By Daniel Margrain
In a genuine democracy, contrasting and conflicting ideas would be presented in the media in a fair and balanced way to allow the public to make informed choices at General Elections. But in reality, the media corporations who provide the electorate with ‘news’ are antithetical to the kind of democratic accountability they purport to espouse.
That the growth of democracy in the twentieth century has occurred alongside the growth of corporate propaganda, is concomitant to the lack of genuine democracy which prevents the public from being able to make the kinds of informed political choices described. In short, corporate media propaganda is used to protect corporate media power against genuine democratic forces.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than the media’s negative reaction to Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to the position of Labour party leader which was secured through genuine grass-roots democratic forces. The well documented attacks against Corbyn which are largely ideological, will almost certainly increase in intensity as the General Election gets closer.
The leaking of Labour’s election manifesto pledges by the Tories accompanied by an obliging mass media were intended to form part of the strategy of attack. However, what they didn’t take into account was the extent to which the public were supportive of the proposals. Rather than proving to be unpopular, Corbyn’s plans that include “a series of [viable] proposals on investing in public services, taxing the wealthiest and scrapping tuition fees…are popular with millions of people” . Indeed, the public overwhelmingly support Labour’s nationalization pledges across the board.
Concentration of power
If the election was to be hypothetically decided on the basis of Corbyn’s policies alone, the Labour leader would win it hands down. But the media conglomerates are guided by another agenda which is to ensure their privileges and concentration of power are maintained. As Corbyn potentially prevents them from sustaining this state of affairs, the public’s attention has to be diverted from the core issues, towards the emphasis on the Labour leader’s alleged personal traits.
All things being equal, it’s not the case that Corbyn hasn’t a realistic chance of winning the next General Election, rather, it’s more a case that the corporate political-media establishment will do everything in their power to ensure that he doesn’t. If that means it’s necessary for them to depict him unfairly as a bumbling idiot, then so be it.
The disconnect between the popularity of Corbyn’s policies, and his inaccurate portrayal by the media, is deliberate. The intention is to dis-associate him, as an individual, from his popular policies in the public’s collective mindset.
The strategy appears to have traction. Labour’s gap with the Tories in the polls is huge, albeit steadily closing. Yet, as previously highlighted, Corbyn’s policies on key issues are widely popular with voters. How else to explain this apparent dichotomy other than putting it down to the notion that the media’s demonization of Corbyn is working?
Isabella Stone provides some useful observations:
“It’s hardly difficult to discern how people might be being influenced to a negative view of Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. I’ve just come back from my local Co-op where I had to stand in the checkout queue next to the newspaper stand. Virtually all the papers (except the Mirror) had negative headlines about Corbyn; the Mail, Sun and Express featuring unflattering photos of him and shrieking headlines about how much his policies are going to cost us all.
The Daily Telegraph even stooped to showing a photograph of Len McCluskey sprawled on some steps, having accidentally tripped. The implication of this last was that the man is a clumsy prat, rather than an unfortunate person who may have hurt himself in an accident. Even the Radio 4 Today programme presenters had a little giggle this morning over a joke about Mr McCluskey’s “clumsiness”. You don’t have to be remotely interested in politics to get the message.”
But it’s not just the typical right-wing press who are engaged in the smearing of Corbyn. The corporate media’s hostility towards the Labour leader crosses the traditional left-right divide (in truth, a close-knit ideological consensus of opinion). The “liberal-left” Guardian is no exception. This is despite the fact they are eager to portray themselves as being above the fray in terms of the promotion of the laughable idea their mission is to bring power to account:
“Here at the Guardian, ideas and opinions have the power to change the world for the better. Our independent journalism holds power to account across the globe and brings information that is suppressed into the public domain.”
Presumably, what the Guardian refer to as “holding power to account” includes their demonization of the leader of the opposition in terms professor James Curran described as “an enormously simplifying first draft of history.”
To my knowledge, not once has the Guardian challenged any of the Corbyn propaganda myths reproduced by their market competitors. They include the notion the Labour leader supports Hamas, is a cheerleader for anti-semites, has funded Holocaust deniers, has tolerated anti-semitism in the Labour party, has been on the payroll of state-funded Iranian media and is an apologist for the IRA.
While the media regularly bring up Corbyn’s connections with the latter, they have never mentioned Michael Fallon’s support for apartheid South Africa, his opposition to all international sanctions against the apartheid regime, in addition to British government interventions in individual cases of human rights abuse (see Craig Murray).
This kind of bias and media hypocrisy is consistent with academic research:
- The London School of Economics and Political Science found strong media bias against Corbyn, claiming the press had turned into an “attack dog” against the opposition leader.
- The UK’s public service broadcaster gave double the airtime to Corbyn’s critics than to his allies at the start of the 2016 Labour coup, according to content analysis from the Media Reform Coalition.
- An LSE survey found that 74 per cent of newspaper articles ‘offered either no or a highly distorted account of Corbyn’s views and ideas’ and that only 9 per cent were ‘positive’ in tone.
- Research carried out at Birkbeck similarly found a strong bias in ‘mainstream media coverage’.
Given the evidence outlined above, it is clear that battle lines have been drawn, not between left and right competing political factions and policies, but rather what are regarded as the acceptable boundaries by which these contrasting narrative are allowed to be expressed and the lies and misinformation challenged.
What is rarely acknowledged is that the true nature of corporate power would be revealed if these forbidden lines were to be exceeded. But since they are not, the media’s:
“changing contours are seldom explored, its goals and targets seldom identified. This is counterfeit journalism because the surface of events is not disturbed. It is ironic that, while corruption among the system’s managers and subalterns is at times brilliantly exposed by a group of exceptional journalists, the wider corruption is unseen and unreported” .
The extent to which counterfeit journalism is able to continue functioning depends largely on its ability to manipulate the public through media propaganda by manufacturing their consent. This is largely achieved through coordinated political and corporate media mass campaigns that combine sophisticated public relations techniques. As Noam Chomsky explains:
“The primary function of the mass media…is to mobilize public support for the special interests that dominate the government and the private sector. The need for the dominant forces in society (a relatively concentrated network of corporations including media), to satisfy their interests, imposes some very sharp constraints on the political and ideological systems”.
The greater Jeremy Corbyn’s perceived threat to the corporate media’s attempts to manufacture the public’s consent, it correspondingly stands to reason the greater will be the media’s personal attacks against him. Under these circumstances, a fair and honest evaluation of Corbyn’s popular policies would, from their perspective, be counter-productive. Far better to undermine his credibility by drowning out his policies.
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