Common Nonsense: The Arrival Of GB News

Christopher Fowler

'Sensible Thinking'

Friends working in media spent a decade keeping Fox News out of the UK. They did it not because they were politically opposed to the channel's views but because it stoked fear in the vulnerable for ratings. The arrival of Andrew Neil's GB News, a US-style news opinion channel partly funded out of Dubai (and therefore, we assume, by Russian disinformation services) has been treated with a surprising amount of respect in the national press, a medium which is itself dying, and has garnered its first week's-worth of positive comments from the Times, Telegraph, Mail and others. Its ratings started on a curiosity-driven high and very quickly slumped. Its demographic is 65+ Bs and Cs.
The technically inept visual equivalent of LBC radio, it arrived feeling dated and doomed.
Any democracy needs opposing views to survive, but the channel presents a particular challenge. Promising to voice the unrepresented it did the exact opposite, parading all-too-familiar talking heads who have repeatedly been given platforms on the BBC and other channels. These inevitably included gurning dupe/professional failure Mr Farridge from Accounts, babbling on about 'what people are sick and tired of', and terminally dim telly actor Laurence Fox. There were no surprises in the format, just the expected attacks on 'woke' culture, pro-Brexit rants and that favourite trope of extremists; 'sensible thinking'. But it's this sensible thinking that is gradually shifting Russia, Poland and Hungary from banning LGBT+ discussions in schools to outright fascism. In the excellent Netflix documentary 'Nail Bomber', the perpetrator David Copeland explained his reasons for wanting to slaughter as many minorities as possible.
He said quite simply that he hated them. His three horrific nail bombs killed and maimed black and gay Londoners and a pregnant woman. I was there the night the biggest bomb went off and saw its horrific effects first-hand. Copeland had soaked his nails in rat urine and faeces to infect his victims.

Reasonable now, rabid later

Copeland was not mad; he was caught out by faking mental illness. He was not interested in assuaging anyone's fears about himself. He's an extreme example of where racism leads. So is GB News just revenue-driven air-filler for the chattering classes or the thin end of the wedge? Will it be a case of reasonable now, rabid later? Will we all end up like the silly old sod below, going around peeling 'Wear A Mask' stickers off tube trains? Trying to sound reasonable on TV when you're spouting racism is almost a pro sport. It's important to use the assumptive second personal plural so beloved of TV commercials ('You're stuck in the office but you'd rather be driving a Jeep') when asking people to be sensible about sending refugee children back to war zones. Sensible thinking appeals to the British nature. Should little boys honestly be encouraged to become girls? Aren't women trying too hard to have it all? The British abolished slavery early so why do we need to pull statues down too? Surely what we need is a little common sense! It is, until you dig a little deeper. Democracy is about continual micro-adjustments that incorporate all, not just Mr Farridge and his pub pals in the wrong part of Kent. It was inevitable that he would come creeping around the back doors of GB News, hoping that no-one would recall him desperately glad-handing Donald Trump in a gold lift. But that's the point; the channel's core audience does remember and doesn't care. It can tie itself in ideological knots, changing sides from one day to the next, and nobody minds. It's also the channel's curse, because far from causing outrage it merely encourages a shrug of indifference.

It's All Connected

In the eyes of its viewers GB News scored a powerful goal by smartly pointing out that one of its boycotting advertisers, Ikea, had just been fingered for spying on its employees, although the facts were hardly connected. But interconnection is the name of the game here; G5 radio masts are causing Covid and the vaccine is as dangerous as the MMR jab, although in reality failure to be vaccinated against measles brought it back from the edge of eradication. As children we were inoculated against half a dozen lethal illnesses and many lives were saved, but the data on rare anomalies was not published, so everyone calmly queued for their protection. The fate of GB News is, I suspect, the fate of all such initiatives in the UK. After the common sense chatter will come rants from ratings-chasing members of the maniac community, then
a gentle drift into irrelevance and invisibility as it uses its funding to keep near the top of the EPG while never rising above the kind of core audience you'd expect from a provincial radio station.
Posted in


Jo W (not verified) Fri, 18/06/2021 - 16:03

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

A very well written article,young Christopher. By the way, as I am over the target age,do I HAVE to watch this rubbish or can I still use that little red button?

