Tag Archives: media bias

Conduct Unbecoming: The Guardian And The State Of The British Press

Print media has been in a parlous state for decades and the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected sales, has seen journalists from newspapers like The S*n beg people to buy their papers. I must confess that I stopped buying newspapers over 20 years ago. Not because I felt that they were gaslighting me, but because I saw them as a waste of money. I’d buy the weekend Guardian and would never read all of it. I simply didn’t have the time. Something had to give and it was the Guardian that went.

Since The Guardian (and The Observer) announced that it was to shed 180 jobs, the cry from the country’s journalists – especially those working for The Guardian – has been, predictably, one of dismay. Job losses are always regrettable. However, the way these journalists have reacted to supporters of former Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who are ridiculed by the same journalists as “Corbynistas”, a word coined to situate Democratic Socialism as something foreign, maybe “unBritish” and perhaps, Latin American, has been unseemly. Yes, many on the left have delighted over the paper’s misfortunes and not without good reason. However, the response from Britain’s journalists has been to gaslight and bully those who’ve taken the view that the paper deserves its karmic fate.

The Guardian’s left-wing readers, who assumed that the paper shared their views, have felt a sense of schadenfreude over the possibility of the paper actually folding. This has raised the hackles of Britain’s press corps, most of whom probably aren’t actually journalists or reporters, but purveyors of opinions. Indeed, this is where the paper has gone wrong: it blurred the line between factual reporting and opinion-forming, and over the course of the last five years, it has offered up opinions as fact, and has pursued an anti-Corbyn smear campaign.

First, we need to be clear about something: the Guardian is not and never has been a left-wing paper. It has always been a Liberal paper and was founded to reflect the views of Northern Liberals in the 19th century. It had a brief moment in the 1930s when it won praise from left-wingers for its coverage of the Spanish Civil War. Since that time, the editorial line of the paper has intersected with the views of large sections of the British Left. That is no more. About 10 years ago, the paper decided to take a more right-wing line, perhaps because of its reporting of Operation Cast Lead and pressure from sites like, CiFWatch (now called CAMERA UK).

The Guardian has some left-leaning writers who offered qualifed support for Corbyn like Owen Jones, Aditya Chakrabortty, Nesrine Malik and a few more. However, the paper is dominated by white Liberal and right-wing writers like Jonathan Freedland, Marina Hyde, Gaby Hinsliff, Hadley Freeman (who?), Nick Cohen, John Harris, Jessica Elgot, Rafael Behr and Matthew D’Ancona (chair of moderate Tory think-tank, Bright Blue) who were opposed to Corbyn. Harris, a former music journalist, spent a great deal of time telling readers he was some kind of spokesperson for the working class, but was quite prepared leave them to the clutches of the Tories and worse, the Brexit Party. Thus, it would be fair to argue that on the balance of the political views among its columnists and reporters, the Guardian is not a left-wing paper. Its leftism is an illusion. However, its writers and supporters don’t seem too clear on how businesses work to attract or retain customers or, in its case, readers.

If the Graun really doesn’t want to lose readers, then maybe it needs to ask itself why and where it all went wrong. Instead, rather than do that, its hacks and supporters have resorted to abusing the paper’s former readers for turning their backs on it. Is this really the way a business should behave if it wants to win back customers? Why have they responded in this way? Maybe this quote from Karl Marx in The German Ideology can shed some light.

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch. For instance, in an age and in a country where royal power, aristocracy, and bourgeoisie are contending for mastery and where, therefore, mastery is shared, the doctrine of the separation of powers proves to be the dominant idea and is expressed as an “eternal law.

Karl Marx, The German Ideology, Part I: Feuerbach.
Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook, The Ruling Class and the Ruling Ideas

The ruling class’s ideas must never be challenged, and those who propagate (if that’s the right word) them believe they have an automatic right to your money and your mind. It is simply not enough for them to control the means of material production, they must also control intellectual production. Being the descendants of the those who governed the British Empire, they have quite literally colonized people’s minds.

We can, therefore, read the Guardian’s writers and supporters’ outpourings of rage as a predictable reaction from the country’s bourgeoisie; it is a manifestation of their class entitlement, and it’s underpinned by a kind of confidence that comes with having had an exclusive and expensive education followed by a degree from Oxbridge. It is because of these social factors that they feel a sense of haughty superiority towards those whom they believe be inferior (is it any wonder that eugenics is enthusiastically embraced by the bourgeoisie and not, say, the working-class?). They knew that they were born to rule from an early age. Thus, it is their views which dominate and which are endlessly circulated in the public domain, despite being as stale as airline cabin air.

