The Media, National Identity and Brexit Politics

52% of the population – mostly from small towns and rural communities, mostly from older generations, mostly from England and mostly from the most impoverished communities in the UK have voted to take the UK out of the EU. 48% wanted to stay but in a simple 50/50 referendum the result is clear and decisive.

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These groups have different lives from one another, they have different experiences, worries and concerns and they are largely unrepresented in the media. The UK media is metropolitan, university educated and socially liberal (if economically conservative) – just like the political class. From Jeremy Corbyn to David Cameron (and including Nigel Farage whatever he might say). Andrew Marr, Robert Peston, the Dimbleby brothers and Evan Davies exist on the same continuum of privilege and are, collectively, the establishment. The Brexit vote has been seen as a working class rebellion against the distant and disinterested establishment. An ‘up yours’ from those who feel marginalised, alienated and unrepresented in our current democracy. A democracy where 5 million votes let to only 1 UKIP and 1 Green MP but 1 million votes in Scotland put 50+ SNP MPs in parliament. A democracy where your general election vote only counts if you live in a marginal seat, where 24% of the population voted Tory and this was enough for a majority in the House of Commons, a democracy where people who are ‘undecided’ get the casting vote.

The marginalised and alienated groups that voted Leave are statistically most likely to be affected by the austerity policies enacted by the government in the past 6 years. Austerity has led to cuts to local and national services, increased costs of and reduced access to training, rises in house prices and private indebtedness, tax cuts for the wealthiest and a low wage/benefit sanction/foodbank culture for the poorest. Programmes like Channel 4’s Benefits Street and the cultural debates it inspired showed how ‘divide and conquer’ was being used as a political strategy to pit ‘workers’ against ‘shirkers’. Creating a culture of bitterness and envy began to naturalise the idea that social welfare cuts for the disabled and the unemployed were justified because some people are ‘undeserving’.

Economic inequality is high and there has been a noticeable decline of social mobility over the past few years. We were a divided nation long before the EU referendum was offered as a manifesto promise by David Cameron. An act many see to try to quieten a Euro-sceptic minority in his own party and an attempt to stop Tory voters defecting to UKIP in the 2015 general election.

Another ‘divide and conquer’ technique employed initially by UKIP and more recently the Leave campaign is based around immigration. The idea of economic migrants, refugees and the free movement of people from within the EU has been collapsed into one simple problem – overcrowding caused by foreigners coming to the UK. Foreigners became the scapegoat for concerns about our stretched and underfunded public services and the problems people face in a low wage economy. Perhaps it has been easier to blame foreigners rather than the systematic cuts to funding and the lack if investment that has been the ideological economic strategy adopted by the Conservative government. The repetition of the narrative has, it turns out, proved to be extremely powerful with many who voted Leave citing immigration as the main reason for this decision.

This idea of the immigrant bases itself on ideas of national identity and ideas of Englishness and Britishness have been central to both campaigns in the referendum. ’In’ and ‘out’ voters, however, have different ideas of national identity and the Leave campaign were particularly adept at identifying a specific version of national identity and tapping into it.

This campaign video is a montage of ‘patriotic’ images linked together by Farage’s voice over. The video connects World War II, The Monarchy, The Falklands, Cricket, Football and our industrial and rural past with the word ‘independence’ and, in doing so, clearly identifies who Farage sees as the target audience for his message. This is a video tapping into nostalgia for a UK of the past and that feels disconnected from the politicians and institutions of today. This idea of ‘Britishness’ taps into the ‘Keep Calm/Bake Off’ culture that has been present over the last few years. Some have argued this acts as a comfort blanket reminding us all of better times or when we (as Brits) had to show strength in the face of adversity. This is a popular image of ‘plucky-Brits’ facing danger with a ‘stiff upper lip’ and a ‘Blitz mentality’ enabling us to survive the war. Interestingly those that remain from the WW2 generation were more likely to vote for Remain as they had lived through a Europe wide conflict once – and had no desire for it to happen again.

