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Former BBC anchor Emily Maitlis on journalism in the age of Trump: 'We must stop normalising the absurd'​​

“We must stop normalising the absurd,” British journalist and author Emily Mettleris urged her colleagues at the Edinburgh Television Festival on Wednesday.

Delivering the fest’s prestigious James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture, the former BBC anchor and journalist said that when Donald Trump was elected as US president, “we did not yet understand that it wasn’t replacing one Man vs. another, but one set of rules vs. another.” She added: “We didn’t realize we had to change too.”

Maitlis, in her infamous The 2019 then rises to International Prestige BBC to Prince Andrew’s interview, which became a factor in the royal family’s fall from grace, called her speech “The Boiling Frog: Why We Must Stop Normalizing the Absurd” because “we are Temperatures feel numb, in which facts are disappearing, constitutional norms are violated, and claims are often unchallenged.”

According to Metellis, “this surreal summer is A prime example,” he argued, arguing that there was a “complete disconnect between the dire warnings about energy and food bills that are hurting people in this country so much” and the “power vacuum” since Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to leave office in early September. circus”. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, the favourite to succeed Johnson, is taking on former Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

“We’ve heard from frontrunners – not once but twice – a policy idea being ‘misunderstood by the media’ and – my favorite – a problem Was asked about the ‘way of the left,'” the reporter said. “Then we saw the same candidate apologise privately to the host for attacking the media as if it were an indecent comment on his tie and not a staple of our democracy. We only know because it was caught by a hot mic That conversation should have been spoken out loud.”

Maitlis concluded: “It’s not normal. Or rather, it shouldn’t be. Something that has been given for decades— The checks and balances on the executive branch, the role of the judiciary or civil servants, the media undisturbed or defamed — seem vulnerable right now. We see politicians moving in directions that are profoundly and clearly detrimental to basic democratic governance.”

Metellis then recounted why Trump admitted to CBS reporter Lesley Stahl on the campaign trail that he “has been constantly bashing the media.” Quoting Starr, she read: “He said, ‘You know why I’m doing this? I’m doing this to discredit all of you and demean all of you, so when you write negative stories about me, no People will believe you.’”

Maitlis’ conclusion: “The bigger the gap, in other words, populists can create between recognized media sources and people who are influenced by The lesser the hindrance to any censorship, any attempt to hold them accountable for the decisions they make in power. Just last week, Liz Truss told the GB News (Party Debate) host: “This is not the BBC — Actually your facts are correct. “It’s a subtle flattery that she used to sidestep a challenging question.”

Mettles also said of reporters, especially on PBS, “sometimes , we tie ourselves into a knot beyond the balance of ‘bilateralism’.” She referred to her experience interviewing Robert De Niro about post-pandemic New York state at the height of COVID. “However, when we started interviewing, it became clear that De Niro had other things going on outside of New York,” she recalls. “He wants to be angry at President Trump’s mishandling of the outbreak. He accuses him of not caring how many people die. For context, this comes three weeks after Trump’s infamous “bleach” press conference, He’s thought to recommend using disinfectants to fight the coronavirus in the body.”

So, the actor told Metellis: “It’s scary because everyone’s been terrified of Trump. Overwhelmed and shocked by what this guy did. …You have a lunatic saying things that people are trying to dance to – it’s shocking.”

She was at the time The editor urged her “to put the other side aside, just like his editorial work,” recalls Metellis. “But I’m boycotting it because — frankly — what’s on the flip side? I’ll say, ‘Crap, bleach might work — we just won’t know until we try! Or am I pretending he’s on tape? No mention of sanitizer? Or would I say, ‘You’re only saying that because you’re a liberal left-wing Democrat,’ which doesn’t seem to capture the solemnity of the moment.”

As an attempt to fight back, she said, “Trump’s fan base would dispute that.” But De Niro fought that back. “The reason I’m telling this is not about the exchange, it’s about what’s going to happen next,” Metellis said. “We finished pre-recorded interviews; Adam Cumiskey was the output editor, he was a movie buff. But as we were going in the elevator, I turned to Adam and said, ‘We can’t get this out of the way. This is so anti-Trump Adam looked at me to see if I was joking. And I wasn’t. I was terrified that if the interviews were conducted as they were, we would be seen as biased.” Wondering about Metellis: “So why do I feel like we can’t let Instead of trying to find an equally world-renowned actor, he would miraculously tell us the opposite that night.”

Her conclusion: “This again illustrates that even How strongly imaginary populist accusations of prejudice affect journalists’ brains—so much so that we censor our own interviews to avoid backlash.”

END FOR THIS STORY , De Niro’s interview did go out. There may be more “but his fan base” from my disapproval than absolutely necessary. And the sky didn’t fall. At least, Adam is happy. Newswires were received all over the world. But looking back now, it’s strange how we reacted to what happened two weeks later.

Maitlis, also known for her 2019 Book Airhead: The Uncle Who Makes News Perfect Art , left the BBC earlier to sign with BBC. At the BBC, she was the anchor for Newsnight 2021, BBC Two’s flagship news and current affairs programme until END .

“The need to hold power without fear or favoritism is more urgent than ever,” Mette Liss said before her appearance. “We are good at documenting the censorship and intimidation of journalists around the world. But we are sometimes too slow to recognize how and when it happens in more subtle ways, closer to home. In many places, politicians, their The way they communicate and their relationship to the truth has changed.”

The interview Maitlis will forever be relevant to is her interview with Prince Andrew on Newsnight , in which he spoke publicly for the first time about his connection to Jeffrey Epstein. The interview, which was later described as “a plane hitting an oil tanker, setting off a tsunami, triggering a nuclear explosion”, is being adapted for the screen by rival projects. The production team behind writers Peter Moffat and Luther is developing a feature based on the former book Scoop*)Newsnight producer Sam McAlister. Meanwhile, Mettles himself was reportedly involved in a project for Blueprint Pictures, which is A Very English Scandal and A very British scandal.

in her Wednesday MacTaggart talk. “That’ll have to wait until next time.”

Maitlis’ presentation wrapped up on the first day of this year’s Edinburgh Television Festival, which has been held in two virtual editions over the years due to the coronavirus pandemic .

Previous MacTaggart lectures by Rupert, James and Elisabeth Murdoch, Vice’s Shane Smith, Michaela Coel, Armando Iannucci, Kevin Spacey, Ted Turner, Norman Lee and last year’s author Jack Thorne.

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