Thursday, 30 April 2015

Rupert Murdoch's divide and conquer tactics

On the last day of April 2015, in the week before the UK General Election, Rupert Murdoch's S*n newspaper told it's readers how to vote. I'm not going to get into the ethics of foreign billionaire press barons using their massive propaganda empires to interfere in our elections by explicitly directing people how to vote, it should be pretty obvious that I don't approve.

This article is about the extraordinary discrepancy between the endorsement of the Tory party on the front page of the S*n newspapers in England and the endorsement of the SNP on the front page of the S*n newspapers in Scotland. Not only did the S*n endorse completely different parties, but the arguments they used were bizarrely contradictory too. The S*n in England listed "Stop SNP running the country" as one of their three main reasons for voting Tory, whilst the Scottish edition urged the Scottish public to vote SNP to keep the Tories out of power, and accused the Tories of selling the public a "lie".

Presumably the "lie" that the Tories are selling to the Scottish is precisely the same lie that Murdoch listed as his 1st reason for the English to actually vote Tory; the counter-factual assertion that the Tories have been keeping the economy on track, when anyone with the faintest connection with reality knows that their economically illiterate austerity experiment has severely hindered the recovery, caused the longest sustained decline in wages since records began, thrust millions of people into hardship and extreme poverty, and achieved little but the doubling of the wealth of the tiny super-rich minority.

It's no surprise that Murdoch is backing the Tories in England and continuing the right-wing propaganda narrative that the last 5 years have been some kind of glorious economic success story, rather than the slowest post-crisis recovery in British history caused by George Osborne's ridiculous ideological austerity experiment. What is quite surprising is that his papers are backing the SNP in Scotland, because the SNP are a centre-left political party who have actually voted against the Murdoch approved neoliberal agenda of the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition far more often than the Labour Party over the last five years.

There are two potential explanations for this. The first is that Murdoch famously hates to be seen to have backed a loser, so even though he hates the SNP's centre-left agenda, he's decided to endorse them, rather than implore the Scottish to vote Tory and then watch them completely ignore him, thus proving his irrelevance. In my view this is a rather simplistic explanation and the truth has more to do with Murdoch's absolute hatred of Ed Miliband than with his desire to not appear impotent and irrelevant to his Scottish audience.

It's no secret that Rupert Murdoch loathes Ed Miliband, and is terrified of the Labour Party proposals to limit the percentage of the media that can be owned by a single organisation. In my view these absurdly contradictory endorsements are part of a deliberate right-wing divide and conquer strategy designed to minimise the number of seats Labour can win, and to make working with the SNP as difficult as possible should Labour form the next government by stoking up as much anti-Scottish resentment in England as possible.

The Labour Party currently holds 41 seats in Scotland, but recent polls have suggested that they are in danger of losing most of them, if not every single one of them. A Labour bloodbath in Scotland will be entirely deserved for the way they so willingly joined in the Tory fearmongering campaign against Scottish independence instead of setting out their own vision for Scotland and distancing themselves from the politically toxic Tories as much as possible, but it will be great news for Rupert Murdoch and the Tories. Without their political heartland of Scotland, the Labour Party will find it almost impossible to win enough English and Welsh seats to form a majority government, meaning that if they do take power, they'll likely be in a very weak position.

The explicitly anti-SNP agenda in the English S*n is clearly part of this divide and conquer strategy. The more English people who can be programmed to hate, fear and despise the SNP, the harder it will be for the Labour Party to form a broad anti-Tory agreement with them.

It shouldn't matter what your opinions on the SNP are, stoking up hatred of the SNP in England and encouraging the Scottish people to actually vote for them has to be one of the most duplicitous divide and conquer strategies that Rupert Murdoch has ever tried to pull off.

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Austerity is a con
The terrifying scale of political illiteracy in the UK
The myth of right-wing patriotism
How George Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history combined
Recommended reading - heterodox economics
Why 73% of UKIP supporters should actually vote Green
How the Labour Party completely lost the plot in Scotland
Rupert Murdoch's evil empire