The Getintothis alternative Christmas Message 2015

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Jeremy Corbyn – the subject of relentless negative coverage from an increasingly powerless and fearful national media

As the national media and wider political establishment continue to hound Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, Getintothis’ Jono Podmore nevertheless finds cause for Christmas cheer as we head into 2016.

I was walking down the road with my 12-year-old daughter and her friend a few days ago. Her friend turned to us and said, “That Jeremy Corbyn is a terrorist, isn’t he?

The idea that a mild-mannered and enormously hard-working British MP who has spent his life campaigning against violence and injustice (whether you consider it misguided or otherwise) is somehow a terrorist is as preposterous as that recurring nightmare of the right wing press: that brainwashed Muslamisicists, like some sort of jihadi Scrooge, will somehow BAN CHRISTMAS. This is the 2015 variant.

The kid who thought Corbyn was a terrorist is not stupid, or even easily manipulated. For a 12 year old she’s even politically active in the handful of areas that concern her directly. She’s simply within earshot of the contemporary British media.

The absolute disgust for and bias against the current legitimately elected Labour leadership shown across all forms of the media; from tiny, fear peddling, xenophobic local rags, right wing and liberal national broadsheets, tabloids and the BBC is running at such a bizarre level that it’s beginning to appear, along with the TTIP deals and stabbings being mistaken for works of conceptual art, like so much dystopian 70s sci-fi.

The Media Reform Coalition, a group of academics and media campaigners recently published their research into the media’s attack on Corbyn since he became leader of the Labour party:

The Media’s Attack on Corbyn: Research Shows Barrage of Negative Coverage

Under normal circumstances the findings would be shocking but it’s so obvious now that we can only shrug in bemusement. Nevertheless the numbers are compelling:

A mere 6% of stories classed as news (19 out of 292 articles) were positive.

This continues relentlessly and with each iteration demonstrates something more fundamental: that the established media is not just losing grip of its senses, but losing grip of ours too. And they are not happy.

Since the Scottish independence referendum in September last year British politics has changed irrevocably. In the campaign leading up to the vote, the Blairite Labour leadership managed to alienate and lose the vote of an ENTIRE COUNTRY.

This is the biggest failure of any political party I have ever witnessed – worse than the regular collapses of the Lib Dems, or disappearances and later regroupings of the various extreme right parties over the years. This then led, of course, to the defeat in the general election in May, ushering in five more years of state piracy, of stripping the nation’s assets and handing them over to a tiny elite whose moral and ethical outlook appear nothing less than psychotic. That is our Tory government.

How could Labour have taken their eye so completely off the ball?

It appears they were following the plan that they thought had done them so well in the Blair years: keep the media in London happy and the voters will do as they’re told.

And then reality came along.

Times have changed. Social media and blogging have massively changed the way people get their information. People can gather news from hundreds of different sources with different agendas and begin to form, heaven forbid, their own opinion on subjects such as the character of a man like Jeremy Corbyn.

Hence the viciousness of the attacks against him and the constant drip-feed of negative spin. It’s the death throes of a powerful and angry beast. A beast that has been comfortable in its position of kingmaker to British governments for generations with its youngest and brightest lining up to peddle the lies of their editors in order to one day sit on the bosses chair and think “yes, I decide who runs this fucking country!” Journalists who should know better have been dragged up in a self-perpetuating and socially exclusive system are prepared to abandon the last of their principles in order to howl for the blood of the “Corbynistas”.

Here’s the career path.

The entry level is often music. Throughout my career I’ve been interviewed and reviewed by young journalists who clearly have no genuine interest or education in music, but as it’s a “youth” subject they can at least get published. Then they can move on to lifestyle and eventually realise the dream and become the political heavyweights and leader writers they were born to be.

That’s the plan – but it often goes horribly wrong. There’s Garry Bushell for example – starting at Sounds, landing at The Sun and eventually after standing for the English Democrats Party in the 2005 election, now campaigns for the xenophobic and racist UKIP.

Or John Harris: cuts his teeth at Melody Maker and NME, on through Select and Q Magazine and then recently sighted parading around Oldham demonstrating how Corbynmania was about to collide with reality.

It was John Harris himself who collided with reality and came of rather worse as Labour increased their share of the vote by 7.5%. He was not only insanely wide of the mark, but like the Bushell blueprint, had effectively campaigned for UKIP, but this time under the auspices of The Guardian, no less. The egg is so deep and crisp and even on his face that he’s now trying to generate loony left fear, like a contemporary Sunday Express.

Spot the difference.

In their anger, their newly found impotence of the career journalists begins to shine though. When the worst excesses of right wing social vandalism (aka austerity) are being perpetrated by the government, leading to deaths of disabled people and soaring homelessness, they concentrate on Corbyn’s jumper, Diane Abbot’s turn of phrase (she’s a particularly easy target for a white male middle class clique, is she not?) or simply invent stories about immigration.

They concentrate on personalities, a model that brought the media great power in the 80s, but to their utter consternation the electorate are now interested more in policy and issues.

We’ve moved on – they haven’t.

So why do they despise Corbyn in such a personal and vitriolic way, to the point of creating utter fantasies about the man in attempts to undermine him?

