Jeremy Corbyn's appeal is enhanced by the united hostility of the press
Are Labour party members reading national newspapers, watching TV news bulletins and listening to radio current affairs programmes?
If they are, then the majority of them are clearly ignoring the insistent, relentless, repetitive messages urging them not to vote for Jeremy Corbyn as their next leader.
Similarly, they are discounting the portentous statements made by a string of party grandees: Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Alastair Campbell, Alan Johnson, Jack Straw, Neil Kinnock, Uncle Tom Cobley and all. New Labour has made it crystal clear that it is appalled at the resurgence of old Labour.
It would appear that media reports of speeches denouncing Corbyn’s political and economic stance plus every newspaper leading article warning of Corbyn’s unsuitability for the job are having the reverse effect.
So much for “the power of the press,” eh? Some publishers and editors may well be frustrated by the fact that their readers are failing to heed their advice.
Most, however, like to deny that they wield any real influence over the views of their audiences and will therefore see current events as proof positive that they lack the potency routinely ascribed to them.
But they, and we, should avoid any simplistic analysis. First off, it would seem that the bulk of Corbyn’s support is drawn from the young and it is highly likely that they are not mainstream media “consumers.” (However, I readily concede that there are many older pro-Corbyn supporters too - see Aengil in the thread for polling figures).
As for those who do read papers, whether in print or online, my hunch is that the unremitting anti-Corbyn propaganda is being discounted as unwanted advice from either “the establishment” or so-called “elders and betters.” In other words, Corbyn’s appeal is enhanced by a hostile press.
The young seek change, and even if that change represents a return to a past (one which they did not experience themselves), then it is different from the status quo. So the negative headlines actually encourage rebellion.
Seen from another perspective, we should not overlook the fact that the virtually all the stories and headlines feature the name of Corbyn. His name dominates the coverage across the media.
His name has featured in scores of news page headlines (including several on front pages) throughout this month. Few commentators have failed to mention him. The Sunday and Monday papers overflowed with columns about Corbyn most, but not all, unsympathetic.
In the Sunday Telegraph, Corbyn was the subject of the main front page story and its leading article. In the Daily Telegraph, he featured again in its splash and its leading article. There were also columns about him by Boris Johnson and by Dan Hodges.
In the Times, aside from a news story, Corbyn featured in the cartoon and John McTernan argued in his column, with bizarre logic, that Ed Miliband should rescue the party from Corbyn.
In the Daily Express, Stephen Pollard asked “big questions that Jeremy Corbyn will not answer” while the Daily Mail’s leading article sought to argue that Corbyn’s support rested to an extent on concerns about the high salaries paid to chief executives (but not editors).
The Independent’s leading article lamented the likely victory of “the socialist MP” but rightly identified his appeal to “huge numbers of voters in their twenties”. It said:
“He has turned them from a deeply political demographic who felt that they had no voice in Westminster to engaged activists who want to participate in our democracy... He has done this by providing a clear and coherent alternative to austerity.”
And the Indy’s columnist, Yasmin Alibhai Brown, raged against accusations that Corbyn is anti-Semitic. “This is how low Labour has sunk”, she wrote.
Even though the Daily Mirror is backing Andy Burnham its editorial conceded that “has lit up the contest, enthused youngsters and reminded older members why they joined the party.” But, it concluded, listen to Brown.
Its columnist, Paul Routledge, thought too few are listening to the former prime minister and the other naysayers. And what a great pun: Jerrymiahs!
The Guardian’s splash was also about Brown’s intervention while columnist Zoe Williams shrewdly pointed out that some of Corbyn’s critics have tended to strengthen his argument that he is “breaking out of the limited, unambitious landscape that counts for ‘realism’.
Her piece, incidentally, was headlined Corbynomics must smash this cosy consensus on debt. Along with Corbymania and Corbynmania, these neologisms serve to confirm the man’s media supremacy.
By contrast, his three rivals – Burnham, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper – have had only walk-on roles in the unfolding press drama. That’s quite apart from the fact that, unlike Corbyn, their platforms lack the coherence of his simple anti-austerity stance, itself echoing the SNP’s successful general election position.
In other words, the power of the press is evident not so much in terms of the conscious anti-Corbyn messages they are delivering but at a subliminal level by placing the man at the centre of events. In a sense, nodding to the celebrity age in which we live, Corbyn has been celebritised.
With Corbyn’s name in so many headlines and columns, broadcasters have – as is their wont – followed up the stories and the comments, expanding the man’s media image. And it is also significant that Corbyn has been a commanding presence on social media.
As I pointed out in the London Evening Standard last week, “this kind of repetitive wall-to-wall coverage seeps into the public consciousness” despite, and arguably because of, antagonistic headlines and comments.
It is evident that most Labour members don’t respect the messenger so they are hardly likely to heed the message. Remember also that the overwhelming bulk of the Scottish press opposed the SNP’s anti-austerity policies, which didn’t stop the party from sweeping to victory.
The press, like Labour’s veterans and the majority of Labour’s parliamentary party, may huff and puff. But across Britain, the party’s members – in an odd alliance with gleeful Tory-supporting newspapers – appear all too eager to bring Labour’s house down.