It pays the media to help us construct a national identity. The news media often needs to create an idea of ‘us’ and ‘them’ to help simplify complex issues based on ideas of otherness whether that’s Russian, Muslim or European otherness. The news media also likes to create a sense of unity around events such as sport and royal celebrations. These constructs of identity help the media find and engage with their target audience. It also pays the media to divide us along these lines as conflict helps to create drama and, most importantly in this digital age, audience engagement.

Characters like Nigel Farage can be guaranteed to create emotional responses in the audience. His outspoken ways inflame anger in some and create a sense of belonging in others. Emotional responses are crucial for political programmes such as Today, Question Time and Peston’s Politics. The more passionate the audience feel the more likely they are to engage in debates and discussions on social media that act to promote the programme and raise its profile. Back before the 2015 election people were asking why the leader of a party with no MPs (at the time) appeared on the BBC so often. Farage appeared often on Question Time and was regularly used by BBC News as an ‘alternative voice’. He was offered a stronger media presence than representatives of the Green Party who had an MP sitting in the House of Commons. Farage makes for exciting and provocative TV and radio and deliberately or not, the BBC acted to steer the debates to the EU and immigration by giving UKIP a seat at the debating table. Constant repetition of ideas help them to stick – help them to feel natural.

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  • Fact: Multi-billionaire Richard Desmond (the 48th richest man in Britain according to the Sunday Times Rich List) owns The Express Newspaper.
  • Fact: Billionaire Richard Desmond has donated £1.3 million to support UKIP

The need for dramatic narratives and the construction of conflict is central to how the press (on and offline) select stories and apply their news values. Within two hours of Hilary Benn appearing on The Andrew Marr Show after being sacked by Jeremy Corbyn (26th June 2016), The Guardian’s coverage of events had elicited almost 7000 comments. All clicks and comments on this story of conflict and strict within the Labour party add to the revenue The Guardian could hope to raise via advertising. Comments below the line show anger and frustration from all sides of the political divide and The Guardian opinion writers are positioned to provoke more and more emotional responses.

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This tabloidisation of the news media has seen a prioritising of ‘click bait’ stories and opinions, the rise of professional agitators like David Starkey and Katie Hopkins as the irrationality of emotions becomes much more profitable than facts or the truth – something our politicians (on all sides) are aware of too. ‘Project Fear’ attempted to frighten people to vote Remain whilst Leave campaigners offered things they had no authority to offer (despite the promises, Remain are now saying £350 million per week won’t necessarily be spent on the NHS now we’re out), told outright lies about the negative impact of immigration (in fact immigration brings more money into the UK than it takes out), the reason for a lack of school places (rather than immigration, it is a lack of investment in social infrastructure and the de-professionalisation of teachers that has caused the current crisis in education) and the impact the EU has on the way bunches of bananas are sold (none). A key Remain campaigner, Daniel Hannan has identified that immigration is unlikely to be reduced and the free movement of labour (workers) will continue to be an important part of the post-Brexit economy.

The referendum campaigns, along with Trump’s presidential one in the US, are being called examples of post-truth politics – which is a polite way of saying politicians are making stuff up and voters are being lied to.

Despite the fact that people have access to instant facts and figures via the internet, ironically the internet makes post-truth politics possible. Misinformation is spread on social media (and the mainstream media too) and misunderstandings go viral and become ‘the truth’. Some people may learn the actual truth but others do not and so misinformation can easily replace facts. Finding the truth takes effort and is not always easy. The truth is often complex and rarely offers simple answers to complex questions. Some politicians actively dismiss the idea of using facts or the outcome of research or analysis saying that ‘people in this country have had enough of experts’ (Gove). After all, who needs experts in a post-truth world? The BBC were criticised in the final couple of weeks of the referendum for not taking politicians to task when they gave false or misleading information. The BBC, in an attempt to appear politically neutral, often failed to challenge politicians on both sides in their use of ‘statistics’ and ‘information’. Impartiality apparently more important than providing accurate information in a campaign that was based on guessing and speculation in both the Leave and Remain camps. Sadly, this means that votes could well have been cast on both sides based on misunderstandings that now have a concrete reality. As early as the day after voting, some voters were expressing regret and a desire to have a do-over. It seems that some had become so used to their vote not counting, it came as a surprise that in this case, it did.

