OK so my last ‘political’ post was about what was wrong with democracy in the UK. I moaned about the lack of choice people have when voting. This mostly comes about because of the misconception that in order to change the political landscape of a country you first have to be elected to office. You don’t need to be. You can change the tone of the political conversation and change the acceptable centre ground to the left or the right without ever once gaining power. Indeed sometimes it is actually easier to get things done without being elected as you do not have to take responsibility for screwing things up when they go wrong. Possibly the easiest way to gain political power in a western style democracy, if you have the money, is to buy a huge media concern. It certainly seems to work for Murdoch, at least if you believe what he says from his own mouth and through various media outlets. The Sun may have had a point when they said it was the Sun what won it about Tony Blairs victory. Indeed it seemed to go hand in hand with a gradual abandonment of Labours socialist roots pushing the ‘centre’ ground of British politics inexorably towards the right. A political position expressed often by our friend Rupert. I daresay Murdoch was quite pleased when the UK voted to leave Europe, he always maintained that his dislike of the EU stemmed from the fact that they wouldn’t do what he told them unlike politicians in the UK.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not hate the media, like anybody who takes the time to write a blog with a little bit of politics involved I love a bit of argy bargy about what I think of as important things and how to set the world to rights. Open discourse and the analysis of alternative ideas based on evidence is absolutely essential to any notion of democracy. The real problem here is that large sections of the media are quite happy to lie or at least be somewhat less than accurate with the truth. This in turn distorts peoples perceptions, I am not a conspiracy theorist but you have to wonder about a paper which peddles opinion as reporting in a way which seems to suit the personal biases of it’s owner.
During the years leading up to the Referendum there was a large selection of print media that told us things that were simply not true. There never were the hordes of migrants as described in papers, there was however an increase in foreign workers. These migrants did not get preferential treatment, they just received exactly the same benefits as anyone else in this country. In fact the EU rules stated that they must return home if they had not found work within 3 months but that did not fit an anti EU narrative favoured by some press magnates. Neither did the fact that most migrants to the UK came from outside the EU. It’s not just those denizens of Brussels that have been misrepresented. Jeremy Corbyn, according to a recent study by the LSE has had his views misrepresented or lied about in around 75% of the coverage he has had from mainstream media. This problem of media bias leading to inaccurate reporting has been going on for years. Anyone remember Hillsborough, and the miners strike was pretty badly covered as well. What can be done?
The answer seems obvious, some kind of media regulation, some way in which wronged people or the general public can call media corporations out when they deliberately mislead, or even make a genuine mistake. Unsurprisingly though most media outlets don’t seem to like this idea saying it will erode free speech. I can’t see how, I can say pretty much what I like and report my own opinion accurately, that is a non issue, but if I said that Theresa May enjoyed fiddling with children that would be wrong. How could I possible know, I would be pretending something that is opinion and speculation is news. Even if I said a man in the pub told me that Theresa May had been caught kiddie fiddling, that would still, I maintain be wrong, especially if I could not produce the man and, preferably some corroborating evidence, a few juicy pictures for example. After all the likely hood is that the bloke in the pub is just a shit stirring pissed dickweasle misreporting this piece on my blog (Woooaahh inception). What we need is not a way of stopping people printing or saying stuff in the first place but, a way of making people accountable for what they have said once they have said it.
I don’t know exactly how this could be sorted. There is a huge disparity between the ordinary public and any reporter with the weight of a media group behind them. Still if you thought that there was a real chance you would be financially and publicly destroyed for passing off opinion as fact you might not be quite so likely to work for someone who expects you to peddle their self serving agenda. Maybe if such behaviour was actually criminal and resulted in unlimited fines things might start to change. In the meantime if you really care about this kind of thing there are two simple things you can do. Number one is not give money to media which peddles this kind of rubbish, so no Murdoch crap. Yes I know it is hard but, nothing in life worth doing is easy, you may have forgotten in all this political crap I write that I am a bit obsessed with Marathons. That’s hard, missing sky tv is a doddle. The second thing you can do is actually challenge people who believe stuff they have read which you know is tosh. Especially easy if it is someone on line. Google is your friend and it is highly entertaining to spend ten minutes finding facts which completely destroy some half arsed regurgitation of an opinion piece as fact. You might even be wrong, in which case something even better has been achieved. You have learned something.