“I have got almost everything wrong about the last two years. Can I retrain as a political theorist?” - Professor Philip Cowley, Queen Mary University, 9 June 2017
“I owe Corbyn, John McDonnell, Seumas Milne, his policy chief Andrew Fisher, and others, an unreserved, and heartfelt apology.
"I wasn’t a bit wrong, or slightly wrong, or mostly wrong, but totally wrong. Having one foot in the labour movement, and one in the mainstream media, undoubtedly left me more susceptible to their groupthink. Never again. " - Owen Jones, 9 June 2017
“As a critic of Jeremy Corbyn and the far left, I must acknowledge that, unlike May, he has run a great campaign and motivated the young.” - Nick Cohen, 9 June 2017
For two years we have had to endure the smug ‘analysis’ and predictions of the ruling class’ entire media regarding Corbyn. For them, it was self-evident and simply a fact that Corbyn is unelectable, incompetent, incapable even of running a bath. They’d seen it all before, of course, and it was their role to patronise us from on high. They have staked their careers on this - and in doing so they have thoroughly exposed the contempt the ruling class has for ordinary people and for democracy.
Those most exposed must surely be those critics wearing a ‘left-wing’ mask, especially prominent commentators for the Guardian. From the beginning they have been a key tool in the attempt to undermine and discredit Corbyn, since they claim to be on the left and apparently know what’s best for it. Here are some typical examples exemplifying their smug, patronising arrogance:
In the above screenshotted article by Nick Cohen, we find the following sagely wisdom,
“On current polling, Labour will get around a quarter of the vote. Imagine, though, how the Labour party will fare in an election campaign when its leaders are Corbyn, John McDonnell, Emily Thornberry and Diane Abbott, and its second XI consists of Clive Lewis, Angela Rayner, Richard Burgon and Rebecca Long-Bailey. The Tories have gone easy on Corbyn and his comrades to date for the transparently obvious reason that they want to keep them in charge of Labour.
“In an election, they would tear them to pieces. They will expose the far left’s record of excusing the imperialism of Vladimir Putin’s gangster state , the oppressors of women and murderers of gays in Iran, the IRA, and every variety of inquisitorial and homicidal Islamist movement, while presenting itself with hypocritical piety as a moral force. Will there be 150, 125, 100 Labour MPs by the end of the flaying? My advice is to think of a number then halve it.”
These comments have been too common over the past two years for any more to be produced - we are all far too familiar, and sick and tired, with it.
The entire media establishment has been so utterly and deeply wrong, not just on this election, but also on the first Labour leadership election, that it makes one question their entire profession. It is reminiscent of the uniform failure of the economics profession to predict or understand the financial crisis of 2008. At first glance this seems astonishing - these two ‘sciences’ - economics and political science - have been shown not simply to have some limitations, or some flawed theories; rather, more or less the entire profession is at complete odds with the reality of the very subject they have dedicated their lives to studying. In what other science do we find such systematic failure and misunderstanding?
But it is not astonishing, because these professions are not treated as sciences, though they pretend to be. They are ideological tools of the ruling class to manipulate society in their interests. They haven’t just wrongly predicted everything, as if struck by a wave of mass stupidity. They have actively worked to realise their predictions, i.e. to undermine and sabotage Corbyn’s leadership, quite systematically, hand-in-glove with right-wing Labour MPs. And yet Corbyn has still mobilised the biggest campaign in decades and seen the largest swing to Labour since 1945!
Working class leader vs middle class journalists
One particularly notable fiction concocted in this navel-gazing echo chamber of the bourgeois media is that under Corbyn Labour could only appeal to middle-class ‘humus eating’ people in places like Islington, and not the working class which is apparently only moved by ‘patriotism’. They have routinely claimed that all Corbyn’s support within Labour comes from these layers - ignoring the fact that the region of England in which Corbyn received the least CLP nominations for leader was London, and that he addressed the largest political rallies seen since the general strike of 1926 in some northern working class towns.
When a by-election was called in Oldham in late 2015, these media professionals - ironically the very sort of people they claim are Corbyn’s only supporters - sneered at this town, assuming it was so full of working class racists that Corbyn would be smashed here. You could practically hear them rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of Labour losing this seat. And yet Labour won it with a crushing 62% of the vote. So much for their analysis.
The media has spent ages predicting working class Labour votes to go to UKIP, proving it’s no longer the party of the working class. Now, when many of those votes return to Labour, as they have, they are silent.
No wonder that the British public is the most untrusting of the media of any country in Europe bar Greece:
The thick-skulled ruling class
This general election demonstrates that the ruling class had still not learnt the lessons of Corbyn’s first election triumph. In much the same way that some Blairites allowed Corbyn onto the ballot out of sheer hubris that he couldn’t possibly come close to winning, so they called this general election thinking Labour couldn’t but lose shedloads of seats under Corbyn. The ruling class has believed its own propaganda. It has talked itself into what is, in effect, a defeat. In this election they have had the fright of their lives.
Their explanation for this ‘catastrophe’ - apart from blaming it all on May’s errors - is that ‘no one could have known Corbyn would be such a cracking campaigner’. There, in a nutshell, is revealed the blindness of the ruling class’ media. Apparently ‘no one’ could have predicted Corbyn would run a good campaign, despite having already won two massive Labour leadership victories , against the odds, and having turned Labour into the biggest party in Europe, and despite clearly being a potential lightning rod for people’s well known anti-establishment anger.
Labour’s success was also predictable because electoral laws require a modicum of impartiality - basically equal time on the news - which could only improve the fortunes of a politician who everyone knows has been relentlessly smeared in the media. As Professor Justin Lewis writes for theconversation.com:
“As Loughborough’s research shows, press coverage in this campaign has been overwhelmingly anti-Labour and broadcasters have by no means given Labour an easy ride. But their statutory obligation to impartiality means that they have done what news providers are supposed to do in a democracy, and given both sides roughly equal time to make their case.
“The teams monitoring the campaign at both Cardiff and Loughborough found Labour receiving roughly equal coverage from week two – the week that precipitated Labour’s biggest poll surge. While some of this was negative – based on judgements about the leaking of Labour’s manifesto, for example – it also became more policy oriented.”
Despairing at their loss of control of the situation and their inability to understand the awakening of the youth and working class, these commentators are reduced to crude insults.
Fight for a workers' media!
The thorough exposure of the political and media ‘class’ - i.e. the ruling class’ representatives in these domains - is enormously progressive. But we cannot expect them to change - they will always reflect the interests of the capitalists, their paymasters.
What this all reveals is the need for the Labour movement to rebuild its own press and media. Clearly the internet has undermined the establishment media. But we need to build a clear alternative - a workers’ media, with its own journalists and with a mass following. The rejuvenation and strengthening of the Labour left is a step in that direction.