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Fri, 18/06/2021 - 16:11

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The 'thinking' part of 'sensible thinking' is the biggest oxymoron. The typical viewer wants to be told what to think (on any particular day), not have to actually think for themselves. Nodding in unison has replaced judgement. If Fox/GB News says it, it must be so.

Peter+T (not verified) Fri, 18/06/2021 - 16:35

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

As someone who has spent most of this week trying to solve a difficult equation (especially for an over 65), I can say with confidence that accepting a catchy slogan, "it's all the fault of the XXXs", is far easier than thinking.

Speaking of slogans, if the pseudo-(fill in what you like) Tony Blair had gone half way to living up to his "education, education, education ... make Britain a learning society", perhaps we wouldn't be in the present dirty mess

joel (not verified) Fri, 18/06/2021 - 19:15

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

my father is 87...he has always been a sensible, conservative man who would talk to anybody, and had a genuine interest and love for people...after watching fox news for the last 4-5 years (during which he was on hospice and bed bound, then off hospice, but limited in his activity, and then the quarantine)...he is fearful in a way i have never seen, and it saddens me...and he continues to drink the kool-aid about the vaccine, covid, BLM, etc...i appreciate so much more the moments that we have and not talking about any of that.

Crprod (not verified) Fri, 18/06/2021 - 19:30

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Certainly an enormous difference between Laurence Fox and James Hathaway.

SteveB (not verified) Fri, 18/06/2021 - 19:58

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I havent seen it, now Im curious I admit.
Can i stream it somewhere?

SteveB (not verified) Fri, 18/06/2021 - 20:03

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Ok you can I just got someone called Nana Akua fronting some loose women

Helen+Martin (not verified) Fri, 18/06/2021 - 20:23

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Vaccines. I knew my mother had taken my brother and I to well baby clinics from the time we were born (1942 and 1944) until school age when the school nurse took over. We had to have signed consent forms but I can't remember anyone in our classes remaining behind when we trooped over for our shots. Pertussis, etc. There wasn't one for measles yet so we all got that in all its forms, as well as mumps and chicken pox. We knew of one girl who became blind after a really bad case of measles and my husband's house was placarded when he and his sister had chickenpox. The alternative was so scary that you took any shot that was offered and yes I have that funny mark on my arm from the smallpox inoculation. Now that they mention the risks the feeling is different. Sure, there is only 1 chance in 100,000 that you will experience XXX but do you want to be that one? We forget that those are mathematical not actual chances and it's quite possible that there would be no one experiencing it. No one ever says that, though, just the 1 in 100,000 bit. Getting my second Phizer next week and meeting up with a couple of friends at a cafe (masks on, no wild singing or dancing, but possible exchanges of physical books.
Jo, use that button on a regular basis. No one needs to listen to nonsense.

Jo W (not verified) Fri, 18/06/2021 - 21:23

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thanks for the advice! Hoping you are both keeping well?

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Fri, 18/06/2021 - 21:45

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Paraphrasing Marx once more, it appears that 'grievance' has become the 'opium' of too many of the people.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Sat, 19/06/2021 - 05:08

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hoping you are the same, Jo. Ken is well & I just carry on.
Someone mentioned the children's book The Forest of Boland Light Railway. I looked it up, thinking I might find a copy for Ken as it sounded like fun. Not still in print and by now he was asking for sources. Obviously there weren't a lot of copies printed and those who read it enjoyed it. The result is that if you've a mind to sell that copy in your childhood bookcase you're talking serious money. It would certainly finance a few days holiday. Don't let that neat freak Mother throw out your collections or favourite books.

