The biggest area in which political elections are fought has to be the media. There is plenty of evidence for this. Not least, we ought to look at the relationship between the party that wins and the column inches, headlines and photographs of their representations in the media.
Speaking as a journalist since 1985, we need to hold our press to account to deliver balanced and fair reporting as part of a democratic process in the lead up to an election. I say we do not get this at all. 29 November 2019.
Margaret Thatcher was very unpopular as a result of her policies, which caused a huge increase in unemployment during the 1980s. However, with the well-documented advent of Breakfast TV appearing before the 1983 election, she won the election that year and the following one in 1987 despite record numbers of people being out of work.
Trump seemed a joke. Yet, his media profile probably aided him to victory despite widespread criticism. However, Fox News made Trump its preferred candidate and Cambridge Analytica targeted “persuadables” to influence their vote towards the right wing. This was done by identifying targets through a Facebook personality quiz and then passing names to Russian based Internet Research Agency to post news stories with a populist right wing viewpoint (such as “foreigners are taking your jobs”) so these people would see them.
Notice this campaign used biased “media stories” as its main campaign, the attacks on Hilary Clinton and use of her emails was almost just a distraction.
Your Media Profile Reaches Most People, Not Your Witty Repartee
We pretty much all know media is biased now. However, bias is just a viewpoint. It is shared by people who identify with that viewpoint. Therefore, telling someone they are brainwashed n a way invalidates their world view.
How do you feel when people say to you that they understand socialism better than you do and that it takes money from achievers who have worked hard and give it to people who don’t make much effort?
have you wondered why the Conservatives spend so much money on media? Even having two Conservatives co-founding a polling company – YouGov – to keep filling the press with polls claiming the Tories will win a big majority.
I disagree with that view on socialism totally. However, it is a view that many people hold. It isn’t wrong because it is from a different perspective from your own view. They have been convinced by numerous mainstream press stories – probably funded by people who want to hold on to power for selfish reason – to scare people into voting against socialism.
The American government went to great lengths to keep communism, which had reached South America, out of the 51 Untied States. Its government, with Reagan in the wings, even flooded inner cities with drugs to help fund the weapons for the contras in Nicaragua to fight the communists. [Guardian Article about journalist Gray Webb’s Dark Alliance and film about him: Killing the Messenger].
Countering a View you Disagree With
Social media can become a metaphorical blood bath in terms of the exchange of views. However, Monica Lewinski said in an interview with John Oliver of This Week Tonight that she would have preferred her White House Transgressions to have taken place in the age of social media. She said the press all took the same misogynistic and sexist view that she was all to blame. Had social media been around, she believes she would have heard at least some voices of support.
Another woman who got vilified in the press is Asma Al-Assad, the wife of Assad, president of Syria. One such article appeared in the Guardian, in an opinion column by Nadhim Zahawi MP (Conservative Party) who took Asma to task over her husband’s alleged actions for not stopping them. Zahawi urged to have her British citizenship revoked.
The Organ Grinder Not the Monkey
First and foremost, the democratic argument is with our media, not the opposition. We need to go to the organ grinder, the media, to ask important questions:
- Were they paid to include that editorial?
- Did they investigate any conflict of interest?
Nadhim Zahawi, if you look at his career as MP, a businessman, co-founder of YouGov and opinion columnist in the Guardian, has a potential conflict of interest. His company Zahawi and Zahawi searches for oil in the middle east. Asma Al-Assad, an Oxbridge educated woman born in London, who never expected or planned to be Syria’s First Lady as her husband Assad was not going to be President. Perhaps she had more time to scrutinize foreign activity on Syria’s soil.
Can you hear that noise? That is the deafening sound of silence from our press corps on Syria right now. Hear that? Not even a dog’s ears could pick up the sound of the airwaves flatlining on the attack on Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury. For example of this skewed reality projected by our press, see the Google results for “Car Bombs Syria” on the left. There have been 6 car bombs in Syria this month and only the Guardian has mentioned it. Many people have been killed and a full list of attacks this year globally is listed on Wikipedia.
