As the great ‘Corbyn crisis’ deepens, the Guardian’s vital establishment part in stopping him is coming under increased scrutiny. Alas, it’s not coming from the Guardian’s ‘best’.
Seumas Milne, for example, has written a worthy piece commending Jeremy Corbyn, arguing that, whatever the leadership outcome, his participation has revitalised the terms of political debate and raised the level of hope for real reformist change. Milne also notes that Corbyn faces a “wall of propaganda from almost the entire media”.
It surely does. So, why not name the names? Why not add specifically: “including the Guardian”? Indeed, why not raise the bar of real honest journalism and say: “particularly the Guardian”? With so much shameless smearing and alarmist pieces from Britain’s ‘leading left-liberal’ paper, isn’t there a special case for its indictment?
Milne does seem to be alluding to his own paper’s complicity here in his link to Patrick Wintour’s report on a recent study claiming to show popular support for anti-austerity measures. Yet, while Milne rightly calls it a “tendentious” study, he says nothing about Wintour’s one-sided, non-critical reporting of it. Alongside the onslaught against Corbyn from Guardian columnists, the paper’s coverage of his campaign and the leadership contest is riddled with these kind of loaded headlines and distorted ‘news’ articles.
For Media Lens:
Seumas Milne won’t say it, but his own newspaper is just another brick in the ‘wall of propaganda’ facing Corbyn.
Denouncing much of the “cod psychology” being deployed to stop Corbyn, Owen Jones, a crusading campaigner for Corbyn, also writes:
Some of these commentators huddle together on social media, competing over how snarky and belittling they can be towards those oh-so-childish/unhinged/ridiculous (delete as applicable) Corbynites, unable to understand that rare thing, the birth of a genuinely grassroots political movement.
But, again, where is the direct criticism of the Guardian’s own concerted assault on Corbyn and that promising movement? Where’s the open challenge to Toynbee, Kettle, Rawnsley, White, Wintour and many others? Where’s the open denunciation of its editorial line?
Dismissing these questions as some kind of side-issue, or twisted agenda, some plead that we should ‘keep our attention on the real enemy’. Yet, if that most vital arm of power, the media, can’t be included in any such definition, what kind of radical politics are we really hoping to pursue?
For Pablo Iglesias of Podemos, the need to name and expose the role of establishment media is crucial. Adopting a useful Gramscian perspective, Iglesias states that “the media is the real terrain of the ideological battle”, even specifying “the main regime institutions in Spain which are the El Pais newspaper” and its network. For Iglesias: “If one wants to know what the establishment really wants, you have to read the editorials of the El Pais newspaper, because El Pais took over the whole political centre in Spain”, assuming the role of “organic intellectuals” in pushing for new coalitions that would stop the proto-Podemos movement.
The Guardian, arguably, plays a very similar role in holding together the ‘consensual centre’ and acting as an ideological bulwark to radical politics. It’s network runs deep within safe Labourism. That’s also why it opposed the Yes movement in last year’s Scottish referendum, and is now trying to halt the Corbyn-led movement for meaningful change. As with Corbyn, the Guardian urged voters last September to ‘stay sensible’. It’s no great credit either to Jones or Milne that, while commending such movement politics, they both failed to advocate a Yes vote. That was their choice. Yet, neither then or now have they dared address this issue of the Guardian as a protective shield for establishment outcomes.
Not only has the Corbyn campaign been galvanised by the rise of the left-leaning, anti-austerity SNP, much approval for Corbyn is now, to its great credit, coming from Scotland’s independence-minded street, supporting that very, imperative task of building a movement rather than a party politics. In contrast, the Guardian is, again, acting as a block on that vital process.
Befitting his own campaign for a new, healthy and open politics, Corbyn can only but welcome more critical scrutiny of a media that’s urged people to support ‘sensible’ New Labourism, kept readers in step with ‘neoliberal reality’ and waged such a campaign of hostility towards Corbyn himself. And remember, this is not just the right wing press, it’s the Guardian, Independent and others claiming to be serious about progressive change.
How can such ‘champion reformists’ be so openly hostile to a politician whose policies are so popular amongst the public? How, many will now be asking, can the Guardian be so negative and scathing towards the Corbyn cause, pitching and apologising, instead, for the clone politics of Burnham, Cooper and Kendall? The answer is neatly ‘claimed’ by Craig Murray:
I think I am entitled to say I told you so. Many people appear shocked to have discovered the Guardian is so anti-left wing. I have been explaining this in detail for years. It is good to feel vindicated, and even better that the people I have repeatedly shared platforms with, like Jeremy and Mhairi [Black], are suddenly able to have the genuinely popular case they make listened to.
In that new people-speaking voice, in support of this major political mood change, there’s no better time than now to raise that critical focus, to challenge the Guardian, and expose its cohort of finger-wagging elites as they try to end this ‘summer of madness’ and restore ‘normality’ politics.
Now rattled by the backlash, Chris Elliott, the Guardian’s readers’ editor, has taken on something of a damage limitation exercise in ‘addressing’ the complaint of biased output against Corbyn. This is of no serious value in assessing either the extent of anti-Corbyn pieces, the paper’s editorial line or what passes for ‘impartial news’. The supposedly ‘neutral’ pieces Elliott identifies can be taken as anything but.
For a devastating critique of the Guardian’s relentless attacks on Corbyn, and Elliott’s attempted “whitewash”, see these two fine pieces from Media Lens:
One very useful effect of the leadership contest is that, in its emergency rush to stop Corbyn, the Guardian has further exposed itself to a public which has hitherto regarded it favourably. As one notable response, motivated by the Media Lens articles, put it in a letter to Elliott:
The right wing press in this country is awful, but it’s honest enough not to disguise its agenda.. What makes the liberal press so repellant is its dishonesty, and its hypocrisy. You claim liberal values, and yet you conduct a vicious campaign against a man who threatens to implement them. On this occasion, I think you’ve done your newspaper’s liberal reputation irreparable damage; it was always a lie, but it’s now transparent. People have been decrying the lack of political choice in this country, not least in your own newspaper, for a very long time. To see a supposedly liberal outlet react as viciously as it has done to the emergence of that choice in mainstream politics for the first time since 1979 does nothing to enhance your ‘liberal’ credentials, such as they are.
(Media Lens message board, 7 August 2015.)
A deceitful, establishment-serving organ finally being rumbled? No better time to do it. Whatever comes of Jeremy Corbyn’s laudable campaign, a day of reckoning looms for the Guardian.