Friday, 7 August 2015

Corbyn moment - never a better time to expose the Guardian

As the great 'Corbyn crisis' deepens, the Guardian's vital establishment part in stopping him is coming under increased scrutiny. Alas, it's not coming from the Guardian's 'best'.

Seumas Milne, for example, has written a worthy piece commending Jeremy Corbyn, arguing that, whatever the leadership outcome, his participation has revitalised the terms of political debate and raised the level of hope for real reformist change. Milne also notes that Corbyn faces a "wall of propaganda from almost the entire media".

It surely does. So, why not name the names? Why not add specifically: "including the Guardian"? Indeed, why not raise the bar of real honest journalism and say: "particularly the Guardian"? With so much shameless smearing and alarmist pieces from Britain's 'leading left-liberal' paper, isn't there a special case for its indictment?

Milne does seem to be alluding to his own paper's complicity here in his link to Patrick Wintour's report on a recent study claiming to show little popular support for anti-austerity policies. Yet, while Milne rightly calls it a "tendentious" study, he says nothing about Wintour's one-sided, non-critical reporting of it. Alongside the onslaught against Corbyn from Guardian columnists, the paper's coverage of his campaign and the leadership contest is riddled with these kind of loaded headlines and distorted 'news' articles.  
For Media Lens:
Seumas Milne won't say it, but his own newspaper is just another brick in the 'wall of propaganda' facing Corbyn.
Denouncing much of the "cod psychology" being deployed to stop Corbyn, Owen Jones, a crusading campaigner for Corbyn, also writes:
Some of these commentators huddle together on social media, competing over how snarky and belittling they can be towards those oh-so-childish/unhinged/ridiculous (delete as applicable) Corbynites, unable to understand that rare thing, the birth of a genuinely grassroots political movement.
But, again, where is the direct criticism of the Guardian's own concerted assault on Corbyn and that promising movement? Where's the open challenge to Toynbee, Kettle, Rawnsley, White, Wintour and many others? Where's the open denunciation of its editorial line?

Dismissing these questions as some kind of side-issue, or twisted agenda, some plead that we should 'keep our attention on the real enemy'. Yet, if that most vital arm of power, the media, can't be included in any such definition, what kind of radical politics are we really hoping to pursue?

For Pablo Iglesias of Podemos, the need to name and expose the role of establishment media is crucial. Adopting a useful Gramscian perspective, Iglesias states that "the media is the real terrain of the ideological battle", even specifying "the main regime institutions in Spain which are the El Pais newspaper" and its network. For Iglesias: "If one wants to know what the establishment really wants, you have to read the editorials of the El Pais newspaper, because El Pais took over the whole political centre in Spain", assuming the role of "organic intellectuals" in pushing for new coalitions that would stop the proto-Podemos movement.  

The Guardian, arguably, plays a very similar role in holding together the 'consensual centre' and acting as an ideological bulwark to radical politics. It's network runs deep within safe Labourism. That's also why it opposed the Yes movement in last year's Scottish referendum, and is now trying to halt the Corbyn-led movement for meaningful change. As with Corbyn, the Guardian urged voters last September to 'stay sensible'. It's no great credit either to Jones or Milne that, while commending such movement politics, they both failed to advocate a Yes vote. That was their choice. Yet, neither then or now have they dared address this issue of the Guardian as a protective shield for establishment outcomes.

Not only has the Corbyn campaign been galvanised by the rise of the left-leaning, anti-austerity SNP, much approval for Corbyn is now, to its great credit, coming from Scotland's independence-minded street, supporting that very, imperative task of building a movement rather than a party politics. In contrast, the Guardian is, again, acting as a block on that vital process. 
Befitting his own campaign for a new, healthy and open politics, Corbyn can only but welcome more critical scrutiny of a media that's urged people to support 'sensible' New Labourism, kept readers in step with 'neoliberal reality' and waged such a campaign of hostility towards Corbyn himself. And remember, this is not just the right wing press, it's the Guardian, Independent and others claiming to be serious about progressive change.  

How can such 'champion reformists' be so openly hostile to a politician whose policies are so popular amongst the public? How, many will now be asking, can the Guardian be so negative and scathing towards the Corbyn cause, pitching and apologising, instead, for the clone politics of Burnham, Cooper and Kendall? The  answer is neatly 'claimed' by Craig Murray

I think I am entitled to say I told you so. Many people appear shocked to have discovered the Guardian is so anti-left wing. I have been explaining this in detail for years. It is good to feel vindicated, and even better that the people I have repeatedly shared platforms with, like Jeremy and Mhairi [Black], are suddenly able to have the genuinely popular case they make listened to.
In that new people-speaking voice, in support of this major political mood change, there's no better time than now to raise that critical focus, to challenge the Guardian, and expose its cohort of finger-wagging elites as they try to end this 'summer of madness' and restore 'normality' politics.

Now rattled by the backlash, Chris Elliott, the Guardian's readers' editor, has taken on something of a damage limitation exercise in 'addressing' the complaint of biased output against Corbyn. This is of no serious value in assessing either the extent of anti-Corbyn pieces, the paper's editorial line or what passes for 'impartial news'. The supposedly 'neutral' pieces Elliott identifies can be taken as anything but.

