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Churnalism and Fake News

This is a guest post by Lucian Randall of Disgusting Bliss

A side effect of researching my Chris Morris biography was all news beginning to resemble his satire.

Along with Armando Iannucci he headed up the team in The Day Today which took apart the grammar of news in the 1990s. By the time he moved into movies with Four Lions he had long developed the theme beyond breaking point with his Brass Eye series. Even now classic Day Today headlines seem to be just a twist of reality.

  • ‘Headmaster suspended for using big-faced child as satellite dish’,
  • ‘Bouncing elephantiasis woman destroys central Portsmouth’
  • Where now for man raised by puffins?’

It’s hard to follow BBC coverage of even a serious story such as the rise of new drug ‘whoonga’  without hearing the warnings of Brass Eye’s ‘made-up drug’ called cake.

Morris may be a director these days, but’s  launch with media hoaxes was another reminder that his guerrilla media spirit persists. Yet he would hardly be surprised to learn how easy it remains to get fake press releases to appear virtually unchanged in news. And nor would those members of the public he once got to condemn spurious fads for ‘gut festivals’ or the cruelty of ‘hinges on dogs’. Then there were the MPs Morris gave plenty of opportunities to check paedophile-friendly ‘trust me trousers’ before calling for them to be banned. Rather than contenting himself with pretend press releases he would go to extremes, putting himself in genuine physical danger in an effort to bully drug dealers about clarky cat – ‘the stuff you chew’.
The point was made with devastating precision and managed the trick of being simultaneously unnerving and hilarious. He was regularly attacked in the press for it, accused of being sick while ruffled celebrities indignantly claimed he had make it less likely that they would support charities. Now the 24-hour news culture is far more ingrained than it was when Brass Eye was first screened. But it doesn’t seem much less likely that determined contemporary Morrises might be able to convince the likes of DJ Neil Fox to say that paedophiles have more genetically in common with crabs than human beings. ‘There is no evidence for it, but it is scientific fact.