There is a Facebook post making the rounds which claims Jeremy Corbyn has been treated unfairly by the media in relation to ‘train-gate’ – the PR calamity in which it is claimed he sat on the floor as a stunt while there were seats available. He claims there weren’t. It’s pretty innocuous in the grand scheme of things.
However this post makes the point that while Corbyn has been hauled over the coals for this perceived mishap others have been let off by the media, and therefore he is a victim of press bias. Examples given suggest that Tony Blair’s lying over Iraq, Boris Johnson over EU payments, Cameron over off-shore holdings and Farage over immigration figures, were glossed over by the press.
Anyone who has read the news over the last eight months knows that the allegation is simply untrue. There was a seven year inquiry into Mr Blair’s invasion into Iraq culminating in the 2.6million word Chilcot Report, Cameron was forced to come clean about his holdings, to great embarrassment and furore- setting a precedent for future prime ministers. I don’t think a week has gone by since the referendum when the £350m for the NHS figure hasn’t -quite rightly – been paraded around to the shame of the now scattered Brexiteers. And Farage was taken to task time and time again over his figures. The issue wasn’t that he was given a free ride, it was that people decided he was right.
A study undertaken by the London School of Economics showed media outlets had misrepresented Corbyn’s words a number of times. However, there is no further study to suggest this treatment is unique to Corbyn. Most politicians would recognise the “out of context” cry.
Some, Andrea Leadsom can confirm, have been caught out trying to claim the press misrepresented them when in fact they said exactly what was quoted.
However, evidently there is an issue, but like Aesop’s boy who cried wolf, if you don’t reserve outrage for something outrageous people stop caring and you lose your podium.
By attempting to call out an unfair and biased media Corbyn supporters become the boy who cried wolf. You do not further a legitimate point by dressing it up in falsities.
If you claim something enough times when it is clearly untrue in the end no one will listen.
The same is true for Trump. Since the beginning of his campaign he was been drilling the line that the media is against him – despite the benefit he received in the primaries from free press.
If your defence is always that there is a conspiracy against you then you never have to defend failure. You create a narrative which gives the illusion of a self-fulling prophecy. Such as Trump saying the election is rigged; he’ll never lose in the eyes of loyal supporters who will only believe his rhetoric.
This approach leaves no room for legitimate criticism, you stifle debate and, ironically, undermine the fourth estate playing its democratic role in holding those in power to account. Often the very people those chastising the media are fighting against.
Equally if Corbyn supporters don’t drop the argument that the media is out to get him for them he will forever be on an unshakeable pedestal, despite how he appears to the rest of the electorate.
Furthermore everybody knows there are political leanings within the print media, it’s the reason Corbyn supporters don’t read the Telegraph and Jacob Rees-Mogg fans don’t read the Guardian.
The larger problem comes from outright lies. When the media is guilty of publishing falsities it should absolutely be held to account. However, creating your own reality as a counter-weight to the mainstream media doesn’t help. It only serves to marginalise your cause and undermine your credibility.
This may succeed in keeping a minority of dedicated followers in tow but it can’t work long term or for a wider audience. And, more to the point, like the boy who cried wolf, in the end no one will listen.