Saturday, May 7, 2016

How the mainstream media frames the political debate


The mainstream media frames the parameters of political debate. For decades the fanatically right-wing Thatcherite economic dogma (privatisation, tax cuts for the rich, repression of dissent, deregulated financial markets, repression of wages, centralisation of political power, neglect of manufacturing and industry ...) has been treated by the mainstream press as "moderate" and pretty much unquestionable. While anyone who tries to question the ludicrous assumptions that underpin right-wing economic dogma is treated as "extremist", "militant" or even "insane"


Austerity

Austerity is a classic example of how the mainstream press can convince millions of people into believing in absolute drivel.

After the insanity of financial market deregulation resulted in the 2007-08 financial sector insolvency crisis, the mainstream press simply helped the Conservatives to re-brand the causes of the crisis (three decades of right-wing crony capitalist economic dogma) as the cure for the crisis with the endlessly repeated austerity narrative (more right-wing crony capitalist economic dogma).

The austerity narrative is such an obvious con that it seems remarkable that so many people still buy into it, yet if they live in a political environment where the validity of ideological austerity is treated as an unquestionable underlying truth.

The few voices pointing out that it is an obvious con-job must end up sounding like fringe-element crackpots, rather than people who actually understand what's going on and are trying to break the collective delusion. The tide of public opinion seems to be slowly slowly turning against austerity, but it's still incredible that so many people buy into such an obvious deception, and that it's taken six years of it for public perceptions to begin to slowly change.

The Internet


Over the last decade or so the Internet has been slowly challenging the dominance of the corporate press. The circulation figures of pretty much all newspapers have been in spectacular decline for the last decade, but the decline in sales for the right-wing tabloids has been particularly dramatic. Rupert Murdoch's most widely read propaganda sheet The S*n has lost over 1.25 million daily sales since 2010. The Daily Mail has lost over 500,000 sales in the same period, and other right-wing papers like the Daily Star (300,000) Daily Express (250,000) and Daily Telegraph (200,000) have all experienced significant declines in sales.

Of course the mainstream media has established a strong position on the Internet, with Daily Mail Online and The Guardian (which continues its inexorable shift towards right-wing orthodoxy) being two of the most visited news websites in the English speaking world, but the Internet has also opened up the door to people with heterodox views who would never have been allowed to write for the mainstream press in previous generations.

This blog is an example. Before the Internet existed the idea of someone like me (who has never been on the television, or even interviewed in his local newspaper) reaching a daily audience of tens of thousands of people would have been unthinkable. Then there are plenty of other alternative voices out there too. The Canary provides a valuable platform to a whole host of writers who would likely never have been given a platform to express their heterodox views by the mainstream press. There are online platforms that are much more likely to allow contributions from non-conformist writers who dare to question the right-wing orthodoxy such as Huffington Post and The Conversation UK. Then there are a load of properly independent blogs too like The Void, Pride's Purge, Vox Political, Wings Over Scotland and Political Scrapbook.

One problem is that not everyone has the Internet. A lot of older people haven't really engaged with the Internet, or with social media (where awareness of most of the heterodox websites arises), so an awful lot of older people still exist in a carefully managed news environment where their political awareness is drip-fed to them by the newspapers, the television and radio stations. The British newspapers are the most right-wing in Europe, while the corporate dominance of television and the radio is only marginally offset by the BBC, because the state broadcaster is always heavily biased in favour of the government of the day as a result of their finances being dictated by the ruling political party.

Demographics

Another problem is that the older people are, the more likely they are to vote in elections, and the more likely they are to vote for political parties that push radically right-wing economic policies.

In the 2015 General Election there was an absolutely clear pattern. The younger people are, the less likely they were to vote Tory. In fact, on average Labour marginally outperformed The Tories in the 18-50 demographic, but they were cancelled out by the fact that the 50-59 demographic voted in favour of the Tories over Labour by +4 percentage points, and the over 60 demographic voted in favour of the Tories over Labour by an incredible +20 percentage points.

Pensioners and the wealthy (usually older generations) are two of the key Tory demographics, so they have been protected from carrying the burden of ideological austerity. Pensioners are also the least likely to have access to online information sources, meaning they're by far the most likely to buy into right-wing propaganda narratives (like the austerity con) that are treated as unquestionable assumptions by the vast majority of the mainstream press.

Under these circumstances it's no surprise at all that the older generations choose to vote Tory. The problem is that the younger generations who have undeniably been penalised at every turn by the Tories are far less likely to vote, meaning that they end up suffering even more, because in party political democracy there's hardly a more effective way of ensuring that the ruling party don't serve your generation's interests than by not bothering to vote.

Conclusion

The conclusion is quite dispiriting. British democracy is obviously a shambles when the least informed demographics 
(who source all of their political information from the television and the mainstream press) are by far the most likely to vote, while the generations that are much more likely to have access to alternative sources of political information are the least likely to vote.

The only glimmer of hope is that the younger generations get over their apathy (or their entirely indistinguishable Russell Brandian belligerence) and actually begin voting against the purveyors of ideological austerity who attack their generation in order to protect the interests of the generations that do bother to vote.



If poor people and the younger generations don't bother to vote, then they can hardly be surprised if they end up with a ruling party that enacts policies that favour the super-rich and older generations, whilst loading the burden of ideological austerity onto the poor, the young and minority groups like the disabled.

The first step is for people to realise that the majority of the UK media is owned by a bunch of radically right-wing sociopaths who are intent on presenting the kind of fanatical right-wing economic dogma that suits their own interests as "moderate" and any opposition as "extreme". The next step is for the younger generations and other victims of harsh ideological austerity to actually bother standing up for their own interests, either by voting against parties that push austerity, or better still, involving themselves in direct action.




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