Why there is no such thing as impartial media as the 2017 election shows.

With the general election only a few weeks away it is just as well Teresa May has got the media on her side.  So far her performances on the campaign trail have been poor.  Journalists have had to submit questions with a local reporter being swiftly shown the door in Devon for having the audacity to ask one extra question that wasn’t on the list.

Everything has been stage-managed with May even playing the jingoism card by accusing the EU of trying to interfere because they fear how she won’t stand any nonsense from those pesky Europeans.

The Conservative sound bites have also had the impact of a clumsy theatrical dive of a footballer trying to get a penalty as May once again gets ‘strong and stable government,’ into a sentence with the shout of bingo as the final cliché has been spoken.

Then there is the embarrassment of the hacking of the NHS computer database with the hackers holding personal details to ransom.  If it had been a Labour government it would have been a guarantee that they would have got crucified especially as they were fully aware that the security was weak but were not prepared to stump up the cash.

Journalism and the news media have been far from impartial for it to be to be too much of a surprise.  There are too many vested interests with media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch intent on their news outlet to press forward their views on the public.  If there is anything that goes or threatens their interests then you can guarantee an attack on that person or institution.

The attacks on Jeremy Corbyn are nothing short of sinister even before this campaign.  It is as though the likes of Murdoch won’t take any chances by continually attacking him.  Whether its questioning his patriotism by not bowing properly enough, labelling him as weak, or simply Corbyn’s dress sense it has been a drip, drip, drip attack that people slowly absorb.  Headlines such as ‘Corb snubs the Queen,’ or even the subtle Sunday Times headline ‘Corbyn sparks Labour civil war,’ or ‘Corbyn Union pals pledge strike chaos,’ all give the impression of someone struggling to keep control and not knowing what they are doing.  Of course you will hear people say that you can’t trust the papers but with the constant negative headlines there are some that believe that they must be some truth.

Even the media that profess to be left such as the Guardian can’t help but be aghast and look at ways at undermining Corbyn.  The likes of Polly Toynbee who wail at the lack of leadership and his policies not being credible to Nick Cohen throwing his toys out of the pram due to the audacity of Labour members daring to vote for who they want as leader and not his choice is breathtaking.  Again it gives the impression that Corbyn is a bumbling fool that doesn’t live in the real world.

The slightest mistake or controversy is magnified and used to hammer the fact that Corbyn is unsuitable to be Prime Minister.  Take for example Diane Abbott getting her figures completely messed up about the cost of extra Policing if Labour was elected Government.  It was further fuel that a Labour government didn’t really know it’s figures and would not only deliver but put the country into debt.  Recently Abbott was also mocked by getting lost on stage after addressing the Police federation conference.

Nothing though was made of Amber Rudd being openly mocked by Police at the same federation conference when claiming officers were on £40,000 a year when questioned about Officers using food banks.  To make matters worse Rudd dug the hole further by trying to deflect the blame by saying ‘so I’m told,’ despite it being her business being the Home Secretary.

Philip Hammond also made another blunder by getting the cost of HS2 wrong by £20 billion on BBC’s radio 4 Today programme after ironically questioning Labour’s figures.  Again nothing major was made of this gaffe.  Nothing about whether you can trust a May government when her chancellor can’t even get his figures right or kindling the hysteria that a Conservative government would be incompetent.  Instead it was casually brushed over.

It has had the required impact on the British public who view Jeremy Corbyn as an unreliable maverick at best.  Take for example a member of the public who was asked what they thought of Labour’s manifesto.  The man in question liked the policies and believed it would benefit the UK as a whole.  However when the journalist asked if that meant he would be voting Labour the man paused before saying ‘I won’t be voting for that Jeremy Corbyn he’s not suitable to be leader,’ and with that casually strolled off.

That member of the public is not the only person to hold that type of view.  One person stated that they ‘didn’t like that Jeremy Corbyn.’  When asked why they were unable to elaborate or provide a reasonable argument as to why Jeremy Corbyn is unsuitable to be leader they couldn’t as their opinion had been influenced by the newspaper headlines.

The media has from the outset done everything to undermine Corbyn.  From the brash, vulgar, sneering headlines questioning Corbyn’s patriotism to subtly implying that Corbyn does not have a clue and will plunge the country into chaos if he is handed the keys to number ten.

Even the tones of the questions at Labour MPs or officials are constantly negative despite the responses.  It will turn to the cost and querying as to whether it is realistic.  The Conservatives are of course asked difficult questions but then spun to something where they can talk positively about another policy.