Marina Hyde thought that bullying one of the paper’s erstwhile readers-turned-critics was a smart move.

There are many reasons why many Twitter users adopt other names and hide their identities, one of which is that they may be whistleblowers, autistic or it, or in my case, it’s my stage name. This doesn’t mean that I’m “anonymous”, which is a charge that so-called “blue tick” users will often throw at Twitter users to counter robust criticism. In fact, it would be fair to say that many “blue tick” users have at least one sockpuppet account. I know this from personal experience and when I called them out, they vanished.

Hadley Freeman also thought she’d gaslight former readers.

Freeman participated in the so-called Never Again stunt organized by supporters of Luciana Berger, but which looked and felt like a gathering of right-wing white politicians and their media supporters who were pursuing a vendetta against, not just Corbyn, but anyone on the left on the basis of flimsy evidence. Worse, perhaps, was the view held by the protesters, who had never protested anything in their lives, and who spent a great deal of effort deriding protests as a form of “student politics”, that the Labour Party was the single largest reservoir of anti-Semitism in Britain. Ironically, all of these people were content to stand side-by-side by some of Parliament’s biggest bigots, like Ian Paisley Jr. The event was also attended by Conservatives, a party whose racism is routinely ignored by writers like Freeman. When it comes to other forms of racism, these people can be seen wringing their hands and muttering to themselves. This is not just a bourgeois reaction, it’s the reaction of white Liberals, who enjoy a great deal of white privilege. Like the rest of Fleet Street, the Guardian is mostly staffed by the same kind of white middle-class people, who control print and broadcast media.

Guardian-supporting actor and comedian, David Schneider tried emotional blackmail.

“The joy in Tory HQ”? Seriously? They honestly couldn’t care less. Schneider followed up with this tweet:

That he believes The Guardian to be some kind of bulwark against the Right and the Tory-supporting media is laughable. Schneider was less than enthusiastic about Corbyn and he appears to be more content with Keir Starmer as Labour leader. Whatever the case, to The Cat, his affected leftism looks more like Liberalism. Indeed, together with its supporters, the Guardian, overall, has shown that it has nothing but contempt for the Left.

Even The Daily Mail’s Dan Hodges, a man who is wrong about nearly everything, believed it was the fault of the beastly “Corbynites” that the Guardian was shedding jobs.

This has been the style of the right-wing press since the 1980s: if you’re not ridiculing and mocking the left, then blame them for “cancelling” the Guardian or worse. Hodges then followed up with this:

To say Hodges reasoning is poor is an understatement: it’s melodramatic tosh. Remember, this is a man who regards mild democratic socialist reformism as “hard left”.

The Guardian has never supported socialism or the Left. It is and always has been a Liberal paper that has had a left-wing readership, which has, over the course of 5 years, been bullied, ridiculed, mocked, smeared and gaslighted. This is a paper that many on the left saw as an ally before Corbyn became Labour leader and which turned on them in short order. No wonder these people feel some sense of schadenfreude.

The establishment, represented by papers like the Guardian, used any means at its disposal to marginalize the left, and realized that its best line of attack lay with accusations of anti-Semitism. Let’s be clear about something, accusing the Left of any other form of racism would have lacked the same emotional and social value, in their eyes, as a hatred of Jews. Racism against Black people or Gypsies simply wouldn’t appeal to the racist base instincts of the bourgeoisie and reactionary subalterns who accept whatever newspapers tell them without criticism. However, the way in which anti-Semitism was trivialized and transformed into a political weapon was always a dangerous and irresponsible strategy, because in the process, left-wing Jews were smeared as “self-hating” and “anti-Semitic”, and the fall-out from this episode has affected all minorities, not just Jews. Alternatively, according to the likes of Dan Hodges, who himself isn’t Jewish, they were the “wrong kind of Jews” on account of their politics. If there was any justice in this world, Hodges would have lost his job over this.

One really can’t blame “Corbyn supporters” for reacting the way they did at the Graun’s misfortunes. In the cutthroat world of print media, as in any business, if customers are going elsewhere or no longer buying your product(s), you don’t abuse them: you try to, somehow, win them back. The Guardian has lost these people forever.

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Filed under Media, social media, Society & culture

Why Won’t He Press The Button?

Listening to Nick ‘Blue Robbo’ Robinson’s interview (actually more a mix of bullying and hectoring) with Emily Thornberry on this morning’s Today programme, reminded me of how infantilized British mainstream political discourse has become in the last 10 to 15 years, perhaps more so since the Tories came to power in 2010.

