Process stories

The phrase 'process stories' isn't exactly common, so I should make sure that you and I both agree that it refers to stories, usually journalism, which follow something's process. How it happened. It's not, for example, meant to mean something where you are supposed to digest, consider, process the story.

Except that's what I want us to do today. And I want us to do it twice.

The first is a quick one, it's something that you've seen a lot, but recently there was that thing about someone in the British cabinet leaking information concerning the government's decisions over whether to use Huawei or – no, stop. It doesn't matter what the decision was.

It does, of course, but I'm concerned with the furore over the leak.

Nobody cared about the subject of the leak, or at least nobody talked about it. Everyone talked about how scandalous it was that a Cabinet minister would leak something.

The story was about the process, about who leaked it and how it happened. And that's the thing with a process story, it somehow manages to become the issue. It completely hides the actual issue over Huawei or whatever it is this time, and instead we're directed to be shocked at there having been a leak.

That's the power of storytelling, and it's not a nice power.

Then we've also just had this business of Sir Kim Darroch. I'd not heard of him before, neither you nor I will hear of him again, but for a brief time, the story was that this UK ambassador had been unprofessional and rude to America.

Darroch, to give him some credit here, moved the story on and caused more trouble than you'd have imagined he could, by precisely timing his resignation. It must be nice to be able to afford to resign your job, but whoever in the hell he is, he does know his politics.

Up to then, though, the process story was calling him unprofessional, he was effectively threatened on television by the man likely to be our next prime minister.

The process story was telling us that he'd written a memo about the US government that wasn't flattering. He called them inept, he called them all sorts of things.

But this means that the memo was leaked. This time, somehow, the process story was not about how there could've ever have been a leak and how scandalously shocking that this extremely commonplace thing apparently is. This time, the process story was about how an ambassador could possibly write such a memo.

That's precision spin, there. Because if the journalism concerned had actually been about the process, the question would've been about how someone could do this –– and we know the answer. It's his job.

Ambassadors represent their country overseas, and they report back to their country what they find. If there's a job description for ambassador, I don't even know what else it would contain.

Yet instead of just telling us this for anyone who doesn't already find it bleedin' obvious, though, the story asked the question about how he could it. It asked the question and it asked the question, and it went over and over the same ground, and it gave a rotating panel of politicians opportunities to look great decrying this man.

They literally called him unprofessional for doing his job, for literally being professional.

And we're expected to swallow it.

We've come to a stage in politics where politicians believe that if they tell us a story, we'll buy it, whatever it is.

Right now in the UK we're having a parade of televised debates about who will be the next prime minister and it's all, every second of it, offensive bollocks. We don't get a say, not in the slightest. We can make up our minds over who we don't want, but it does not matter what we think, not in the slightest.

But still we're getting these debates and we're being told this story that the topic is important – which it is – so the process is important. Which it isn't.

These debates are stylised television entertainment, they are Britain's Got Talent without any sign whatsoever of talent.

We have all these problems and instead of even the simplest examination – why would this ambassador do this thing? because it's his job, the end – we're just getting process stories.

I don't understand how process stories start, I don't understand how they fasten on to particular elements of a story and not others. But I do understand that they are always meant to occupy us with things that do not matter, for fear of us being occupied with things that do.

You're not fooled by this and I would hope that I'm not either, but we're probably wrong. This stuff works or it wouldn't keep happening. We need to stop it working.

I don't know how we'd do it, but the process of stopping this insulting nonsense is a story I'd like to read.