Challenging the Mainstream Media
There have to be ground rules; a checklist to assist Labour MPs attending media interviews. The studies and articles appended below show that, without exaggeration, #MSM is our enemy.
Look beyond the studio staff and the interviewer’s phony camaraderie to see the immovable first principle of every interview, casual or in studio: They must be treated with suspicion. Expect and prepare for an attempted ‘mugging’.
I suggest below some polite but effective methods of escaping the “victim in a trap” scenario, by brief preparation and polite assertiveness.
It’s easy to analyse unfortunate circumstances after the event, which is why it’s necessary to be conscious of a short list of do’s and don’ts beforehand.
Inspect the Scene
Would you accept this huge negative backdrop to your Labour-focussed interview? Take a look around. Are you being ‘set up’ visually. What will viewer see behind you? What will you yourself be constrained to stare at during the interview?
The interview is NOT compulsory
This backdrop is just an image displayed on a huge TV screen. It can therefore be changed in seconds. Objection to this, at the earliest opportunity, could have been justly made and possibly reinforced with a threat of cancellation. Get your smartphone out and take photos as evidence for later discussion.
Scene and shot visualisation applies at every location, live or studio. A trick used at recent rallies has been to shoot from a low angle to show only the first couple of rows of people and thereby stop the enormous depth and extent of Corbyn attendances from being visible. Another recent visual deception was shooting a small section of indoor attendance framed by gaps and walls to look like the whole crowd.
The reverse effect at Owen Smith (Labour leadership contender) rallies was achieved by shooting at wide-angle the short distance forward from the back of the crowd to exaggerate its size. The tumble-weed blowing across the empty space behind the photographer being, obviously, out of shot.
Move to a position of your own choice. Don’t be bullied by the “experts and technicians”. Pick your own spot. They will have to follow or lose the interview.
Stop and object firmly to insults
During the above interview Peter Taaffe is asked, by a smirking interviewer if he describes himself as a “Trot”. It’s well known that this abbreviation is an insult and the added smirk was deliberate provocation. Maybe it was thought they could provoke a ‘rant’, which is never a good look and gives the opportunity for malicious editing.
If you are a victim of this tactic call it out. Stop the interview and make a point of it firmly but calmly. Mention that insults are an obvious and vulgar tactic unworthy of a serious interview and suggest we return to the actual question.
Stop and object to statements
Claudia Webbe was subjected to a ‘question’ in the form of a long statement ending with the emphasis on Corbyn having “zero chance”. This is another trick that has to be called out. I acknowledge I personally might come across as too combative, possibly aggressive, and would hope a subtler reply than what follows could be formulated:
“I’m sure the audience is fascinated by your political views, but isn’t your job to find out what mine are ?”
Understand common fallacious arguments
Here is a list with examples. It’s not necessary to study them all, but here are 5 that crop up so frequently it’s absolutely essential to understand them and thus be easily able to shoot them down. Being able to name them will put your interviewer on a more cautious footing.
The Straw Man — putting words in your mouth
Ad Hominem — attacking you instead of your argument
Non Sequitur — plausible but faulty logic that proves nothing
Oversimplification — to the point where meaning is changed
Begging the Question — stuffing a unproven assumption into a question
This is a big subject area that could be rattled on about indefinitely. I assume, possibly incorrectly, that Labour retain an expert advisor/coach. No one would enter a boxing match, for example, without basic training. Please please give yourselves the best chance to put our Labour views forward effectively by refusing to be a passive victim.
It’s also very reassuring to be able to spot a chopping-block long before they politely ask you to rest your neck on it.