May 3, 2018 was World Press Freedom Day which, paradoxically, was also the day Leeds City Council announced their banning of a public meeting to discuss media bias. Meanwhile, Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, remains effectively incarcerated as a political prisoner in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Without any sense of irony, the UK Foreign Commonwealth Office tweeted, “A free press is essential for democracy. The UK is committed to media freedom and the protection of journalists around the world.”
The fact that almost half of the combined print and online press is owned by just two billionaires – Rothermere and Murdoch – and that over 75% is owned by just six, would tend to confirm renowned American journalist, A J Liebling’s adage that “freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”
As author Ed Jones pointed out, it’s the billionaires who own the press that set the agenda:
“Who owns the media shapes what stories are covered and how they are written about”, he said, adding that, “the UK media has a very concentrated ownership structure, with six billionaires owning and/or having a majority of voting shares in most of the national newspapers.”
The consolidated and highly concentrated nature of the UK media, in other words, is fundamentally undemocratic. In reality, corporate journalists are subservient to the executive arm of the state. The latter effectively guarantees the former the freedom to exercise their right to misinform the public and to ensure that the corporations maintain their privileged profit-seeking positions in society.
The role of the ‘mainstream’, therefore, is not to promulgate ‘news’ nor to inform or enlighten, but to routinely deceive and obfuscate.
In their attempts to change public behaviour, billions of pounds are spent on advertising and PR, particularly during periods in history where the elite political and media class perceive their power to be under threat from ‘malignant’ forces. This explains why only 21.3% of the media supported Labour during the 2015 General Election.
But it was following the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader that the media barons and their sycophants in the elite circles of corporate journalism and politics began to perceive their positions to be increasingly under threat from this rising tide of democracy. This is why they have consistently attacked the Labour leader since the moment he was elected.
Over the past few months, almost the entire spectrum of the corporate ‘mainstream’ has insisted that the Labour Party has been usurped by a Stalinist terrorist sympathizing, economically illiterate, treacherous, Assad-Putin apologist and anti-Semite.
To its credit, the Mirror and to a smaller extent, the Independent, have, by and large, been the corporate exceptions to the rule. But shamefully, this took a dramatic turn following the local election results on 4 May, 2018. The date will forever live in the memory of this writer as being the day in which the media formally abandoned any pretense of bringing power to account.
The hysterical and sensationalist anti-Corbyn headlines that followed the election which turned reality on its head, is the moment the corporate media positively embraced its role as a servant for the powerful elites.
The headlines were beyond Orwellian. Page 2 of the Mirror, for example, pronounced in bold capital letters, “BACK FROM THE RED” with the sub-heading, “May’s day as Labour falter.” The London Evening Standard, whose editor is former Conservative Chancellor, George (Gideon) Osborne upped the anti with the headline, “Oh no, it’s Jeremy Corbyn”, while the Daily Mail pronounced “CORBYN IS PAST HIS PEAK”. Finally, Murdoch’s Times in an editorial posed the question, “Peak Corbyn?” to its readers. Political commentator @chunkymark on twitter likened the corporate media’s attacks on the Labour leader to a “propaganda militia.”
One would have good reason to assume after reading these hysterical headlines that the local election result had been a disaster for Labour. In fact, the party had achieved its best result in London for almost 50 years, while conversely, the Conservative Party, under Theresa May, secured its worst local election result since 1971.
It is also worth noting that Labour secured a record number of councillors in 2014 which it increased dramatically during the current election cycle. This was achieved against a backdrop of a collapsing UKIP vote which had been expected to boost the Tories – their natural ideological bedfellows. However, despite UKIPs collapse, the Tories lost 34 seats against a 2014 result which was regarded at the time as disastrous for them, while Labour’s net vote increased by 79 seats. On the day, “Britain voted against Labour”, the party received the highest amount of votes cast (44.0% against 31.4% for the Tories).
In what the corporate media in lock-step characterized as an electoral disaster for Labour, was in reality ‘fake news’ on a quite extraordinary ‘Goebbelian’ scale.
Right-wing Labour MPs such as Chuka Umunna and backbencher, Jess Phillips, who would not have been given any media column inches or air time in which to pass judgement on election proceedings had it not been for their record of attacking Corbyn in the past, were once again given the requisite space in which to do so.
Without any sense of irony, the former called for “an election ‘post-mortem’ to look at why expected gains hadn’t materialised.” Clearly, Umunna hadn’t considered the extent to which his, and other right-wingers consistent attempts at undermining Corbyn’s leadership from within, had played into the Tories hands.
If not for the continuous and deliberate exacerbation of the largely trumped-up anti-Semitism charges, the party would not only have made important electoral gains, but arguably “would be racing ahead.”