The Channel 4 programme An Immigrant’s Guide to Britain took a tongue in cheek approach to our cultural diversity and integration by offering advice to people coming to the UK as to how to deal with British food, social behaviours and attitudes. In doing so, this comedy show identified ‘typical’ British traits such as banter, our fixation with the weather, nights out drinking, caravanning and eating pies. What is clear from the programme there is not one single idea of British Identity that is shared by all – we are a diverse and disparate group of people.

If you are not a royalist nor a football/X Factor fan it can sometimes feel tricky to identify as British or English sometimes as these are the identifiers so often used in the media. In the days of Britpop, union flags and ‘cool Britannia’ became marketing tropes. More recently James Bond, Adele and Coldplay contribute to a version of ‘Brand Britain’ that is sold around the world. You don’t have to like Bond and Adele to be British of course. There are many things that people have been able to take on board as cultural definers – many bought together in Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics. British identity – English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish has always been complex, contradictory and perverse. Hence it being incredibly difficult for us to define. The idea of Britishness is even more difficult to understand. In the past it has been our forward looking, tolerant attitude that many people have felt defines us as British despite our differences as Welsh, English Scottish and Norther Irish. However, an ‘English’ identity seems to resonate more with people than a ‘British’ one.

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The excellent John Harris series Anywhere but Westminster gives us an insight into the complexities of our national identity and over the years has made it very clear that there has been a divide brewing. In the EU referendum, the country was asked to consider a simple binary ‘in’ or ‘out’ and in so doing created the perfect place to express this divide.

As we’ve seen over the post-referendum weekend we are not a ‘united kingdom’ with shared values and attitudes. We are divided by class, geography, education and age. The Conservative party leader has handed his resignation in and at the time of writing, the Labour party is in a dire positon with a challenge on its leader from the members of the shadow cabinet. In three days, the two leading parties find themselves engaging in power grabs, the pound has crashed in value and billions have been wiped off the value of the stock market and discussion over the weekend suggests businesses could be cutting jobs, stopping recruitment and, in some cases, relocating away from the UK. A huge social and economic upheaval has been voted for in the slimmest of margins with clear differences of opinion being shown between different demographics.

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Many Leave voters may be surprised by the way promises are now being backed away from and how ideas like the NHS investment and even the reduction of numbers of immigrants are unlikely to be seen in a post-Brexit world. Commentators are speculating that Boris Johnson never thought he could win and his attachment to the Leave campaign was part of a career strategy that had an unintended consequence. Whatever happens next the news media will probably still provoke emotions and focus on conflict while the people wait and see how the establishment will deal with the outcomes of the referendum.

We live in interesting times.

s@albionmill

Some Further Reading 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2015-32601281

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Establishment-how-they-get-away/dp/0141974990

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/boris-johnson-claims-eu-stops-bananas-being-sold-in-bunches-of-more-than-three-that-is-not-true_uk_573b2445e4b0f0f53e36c968

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/eu-referendum-result-7-graphs-that-explain-how-brexit-won-eu-explained-a7101676.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/06/16/why-the-post-truth-political-era-might-be-around-for-a-while/

https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/technology/media/news/74320/bbc-excessively-deferential-brexit-campaign-lord-patten-says

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/26/eu-referendum-brexit-vote-leave-iain-duncan-smith-nhs

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/commentisfree/2016/jun/24/divided-britain-brexit-money-class-inequality-westminster

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/17/world/europe/european-union-britain-brexit-voters-english.html?_r=0

http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2016/06/24/brexit-british-identity-politics-immigration-and-david-camerons-undoing/

