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How effective are the media’s attacks on strikes?

The media has clashed with RMT general secretary Mick Lynch, underlining how at key moments it is a mouthpiece for the bosses, writes Isabel Ringrose
Issue 2811
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The media ensure that the ruling ideas in society are the ideas of the ruling class. (Picture: Harshil Shah)

Big rail strikes last week unravelled the true nature of the media. Its purpose is to be the mouthpiece of the ruling class—a vessel for their hatred and bigotry.

In its representation of the bosses, politicians, and elite, the media worked itself into a frenzy. Building up to and during the three days of action by rail workers, headlines were dominated by a tirade of lies and hate.

The Daily Express banished the action as “selfish” and Sky News presenter Kay Burley searched in vain for evidence of violence on the picket lines. The Sun despaired at the “chaos”, while the BBC forewarned of dark days to come as more strikes are planned.

The Telegraph lambasted the RMT union for inflicting “misery on millions of ordinary people” and “betraying” workers who cannot commute to make profit for their bosses.

The demonisation of the strikers, their union and its general secretary has been sickening. But the agenda is clear—smear the strike and stop people supporting it. And even the more “liberal” mainstream outlets are completely disconnected from workers’ lives and methods of fighting back.

Dominant ideas in society come from the ruling class, and the media is a vital structure to reflect and perpetuate class rule. But ordinary people don’t blindly eat up the media narrative.

Ideas are contested and huge effort is put in to make them appear universal. But the agenda is hidden under a campaign of division and false friendship with working people—if purely pro-ruling class propaganda was pumped out, no one would buy into it. 

Ordinary people’s lives and views are full of contradictions, which is reflected and escalated in the press. The bosses need to pit nurses, teachers, firefighters and rail workers against each other as enemies rather than a class with a common interest.

In times of struggle their media ramps this up as panic starts to set in. It has been interesting to note that the media’s tirade hasn’t worked so well on this occasion. The targeted hate has been punctuated by the material reality people experience when fighting back.

Far from being unsupported, the strikers have received encouragement. This is shown by Google searches for “join union” rising 184 percent in a week. A survey by Savanta ComRes, found that 58 percent of people thought the strikes were justified, with just 34 percent opposing the action.

Millions of people struggling in Tory Britain want an alternative to their crushing realities. Class struggle and mass action throws open all the contradictions pumped from the top, loosening the media’s grip.

Ideas change during struggle because people’s reality shifts. Workers’ self-activity clashes with how we’re told the world works and our position within it.  Workers can get a sense of their power and envision themselves at the helm. That’s why the elite and their media are struggling to prove they speak for ordinary people, and why they react with such venom to resistance.

But there is an alternative to propaganda that benefits the elite. Revolutionary newspapers written for and by the working class are the only media with a true interest in supporting struggle and countering the bile.

That’s why reading, selling, sharing online and debating Socialist Worker is key for socialists, especially in times of struggle. And as you read this column, we hope you will help us in that battle.

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