Of course Jeremy Corbyn should be held accountable and questioned by the media as should Teresa May and other political leaders.  However newspapers and other media outlets should be impartial and doing their job of reporting and presenting the facts to the public.  There equally should be none of this sensational nonsense that somehow makes every tragedy somehow a drama.

A news outlets job should be to present the facts and let people decide from their reports.  Everyone in a position of responsibility should be robustly challenged and there should certainly be none of the mocking and biased headlines that are casually fired at will.  If there was true impartiality then a newspaper or any media outlet would not declare any support for any of the political parties.  The fact that they do and this includes the media professing to be left-wing shows that they have a vested interest.

For those considered to be part of the establishment or simply rich the Conservative party represents their interests.  Consequently they ensure that the media outlets that they own represent their views.  If Corbyn is perceived as a threat then they will do their utmost to convince people that he can’t be trusted.

Even when Labour lands a significant blow such as Emily Thornberry embarrassing Michael Fallon on Andrew Marr, (Thornberry reminded him that he was present at a reception celebrating the election of the Syrian President Assad in 2007) it doesn’t warrant much of a mention within the press.

In this day and age with the internet and social media making people more aware than previously of what is happening in the world you would think there would be more cynicism regarding the press.  However with the constant negative headlines whether it is hearing the news on TV, radio, or newspaper, people are influenced and with regards to Corbyn feel that he is to be mistrusted.

The media is very much an important tool and if you have it behind you then it can help the most mediocre politician.  Crude as Teresa May’s slogans are the constant drip, drip of the Conservatives providing a ‘strong and stable government,’ whilst ‘Corbyn is ineffective,’ will seep into people’s minds come polling day.

It is a pity that we don’t have a real fair and impartial press that holds all political parties to account thus allowing the population to make a considered judgement from the facts.  Certainly the media in its current guise cannot be relied on.

 


Can we trust the news?

imagesSZXNFM4L

Noam Chomsky in the documentary manufacturing consent believes that it is the primary function of the mass media to mobilise public support for the special interests that dominate the Government and private sector.

Chomsky is asked to elaborate on this theme and believes that the concentrated network of major corporations control the media with two groups to be influenced. The first two groups Chomsky illustrates are twenty percent of the population who are perceived to be well-educated such as Doctors, teachers, writers, etc who are supposed to vote. The other eighty percent is to follow orders, not to think, or pay any attention and it is this group that Chomsky believes that pays the costs.

This he feels can be seen in the tabloid press which focuses on the celebs of the day, scandals, and popular television shows such as the X factor or Coronation Street. Its aim is to offer a distraction from the real issues of the day and as a result prevent people from questioning things or getting involved.

Nevertheless it can be argued that the popular press do try to manipulate its readership depending on its political stance. For example during the wave of ‘austerity cuts,’ people on benefits are targeted as feckless scroungers. Anger is raised with headlines such as the Daily Express screeching that there are four million scroungers in Britain,’ whilst the Daily Mail is outraged that ‘seventy five of incapacity claimants are fit to work.’

Instantly people are not questioning the cuts or the tax dodging activities of major companies but the vulnerable and the needy. There are no questions why some people are working but with their pay so low have to claim tax credits. Nor are there questions about the cost of living rising so high that the use of food banks is on the increase. An interesting point is made by the former Lib Dem PM Sarah Teather who believes the attacks on people on benefits is more of a tactical strategy to gain popular electoral support for next year’s elections.

Reading between the headlines

The general view within the popular press is that the majority of its readers only look at the headlines. Consequently you can imply something to garner support such as this headline from the Daily Star a couple of years back ‘Asylum cheaters let off with £70 million.’

By reading the story more closely it was down to the Home Office making the mistakes with overpayments going directly to the hostel owners who provide accommodation to asylum seekers and therefore have no influence on the payments. It was also found that Home Office staff had also been wrongly over paid.

However by reading the initial headline you would assume that asylum seekers have deliberately connived and plotted to obtain money dishonestly.

The Sun newspaper has only recently just stopped the practice of using their page three girls to sell their editorial opinion as the model’s own. Tim Ireland on bloggerheads exposes the propaganda used to pursue the paper’s political stance. For example one model praises Tony Blair for taking action in Iraq whilst another praises a Government initiative. This practice stopped in July 2013 but shows the lengths some media outlets use to promote their own agenda.