Cancelled TV Shows

Not all good TV reaches its audience and makes it to a second series. The story of TV is littered with ‘also-rans’ and ‘could have beens’. Of course, some ideas were doomed from the start – the 90s UK sit-com Heil Honey I am Home! features ‘Adolf’ and ‘Eva’ who live next door to a Jewish couple. Described ‘the world’s most ‘tasteless situation comedy’, it only lasted one episode – preserved for prosperity here:

Other cancelled TV shows have large fan followings who often try to persuade TV companies to reinvest in relaunching the show or, in rare cases, commissioning a feature length ‘wrap up’ to allow audiences to receive some sort of narrative closure. Famously, the cult success of Joss Whedon’s TV Sci Fi Firefly (Fox: 2002) led to the funding of Serenity (2005). The TV show was  cancelled before all the episodes had been aired but DVD sales found a new and, at times, fanatical audience.

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The ‘word of mouth’ growth of the audience persuaded Fox to invest money into the film. HBO’s Deadwood – cancelled in 2006 after three seasons is rumoured to be making a comeback in movie form.

deadwood-hbo-movieNo such luck (as yet) with Jericho (CBS: 2006-7) nor the much missed Carnivale (HBO: 2003-5). These US TV shows could be argued to have been before their time. They were broadcast under an old model that demanded the programmes attracted their audience immediately and they needed their audiences to commit to watching weekly – usually at the same time each week. These programmes appeared at the start of what is often called a golden age of TV drama – but too soon to take advantage of new viewing models such as streaming and catch-up services.

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Jericho became a comic book and Firefly is still pulling in an audience on Netflix so, there may not be any new episodes to enjoy but the new viewing models allows audiences to find and enjoy cancelled TV shows. One recently cancelled show that’s worth a look is The Divide (WE: 2014).

The Divide was a short-lived US crime drama that managed to avoid the usual cliches. Instead of focusing on the procedural aspects of a case it explored flaws in the judicial system and developed interconnected stories touching on complex themes of race, class and corruption. The story began with a convicted murderer attempting one final appeal whilst on death row and, his crime, an 11 year old  case, was shown still to have repercussions for those involved in the case over a decade later.

The Divide didn’t quite have the scope of The Wire and had a tendency towards soap-like melodrama in places but it had an ambition to do more that present violent crime as an entertainment for the audience. There are elements of the final episode that are truly shocking and the picture painted of a system and the way money and power influence the way justice is applied. As so often happens with more intelligent TV, The Divide was cancelled after a short first season leaving the story-lines unfinished.

As the programme showed that complex issues are complicated rather than indulge itself in simple ideas of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, it clearly didn’t make any friends in the Fox News watching demographic – a channel it cracked a joke about in its first episode. Here is surely one of the best negative reviews on imdb!!

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s@albionmill

Media Magazine: Issue 54

The latest edition of Media Magazine is looking good and contains a whole load of seriously interesting (and useful) articles.

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There’s lots of good stuff on gender – including some background to Anita Sarkeesian and Feminist Frequency and the Beach Bodies Campaign. Identities and The Impact of Digital New Media is covered and my own contribution this issue is on some of the debates around media violence. See below for the full contents list for this edition.

s@albionmill

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Post-Summer Update 2015

Those that spend time actively analysing the British news media often discuss the problem with the way newspapers select and mediate news to promote its own business and political agendas. In the run up to the election it was clear to anyone paying attention that Miliband was almost no one’s favourite (apart from in The Mirror and The Guardian) and the personal attacks and the mocking tone used to discuss Labour’s leader shaped the ‘political’ debate where the general election became less about policies and more about personality. It is easy to take the position that newspapers are manipulative and that their audience is an unthinking mass who are easily led. This is a huge simplification and this summer has provided us with lots of evidence that the news media may often try to lead public opinion but when public opinion is strong, the press (regardless of their previous political stances) will often change their points of view in order to ensure that they reflect dominant public opinion.

