Nobody should be surprised that the majority of the media were complicit in their manufacturing of a narrative that contributed to the defeat of Jeremy Corbyn during the recent election in December 2019. Nor should we expect any easing back of these tactics if a Labour leader is elected who is deemed unsuitable to the establishment oligarchs. Jeremy Corbyn at one point was seen as serious threat to the ruling elite in the UK, advocating wholesale changes to the way the rich and powerful operate. This included higher tax rates for the rich, a clampdown on tax evaders and avoiders, plus plans for the nationalisation of certain industries and services. Corbyn without doubt was considered a problem and had to go.
In the UK, the print media is primarily owned by billionaires and these individuals help to maintain the sanctity of the establishment. Predictably coming down hard on anyone who threatens this hierarchy. The names of some of the people who help to preserve the status quo are;
- Lord Rothermere – The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday and The Metro.
- Rupert Murdoch – The Sun, The Sun on Sunday, The Times and The Times on Sunday.
- Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev – The Independent, The Independent on Sunday and The Evening Standard.
- Richard Desmond – The Daily Star, The Star on Sunday, The Daily Express and The Express on Sunday.
- David and Frederick Barclay – The Telegraph and The Spectator.
What appears obvious during the last two elections of 2017 and 2019 is, the majority of the print media were deeply critical of Corbyn and his proposed policies. This sustained criticism also occurred from supposed friends of Labour, such as the Guardian. However, most of this vitriol appeared in right wing rags, who persistently produced pages of propaganda and outright lies to concoct a powerful anti-Corbyn narrative. This rhetoric lasted four years, but notably increased in intensity over the 2017 election and stepping up a further gear over the 2019 campaign. It is proposed that the hostility towards Labour and in particular Jeremy Corbyn doubled from the 2017 to the 2019 election.
Positive/negative items published in the print media five weeks prior to the 2019 election. For clarity Labour is in red, Conservatives are in Blue.
The final week in the run up to the election saw the onslaught against Labour become steadily more vicious, in contrast coverage towards the Tories became friendlier over the same period. Among the highest circulating newspapers namely the, Sun, Telegraph and the Daily Mail the gloves were off, as these outlets effectively became the propaganda wing of the Conservative Party. In a study by Loughborough University it was clearly noted that more space was given to Johnson’s pre election proposals than Corbyn’s in the week before the election. With of course, most of the media coverage focusing on Brexit.
To get a taste of the savagery towards Corbyn, here’s a list of some of the most ridiculous claims levelled at Jeremy Corbyn over this 4 year period, all of which were completely unfounded. Of course, in this world the truth is irrelevant only the result matters. The original propaganda pieces are linked to subject matter.
- Corbyn met a Czech communist spy during the cold war.
- Corbyn is a Marxist extremist intent on bankrupting Britain.
- Corbyn is a terrorist sympathiser.
- Corbyn thinks the death of Osama Bin Laden was a tragedy.
- Corbyn wants Britain to abolish its Army (see below)
- Corbyn is an IRA supporter.
This coordinated campaign worked exceptionally well. To reaffirm this success, all that would be required is engagement with someone who is anti Corbyn, ask them why and then listen to them repeat the faux headlines from one or more of these listed publications. One of the most damaging themes seized upon by the print media across the entire spectrum of the mainstream media, was that Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party were anti-Semitic. The primary problem with this smear was many of these baseless accusations came from the identarian left paper, The Guardian. In the link you’ll find 105 articles from the Guardian that they ran against Corbyn on the subject of anti-Semitism up to 2019.
This narrative was broadly constructed on two fronts. The first stemmed from the Labour Party’s refusal to accept a definition of anti-Semitism proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Secondly there was a perception from anti-Corbyn Labour members that the party was too slow to condemn and punish anti-Semitic acts, while suggesting there was a general increase in anti-Semitism within Labour.
In response to the first issue, in 2016 the Labour party accepted in full the definition of anti-Semitism as proposed. What Labour adopted was the text in the box (see below), but not all the examples that followed. This approach was supported by leading high court lawyers who suggested that, accepting the entire ‘package’, which regularly conflates the criticism of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism, could have a profound effect on any criticism of Israel and on free speech in general.
“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Accusations of anti-Semitism levelled at the Labour Party coincided with a Corbyn led shift to the left and an increase in scrutiny of Israel. In truth, Labour has exceptionally low levels of anti-Semitism. Out of the 228 MP’s as of 2016, one had been suspected and suspended for anti-Semitism, equating to 0.4% of all Labour MP’s. Among the 7000 councillors 0.07% had been suspended and of the 388,000 members (2016), 0.012% were suspended. A 2017 survey found that the Labour Party were unsurprisingly less likely to hold anti-Semitic views than both the Conservative Party and UKIP.
I think it’s fair to surmise that suggestions of an anti-Semitic tidal wave within the Labour Party were purely a political creation devised by Corbyn’s detractors. It has been pointed out that the media coverage regarding this subject lacked both context and perspective, often relying on a handful of Corbyn’s critics to paint a particular picture. This was accomplished without declaring their political motivations or any balance seeking initiatives from the media. One such agent was Margaret Hodge, who accused Corbyn of being a fascist, while Ms Hodge has a history of appropriating fascist language for political gain. There is no doubt that this was all part of the continued attempt to discredit Corbyn.
Moving away from the print media, the BBC also played a significant role in protecting the establishment from a left wing shift. The BBC used a multitude of methods to present the Conservatives in a far better light than what was deserved during the lead up to the election. So lets looks into these purposeful decisions by the BBC to maintain the establishment. Firstly, on Remembrance Day 2019, the BBC replaced a clip of Boris Johnson’s chaotic laying of a wreath (upside down), with a smarter more polished performance going back to 2016. This was shown on the BBC’s Breakfast programme the next morning.