For a devastating critique of the Guardian's relentless attacks on Corbyn, and Elliott's attempted "whitewash", see these two fine pieces from Media Lens:

Fantasy Politics - 'Corbyn's Morons' And The 'Sensible Approach'

Whitewash - the Guardian Readers' Editor Responds On Jeremy Corbyn

One very useful effect of the leadership contest is that, in its emergency rush to stop Corbyn, the Guardian has further exposed itself to a public which has hitherto regarded it favourably. As one notable response, motivated by the Media Lens articles, put it in a letter to Elliott:
The right wing press in this country is awful, but it's honest enough not to disguise its agenda.. What makes the liberal press so repellant is its dishonesty, and its hypocrisy. You claim liberal values, and yet you conduct a vicious campaign against a man who threatens to implement them. On this occasion, I think you've done your newspaper's liberal reputation irreparable damage; it was always a lie, but it's now transparent. People have been decrying the lack of political choice in this country, not least in your own newspaper, for a very long time. To see a supposedly liberal outlet react as viciously as it has done to the emergence of that choice in mainstream politics for the first time since 1979 does nothing to enhance your 'liberal' credentials, such as they are.

Yours sincerely, 
Nigel Levaillant

(Media Lens message board, 7 August 2015.)

A deceitful, establishment-serving organ finally being rumbled? No better time to do it. Whatever comes of Jeremy Corbyn's laudable campaign, a day of reckoning looms for the Guardian.


Anonymous said...

John, great piece. My 93 yr old dad, who reads the Guardian every day, has been telling me much the same for months.

Anonymous said...

The link to Fantasy Politics - 'Corbyn's Morons' And The 'Sensible Approach' is broken.

eatbluesmarties said...

I cannot believe how naive this article is. The Guardian was ever thus - a centrist liberal minded newspaper with leftwing/socialist tendencies only when it suits the editor of the day. Since Peter Preston left its drifted even more toward the centre.
You only have to look at the initial support of the invasion of Iraq to understand its patent establishment bias.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Good stuff, John.

Stephen said...

@eatbluesmarties is right. When it comes to war and key inflection points for promoting war, the Guardian is always onside with the war party, regardless of editor. They print a few figleaves, deep inside or after the event, but they always beat the drums on the front and editorial pages. And it's the war party and associates that fear the effect of Corbyn on political debate.

Anonymous said...

and the truth shall set you free - nice one John, keep it up!

Cheers Fred

'Don't turn your back' said...

So either John Whilley and media lens are lashing out at everyone in frustration at 'the media', or they're actually right-wing wreckers trying to demolish the only opportunity the left has to reach an audience. We need Milne, Jones and Monbiot in there, but don't expect them to spike their own situations. They are after all achieving far more than you constant whingers.

John Hilley said...

Yes, we're really right-wing wreckers. Or frustrated lashers. Or maybe we just see something more obvious like the establishment-serving Guardian doing everything in its power to stop Corbyn, and people like Jones, Milne and Monbiot saying not a word about it.

Tonight the Guardian disgraced itself further by giving prime space (again) to mass warmonger Tony Blair, who warned that a Corbyn win would mean "annihilation" for Labour.

The Guardian and the Blairites, acting as one. But don't expect the Guardian's 'finest' to utter a critical word, "don't expect them to spike their own situations".

As tweeted today:

John Hilley ‏@johnwhilley
Media carpet-bombing of #Corbyn, from Sun/Mail to Guardian/Indy, stark proof it's ALL pro-establishment. Need for REAL independent media.

Anonymous said...

Time to boycott The Guardian?

I wonder, is it not time to act on this? It is very clear that Corbyngate has revealed The Guardian's true colours to most of its readership in a way that has not happened before. With virtually no exceptions the comments on the Corbyn stories are very angry ones. I include myself in amongst the readers who, until the last few months, probably complained about it all the time but probably thought it was, for all its obvious flaws, not exactly beyond the pale. Whereas now it is.

Its not even that the coverage hasn't supported Corbyn, but the distortion - the utter, wanton, systematic irrationality of the whole thing. No attempt to engage in a rational discourse whatsoever. It is seriously not an exaggeration to say that it has quite frequently sank to the level of tabloid journalism of the worst kind.

Chris Elliot's piece basically apologised for 'not taking Corbyn seriously in the early days of the campaign' (rough quote from memory) and promised that they would be better in future: but the fact is that it has gotten worse and worse, not better: the ridiculous Bloodworth piece about Corbyn having spoken to unpleasant people on a number of occasions (or their having claimed to be mates with him) in today's edition is really a bridge too far in terms irrationality, deception, misinformation, the exploitation of tacit associations of a really base kind. And it employs the favourite ideological tool - like Jonathon Jones' piece, another embarrassment for a paper that endorses the country's democratic socialist party - of being very clear that we're not suggesting for a moment that Corbyn 'has an anti-Semitic bone in his body' - before then devoting the whole piece to tacitly implying the very claim you start by renouncing (in Jones' case it was that we're not saying for a moment that Corbyn is 'Lenin or Stalin', then spending the rest of the time implying by connotation that he is just that.)

Something has to be done doesn't it? Isn't it time to boycott The Guardian? Couldn't the Corbyn campaign be a dynamo for an expression of outrage at the Guardian's obvious betrayal not of left-leaning commitments (they've never been a strongly leftist paper anyway) but of the basic commitments of a serious publication with a responsibility to nurture a rational and reasoned, informed public debate? Couldn't the social media network that already exists be used to coordinate a mass boycott of the Guardian with the aim of forcing it to admit unreservedly its coverage has been biased, that it has vested interests (including that it allegedly continues benefits from offshore tax haven arrangements that Corbyn is vowing to shut down), and maybe even the editor resigns? Shouldn't there be a real backlash here, and would it be all that difficult to organised?

Presumably it would be very easy to do - all you'd have to do is get everyone to turn on adblockplus on the Guardian site, and I assume their advertising revenue would take a massive hit that would be unsustainable for very long? (I may have misunderstood how these things work though).

Its not going to bring down the paper - but it might force them to repent on pain of going out of financial ruin (assuming they are that reliant on advertising revenue)?