It’s because he embodies all the reasons their power is fading. What’s more, he has achieved so much without ever pandering to them or their agenda. That’s the greatest insult of all to our lowly hacks. To be circumvented – to be irrelevant to a politician’s success or demise renders their whole career path null and void.

And so the lies continue – apparently the Labour party haemorrhage voters with every appearance of Corbyn in his shell suit, but the party now has over 310,000 members – more than the Conservatives (134,000), Liberal Democrats (61,000) and Green’s (60,000) combined – and those are figures from August. Every by-election and council election shows a party going from strength to strength with burgeoning public support but WITHOUT the support of the media.

And there’s another more personal reason why these journalists and their paymasters and editors despise Corbyn so much. He’s honest and adhered to his beliefs through bitter years and endless temptation – quite unlike those principled, bright young people who got into journalism at University. They have been corrupted by the arrogant kingmaker culture in an industry whose shining lights can flout the law, ruin innocent people’s lives, get caught and then be reinstated months later in another powerful and insanely highly paid position (yes, Rebekah, darling, LOL).

These little lost sheep and broken souls cannot bear to see the reasons they abandoned all their beliefs rendered irrelevant by a man in khaki shorts. They are now in their 40s and 50s, see him and think – “that could’ve been me, but I was just too weak and selfish and I hate him for it.

But isn’t criticising journalists the beginning of the slippery slope to a state controlled media?

A free press is crucial to a functioning democracy. Politicians and big business must be held to account. But how free can our press be when it’s inextricably entangled in the darkest of corporate intentions. Rupert Murdoch not only owns News Corp, including The Sun, The Times et al, but is also a major share holder in US firm Genie Energy. This lucky organization has made a significant find of oil and gas in the Golan Heights.

Bingo!

Sadly for Mr. Murdoch the Syrian government are not too happy about Genie Energy exploiting this resource in its country. In fact it would be better for him if the Syrian government was destabilized so his oil interests could act with impunity across the entire region.

Maybe the tone of reporting in his newspapers is in some tiny way influenced by these interests?

…maybe…

But! –  the Independent Press Standards Organisation is there to defend us from such conflicts of interest.

Indeed they are.

Anyone can make a complaint too:

Where an inaccuracy relates to a specific individual or organisation, we may be able to take forward a complaint from a third party, but will need to consider the position of the directly affected party in deciding whether it is appropriate to do so

Fair enough, and if you look at their rulings you’ll see they did in fact uphold this complaint that: “The Daily Telegraph had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined  “Why should I pay for Jeremy Corbyn’s friend Claire to have so many children?

Great work! Call me curmudgeonly, but maybe more than one upheld complaint would encourage our media to pay a little more attention to veracity when writing articles concerning Mr. Corbyn.

Dr Justin Schlosberg, chair of the Media Reform Coalition, put it like this:

In a democracy newspapers have every right to take a partisan line, but what concerns us are the skewed ownership structures underlying this kind of political intervention. The risk of undue influence on elected politicians is high, and it is hard to see how democracy can flourish when the mass channels of debate are monopolised in this way. Let’s not forget that Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of this country’s main opposition party by 250,000 people, which is 100,000 more than the number of people who elected David Cameron as leader of the Conservatives. It is surely a problem for all of us when newspaper owners are actively seeking to undermine a democratic mandate of that scale.”

Despite the fact we have another 4 years and 4 months of this disgraceful government who are prepared to slander fellow politicians as terrorist sympathisers in order to perpetrate acts of violence with no other motive than feeding tax payers money into the coffers of the arms trade that ministers own shares in; despite the fact that the media will get more aggressive and more ridiculous as people ignore them more, this Christmas I’m quite optimistic!!

Jingle Bells!!!

I’ve never known a time when people were so engaged politically. It’s spread from Scotland and the establishment are clueless what to do about it. There is at last an effective opposition to the government with a groundswell of support. Union membership is growing and with greater engagement people are sensing a real chance of change as the forces lined up against them are weakening.

As a reminder, this is what the Labour Party have achieved under the new leadership:

– forced George Osborne to drop his cuts to child tax credits.
– made David Cameron cancel the prisons contract with Saudi Arabia.
– ensured a partial climbdown on the trade union bill.
– increased Labour Party membership by 190,000 since the election, creating a grassroots movement.
– forced a Government u-turn on police cuts.
– instituted a massive public debate over airstrikes in Syria, engaging more than 100,000 Labour members and supporters in a consultation.
– comprehensively beat UKIP in Oldham, a northern “heartland” seat.
– introduced a new way of doing PMQs, allowing the voice of the public to be heard inside the Commons.

I’m sure there’s more of this to come.

There are also noticeable exceptions to the stranglehold: for example Owen Jones and George Monbiot on the left and Peter Hitchens on the right tirelessly follow their principles and seem to be thriving. There are great music journalists who continue to write about music with knowledge, enthusiasm and maturity. There are and will be more too as the sleazier end of the trade realise they are losing out to other, stronger, more principled voices.

So put another newspaper on the fire, switch off the telly and grab yourself a glass of sherry to toast with me a brighter future – bring on 2016!

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