There have to be ground rules to assist Labour MPs attending media interviews. The studies and articles appended below show that, at the moment and without exaggeration, #MSM is our enemy.
Look beyond the studio staff and the interviewer’s phony camaraderie to see the immovable first principle that every interview, casual or in studio must be treated with suspicion. Expect and prepare for an attempted ‘mugging’.
I suggest below some polite and effective methods of escaping the “victim in a trap” scene by brief preparation and polite assertiveness.
It’s easy to analyse circumstances after the event, which is why it’s necessary to be conscious of a short list of do’s and don’ts earlier.
Inspect the Scene
Would you accept this huge negative backdrop to your Labour-focussed interview? Take a look around. Are you being set up visually. What will viewer see behind you? What will you be constrained to stare at.
The interview is NOT compulsory
This backdrop is a static display on a huge TV screen. It can therefore be changed in seconds. Objection to this, at the earliest opportunity, could have been justly made and maybe should have been reinforced with a threat of cancellation. Get your smartphone out and take photos as evidence for later discussion.
Scene and shot visualisation applies at every location, live or studio. A trick used at recent rallies has been to shoot from a low angle to show only the first couple of rows of people and thereby stop the enormous depth and extent of Corbyn attendances from being visible. Another recent visual deception was shooting a small section of indoor attendance framed to look like the whole crowd.
The reverse effect with Smith rallies was achieved by shooting wide-angle the short distance forward from the back row, the tumble-weed blowing across the empty space behind the photographer being out of shot.
Move to a position of your choice. Don’t be bullied by the “experts and technicians”. Pick your own spot. They will have to follow or lose the interview.
Stop and object firmly to insults
During the above interview Peter Taaffe is asked, by a smirking interviewer if he describes himself as a “Trot”. It’s well known that this abbreviation is an insult and the added smirk was deliberate provocation. Maybe it was thought they could provoke a “rant”, which never looks good.
If you are a victim of this tactic call it out. Stop the interview and make a point of it firmly but calmly. Mention that insults are an obvious and vulgar tactic unworthy of a serious interview.
Stop and object to statements
Claudia was subjected to a ‘question’ in the form of a long statement ending with the emphasis on Corbyn having “zero chance”. This is another trick that has to be called out. I acknowledge I have far too much edge and would hope a subtler reply than mine could be formulated:
“I’m sure the audience is fascinated by your political views, but isn’t your job to find out what mine are ?”
Understand common fallacious arguments
Here is a list with examples. It’s not necessary to study them all, but here are 5 that crop up so frequently it’s absolutely essential to understand them and thus be easily able to shoot them down.
The Straw Man — putting words in your mouth
Ad Hominem — attacking you instead of your argument
Non Sequitur — plausible but faulty logic that proves nothing
Oversimplification — to the point where meaning is changed
Begging the Question — stuffing a unproven assumption into a question
This is a big subject area that could be rattled on about indefinitely. I assume, possibly incorrectly, that Labour retain an expert advisor/coach. No one would enter a boxing match, for example, without at least some basic training. Please please give yourselves the best chance to put our Labour views forward effectively by refusing to be a passive victim.
It’s also very reassuring to be able to spot the chopping-block long before they politely ask you to rest your head on it.