Why should we give a shit what the press thinks of us?

I am sitting among feminists. I am sitting among radical lefties. I am sitting among activists. We discuss ideas for action. Every time, no matter what the action, the whisper will come around, and it will piss all over the nascent plans we had developed. “But that will look bad in the papers. They’ll use that against us.

Every time, the same. Ideas are aborted purely because of the fear of what the media might think.

The same thing happens in the aftermath of a protest. After March 26th, for example, the left descended into an orgy of backbiting: black bloc made us look bad, UK Uncut made us look bad, UK Uncut need to say they had nothing to do with black bloc so our media overlords will be sated. It was the worst orgy ever.

At the moment, this obsession with how the media views activism is apparent in the squabbling over Jonnie Marbles and a pie. There is still squabbling over that bloody pie. In the initial half an hour post-splat, much of the hand-wringing was over how a parliamentary process may have been disrupted. When it became apparent that the show went on completely as advertised, it shifted. This will look bad in the media, they chattered, Murdoch will come across sympathetically. We must call for a purge of the left, starting with Comrade Marbles. 

I have seem more people worrying about sympathy from Murdoch in the media than actual sympathy for Murdoch in the media.

At any rate, why should what the media think about us matter at all?

Our newspapers and television channels are owned by a small bunch of rich white men, and represent pet projects for disseminating their rich white male views. They have a vested interest in maintaining their own power, and anyone who challenges their position is ultimately viewed as a threat. To the media, feminists, socialists, anarchists, environmentalists, those who suggest that the rich white men who rule the world, are dangerous.

They do all they can to defame us: feminists become paranoid man haters; environmentalists, smelly tree-huggers; anarchists violent mindless thugs. This will happen whatever activists do. If Cthulu rose and was defeated by me, the Daily Mail would probably run a story about how I only vanquished the monster-god because he was male, and anyway I’m a massive slut, and isn’t that terrible?

No matter what we do, it will ultimately be used against us in the media. Why should we march to the beat of their drum? It makes us no better than the politicians. Look at Ed Miliband. He provides no real opposition to government because he is so hell-bent on satisfying the media. Look at the discourse surrounding the deficit. Politicians are not supposed to point out that we do not really need to bother with getting rid of the deficit, because the media has jumped upon the idea that if we do not reduce it, Hitler will ride out of hell on velociraptor. Look at discourse surrounding immigration. No politician will say “Actually, why don’t we talk about how immigration is not A Bad Thing at all?” This is because they must all play into the media narrative, that forrins and darkies are taking over the country and OH MY GOD THIS IS TERRIBLE WHY CAN’T CHURCHILL COME AND KILL THEM WITH A SPITFIRE?

Instead of attempting to appease those who we should actively be trying to challenge, we need to disseminate our own narratives. Trust in the mainstream media is low. Talking, pamphlets, direction to good readings, and more talking to people. That is how we spread our message. We cannot get it across through the mainstream media. They will not let us.

It is time to stop caring what the media thinks of us, and time to start telling the world what it is that we stand for.

7 thoughts on “Why should we give a shit what the press thinks of us?”

  1. I think we need our own media. To some extent word of mouth works, but if you want a mass movement to work you need to reach the masses that aren’t necessarily that bothered to come to you to hear your side of things. We need to bypass the tabloids’ fascist editorial filter that will cast whatever we do as bad unless we make like we’re completely without teeth & actually fairly bourgeois, but how to do that?

    1. Agree completely. We need good media–not the Socialist Worker, but something people actually want to read. Until that happens, though, I can’t help but think we need to stop bloody pandering to the mainstream hacks.

  2. I do agree that we hardly ever manage to get our message across in the mainstream media. Even in cases where there is a saturation of coverage such as the Mark Kennedy spy case then it is nigh on impossible to get messages even about climate change, never mind more radical analysis when we are offered space to comment.

    What I struggle with is what is the alternative. True, social media has opened up a world of possibilities to across the boundaries that normally divide us but the methods you speak about don’t fill me with hope when you compare them to the full spectrum dominance of the mainstream media machine. How can we compete and how can we win?

    But maybe what you are saying is let’s stop the objective of getting positive media coverage being the priority. Maybe we need to think that building a movement is the objective. I wonder if this would make a difference to what we do if positive media coverage was genuinely taken out of the mix. On the few occasions that I have encountered this it has been a very different experience.

    Let’s stop pretending that we can control the message.

    1. I would certainly agree that any alternatives are not sufficient, but that I’d certainly like to see less handwringing over what the media will think–it disappoints me that media coverage is such a huge priority. I, too, have participated in actions where we haven’t really bothered with getting ourselves into the mainstream media, and the experience is very different indeed. I think I probably walked away happier from those actions than any others.

  3. Yes! I agree 100%. Well, maybe 99%. The most telling point is this:

    “It makes us no better than the politicians. Look at Ed Miliband. He provides no real opposition to government because he is so hell-bent on satisfying the media.”

    Exactly right. To take ‘piegate’ as an example; the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that Jonnie’s protest was utterly brilliant. I also had some hand-wringing doubts at first (we probably all did) but the point is that if one cabinet minister had had the courage to shove a foam pie in Murdoch’s face just once in the last 20 years, we wouldn’t have needed Jonnie to do it.

    But there’s just one thing we need to remember: We don’t need to give a shit what the mainstream media thinks but we do need to justify what we do to the ordinary folk on the street. There’s a great danger, when we tend to hang out with other lefty activists, that we lose touch with ‘normal’ people, just as the political classes have lost touch. We must never disappear up our own collective bumhole!

  4. I sort of agree on most of this, but I also can’t help but think we’re in a bit of a bind. Many of my friends and family depend on mainstream media to know what’s going on in the world; an alternative media just doesn’t cut it yet. They’re never going to read Indymedia, for instance. So when some kind of action occurs they will hear about it through the MSM’s lens, who rarely report actions favourably, truthfully or with respect for the whole picture so we’d be naive to hope for that. However, I think care needs to be taken with how particular events may play out in the media. For example, actions to blockade runways at airports, which may stop working class families from leaving for their hard-earned week in the sun. The point, about cutting carbon, is a vital one but maybe somewhat counter-productive if your targets have no time for your argument and the media gleefully report the ‘misery’ caused by it. The media will always try and hit us but it doesn’t mean we have to give them really big sticks to do it with, if that makes sense.

    And on alternative media, yes, anyone can produce it these days, but getting a mass audience can be bloody difficult. Another way we’re sort of bound by what we have (not that it’s destined to remain the case always).

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