Dave (not verified) Sat, 19/06/2021 - 10:58

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Why is it automatically taken as given that any news service not parroting the western, capitalist line is under Russian, or Chinese, finance and influence? You will never convince me the BBC is neutral, fair, balanced and unbiased, and that favourite rag of the middle - class left, the Gruniad, is nothing but a Security Services propaganda mouthpiece.
As for common sense, I've always said that it's something we all think we have in abundance but no one else does.

Ian Luck (not verified) Sat, 19/06/2021 - 15:29

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Helen - It was me. 'The Forest Of Boland Light Railway' is one of those sublime books that passes under most peoples' radar. Try to imagine 'The Hobbit' but with very early steam trains, and a good, defined battle between good and evil. It's beautiful. Sadly, I don't own a copy - If I did, you could have it - it was a library book that I borrowed several times.
Well worth hunting for.

Joel (London UK) (not verified) Sat, 19/06/2021 - 16:49

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

1 - the 'Joel' at 1215 on 18 June is not me, the Joel who has commented before (I am UK, that Joel appears to be USA)
2 - I too am target audience for GB News but I have no desire, no intent to watch rabid self-opinionated people with no desire to use fair facts. I do not understand how GB News has acquired a licence to broadcast in the UK.
3 - I too fondly remember the Boland Light Railway from my Hackney, east London children's library. Always had a yearning to re-read it but the online prices when I last looked were terrifying.

Liz+Thompson (not verified) Sat, 19/06/2021 - 17:00

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

If it's 'over 65 and aimed at B and C', I'm downgrading myself to a D as I can't knock years off my age.

Chris (not verified) Sat, 19/06/2021 - 22:07

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Done with you and your tribe christopher

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Sun, 20/06/2021 - 01:22

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Helen + Martin 'The Forest Of Boland Light Railway' is available in paperback on Amazon US/UK, Abebooks.com and ebay. --- but pricey (though not as exorbitant as the hardcover).

Jan (not verified) Sun, 20/06/2021 - 06:57

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I don't properly understand why your mates in the Media saw or sensed a particular threat from Fox news as opposed to other news really? Why specifically did they worry about Fox? I'm not arguing with this sentiment just wondering why?
(I've not seen Fox news obviously as your buddies seem to have done a pretty good job there!)

I don't know too much about this sort of stuff but only that Andrew Neil was (unless I have got things really very wrong) was a well respected BBC interviewer. Why do you reckon then that this channel is likely to have been funded by Russian disinformation services then? Why would Mr Neil be fronting Russian disinformation?

The truly dreadful bombing campaign carried out by Copeland outraged not only the British but caused anguish across the world. I understand this is likely me being thick but I honestly don't really see how you link in the man's truly dreadful actions to the operation of a news channel. Can you really draw a valid association between the two?

Just about everyone seems to see BBC news bias one way or another left wingers think it has right wing bias and the same vice versa. Folk are starting to say pretty much the same about itv. (ITN being my usual watch. ) I don't get it why the appearance of another news channel caused you to write this article. I'm not trying to be clever I just don't fully understand.

For people to have another news channel is that a bad thing then?

Just a couple of things though that did grate - remarks like "pub pals in the wrong part of Kent" and a tv news channels aimed at "65+Bs and Cs" (Indeed that could be aimed right at you Chris - or are you still aspiring to be an "A"?) Well they just sound like a bit of sneering they don't sit well with me at all.

Democracy is about constant micro adjustments you got that one right and as you so rightly say should incorporate us all.

PatPat (not verified) Sun, 20/06/2021 - 08:48

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I looked in a couple of times this week expecting a news channel. Instead, all I saw were endless inane discussions on a par with what you'd find on Loose Women - one on dating the other on dental appointments. I looked in on the hour to see what the news report was like. There wasn't one! Just more chat then ads. Political persuasion apart, it was simply boring.
It won't last.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Sun, 20/06/2021 - 13:48

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Jan No one, I believe, is arguing against choice. The issue is whether one of those choices panders to the basest instincts of its viewers (rather than real concerns) and moreover, like Fox in the US, traffics in outlandish and factually inaccurate claims. Presenters can, of course, give forthright opinions; and there is no requirement (under Ofcom) to present equal views from both ends of the political spectrum. But they do have to include some element of balance and can't intentionally spread mistruths.

