitality: once again, the rich met the famous.”(Bruce Anderson The Spectator, April 14, 2001)

EI’s people

Judging from their publicity material all companies will really get from EI is the product of someone going on the web for a little while or summing up what’s hip according to Heat magazine’s latest interview with Peter and Jordan. A list of ‘likes and dislikes’ is promised — hard to think of a more puerile format, reminiscent of the questions teen mag journalists would ask pop stars in the 50s and 60s: ‘what’s your favourite colour Ringo,’ and Marxism Today.

Before shelling out money prospective clients might themselves want to have a look at who these people are, let’s save them some time. On other pages in this blog you can find profiles of the individuals. The links connect to individual profiles of members of EI’s ‘commentariat,’

Matthew d’Ancona
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
Charlie Burgess
Colin Byrne
Ron Finlay
Daniel Finkelstein
Kim Fletcher
Dominic Fry
Emma Gilpin
Euart Glendinning
Tony Halmos
Julian Henry
Barney Jones
Luke Johnson
John Kampfner
Kirsty Lang
Sandra Macleod
Jessica Morris
John Lloyd
Suzanne Moore
Toby Mundy
Jeremy O’Grady
Ed Pilkington
Mary Riddell
Sophie Radice
Jenni Russell
Lesley Smith
Simon Walker
Paul Webster
Michael Wolff
Andrew Whyte
Ian Wright

EI’s eh… former people

The Sunday Times reported on the inevitable falling-out, ostensibly over whether journalists and PRs would get away with such a blatently biddable forum sponsored by big organisations, sweetly termed Hobsbawm’s “information and networking club” as it was. It followed on from Christina Odone’s article which described EI as “PR meets journalism in Caribbean freebies, shameless backscratching and undeclared interests”. Institutionalising the “already rather dubious relationship between hacks, flacks and the organsiations the latter represent”, Odone wrote, “is just bad news.” It also stated that the BBC forced Barney Jones and Kirsty Lang to quit the EI’s advisory board, after what surely someone referred to as the cash for comment affair.

Melanie Phillips has also refused to get involved saying “I don’t think that journalists and PRs should be in a jolly boat together,” when of course they have interbred for some years. In the running as an Oscar nominee, Rod Liddle described the project as “a disgusting idea which suggests journalists might be up for hire.” John Lloyd surprised everyone and resigned, but then it turns out he had been appointed to head the Reuters journalism institute at Oxford — although he still features on the site— Matthew d’Ancona also seems to have left, along with Derek Wyatt MP and Jenni Russell. That kind of stench actually attracts some people: Peter York (visually a cross between Gary Glitter and Peter Mandelson) has recently joined. [13]  If that is the principled people who have left: who are those that stayed?

Notes

[1] Patrick Weever The Julia Project, 17 December 2003.
[2] Cristina Odone, Guardian, March 27, (2006)
[3]http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/article/060406/editorial_intelligence_splits_trade_as_it_pays_for_journos
[4] http://www.gregpalast.com/detail.cfm?artid=73&row=3
[5] http://www.bilderberg.org/bap.htm
[6] http://media.guardian.co.uk/site/story/0,14173,1635700,00.htm
[7] http://www.spinwatch.org/modules.php?name=News&file=print&sid=1
[8] http://observer.guardian.co.uk/7days/story/0,,1774361,00.html
[9] http://www.anti-spin.com/index.cfm?SECONDARY_ID=0&PRIMARY_ID=54
[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ministry_of_Truth
[11] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2005/11/03/lnet03.xml
[12] http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/Back/Wnext25/Osler.html
[13] http://www.editorialintelligence.com/advisory_board.htm

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2 Responses to “Editorial Intelligence?”


  1. […] e. Much of their work involved pandering to the vanity of the rich who wish to meet the famous: “But the prize for hypocrisy goes to the Labour politicians who condemned Prince Edward’s wife for exploiting her royal connections, while averting their gaze from the Chancellor’s wife, Sarah Macaulay. Over the years she and Julia Hobsbawm built up a successful public-relations firm. Early on, they had significant help, from Geoffrey Robinson, who was then buying his way into Gordon Brown’s favour and Tony Blair’s government. He lavished some £100,000 on fees to Hobsbawm Macaulay, partly in payment for organising his hospitality: once again, the rich met the famous.”(Bruce Anderson The Spectator, April 14, 2001) https://pinkindustry.wordpress.com/editorial-intelligence/ […]


  2. […] Much of their work involved pandering to the vanity of the rich who wish to meet the famous: “But the prize for hypocrisy goes to the Labour politicians who condemned Prince Edward’s wife for exploiting her royal connections, while averting their gaze from the Chancellor’s wife, Sarah Macaulay. Over the years she and Julia Hobsbawm built up a successful public-relations firm. Early on, they had significant help, from Geoffrey Robinson, who was then buying his way into Gordon Brown’s favour and Tony Blair’s government. He lavished some £100,000 on fees to Hobsbawm Macaulay, partly in payment for organising his hospitality: once again, the rich met the famous.”(Bruce Anderson The Spectator, April 14, 2001) https://pinkindustry.wordpress.com/editorial-intelligence/ […]


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