Socialist Worker

The media vs Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn has been attacked from all sections of the mainsteam media. Raymie Kiernan explains why the media hate Corbyn—and how we can challenge them

Issue No. 2487

Murdoch and his papers hate Corbyn

Murdoch and his papers hate Corbyn


The wave of abuse Jeremy Corbyn has faced from the press since he was elected Labour leader in September last year has been outrageous.

Many people can’t believe just how bad the witch hunt has been.

It exposes the nature of the mass media under capitalism and the tiny minority of super rich bosses who control the output of the newspapers and radio and TV networks.

The massive social power they wield is marshalled to play a particular role in propagating pro-capitalist ideas in society.

There is a pretence about “balanced” news but the reality is that all media is thoroughly biased—and 99 percent of it is in favour of capitalism.

Professor Greg Philo from the Glasgow Media Group recently commented on the Corbyn bashing.

He said the “media presentation of left wing people as somehow unacceptable” is “quite routine”.

Reporting or discussion about the imperative of austerity happens without providing “even the most basic information about how much wealth there is in the economy as a whole”.

Why should there be £12 ­billion welfare cuts, he asks, when the wealth of the richest ten percent is 375 times greater than that?

The manufacturing of news and comment is about shaping ideas in society and maintaining ruling class domination.

This isn’t a conspiracy theory. It just reflects the fact that the owners and controllers of the media industry have different interests to us.

These people are part of the rich minority at the top of society who own and control the big businesses, banks and the state.

They have a clear interest in promoting ideas that justify the system they benefit from.

Ridiculing

They also have an interest in clamping down or ridiculing ideas that question that system.

This doesn’t mean that newspaper owners such as Murdoch have to tell their editors what to write in each issue.

But they do rely on well-paid senior managers and editors, such as Rebekah Brooks.

These people are closely tied to the capitalist class and share their assumptions and ideas about the world.

So in the most rabid, right?wing media we find the worst examples of sexism, racism, scapegoating of immigrants and refugees, and so on. This is all about sowing divisions in the working class.

But we also find the bias in relatively liberal or left wing papers such as the Guardian.

Each week the Guardian ­publishes several lofty commentaries written by pompous and self-important ­columnists decrying the state of the Labour Party following Corbyn’s election.

The line of argument isn’t quite the same as the rabid red bating you see in the likes of the Daily Mail or the Sun.

But they all believe that the best way to manage capitalism is to elect a small group of people to parliament to change things on everyone else’s behalf.

So they can barely conceal their contempt for the idea that ordinary Labour members might have a say in how the party is run.

Despite all this, the media do not control our minds.

The ideas people hold are not formed by the media, but by the material reality of our everyday lives.

Our consciousness is shaped by our experiences of the world.

Revolutionaries Karl Marx and Frederick Engels argued, “Consciousness does not determine life, but life consciousness.”

Under capitalism we have very little control over our lives.

The ruling class makes all the important decisions about how society is run.

And life under capitalism can also leave us feeling isolated—as if society is just a collection of individuals competing with each other.

So the mainstream media can work to reinforce those ideas—for instance they encourage us to blame migrants for the lack of jobs and for low wages.

But those ideas come from within capitalism itself.

It’s also the case that our lived experience can contradict what we’re told in the mainstream media.

Onslaught

The refugee crisis is a good recent example of this. The onslaught of anti-migrant rhetoric was greatly weakened when images of dead refugees emerged last year.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets demanding that refugees be let into Britain.

And no matter how hard they tried, the media couldn’t stop people campaigning and voting to elect Corbyn to head the Labour Party.

So although media owners are tremendously influential they are not all-powerful.

That gulf between the reality of our lives and the dominant ideology of capitalism can open up a space for it to be questioned, challenged or rejected.

People can start to question the ideas of the ruling class when their own experience appears to contradict them.

Independent or social media can play a role in this. But the crucial factor is struggle.

When the level of struggle rises the gap between the propaganda and the reality will only grow bigger for most ordinary people. Their experience will be far from what the media pumps out.

When people go on strike, for example, they find themselves in a collective battle against the bosses.

When this happens, ruling class ideas can begin to break down.

Racist and sexist ideas make less sense when black and white people, men and women, stand together against a common enemy.

The conflict between workers on one hand and bosses on the other is laid bare—as is the rottenness at the heart of the system

Our rulers want to suffocate these kind of ideas. These are the same ideas that fuel support for Jeremy Corbyn.

Our job is to organise and strenghten those ideas—and give the media barons nightmares.


Battle of Wapping—defeat helped Murdoch build empire

The phone hacking scandal showed the depths that Rupert Murdoch’s empire is willing to plumb in its drive for profit.

When the press baron was under fire for hacking it coincided with the 25th anniversary of one of his greatest crimes, the sacking of 6,000 print workers and the creation of his scab printing plant at Wapping in east London. Friday of this week marks the 30th anniversary.

Most histories of the Wapping strike talk about how Murdoch “fooled” the union leaders by saying his new plant was for a fictitious newspaper, called the London Post.

But Murdoch’s cover was blown long before—and the unions turned a blind eye.

Socialist Worker exposed in September 1985 that a local office of the electricians’ EETPU union in Southampton was being used to recruit workers for the Wapping plant.

Some time before Murdoch’s management had broken off negotiations with Fleet Street unions over the company’s plan to move operations to Wapping.

The scene was set for a major battle.

Poster from the Wapping Strike of 1985

Poster from the Wapping Strike of 1985


The Tories’ favourite media mogul wanted to take on the printers, a group of workers with a proud record of supporting other workers’ struggles.

For more than a year police battered workers fighting for their rights, while the full force of the media and the government was used against those battling for justice.

In the end, they lost. But it wasn’t inevitable. The strike could and should have won.

Murdoch later admitted the police not letting picketers block trucks was key to his victory.

He used the move to sack any journalists who didn’t support the hard right Thatcherite politics that he was promoting.

Destroying the unions did not free up journalists from control by “elites” as Murdoch had promised.

Instead, removing any kind of collective opposition created the atmosphere in which the News of the World scandal festered.

The Tories unleashed the full force of the state and the trade union leaders failed to call the all-out strike on Fleet Street, where all the papers were produced, that could have won. Instead they let the strikers down, and some were instrumental in betraying them.


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