The Tory Tabloids and the Triumph of Authenticity
The General Election has raised a number of major political issues but it has also raised intriguing. questions about the role of the media and the relevance of spin.
In what is now their traditional role, the Conservative-supporting press – the Mail, Sun, Express and. Telegraph (with sotto voce support from the Times) – in the last days of the campaign launched a tirade of abuse, innuendos and half-truths against Labour, and in particular its leader.
Jeremy Corbyn did not fare any worse than did Ed Miliband or Neil Kinnock before him but notwithstanding, it was not a pretty sight with the Mail in particular surpassing itself by directly. linking Corbyn and his senior colleagues with support for terrorism – and this in the wake of the. Manchester and London Bridge outrages.
Labour supporters seeing these onslaught understandably feared that this could seriously impact on those. voters wavering in their support for Labour, and. for all we know it might have. But we will never really know because calculating the actual impact of press coverage on voting. behaviour is all but impossible because of the plethora of. others factors are involved in understanding voting behaviour.
One of the primary concerns. of those concerned about the potentially malign influence that distorted press coverage can play in the democratic process is that the influence of the screaming tabloid headlines can and does. reach far beyond the shrinking band who buy and read these papers.
This is because, so the argument goes, the major broadcasters not only follow the broad news agenda set by the press but they also amplify the coverage by running twice-daily press review segments.
But there͛’s a new kid on the political media block, maybe not so new – the social media which act as, on the one hand amplifiers of the distorted press coverage but on the other (and perhaps more powerfully) as its watchdogs and debunkers.
Left wing blogspots. such as The Canary alongside Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the rest,. have played a key role, particularly among younger voters. They. have transformed the one-way flow of anti-Labour propaganda into a veritable political free-for-all. Indeed, the social media has been credited with getting the under 25s not just to register to vote but to Then use that vote on the day (most of whom clearly voted. Labour).
One of the most striking. media dividing lines between Corbyn and May was that on the nightly television news the Labour leader was pictured in front of cheering, enthusiastic supporters speaking about Labour͛s positive plans. Meanwhile Theresa May was seen endlessly repeating the same tired soundbites to obviously handpicked audiences waving Tory placards.
It was not dissimilar to the contrast between Donald Trump addressing cheering crowds of enthusiastic supporters compared with. Hillary earnestly discussing macroeconomic modelling with a small group of experts.
‘Follow the noise’ is the latest. adage if spin doctors, used to describe this contrast. I prefer ‘the. triumph of authenticity’. It has to be good for our democracy and, perhaps, bad for the press distorters when voters opt for straight talking over spin.