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Attackdog loses its bite

Friday, 16 June 2017

Well that is not exactly how it was meant to work out…

A week on and the current political situation is looking neither strong nor stable.

Prime Minister (for now…) Theresa May took a massive gamble by calling a snap General Election and it seems to have failed spectacularly. Her majority has gone, her authority has been severely diminished.

Amongst the many fascinating elements to emerge from the General Election is how many of what we previously regarded to be political norms are no longer are in place.

This was demonstrated in how Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn not only rode a media onslaught, the like of has finished other campaigns, but managed to lead his party to 40% of the vote. Yes he lost, and lost clearly. However, in the face of ferocious coverage he achieved a better result than Gordon Brown.

Quite simply, he did not just resist the attacks. He made a virtue of them.

The more he was criticised for issues around antisemitism or links with the IRA the more his supporters seemed to think it was a conspiracy. People increasingly dismissed the attacks as being whipped up by “the right-wing press” and so found it easy to ignore them.

It is a clear symptom of our post-truth society - people deciding what their truth is. Nevermind my own personal politics, given the seriousness of these issues, and the stakes being played for at the General Election, I find it hard to see this breakdown in trust of the media as a good thing.

Of course, the media itself may well have in part caused its own failure, if we suppose that much of it wanted to weaken Corbyn and endorse May. By branding more mainsream leaders from the centre-left, such as Ed Miliband, as extremist, when someone with far more exrteme politics did emerge it made it much harder to take the warnings seriously. The boy had cried wolf too many times.

One of the reports I have read whilst researching Not Buying It (which you should totally pledge for and make happen by the way!) is from Nick Couldry and Bart Cammaerts at the LSE. It details the harsh treatment given out to Corbyn. In their forward the authors said: “[Corbyn] was also systematically treated with scorn and ridicule in both the broadsheet and tabloid press in a way that no other political leader is or has been...The result has been a failure to give the newspaper reading public a fair opportunity to form their own judgements about the leader of the country’s main opposition.”

They say that “UK journalist played an attackdog rather than a watchdog, role.”

Looking at the election results, it seems that in the post-truth era the attackdog has rather lost its bite.

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