Today is Armistice Day, a fact that seems to have escaped Blue Robbo, whose questions were framed to suggest that these weren’t questions at all, but statements produced by Conservative Central Headquarters to be put to any Labour politician who entered the studio. I would argue that Robbo’s questions were an insult to the memories of those who perished, both military and civilian, of all the wars since World War One.

The person who posted this YouTube clip of the ‘interview’ clearly has an ideological agenda, as the title suggests. Ignore it and listen to the interview.

This isn’t so much an interview as it is a ideologically-charged inquisition. Robbo says “he [Corbyn) hasn’t backed the use of British armed forces” and goes on to list every single conflict since the Falklands in 1983 that he’s opposed. Many of the interventions that Robinsons lists have proved disastrous and have caused more problems than they solved. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and on the list goes. Doubtless Robbo supported every military intervention, but hasn’t discovered the benefits of self-reflexivity. For if he had, he wouldn’t have allowed his prejudice to colour this interview.

Predictably, Blue Robbo demanded to know why Jeremy Corbyn wouldn’t ‘press the button’. Such a juvenile question demands nothing more than disdain and contempt. The idea that a potential Prime Minister should state their desire to annihilate millions, possibly billions of people without a moment’s hesitation, as proof of their suitability for office is not only absurd, but shows how mainstream political discourse has been systematically degraded. The blame for this degradation falls squarely on the shoulders of moronic, bloodthirsty politicians and the media, which thinks it and it alone has the right to choose the next government. Worse, they see each and every conflict as an opportunity to reduce bloodshed and destruction to some morbid team sport.

Robinson also brought up the subject of British troops being given immunity from prosecution for war crimes. This is little more than an unarticulated claim that British troops are above committing war crimes, which is patently untrue as veteran, Joe Glenton, makes clear in this article for The Independent.

If the legacy of allegations concerning killings and abuses, indeed the legacies of the wars themselves, are ever to be settled then we must look to the greatest, most far-reaching and effective war crimes trials of all, those at Nuremberg, where generals and politicians were put on trial. We should follow in their footsteps.   

In the minds of Tory politicians and their media helpers, like Blue Robbo, such views, coming as they do from a former soldier, are tantamount to heresy. ‘Our boys’ don’t kill for sport or so the sentiment goes.

No wonder people go around throwing about words like ‘treason’ with such casual abandon when we have so-called journalists like Nick Robinson using the BBC as his bully pulpit. Not once does Blue Robbo mention the fact that our service personnel are under-paid and under-equipped. Not once does he acknowledge the terrible condition of married quarters in the British military nor does he comment on the numbers of veterans sleeping rough on our streets. Instead, he’s more concerned with whether or not Corbyn would be willing to ‘press the button’. It’s as reductionist as it is absurd (ad reductio absurdum). Objectivity and impartiality, my arse.

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Filed under General Election 2019, Media, propaganda

Here It Comes

So, we’re due to have the first December General Election since 1923. The election, which is due to take place on 12 December, has been called because Boris Johnson has failed to secure Brexit as he promised by 31 October. Who’s fault is that? If you take Johnson’s word for it, then it’s the fault of Jeremy Corbyn, who’s being blamed for everything from a cholera outbreak in London in 1843 to starting the Vietnam War. Anyone who’s followed Johnson’s career will know that, for him, the truth is a foreign country.

Today, in an unofficial start to the election campaign, Johnson popped up at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge for a presser and it didn’t go according to plan as this clip shared by Artist Taxi Driver on Twitter shows us.

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Of course, this didn’t appear on any of the television news broadcasts, nor was it mentioned by any of the so-called reporters, whose job it is to report the facts. Instead, we have a news media that is in hock to this government. Instead, we were treated to the sight of Johnson in a lab coat babbling about Corbyn being responsible for his failure to ‘get Brexit done’ as he put it.

Julia Simons, the medical student who stood up to Johnson, later tweeted.

Julia Simons 1 – 0 Boris Johnson

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Politics Is Broken? Okay, But Who Broke Politics?

How many times have you heard the phrase “politics is broken” ? Probably too many to count. Many politicians will utter the phrase without asking the necessary ontological questions, like “who broke politics” or “why is politics broken”? Instead, the phrase is spoken as if things just occur without any cause or reason.

When Chuka Umunna and the rest of his fellow Labour splitters left the party and formed the Independent Group (independent from what, you might ask), what we got from them, aside from the usual guff about bullying, intimidation and anti-Semitism was that politics was “broken”. Of course, Umunna doesn’t supply any details, for to do so would mean that he’d have to use his brain for once in his charmed life. However, one may suggest that Umunna believes that our “broken” politics stem from one of three things: Jeremy Corbyn, Brexit and social media. He would be wrong on all three counts.