But even with these kinds of storm flags flying around GB News, it will likely have competition from what could be an even more pernicious offering from the master of mis- and dis- information, Rupert Murdoch. Although, his Fox operation decided to abandon the UK, likely because of fears it might lose its license, his minions are busy cooking up another effort that apparently would draw from the resources of the Sun,Times and News Corp. talk radio stations. Difference of reasoned opinion is in the best interests of democracy; rhetoric that debases and inflames is not.

Brooke (not verified) Sun, 20/06/2021 - 13:49

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Just a note to say: I trust you're relieved to have put chemo behind you and take some time to enjoy.

Peter+T (not verified) Sun, 20/06/2021 - 13:57

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

News is news. For the news part, it should be facts, preferably a balanced collection, presented in a detached manner. Analysis (as opposed to opinion) and the hard interrogations (of Jeremy Paxman and Robin Day) are missing from modern journalism. The opinions of the man in the street in Huddersfield or of the noisiest MP are fine, but are useless in helping anyone make an informed decision. I want someone sufficiently expert to do what the BBC used to do: find one or more experts to take a subject apart, add up the numbers, and make some clear statements. If the result is that politician X has either misunderstood the topic or is telling whoppers, great or too bad, depending on allegiance. Is that all too much to expect?

Cornelia Appleyard (not verified) Sun, 20/06/2021 - 14:02

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

What Brooke said.
You deserve some good things now.

Phil (not verified) Sun, 20/06/2021 - 18:56

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)


I can thoroughly recommend two more books by BB: The Little Grey Men, and Down the Bright Stream. Both available on Amazon.
Kind regards.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Sun, 20/06/2021 - 22:42

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thank you all for the encouragement and info. Am definitely ordering the Forest of Boland book and probably the other two as well.
I haven't seen this new tv channel either but I do know that we all gravitate to a presentation and vocabulary with which we are comfortable and which expresses opinions that are familiar. The BBC and its cousins in the colonies are taxpayer funded and required to express facts in a neutral manner. Opinion is harder because a broad spectrum would seem to be necessary but isn't always there, possibly because some spokespeople don't want to be a part of the Establishment Voice.
There are times, such as the present, when those non-establishment opinions desperately need to be heard. That was where "Black Lives Matter" and "Me too" came from. It is why the top level of the Canadian military is under intense scrutiny. The accusations are not going to go away and it shouldn't have taken riots in the streets to get settler societies to look at what they have done to First Nations, Black, and minority cultures. To say nothing of women of all races. (How does the Israeli military handle the female half of its personnel, I wonder?)
Any element of the media should be prepared to cover the opinion gamut, but their audience probably will compel a narrowing of opinion because they are supported by advertising and ad people know their market these days and will place their money where it will reach the largest percentage of that market. I doubt if the BBC represents as much of the populace as they would like and the part they do have is probably older, more secure financially, better educated than the average Brit and at least slightly right of centre politically. Or very left of centre, oddly enough.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Mon, 21/06/2021 - 01:04

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Perhaps one good thing to come from the advent of GB News (depending on which side you sit ) is the BBC<br>announcement in March of an overhaul<br>that looks like a response, in part, to GB News's courting of viewers outside London. It will shift its creative and journalistic centre away from London.dedicating an additional £700m to shows and news coverage from other UK regions over the next seven years.

Jan (not verified) Mon, 21/06/2021 - 08:45

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Yes get you Stu- I- am and I basically agree with what Peter+T is saying here balanced detached journalism should always be the gold standard.

There is perhaps another point to be made though if A. Neil (a good forensic interviewer in his own right) has hit on something here that people feel their honestly held views are no longer recognised or acknowledged in any way can that in itself be corrosive?

