With isolated acts of violence tainting the media’s response to the anti-Tory protests, Ed John looks at just how one-sided the coverage has been
From a marginalised and relatively unknown back-bencher to the new rockstar of the Left, Jeremy Corbyn’s unprecedented rise to political stardom has undoubtedly ushered in a level of debate, and for some, a feeling of hope, that has been absent in politics for decades.
With The Independent recently reporting that the number of people that have joined the Labour party since the leadership election has reached 183,658, higher than those in the entire Conservative party who clock in at around 150,000, it is beyond doubt that something huge is happening in British politics.
However, it isn’t only growth of the party itself that has been making headlines. With Corbyn’s success, and the rise of an arguably truly egalitarian and representative form of politics, has come an even larger and more promising grassroots movement. This movement not only boasts hundreds of thousands of supporters, including Billy Bragg and Coronation Street’s Hayley Cropper, but one that has been mobilising and gaining momentum continuously since the election result.
It is a movement that promises, as its leader does, to fight for a future of change, equality and an end to Tory avarice. It is a movement that far from being a passing trend, represents the reinvigoration of a previously disillusioned left, tired of Blue Labour and the remnants of a Blairite past. It is a movement that has seen the streets of British cities, including our own, become the marching ground for optimism, hope and a brighter future under the leadership of a man who symbolises an exciting side to politics that many haven’t previously witnessed in their lifetime.
Last Sunday saw the streets of Manchester become the centre stage for such a march against the Conservative Party Conference. With an estimated 80,000 protesters in attendance, it acted as a true representation of the support and solidarity that Corbyn has managed to muster since his rise to prominence.
But, it isn’t such support and optimism that is portrayed throughout our mass media. Likewise it isn’t the 80,000 taking to the streets in order to show solidarity for numerous causes that they believe in. Nor is it the 8,000 in attendance at the Communication Worker’s Union and People’s Post rally the following day. It is instead the actions of a minority that were heavily reported and led these people to be, in the words of the CWU’s Deputy General Secretary Terry Pullinger, “all tarred with the same brush.”
Of course, the actions and behaviour of said minority are in need of reporting. Without such representation, we would arguably be looking at politics through a rose-tinted lens and, after all, spitting at a member of the press is undoubtedly deplorable behaviour. However, what was interestingly lacking from the coverage by news outlets was not just the remaining 70,000-plus families, disabled activists and peaceful protesters in attendance, but also the brutish and terroristic tactics employed by those policing the event.
In regards to the protestor who spat at Huffington Post journalist Owen Bennett, he of course deserved to be punished for such an act of malice, but did he deserve the attention and wrath of over ten police officers that descended on him in such a manner that resulted in his loss of consciousness and subsequent convulsions on the floor? Did he deserve then to be denied paramedic attention by an arresting officer, who proclaimed that it was not his job to call for help? Most would argue that he did not.
Presumably, most would also dispute the use of skewed and fabricated statistics regarding the number of arrests throughout the protest. With a reported four protesters taken into custody, it seemed as though a small number had indeed let down the majority of a generally ‘family friendly’ demonstration. However, as it transpired later, two of those arrests were for unrelated offences committed by members of the public not in attendance of the protest. Yet the same people who would arguably dispute such tactics used to misrepresent those involved would also be unable to do so, as they would be wholly unaware and oblivious to any of it occurring.
Just as most would be unaware of the numerous members of the Greater Manchester Police force choosing to cover their shoulder ID numbers, behaviour that when questioned was met with hostility or a brief shrug and, in one case: “I’ve done it because I wanted to.”
On the other hand, were those same people aware of the young Conservative whose brandishing of a picture of Margaret Thatcher, a woman who’s policies helped destroy numerous communities represented at the protest, was met with an egg to the face? They were indeed, thanks to numerous media outlets choosing to run this as headline news. Again, such violence towards those expressing their political opinions is condemnable behaviour and, to some, has no place in politics, but the over-exaggeration of the issue represents a wider and inherently problematic side to our news and media outlets.
We seem to have allowed the existence of a media machine that is solely interested in perpetuating the ideologies of its shareholders and owners, whilst systematically ignoring the wider issues affecting and, in some cases, killing those looking to them for news and information.
It is this same monopolised media that has yet again overshadowed an important, peaceful and impressively large protest with news of the few who, although not agreed with by the masses, seem to have become the archetypal poster boys for the media’s assault on the left wing of this country’s political sphere.