Sunday 20 September 2015

A Note on Jeremy Corbyn and the Media

And you thought Ed Miliband had it bad. Driven by the press and then echoed by the broadcasters, the media assault on Jeremy Corbyn this week has perhaps been the most scurrilous, smeary, and desperate I have ever seen. In rough chronological order, we've seen denunciations of Jeremy's refusal to sing God Save the Queen, attacks on his dress, and the rubbishing of the "new PMQs". If anything, it's ramped up this weekend. We've had the demonstrably false IRA smear - hardly a surprise to see Harry Cole, known around Westminster as the most dishonest journalist in politics, behind that one. There are revelations about an affair decades ago, attacks for refusing a Rugby World Cup jolly, news that an ancestor operated a brutal workhouse. And just when it couldn't get any worse:

Were I to have the new leader's ear, I'd be raising merry hell about this - even if a coup prospect is fanciful. A letter to the MOD plus a question at the next PMQs inviting condemnation of the comments, and extracting the promise of an investigation would be the appropriate response. 

All this, however, demonstrates a problem with a great deal of last week's media coverage: overreach and oversaturation. There's only so much dirt to be dug up about Jeremy, and thanks to the summer-long leadership campaigns most of it has already had an airing. Old speeches, old interviews, old footage has already been trawled through by political opponents and journalists, and it's most unlikely something new's going to turn up. If all the press can do is run them and rerun them, readers could start tuning out and stop buying papers. That's possible - the long-term decline of the press isn't just about the ubiquity of internet news. Poor, regurgitated content is playing its part too.

There are two things Labour's new press operation can do in this situation. The first is a strategy I'd definitely not recommend. It can attack the media for its bias and rely on a couple of wobbly media friends - The Mirror, The Graun - and hope the masses of new members and the growing influence of social media can compensate. In other words, retreat into the bunker and hope to outflank the media. The alternative is to use them. Yes, Richard is right, the media are hostile and no amount of spin or watering down policies are going to change that. The trick is then to try and lead the agenda by moving the fight to the grounds of your own choosing. There are three points here. Jeremy's press should always try and cultivate relationships with journos. And that includes those on the dreaded Murdoch titles. Good relations can be cashed in later to occasionally blunt attacks, and perhaps the odd exclusive. Second, the leader's campaign was principled, non-personal, and all about ideas. The trick then is to pick a few issues a month and keep hammering them in speeches, articles, PMQs, whatever for a limited duration before turning to something else. With the media running out of bilious attacks, this gives them fresh meat but shifts them onto the terrain of policy. Of course, the press has it own preferences. If Simon Danczuk says something silly, or rumours abound of more shadcab divisions, they're par the course. But some of the strategy will work some of the time. Third, rebuttal. Nothing should go unanswered. Every lie, every smear, all have to be responded to, refuted. No more 'no comment'.

As a general rule, the left has a sophisticated theoretical understanding of the media's political economy and the biases growing out of them. High time we had a strategy to match it.


Chris said...

I'd sooner trust a snake than The Guardian. They make little attempt to hide their hostility. They actually accused Jeremy of not respecting women, which they know is a lie.

Don't trust the New Statesman either.

Frankly, I kind of thought the Tories would have something really bad in reserve to throw at Jeremy this week, but they obviously don't. The biggest threat now might be elements in our own party.

stylescreamer said...

Of course those draining the UK of Democracy&money are going to fight tooth& nail to do it? Pity they are such a shallow and unintelligent mob of losers!

Boffy said...

The comment from the generals should be used to turn the tables. Corbyn and his supporters should go all out over the next weeks, and during the Party Conference to publicise these comments, as well as the history of the proposals of sections of the military and ruling class in the 1960's to organise a coup against Wilson, publicity for Peter Wright's "Spycatcher", the role of the Queen in unseating Gough Whitlam's Labour Government in Australia, the role of the military in carrying out targeted assassinations of Irish Republicans, the connections between Thatcher and Pinochet, the connections even going back further between the Royal Family, Lord Halifax and the press barons with the Nazis.

There is also another bit of double standards that needs to be taken up. I heard comments on CNBC last week, that I emailed them about, where they were talking about the prospect of a capital strike, if a Corbyn Labour government actually managed to get them to pay the tax they owe, or even raised it slightly. This came on the same day that Cameron was pushing through further anti-union laws to stop workers withdrawing their labour when they felt they were not getting a sufficient price for it.

We should ask the question why its okay to prevent workers going on strike when they don't get an adequate price for their labour, but fine, and an excuse not to raise taxes, for capital to go on strike when it doesn't get a sufficient rate of profit, or sufficient interest. In fact, a capital strike is far more serious in preventing the vast majority of the population being able to work, or to obtain vital commodities than any strike by labour could ever be, under capitalism.

So, shouldn't the media support laws to prevent such capital strikes?

Boffy said...

Incidentally, on a separate note, the good thing about the last few days is that the Lib Dems seem to be in the process of totally disintegrating. Even the media has had to comment that Tim Farron and Vince Cable's comments about a deluge of Labour MP's approaching them to join are totally ridiculous.

There is no reason careerist Labour politicians would currently join the Liberals in the Davy Jones' Locker of politics, nor are they likely to join the Tories. It would mean political suicide. The latest opinion polls show that there has been no meltdown of Labour support after Corbyn's victory. On the contrary, there has been an increase in Labour's standing.

Instead what we are likely to see is more of the same kind of thing seen under Miliband, which is ex-Labour MP's like Hutton, taking on roles for the Tories, so that these Blairites can be wheeled out as "Labour" grandees who have joined up with the Tories.

The answer to any who do should be clear. The LP machine excluded anyone who had even suggested they did not "share the aims of the party" from voting, or joining the party. Any Labour Party member who does that by offering solace to the Liberals or Tories should be kicked out immediately.

Speedy said...

Zinovief letter, anyone? Press dirty tricks are as old as the press, which is as old as human nature. You will recall the Tories evil eyes on Tony Blair (although that joke as it happened was on Labour supporters). JC is a gift that will keep giving because he has devoted his career to running against the grain of conventional wisdom - dog bites man is no story, but now the dog has been promoted to leader of her majesty's opposition, that definitely is news.

There is no strategy to combat this - Labour has chosen this road to nowhere so it can hardly complain about the bumpy ride.

Boffy said...

At least, as far as we know, Corbyn can't be accused by the Tory press of fucking a pig.

Anonymous said...

It's doesn't matter a damn what Jeremy Corbyn said, associated with or supported.

History will say,

"At least he didn't stick his cock in a dead pig's mouth."

John R

Ken said...

I've just been on FB, now I know; swamped with pig jokes.

Boffy said...

To be honest I always thought the Tories and Liberals were into masochism, necrophilia, and bestiality. At least I always thought they were beating a dead horse!

Unknown said...

Some Journalists, Editors and a handful of Politicans treat the General Public as though they were stupid and gullible. Most of us are not

BCFG said...

I was arguing about media bias when Boffy was defending the 'free press'.

I think the general should be forced to appear before a commons committee explaining his treasonous remarks and he should face a term in jail if what he said is true. The idea of a general overruling the elected government should face severe consequences.