Intellectual lightweights

Here’s Umunna talking about broken politics in a press conference to announce the formation of The ‘Independent’ Group.

Umunna and his empty rhetoric aside, I have my own thoughts as to why politics, and British politics, in particular, are “broken”, but broken is not a word that I would use, and I would suggest that, rather than politics being “broken”, they are dysfunctional and for many reasons for this, a few of which I intend to outline below.

Let’s look back at the 2016 EU referendum (erroneously labelled ‘Brexit’), whose result, rather than produce the government’s desired outcome,  went in favour of leaving the EU by a slender margin.  For the Brexiteers, who continue to sell the result as the “will of the people”, it was a vindication of their beliefs that the EU was a faceless, dictatorial bureaucracy, which stifled our ‘freedoms’. They’ve reinforced their beliefs by evoking World War 2 myths of “standing alone”. Here’s Mark Francois being interviewed on the BBC News evoking another WW2 image, in which he tells the interviewer “My father was a D-Day veteran”.

That’s but one example of the tendency of British politicians to look backwards, evoking myths and legends as they go along. In fact, few can have failed to notice how right-wingers will often lazily compare the EU to Nazi Germany, a gross insult to any European country that was invaded and occupied by the Nazis. The EU referendum shone a spotlight on, not only our politicians tendency to to wallow in imperial self-congratulation, but the rottenness of our political systems and institutions and the crumbling archaic nature of Parliament itself, which exists only to further enrich those who are already rich.  The idea that ordinary voters should have a say in their political institutions are run is seen as anathema.

J’accuse

J’accuse career politicians and their stale ideas, empty promises and vague phrases like “our values”. Politicians like Umunna, Leslie et al, would have us believe that social media is responsible for the current state of political discourse. However, they would be wrong. Their objections to social media are predicated upon the notion that the production and dissemination of information should remain in the hands of the official media; a media which is sympathetic to them and their clapped out politics. These politicians don’t mind using racism to achieve their political objectives and the recent weaponization of anti-Semitism is but one example. If people get hurt, their attitude is to shrug their shoulders and repeat the same baseless accusations. This is where the weaponization of racism and anti-Semitism leads to: death threats sent to prominent people of colour in the media and entertainment industries  and physical attacks on our streets.  Then there are politicians like James Cleverly and Wes Streeting who both use Twitter to troll and smear their political opponents and members of the public.

J’accuse the Westminster Parliament, which is no longer fit for purpose: it exists almost entirely to consolidate and extend the power of many of those who use it for their own ends. Its voting systems are antiquated and many of its procedures are slow, cumbersome and arcane. It is a major obstacle to real change.

J’accuse the glaring imbalance of political power in the country; a political power that is concentrated almost entirely in Westminster. For all their talk of devolution, what we get from our political leaders instead are empty phrases like the ‘Northern Powerhouse™. The fact remains that economically, socially and politically, the north and other regions of the United Kingdom have been left behind, and when voters used the referendum to make this point, it showed exactly how decayed the organs of the British body politic have become. The First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system forces us to either choose between two political monoliths or abstain from voting entirely because of its alienating effects (what’s the point?). FPTP is a gift to cynical politicians and we saw this being exploited in the Conservatives’ 2015 General Election campaign, which played precisely on these feelings of alienation (“they’re all the same, so you may as well continue voting Tory or better still, don’t vote at all”).

J’accuse a sycophantic mass media which is overly sympathetic to not only government, but the same useless politicians who are in politics for prestige rather than making any real difference to the lives of their constituents.  The media lies and covers for these politicians rather than hold them to account. Instead, we see the same media harangue, bully, interrupt and smear politicians of the Left as ‘anti-Semites’ and ‘Kremlin stooges’. Lobby journalists aren’t called that for no reason: they hang around the lobbies of Parliament like flies circling a bare light bulb in a filthy pub toilet. The same media also promotes, legitimizes and normalizes the discourses of the far-right and never misses an opportunity to put far-right figures in the television studios, where it flatters and humours them rather than scrutinize their words and actions. If one accuses the media of bias, they lie and try to gaslight rather than accept the fact that they’re wrong.

J’accuse the lack of genuine democracy, and what there is of it is systematically undermined by the mass media and their friends in Parliament. The fact that many working class people in the North of England used the EU referendum to send a message to Parliament and its MPs reveals the decay of Britain’s political systems, the lack of real democracy and its unfair voting system of First Past The Post. Well guess what? The politicians have simply swerved around the issue rather than deal with it.

