It’s May 22nd 2013, and a Soldier’s head is cleaved from its shoulders and rolls on the streets of Woolwich. It’s a national news story and soon the world’s media have arrived, revelling in the chaos and the ratings it ensures, two men attacked the soldier. There are no witnesses that claim to have heard the men scream. But the UK Government heard and because they heard, the media heard too.
When Lee Rigby was murdered, no one heard the killers shout “Allahu akbar” but because the government claimed they did, the media ran with it, and possibly one of the biggest debates about the nature of the media broke out that side of the Leveson inquiry. We are told that the media reports honestly and in our interest, that it holds power to account. But what we have seen with the Rigby murder, Corbyn, the War on Terror and more is the media’s role in throwing a veil of legitimacy over some of most crass actions our governments have carried out, and when that still isn’t enough they stick the knife into people who threaten that balance. People like Corbyn.
The modern media sees the state as an unbiased source, it comes from a very primitive political theory that is often used to smooth the rough edges of Capitalism. Pluralism believes that the government is a ‘neutral arbiter’ that looks after the interests of all and considers each proposal in society equally based on merit, rather than the actual determining factors, such as nepotism and wealth, that have driven capitalism in the real world.
So it would appear to the media that the state has no interest in creating a mass surveillance network. Or in creating huge immigration detention centres, in bombing the middle east or in creating an immigration crisis by stirring up fear about migrants in order to throw people off the scent of the government’s own injustices.
What about the Guardian I hear you say? Well they showed the way their cloth was cut when they backed Yvette Cooper for Labour leader and then commenced what was probably the most viscous smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn out of all the papers, mainly because some people had the impression that the Guardian was a ‘progressive left’ publication when in reality it is a middle class liberal paper. One of the Guardian’s editors, replying to ‘claims’ the paper was being biased against Corbyn, actually said that you can’t count the “negatives and positives, we’re not a fanzine for any side.” Talk about being full of shit.
Speaking of being full of shit, do you remember Cameron’s lies at this year’s conference of the damned? How Corbyn mourned Bin Laden’s death and is a threat to national security (see there is that buzzword again). The media chose not to report on these lies, again showing just how dangerous their assumption that the state is an unbiased source really is.
Why is this the case though? Why do journalists and the media insist that this is the case and report accordingly. There are a variety of reasons, none of them conspiratorial. We’ll start from the beginning.
1. They who pay the piper, call the tune: globally, the media is owned by a list of barons that grows shorter as more and more networks, papers and everything else is swallowed by a larger media entity. This ultimately shows the press is not free, the people who own these publications call the shots. When the Leveson Inquiry was in full swing and called Rupert Murdoch to the stand, this was front page news for almost every paper, except the Sun of course, which is owned by Murdoch’s News International conglomerate. They ran the story as a stub on the front page, if you blinked you would miss it.
The people who own papers, news stations or radio shows usually hand pick their editor, as the manager of the day to day running, an editor is very important, they set the tone of the publication both in terms of style and politics. An editor would be selected for their world view rather than just on journalistic merit, they then fill the rest of the positions based on their world view, otherwise known as their ideology.
2. There is a massive class divide in Journalism, nearly 47% of all newspaper columnists are privately educated, a whooping number of that 47% came from Oxbridge (Oxford or Cambridge) so these columnists will have a world view of privilege and entitlement but more importantly they are likely to be school buddies with people who rank high in the military and Westminster. The left often complains about the present state of journalism, but this is what journalism is to those working in the main outlets: it’s fostering relationships with assholes, writing soft pieces in the hope of being introduced to other assholes who might pass you a bone someday. The relationship is incestuous. Think the Hills Have Eyes with tweed and monocles.
The mainstream outlets have conspired to create a false consensus, I say false because it isn’t shared by the large majority of society, a consensus that believes austerity is inevitable and anyone who says differently threatens the stability of the country. Our politics shows are full of non-debates between dark blues and light blues that all agree that austerity is inevitable, they just disagree with when the axe should fall. But of course this is dressed up as being the only sides of the debate because anything else threatens stability. Stability for whom exactly?
People might think that this is the professional orgy that old media maintains with the state and others, but it could be any publication without something keeping it anchored to the reality of life as it is now. One of poverty, war, bigotry and prejudice. The way to create and maintain publications with the integrity to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable is to develop new publications, that are democratic and are not radical for the sake of it, but are radical in order to develop the political ideas of the many. Ideas, for instance, that oppose Capitalism, Austerity and the dominion of the rich over the poor.
Tyler McNally is a socialist activist and current Editor of The Last Round, you can follow him on Twitter @Redtography