Influences on Government

If it wasn’t already known how much influence that Murdoch had on the Government then the Leveson inquiry made that abundantly clear. Jack Straw when speaking at the inquiry stated ‘What I perceive of Mr Murdoch’s approach, particularly with the Sun and the News of the World, was that he reckoned that his political influence would be greater, if as it were, his support was available in return for what he thought he could get out of it.
‘And I don’t mean some deal, because I’ve seen no evidence of a deal. But he thought there was something in it.’
This came about after the phone hacking scandal that saw the end of the News of the World. The actual scale of the hacking was breathtaking as the phones of celebrities was hacked and even more shockingly the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, victims of 9/11 were also alleged to have been hacked.

Murdoch it appeared had too much of an influence on politicians. For example the Fox news network is so right-wing that it is now seen as a joke. However this has not stopped Murdoch who before the hacking scandal wanted the BBC to be broken up with his son hypocritically comparing the BBC to George Orwell’s 1984. ‘As Orwell foretold, to let the state enjoy a near-monopoly of information is to guarantee manipulation and distortion.’ This incidentally all fell to the wayside as did his bid to take full control of BSkyB.

Of course this works both ways as the majority of newspapers backed the Government’s stance over the 2003 war in Iraq with one headline screeching that Brit’s were ‘forty five minutes from doom!’

Then when it was found that Iraq did not appear to have any weapons of mass destruction (even when they presumably checked underneath Saddam Hussein’s bed) it became a war of liberation, despite the fact that prior to the first Gulf War, in 1990, the Government where quite happy to do business with Saddam Hussein.

Indeed you can as far back as the 1984 miners strike and the Printers dispute in 1986 were the majority of the media were not only openly hostile to the strikers but biased towards the Government.

Forget the fact that the miners and printers were fighting not just for their livelihoods but the very communities themselves. Indeed there were a large percentage of mines that still had plenty of coal to make themselves economically viable for at least the next twenty years.

Media coverage gave the impression that miners and printers were attacking the ‘valiant,’ Police Force who were doing their best of keeping law and order. No mention of the Police attacking peaceful pickets or running amok amongst small mining towns, or of the fact that mysteriously their lapels with the Officers number were missing, or of miners being beaten up in custody. The battle of Orgreaves is a case in point.

Hillsborough

It has taken twenty-three years for the truth to be acknowledged when David Cameron in 2012 apologized for the failure that caused Hillsborough and the attempted cover up. Documents from the independent Hillsborough panel found that there was a failure of the authorities to protect people and an attempt to blame the fans.

This was seen with high-ranking officials in the South Yorkshire Police and the Conservative MP Irvine Patrick who fed stories to the media and led to the Sun’s disgusting headline ‘the truth.’ It was in short a disgraceful attempt to cover up the incompetence of the authorities. As a result the newspaper is boycotted and reviled in Merseyside for its lies.

Coverage and bias

Criticism has also been hurled at the BBC and other established media establishments of not being impartial and failing to cover major events in depths. For example the protest against the cuts in the NHS during the anti – austerity rally in Manchester 2013 was scarcely covered, albeit a couple of minutes of airtime on the BBC.

This despite the fact that fifty thousand people had travelled down to the City centre of Manchester, were the Conservative party was holding its annual conference. There where no clips of organisers or protestors to explain the reason why they were protesting, apart from the shout of ‘Tory scum,’ which could give the viewer the impression that it was a just bunch of bolshy left-wing militants stirring up trouble.

Sky news focused on the only arrest of the demonstration even though Greater Manchester Police praised the peaceful and lawful manner of protestors.

Pictures of the actual march were used as wallpaper whilst the political commentator of the BBC talked about the Conservative party conference. The event failed to arouse much interest in the newspapers with only a few column inches at best.

The media coverage during the student protests against tuition fees in early November 2010 was all focused on the violence. However another demonstration two weeks later saw students unnecessarily kettled and then for no apparent reason Police horses charged the protestors.

There was scarcely any coverage apart from the Guardian that used the clip caught by one of the kettled demonstrators. Nor was there any debate about whether kettling was necessary and why the Police felt that it was necessary to charge an already contained crowd with Police horses.

The rise of Social media

With the rise of social media such as twitter, blogs, and access to other news outlets there is a variety of choice in trying to obtain the truth somewhere. For example most phones have cameras and smart phones are now becoming the norm. This means as in the case of the above clip of the Police charging students that the story can get out by people who are actually on the ground.

In turn this means that the traditional press are being forced to follow the story if it becomes big because they cannot allow their rivals to gain an advantage.

Once you were pretty much limited to the popular press for news whereas now there is a lot more choice to get the real story. In essence social media has the potential to make us all journalists and to question more. Maybe the likes of Murdoch who was described by Tunku Varadarajan, the editor of newsweek international as ‘the man whose name is synonymous with unethical newspapers,’ influence might start to wane.

Brian Benjamin