So, politics isn’t “broken”: it’s dysfunctional, ossified and in an advanced state of decay, and the politicians themselves, rather than accept responsibility for its unhealthy condition, would rather deflect the blame elsewhere. Instead of looking forward, they would rather wallow in nostalgia. But they’re not the only ones: the opinion-formers in the media will always summon up false memories of the 1980s rather than deal with the here and now.  We’re being poorly served by unimaginative politicians and a supine media. We can do much better than these deadbeats.

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Smears, Lies, Social Media And Brandon Lewis

Brandon Lewis. He don’t ‘alf like a good old smear.

Social media may have its problems but there’s one thing about it that cannot be denied: it has effectively democratized the production and dissemination of information. Until fairly recently, the production of information was tightly controlled by what is often laughingly referred to as the ‘free press’ or ‘free media’, which is mostly controlled and owned by Conservative-supporting proprietors. Cast your minds back to the General Election of 1992 and The S*n’s disgraceful front pages. Cast your minds back to 1996 when Tony Blair, then merely the leader of the Labour Party, had to get on his hands and knees and beg for Rupert Murdoch’s support. I don’t want a return to those days, but the Tories clearly do, and there’s a reason why they complain so bitterly about social media and whine about non-existent online abuse: they resent the fact that people can make their own judgements based on information that wouldn’t have been available to them 10 or 20 years ago. The Tories are also incapable of matching the social media campaigns of groups like Momentum and, by way of reply, end up producing the most laughable efforts, like Activate.

Smear at will, chaps! That ought to convince the voters that we’re the natural party of government!

Last week, Theresa May reshuffled her cabinet and brought in Brandon Lewis, the MP for Great Yarmouth, as chairman of the Conservative Party. His deputy is James (Not So) Cleverly, the MP for Braintree (there’s a joke in there), whose Twitter feed is full to bursting with smears and lies. When I heard about Lewis’s appointment, this is what I tweeted.

The role of the Tory Party chairman, as far as I can see it, is to co-ordinate smear attacks on their enemies. This is how it’s been since the 1920s, when national newspapers like the Daily Mail,  a ‘newspaper’ friendly to the interests of the Tories, could publish forgeries like the Zinoviev Letter to affect the outcome of a general election and, at the same time, undermine the democratic process safe in the knowledge that it enjoyed high level protection.

When Lewis  appeared on today’s Andrew Marr Show, he didn’t disappoint. Immediately afterwards, he tweeted:

My response was brief and to the point.

Later, this was tweeted from the Tories’s official Twitter account:

When Angela Rayner told her Twitter followers how she dealt with online abuse, Lewis saw this as an opportunity to make  dishonest political capital and smear the Labour frontbench at the same time.

Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads was having none of it and reminded Lewis that his “Respect Pledge” was little more than a gimmick.

That reminds me, what happened to the 40 or so Tory MPs that were recently outed as sex pests and worse? It’s all gone rather quiet.

CCHQ quoted Cleverly in the Sunday Express:

Here it is from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

Cleverly has very little room to complain about abuse, yet here he is assuming the moral high ground. When all else fails, pretend your shit doesn’t stink and smear it all over your opponents.

The Tories have been very fond of claiming that Labour and by extension, the Left, has been singularly responsible for online abuse. But this is a topsy-turvy version of reality, because it’s been demonstrated that the abuse comes mainly from the Right and is directed at Labour MPs like Emma Dent Coad, Laura Pidcock and Diane Abbott. The New Statesman tracked 25, 688 abusive tweets and noted that most of them were directed at Diane Abbott.  Tory MPs, by contrast, have been challenged on their lies, which they then wilfully misinterpret as “online abuse”. There’s a reason for this: social media has, for the first time, allowed many people to not only engage with their MPs, but to openly challenge the lies and misinformation produced by Tory MPs and the propagandists at CCHQ. This is anathema to Tories, who may talk a good talk about freedom and democracy, but work tirelessly to stifle those things.

I didn’t see Brandon Lewis on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday morning but I suspect that Marr didn’t once challenge or refute any of his accusations or smears. However, the Marr Show helpfully tweeted this, and what I’ve noticed from this clip is how Lewis, rather than face up to the fact that his party is now, most likely, the third largest party in Britain, smears his way out of an uncomfortable moment. But that’s not all: watch how he squirms when it’s revealed to viewers that the abolition of credit card charges, announced on Saturday, was a European Union directive, and not down to the government, as their Twitter meme mendaciously suggests.