Identity

As the summer began (and as it ended too) ‘identity’ was high on the news agenda. The contemporary focus on identity is a signifier of the individualistic age we live in and it also taps into the psyche of the social media-led, selfie-taking, ‘look at me culture’ that surrounds us. As far as the mainstream media are concerned, identity politics has the potential to lead to a lot of confusion. When Caitlyn Jenner was transitioning from male to female, the paparazzi hounded Jenner and the tabloid media wrote prurient articles that barely covered their ‘disgust’. Once she presented herself on the front cover of Vanity Fair, she became a symbol of bravery and much of the reporting on her transition was supporting and expressed admiration.It seems unlikely that the illiberal mainstream press took a close look at its attitudes and decided to turn over a new leaf. It is more likely that the press saw the way the public was responding to Jenner’s transition and decided to step in line. Shortly after the Caitlyn Jenner story broke, the US provided us with a very complicated story that challenged some of the positive responses to the idea that someone should be able to choose and construct whatever identity they want. A US woman who had self-identified as black was shown to have been born a white woman. Rachel Dolezal was highly criticised as her adoption of a ‘black look’ and the fact that she described herself as a black women was seen to be cultural appropriation from a position of white-privilege.

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The problem for the media here is that the two stories are very similar- a person who does not identify with the body he or she was born with chooses to create a new identity for themselves. Public opinion on these two individuals was contradictory – Jenner was brave whilst Dolezal was either culturally inappropriate or mentally ill. This clearly caused a bit of confusion for the British press who were suddenly in a position where they could potentially enrage large sections of their audience whichever way they turned on this story.

(Russell Brand calls TMZ out for its transphobic bullying here. Never let it be said that gossiping is something only women do. Check out the TMZ guys – like Loose Women on steroids.)

Identity is such a complicated idea that even pop-divas are confused. Were the VMAs racist as Nicki Minaj claimed or was Nicki anti-feminist for calling out skinny girls as Taylor Swift assumed? There are suspicions that many of the Twitter-spats and arguments between these celebrities are PR constructions. Narratives need conflict to progress and if you are a celebrity with no narrative, the press will ignore you and being ignored is death to a modern celebrity career. Many of these public arguments centre on clashes around identity whether its gender or in the case of Iggy Azalea, race. Azalea Banks is confident in her assertions that Iggy Azalea is guilty of cultural appropriation even if Ms Azalea seems less than certain what that means.

As a pop post-script, Andy Warhol muse, model and 80s art-pop legend Grace Jones has a few things to say about today’s pop music stars – and little of it is complimentary. She accuses them of having no originality and following a path she has already been down. Could she have a point?

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The Refugee Crisis and Divide and Rule Politics

More evidence of the mercenary nature of the news media’s ‘opinions’ was the response to the awful images of the refugees attempting to escape to Europe from war-torn Syria. The latest events are part of an incredible long and complex narrative. As with many complex stories, the media tends to simplify stories taking them out of their global and historical contexts. Refugees had previously been lumped together by the mainstream press with economic migrants, anti-EU sentiment and low-level racism. Things hit a particularly low low when Katie Hopkins described the refugees fleeing Libya as ‘cockroaches’ and she claimed in her Sun column she would sooner see drowned bodies than have ‘more of them come to our country’. Just days later she got her wish as lives were lost in catastrophic boat disasters. Desperate refugees lost their lives attempting to flee a state that has all but collapsed since the removal of Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi from power in 2011 and where human traffickers are preying on and profiting from their desperation. Sadly their plight had become confused with inter-EU economic migration and so Hopkins and The Sun must have felt emboldened by public opinion to allow them to promote a de-humanising, racist and anti-humanitarian set of ideas. Other papers have been happy to tap into the ‘us’ (British) and ‘them’ (immigrants) narrative over the past couple of years. They were happy to move the point of conflict to ‘us’ (English) and ‘them’ (Scottish) in the general election when it looked like the election may have led to a left-ish coalition between Labour and The SNP.

