1970s >> 1979 >> no-895-march-1979

Media harlots


You cannot hope 
to bribe or twist, 
thank God! the 
British journalist.
But. seeing what 
the man will do 
unbribed, there’s 
no occasion to.

Bribery and Graft can—and do—take subtle forms. So can pressure on one’s job; especially in times of heavy unemployment. Otherwise, how else could the master class persuade workers such as journalists, type-setters, television and radio news-readers and interviewers, editors, chat-show hosts, camera crews, engineers and the like, to sustain the unremitting stream of heavily-slanted clap-trap with which we have been assailed over these past few months.

I refer, of course, to the well-orchestrated and wholly unprincipled attack which has been, and is being, directed at millions of workers whose resentment at finding their already modest standard of living even further eroded has boiled over into open — if uninformed — rebellion.

However, while recognising the effects of, on the one hand, the economic stranglehold the capitalist has on his hired labourers, and on the other, the lack of a true understanding of our condition as wage-earners under capitalism, it can do no harm to point up some of the shadier verbal and other techniques employed by the press, television and radio to convince the public of the greed and perversity, not to mention downright callousness, of striking trade-unionists (as if these same strikers were not themselves also members of the public!).

No doubt readers of this journal will have their own store of prize examples; including, perhaps, that memorable occasion on which Angela Rippon, reading the news, referred, apparently quite unconsciously, to  “. . . trade unionists and other extremists . . .” And that shining moment during which listeners to a morning news round-up-cum-chat-show could have heard an interviewer attempting to trap a lorry-driver picket into confessing that he fiddled his time-sheet in order to make up his money. (His ingratiating manner as he did so caused swallowed porridge to rise back into at least one listener’s throat. But when a BBC toady next interviews the Director-General of the CBI, take note of the obsequious little chuckle he manages to emit as he concludes a tendentious performance studded with gently sympathetic leading questions with his “. . . and thank-you, Sir John”).

From the screaming prejudice of the lady before the pickets (Look North, 24 January) to the Consultant Physician who spent a day refusing his selective services to trade union card-holders; (Radio 4, 25 January) from the threat to day-old chicks (due to have their necks wrung later, anyway) to the brigade of outraged ladies busy sharpening their umbrellas; from the priest who used his morning radio God-Spot (Friday, 2 February) to denigrate hospital workers and the like, to that other consultant (the same programme) who was whipped in to elaborate his contention that we should dispense with the less-than-dedicated services of half the hospital ancillary workers anyway; broadcasting and the press have been having a field-day.

What workers responsible for preparing and presenting such malevolent harlotry should remember is that it is directed against themselves—just as surely as at social workers or lorry-drivers, or hospital porters, or school caretakers, cooks and cleaners. It is intended to create a climate in which a more deferential working class accepts the specious argument that to ask for a few measly quid a week more in order merely to try to restore a deliberately-engineered cut in their wage-packets is to “bring the Nation to its knees”; or to create “uncontrollable inflation”; (who actually prints the money, anyway?) or “bring down your Labour Government”. (The writer emphatically denies possession).

But the thoughtful worker can learn a valuable lesson from all these manifestations of capitalism in crisis. Our present system cannot be made to function efficiently no matter which government holds office, crude attempts to shuffle off the blame for the current state of affairs onto disaffected workers using the media of broadcasting and the press to do so reveals a blatant and cynical determination on the part of the capitalist class to hide this truth from the only other section of capitalist society which has the power to put things right: the 90 per cent of us who constitute the world’s working class.

And that 90 per cent includes the ‘front’ men and women who push loaded news at us all via the airwaves and the printing-presses.

Richard Cooper