On Sunday, The Independent, published a fairly obvious article titled “Three-quarters of newspaper stories about Jeremy Corbyn fail to accurately report his views, LSE study finds.” Although media attacks on Labour leaders are the norm, the London School of Economics study concluded that “in the case of Corbyn the degree of antagonism and hatred from part of the media has arguably reached new heights.
Academics at the London School of Economics analysed the content of eight national newspapers (which included the rightwing press alongside the more liberal Daily Mirror, Guardian and Independent) between 1 September and 1 November 2015, when Mr Corbyn was first elected.
As one might have expected The Independent article focused its ire on the rightwing press, which indeed was warranted as the LSE study concluded: “With the vast majority of the British newspapers situated moderately to firmly on the right of the political spectrum, the analysis of our data also points to a strong ideological bias. The rightwing newspapers were particularly negative and acerbic towards Corbyn.”
But here, the academics did not hold back from criticising the liberal press, something that was conveniently ignored by The Independent. The study thus continued:
“At the same time, we could also clearly observe a degree of anti-Corbyn reporting in the left-leaning and liberal newspapers. This was especially visible through the amplification of internal struggles and tensions within the Labour Party regarding Corbyn. This manifested itself by the newspapers providing an extensive and enthusiastic platform to those forces in the Labour Party that aggressively contested Corbyn and what he stands for. Arguably, exposing the internal tensions within the Labour Party could be seen as part of the watchdog role of the media. However, as pointed out above, there was quite a considerable amount of coverage that was very one sided, only giving voice to those that are against Corbyn and at the same time ignoring those that are in favour of him and his policies.”
Earlier in the report the academics recognised that “leftwing parties and ideas have historically received a rough ride in the UK.” To illustrate this, they provide the following quote from Ralph Miliband’s The State in Capitalist Society: The Analysis of the Western System of Power (1969):
“…the press may well claim to be independent and to fulfil an important watchdog function. What the claim overlooks, however, is the very large fact that it is the Left at which the watchdogs generally bark with most ferocity, and what they are above all protecting is the status quo.”
With especial pertinence to understanding the pernicious role played by the liberal media as defenders of the status quo, it is therefore relevant to consider Miliband’s subsequent paragraph:
“Most ‘popular’ newspapers with a mass circulation are extremely concerned to convey the opposite impression and to suggest a radical impatience with every kind of ‘establishment’, however exalted, and a restless urge for change, reform, progress. In actual fact, most of this angry radicalism represents little more than an affection of style; behind the iconoclastic irreverence and the demagogic populism there is singular vacuity both in diagnosis and prescription. The noise is considerable but the battle is bogus.”