What Lewis is really saying is “We’re are crap at social media and it’s not fair that Labour is better than us”. The logic behind this is that the Tories think that being good at social media means being abusive and making baseless allegations, but this is an obvious psychological projection.

One smear that’s been doing the tours of the radio and television studios is the claim that Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, told an audience that he wanted to “lynch” Esther McVey. McDonnell actually quoted what someone else had said and yet, the Tories, being Tories, attributed the words to him directly. Worse perhaps, the BBC always fails to challenge Tory MPs who reproduce these lies live on air, as Sarah Smith did when the lie was repeated to her by Immigration Minister, Caroline Noakes, on The Sunday Politics. She apologized towards the end of the show.

The Tories are comfortable with racists. That’s not a smear; that’s the truth. For when Boris Johnson makes another racist joke or calls black children “piccaninnies”, nothing happens.  It’s waved away. For example, when Scottish Tory councillors spouted sectarian and racist remarks, Ruth Davidson gave them a quick slap on the wrists and welcomed them back a few weeks later. The official media, for its part, said little if anything at all. Yet, the Tories and their pals on Fleet Street and elsewhere will seize on any opportunity to paint Labour as a uniquely anti-Semitic party, and when their own members are guilty of real anti-Semitism, what happens? Absolutely nothing. Not even the official media are interested.

When Toby Young was appointed to the board of the Office for Students, a quango set up by Bozza’s half-witted and less charismatic sibling, Jo Johnson, people took to social media in their droves to point out Young’s lack of suitability. Central to these claims were Young’s 40,000 or so tweets, many of which expressed crude sexism and homophobia, one even suggested anal rape. But that wasn’t the least of it, his advocacy for what he calls “progressive eugenics” (a bizarre and contradictory construction if ever there was one) was also cited as grounds for his unsuitability. Young was forced to stand down. Predictably, the Tories started complaining about “online lynching” and “trial by Twitter”. Not one of them mentioned eugenics or the important fact that it’s a long discredited pseudo-science, which was central to Hitler’s Final Solution. In their silence, they’ve clearly revealed themselves, not only to be Social Darwinists, but tacit supporters of eugenics.

Thanks to social media many of us are better informed than we once were.  Yes, there is online abuse but most of it comes from the Right and not the Left.  But ordinary citizens are now able to call out politicians on their lies and distortions, so when the Tories claimed they had abolished credit card charges all by themselves, they were immediately met by a barrage of corrections. The Tories hate that. For them, it’s tantamount to abuse and for people that declare themselves tough and in control, they betray themselves as rather thin-skinned and lacking in control. Worse still, the Tories are a party bereft of ideas and haemorrhaging members, and they see smears, lies and abuse as substitutes.

To borrow from the villain’s stock line at the end of an episode of Scooby Doo, Where Are You? “We would have gotten away with it, if it hadn’t been for you pesky kids and your social media”.

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The Daily Politics

Many of us already know the BBC’s attitude to the reporting of political stories is less than objective. The Daily Politics, the corporation’s flagship politics programme on BBC2 has long been the subject of a great deal of ire. Since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, the overall tone of the programme has been increasingly anti-Labour but more specifically, anti-Corbyn. Any story that can be spun to cast Labour and Corbyn in a bad light is often seized upon with both hands.

Today was no different. The show’s host, Jo Coburn, pursued the Jared O’Mara sexism story not once but twice. First, she asked Nu Labourite, Chris Leslie for his view, then she asked Dawn Butler. Why is that? Because it’s pretty obvious that The Daily Politics, far from being impartial, is at the forefront of a pro-Tory propaganda exercise in which any anti-Labour story, no matter how trivial, is promoted above any other. In this case, to make matters worse, Coburn even cited her source: Guido Fawkes. Really?

One important story The Daily Politics decided to ignore is this one in which Tory MP and whip, Chris Heaton-Harris, had written to university vice chancellors requesting they provide him with details of “the names of professors […] who are involved in the teaching of European affairs, with particular reference to Brexit”.

 

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And yet, a story this important was completely ignored by The Daily Poltics? If a Labour or SNP MP had made a similar request, you can almost guarantee the story would have been covered on the programme.

This isn’t the first time that Heaton-Harris has been involved in controversy. Heaton-Harris, a self-styled ‘Eurosceptic’ was secretly filmed advocating support for James Delingpole’s anti-wind farm candidacy. The story appeared in The Guardian in 2012.

Chris Heaton-Harris, who is campaign manager for the Tories in Corby, was recorded saying he encouraged an anti-wind farm candidate to join the election race against the Tories, adding: “Please don’t tell anybody ever.”

