Overcoming Manufactured Dissent: Corbyn’s challenge

(Photo credit: Daily Mail)

Jeremy Corbyn has re-ignited British politics since his election as Labour leader in August. The job of any leader of the opposition is extremely difficult by its very definition, and Corbyn is no different. However, his opponents, as such, are not only the men and women in Blue, but the establishment as a whole. Ideologically, Corbyn is aligned to a politics which hasn’t been prevalent in Britain (and the Labour party) since the days of Michael Foot and that’s no coincidence.

Socialism has been eradicated from British mainstream politics because the system is designed to enforce this. The media and politics go hand in hand: manufacturing public opinion is the common end goal. If Jeremy Corbyn wants to win a general election, he’s going to have to beat the system, and starting with: the ‘fourth branch of government’.

Corbyn’s coverage

The majority of newspapers in Britain are owned by a handful of billionaires. Rupert Murdoch owns The Times and The Sun, Viscount Rothmere The Daily Mail, the Barclay brothers The Daily Telegraph and the Russian oligarch Lebedev The Independent and The Evening Standard. With a combined wealth of around 12 billion, the interests of these men are largely best preserved by a right wing party, namely the Conservatives.

The vested interests of these tycoons has been threatened as a result of the Leverson inquiry. And while I suppose now, they need no reminding that the current Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, was central to uncovering the News International phone hacking scandal, (famously labelling Rupert Murdoch as a ‘mafia boss’).1

As recently as the last general election the shameful media campaign against Ed Miliband was certainly evident and confirmed the media’s efforts to try and shape public opinion. To an extent, some argue, this had a dramatic impact on the outcome of the election.2

Starting with the Daily Mail, a recent search showing articles written about Jeremy Corbyn, delivers comedy gold in terms of credible journalism. From criticizing Corbyn’s bow at the cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday 3 to well, this 4…..

The disillusioned activist? (Photo credit: Daily Mail)The Sun, to avoid disappointment to its readership, also carries on in similarly relentless form. Recently it ran with the headline ‘Corbyn too clapped out for election race’5 before going on to label him as a “firebrand pensioner”, “ageing Marxist” , “a Seventies Morris Marina, a clunky rust-bucket with built-in obsolescence, cobbled together on a Friday as production stops for the weekend.”6 (yes really). Their most recent headline of ‘Nod in my name’ in reference to his bowing technique, criticises him on a personal level. This only confirms that the media view Corbyn as a genuine threat, as they resort to political slander to try and discredit him.

The Times has also run with largely anti-Corbyn articles, although less ‘tabloid’, headlines like “Bad news for Labour: you’re stuck with him”7 and “Corbyn’s new spin chief backed Iraqi insurgents”8, which highlight the agenda they’re trying to establish. Most notably, an article published in the Sunday Times by Martin Amis, received a great deal of attention for its anti-Corbyn rhetoric and dogma 9.

The Daily Telegraph also has continued to present a view of Jeremy Corbyn which suggests he’s unfit to run the country. An article on the 5th November, highlighting the findings of a Telegraph investigation, suggested a move towards ‘civil war’ within Labour ranks. It attempted to highlight key divisions within the party as a result of Corbyn’s election, as well as efforts to eliminate “moderate” MPs from party ranks.10 In turn, by referring to Corbyn’s alleged opponents as ‘moderates’, it consequently implies he is an ‘extremist’ within his own party.

The Independent, while less overt in comparison to the previous newspapers, on balance is providing a platform for articles both favouring 11 and dismissing 12 Corbyn. However, a return to more anti-Labour styled publishing as was present under the leadership of Miliband, nearer the time of the general election 13, for the moment at least, remains to be seen.

While this is only a sample of anti-Corbyn articles, there are many more being published daily. Go and see for yourself.

