When it comes to maligning the news media, Morrissey has few peers. As he sings in "Spent The Day In Bed," a song from his most recent album Low In High School: "I recommend that you stop / watching the news / because the news contrives to frighten you / to make you feel small and alone / to make you feel that your mind isn't your own."
In a segmented, filter-bubbled world, the Mancunian singer may have a point, depending on the segments and filters one applies to one's news diet. However, accusations of "fake news" are also often used as a form of deflection by those who disagree with the coverage they're receiving. To wit: Morrissey recently accused the German news magazine Der Spiegel of taking quotes from an interview that it conducted in November out of context.
At issue were statements he made about the sexual assault allegations against Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein. "When you are in somebody's bedroom, you have to be aware of where that can lead to," he said of allegations against Spacey, which included the assault of a minor in a bedroom.
Of the allegations against Weinstein, he told the magazine: "I hate rape. I hate attacks. I hate sexual situations that are forced on someone. But in many cases, one looks at the circumstances and thinks that the person referred to as a victim is merely disappointed."
The quotes were picked up widely by — who else — the news media, in often less-than-flattering tones.
Two days ago, well after the interview was published and criticism of Morrissey had flared and subsided, he accused Der Spiegel on Facebook of having conveyed his views unfairly, claiming that he would never speak to print media again. He concluded by writing that his request for a copy of the interview's full audio had been ignored.
In a new post on the dragging controversy, Der Spiegel made public the full audio of its conversation, writing that intended to "counter" Morrissey's accusations.
After Morrissey criticizes the techniques of modern recordings, the interviewer, Juliane Liebert, asks the singer: "As we are in Hollywood, did you follow the whole scandal that came now with, like, Weinstein, #MeToo and all those things?"
As conveyed in the original article, Morrissey tells Liebert: "To a point I did, and then it becomes a theater, and suddenly everybody's guilty ... but of course there are extreme cases. Rape is revolting, any kind of physical attack is revolting."
Liebert then asks: "What do you think that they cut Kevin Spacey out of films now?"
Morrissey responds, as quoted in Der Spiegel's original interview: "I think it's absurd, because as far as I understand the situation he was in a hotel room with a 14-year-old. Well, Kevin Spacey was 26, the boy was 14 — you have to wonder where the boy's parents were. You have to assume the boy had an inkling of what might possibly happen. I mean I don't know about you, but I've never been — in my youth I was never in situations like that. Never. And I was always aware of where things could go."
As with the Weinstein quotation above, Morrissey's response was as originally reported as well.
It's standard practice for publications and broadcasters to both edit and condense the interviews they run, but presenting those quotes out of context can constitute a breach of journalism ethics. As Jonathan Kern writes in Sound Reporting, a guide to NPR's journalism: "Be careful that you don't change the meaning of what someone said when you trim an answer or question."
The best option, and one that's rarely available in cases like this, is to be allowed to judge for yourself.
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