Monday 24 August 2020

The Hack Obsession with Corbyn

Okay, so there's a national crisis and everything but the Westminster calendar remains stubbornly fixed. Instead of, I don't know, taking the government to task for economic failure, their cronyism, and openly practising corruption in full view, our so-called politics journalists are more interested in having their silly season fun.

Exercising the court stenographers this weekend were extracts from the forthcoming book on Jeremy Corbyn by Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire. Have they unearthed new information about HQ under Corbyn? Documentary evidence to better assist an understanding of this fraught time? More scabby skulduggery that undermined the project? Well, no. Expecting journalists to do journalism is too much to ask for. Instead we learn, horror of horrors, that on a visit to Stoke Laura Alvarez threw a strop because she couldn't have honey with her oatcake. Then came allegations Jeremy Corbyn refused to meet with families affected by last Autumn's floods, and that he threw a tantrum because Jo Swinson had an electric battle bus and Labour didn't. All of it is a pack of lies, and folks can pick through the debris of Twitter if you're moved to find the refutations.

What's interesting are the dynamics driving this continued obsessive focus on matters Corbyn, despite having sat on the backbenches for the last four months. Some comrades locate it in a generalised campaign against socialist politics - discredit Corbyn, discredit the ideas. Well, yes. And that's why the Tory press can always find space to put the boot in, but in the age of the attention economy and social media, it's not solely driven from the editorial offices.

Having spent five years writing about Corbyn and Corbynism, I know posting something on this very topic helps get the numbers in. Likewise, tweet something positive or negative and invariably the old mentions will light up. There is a big audience, which explains why there's already a burgeoning library from all corners of politics on the former Labour leader. And so, in the first place, if you're a right wing hack there's a real incentive to misreport, distort, and lie outrageously about Corbyn because it gets attention. It's not the right kind of attention, but profile is profile and, besides, it comes with its own reward. Left wing clicks on articles or left wing purchases of books are still clicks and purchases, a game the right wing media twigged a long time ago. And according to the attention logics of social media, if someone is upsetting "the lefties" this will invariably attract support and a following of right wingers too - therefore comrades making a fuss does them a favour.

Not all right wingers are conscious of the game, though. There are plenty of occasions when a simpering fool like Matt Chorley, for example, cries about all the nasty critical Corbyn supporters he's upset. So for them, and by extension centrist scribblers who do the same, there's a visceral enjoyment to be had winding up their collective nemesis. There's a resentment randoms on the internet don't afford them the respect they feel is due, or bow down to their ever-so-correct opinions. And there is fear. They may mock, affect enjoyment, and bond with each other over stories of how they magnificently pwned some troll with 20 followers, but the criticism they see cluttering up their feeds reveals a vision of their futures: their newspapers are in long-term decline, and their politics are likewise threatened. In other words, disdain now prefaces irrelevance later. And deep down, they know.

This is the condition of establishment journalism in our period of crisis. Attention gives them incentive to bang on about Corbyn, their experience of social media gives them incentive to bang on about Corbyn, and their pooled anxieties give them incentive to bang on about Corbyn.


Shai Masot said...

Sometimes they're just tragic attention-seeking gammons with Putin fixations like Paul Mason.

Dipper said...

Some people are just very newsworthy. Corbyn is one such. He does stuff that creates waves, and those waves lap up in odd places. There's always drama when Corbyn is around.

Also, he is a bit enigmatic. People read into him what they want to read into him, so in some ways he is a mirror for other's views. Which again makes him newsworthy.

Jim Denham said...

What exactly is a "Putin fixation": being, on balance, against poisoning your opponents?