A further cover up occurred during the leaders Question Time programme. This occurred when the BBC edited audience laughter following a question, asking Johnson if he believed it was “important that he told the truth”, instead using audio that contained only applause. Throughout the election build up, it had been noted that Laura Kuenssberg the BBC political editor had become increasingly more reliant on obtaining private briefings from Boris Johnson’s Chief Political Strategist Dominic Cummings. In addition to this, when the Prime Minister was caught in front of the press at a hospital while being quizzed by an anxious father over his sick daughter, Kuenssberg came to the rescue, rapidly discrediting the father, tweeting that he was a Labour activist.
Kuenssberg continued to distribute lies even in the final few days before the election. Following Boris Johnson’s awkward incident at a hospital in Leeds, whereby, he refused to look at a photo of sick child on a makeshift bed of coats and pocketed the phone off the reporter. Alas, Kuenssberg again was on hand to distract the public. She was quick to circulate falsely, that an advisor to Health Secretary Matt Hancock had been punched by a Labour supporter. While two days later on the 11th, she sent a tweet suggesting that postal votes appeared to be favouring the Tories, even though counting the votes at opening and commenting on them is forbidden. However, the BBC covered this up by removing any evidence of Kuenssberg’s statements.
Of course the bias within the BBC is much more than Laura Kuenssberg. Andrew Neil’s twitter feed was constantly spewing out retweets from the Sun and the Spectator, the latter being a right wing publication of which he is on the board. So why does the BBC seem to naturally protect the Conservative Party? One theory is that there is a revolving door between the BBC and the Tories. It is well known that senior political journalists at the BBC have regularly gone on to work for Tory government’s and visa versa .
So lets looks at some of these characters, starting with Nick Robinson. Mr Robinson is an ex political editor at the BBC, who now presents the Today programme and is a former president of the Oxford University’s Conservative Association. James Harding who was director of news until 2018 is the former editor of The Times, while the TV political presenter Andrew Neil briefly worked for the Tories, but made his name within the Murdoch empire. Robbie Gibb a former editor on Neil’s Daily Politics show went on to work for Theresa May in 2017, incidentally he is the brother of Tory Minister Nick Gibb. Meanwhile, former Conservative Ministers Chris Grayling and Michael Gove are also ex BBC employees.
Of course, Labour politicians have also gone back and forth between the BBC and politics, but rarely do people from the political left occupy senior editorial positions. These places are generally reserved for white, upper-middle class Oxbridge types, who end up becoming decision makers at the BBC. If nothing else, this revolving door must raise serious questions regarding the BBC’s ability to hold the government to account or to even to understand anything outside of the world of formal politics, hence their continual confusion around Corbyn’s popularity.
This article of course wouldn’t be complete without looking at the effects of social media. It is widely thought that rather than a coordinated strategy on social media, the Tories won the battle on the internet primarily due to older Tory voters willing to engage in political activism by posting blatant lies. To exemplify this we must return to the Leeds Royal Infirmary incident, where many right wing keyboard warriors chose to smear the family of the sick boy on the floor by suggesting it was staged. This shameless attack was then shared by other like minded individuals, who desperately wanted this to be true in order to justify their own ideology.
The Tory social media strategy was simple, pick a few lines about Labour, regardless of their validity and repeat it continuously on every platform available. Their second tactic was to make up a Labour policy, add a random price tag and then concoct a tax policy that they proclaimed will be used to pay for it and then post it to as many people as possible. Of course, none of this required any truth just a wild imagination, simple repetition, a lack of moral integrity and a rudimentary grasp of a laptop was all that was required.
It is pretty easy to surmise that the truth or morals are not a top priority for the Tories, But this was particularly evident when prior to the recent election it was reported that 88% of all Conservative Party Facebook ads were misleading or simply a lie. This compares to the Labour Party, whereby, zero ads paid for by Labour were considered misleading.
Out of 6,749 paid for by the Tories during a four day period over 5,000 claimed that they would build 40 new hospitals. This was considered bogus, as there had been no costings performed for 40 hospitals. Furthermore, the Tories had only allocated funding for upgrades on 6 hospitals by 2025 and upgrades on a further 38 hospitals between 2025-2030. At no point had there been any mention of constructing 40 new hospitals within this information.
A second big lie which was found in 500 paid ads, consisted of the Tories pledging to create 50,000 new nursing jobs, however, 18,500 of these included in the total were existing nurses. A final example of this misinformation campaign was the misleading and inaccurate claims regarding Jeremy Corbyn’s tax plans, which featured in 4,000 ads circulated at the beginning of December. Notably, all of these above ‘porkies’ were discovered by First Draft, a non profit organisation created to debunk fakes news.
What is undeniable throughout the lead up to the last election is the establishment be it print media, TV or social media, made a concerted effort to undermine the result of the election. This ranged from a four year campaign to discredit Jeremy Corbyn in the traditional print media, to a covering up of Boris Johnson’s many inadequacies by the BBC, all the way through to right wing wannabee activists making up lies as they go. Evidently, this combination of activities proved to have a devastating effect on Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party and the eventual result.
The whole campaign has been propaganda masterclass by the Tories. Much of this is straight out Edward Bernays’s and Walter Lippman’s playbook as described by Noam Chomsky in his 1988 book Manufacturing Consent. But, as it stated on the 90’s TV show the X Files, “the truth is out there”, only now we will have to work much harder to uncover it.