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The Daily Mail, The Express and The Telegraph have adopted UKIP type attitudes blaming immigration for housing problems, the benefits bill, unemployment and our current low-pay culture amongst other things. However, the viral communication of the awful image of a toddler lying dead on a Turkish beach changed the narrative. People raised their voices via social media in outrage at the government’s limited response to the refugee crisis. At this point the press had to change tack. They had to acknowledge that refugees were not the same as economic migrants and they had to start to call for Government action. Not to respond in this way would have put the mainstream press out of step with public opinion and, however much they may want to lead and influence, sometimes they simply have to accept that the people have spoken.

The divide and rule politics in terms of class divides hit peak cruelty in the US this summer with a reality show called The Briefcase. The UK has had Benefits Street (BBC), On Benefits and Proud (C5) and We All Pay Your Benefits (BBC) that have pointed the finger at the ‘underserving’ poor and judged their lifestyle choices whilst in America poverty and morality have been even more closely aligned in the reality show that offers struggling people a cash injection but – there’s a catch. Watch the trailer to see how low it can go.

The Impact of Digital and New Media

The NME is becoming a free-sheet, abandoning the idea that you can persuade people to pay for a music magazine. Print is, of course, becoming a semi-redundant media form but the music press had held out longer than other print genres. This was largely down to the nature of their audience. Music fans had been more loyal and print sales for the music press dropped but not as dramatically as for lifestyle and other specialist titles. There have been casualties of course, Melody Maker and Sounds are long gone and The NME had radically rebranded to attempt to stay relevant in the digital age. This looks like a final attempt to survive and sadly is a concrete indicator that not only is print on its way out but music as a cultural definer is too.

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For those interested in the history of how identity relates to music culture, this documentary, Too Much Fighting on the Dance Floor from Radio 4 gives a brilliant overview of fan behaviour and the tribalism associated with musical culture in the past and discusses the importance of the music press to fans in the pre-digital age.

Also in entertainment news – Chris Evans is taking over Top Gear and the old Top Gear team have found a well-paying home at Amazon. It does raise an interesting issue though as Jeremy Clarkson had survived many controversies as a BBC employee where, as a ‘motoring journalist’, he had been accused of racism, sexism and even declaring that a unionised workforce should be ‘shot’ for daring to strike. None of these events were deemed enough to let him go and his sacking came only after he physically assaulted a junior member of staff in the workplace. On the other hand there are currently calls to sack Chris Packham - he of Springwatch and The Really Wild Show fame. A very influential pressure group aligned to the Conservative party, The Countryside Alliance, are demanding the BBC sack Packham as he has voiced opinions the CA claim go against the BBC’s riles on political impartiality. Packham has been accused of ‘propaganda’ because he has spoken out against hunting as a sport. Under normal circumstances the Alliance’s beef may not have seemed to be anything to worry about but in the current environment where the government is making the BBC very nervous indeed about cuts to funding and the imminent charter renewal, the BBC are currently showing very little backbone in standing up to their paymasters. It is no secret that the Conservatives don’t like the BBC – this ‘nationalised’ service goes against their privatisation agenda that sees private industries as being better and more efficient than public services. There are rumours that the government wants to see a much-reduced BBC where mainstream programming is left to commercial operations like ITV and Sky. Lets hope Chris Packham doesn’t become a victim of the BBC trying to keep the government happy. If they sack Packham – does that mean they would also have to sack the ‘journalist’ of the hideously biased and horribly patronising Panorama hatchet job of Jeremy Corbyn transmitted this week? If that wasn’t breaking the rules on impartiality, nothing was.