Just a few years back a group of people who had long felt ignored and sidelined by mainstream politics got to have their say and the consequences of their vote didn't exactly play well either. (Specially round here)

It is a tough one this. I am not trying to be difficult here and fully accept there's lots of takes on this issue everyone will have their own p.o.v. It doesn't seem quite right to me that a news channel should or could be classed as "pandering to to the basest instinct of others" who don't or may not fully subscribe to the "woke" agenda. There will always be different takes on issues, on ideas. Isn't that democracy?

Who gets to decide which point is well reasoned and which is less valid? There's something elitist lurking about here that isn't being acknowledged. If this news channel isn't much good folk will soon leave off watching as Mr F says.

Murdoch does or perhaps did have a mighty hold on news outlets and what makes up news agenda
What's the alternative then state sponsored news only? No of course not.

I don't think Chris is essentially right in thinking that this new news channel will have a core audience that "remembers and doesn't care" This isn't because I feel ideologically opposed to Mr.F's views it's just cos I don't think what he's saying makes that much sense. I don't reckon he's worked it out logically. I think his own ideology has got in the way of his reasoning.

I am sure I have said before I don't really grasp "woke" but what I do reckon is when I read much what is written by these woke folk I see an elitism just from a different angle. My bottom line being nobody "knows best" about a lot of stuff everyone should keep talking that's the point.

Been a long night this might not make much sense...

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Tue, 22/06/2021 - 02:26

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Jan 'It doesn't seem quite right to me that a news channel should or could be classed as "pandering to to the basest instinct of others" who don't or may not fully subscribe to the "woke" agenda. There will always be different takes on issues, on ideas. Isn't that democracy?'

The problem is that there is no 'woke' agenda among the public in the UK. Two recent studies found that the majority of the public have little idea what the term and its companion phrase 'culture wars' mean. Slightly less than a third claim to have never heard the term and the rest are about evenly split as to whether being called 'woke' is an insult or compliment.

So what we're left with is a manufactured 'war on woke,' half-baked campaign by the government to stir up a groundswell of populism and, media outlets like GB News inventing 'woke' grievances, without necessarily calling them that. 'Woke,' btw originally meant awareness of social injustice and originated in the US Black community.

Clearly it is too much trouble and less attention-getting to focus on everyday, bread-and-butter issues and the valid grievances they may generate. It's not so much 'different takes' on issues (which should be encouraged) but deflecting the discontent and yes --- anger, in some instances --- about the slings and arrows of life to emotionally charged, but vague, threats to such things as personal security and a way of life, from different 'others.' A way of life, I might add, that probably exists more as a wistful memory than a reality.

As seen in the US, there is the danger that spirited advocacy can too easily cross the line to incitement. It may never happen. But vigilance is required.

Jan (not verified) Tue, 22/06/2021 - 07:23

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Now much of your post above I CAN appreciate because truthfully Stuart I don't really have much of a grip on woke myself.

I think much of what you say here is pretty much spot on.

Yes and I reckon you are also right about it being easier to" manufacture a war on woke" rather than address more pertinent solid grievances.

There does seem to me though to be a growing divergence between various (national and international ) political priorities the stated aims of government and the agendas of most of their populations. That's where I start to wonder about a lot of this debate. Most members of the British public don't seem have much of a handle on "woke" but I do think many M.s O.P do have a clearer appreciation of political agendas and much political drivel than they might be given credit for!

No matter from which direction left or right or far right or far left the politics is coming from. This is where I really do wonder how accurate your theory about a "half baked campaign by the government" being promulgated by such outfits as the Andrew Neil news channel actually are.

I think I would file that along with Chris theory about monies from Dubai originating from Russia's destabilising the West funds! . I think tbh that you are giving the present government in truth far too much credit! I would say the same about most governments! Russia may well desire to destabilise the West but all times are in a state of flux and are really to some extent chaotic that's what life is for sure. You are right about folk remembering an idealised idyll from their youth. Even the lesser educated like myself can see that life's not really like that! You suss this out as you boddle along for sure. It's only in looking back can you fool yourself that there was much order!

