Last week Andrew Neil accidentally offered a fascinating insight into what we might call the “mind of the corporate media”.
Neil, whose Twitter thread is usually full of acerbic put downs, staunch self-defence and the pseudo-intellectual posturing of The Spectator, got carried away and tweeted that Corbynistas were “pro-Kremlin” and a “busted flush”.
So far, completely standard behaviour for the corporate media, whose primary function over the past five years has been to discredit Corbyn and the wave of activism and enthusiasm his unexpected victory in the 2015 Labour leadership election unleashed.
The mistake Neil made was to bristle and try to defend his slur by doing something corporate journalists rarely do: rely on evidence and the historical record to support their position.
The 1,146 replies, rich with the requested citations, should have had much to teach Andrew…
The Gap Between Corporate Media Reality and Reality
A small sample of the evidence that poured in from Twitter users, well-versed in defending Corbyn from these kinds of slurs, is above. One of the most telling replies from users to Neil – who is, let’s not forget, lauded in journalism as one of the top dogs, Spectator chairman, ex-Sunday Times editor and, for a time, the BBC’s top political interviewer – was “why didn’t you just google this?”
That is, after all, exactly what Corbyn supporters did. Type “Corbyn criticises Putin” into a search engine and you’ll quickly find quotes like the below:
“(I have) many, many criticisms of Putin, the human rights abuses in Russia and the militarisation of society”Corbyn from a 2015 interview with Andrew Marr
Corbyn is also or record calling Putin and his regime “robber barons”, hardly the words of a stooge – but hardly a surprise. Why would Corbyn, a long-time peace activist, campaigner for minority rights and for the distribution of wealth, support an authoritarian, anti-gay, ultra capitalist who rules Russia on oligarch principles?
The mind of the corporate media does not follow logic – not this kind, anyway. As postulated in Chomsky and Herman’s propaganda model – which links media output to the priorities of owners and advertisers – the goal of corporate journalists is not to provide an accurate picture of the world, but to provide the picture of the world favourable to the interests of the wealthy.
Neil and co. have been smearing the socialist Corbyn for so long, building lie upon lie in a giant echo-chamber, that they have come to believe their own untruths. Neil’s hubristic dare for Corbynista’s to prove him wrong with “citations” blew up in his face – because he forgot that actual reality (not the self-sustaining corporate media version) was there at all!
Here’s how he responded the next day:
Neil was “pretty convinced” that he’d been totally wrong – though note he still falls back on another media smear surrounding Corbyn, that he somehow approved of the Skripal poisoning (debunked here).
They Never Learn
Neil’s gaffe couldn’t have had a much higher profile. He trended on Twitter and was forced into a rare, if predictably graceless, mea culpa.
Less than three days later, Kevin Schofield, political editor of the Huffington Post, tweeted the below:
Almost everything in Watson’s statement is a verifiable lie or the obvious product of his own slanted, factional viewpoint.
We have, for example, already seen that Corbyn and co. had no need to “contort themselves to justify their previous acquiescence to Putin’s illegal behaviour” – they were the ones calling it out (as far back as 2000 in the case of the BBC screenshot above) while Watson’s centrist mentors, Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson, were cutting deals with Putin.
Retweeting Watson’s statement with approval (absence of critical commentary on obviously incorrect/inconsistent statements can only be read as approval) earned Schofield a mere 720 comments, rich with “citations” informing him of things he should already have known.
Watson accuses Corbyn of factionalism, YET:
Watson’s 2018 resignation letter was also shared in the Twitter thread. As you’ll see from the quote below, he was polite enough to Corbyn then. What changed, the political winds? Schofield, a “political editor”, appeared to have no interest in this at all.
“I want to thank you for the decency and courtesy you have shown me over the last four years, even in difficult times….our many shared interests are less well known than our political differences”Extract from Tom Watson’s Resignation letter as deputy leader (to Corbyn)
In fairness, Schofield had no incentive to interrogate a statement attacking Corbyn: it fits perfectly with the narrative he and his fellow political journalists have created and sustained over the last five years. Supposed journalistic basics like scepticism and providing context/balance can be safely ignored when covering Corbyn because Schofield and co know that no other mainstream journalist will point them out – only on social media will they face a challenge.
And Schofield learned one thing from Neil’s gaffe – he ignored those who challenged him.
Much of our work over the past few years has documented the extraordinary corporate media campaign against Corbyn. Our first ever article examined coverage while Corbyn was Labour leader; one of our most popular reads catalogues the stunning level of hypocrisy between coverage of Corbyn and coverage of his successor, Keir Starmer.
As Neil’s faux pas makes clear, the campaign has now reached such a critical mass reality hasn’t just been obscured, it’s been inverted.
Corbyn and the left, the ones who called out Putin while the right and Tony Blair made deals with him, are “pro-Kremlin” and/or “Putin stooges”.
Corbyn, so accommodating to the Labour right that Tom Watson was his deputy, is presented as a factionalist while Starmer, who expels rivals from cabinet/the whip/the party, is a “unifier”.
Neil, Schofield and co. apparently believe in this legacy of accumulated lies. Perhaps they HAVE to believe in them. As Upton Sinclair wrote: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
What hope is there for democracy when those entrusted with providing information to the public – which is, after all, the raison d’être of journalism – provide a picture of the world that bears no connection to verifiable reality?
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