Why We Must Hold our Press To Account
If you look objectively at an election campaign, you hear an orchestra of different sounds. Walk around a town and you see many posters for one party and probably none for the current party in government on display Why is that?
As Ralph Milliband said in 1969, the press has gone from watchdog to attack dog. Instead of keeping an eye on our state to hold them to account and report back to the people, the press now savagely lays into the opposition and not their current masters. The article linked above (full version can be downloaded from the LSE website) shows how many more times the Conservatives will appear in the press than the Labour party.
I volunteer for a small community radio station in Cornwall, without a minuscule reach compared to a national newspaper and yet we have to follow strict rules of “purdah” in the lead up to an election. We have to be balanced. If we invite one candidate, we have to invite them all. That is good.
Be an Investigative Journalist
would love to ask all 3 candidates when they intend to sign the UK up to the Transparency Register so secret meetings cannot happen in UK parliament. If we sign up to this EU register, which the EU government abides by itself, perhaps our press would not be so important. Particularly with social media.
There is also a campaign for transparency to stop corruption to be followed here. Alongside the Freedom of Information Act and The Institute for Government, which monitors communication and transparency, or a website to hold the public sector to account called What Do They Know
There is So Much You Can Do
Despite evident censorship from the Google algorithm, it is still possible to dig for information. If you follow your instincts and aim to find facts, not to back up an already help opinion, you can find
There is a good reason that people have a distrust for both the press and for government right now. That reason is bias. We are not being told the whole story. People are going on the attack based on a biased collection of facts. For example, at the moment America has tried to put the UK NHS on the table. The public’s distrust has led to huge amounts of press coverage arguing the toss, while we are not focusing on the issue. Trump is the issue for the NHS.
Therefore, using this as an election point needs to be done well. The issue is Brexit. If we leave the EU on the 31 January and if Boris Johnson is PM, do we trust him with the NHS? Personally I don’t but I will hear all views. But accusing Johnson of putting the NHs on the table is inaccurate and will put backs up.
The other issue is about whether Boris Johnson intended to cut questions about “social care” during an LBC interview. The uproar using a 3 second GIF as evidence handed the Daily Mail a story on a golden platter to belittle those using this throat cut as “conspiracy theorists”.
The amount of people using social media in the run up to an election can easily drown out the voices of the mainstream media. However, the opportunity is never met. People who support the party currently in parliament are more complacent as the media is clearly biased (see pictures of top 10 Google search results for “election news”), while the challenging party joins in circulating their opposition’s news stories to dissect and challenge.
We need our media to return to fair representation of all parties in the lead up to an election. But that won’t change our behaviour. Whether we think it is good or right or not, we need to focus on our own media rather than reacting and circulating the opposition.
Look at companies that don’t want to discuss something. They don’t reply. They make ‘no comment’. They ignore questions as much as possible or simply pretend not to know anything. They don’t react if they can get away with
What I think the country needs now is something they can trust. The entire Labour Manifesto is submerged under myraid press stories about all Boris Johnson’s activity, more straight reporting of policies than criticism. Meanwhile, one report says Corbyn promises trees and parks, while Boris promises state funding to get people into work.
When the election is done, the winning party will carry on and do what it does. Labour WILL do many things. It seems people almost fear it as they haven’t had a chance to read about much of it in the press. The newspapers give an overwhelming amount of space to Boris’ election promises, while it dissects Corbyn’s exposure of the reports of meetings between Boris and Trump and being asked by Andrew Neil if he wants to apologise for something he does not believe rose after he became leader. In fact Corbyn has been documented as standing up for Jews 50 times! That is not mentioned in the UK’s national press. This is seriously biased.
What do we do?
We need to focus on getting stories into the national press about real people living real lives and proposals for public transport, education, health, housing, the environment, young lives and social care. Failing that we can get them on websites and circulate them via social media. These stories need to be credible, straight reporting, use quotes and be trustworthy but by making them about Labour, we can go further to balance out the focus on Boris in the UK press. For example this BBC story here about pledges on transport, housing and jobs
This will work much more in our favour then by reacting to the Tory stories and by effect giving them more focus, attention and reach. Perhaps the BBC are balancing out a bit as they announced the new Labour strategy this week.