Part 2: Pondering the lies in British journalism and the aftermath of the Manchester attack
The old gentleman who accosted me last week, accusing journalists of ‘telling lies’ is partly right, but not for the reason he believes.
Earlier this week, I was reading an op-ed by Brian Cathcart in Byline.com about the lack of concern UK journalists are displaying about our failing democracy.
It was a bloody uncomfortable read. He argued that despite the majority of the UK press viewing the Trump presidency with contempt and derision, UK journalists are failing to hold our own government to account. American journalists on the other hand, he says, are at least ‘standing up for democracy and the rule of law.”
Here’s an excerpt (and if you haven’t read the entire piece yet, I urge you to do so):
“In Britain the bulk of the national press is on the side of the wreckers. Far from striving to hold power to account, our big papers are pushing and dragging the government into ever greater outrages – while refusing to report what does not fit their agenda…
“…In the United States the electoral success of a serial liar prompted deep soul-searching among those responsible for reporting the campaign. How could it have happened, they asked. How did we fail to make him accountable for his untruths? Why did we let him distract us and blind-side us?
“…In the United Kingdom however, we have experienced a referendum in which many, many lies were told by both politicians and the press, followed by a period of national division of unprecedented bitterness in which the lies continued to flow. Now we have a general election that is no better – and yet journalistic soul-searching is conspicuous by its absence.”
As I read, I fidgeted. I found myself muttering, “but we’re not all like that!” But that’s just it. We’re not all like that, but enough of “us” are. Too many of us all-too happily write for the very papers who endorse every action our government does whilst spreading inflammatory propaganda and hatred towards those who don’t fit the white, middle-class, non-disabled and English demographic.
And here’s the most uncomfortable bit. Cathcart argues that the journalists who are really failing the country are those who write for so-called independent, non-partisan platforms, The Guardian, The BBC, ITV, Huffington Post, the New Statesman, for instance. They are failing to speak the truth about the ‘wrongdoings of the power that is the corporate national press’.
That’s not to let the likes of The Daily Mail and The Sun off the hook. The Sun’s front page on 23 May, the morning after the Manchester terror attack was abhorrent. It wasn’t simply a question of bad timing either. Their decision to run it despite news breaking of the terrorist attack in Manchester late on Monday night was a conscious, cynical and deeply troubling decision.
And even without the atrocities, it was a headline intended to manipulate the reader, whilst spreading distrust and suspicion over the leader of the opposition, once again, letting Theresa May and the rest of her elite cronies off the hook.
To all intents and purposes, the article, which linked Corbyn with the IRA and claimed he’d made it ‘easier’ for the IRA to plant a bomb, would create the not-so subconscious links in peoples’ minds between that and the nail bomb on Monday night. Suddenly, Manchester’s terrorist attack was the fault of Corbyn.
Never mind that a former active IRA member, Maria Gatland, is currently serving as a Conservative politician, never mind that during her stint as home secretary, Theresa May cut 20,000 police officers since 2010 and Amber Rudd meanwhile has refused to rule out further police cuts.
Unfortunate you might think, given that as our current threat level has been increased to critical, meaning an attack is imminent, we’ll need our police officers more than ever.
I find all this deeply troubling. After such an attack, shouldn’t we be pulling together? Shouldn’t we be looking for the small acts of love and huge acts of bravery performed by members of the public? Instead, the same old papers are taking Monday’s attack as another opportunity to divide and conquer and use it as another cheap shot at Corbyn.
As a journalist, it pains me to say this, but the media is failing us. And for the majority of Brits who are too short-sighted to look beneath the lies and blatant agenda each paper holds, there are always scapegoats. And not just a fundamentalist, irrational group of brainwashed fanatics either, but an entire race, an entire culture. It’s easier to scapegoat, I suppose, rather than to look deeper. Ain’t it always so.