The biggest threat to democracy in this country is not ISIS … it’s the press

The media are wrong about Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn’s Labour project is about the long-term future of this country — not the short-termism of winning power as quickly and as broadly as possible.

Before we begin, I would like to apologise if this article is slightly chaotic. The knives are well and truly out for Jeremy Corbyn; a 67 year-old socialist and pacifist who has found himself leading the Labour Party. There’s been fear. There’s been smear. And there has been some genuine criticism.

The intent of this article, without becoming the length of War and Peace, is to attempt to clearly and quite simply deal with some of these criticisms — namely, the issue of ‘media image’ or ‘strategy’.

Firstly, let’s deal with the issue of the media itself. The media are wildly bias when it comes to Jeremy Corbyn. I honestly think it is impossible to argue otherwise — especially when a recent study from the fairly right-leaning London School of Economics has found that 75 per cent of press coverage misrepresents Corbyn’s views.

In regards to Corbyn himself, one of the main criticisms levelled against him is that there is no ‘media strategy’. Owen Jones, once a vocal supporter of Corbyn and the Left, who now seems to be going through some kind of existential crisis, has made this point many times before in the past. On the one hand, he is right. The media are significant when it comes to ‘selling’ yourself or your politics to the broader electorate. But then, when 75 per cent of the coverage is essentially lies — what the heck can you do? What’s the point? Why waste your time or exert the effort?

Most of the mainstream media, with very few exceptions, will always look to paint Corbyn and the Left (the ‘true’ Left — not its new, neoliberal, Blair-inspired incarnation) in a bad light. Why? Because he is a threat to them. It’s simple. He is a threat to those with wealth and power because he wishes to create a fairer, freer and more equal society. Unlike the swathes of working-class people who often vote against their interests, by voting Tory, the upper class in society know very well what policies or politics threaten — not even their existence — but a tiny percentage of their considerable power, influence and money.

Corbyn and the Left, sadly, just cannot rely on the media unless they turn themselves into the ‘prawn & cocktail party’ of New Labour; and thus, by extension, accept the Thatcherite economic consensus which has dominated the world for decades. A consensus that can never and will never bring about any form of real change because it’s specifically designed not to. Neoliberalism, at its core, was a ‘class project’ — and continues to be so. Austerity is more about destroying the welfare state and empowering private capital than it is about balancing the books or reducing the deficit.

As a result, in turning away from the more traditional media channels, Corbyn — and the Left — have turned to social media. On a side note, it’s weirdly ironic that the emergence of social media, of alternative news and press, is, in some way, a result of the free market/neoliberal philosophy. ‘Consumers’ have rejected one type of market and thus another has emerged. Capitalism, no?

Anyways, social media is undoubtedly limited when it comes to the broader electorate. Twitter ain’t going to win you a general election at this stage, of course not. However, social media has become instrumental when it comes to smaller contests — as the election of Jeremy Corbyn and the Bernie Sanders campaign in the United States have proved. Social media is so effective now that even Owen Smith and the appalling ‘Saving Labour’ campaign have attempted to clone them: grassroots, political campaigning organised via social media.

Ultimately, social media decided the last Labour leadership election; and it will decide this one — despite the fear and smear from the press.

The relative insignificance of the media, in this particular area of political and democratic life, has obviously frustrated them. You can almost picture the frustration ooze from the slimy words of Dan Hodges, Polly Toynbee, Toby Young and John McTernan: WHY WON’T YOU SIMPLETONS DO AS YOU’RE TOLD?! 

Understandably, many Labour supporters and members are hostile towards the media and this is very worrying for them. NOT because of the online abuse or nasty comments (which are few and far between), but because their power and influence is wavering. In our rejection of them, they are becoming irrelevant. And that is how you beat them. Jeremy Corbyn knows this and is harnessing the power of social media to slowly build the Labour movement — not to suddenly jump ahead in the polls.

It is about the long-term future of Labour and the Left, not the immediate short-term that, given the current political and economic environment, could quite feasibly change at any particular moment. If another economic crisis hits Europe, what lies will the Tories fall back onto next? Immigrants? Socialists? The tooth fairy?

In the short-term, the press will probably decide a general election — and in that sense, I concede, Jeremy Corbyn is probably (and tragically) ‘unelectable’. The media will do everything in their power, like they are doing now, to convince ordinary people that Corbyn and his brand of socialism is a danger to them. That said, I am not convinced that Owen Smith and his Blairite cronies will do any better.

The future for Labour, either way, is not too bright. I just think that Corbynism stands a better chance of, eventually, winning back power and, crucially, transforming this country for the better. Remember: it was New Labour who began the process of privatising the NHS. This will continue unless the party is completely rebuilt from the ground upwards by its enthused and expanding membership. Of course, this is all assuming that you do not want a Labour Party who are essentially a slightly-less-nastier-version-of-the-Tories. Assuming that you do not want Blair and New Labour dressed up as Owen Smith, Tristram Hunt, Chukka Umunna and Jamie Reed.

To rather hastily conclude, social media and online news is the future. Its reach has not yet extended across the entire electorate, but its power and influence is growing rapidly. More people will come. The Independent recently went out of print and there are rumours that the Guardian will soon follow. Moreover, as technology continues to change and evolve, people will be forced to conduct more of their lives online; and the same goes for their political and current affairs consumption. This is where we will be getting our information from.

Corbyn and the Left, quite smartly, are using social media as a means of not only reaching out to people and building support; but also as a way of creating an alternative political and economic narrative that will simply not be properly represented in the mainstream media. Indeed, they will fight to prevent the truth from getting out. Even as the world is burning around them. Capitalism is apocalyptic in that sense.

Furthermore, at the heart of this narrative is the idea, or truth, that the press and media, on the whole, are corrupt, biased and not to be trusted. Even the UKIP narrative contains traces of this. It is a sentiment not simply restricted to the Left and we should never forget that elements of the Right, that Brexit itself, although a disaster, was also, in part, a vote against globalisation — a vote against the neoliberal hegemony which has impoverished our lives.

Yes, if these papers and channels continue to print or say the same rubbish over and over again it will eventually ingrain itself onto people’s brains; but this is not a sustainable future for them because these same people are no longer convinced by their authenticity or neutrality. The more immediate problem is that the narrative stills sticks … for now.

Corbyn might have a problem in the short term — a problem which I hope he will get through; I hope he beats Owen Smith in the upcoming leadership election and Labour are transformed into the party people deserve — but, in the long term, it is the press who have the more serious problem.




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