The footage, covertly recorded by the environmental group Greenpeace, captures the MP saying the independent anti-wind farm candidate, James Delingpole, had announced his candidacy as part of a “plan” to “cause some hassle” and drive the wind issue up the political agenda.

He is also filmed claiming he helped Delingpole by providing him with “a handful of people who will sort him out”, including the deputy chairman of his own constituency party, who had stood down and then became the anti-wind candidate’s campaign agent.

Surely offering campaign advice and support for a candidate that isn’t in your party is a cause for having the whip withdrawn? For the Tories, not a bit of it. Delingpole’s views are shared by many Tories.

The Daily Politics, rather than report political news, takes an active role in making the news. Remember Stephen Doughty’s on air resignation?

Then there’s John Mann’s infamous ambushing of Ken Livingstone as he arrived at the BBC’s Westminster studio where The Daily Politics is produced.

The confrontation was repeated on the programme itself.

In August of this year, Open Democracy reported that Tory MP for Moray, Douglas Ross, made racist comments about travelling folk. The story wasn’t covered on the corporation’s television or radio news bulletins and appeared on the website only. Now, maybe that’s because The Daily Politics was off the air for the summer. However, if a Labour or SNP MP had made similar remarks, it would have been covered.

Scottish Tory councillors who made racist and sectarian comments were suspended and then quickly reinstated by the party. Still, not a peep about this from the Tories or the BBC.

The BBC’s website reported that Robert Davies, a Tory councillor on Stirling City Council, had left the party over his racist comments. Again, this wasn’t covered by The Daily Politics.

Robert Davies was one of two Tories who were suspended shortly after being elected to Stirling Council in May.

He had tweeted racist posts from a Twitter account in 2013 which was subsequently deleted.

However,

His colleague Alastair Majury, who was also suspended and then reinstated by the party, remains a Conservative councillor after making an apology to the council.

When Mr Davies and Mr Majury were reinstated by the Scottish Conservatives in August, the party insisted they had both offered “unreserved apologies for any offence caused”.

Contrast this with the calls to have Ken Livingstone expelled from the Labour Party. See the difference? Tories are given a slap on the wrist and then welcomed back with open arms, and their reputations are magically rehabilitated.

When a national broadcaster fails to report the really important stories and concentrates its efforts on smearing an opposition party, it is selling voters short. The Daily Politics is transparently biased in favour of the Tories. The programme’s editors may deny it, but the evidence is there for all to see.

Tim Fenton at Zelo Street has unearthed some interesting information on the Jared O’Mara story. You can read it here.

 

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Filed under BBC, Media, Racism, Television

Oh, What A Night!

I went to bed at 4am this morning and woke up about four hours later. When I went to bed, it was clear that there was going to be a hung parliament. May gambled her government and her reputation (such as it is) and lost. Labour, on the other hand, did much better than expected. But just imagine what could have happened if the Blairites and the PLP plotters hadn’t spent so much time attacking their leader and membership, and had got fully behind Jeremy Corbyn. We could have been looking at a different scenario, one in which Labour won a decent majority.

As I type this, the Tories have 318 seats, which is well short of an outright majority. The Tories are also reported to be talking to the Democratic Unionist Party to come to some kind of arrangement. It is unlikely that the DUP will form a coalition with the Tories. However, the thought of the deeply reactionary DUP aligning themselves with the Tories isn’t a pleasant prospect. That said, such a government is unlikely to last more than 12 months without collapsing. Another General Election could be called as early as October.

Labour lost no seats and gained at the expense of the Tories and UKIP. They won Ipswich from Ben Gummer and took Canterbury from Julian Brazier. Canterbury was a formerly safe seat that had been in Tory hands since 1918. That’s quite an achievement.  This morning all the naysayers and plotters are wiping a great deal of egg off their faces. Speaking of egg (or things that rhyme with egg), Nick Clegg, the former Deputy PM lost his Sheffield Hallam seat to Labour.

As I write this, the BBC’s pundits are in a spin. All their predictions of how Labour would suffer its heaviest loss since 1983 have been dashed. I knew this election was nothing like 1983 because the situation is  vastly different. and the media’s hacks are still stuck in the 1980s.  Now, after all these weeks, they’re talking about February 1974 and Heath’s disastrous gamble, which in some ways, is similar to May’s decision to call a snap election. I could have told them that. Indeed, I told The Guardian’s Michael White the same thing. He scoffed. I wonder what he’s saying this morning?

