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Democracy Under Attack: How the Media Distort Policy and Politics Paperback – 27 Mar 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Policy Press (27 Mar. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847428495
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847428493
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 409,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

"Malcolm Dean's fascinating book explores an under-discussed dimension of politics -- how policy and political decisions are shaped by the popular media. Many of his examples should cause us great concern." --Baroness Shirley Williams

"Malcolm Dean had a media seat in the stalls of social policy through four tumultuous decades. He's been there, seen it - and knows it better than anyone. A vital subject: a definitive book." --Peter Preston, former editor of The Guardian

"Malcolm Dean has been uniquely well-placed to witness innumerable policy successes and failures, and the often distorted lens through which they have been covered by the media. This thoughtful and wise book will be invaluable for anyone working in the media who's involved in explaining social policy, and to anyone involved in social policy who needs to get the media on their side." --Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive of NESTA and former Director of the Prime Minister's Policy Unit and the Cabinet Office's Strategy Unit in Tony Blair's Government

About the Author

Malcolm Dean joined The Guardian newspaper in 1969 where he served as roving reporter, social affairs leader-writer and assistant editor. He became Special Adviser to the Health and Social Services Secretary in 1978/79. Returning to the paper in 1979 post election, he launched its Society section, a highly successful weekly supplement specialising in social policy, which he edited for most of its first 20 years as well as writing daily editorials. He retired in 2006 to take up a fellowship at Nuffield College, Oxford, where he is still an associate. He has served on numerous social policy working parties and was chair of a Joseph Rowntree Foundation commission on older people.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Democracy under attack looks at the role of the media in driving social policy. It accuses journalists of distortion, dumbing down, hunting in packs and several other sins. Nothing remarkable about that, you might think, except that the author is a journalist - Malcolm Dean, until 2006 the editor of the Guardian `Society' section and one of the paper's leader writers. The book is a fascinating interweaving of government policy decisions - especially in the Labour years - with the media's treatment of the same issues and how one shaped the other.

For me his analysis of one story stands out, because it says so much about how policy on asylum and migration has been driven by the press. First, Dean reminds us that before 1997 Labour had said little about these issues: its manifesto in 1997 covered them in only six lines. Within six years, Tony Blair would (in Dean's words) be `openly admitting he was intending to breach the founding principles of the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees'. How did this happen?

The story is familiar but it is painful to see it summarised in one place. Numbers of asylum seekers had risen rapidly, as a result of turmoil in places such as Iraq, Zimbabwe and Somalia. Applications peaked in 2002. Both the Star and the News of the World began to refer to asylum seekers as `this scum'. The Sun was a shade more polite with its `asylum cheats' and `illegals'. A particular focus of attention was the French asylum centre at Sangatte, run by the Red Cross, but often referred to (wrongly) as a `detention centre' and its occupants as `inmates'.

Several classic stories date from this period. The Sun devoted three pages to
`the Queen's swans' being killed, cooked and eaten by asylum seekers.
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Format: Hardcover
Although it has been six years in the making, Malcolm Dean's book turns out to provide an admirable companion reader for anyone following Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into the News of the World phone hacking scandal and the culture, practice and ethics of the British media. It also delivers two worthwhile narratives for the price of one.
The first is a straightforward summary of the phone hacking debacle itself. Sufficiently up-to-date to include developments as recent as August 2011, it gives a concise account of how the scandal emerged, leading to the closure of the News of the World and the collapse of Rupert Murdoch's bid to take full control of BSkyB television. This is familiar territory, yet it is useful to be reminded of contextual details. These include James Murdoch's Edinburgh lecture in 2009, appealing for impartial news reporting requirements to be lifted from broadcasters, which was titled, without irony, 'The absence of trust'.
Remarkable recent events are, however, placed in the context of the book's account over a longer timescale of the relationship between reporting and comment in the media and policy development in government. What emerges through a series of case studies is not flattering either to large sections of the media or to the politicians in successive administrations. We learn how efforts to make penal policy more effective and evidence-based have been derailed by an arms race between political leaders to out-tough each other, abetted by cynically misleading reporting of crime trends in the media. Contrariwise, Dean describes the craven response of politicians to alarmist newspaper coverage of immigration, including fabricated tabloid scare stories about asylum seekers.
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Format: Hardcover
There can rarely have been anyone better placed to write this book. As reporter for, and long term editor of, the Guardian's social policy pages Dean had a front row seat and back stage privileges in most of the social policy dramas of the UK from the 1970s onward, and even had a year inside the Department for Health & Social Security as special adviser to the Minister. The broad experience and deep research that underlie his book make a telling of tales so authoritative, so detailed, so `evidence based' that The Sun's only response can be a snort of fury and a hurl at the office bin.

In politics, the question `Whence Policy?' is complex enough to make `What do women want?' look elementary. Tomes and sets of volumes regularly fail to shed adequate light. But a sentence in Dean's book is such a gem of brevity it should preface all future efforts; "Policy-making is... a mix of new events, old promises, bureaucratic loyalties, party allegiances, manifesto pledges, pressure group campaigns, think tank or select committee reports, research findings and legislative cooking time among other factors."

Dean follows several examples of policy making through this maze where the various influences come into play and have their effect, and he unfolds a dark story. Progressive legislation on issues such as crime, drugs, immigration and asylum, child poverty, housing, health & social care, is warped, slowed, watered down, aborted or reversed through the generally baleful influence of media powers.
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