I'm not that sure on the point about spirited advocacy evolving into incitement - probably because I would see that in very specific legal terms.

Cheers Stuart

Jan (not verified) Tue, 22/06/2021 - 07:36

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Again what gets me chirping (@ great length obviously) is when one section of the public the can make presumptions about the views and aspirations of another section of the public and can decide their views are less relevant or consequential than their own. For me there was good reason why the British press took this new news debating channel seriously.

I found parts of Mr. F's initial post made little essential sense.( Although compared to mine his grammar was likely fab )
The like minded would see it very differently as well evidenced above.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Tue, 22/06/2021 - 13:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Jan 'Again what gets me chirping (@ great length obviously) is when one section of the public the can make presumptions about the views and Again what gets me chirping (@ great length obviously) is when one section of the public the can make presumptions about the views and aspirations of another section of the public and can decide their views are less relevant or consequential than their own. and can decide their views are less relevant or consequential than their own.'

My last word on this. That's the very point. The likes of GB News IS making a presumption that it can manipulate a segment of the population for profit. They could care less about 'aspirations of another section of the public' --- if they did, they would focus on infrastructure, employment and other critical day-to-day matters, not trumped-up grievances and veiled threats. These aren't 'views' as you call them --- would that they were --- it is rabble-rousing.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Tue, 22/06/2021 - 18:10

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Yesterday was set aside in Canada as National Aboriginal Day (even though we refer to them as First Nations now) and both radio and television carried discussions and interviews with members of various Nations. That could have been it; they've had their say now we can get back to normal, but it doesn't seem to be happening. Following the radar scan discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops residential School there were two fires which destroyed Catholic churches on separate Indian reserves.Some people were upset at the loss of their place of worship and site of baptisms and marriages but others were glad to see what they could only perceive as symbols of oppression disappear. The murderous assault on the Muslim family in Ontario is creating an upswelling of determination to have everyone included in portrayals of "typical" Canadians. This may result in checklists for ad agencies for a while but that may not be such a bad thing. If it leads to black parents not having to warn their sons about being bland when around the police, if First Nations people are perceived as just as capable as anyone else, if people of Asian lineage can walk down the street without being spat at or called names, and if drug dependent people are seen as people needing care than it will all be worth it and Canada will be a better place. Perhaps that is what is meant by being "woke".

Helen+Martin (not verified) Tue, 22/06/2021 - 18:19

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Oh, and one other thing. Our regional church council passed a motion to fund the professional search of our former residential school, the identification and repatriation of any bodies found, the building of a healing centre, and the provision of counselling for anyone requesting it. Someone asked why we didn't just ask for it for all of our schools across the country, but someone had the sense to say, "Because they haven't asked for it. We will provide whatever the individual nations want but it is up to them to say what that is." That is listening and responding, but the listening has to come first. I'm feeling quite hopeful. (We only had one school in B.C. but a number across the rest of the country. The Catholics can answer for themselves.)

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Tue, 22/06/2021 - 19:00

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Helen+Martin Very sad. Canada was always the 'better place' for me. But unfortunately, it appears to be "infected" just like other major democracies at present. Hopefully, this is only temporary and it will return to its position at, or near, the top of the class of nations.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Wed, 23/06/2021 - 16:32

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Nations are made up of individuals, Stu, good, bad and indifferent. The best a nation can do is advocate for the best and discourage the worst. (That's a little weak, but the best I can manage today.)

Helen+Martin (not verified) Wed, 30/06/2021 - 17:45

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

According to a Canadian senator of Chinese ethnicity we shouldn't be criticising the Chinese government for its treatment of the Uighurs because we have just as bad a record here. Surely we don't want other countries to emulate our mistakes. (Yes, we have senators but they're appointed, not elected. All those British upper class types couldn't be done out of their comfortable place of privilege when Canada was created.)