It’s all old news…

History repeating itself? (Photo credit: The Sun)
History repeating itself? (Photo credit: The Sun)

Cast yourself back to Labour’s last dabble with Socialism and the media’s behaviour   and consequent election results paint a similar picture. In 1983, Michael Foot led Labour to its most dramatic defeat after running on a manifesto he called the “greatest socialist programme in his lifetime”. Later, it was famously dubbed as “the longest suicide note in history”, by Labour MP Gerald Kaufman. A landslide defeat, paved the way for an ideological reshuffle; enter Neil Kinnock. Although admittedly ‘soft left’, the media still played its role in dismantling Kinnock’s image. Notably, in the aftermath of the 1992 general election, the Sun ran with the headline ‘It’s the Sun wot won it’, commending its own efforts in influencing an election which resulted in a narrow Conservative win.

Kinnock’s intention to move Labour away from the Bennite left, ensured divisions in the party were exacerbated. The end result would finally see the birth of New Labour, under Tony Blair, in 1997. With a ‘catch all’ approach to the electorate, what did New Labour represent? It represented an adherence to the dominant economic system. Yes, you guessed it. Neo-liberalism.

‘There is no alternative’

(Photo Credit: neoliberalismeducation.pbworks.com)
(Photo Credit: neoliberalismeducation.pbworks.com)

The policies that neo-liberalism are largely founded on had to be embedded onto the mindsets of populations. With the demise of communism, many leaders suggested neo-liberal ideals, such as the free market and privatisation, as the only credible option to ensure prosperity and economic growth within their respective economies. Spearheaded by Thatcher and Reagan, an ever-growing laissez-faire approach with an emphasis on the free market, signalled the arrival of neo-liberalism as the dominant western economic ideology. Gone were collectivist concerns, and in stepped a new era of individualism and freedom of choice.

From wealth inequality, increased poverty, exploitation and that global financial crisis, unfortunately, neo-liberalism’s track record is incessant and declining. One thing in-particular that neo-liberalism has allowed to develop is; corporate power. Take the ongoing TTIP arm-wrestle as a current example.

Here’s the thing; neo-liberalism, is centred on the primitive tendencies of human nature such as self-preservation and greed. The ‘power elite’ that now exists, are in positions to fulfil these desires and naturally are inclined to do their utmost to preserve an economic model that ensures their interests are served.

Corporations and the media

(Photo credit: www.pressgazette.co.uk)
(Photo credit: http://www.pressgazette.co.uk)

The propaganda model devised by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman suggests that media discussions of politics and foreign policy broadly reflect corporate interests. Individual journalists may think differently and sometimes may publish differently. But, generally speaking, media outlets will promote issues in the hope of consolidating their set interests.

The UK mainstream media outlets, aforementioned, are owned by the corporate elite and to state the obvious: Jeremy Corbyn does not reflect the economics of Margaret Thatcher. Essentially he is a threat, and recent actions taken by media outlets suggest that they are terrified of the prospect of him one day occupying Number 10. In an attempt to preserve their own interests, by endorsing the broad theme of anti-Corbyn propaganda, these media outlets are trying to manufacture dissent and shape public opinion.

Power or principle?

(Photo credit: BBC)
(Photo credit: BBC)

In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” – Thomas Jefferson.

So Corbyn offers a viable alternative that is badly needed in British politics. His brand of ‘honest’, ‘straight talking’ politics is refreshing in the current era of same-age, same suit, same-soundbite politicians who currently populate all of the mainstream parties. Unorthodox he may well be, but this has already attracted new support in the form of increasing membership. Unlike many others before him he has managed to galvanise something in the younger generations. If this can be utilised through campaigns and positive use of public interaction i.e. social media, then maybe he can harness the momentum to run an election campaign. Above all, he first needs to unite his own party and convince members that you can win an election on a socialist platform. In any case, some maintain that Labour could have very well taken the 1983 election under Foot, if it wasn’t for the Falklands war and the ensuing rise of nationalist sentiment at the time.

However, despite offering change, he’s up against a well-oiled machine which seeks to eliminate ideological opposition. Just look at what happened to ‘Red Ed’. If Corbyn makes it to the next general election, he’s going to have to learn how to play the game. It’s as simple as that. He’s already made inroads. His party conference speech devoted time to some acknowledgement of the media war against him. The change Corbyn offers is something that will be needed after enduring another term with the Tories at the helm. By confronting his adversaries and using it to his advantage, he will surely avoid the misfortune of his predecessors and overcome this virulent manufactured dissent.