Other losers in this election are The S*n, the Daily Heil and The Daily Abscess, who spent a great deal of time and effort trying to undermine the democratic process. They must be held to account. We can no longer tolerate a newspaper industry that prints lies, distortions and smears. The BBC also needs to change. For the last several months they, like the rest of the media, have told us that the Tories would win “a landslide” and suggested, in not so many words, that there was no point in voting. How wrong they were.

UPDATE 9 June, 2017 @ 1248

UKIP leader, Paul Nuttall, has resigned.

Labour is poised to take Kensington. Yes, you read that correctly. Kensington.

 

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Filed under General Election 2017

How Much Will It Cost?

“How much will it cost?” is the question many broadcast hacks journalists ask of Labour politicians whenever the subject of spending is raised, yet the same question is rarely, if ever, put to Conservative politicians and there’s a reason for that.  It’s because the mainstream or corporate media has accepted Thatcherite economic orthodoxy and refuses to question it.  Moreover, the question itself is not only loaded, but predicated almost entirely on the Thatcherite logic that national finances are exactly the same as household finances. They are not. And anyone who thinks they are needs to listen to Yanis Varoufakis take down that myth when a member of the BBC Question Time audience repeated it without a moment’s thought.

Thomas G Clark of Another Angry Voice also debunks the myth here.

Television and radio hacks, and their commentator allies have accepted the Thatcherite logic of the market and the domestic finance analogy as fait accompli. For supposedly well-educated people, broadcast journalists have shown that they are neither capable nor willing to ask fundamentally straightforward questions about the Tories’ economic claims, and instead have focussed their attention on Labour’s mythologized economic incompetence.  But the questions they ask are not intelligent questions and behind them is a discourse of mocking and sneering of anything that diverges even slightly from the orthodoxy.

We see this whenever a Tory politician talks about tax cuts, they are never asked “how much will these tax cuts cost”? Instead, their proposals are taken at face value and their tenuous claims to economic competence are accepted as axiomatic. Yet, tax cuts do cost money and the burden will always fall on the shoulders of those who are least equipped to deal with it.  Tories will always claim that they have taken those who earn the least out of taxation altogether.   No questions are asked if the richest will pay more or how libraries, schools and the National Health Service are to be funded when ever-decreasing amounts of tax are being collected by the state.  Of course, Tory politicians know they will never be subjected to the kind of scrutiny reserved for Labour or even Green politicians (Andrew Neil is a possible exception). The deference with which most media journalists treat these puffed up charlatans is more sickening than eating ten Cadbury’s Cream Eggs in a single sitting and it’s getting worse.

This morning, Diane Abbott appeared on Nick Ferrari’s programme on LBC. When Ferrari questioned her about how much will more police officers cost, Abbott got into a muddle. Yet, when Theresa May was asked why nurses were forced to go to foodbanks on The Andrew Marr Show last Sunday, and could only summon up “there are complex reasons” by way of reply, few media commentators batted an eyelid.  Instead, all the outrage was focussed on Abbott’s apparent gaffe. Pathetic.

The level of political debate in the public sphere is shockingly juvenile and is driven by the discourses produced in the mainstream media. It’s no wonder many voters are left ill-informed about their political choices when journalists are only capable of asking stupid questions with the intention of getting a sensational headline.

If our media had any guts, it would have reported on the real story of the day.  Namely, Theresa May going full Erdoğan on pesky local reporters in Cornwall. But they didn’t.

 

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Filed under General Election 2017

How Polling Works

Following on from my critique of polls and polling companies, I have produced this flow chart that explains how opinion polling works.  Polls don’t exist to measure public opinion, they exist to shape it.  The media and the polling companies enjoy a symbiotic relationship in which each sustains the other.  One supplies a narrative and the other responds by producing a poll to support that narrative.  The media company then produces a story that reinforces the initial narrative,  which uses the poll as ‘evidence’.  You may need to click on the image to view it properly.

how-polls-workEven when polls are patently nonsensical or illogical,  their ‘findings’ are lauded by commentators and their followers, who cite them as evidence to support one narrative or another.  One such poll is the recent ComRes poll , which claimed that “most people” think the Tories would do a better job at running the National Health Service this winter than Labour.  The same poll also claimed that “most people” thought the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was doing a “poor job”.  Make of that what you will.  In any case, the media’s commentators seized on it and cherry-picked its ‘findings’.  The negative narratives that had already been produced to put the Labour Party in a bad light were thus reinforced by this shoddy poll.

Wash, rinse and repeat: that’s how the process works.

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Filed under Journalism, Media, Opinion polls, propaganda