Are you an angry, depressed socialist reading the corporate media and watching Tory TV? How much time do you spend shouting at the telly?
I think I’m around ten years into my personal campaign to persuade people to think more about what they read, and what they watch. If you’re a socialist, I’m sure you’ll know what I mean. It’s strangely easy to get people to agree that most newspaper, television and radio news is rubbish – including their own chosen titles/programs, and yet it’s next to impossible to persuade them they could go and look for better news sources. Which is puzzling.
Oh, but I read between the lines, and I watch critically. Do you? How do you manage to read what is not written at all? How do you watch programs they don’t show?
Raise your standards
It is interesting that the ability to flick around on the internet has very much reduced people’s willingness to sit through the endlessly repeated strap-lines and clips of television news, or to limit themselves to one newspaper, dropped through the door and read exclusively from end to end. It is also extraordinary that the learning process is so slow.
As my oft-repeated conversations about what you read and watch continues, people often tell me that you can’t trust what you find on the internet, or that blogs are unreliable because there’s no editor gatekeeping.
Do your own gatekeeping
But seriously, which newspaper or TV channel has an editor you really trust to filter your news for you? What is wrong with doing your own quality-control, and building up a go-to list of blogs by writers you know and trust? Maybe you don’t trust anyone – fine, but having the internet at your fingertips, it is as easy to check the sources of a blog writer as it is to check the BBC’s or the Guardian’s sources – and anyway, you can make comparisons. You’ll enjoy finding blog writers who are particularly well informed on subjects that interest you, and you can look out for writers you can use to balance what you might feel other writers are getting carried away about. But people don’t check what they read on the internet, or what they get from the corporate media.
Well, for those who don’t want to go to the bother of checking sources, or researching blogs, how do we persuade people there are non-corporate, non-Tory dominated newspapers and magazines they could be reading?
Once you start paying attention
Probably around twenty years ago, I started getting fed up with ‘reading between the lines’ in the Guardian and the Sunday Times, and shouting at the BBC news. I started going critical when I noticed that everyone was using the same words to slap down first Julian Assange, then Russell Brand. Assange was egocentric, Brand was a narcissist. Once I noticed that, I mentally collected some of the other phrases I kept hearing and, sure enough, most of those phrases echoing around pub and canteen conversations could be seen repeated, day in, day out, in several newspapers, and in TV chat-shows, and people obediently applied them to the same people and ideas the media had attached them to.
Having noticed that, I couldn’t help thinking about the fact that Assange and Brand, the ‘egocentric’ and the ‘narcissist’, did more between them than just about anyone else to undermine the faith the public at large placed in the media, including the ‘progressive’, ‘liberal’ media, and they were the most thoroughly dissed of all the people the Guardian took exception to (until Jeremy Corbyn began to look like a serious contender).
So it’s easy to show that the annoying repetition on the news and in the papers is not done for nothing. It hammers the preferences of the media bosses into the national conversation. Yes, yes, yes – but the point to get across is this: you may complain about it – but you still end up repeating the key words they have chosen for you. You may say oh, I saw through that one well yes – I saw through the ones I saw through but doesn’t that suggest that there may be others I didn’t see through?
Am I patronising you?
There is the blatant, there is the subtle, and there is the dispiriting and – call me paranoid if you like but isn’t it the job of the blatantly biased to allow you to enjoy seeing through them …. so that you miss the ones you didn’t see through in your more sensible papers? I put it to you that however good you are at critical reading, however much you avoid the blatant stuff, a daily drip-feed diet of the chosen ideas and phrases of the corporate media is going to get you down.
It’s amazing how many people think they’re socialists. I was once a socialist who read the Guardian but, once all this thinking-about-the-media got rolling, I discovered how, for a socialist, the Guardian‘s writers look pretty silly when you’ve just read The Morning Star, or Labour Briefing. I soon sorted out my own go-to blog-list of real investigative journalists.
Consider this: people don’t like being depressed. We need to keep talking about this: a socialist who reads and watches corporate newspapers and TV is a depressed, daunted socialist but a socialist who reads real socialist newspapers is an engaged, optimistic socialist.
Okay, you might look in on the corporate media, the Tory media, just to see what they’re getting up to but why give yourself a hard time trying to extract the news you need from their pernicious publications every day? It’s a relief to see even the bad news, when you can see that it’s honestly presented, with a desire to change things for the better.
I was inspired to write this blog post today because I’ve just read the spring 2019 edition of the Tribune Magazine, and it’s made me happy and optimistic. It’s nice being happy. The illustrations in this post are scans from corners of the Tribune (The header-pic is from Labour Briefing, and the two horrible ones from the never-seen-in-Liverpool paper!)
No need to trust me, and anyway, socialists aren’t all the same so find your own blogs/mags/papers but, if you want somewhere to start looking, try these. They all have links on site for paper or electronic subscription, or you can ask your newsagent to order you copies…
Labour Briefing’s website and blog
(You get free e-copy of Labour Briefing for three months when you join the LRC)