The Big Summer Story 

The big news story of the summer of course, was the Labour Party’s leadership contest. Immediately the news took a partisan stance with Toby Young of The Telegraph urging Tories to join the Labour Party so they could vote for the ‘outsider’ Jeremy Corbyn in an attempt to sabotage the opposition party. Young assumed that Corbyn winning would ensure a Conservative government in the next election as he offered a non-neoliberal political viewpoint that ran counter to the austerity of the Conservative Party and the austerity-lite of Labour. Some weeks later, with Corbyn the frontrunner, The Telegraph and all the mainstream press were responding with shock and disbelief as Corbyn inspired Labour’s biggest new member recruitment in years and he attracted more and more enthusiastic supporters than any of the other candidates could muster. The Corbyn campaign has seemingly encouraged a lot of people who have been put off politics by the distant career politicians and the lack of choice between parties but it has become clear that the media have been taken by surprise. The Telegraph have done an about turn, made clear by the headline Jeremy Corbyn Must be Stopped. The paper moved away from the juvenile playground politics of Toby Young, The Telegraph now seems to see Corbyn as a real threat.

During the campaign, the BBC often took a mocking incredulous tone when speaking of Corbyn and his supporters. In order to smear him the press have accused Corbyn of being anti-semite, a friend of terrorism, an anachronism and being ‘hard left’. Corbyn’s politics may be left of current mainstream politics but he is economically and socially centre left (see below). When the left/right position of all other political choices in the UK is considered Corbyn will now be offering an alternative politics. New Labour’s focus group politics, emulated by the Conservative party, has led to both parties offering very similar policies. This may go some way to explaining why Corbyn’s campaign has struck a nerve with a lot of people as a lack an alternative has often been cited as one reason for low voter turnout at elections – only 66% of the population voted in 2015. The current government holds a slim majority after receiving 37% of the vote in May 2015 (Labour received 31%).

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The ideological position of UK political parties in 2015

The British press are all right wing (with The Mirror and The Guardian being closer to the centre than the other papers) and so, unsurprisingly, the consensus in the press is that Corbyn can’t win a general election. Only time will tell of course but it is unlikely that Corbyn will be given anything close to positive coverage in the press as the opposition leader. What is interesting is that for the first time since the 1980s, the British electorate will be offered an alternative type of politics and a different type of politician. For the first time since the 1990s an alternative to neoliberalism is on offer and, for the first time since the economic crisis of 2007/8, an alternative to austerity will be bought into the mainstream political narrative. The Corbyn campaign has shown that the press needs to be careful as concerted negative campaigns can sometimes backfire. Corbyn will be bringing a new conversation to British Politics and may force the media to engage with political debates they would sooner ignore.

The immediate reaction to Corbyn’s win.

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And finally… 

Many people are quite blasé about the fact that digital services collect our data and use it for marketing purposes, sell our data for profit or pass on information to security services. It is argued that we are a culture that is happy to trade privacy for the free services the digital age can provide. Every now and again though, digital privacy makes the news. For example some comment was made when Spotify changed their terms and conditions to include the statement:

“With your permission, we may collect information stored on your mobile device, such as contacts, photos, or media files …” 

The backlash to this didn’t seem to last long. After all, people are remarkably not bothered by Snowdon’s expose of governmental spying on citizens so it is unlikely that they would be worried about a music streaming services collecting photographs but, when the data is likely to out you as a cheating philanderer people get a little more bothered. The Ashley-Madison hack generated countless articles about fidelity, monogamy and the sexual politics of relationships. This wasn’t really the story though. Sadly, men and women have been cheated on through the ages. The difference now is that an internet service has been provided that stored customer details without the necessary security that would stop them being hacked and published on the internet. We are free with our information and shouldn’t be surprised when things we thought were private turn our to be far from it. The company hid the fact that some of their accounts were fake deep in the ‘terms and conditions’  – probably banking on the fact that no one reads the terms and conditions. It is still a little worrying that people were surprised that it was relatively easy to steal and publish their data and trusting a corporation to treat its customers fairly seems pretty naive.

s@albionmill

Media Magazine: Issue 53

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Start the new term with issue 53 of Media Magazine reflecting on (amongst other things) the 2015 General Election. I’ve taken look at the history of televised debates and how they may impact on the political process.

Do check out Roy Stafford’s analysis of Kristen Stewart using star theory and other articles on national and sexual identity. Excellent as ever!

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s@albionmill